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I’ve banged on a couple of times about thinking myself a yeoman, someone who will come to the defence of the country when needed but who will bugger off back home straight afterwards. I wouldn’t be a fat lot of good at seventy anyway, although I’d probably be more use now than I was fifty years ago by telling everyone to keep their head down. But those like me have to face what for us is an unpalatable truth, that many people, particularly young men, revel in the camaraderie of the crowd, even or especially when it leads to danger and death. In evolutionary terms, this is none too surprising, as such behaviour is seen in other apes and fits in with hearing a collective voice in our heads to go forth and multiply. It’s where revolution springs from. There’s not much wisdom in age either. There will always be a General who thinks he can win the next war.
A settled state of affairs is not exciting enough, even if reasonably fair and efficient, and if a wish for excitement can be shared with a horde of others then the need for something new and extreme has received its own validation. When things are relatively stable, life seems trivial, and the surplus time spent on hedonistic pleasures usually forgettable. It could be that the cult of the individual espoused in the West matches the needs only of narcissists, a group I probably belong to given my need to write blogs. Most folk want a group purpose too.
And yet despite its many internal wars, particularly in the gruesome twentieth century, the West has developed a society which has survived and grown through the middle ages, the renaissance and the enlightenment. Apart perhaps from in those few crazy years when our hormones uncouple our bodies from brains, doesn’t this show what people prefer? Maybe, but those outside our club can observe what goes on and don’t like what they see. Our culture has moved on a long way from the enlightenment.
I’ve read many gloomy articles suggesting that the West lacks the will to defend its values against the gathering hordes. We certainly don’t see society creation as building the Kingdom of God on earth any longer, if we ever did. That’s been kicked into the world of metaphor or make-believe. But that also means that we won’t turn the other cheek for long or ever love others as ourselves. After a few defeats, I reckon our governments will play dirty.
Yes, until the end of time the devil rules the world. My advice in the very long interim is to steer clear of bad crowds and duck when the cannonballs fly.