This is by far the worst time in modern human history.
But wait a minute, Vaknin, you see.
What about the Black Death in the 14th century? What about the Second World War and the First World War, last century? Were in these periods much worse than today?
No, they were not. And the reason they were not is because institutions were intact. The individual had suffered, families broke apart, people died.
But there was always someone and somewhere to turn to. There was a family, there was a community, there was a village, there was the church, there was the monarchy, there was the feudal lord, there was always an address, the buck stopped somewhere.
Today there are no institutions, everything fell apart, societies are anomic, they have no norms, everything malfunctions.
But in addition to that, this day and age we live in has a few attributes, the likes of which had never been seen in human history.
This is not only the worst period in modern history, this is an unprecedented time and era throughout human history.
We are so lost and disoriented and dislocated and confused and paranoid because this is an uncharted territory, this is terra incognita, we have never been here before. We have never been here before with regards to each and every one of these trends and we definitely have never been here before with the confluence of these cataclysmic, tectonic trends.
So individuals can be forgiven for falling apart. Clinical illness is on the rise, skyrocketing. Only this year alone, 2021, the rate of depression, clinical major depression had increased by 25% single year.
Pandemics, wars, aggression, murder, mayhem, crime, corruption, they have always been with us. They are part of human nature. They are an integral determinant and dimension of our identity. They are not going away, they are not going to go away. They are here forever, they are here to stay.
But never before had we reacted to these facts of life the way we are doing today and it is actually the sum of our reactions that had created this dystopia, this nightmarish surrealistic world that we live in.
And I want to use this opportunity, your patience in my time, to touch upon a few of the unprecedented attributes hitherto unheard of today's day and age.
It's a shocking period and it keeps shocking every single day for decades now, last hundred years at least.
First of all, this is the age of splitting. This is the age of blank versus white thinking. Everyone is 100% right or 1000% wrong. There's nothing in between. There are no subtleties, there are no nuances, there's no gray. No one is judged as the complex compounded beings that we are.
The world is perceived as a morality play of angels versus demons, evil fighting good and we of course are always on the side of angels.
Public intellectuals, experts, real and fake, gurus, coaches that thrive on this splitting. They sacrifice their intellectual integrity for the sake of dumb popularity and a lot of cash. Splitting is an industry. Splitting is an infantile psychological defense mechanism. It is a hallmark of immaturity and it is the antidote to empathy.
If you split, you can't be empathic and if you're empathic, you can never split. Splitting precludes cooperation. Shuns compromise. Fosters conflict.
If you see the other party is all bad, there's no possibility for bipartisanship. There's no possibility for collaboration. There's no possibility of building anything together. There's no possibility of forgiving and so this is the age of splitting where we carry and bear grudges forever and ever because they are part of our confirmation bias.
Our grievances had become our identity. This is the age of victimhood.
As the famous sociologist Campbell had said, we have transitioned from the age of reputation and dignity to the age of victimhood. Everyone in his dog is a victim, was a victim or will become a victim. Victimhood confers a flawless, blemishless, angelic status on the victim and of course the abuser, wrong word.
Your fender, they are demonic without a single redeeming feature.
Splitting does not let you put yourself in someone else's shoes. It does not allow you to understand the other or to at least try to. Splitting is a major problem and it is at the core of everything that's happening nowadays. It is also the age of death. It is the age starting with the Industrial Revolution where material goods, inanimate objects, dead objects are considered far more valuable than human life.
Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, we value human life today much less than we had done, for example, in the Middle Ages.
Human life is a dispensable commodity convertible into a bottom line. Human life is used to produce consumer goods in slavery conditions. Human life is sacrificed in a variety of ways, armed conflicts, other ways.
It is the age of death because we elevate and venerate and worship the dead over the living, the inanimate over the animate, the material over the good.
The age of death has two subversive, unexpected effects.
One, we all become consumer goods. We all become consumables. We are commoditized and commodified.
In order to acquire value, in order to be considered valuable, we brand ourselves. We become brands, commercial brands, brand me.
And others perceive us as consumer goods, something to be purchased, used and then discarded.
That's the first effect of the death count that we call Western civilization or modern and postmodern civilization.
The second effect of the age of death is that we develop a death wish. If death becomes the predominant value, if to be dead is considered better than to be alive, then we all wish to be dead.
We perceive death as the ultimate state of being. It's a form of enlightenment. Death brings us happiness. We buy a smartphone. We feel elated and euphoric. We had purchased our small piece of death.
So when we acquire death, when we interact with death, we are contaminated, we're infected by death itself. And we develop a death wish.
Indeed, suicidality, straightforward suicidality, and numerous other forms of slow motion, indirect suicide, for example, substance abuse, are on the rise. They're exploding exponentially because if we are nothing but consumer goods, if we perceive ourselves and others as commodities, then death is the natural state and life is the aberration, the unusual exception.
People don't know what to do with life. Their lives are meaningless because only death confers meaning. Only material dead goods equate significance.
And so they don't know what to do with the life they had been given, and they kill themselves, and they kill everyone around them, and they kill their environment, and they kill others.
It is the age of spectacle, Groucho Marx said it. Anomic societies, as Emil Doheim had observed, tend to foster suicide in individuals, but also they tend to bring about an agenda of mental suicide.
Now, one way to commit mental suicide is to not be you, to vanish, to disappear as an authentic voice and an authentic self, and reappear as a theater production, as an apparition, as an appearance, as a facade, as a camouflage, as a disguise.
And so, people place much more emphases, almost exclusive emphases, on appearances.
How do they appear to others? How do others react to their appearance?
The need to be seen is overwhelming. And in order to be noticed and seen, and in order to appear the right way to position yourself relatively to others in an advantageous place, in order to accomplish all this, people escalate their behaviors.
They lose their boundaries. They go nuts.
It's a period of crazy making where everyone tries to outdo others in order to gain not 15 minutes of attention, but 15 seconds of likes.
Social media are the reification of this age of the spectacle. It is the age of self-sufficiency.
Everyone seeks autonomy, agency, independence, and self-efficacy.
While in the past, until the very recent past, interdependence was hallowed and praised, and relationships implied relatedness, implied interconnectivity, implied interdependence, these were the values of humanity throughout history until more or less 40 years ago.
But now, the overriding value is aloneness, atomization, separateness, self-sufficiency as a form of individuation.
People seek to separate from other people, and by separating from them, become individuals.
Individuality, therefore, one's sense of self and personality now depend crucially on antagonism. You are who you are in opposition to someone, in contrast to someone, as distinct from someone, separate from someone, and so we drift apart. We drift apart. Yes, we are self-sufficient. Technology affords us this self-containment.
We can all become schizoid Hermes, and shortly with the metaverse we'll be able to have everything right at our doorstep and inside our apartments, sex included, virtual sex.
The workplace, we don't need to go to work anymore. We can work from home. Entertainment, we don't need to go to a cinema. We have everything at home. And sex, you know, there will be artificial intelligence apps. There will be holographic pornography. There will all be homebound. People will stop seeing each other. They will stop meeting each other.
It's already happening. 2016 was the first year where majority of men and women had no encounter with the opposite sex of any kind. And so whatever contact there is between human beings had become transactional, cursory, perimatory, perfectory, meaningless, emotionless, passing, fleeting, forgettable.
When we start to forget each other, that's the end.
And we're in the age of forgetting.
Our biggest emotional investment is in forgetting, not in remembering.
We try to forget traumas. We try to erase bad relationships. We try to put behind us all kinds of things.
Self-help, the self-help industry is all about becoming someone else. Discontinuity, breaking up with the past, deleting and reframing it. There's no memory, individual, institutional or societal. Culture is about instant gratification, the here and now.
And even in psychotherapy, we have mindfulness therapies, which tell you forget the past, forget the future, focus on the here and now.
It is the age of the present because you're self-sufficient only in the present.
It is also the age of risk aversion. People are terrified of risks of all kinds, big and small. They go into an ordinate lens in time, resources and investment in order to avoid risks.
Ironically, this only serves to increase risk. The only way to avoid risk is by working with other people collaborating and cooperating towards a common goal, striving towards a common aim and purpose with a clear, unified and shared agenda.
In the age of splitting, risk rises exponentially.
In the age of self-sufficiency, any small break in the supply chain, any downtime in the technology renders you vulnerable.
So this extreme risk aversion actually has led to a society, to a civilization, which is much more brittle and fragile than anything we had ever seen before.
Witness what's happening around us. Have a look at how we responded to COVID-19. Ukraine. We are surrounded by ever-increasing risks, even as we try our best to avoid them.
We believe that by avoiding risks, we're going to live longer, we're going to have better lives and so on. It's narcissism.
Each one of us is a God. Each one of us is of cosmic significance.
And so we need to preserve our bodies and minds and our environment, neutralize and sterilize our environment so that it's risk-free.
This risk aversion is an aversion to life itself. It's a rejection of life because life is risk.
Growth is loss. Development is pain. Suffering is the engine of evolution and progress. It should be minimized to the best of our ability, but it should never be avoided altogether.
Because to avoid it altogether is to inhabit cemeteries known as cities.
Only in a cemetery there are no risks anymore.
It is the age of magical thinking, confronted with a harsh reality which we cannot control outside of our grasp, with zero influence, significance or meaning, where we are nothing but ants or atoms or statistics.
Confronted with this, we develop a belief in magic. Magical thinking.
If I only put my mind to it, good things will happen. The sheer force of my will will will rearrange the universe to cater to my needs. I am an angel. There's no flaw in me. I am blameless and blemishless.
All these are forms of magical thinking, the belief that one's thoughts, emotions and moods can and do affect reality.
It's a form of impaired reality testing.
And we all live in an age of magical thinking because as Clark, the famous sci-fi author, had said, modern science is indistinguishable from magic. Modern technology is indistinguishable from magic. It's magical.
So with this magic in our hands, the smartphone, for example, we feel as wizards do. We are wizardly. We are all Harry Potter's.
And this magical thinking draws us further and further away from reality. We become less and less efficacious, less able to control ourselves, our boundaries, our impulses, our urges, our behaviors, other people around us, less able to influence and shape things to come in our own lives.
We withdraw into fantasy. It's a pernicious psychological defense mechanism.
And in this fantasy, we are grandiose, all-knowing, all-powerful, at least in potential. We have infinite ability to change and transform and transmute everything that's bad and threatening and risky and bring about everything that's desirable and hopeful.
But this is nonsense. It's a fairy tale for the feeble-minded and the weak, exactly like religion.
The belief in entities such as God and angels and demons is a form of magical thinking, immature, infantile, not very clever to use an understatement.
It is not an accident. It's not by coincidence that this is the age where belief in the occult, in conspiracy theories, in incredible nonsense, in religion is growing again after an interlude of 250 years of enlightenment.
We are drawn back to the darkest recesses of the Middle Ages, long before the Arab Enlightenment in the 9th and 10th centuries, the period where people were primitive and superstitious.
All the way back there, anything from astrology through homeopathy, through conspiracy theories, through and through counterfactual nationalism.
These are all forms of magical thinking.
It is the age of entitlement. People believe that they deserve things, and they deserve things not by virtue of any investment or commitment, not as an outcome of some effort or studies or hard work, not because of perspiration.
Edison said that its invention is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.
No, this is the age of inspiration only, magical thinking.
Entitlement is a derivative of magical thinking.
Because I'm magical, I'm entitled, and I'm entitled by virtue of existing. My very existence and being entitled me. Entitled me to what? To special treatment, to goodies, to freebies, to access, to power, to fame and celebrity, those who are famous for being famous.
It's an age of vacuity, an age of emptiness and void, an age where people compete with each other not in order to elevate each other or themselves, not in order to accomplish things and move further, not in order to have an impact and make a difference, that they compete with each other in order to establish themselves as superior in some way. And this superiority can be among the ruins. So people destroy and by destroying, they feel superior. Even destruction had become an art form because if you reduce other people, you elevate yourself.
If you destroy, you build yourself. If you diminish through pathological envy and acts of aggression, if you diminish and humiliate and degrade other people, then you are godlike, aren't you? This is the age of entitlement, aggressive, nefarious, dangerous entitlement.
And it is above all, the age of distrust. It's the age of pervasive mistrust, mistrust of experts, mistrust of science, mistrust of the authorities, mistrust of the future, and above all, mistrust of each other.
Everyone is wary of being played. Everyone has a pet conspiracy theory. Everyone is a potential victim. Everyone seeks to compensate for a sense of helplessness and inferiority by pretending to be grandiose and superior.
Nowhere is the mistrust more profound than between men and women in all age groups from all backgrounds everywhere in the world.
The mistrust between men and women had brought on something that can only be described as a war among the genders. It's an outright war, tooth and claw and bleeding nail unto death between men and women.
Now we are civilized beings, so it's all disguised in the form of academic articles, amazing studies, and newspaper opinion pieces. These are the new modern weapons in culture wars.
But there is a war between men and women. And now it's not limited to the monosphere, deranged males like miktals and incels. It's in the dating scene. It's within marriages. It's in divorce proceedings in court. Everywhere men are fighting women and women are fighting men. To the last bit, women, wary of men, are now trying to become utterly self-sufficient, and single mothers if possible. Self-sufficient financially, self-sufficient biologically.
Men, terrified of women's ascendance and newfound independence, are trying to re-establish a patriarchy, to suppress women and to punish them in the only arena where they still have an advantage. The bedroom, sex and relationships.
Abuse is more rife than ever. Around 70% of men and women say that they deeply or somewhat distrust the opposite sex. That's 70-70. The remainder totally or somewhat distrust their counterparties.
Women complain that men are feminine, not committed or invested, weak, ineffectual and craven. The vagaries of online dating serve to augment this inauspicious view of men. All they want is sex.
Men describe women as sexually unboundary, prone to cheating and drunkenness and cunning. A whopping 16% of people under age 25 cheat in their relationships every single year. Now that's 16% every year. Cumulative.
Within six years, all of them and that's compared to 2% per annum in the 1980s. Eight times an eight-fold increase in infidelity. Cheating had become a default casual sex behavior and is now intimately coupled with excessive drinking. This supernova of infidelity is driven by empowered and financially independent women who no longer tolerate male abuse and bad sex in their primary dyads.
And this abysmal, mutual resentment and hypervigilance, these have dire outcomes and consequences.
About one-third of the people surveyed in the Pew Center studies, one-third are lifelong singles. Another 15%, one-five percent are between rapid fire, pseudo-relationships.
Can you digest these numbers? Half the population, half the adult population in the United States are single for life. The marriage rate is an all-time low, having declined by 50% since 1990. Birth rates in industrial countries have plummeted and the populations in many nations are ageing and declining at dizzying speeds. Since 2016, aloneness is the new normal for the majority of men and women worldwide.
So this is a case study of mistrust and distrust between two groups, men and women.
But there is similar distrust between political parties. There's similar distrust between the academic world and the population. There's similar distrust between medical doctors and their patients. There's similar distrust between people and science. There's a total distrust of experts and intellectuals. Everyone is suspect. Everyone has ulterior motives. Everyone is on the pay and is a shill. No one trusts anyone about anything anymore. Everyone conducts research, deep research, before going out for coffee with someone.
It's a world where everyone has clinically paranoid ideation and persecutory delusions. It's never been this bad. Never, ever been this bad.
In each and every one of the dimensions that I describe, the mistrust, the entitlement, the magical thinking, the risk aversions of sufficiency, spectacle and appearance, the adoration of death. In each and every one of these aspects, splitting, we are in uncharted territory. We have never been here before.
And I am terrified that the confluence of these unprecedented trends is too much for us to bear as a species.
We are a young species. We're 300,000 years old. The dinosaurs had survived for well over 140 million years and they had occupied every ecosystem. Same like us.
But it seems that we humans are badly designed and badly programmed. There are critical flaws in our code. And these flaws are now manifesting like never before, amplified by the technologies that we had created.
We are lemmings. We are marching off. The edge of a cliff is near. But we close our eyes and we drift into fantasy land where everything is fine, everything is dandy, everything is passing, things are going to be okay.
Poli Anish, Disneyland.
But remember, the time comes when the gates of Disneyland close and everyone is evicted. Evicted exactly as we had been expelled from the Garden of Eden: And we had been expelled from the Garden of Eden to be cursed with suffering. There is a big suffering coming on.
We need to get our act together. We need to get rid of our narcissistic psychopathic frame of mind which had now become dominant. Or else. Or else.