The Global Crisis of Meaning
It seems as though the world is going through a slowly evolving existential crisis.
Starting around the end of World War II, the European West had been effectively razed and set back to an infancy. The Nazi terrors and subsequent War had so effectively blanched any liberal idealism from the collective European West, that it was left at the philosophical starting blocks.
Lets consider this the “birth” of the modern philosophical world
The head start that the American west had coming out of WWII, as the named victor, cemented that American philosophy became the philosophical “north star” for the western world, if only primarily because of the vacuum left in the wake of the war. American style vocal liberal Democracy and the extreme fetishization of Markets – with a protestant bent and casual racism thrown in as a mixer – became the notary stamp of progress.
The philosophical counterbalance in the post-WWII period, of communism, was in-retrospect a competitor primarily in name. While in name, communism (in reality soviet-allyism) was spreading, the reality of liberal trade and democratic institutions was a low noise floor of how people actually behaved in nearly all of these communist countries.
The 60s and 70s served as somewhat of a pre-teen period of philosophical chaos, with a active and loud general questioning of authority and challenging fundamental assumptions about the structure of the world. Technological progress – driven by the classic liberal philosophical concept of democratizing knowledge – helped catalyze these challenges, but in the end drove the majority of people to consumerism, reinforcing those fundamental roots of extreme markets and liberal democratic ideals.
The largely un-restrained economic growth in the west from the 70s until the late 2000s unwittingly promoted the philosophy of consumerism riding on top of extreme markets and choose your own adventure liberal democracy. The dissolution of the Soviet Republic, only served to notarize the only other philosophical competitor with the western philosophical stamp.
The consumerism train started going off the tracks in the early 2000s however. Push back on consumption as a habit and an increasingly growing proof of consumer driven anthropogenic climate change started to grow from a whisper to a chorus. The Great Recession in 2007 officially ended the consumerism party and by 2016 the US elections and BREXIT typified the death of “spend more live better” philosophy.
The Philosophical north stars of the past have vanished
“Country First”: Nationalism is Nazism
“God First”: God is long dead
“Spend and Prosper”: Consumption will lead to collapse
Collectively, we are ridding ourselves of the leaps of faith that were the north stars of our communities – not that everyone always believed them, but at one point we all at least played nicely in systems that assumed those truths were the underlying bedrock. Nobility of Monarchs is a wink and nod, deity appointed rulers are tongue in cheek at best etc...
We've continued to whittle away at the mysteries of the world, and the collective hallucinations we shared to keep communion and community, are becoming widely recognized for what they are – as baseless in fundamental truths as any other thing. We're slowly working our way down the abstraction levels asking the basal ganglia where we should find our philosophy
We still as humans need some north star, and it seems like “happiness” is trying to take the lead. The idea of the “balanced” life seems to reflect this. The concept of a diversity of activities and goals that keeps the brain engaged but not obsessed. Alternating between challenge and comfort so as to not push the system into over-extension. Anxiety is the enemy, and we prove it because it reduces longevity. Optimize the Work-Rest cycle, to extend the exploration phase of life and maximize dopamine pumps.
We fetishize parenting because we have no other fundamental north star to guide our lives. The biological response to family make it impossible to prove as hollow because it feels important – you can't disprove that you feel a certain way about your children – it's just there and you can taste it. In that sense, it's no different than hedonism.
There is no further purpose than for the feeling of peace and harmony that is unique to communion with others – and most powerfully with an offspring. It's as empty as any other – but feels fulfilling. This philosophy sits pretty firmly at the monkey brain level of abstraction – the lowest common denominator as a singular vector. I'd worry though that it simply leads to hedonism – but maybe that's ok.
Which brings us to Camus. We have a choice at the end of the day to find meaning. You can ignore the absurdity of the lack of objective meaning, by removing yourself from the equation: Suicide. However we must take it head on – though I'm still working out why this is necessary – something about turtles I'm sure. In which case you must either take a leap of faith, or you must choose what to make your meaning about.
My singular vector is collective understanding – helping us wiggle toward a conscious universe. But what's behind that? Unknowable, but that's the choice I make.