In a 2013 post, Culture and Metaculture, I quoted a lengthy passage from the late Leszek Kolakowski’s Modernity on Endless Trial, in which he explains the way radical multiculturalism causes what I will call a kind of historical “stenosis”. As more cultures are added to the mix, all of which must be given equal weight, the area of “overlap” — the foundation of possible commonality in the new metaculture — becomes smaller and smaller. Because culture is heritage, the effect is that history is “tied off”, like a newborn’s umbilicus. (I’ve touched on this often, for example in my post Simple Common Sense About Diversity And Immigration.)
In Culture And Metaculture I wrote:
What remains of the high culture of the West in our new, barbarian metaculture is shrunken, withered, pecked by crows. As for the metaculture itself: what are its pillars? Where are its heroes, its mythos, its religion, its language, its great literature? Where are the commonalities that bind its people together? Gone, gone, gone.
Worse: where is its history? Not only gone, but despised. Our new “culture” has lost its sense of extension in time. Under modernity’s ascendant doctrine, the long history of the West is only a litany of sins, deserving not propagation, but repudiation. We have no legacy, no heritage, to cherish for posterity; we have pulled up our own roots. If our new American “culture” has any history worth remembering at all, it is no more than a few decades old, and consists almost entirely of the destruction of the past.
In our “brave new world”, then, we are cut off from both past and future, imprisoned in the present as no generation of people has ever been before. We have lost — jettisoned — both our rudder and our compass, and are unmoored and adrift.
In short, we have lost our sense of extension in time. Until now, every generation of every civilization saw itself as a living bridge between past and future — as heirs and beneficiaries of the productive labor of their forebears, and stewards of that treasure for children yet unborn. But now, having pulled up our roots (and salted the earth from which they sprang), we have no inheritance to cherish and preserve; that which we have not simply squandered, we have taught ourselves to despise. We have, therefore, nothing to offer our posterity, and so if we think of it at all, it is only to turn away in guilt, and to focus on what we can take for ourselves right now. If that weren’t enough, we also find ourselves in a time of exponential social and technological change. Even those of us who do seek to preserve our inheritance can hardly imagine how.
It’s often been said that civilization is, at bottom, the organization of “low time preference”: the deferral of present consumption to take advantage of the increase of the relative value of future goods. But in order for that strategy to work, one has to be confident in a stable future. When things change too rapidly, and we can no longer be sure that our efforts today stand a reasonable chance of bearing fruit in later years, it drives time preference toward the present. And that, in turn, undermines the very foundation upon which civilization is erected.
So when a civilization becomes unstable, or when the pace of change becomes too rapid, there is a cascading time-preference effect, a kind of negative-feedback loop that begins to take hold.
All of these things, then, work together: multiculturalism, through a process of historical “stenosis”, severs the past; this loss of heritage, in turn, diminishes a society’s sense of obligation to its ancestors, and stewardship for its descendants; rapid technological and social change diminishes the surety of the future. All of this drives time-preference toward the present — which manifests itself in hedonism, present consumption, loss of social cohesion (why pull together when there’s nothing to pull for?), and declining birth-rates. Finally, the foreshortening of time-preference attacks the bedrock of civilization itself, in an accelerating, destructive cycle.
It is the daunting task of the new Right to break this cycle, somehow.