I feel very stupid.
It's really that simple; it had to be simple to be so darn pervasive, but it also explains why you get cults around news organizations. The cult is a defense of the stability of a moral universe.
Every time -- I think television is a historical example now; printing and radio and mass literacy sure are -- you get an increase in communications speed, you get a massive social crisis. This makes no sense in some respects, because those things tend to come in with improving economies and standards of living. What's the problem?
The problem is that moral systems do not and cannot scale; they're driven by feelings, and the feelings are established in childhood in a fixed context. (Nuance is not a capacity of infants.) Communications speed drives the rate of change in the context. If you have to walk a few hundred miles, work some place for six years, and walk back to bring mechanical improvements you then have to convince locals to fund or adopt, it takes close to a generation to change anything. If you can download instructions from the internet, everything speeds up, and the context shifts faster than the rate at which people can emotionally reconcile themselves. Especially if the change is viewed as disadvantageous, this becomes intolerable. If you have everybody convinced that they'll suffer for eternity if they're bad -- remember that good and bad are inescapably contextual judgements -- you get the Reformation and Counter-Reformation and the wars of religion; a lost century, rather than a lost decade.
It explains the intense loathing of public education; public education came in as a means to generalize concepts like "submission to authority", but as soon as it turns into "here are the ways to get along with strangers" it's a problem to any moral system. (Anything that says "your feelings aren't always important" is a threat to any moral system. That moral system needs to get itself copied into the future. Moral systems are all fundamentally "if the king is upset, everybody is upset; don't upset the king".)
It explains why ostensibly moral systems collapse throughout history to "I am right" on the part of some autocrat; it was always like that, it just usually had the justification of a functioning social system.
Since moral systems aren't required to organize society -- boundary-driven social organization, rather than prescriptive rules, works fine -- this is not in principle a problem. Severing the chain of cultural transmission for the existing moral systems, in a time when we're guaranteed a millenium of instability (no agriculture, awful weather events) and a century or so of migration (because those places aren't inhabitable anymore) is likely a challenge.
28 July 2018
I feel very stupid.