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Berakhirnya Kehidupan Modern

(The End of Modern Life)
Oleh: Lance DeHaven-Smith

Of course, it could be argued that modern society has not yet completed its development, that its perfection is unfolding. Is this not the idea of progress and modernization? Those who believe in the world as a thing-becoming, those who accept all of these criticisms of the modern social order but who nevertheless maintain a businesslike and scientific faith that things are improving, would undoubtedly argue that vestiges of raw power in modern life are not expanding with spreading atheism, but instead are withering away because of heightened awareness.

In just the past century, they would point out, labor has organized to counterbalance the controls of management; racism has been unmasked and condemned; women have fought for their rights and have already won many of them; child abuse has been brought into the light of day and appropriately outlawed; and environmentalists have rallied and have begun to stop the unbridled destruction of the global ecosystem. Defenders of modern society could easily make a case that the social order should be appreciated for its emerging perfection, rather than denounced for its current problems.

Where, though, is the world headed? If the aim of Western civilization is no longer spiritual salvation, then what is it? To know this, one must merely ask what goals are articulated today, and what Western civilization would be like if they were achieved. Our era espouses at least four great aspirations.

One is world peace. The hope is that the world will become a planet of self-governing, autonomous nation-states. The latter are to be defined largely around peoples with common backgrounds and histories, and each nation is to be represented in some sort of world congress like the United Nations. If one of the nation-states steps out of line by intruding upon the land of its neighbors or by violating basic human standards of law and order on its own peoples, then the planetary congress will intervene like a police officer among nations.

Note, however, that there is no aim to establish true self-government, whether for the world as a whole or for individual nations. The growing power and dominion in families, corporations, and the modern government of bureaucrats and elected officials will not be dismantled, although they may be constrained by new international laws. Instead, yet another layer of power and glory will be constructed at a higher level. The world-kingdom will be a system of interacting nations, supported by the tribute or taxes of the various citizenries, and defended by a common army or militia.

How is this different from the Roman Empire? It does not establish a global congregation of equal souls but merely creates a larger framework of rank and command. If anything, the coercive power in businesses, schools, and families, which is replacing the bonds of love, will be reinforced and supported. As with the Roman Empire, each nation will be allowed to have its own religion and customs, and the laws of all nations will be made more uniform by being subjected to a higher authority. But law, power, status, rank, privilege, inequality, domination, and control will persist, and will be stronger and more extensive than ever.

A second goal of the modern era is to eliminate the arbitrary exercise of force, a goal which defenders of our social order might argue is making all power more humane and therefore more acceptable. Employers can no longer hire, fire, and promote whomever they please; they must be unbiased with respect to race, religion, gender, and national origin. The power of parents and teachers to inflict corporal punishment on children is being taken away. The subtle oppression perpetuated in language, as when women are called "girls" and black men are referred to as "boys," is being rooted out and prohibited. Oppression and exploitation may yet be visible, but they are being steadily and systematically dismantled.

Again, though, what sort of society is being constructed? People are to be respectful out of fear, not love. Everyone is to have equal access to the pinnacle of control, but rank and power prevail. The social order is becoming a giant bureaucracy, governed by countless rules and regulations, where everyone is on the lookout for racist or sexist comments or actions, but where no one works to build relations of trust and mercy.

A similar situation prevails with the third goal of the modern social order, which is economic prosperity. The aim is not merely to assure that everyone has a basic minimum, or even a little excess. The overriding objective is to produce luxuries without limit. When the measure of production, the gross national product, fails to grow, or when the rate of growth levels off or declines, it is called a "recession" and the social order goes into a panic. Presidents of the United States are reluctant even to mention the word. The whole economic, political, and cultural system is predicated on ceaseless expansion. The same is true for individuals and families; each person expects to be better off each year, and each generation wants a higher "standard of living" than the generation that preceded it. Dancing in everyone's heads are visions of new cars, tools, furniture, clothes, jewellery. If the civilization is successful, people will be receiving service from robots, traveling to distant planets, preparing food with the touch of button, and always receiving more.

But what will this bring us, if not disaster? If we are learning anything from modern prosperity, it is that things are never satisfying. As soon as a new product is purchased, an even newer or better one is desired. Further, people use their acquisitions to reinforce the system of rank and privilege by signaling one another about their status. Everyone learns that Cross pens are better than Bics, Polo shirts are better than Izods, Cadillacs are better than Fords. And those who display the better products are given the glory. Far from freeing humanity from want, technology and the splendid things it produces are enslaving us more than ever. We are becoming dominated by our own wants, which have been unleashed by the dazzling choices presented to us, and we now value one another not according to our essential worth as human beings, but on the basis of our possessions.

Finally, a fourth objective of the modern era is environmental protection, which entails a new relationship between humanity and nature. The aim is to adjust human society to the "ecosystem." Nature is thought to function as an interrelated, self-stabilizing organism of which human beings are simply a part, no more important than any other element. To eliminate one component, whether it is a species or a type of habitat, is to jeopardize the operation of the whole system.

Although the goal of bringing humanity into harmony with nature may seem absolutely essential, this is only because another precondition of modern society is endless economic expansion. Unwilling to reexamine the latter, we are forced into an environmental ethos. If we are to keep growing, we must make all the adjustments necessary to avoid environmental limits; we, as a social collective, must identify the practices that are environmentally hazardous, and we must, as a collective, prohibit such actions by limiting individual discretion. If this entails limits on cherished rights, then so be it, for the survival of the collective is at stake, or at least the survival of the social order as we know it, with its boundless plenty.

The kind of society entailed by this way of thinking is the same sort of monolithic, nature-centred society of pagan antiquity, in which life was an eternally recurring series of activities organized around the seasons. The Nile floods, then planting season, then harvesting, then the flooding again, all overseen by Isis and Ra, and everyone paying homage to the nature-gods' awesome stability and inevitability. In an age that has seen Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, it should not take much imagination to recognize that a society regulated according to nature could be incredibly tyrannical. Plants and animals will be valued more highly than human beings, and the social order will be restructured accordingly to assure that the normal pattern of nature is maintained intact even if it means a drastic increase in human suffering and abandonment of Western civilization's ambitions for a social order ruled totally by love. Modern fears of tyranny will be realized not in political oppression by a clique or ruling elite, but in a self-imposed tyranny of nature.

In short, when we carefully consider where the modern social order is headed, we can see the nightmarish future or Ge-Hinnom that Satan, or the spirit that has led us to turn away from our biblical heritage, is preparing for us. It will be a global bureaucracy subsuming a million principalities and petty tyrannies, where glory is literally worn on one's sleeve, and human life is governed according to the needs of Nature, the great but fragile ecosystem that supports us as we gorge our limitless appetites. It is a kingdom only an antichrist could imagine, and it has become our highest aspiration.


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