After liberation comes reconstruction — and as this age of the world ends, Ukraine is only one of the first places that will be forced to rebuild.
Sorry smug academics and fellow travelers: the linear theory of history you believe in and promote is dead wrong.
Few want to admit the hard truth that history is deeply episodic: there are periods of growth and improvement as well as collapse and decay.
Understanding why requires accepting a truly scientific philosophy built up from first principles, like this one:
Those of us who spent a lot of years in higher education were taught to believe ourselves educated, but this was a deliberate lie intended to insulate our teachers from accountability.
To do their jobs, educators have to present the facts of life as a kind of story. The human brain naturally creates narratives about events to make sense of them.
So they naturally tell the story of humanity as one of progress from a distant, half-remembered past to the present. Because we have more comprehensive information about the recent past than the far past, a dangerous form of bias assaults all analysis of how we got here.
The tendency is to collapse a tremendous amount of historic complexity into a convenient story line. That requires that people make deliberate choices about how to get the job done.
We are trained to believe that through a process of debate a group of properly educated individuals can identify fixed truths and facts about the world. But this mistakes a process for communicating science with the inherently uncertain act of really doing it.
Because it is too time consuming to debate every issue from first principles when trying to get things done in the real world, we all rely on ignoring vast numbers of important truths to get by.
For example: the sky is not blue in any consistent sense. Blue is a human concept, a name attached to a sensation derived from the way our eyes translate photons striking them. Individual experiences of blue vary.
Not all people can even see the color blue. Some lack the machinery in their eyes thanks to the randomness of genetic inheritance. Others are good with blue but perceive red and green as almost identical shades of what other people would call brown.
The idea that you can hold a debate to establish truths is a sneaky lie: what debates do is give those involved a sense of how popular their arguments are.
Ultimately, reality is defined by the way people act. The truths you hold dear will vary depending on your life experiences.
This first principle is in fact one of the few that can be backed up by significant bodies of science that have — and this is crucial — proven themselves in the real world.
Science is not about discovering truths, but developing reliable explanations about material phenomena. Its purpose is to help people get by as best as they can, providing a flexible took kit that can be adapted to nearly any context.
Educators don’t like to accept this starting point because it opens them up to questions about what truths they emphasize or don’t in their classes.
The media and government don’t like the idea either because both rely on the illusion of authority: that there are people who get to decide for everyone else what is true or real.
Trouble is, no one can or will ever come up with a single unifying approach to doing science because this is impossible.
To do science properly, as anyone with training in the fundamentals of statistics ought to know, there have to be unknowns to test against.
This is why the entirely valid argument that there exists some all-powerful God who decides what happens in everyone’s life is useless for doing science.
By definition, an all-powerful creator deity with an interest in people’s lives can make things happen so invisibly no science could ever detect this God’s activities.
But saying that a bridge stays up, airplane flies, or infection abates because this is God’s will totally ignores the fact that in every observed case engineers and construction workers are the ones who took actions in the material world.
Science works by creating an arbitrary but consistent test that identifies systematic differences in how two or more objects of interest behave. You have a control and a treatment group and record multiple state variables over time to create an artificial reality.
And here’s the thing: different scientists can replicate each other’s work. If lots of people at varying places and times follow the same steps and account for the same variables only to wind up with close to the same result, statistics implies this means that the result is reliable given the assumptions made when constructing the experiment.
A lot of people dislike the implications of this consequence of statistical mathematics. Most, especially people tied to political movements, prefer to assert control over truth in order to avoid their followers asking hard questions about what they really know.
Many will even insist that their moral position gives them the right to denigrate other people’s truths.
Which in the case of objectively monstrous people like Nazis is an attractive proposition, but one that always winds up being turned around on you in the end.
The correct reason to oppose Nazis is because they seek to eliminate other people’s autonomy. It’s part of who they are, and how they surrender any claim to be treated as human beings the moment they take action on their beliefs.
The reality of moral relativism does not mean that everyone’s morality is equal or that folk don’t have to follow certain rules. It is instead a warning: any fact or truth will generate opposition, even if it stems from a total misunderstanding.
If you want to win a fight over truth you had better be ready for the blowback.
Again: reality is defined by people’s actions. Beliefs are inscrutable — no one can see into another’s mind. All anyone has to go on is the evidence offered by prior behavior.
That’s why trust is so important in human social life. People can only rarely survive alone, and being able to express facts or truths depends on being alive.
The briefest glance at the historical record, biased as it might be, shows that people virtually always band together into families, clans, and tribes. Each holds its own truths to be self-evident, yet all are united by the need to secure access to the resources they require to survive.
Bigger social objects like countries and societies are formed by many communities coming together to act like smaller ones: evidence of a systemic process at work.
Why do people come together at all? To improve their living conditions in some way.
Societies and countries are generated by the desire of diverse folks to find ways to productively work together.
This does not mean that their relationships are conflict-free, far from it. Is any family without some level of drama?
What holds everything together is the realization that the collective can achieve more through cooperation than competition.
When that is no longer the case for enough people, the organism their associations create dies. Often, a collapse in mutual trust is the cause.
On the other hand, a group of people who come under attack based on their shared attributes will sometimes go the other way: they will forge new bonds stronger than steel.
This is what has happened in Ukraine. A new country has been born in the wake of Putin’s malevolent assault on Ukraine as an idea.
We, all of us, will feel the war for the future come home soon enough.
For this is an age of Ragnarok: a dissolution of bonds as the Postwar Order that has ruled geopolitics for eighty years dies at long last.
In my long studies I discovered something rather grand: our ancestors already knew the truths that mattered.
The story of the Norse gods in the Eddas as told by Voluspa is a tale as old as humanity itself: of a new order born out of conflict that lives to a ripe old age before its leaders destroy all that they ever built.
It’s the cycle of the seasons, writ large: a timeless truth you can see all around you once your eyes are trained how to look.
Since the dawn of time humans have tried to deny the seasons. Nearly every so-called Civilization has been nothing more than some petty group of rich people’s attempt to pretend that their world will last forever.
America is a society rooted in being able to pretend mind can always prevail over matter — at least for those with a sizable bank account balance.
This, of course, is why the thing is dying such an ignoble death before our very eyes. America isn’t real and its own people sense it; a nation defined by lying to itself cannot stand for long.
Americans have forgotten what true traditional values are: honesty, generosity, loyalty, tolerance, bravery, and above all else, respect for the autonomy of others.
Real traditional values have never been rooted in the newfangled fad of monotheist Christianity, but the lessons passed down by the ancestors across the globe.
These boil down to something very simple: guarantee that everyone has secure access to safe shelter, nutritious food, clean water, fresh air, free association, and honest work.
Provide everyone everywhere these things and most conflicts around the world come to an end.
This is a simple truth that defies partisanship, ideology, or faith. It is rooted in science of the best kind.
The trick is that how the job gets done can and should vary by location. And communities have to be able to choose, to the degree possible, what to prioritize.
Big centralized countries are all doomed: Russia and America are both damned for the same reason.
Russia may die first, but America won’t last much longer now that Americans have been driven to fear each other.
Ukraine, on the other hand, will come out of this brutal conflict with a bright future.
As far as I’m concerned, Volodymyr Zelensky is my President — Joe Biden can go eat dirt for all I care.
Frankly, Zelensky ought to be made President of the World by default. He’s one of the few leaders actually fighting for the future.
World history stands at another critical juncture. Progress is a myth — people have been the same, cognitively speaking, for tens of thousands of years.
All we’ve got is more technology, for better or for worse. The tools to make billions of people’s lives miserable — or happy as they can be.
The planet now has sufficient resources to provide every human being what they need to live free. The problems are:
- Too much is hoarded by a small group of rich people
- No effective distribution systems are in place anywhere but a few rich countries, mostly in Scandinavia
- Domination of most governments by powerful interests adamantly opposed to change
The only solution to these problems is to take control of resources and invest them in local redevelopment projects that transform communities, even whole countries.
After more than a year of Russian missiles raining down across Ukraine there is a lot that needs to be rebuilt.
As tragic as the destruction has been it also creates a unique and compelling opportunity.
It is now possible to reconstruct Ukraine as an example of what the rest of the world could become if resources are allocated in the right way.
The hard reality of the dangerous future we all face thanks to environmental degradation, wealth inequality, and geopolitical shenanigans is that only a wartime mentality will suffice to meet the challenges ahead.
Failure will mean suffering the preventable deaths of tens of millions of people over the next half century. Most of the rest will ultimately be left in poverty and clamoring for the destruction of the few wealthy survivors.
Averting this grim dystopia depends on Ukraine winning its war and being properly reconstructed as a model of global environmental sustainability.
The truth is that beating climate change will require entirely new global institutions. A defense force capable of stopping aggressors; an all-encompassing investment mechanism to boost green development; and new ways of connecting with communities to offer basic aid in disaster-impacted areas without undermining local autonomy are all required.
This is a generational task, and it starts in Ukraine.
The first step is to give Ukraine all the military aid it needs to kick Putin out forever. The fate of russia is termination in another civil war, which will mean that Ukraine’s borders will have to be guarded for some time to come.
Behind the guarded frontier a decentralized energy system has to be stood up as quickly as possible. The assault on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure over this past winter made the need for distributed systems abundantly clear.
Disasters, political turmoil, and a host of other problems can interfere with the livability of vast regions. The natural solution is to make every community as energy self-sufficient as it can be.
Solar farms, small-scale hydropower systems, biomass generators — the opportunity will depend on the locality. Community-based infrastructure also has the benefit of guarding against corruption in a given country, as external partnerships can help shine a light on nasty practices to deter them.
Most people, accustomed to their power always being on, forget just how vulnerable to corporate price gouging when supplies become tight. Deep down, the entire global economy is driven by fuel prices.
The fossil fuel age created the cheap energy world that is currently ending: sooner or later the availability of electricity on Earth will come down to the renewable sources constructed while there were still other forms of cheap energy available to set them up.
Oil, natural gas, coal, and even uranium will all run out. And the moment global demand starts to exceed supply — an inevitability when half the planet is only now starting to fully industrialize — the price shock will bite unprepared places the hardest.
Every community around the world needed to start producing as much energy and food as possible starting about a decade ago. When the just-in-time global logistics infrastructure powered by corporate greed runs into trouble, the knock-on effects are nasty.
The impending global recession, one where inflation is high but unemployment stays low, will be very difficult for policy makers to climb out from. Those countries that can secure steady supplies of cheap materials, energy, and immigrant labor will prosper in the years ahead.
A grand reordering of the global system is underway as a result of the USA and NATO’s tragic failure to deter Putin’s assault on Ukraine.
It is now clear that back in 2014 the Obama administration failed to read the situation. Stated red lines around chemical weapons use in Syria were ignored and the US did nothing meaningful after the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Donbas.
We live in an epoch of change, and there is no going back to the way things were. The ideological concerns of the past century are dead — something new is emerging as the old left-right paradigm finally dies.
Fact is, the thing was a creation of scholars anyway. Like any social theory it will eventually become outdated as the churn of human society carries on.
In a world where everything feels so confusing, the fact of Ukraine’s successful resistance is extremely notable. The failure of the experts to predict that Ukraine would survive Putin’s onslaught will go down in history alongside the inability to see the USSR’s coming collapse as a mark of how broken the ideology-driven social theory of the twentieth century was.
Welcome to the revenge of materialism, folks. The world is descending into madness because powerful people refuse to accept that their theory of history is wrong.
But on the other side, even if the nukes fly, fear not: It gets better.
Watch Ukraine: it is the bellwether of the brighter future to come.
Slava Ukraini! Heroiam Slava!
It is no accident that lands once controlled by an anarchist movement focused on taking care of local people are the heart of the rising Third World War today.
Sometimes it takes a few generations of blood and pain before the brutal investment begins to pay off.
Ukraine will be free.
And soon, Moscow’s empire will be no more.
Welcome to the future.