Tim Wyatt – England
As I reach a certain late stage in my life, I have a confession to make. I detest virtually all aspects of the modern world. It’s not just because I’m getting old and grumpy. And I know that I’m not alone in this loathing.
Those of us in the twilight of our current bodily existence can feel fortunate – or perhaps otherwise – for experiencing the most aggressively rapid advancement the world has ever seen. We’ve witnessed consecutive decades of greater wealth, longevity and scientific progress than our ancestors ever did. Healthcare, social justice and communications have all witnessed radical transformation. Yes, I’m the first to admit that there have been huge benefits.
But there’s another more sinister side to all this. Because in many ways this outward wealth has actually made us poorer.
During the past seven decades the world’s population has more than trebled. Wars have continued to proliferate as the Military Industrial Complex lurches ever closer towards bloated maturity.
Our species has never been caught up in such a quick-fire pace of change. And much of this change has been all-encompassing with few if any get-out clauses of any kind. It’s been extraordinarily difficult to avoid or opt out of it. Many people find all this change extremely unsettling. Others have and continue to be deeply damaged by it. This continually accelerating change hasn’t only had a dehumanising effect, it’s created a sick, material-only world mainly devoid of any notion of soul, spirit, purpose or destiny. This modernism now largely manifests as a disease with its own pathology.
Modernism detests and dismisses what it regards as airy-fairy notions of spirituality, let alone hidden dimensions. It firmly sides with the currently fashionable logical, hard-brained conclusions of materialistic science that the universe is a random accident without plan or purpose. Modernism declares God dead and offers nothing to fill that vacuum other than tawdry and fatuous promises of a brighter future enhanced by transhumanism and other technological tit-bits. Modernism claims to have monopolistic rights on rationality and reason.
The twentieth century declared war on most of its past and unleashed an orgy of hubristic sacrificial iconoclasm desperately seeking to obliterate all which had preceded it – be they buildings, traditions or ideas. Only the new would do. This slaughter and evisceration of our heritage persists and in fact continues to gain pace. The reasons for this are both complex and cyclical. This onslaught of aggressive modernism coincided with the demise and end-times of the Age of Pisces and the relentless rise of that new pervasive world religion – scientific materialism aka scientism.
This modernism is both a potent symbol and infectious symptom of the machine age in which we find ourselves increasingly entrapped and enslaved. We can’t of course go back to the past – but we can retrieve some of its floating debris.
Certainly, past civilizations often tried with varying degrees of success to erase and eradicate all trace of their forebears or those they’d conquered. The last century – especially the second half of it – abruptly assumed a deep loathing for its history and pedigree to such a degree that it became imperative to destroy as much of this shameful baggage as quickly as possible. There became a sudden and mysterious imperative to consider the past junk and history – as the car mogul Henry Ford bluntly put it – bunk.
These days, thanks in the main to quasi-demonic ideologies of rich elites and the accompanying technologies, we have the means to carry out that process of cleansing ourselves of the past more completely and with ever-increasing efficiency.
None of this needs to be sophisticated or even convincing. Modernism is essentially a blunt tool to dismantle tradition. However tacky, dysfunctional, ugly, useless or absurd, it triumphed as the chosen means to bulldoze the past by first mocking and then killing off most of its achievements. Modernism became the only mantra. Anything else was heresy. Say it often enough and everyone believes it.
Increasingly astringent forms of supposedly enlightened modernism have pervaded humanity’s combined mind and percolated through every thought and endeavour. This wholesale denial of the past has perverted many branches of (particularly Western) culture along with social attitudes, politics, architecture, economics and a deep fetish for instantly redundant technology. For decades the consensus has been that modernism should proceed uninterrupted under the glorious banner of ‘progress’ no matter how destructive, damaging or disruptive the measures involved prove to be.
So-called material progress has been the tempting morsel dangled alluringly in front of us to make the perma-change of modernism more palatable. It’s true to say that most of us are certainly more materially prosperous than our parents or grandparents – but also far less contented, let alone happy than previous generations. Material wealth is a mean and misleading measure of well-being. Beyond a certain point too much money and owning too much ‘stuff’ may actually be damaging because these accoutrements overshadow deeper and more noble virtues and aspirations. Many people recognise the fact that rather than owning their possessions they are in fact owned by them.
Modernism has moulded contemporary thinking into homogenous group-speak by using Marxist-inspired means to manipulate language, demonising key words and issuing banishing orders on prohibited phrases and ideas. As always dissidents are punished by cancellation, exile or reputational death.
Modernism has jettisoned us into a post-truth era. What was once unassailable is now rather more elastic and flexible in interpretation. Equally, morality is seen as a troublesome old uncle who won’t be there to bother us for much longer. Morality is more malleable and nowadays most of us engage in (usually contradictory) forms of moral relativism.
Another sad aspect of pan-modernism is its holy writ that functionality must always take precedence over aesthetics and beauty. It is far better to uproot woodland to make way for eyesore, jerry-built buildings alarmingly crammed together where once the bluebells grew and the sparrows chirped than leave it undisturbed. This isn’t the modern way.
Perhaps one of the most visible and indeed damaging effects of modernism can be seen in architecture. America perhaps set the gold standard for perpetually uprooting its albeit recent (post-settlement) history, constantly tearing down buildings and erecting new ones. In contrast, and in the face of great odds, its indigenous peoples have been more successful at preserving their simpler and more harmonious living techniques.
Since the 1950s many cities have engaged in disgraceful acts of municipal vandalism. Rather than restore or replicate buildings, local authorities across the globe chose the angular concrete and steel approach. Terraces of houses where everyone knew their neighbours were upended skywards by 90 degrees into human filing cabinets where no one knew anyone and bored teenagers urinated in the lifts that never worked.
Many of the world’s cities have become absurd and grotesque temples to modernism with glass and metal structures protruding from the ground leaving human populations dwarfed by their lengthening shadows. Modern architects hate the buildings of the past – especially those designed on classical lines featuring proportion of even sacred geometry. There’s no place for harmony, balance or timeless mathematical truths in this world. Modern architecture appears to be based on dissonance.
In the modern world we are assured that technology can meet all our needs – and even those we haven’t yet identified. As something always synonymous with progress technology is the catch-all cure for all our problems (even those it has created). It has all the answers. Technological innovation is always viewed as an improvement even when it isn’t. It is weaponised and commercialised without the slightest thought as to the impact it may have on us or the world and all its life-forms and habitats.
Growing numbers suspect that technology is damaging us physically and diminishing us mentally – and turning our spiritual faculties sclerotic. It is leading us down a one-way cul-de-sac to that ghost town destination called destruction.
Much modern technology is born and nurtured in war zones. Elsewhere it has become a ubiquitous tool for social control, manipulation and mass surveillance. Technologies to improve communication are often achieving precisely the opposite effect – dislocation, isolation and despair. Let’s not even discuss the rancid backwaters of social media.
Even the architects of Artificial Intelligence (AI) admit that it poses a bigger threat to humanity than such trifles as pandemics, nuclear war or asteroid impacts. More immediately, according to an august body like the International Monetary Fund AI will affect between 40 and 60 per cent of all jobs and increase already gaping inequalities. This is modernism and unless we want to be branded as Luddites or heretics we must accept it.
In the past technologies lasted centuries or even millennia, slowly evolving over time. Now it is only months, weeks or even days before it is obsolescent. And sometimes this is before the device has even left the Chinese factory where it’s made.
Modernism is digitising currencies and gradually killing off cash for reasons which many believe are deeply sinister. Some humans have always had an almost limitless capacity for greed, exploitation and profit at any cost. A dominating modernist agenda divested of ethics hugely accelerates this capacity and (because of flexible morality) elevates money-making into a sacred art-form to be cherished and emulated.
Finally, let me backtrack slightly. Modernism isn’t a bad thing by definition. After all – as esotericists are very well aware – the purpose of everything is to evolve and that nothing remains the same for tiniest fraction of time. It’s the way and the pace with which modernism has been implemented in our current era which seems to almost defy natural evolutionary trends by force-feeding us a future fewer and fewer of us seem to want.
Surprisingly, despite the ravages it has wrought, modernism is provoking a kick-back (and yet it’s always had its detractors). Although comparatively few people embrace timeless values let alone cosmic truths anymore, it would appear that increasing numbers of disillusioned, alienated and spiritually starving people are keenly searching for alternatives along with other explanations and new ways of living.
The current mode of modernism – physical and mental – will one day itself be demolished in just the same way it toppled structures it regarded as outdated. The question then remains. Will whatever replaces it be more attuned to and in harmony with the natural world? Will the the technologies, consciousness, art and science of the future put human beings centre stage?
It's no one’s choice but ours.
Tim Whyatt's books and music are available from www.firewheelbooks.co.uk