The technological revolution we are currently undergoing has completely destabilized society via censorship and identity politics. This destabilization has turned our western world’s beloved notion of democracy, freedom, and rationality into a disillusioned dream.
We have traded comfort and ‘safety’ for freedom, and swapped out rational thought for instant dopamine surges. As a result, we have created an extremely vulnerable society that has fallen prey to the certainties promised by a new a sort of technological totalitarian regime.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, our industrialized societies have been oscillating between nihilism and totalitarianism.
Nietzsche and Dostoevsky predicated many of the phenomena that were, and would become, results of this oscillation. Both of these authors analyzed the peculiar question of: How, and why is it that people will often flee into the arms of totalitarian regimes?
Jordan Peterson brilliantly highlights this notion in his lecture entitled, “Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard (Existentialism)”. Throughout this lecture Peterson emphasizes Nietzsche’s observation that although totalitarian certainty often results in the sacrifice of rational thought and eventually even slavery, compared to nihilistic chaos, much of the masses might find it preferable.
This is a very scary thought, to say the least. In fact, all of the above mentioned authors recognized the dreadful outcomes of such a train of thought.
Confronting nihilistic chaos can be a dreadful experience. Diving into the void of the possibility of valueless being and arbitrary chaos is often a paralyzing force (Sartre’s Nausea is exactly about this). Attempting to understand and truly confronting this void is by no means a simple task. One must take a journey analogous to that seen in Dante’s Inferno.
However, for many people this is not a desired task. The way our epoch has set up society requires most of its citizens to be nothing more than cogs in a machine. Mortgages, tuition fees, insurance costs, etc. enslave many people, requiring them to pour the majority of their energy into paying their bills.
The little free time they have left is often reserved for either, recovering from their long work week, or trying to forget it. Therefore, the time needed for critical thought and research becomes scarce and the dopamine kicks are not as instant with such tasks.
This is where the brave new world the tech giants have built begins to reveal its totalitarian side. Since the majority of individuals simply do not have the time to truly ‘conquer’ the depths of nihilistic chaos, they would rather be given a simple narrative that is accompanied with quick dopamine surges.
As a result, to paraphrase Aldous Huxley, people start loving their oppression and adoring the technologies that take away their capacities to think. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily matter what goes into the process of creating a narrative. It just has to give people the illusion of being a part of a community and be accompanied with enough ‘toys’ to dull or arouse the senses.
This is often the moment where the lines between democracy, mob rule, and totalitarianism become blurred.
Recently, this blur is becoming ever more apparent. During the early stages of this modern day technological revolution there was a sort of halo above many of these new technologies. For instance, the internet and cell phones were havens for free speech and communication across the globe.
However, as time went on this halo slowly began to slide its way down and find its way around the necks of its users. What was once free is now a suffocatingly controlled environment. What was once harmless is now the main source of polarization and destabilization.
Plato’s warnings of the pitfalls of democracy have gone unheard and we are now facing a new era that is led by an unelected mob, which has been conveniently controlling narratives and destabilizing societies for its own benefits.