I’m not normally apocalyptic. On the contrary, I detest leftists who claim that the blood-soaked laws of society, which have operated for thousands of years, have now changed, and wolves may negotiate with sheep, and peace ensue. There are, however, important and seemingly unprecedented changes happening.
Here we will not look into the mystical changes, such as assembling Jews from four corners of the world into the Land of Israel.
Nuclear weapons have allegedly changed the face of war. Whether that is so is far from clear. Roman legions with primitive swords proved no less devastating in Judea than Pakistani nuclear bombs might be. Nukes are weapons of defense, which includes revenge. They are meaningless for conquest because of contamination. Nukes are also not tremendously effective: incendiary bombings of Tokyo claimed twice the number of lives lost in Hiroshima. They are even less effective against a dispersed population that lives in concrete low-rise houses. Short of a multi-megaton tsar-bomb, a nuclear blast close to ground level in Tel Aviv wouldn’t reach the proportions of the Holocaust.
The real changes are more subtle. Media have created a virtual world where people receive gossip from news rather than neighbors. Internet chat has replaced live communication and even phone conversation. Ever wondered why media, so obviously manipulated, nevertheless persuades? Because it falls into the cognitive mold of public opinion. Human minds subconsciously equate mass media with mass opinion. Hearing it on TV is like hearing it from hundreds of acquaintances. Media has the power of millions of gossiping tongues. Media owners and governments that influence them have staggering control over minds. They persuade the entire population by fooling every person that the entire population already believes this or that, and he should follow. Never before has mass opinion been so centralized and so easily manipulated.
Throughout history, public opinion has served as a filter for truth. Facts and propositions, slowly permeating through society, were refused or accepted on a personal level. Every person received a particular piece of news from his neighbors, whom he knew to be fallible. He, therefore, took the news with a degree of doubt. Even when he credulously accepted the facts, he still interpreted them and formed his own opinion. Some crazy ideas did overtake the masses, but most facts were interpreted with common sense.
It is very different today, when consumers hear from TV screens what is purported to be universally accepted opinion. The rational part of their minds protests the obvious lies, but the subconscious part refuses to rebel against TV opinions. The universal reach of TV broadcasts is equated with their universal acceptance, and evolution taught human beings (except the leftists) that universally accepted opinions are either true or that going against them is too troublesome.
Theoretically, media also provide unprecedented access to opinions, including truthful ones. Such variety is of no importance to most people, who are unable to analyze and develop their own judgments. They can read truth on many sites on the Internet, but would still believe the government line.
Another modern phenomenon is welfare. Ancient Rome briefly experimented with such welfare programs as distribution of grain extorted from the provinces. This ancient social security quickly made the Romans into a nation of parasites, unable, and most of all, unwilling to withstand foreign invasions. Today’s Rome includes Western Europe, America, Israel, and the oil sheikdoms. The West fearfully guards its affluence; it wants no conflicts. Unwilling to confront evil, it has accepted evil as a subjective norm. Unwilling to stand tall on any issue whatsoever, the West succumbs to barbaric hordes peacefully through immigration, and attempts to bribe the barbarians into compliance with mammoth welfare programs.
For the first time in history, people need not work for living. Most people in civilized countries work for a better house or a better car, but hardly for food. Even a minimum-wage American works only an hour per day to pay for his rations.
Quality minds are relatively few, but quality hands are in oversupply. China, Bangladesh, India, and Mexico compete for low-skill outsourcing. The populations of Africa, China, and India engage in subsistence farming and extremely primitive manufacturing, but the increase of agricultural productivity pushes most farmers away from their land. Like in the developed countries, agriculture in Africa, China, and India would come to employ 3-5 percent of the population, making the rest utterly unnecessary. Most of the world is not employable.
Robotics has a potential to change the labor market in unprecedented ways. Developed countries outsource labor-intensive industries offshore, but what will happen when steel mills, sewing, and electronics assembly become inexpensively automated? When robots manufacture new robots? Though outsourcing might remain feasible, the industries that were labor-intensive before, such as fashion, will become capital-intensive, as they will require much equipment for automated production. Manual laborers won’t be able to compete with machines by lowering their wage requirements because machines allow better quality than manual labor.
Developed countries experienced similar transitions when technology made manual labor obsolete. But I harbor great doubts that, say, Africans can copy Europeans in switching from manual to brain work; developing a culture of education takes many generations. It is unrealistic to imagine Africans or lower-caste Indians suddenly becoming engineers en masse.
Western well-wishers created an immense problem for undeveloped nations by saving lives. The likes of Mother Theresa, who irresponsibly worked to increase economically deficient populations, did a disservice for them. By urging Indians to refrain from abortions and saving children in sub-Saharan regions, Westerners doomed their pet populations. During the Industrial Revolution, Europeans had the good luck of being relatively few, about 200 million. Now, the populations of undeveloped countries have been artificially increased to economically unsupportable levels through Western aid programs and Western medicines. Minimal education for a billion Africans would cost more than the entire African GDP, about a trillion dollars PPP, excluding the oil countries and South Africa. Egypt, the most advanced African nation (in South Africa, the black majority is less advanced than in Egypt), has not thoroughly developed despite 200 years of civilizing European influence. Egypt’s rural population is as backward as Kenya’s. Africa, India, and probably China have no time to advance slowly as Western Europe did; their population bubble grows every day faster than their resources. In previous times of ruthless common sense, population excesses died out. But today they receive free medicines, food, and water—and continue growing. The Malthusian trend can be reversed by draconian birth-control measures of the Chinese type, or by affluence, which is not likely for most of Africa and India. In Europe, the Industrial Revolution handsomely increased per capita GDP; in Africa, non-oil per capita GDP hardly breaks even on a year-to-year basis. Except for accounting tricks, it probably diminishes. More importantly, stagnating per capita GDP hides distribution difficulties: government employees and a few successful farmers see their income rising, and the overall stagnation implies that the majority becomes relatively poorer. Africans have become more dependent on foreign aid. In terms of societal evolution, we can expect Africans, lower-caste Indians, and possibly most rural Chinese to fall perpetually behind the civilized world. Half the world’s population is doomed to poverty which, when combined with socialist ideas, can spell widespread terrorism.
The situation in the developed countries is also troubling. The West artificially reduces the number of job-seekers by absurdly long education (12-26 years), short work weeks, welfare, and early retirement. The biggest threat comes from the automation of routine services. The ATM displaced hundreds of thousands of bank tellers, and the advent of Internet reservations put a similar number of travel agents out of business. Automation and improved efficiency in low-end service sectors threaten a large part of the population, which cannot easily join the hi-tech sectors. Considerable discontent therefore grows in the developed countries.
Throughout history, technological advances came by with sufficient slowness that entire populations became proficient in their use. Today, technology changes so fast that only the brainier part of society can keep up with the changes. Governments try to bridge the gap with minimum wage and welfare programs, but the gap will continue to increase as long as technological upgrades come out rapidly.
Perpetual dependence on minimum-wage safeguards and welfare means dependence on government. Like in Brave New World, unquestioning loyalty is purchased rather than commanded. Here comes a vicious self-reinforcing arrangement. Lower classes are largely defined through their intellectual inability to engage in the post-technological informational economy; plainly, they are not bright. They believe media and support government. They are the largest voting bloc with fairly coherent views, and democratic governments pander to them. On the positive side, the people of the lower classes are not brainwashed by counter-intuitive liberal education; they are down-to-earth and full of common sense. They resent illegal immigration (which threatens their jobs), appeasement of enemies who claim their children (who serve in the army), and similar leftist policies.
Media have created myriad values, from consumerist to populist, such as helping whales. Their attention spans dissipated, people no longer defend the important values, which have dissolved in the sea of myriad others. Consumerism defeated patriotism, religion, and neighborhood values.
From the nineteen century, haredim have increasingly retreated from productive labor, and depend on donations for living. During the same period, agricultural revolutions have made food increasingly cheap. Theoretically, with food costs per person per month running at $250, it would take only half a billion dollars per year to feed the Israeli haredim, not a tremendous amount for religious charities.
For the first time in history, the birth rate has become negative. Europeans, whether divinely punished for the Holocaust or for an unrelated reason, are dying out and succumbing to Islamic immigration. Even though the European Muslims will eventually reduce their birth rate, the sheer influx of foreign Muslims into Europe will continue, through family reunion schemes if by no other means. The trend of Europe’s Islamization is irreversible: Europeans lack the political will to counter it, are too lazy to fight, and cannot sustain their welfare economies without Muslim immigrants. It’s Jacob against Esau, religious Jews against the Muslims of Europe and the Middle East.