I doubt anyone will really read this or respond, but am interested to see what other people think of this idea I have been toying with.
I know Hegel advanced the original theory of an “end” to history, or the idea that all human civilization is moving toward a final “post-historic” state (this idea was later co-opted into Marx’s Dialectic Materialism sans the romantic idealism of Hegel’s concept.)
I have an instinctual abhorrence to the entire idea of “post history” (such as Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” another discussion for another time) but can’t help but think that, as a whole, the developed world through consumerism, moral liberalism, and technological advancements are experiencing a collective “cultural revolution” (to use the tired Maoist phrase) of sorts.
One of the chief goals of the widely accepted enlightenment concepts of liberalism is freedom. This freedom means the lifting of cultural restrictions, the stripping away of traditional taboos. These taboos, supported by primal superstition fed spiritualism, sought to restrict certain expressions and acts of satisfaction and expression. In essence, freedom becomes the destruction of obstacles that bar man from physical gratification.
If modern history, in a social context, thus can be seen as a form of devolution. Science, skepticism and relativism strip away the foundations of traditional morality. Advanced technology allow us to experience physical gratification in it’s purest and most primal form. Using this very website, we can mimic catharsis and self realization on a near daily basis. Will this be enough for human society? Will we experience a form of collective existential crisis? Does instant pleasure and anesthetized pain, constitute lasting happiness?
I personally think that this form of physical “happiness” will not be enough. I think personal expression and honesty will prove anemic and limited. We will, if we are not already doing so, need to construct a new morality or hierarchy to fill the postmodern void. The Qing Dynasty has fallen, and we are all villagers looking toward Beijing.