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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Save us from the people persons

Once organizations are taken over by people persons, people problems proliferate.

Y esterday, I walked out of the room for ten minutes, and the whole world went up in flames. Not the real world. I'm talking about a movie on TV about some goofy-lookin' kid with round eyeglasses, some sort of magical power, his raging feminist friend, and a bunch of extras from Lord of the Rings.

I never paid much attention to Harry Potter; if there were ever a cult that possessed magical powers, they would have annihilated themselves in factional infighting. It would be a night­mare world. Unlike LoTR, HP is not a viable myth, and maybe there's a message for us in that.

By contrast, the political world has been quiet for the past nine months, save for the cicada-like noises from the news media. To those of us out here in Flyoverwood, their nattering comes from so many voices at once, most of which contradict each other, as to make it sound like inconsequential screeching.

But we can look at that philosophically. All organizations, and maybe civilizations themselves, have a life cycle much like the Hindu yugas. The last phase is called the kali yuga, where only 25% of the original virtue is left. After that comes annihilation.

Last year I had an object lesson in how all this works as the nonprofit I worked for sailed through the kali yuga stage, and I realized that the Hindus had a point. In modern day terms, the phases are expansion, corruption, massacring, bureaucratizing, and bankruptcy. The news media are in the last one.

Of course, many historians, including John Glubb and most famously, Oswald Spengler, had the same idea. But civilizations are not organic things; the phases don't reflect some intrinsic property of organizations. They are a product of how humans interact in groups.

This might seem like a fine point, but it's important because it means that it's impossible to design an organization that escapes this cycle unless you change how humans interact, which is impossible—though scientists are working on it.

Civilizations per se don't exist. They're just ideas. What actually exists is an interacting mass of thousands of organizations, large and small. What falls are tribal organizations: the Anasazi, the Aztecs, the Khmer, the Akkadians, the Xixia. The US government, Hollywood, and the news media may or may not survive, but the idea that our civilization as a whole will inevitably fall as Rome did is a dangerous myth.

Historian Arthur Herman suggested that the Romans believed the predictions of the Greek historian Polybius that their empire would fall, and that this created a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's just as dangerous for us.

The five phases of an organization

1. The first phase is idealistic, ambitious, and expansive. Idea people are dominant. Their exploits become the defining narrative for the institutional culture. Its foundational beliefs are created here.

2. As a hierarchical establishment takes hold, people with little or no vision rise in the organization. Their skill set lies largely in people skills rather than innovation. The people persons prevail and procure power.

3. The people persons produce interpersonal tensions which build up to the massacring phase. Some people skills are, admittedly, more benign than others: not all organizations literally massacre their employees, but they all shed them one way or another, according to whatever rules the organization operates under.

The most vicious people people struggles are among those at the top. Anyone who's ever been to a board meeting knows how fake those smiles are, and why the coffee is always lukewarm. Although the cutlery may look like metal, it is actually soft bendy plastic.

4. When the massacring phase is over, the organization becomes bureaucratic and stagnant as the survivors are replaced by a new generation that just wants to ride the decline. This generation has no vision and no ambition; though they indignantly deny it, they really want to destroy the organization, and they set about doing so.

This is the phase our universities are passing through. Western Europe, having passed through its massacring phase, is also in the bureaucratic phase. It marked the Brezhnev era in the Soviet Union.

5. As the struggle for survival becomes hopeless, people turn to exaggeration and falsehoods to keep their narrative alive. This is the bankruptcy phase, which is marked by self-parody. They may remain fabulously wealthy, but the clarity of purpose no longer exists. They no longer believe in their founding ideals. Like the Yeltsin era in Russia, they are flailing.

Our news media and our popular culture have entered this phase. Our government may yet fall into it unless Trump can pull them out of it.

For those with the imagination to design new ideologies and new systems of government, it is a good time to be alive. For the rest of us, maybe not so much. And for the legacy media and political establishment, definitely not at all.

Western Europe

I write all this speculative non-sciency stuff because of a comment I read on a review of Douglas Murray's The Strange Death of Europe. Murray says that within the lifetimes of most of us, Western Europe as we know it will cease to exist. Angela Merkel and the Belgian Empire, as I call it, have seen to it that the only choices left for Western Europe now are bad ones.

The commenter wrote: “Change happens. Get used to it.”

This is the attitude of today's left: deny there's a problem, then when a disaster happens claim that the disaster was unforeseeable and therefore inevitable. If a 6,000-mile-diameter asteroid were headed straight for Earth at 17,000 miles an hour, threatening to turn the globe into molten lava, these same people would be saying “Change happens. Get used to it.”

Change does indeed happen. If you have no values, then having a civil war, having your tribe wiped out, or even going extinct is just another change. But what a way to live—believing nothing bad can ever happen because nothing matters: not your own culture, not your fellow citizens, not your friends, not even your own life.

They want to get rid of Western civilization, but they believe in nothing so they have nothing to replace it with. And so we are entitled to ignore them.

created jul 15, 2017; last edited jul 15 2017, 7:21 am

See also

Homeopathic politics
In homeopathic politics, the cure for racism is more racism, the cure for sexism is more sexism, and the cure for too much government is more government. It is the plague of the placebo personality people.

Civilization and the urge to destroy
Cultures automatically create a countercurrent of ideas that would destroy them. These ideas must be vigorously challenged.

Civilizational Collapse and Regeneration
Civilizations are living ideas, not just economic constructs.

On the Internet, no one can tell whether you're a dolphin or a porpoise
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