What I'm getting at here stems from Yuval Harari's critique of individualism, in his book Homo Deus. He thought technological advances will drive us towards transhuman ideals or will put pressure on the conceit that we're autonomous agents, in charge of ourselves and worthy of rights.

Nietzsche had already wondered whether liberalism entails a choice between transhumanism and nihilism. And Oswald Spengler thought that civilizations, too, begin with great energy and idealism but inevitably decline and lose faith in their founding values. So cultural nihilism would be like the jadedness and tedium of old age.

There is an alternative to nihilism and totalitarianism, namely social democracy, as in Canada, Australia, and parts of Europe, which are constantly threatened by neoliberalism and fascist backlashes. The question is whether a functioning democracy can run on individualism, as in the US with its frontier mentality, or whether that kind of society needs to be more collectivistic ("socialist").

The American experiment isn't just about democracy, but about individualism. Are individualists too free for their good? Is that freedom alienating, which leads to nihilism and to hopelessness, even as the population may lash out with grandiose talk of rebellion to overcompensate for its emerging hollowness? (Morris Berman raised this question in The Twilight of American Culture, based on Joseph Tainter's theory of social collapse.)

The fact is that the American progressives and "conservatives" are currently open to this charge, that despite all their hot air, their ideologies are incoherent expressions of the same amorality that's adopted by the deep state realists who run the bureaucracies. So the US may be in a state of decline in the Spenglerian sense. Either that or the culture war clashes are irrelevant sideshows.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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