The Promise of the Sun
The sad truth is that the intellectual battle of our age is between totalitarianism and nihilism....
“As China's economic power inevitably decreases and its population ages, the social contract between the CCP and the Chinese people will be tested.”
The sad truth is that the intellectual battle of our age is between totalitarianism and nihilism. Power for power's sake versus a deep commitment to the essential meaninglessness of life itself. Contrast this with the 20th century’s Cold War, in which the conflict took the form of totalitarianism versus optimistic freedom, and one may be forgiven for worrying that perhaps the West might not come out on top this time. The totalitarians utilize propaganda, violence, and modern surveillance technology to obtain and maintain power. It is obvious to even the casual observer that Xi Jinping’s primary motivation, for example, is the maintenance of his own power first and that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is simply his vehicle for maintaining that personal power. And while Western intellectuals focus on the advantage that totalitarian regimes have over democracies in terms of their long term planning capabilities, such as with the Belt and Road Initiative, they do not spend enough time focusing on the underlying philosophy that is guiding the individuals that are making these plans.
Yet the CCP knows that their position is dire. They are surrounded by enemies, have serious internal dissonance, and can not sustain a consumer based economy because of their disastrous commitment to the one child policy. The only way to maintain power is to create external threats and convince their people that these threats can only be addressed by the Party. As China’s economic power inevitably decreases and its population ages, the social contract between the CCP and the Chinese people will be tested. This is the definite pessimism that Peter Thiel articulates so well in his book, Zero to One. While the West loudly worries about a world in which China is a superpower, the CCP worries about maintaining their tenuous hold on power.
“The oligarchs are dancing, but this is not a sing along.”
The West’s issues are even more dire. At least the totalitarians pay lip service to national identity and pride in their homeland. Our universities are filled with an ideology that hates its own civilization. Our children are taught that their ancestors were a form of genocidal evil unprecedented in human history; even as literal genocides are happening in other jurisdictions. Orwellian double speech runs rampant through pop culture, with the high priests of 'wokeism' preaching tolerance and then vehemently refusing to tolerate anything but dogmatic adherence to their ideologies.
Our civilization has denied any sort of overarching meaning. Our leaders have committed themselves to a life of personal enrichment. The oligarchs are dancing, but this is not a sing along. Wealth inequality increases and the people become restless as their comforts which were once taken for granted are no longer assured. The hope for “a better life” is slowly evaporating as the Baby Boomers drift towards retirement, a generation that has always been consumed by their individual self fulfillment. Meanwhile, their grandchildren despair at the thought of owning a home where they grew up and have fully embraced a form of nihilistic irony that glorifies depression.
Yet, we do not live as if life is devoid of meaning. In his Confessions Tolstoy writes, “rational knowledge presented by the learned and wise, denies the meaning of life, but the enormous masses of men, the whole of mankind receives that meaning in irrational knowledge.” This leads him to conclude: “where there is life, there is faith”. Tolstoy concluded that those who live a simple life - considered ignorant by the educated - are actually closer to the truth than those who judge them. In the same vein, Christ said, “unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. Faith, if it is the sustaining force of life, is a childlike hopefulness in the ultimate victory of meaning. The promise of faith is not that things will turn out as you want, but that they will turn out as they were meant to. It is the promise of the Sun, “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning”.
People need meaning. The quest for meaning has resulted in the rise of powerful stories. Repeated attempts to imbue the universe itself with a narrative. It is as storytellers that we navigate the seas of consciousness, not as scientists. Science can only describe what is. It has no capacity to tell us why there is anything. This does not necessitate the existence of God; but it demands our worship. Without some form of faith there can be only despair; a purpose must be created.