The term “Material Degeneration” includes a diverse range of phenomena which all manifest in physical reality. Psychology, biology, economics, most of politics and the availability of resources all fall under this umbrella. Degeneration is a coin; the material is one side, and the spiritual is the other. The latter will be dealt with at another time.
As far as human history is concerned, without going into “degeneration,” the most fundamental change throughout history which the human races have been subject to is the availability of resources, how these resources are distributed, and the “who” getting “how much.” As human history has progressed, technology has improved with growing population sizes. Bigger populations require more resources, and technology has to keep up with the number of mouths which need feeding. Moreover, if a group is much bigger than another, it’s more than likely, looking at history, that the bigger group will have a larger military force and will conquer the smaller group for resources, space and the assimilation of extra citizens. In short, larger groups do well for as long as they can sustain themselves. The most important aspect here is the psychological shift between humans, and collectives of humans, considering the size of the group.
Man alone is essentially of a masculine, individualistic character as he must depend on himself to survive. People like this are leaders; heroes. The warrior and priestly castes are made up of individuals who are, inwardly and/or outwardly, of this type character-wise. In the early stages of humanity, and of civilizations, these men thrive and quickly achieve high stations within their group. This is a theme of the beginnings of empires, where great leaders come fourth and sharpen the people in need of leadership into a sharp stick to point into the ass of the world. For those familiar with the Fate of Empires, the ages of Pioneers and Conquest are the playgrounds of these masculine types.
This, however, does not last (as most things). Great men tend to great things, and the legacy heroes leave tends to be great. Further using the Fate of Empires as a kind of logical framework, we’re now entering the ages of Commerce and Affluence. Great men still appear in these times, but the broad masses of the group become a more deciding factor on the direction of the civilization culturally. The merchant caste really comes into its own here as the previously militant group adopts more peaceful measures to sustain itself. This further accelerates the power of the group and the age of Affluence appears. There is, underneath all this, still a heroic and positive, outward-facing direction.
Once the group becomes massive in size, disaster strikes. This is the key point in the life-cycles of civilizations, empires and broad collectives. The group undergoes a shift from the masculine in mentality to the feminine in mentality. I do not mean this in a sexological way, but in a kind of psychological attitude. From aggression to defensiveness; from an exclusive, elitist outlook, to an inclusive, anti-elitist outlook.
This shift does not happen at one instant, but it is a gradual process which is due to the sheer size of the group. Once a group becomes big enough – once the masses of the group become the deciding factor on how the group fundamentally is – things go from quality to quantity. The broad masses declare themselves to be equal to or above any heroic individuals, and the hero-figure fades into obscurity, only to be replaced by a huge mass of bodies. Crowds are feminine in their nature as the phenomenon of social pressure thrives; group-think becomes the accepted reality and people would rather not shake the calm waters and differ from the group, so they just go with the flow, like a stream of water.
It is during and after the realization of the power of the majority that we see, again, drawing from the Fate of Empires, the age of Intellect and the age of Decadence. The central essence of the aim, of the “style” of the group, becomes quantity instead of quality. Take for instance, modern egalitarianism. The claim that all human beings are equal – are the same – and that no man is higher or lower than another. The very concept of “greatness” has to be disregarded in order for this to function as not every man is capable of the same things. Everything, then, is reduced to the lower common denominator – the simplest commonality – between individuals. What is this? Being a “human”? Is that what passes for “greatness”? The only way to ensure absolute equality is to eliminate all differences between people; genders, classes, races, et cetera, all must be eradicated. This is a central point of modern Marxism – an ideological formulation of quantity, mass-orientatedness, and so on. The group may be materially rich, but it has no plans for tomorrow and nothing to aim for. Again, we see consumerism and the obsession of ego functioning here. If there is nothing beyond the self, then life and existence begin and end at one’s own ego and pleasure.
As described in Part 3, the material is a manifestation of the transcendent. As above, so below. Here we have so far briefly explored the higher side of the worldly meaning of “degeneration,” without really looking too much at the lower side of Material Degeneration. For this, dear reader, simply look outside. Notice modernist architecture, which does not point upward towards the heavens as Cathedrals do, for instance; but instead appear as a mass of horizontal, mass-produced blocks. Cement, glass and plastic.
The most obvious manifestation of Material Degeneration is consumerism; mass-production; and the resulting social climate in which it thrives. This is Globalism and Globalization – the turning of the world into a shopping mall and hotel. To quote Peter Hitchens: “Globalization is all about wealth. It knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Without borders the world will become – is visibly becoming – a howling desert of traffic fumes, plastic and concrete, where nowhere is home and the only language is money.”
Further exploration into Material Degeneration could happen at some point, but the next post will introduce Spiritual Degeneration.