Loss of innocence and how it skews our perception of history

“Kids these days”, is an expression that fundamentally betrays an incomplete view of history. Every generation always thinks they were great, but the next generation are just so terrible: irresponsible, uneducated, promiscuous, etc.

To be fair, there is some truth to this throughout certain parts of history. During the phase of civilizational decline, some things really do get worse from generation to generation, but often not as bad as people think they do; and other things actually get better. Yes, the Federal government is bigger than ever and almost everyone is drowning in a sea of debt, but we also have indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and no more slavery. It’s not an obvious progression nor an obvious decline – it’s a mixed bag.

The reason many people fall into this way of thinking is because when they were children, they viewed the world through a lens of innocence and ignorance. That’s a good thing, overall – kids shouldn’t have to grow up too quickly. But as children grow up into adults and realize more things about the world, including being exposed to the bad stuff a lot more, they often fail to go back and re-asses life before when they were children, or even life before they were born.

Here’s a personal example. When I was about 18, I realized that war was bad, that the military industrial complex was motivated by money, that nationalism was a farcical manipulation, and that politicians were liars. I subsequently viewed the events of the early 21st century through a fairly negative light, thinking things had really gotten a lot worse. It took me a while to internalize that things, at least in this respect, were always bad. The 20th century is full of conquest, lies, and destruction, just think of the two world wars, the war in Vietnam, etc. And of course so was the 19th century. In fact, every century has had war and suffering perpetrated by evil people.

Things aren’t getting “worse”, we just grew up to be adults and started noticing the evil.

Loss of innocence and realization of evil

As I was reading this rather fascinating explanation of the decline of our institutions, Naomi Wolf in “Have the Ancient Gods Returned?” laments the evil of COVID lockdowns and mask and vaccine mandates, by noting that, “Institutions turned overnight into negative mirror images of themselves, with demonic policies replacing what had been at least on the surface, angelic ones. Human-history change is not that lightning fast.”.

When I read this, I don’t think to myself “Oh yes, these institutions just became overtly evil overnight!”, what I think to myself is, “It sounds like you weren’t really paying attention to how evil they were beforehand.” These institutions were always evil. That’s what government, compulsion, and moralizing is. The snakelike politicians try to sell us on the “public good”, but in reality that’s just a marketing ploy. A propaganda sleight of hand to confuse and distract, while the true reasons for their actions – the will to power, money, and a psychopathic need to control other people because they have no control over their own lives, stays hidden from most observers.

Mencken, a century ago, remarked that politics was:

“A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

H.L. Mencken

He also wrote:

“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”

H.L. Mencken

He is by no means the first to have realized this. Philosophers had discovered this truth millennia ago. People like Naomi just had a rosy picture of certain aspects of the past, perhaps having only woken up to the evil in 2020, and it is fascinating the lengths to which she will go to explain this “sudden change” (in her perception, not in the truth).

Her thesis is that the old gods and demons of depravity have returned to take over Western civilization as our faith in Christianity and Judaism has floundered. It’s an entertaining explanation for a fantasy movie – but as an assessment of reality, it’s astonishingly confused. Especially if you consider the relationship Christianity and Judaism had to slavery and conquest for the better part of two millennia. The Christian bible is by no means a kind book – it is full of malice and suffering, much of it perpetrated by god himself, who often seems to act much like a vicious dictator would. But, most religious people do have a blindspot when it comes to their own religion that prevents any sort of accurate understanding of reality.

She also says that the COVID hysteria was fundamentally different, when comparing it to past delusions, she says, “But all of these examples of mass frenzy had dissidents, critics, and skeptics at the time; none of these lasted for years as a dominant uninterrupted delusional paradigm.”

COVID had plenty of skeptics and dissidents, some from the very beginning. The government and corporations tried to suppress them, but that’s nothing new. As far as being a “dominant uninterrupted delusional paradigm”, how about statism a whole? Or Christianity? Or the witch hunts? Or the persecution of Jews in Germany? Or the Eugenics movement in the early 20th century? Or America’s cult of veteran worship? All of these mass delusions lasted for years – many of them for centuries or millennia. And some of them we’re still suffering under.

To justify this idea of old gods and demons returning from the darkness to wreak havoc upon our civilization, Naomi has to make some wildly inaccurate statements that really tell us a lot more about her projection of her own personal views than anything about reality.

So what are my blindspots? What are yours? Where have we been skewing our perception of reality to build an incomplete view of the world?

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