The west is sick and dying. Literally and figuratively. Depression, obesity, diabetes, cancer rates, alzheimers are all on the rise. Families are disappearing. Birth rates have collapsed. People are saddled with more debt than ever with no way out. Nihilism is ubiquitous.
What’s going on?
I think that it is all symptomatic of a much deeper issue.
The cause of all of our problems isn’t obesity or health issues — it’s a lack of meaning.
Most people have no reason to live today other than accumulating more possessions and pleasure. No higher ideals. No purpose. No values.
This emptiness manifests as all the superficial problems we see.
And the west manufactures this emptiness, accelerating the issues that are so distinctive today.
I’m not yet sure what a great political program looks like, but I know that it doesn’t look like the west right now.
First, the symptoms
The symptoms of the disorder are too long to list. But here are some of the biggest ones:
- Profound lack of meaning in people’s lives, signified by the proportion of americans on psychiatric drugs and depressed
- The myriad of physical health issues from the exponential increase in autism to cancer, which has become almost ubiquitous
- Institutional meta crisis: there is no institution we can truly trust
- Moral incoherence and the rancor of interminable debate between the left and the right
I think that all of these can roughly be put under one umbrella.
Every society has a telos: the ultimate end that it is pointed towards. And usually, everything else is sacrificed towards that goal. Even if it’s not explicitly defined, you can often read it in the tea leaves.
This idea of a telos stems from Aristotle’s philosophy: he believed that every object has what he referred to as a final cause.
I believe that the telos of the west today is the growth of the capitalist, technological system. You can live in the west and have different goals for your life: such as love or the search for God — but it’s nearly impossible to escape the gravity of this industrial pull.
For instance, say you are a religious man who is devoted to finding God in life. More likely than not, you’re still spending more of your time working to accumulate wealth than in your religious endeavors.
There are other remnants still of different philosophical goods in life: freedom, in the libertarian sense, or equality, in the rawlsian sense are some others. But the water we are all swimming in is GDP growth and that is the form most debates are couched in today. Even if you live for equality, for example, it’s equality in terms of income (in most cases).
The problem is that this is not a human first telos and has yielded the most anti human society in history. But it’s accomplished its goal: It’s instead created indidivualized, depressed, sick automatons whose sole function is to serve the system at large.
The Most Anti Human Society In History
I don’t think people realize how chained we are.
Rewind a couple thousand years and tell humans that we’d all be:
– living in glorified closets in cramped cities
– totally disconnected from nature
– spending childhood in school for 8 hours a day, and then adulthood in a cubicle for as long
You’d be insane to accept that deal. We are truly living in a glorified zoo…in fact, some animals even have it better off than most human beings.
Everything human supportive today has been sacrificed in favor of this telos — to economic growth and utility.
Food designed for portability and profits. Toxic blue lights designed for efficiency. 10 hour days spent producing a product for another company. Governments that funnel tax dollars to their lobbyists. Schools designed for assembly line labor. Bright billboards at night to maximize advertising revenue. Cramped houses to increase the cash flow on land or proximity to work. Cities designed for driving, not walking. Marriage is looked at as inconvenient because it prevents you from working. Ugly architecture, strip malls and architecture that suck your soul.
There’s absolutely nothing designed to promote human vitality as an absolute end — because more often than not it detracts from efficiency. Humans have been reduced to tools for something bigger and that is why there is so much misery today.
Deep down we all have this primal urge in us yearning to break free. Deep down men want to grow out their hair & beards, stop wearing their terribly uncomfortable suit and complying with bullsh*t rules they never agreed to, conjured up by sick, depraved people behind closed doors. They want to live like cavemen at home in the cosmos and in nature…eating what they kill and sharing it with their family without giving up half to a government that doesn’t give a rats ass about them.
Superficially, our society is great….but underneath the nice veneer it’s cancerous and parasitic.
Loss of All Wisdom Traditions
This unilateral drive to increase GDP has wiped out all wisdom traditions in its wake — everything that traditionally gave humans a reason to live and strive beyond their limited selves.
The most universal drive in all of human history is to transcend our limited selves for something more. But the only thing on offer today is self aggrandizement — the exact opposite.
All of these institutions that shaped our lives and ethics towards something higher have been replaced with the temporal material world. Like a fish out of water, everybody is desperately latching onto other movements to bootstrap meaning. This is why in America today you find people identifying with everything from hardcore christian orthodoxy to breatharian to antifa.
This ultimate freedom to choose ultimately necessitates a larger, more powerful and totalitarian government to tether us all together. Ultimately, unlimited freedom leads to no freedom at all.
People are terribly lost today when it comes to matters regarding the quality of their life….and extremely competent when it comes to skillets that serve society at large (like civil engineering or macroeconomics).
We know what a black hole looks like, but nobody knows:
- How to eat
- How to breathe properly
- How to be happy
- How to find meaning
- How to be fulfilled
- How to be virtuous
- How to live a good life
- How to be a good citizen
- How to love
Yet at the same time, we’re somehow more arrogant than ever.
All virtues have been reoriented towards systemic growth. We price business acumen over compassion, greed over generosity, pride over humility. Ultimately we’ve elevated and idolized things that make us miserable.
The rise of the internet was a great boon to society revealing so many of our false idols. But the problem is that now we’re drowning in skepticism and nihilism and have no idea where to turn.
I don’t think this is a problem we can vote away, because the fundamental premise of our system is flawed. The only way out, in my opinion, is to create something new that maximizes both individual and collective flourishing above all else.
To flourish to the best of your abilities I think requires an individual telos and a group of people around that helps push you towards that good. The citadel vision will combine a new vision of the good life — a search for things that are beyond the material (like love, beauty and union) — with a group of people devoted to cultivating virtues towards that shared goal.
Here are some of the core tenets of the citadel
#1 Nature and Alpacas
Humans evolved in nature and are happiest amongst it. Nature is the ultimate teacher and the further we are from it, the more miserable we become. The citadel will restore the dynamic & symbiotic relationship between humans and nature….and prize alpacas for the incredible creatures they are.
#2 Health as the foundation
The citadel will recognize that health is the prerequisite to doing anything great. We will encourage practices that cultivate health. Things like:
- steak, fruit and beef liver consumption
- banning seed oils
- daily sunbathing first thing in the AM
- fresh air and breathwork
- movement and exercise practices
- sexual kung fu
- restorative sleep
- banning blue light at night
- clean, remineralized water
#3 Recognition of the truth of life…and the possibility for more
However, the citadel will also recognize that a life devoted to your body is not a good life. The body is a vehicle to get somewhere else…and like a car, no matter what you do, it’ll wither and age. External things are fleeting & transitory…a good life recognizes this and tries to find something more than transcends the limited. For that we will cultivate mental & spiritual health.
#4 Beauty, Music, Transcendent Art
Humans can live without science. They can live without material comforts. But they cannot live without beauty & art. Why? Because both things point to something higher, beyond our limited utilitarian selves. Beauty is a glimpse into the eternal. It is a good for its own sake — unlike many of the things we strive for in modern society today.
The citadel will make beauty one of the main foundations. We will commission artists and musicians to create great works and architects to build towering structures that inspire us to strive for more.
#5 The importance of family and the male / female bond
The family — and specifically the relationship between the husband and wife — is critical to a thriving society. Any society that actively cultivates enmity between the two genders is bound to fail. We will recognize that men and women have different, but complimentary roles in society. Both are equally necessary to a society’s flourishing, despite their differences. We will ban / discourage anything that comes in the way of that: pornography, dating apps, feminist ideology, endocrine disruptors, etc. We will also highly discourage adultery and divorce.
#6 Intermediary Institutions + Community and A Limited Government
Instead of an all encompassing central government, we will foster intermediary institutions and communities that help push the members to live their best lives: things like ball sunning groups, religious centers, unions and families. In the context of these community practices, we will work to cultivate virtues like compassion, humility and excellence.
This is not an exhaustive list, but some of the things I’m thinking about now.
Follow along on the instagram here if you’re interested.