Introduction: According to the Greek legend, Pandora unwisely and contrary to strict instructions, opened the box she had been given to safeguard, overcome by curiosity and by the lure of the forbidden. All the ills of the world flew out. When she hastily closed the box only the worst of all was left—hope.
“La Speranza, che dilude sempre” (Hope, which always deludes.) Puccini, Turandot
Without hope, the people perish, because they have nothing to live for. Hope can be related to many things: life, eternity, beauty, prosperity, happiness, progress, liberty, and so on. But always something. Always?
This is an essay, not an academic exercise. The allegations are just that—allegations; based, to be sure, on fact and the experiences of a long and very busy life, divided among the military, business, finance, consulting, academia and culture. But there will be no footnotes and little reference to statistics. I also refuse to be politically correct and refer to men and women or him and her or he and she. Use of the masculine form to represent both (all?) genders has been the usage for thousands of years. It’s good enough for me.
Those who disagree may rest assured that I desperately hope they are right and that I am wrong. That is one hope that is not yet dead.
I The Death of Hope in the Future of Mankind: The Collapse of the Family.
The nuclear family: father, mother and children, is the basic building-block of society. The very essence and reason for being of the family is the procreation and nurture of children, who are, in effect, the future.
Whatever the other virtues of widespread abortion, birth-control and same-sex marriage, they are all destructive of the family. The death of hope in this category is demonstrated by the plummeting birth-rates in much of the world. Mankind is literally disappearing, slowly to be sure—it takes time to whittle down seven billion people—but inexorably. All the dominant social trends reinforce this development.
The Death of Hope for Life: the Spread of the Islamic Cult of Death.
“We will prevail becaue they [unbelievers] yearn for life, whereas we yearn for death”, shout untold numbers of ayatollahs, mullahs and imams throught the Muslim world. They are spreading the gospel of nihilism and annihilation rhetorically throughout the world and in practice in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as parts of sub-Saharan Africa. There is no reason to believe that the cult of death will not continue to spread throughout Asia, Africa, Europe; and then the Americas.
The Death of Hope for Humanism: The perversion and degeneration of contemporary education.
The study of Western Civilization has practically disappeared from the curricula of schools and universities in the West, which are the inheritors and depositories of that civilization. As a result, generations of people are maturing knowing little or nothing of Greek, Jewish or Christian philosophy; of the great progenitors of modern science; of the apostles of liberty in England and The United States, as well as elsewhere. As far as they are concerned, everything they see around them sprang as if spontaneously from the earth.
The Death of Hope for Beauty: Contemporary Art and Music.
The last of the great composers, most of whom were Russian, passed away shortly after the end of the first half of the twentieth century. The concept of “atonalism” is the diametric opposite of the very soul of music, which consists of melody, harmony and counterpoint. Contemporary music is ugly—on purpose. Contemporary art is also ugly. It was demonstrated that a parrot holding brushes in its beak could create paintings as good or better than Mondran or Pollack or the rest of the charlatans.
The Death of Hope for the individual: Concentration of Wealth and Increasing Dependence on the State
In a recent Forbes magazine study, it was claimed that the wealthiest 68 individuals in the world held as much wealth (defined as income-producing property) as the lower-income half of mankind, or three and a half billion people. In the meantime and related to it, an ever-greater percentage of the population of the world is dependent on government subsidies of various kinds. Estimates indicate that percentages vary between thirty and fifity percent in various countries, but everywhere it is growing. This is the new slavery.
The Death of Hope for Productive Human Employment: Modern Technology and its Effect on Labor
Advanced robotization, 3-D printing, and other advanced technologies all contribute to the increased role of capital in the productive process and the decreased role of labor. This phenomenon, of course, reinforces the concentration of wealth in the owners of capital. Those who own only their own labor find they own an asset of ever-diminishing worth. Even soldiers will be less valuable in the future conflict scenaria being prepared today. Those with scientific and/or technological knowledge will continue to the in demand for the immediate future. After that, who knows, perhaps even they will become redundant, once robots can think and create.
The Death of Hope in Life Eternal: The Spread of secularism in the West.
The role of Christianity in the West, once central, has declined precipitously. The same is true of Judaism. In the meantime, in South and East Asia, Buddhism, Shintoism and to a lesser extent Hinduism are become largely symbolic relics from the past. Only Islam is resurgent, which means that the Cult of Death is now spiritually dominant over the Cult of Life. Thus the death of hope in life is supplemented by the death of hope in life everlasting.
The Death of Hope for a Better Life: The Universal Debt Tsunami.
My father, the son of an abusive dirt-famer in southern Illinois, became one of the greatest neuro-scientists of the twentieth century. Today that would be practically impossible. My children, in contrast, do not expect that their children (at least they are having some) will live better lives than they do. The future has been monumentally mortgaged almost everywhere. Much of it will never be paid, but that which is, will be paid by future generations, as long as they last.
The Death of Hope in Reason: The trimph of “political correctness”.
No one speaks of heresy any longer, but many practice suppressing it, with all the enthusiasm of a medieval inquisitor. Those who suggest that women may not be as apt as men for combat, or that the Israel-Palestinian dispute is not at the base of all the ills of the Middle East are subject to ostracism, ridicule and sometimes violence. Rational discourse has given way to ideological rigidity. Intellectual progress under such conditions is rendered impossible.
The Age of the Prophets ended long ago, but the false prophets proliferate. From Norman Angell to Francis Fukuyama to name only two of the most famous, the end of generalized conflict, oppression and tyranny has been prophesized. But conflict and tyranny proliferate, causing and caused by the death of hope.
Can we hope for turning all these factors around? Sure. Hope springs eternal, as we know, and is always eventually delusional.