The Infrastructure of Life, Part 2

“America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.” – Oscar Wilde

In part 1 of this article, I made the point that although we live in a rapidly changing world, the changes we witness are changes in form only. The real substance of our universe, and thus of life itself, is comprised of unchanging universal principles – and I suggested that the only way to retain your sanity in an increasingly insane world is to live your life in harmony with those principles.

Today, let’s take a look at what that means.

If you guide your actions in accordance with what you see and hear around you – particularly in the media – you’re likely to spend your life in a state of waking dreams. On the other hand, given that you have been blessed with a human brain, you have the capacity to make a conscious decision not to join your lemming neighbors as they obediently follow evil, ignorant, and/or confused politicians and “good cause” advocates over the Cuckoo Cliffs.

I recall that an acquaintance of mine in the early 80s who, after reading some of my dire prognoses for the future of Western civilization, said to me, “What’s the point in trying to make money or striving to achieve great things if there’s no hope for Western civilization?” The plethora of so-called doom-and-gloom books on the market at the time only added to his despair.

Nevertheless, the average person did not want to believe that the collapse of Western civilization was as imminent as many extremists were predicting. And they were right. Western civilization did not collapse. It simply faded away through a phenomenon known as “gradualism.”

Which is why those who are still awaiting the collapse of Western civilization will have a very long wait – because they’ve already missed it! Western civilization, as we once knew it, no longer exists. It faded into the sunset of history as Americans were watching Monday Night Football, guzzling Bud Light, and stuffing themselves with Big Macs.

They simply ignored the whole event, because to comprehend it would have required accepting truth. And most people hate truth, especially when it threatens to interfere with their daily fixes of instant gratification.

The disappearance of Western civilization was easy to ignore, because it was brought about by a quiet revolution. It was, in fact, a moral revolution. And it was the success of that moral revolution that was the real cause of the demise of Western civilization.

Having said this, I should point out that there are at least five factors that allow politicians and their sign-pumping cheerleaders to carry on long after it becomes obvious that their actions have led to devastating consequences. Three of those factors have always existed: government guns, government printing presses, and ignorance of the masses.

The fourth and fifth, however, are relatively new on the stage of human history: modern technology and a virtually unlimited borrowing capacity. So long as a guy can spend more than his already artificially inflated income can buy, he is able to live in a nice house, drive a new car, and surround himself with electronic gadgets that are the equivalent of Aldous Huxley’s “soma” in his classic novel Brave New World.

Technology is the politician’s ace in the hole, because, as the late and liberal Bennett Cerf, one-time president of Random House Inc., once purportedly said to Nathaniel Branden, “You have to throw the masses a piece of red meat once in a while or they’ll kill you.” (Let’s call that a paraphrase, because I don’t have quick access to the book – Judgment Day: My Years With Ayn Rand – from whence came the quote. But I am confident that my words are pretty close to what Cerf purportedly said.)

To be sure, the masses do want red meat. Marie Antoinette suggested cake, and discovered that her joke wasn’t appreciated. A lack of red meat also prompted the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. And the masses aren’t averse to rising up against anyone or anything else that threatens to keep them from their red meat.

Today’s red meat comes in the form of electronic toys. Keep the toys coming, keep the borrowing channels open, and who knows how long the inevitable can be postponed?

My advice is that you neither try to predict the future nor allow the madness of the crowd to discourage you. Instead, relentlessly focus on the infrastructure of life – the universal principles – and take actions accordingly. I believe this is an important key to finding freedom and happiness in an unfree world, because universal principles will never desert you.

Old Charlie Dickens was right on target back in 1859 when he said, in the very first (and very long) sentence of A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

In other words, it was pretty much like any other time.

And the same can be said of today. Crises come and go, but at only one time in history is the world going to come to an end – and you won’t be around to remember it anyway.

Which is why a rational approach to life is to focus on those things over which you have the most control – and rely on the infrastructure of life to work its magic. To the extent you do so, you will have a much better chance of leading a prosperous, meaningful, fulfilling life – in both good times and bad.

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