The bourgeois mentality at the heart of our decline

I was listening to a podcast with Dr Larry Chapp while on my lunch bike ride and this quote caught my attention:

"What political liberalism does in creating this bourgeois mentality is make penultimate - not ultimate - values the centering agents of our culture. It squeezes out theological and spiritual questions, subjectivizes them, privatizes them, and puts them on the level of taste... I choose the Catholic BigMac, you choose the Hindu Whopper, who cares, it doesn't matter in the long run, what's our GDP this year?"

I believe that Western countries, what used to be called Christendom, and in particular the United States, have entered a period of profound decline. Whether it is our inability to maintain and improve our crumbling infrastructure, our unwillingness or incompetence in managing large projects (Berlin airport) and important missions (Afghanistan withdrawal), our mental state (half the country believes the election was rigged, while the other half believe they are a bunch of deplorable racists). Theft is up. Murder is up. Death of despair (suicides, overdoses) are way up.

The analogy I draw is from the VC micro to the civilizational macro, which may not be permissible. But here it goes: when we look at a new company to invest in, one of the things I care deeply about is whether the founders are just in it for the money or whether there is a passion there for a problem to be solved, a market to be created, a customer to be served, an organization to be built. Companies that are just in it for the money fail. They have their eye on the wrong thing. They can't hire great people. They have a tough time raising money.

I think the same may be true for countries or civilizations. If there is no overarching objective, no unifying spirit, no belief and hope in the future, if all we do is satisfy our cravings (which incidentally get more specific and more perverse), if all we have to reign in our rapacious evil is the law, and all that we put up as a defense is an ever stronger state that resorts to more and more authoritarian measures... well, then, "the center cannot hold."

We are getting very close to a point where you don't really have to leave your house to work, eat, and be entertained. But is this the freedom we've wanted? To be free to have your life mean nothing? To be severed from the true relationships that bestow responsibility? Is this the end point of liberalism, an outcome of its fundamentally flawed anthropology? This new form of pernicious slavery.

These may indeed be the first throes of our path to the singularity (Team Teilhard!). In which case, it is time to have the hard conversation about ultimate values with each other and as a society. And if we fail in that post-liberal project, as is more than likely, it is time to create smaller islands of self-sufficiency.