There are many cliches denoting the self-perpetuating tropes. The self-licking ice cream cone. The man who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. And of course, Ourosboros, eternally consuming itself.
Normally these are used as a sort of instant image for something impossible. Most of us — right? I’m not that weird? — at some age between two and five tried to sit on our own hands and wondered if we pulled up hard enough would it hold us up? It didn’t.
Of all the myths of that kind, the one that always fascinated me was Ourosboros. Which can be a good, bad, or OMG why me? Symbol, I think.
I mean, it’s the symbol of the universe, eternally renewing. It’s appropriate for creatives, because in some ways we consume ourselves, and though we talk about filling the well, (none of us is completely isolated from the world) in the end what we feed into our stories is our time, our passion and bits of ourselves. (Into our painting, sewing, or other things too.)
It can be a symbol of eternity. My engagement ring (which broke and I lost in our tenth anniversary, leading us to look for an anniversary ring, which conveniently was of the same type, though not quite) was an ourosboros snake with saphire eyes and diamond chip tail. It discomfited both families because engagement rings in Portugal are eternity rings. Here they’re solitaries. This was a “these two are weird.” Me. We hope for eternity. For each of us, but for us too. We like each other.
I want to say that more than living in the crazy years, we live in the age of Ouroboros. The ever-growing debt? Well, we can maintain ourselves by growing incrementally. Which means creative tech stuff.
And then there’s the negative stuff. There is the snake that eats itself until you end up with a dead snake. Which is consuming the cultural side of our culture, particularly the places dominated by the left: entertainment, the arts, academia.
Look, most people never examine their own motivations. EVER. They particularly never examine what I would call “the wellsprings of their thought-orientation.” This is good, probably, and a good evolutionary trait.
My entire family is afflicted with analyzing everything to death, which is why, realistically, we accomplish maybe a tenth of what we’re capable of. On the other hand, it can free you from an Ouroboros trap.
Yesterday someone on my post on the Hong Kong elections said China can’t be so stupid that they thought demanding obeisance from our president would end well. Or that saying the students were a fringe group and suppressing them would end well. And I thought “of course they can.” In fact, it’s sort of inevitable.
As much as humans tend towards dictatorships, our one saving grace is that dictatorships and all closed information systems are their own punishment/death. I.e. if the serpent can’t regenerate/get feed from outside, and keeps snacking enthusiastically on its own tail, eventually it dies. Before it dies it becomes incredibly stupid.
This is kind of ironic because humans also love closed systems, where they can’t get surprises, particularly when they have power of some sort. Call it “Self patting machines.” And they build them given half a chance.
Take traditional publishing — please, I don’t want it. — It had massive power in the beginning of the twentieth century. What it didn’t want to be seen, wouldn’t be seen. But d*mn it, sometimes the pesky reading public still got one in, still managed to make something a bestseller they didn’t see coming, still insisted on reading things that the increasingly closed-circle-leftist group that ran publishing didn’t think should be read. So they ate faster. They tightened the circle. They hired and published only true believers, and when the laydowns crashed (guys, in the 70s a 75k laydown was considered bad and would end your careeer. Now? Well, selling 3k to 5k is normal. 10k will get you fawned upon. Now, these are hard copies of course. Traditional is notoriously bad at tracking ebook sales. They also price them not-to-sell. So, who knows?) they made up stories about how TV and movies and then games were taking the readers away. (It’s funny, though, because they’re somehow magically re-appearing in indie.) And when that stopped working they tried to force what they wanted to be the only thing read by going to the self-patting system of ordering to the net and telling the bookstores what to order. That is in …. an interesting state of collapse, and the Earth shattering Kaboom won’t be far behind.
Or take Academia. No one was taking the courses they think are vital: mostly Marxist indoctrination, really, in various little dresses with capes of false erudition. So first they demanded you take humanities courses, even for a science degree. Then they started removing actual courses anyone would want to take that was even vaguely mentally challenging and not regurgitating pap. (Yes, a great deal of pap had crept into say Western History) but they weren’t ALL pap. Last time I looked, I couldn’t find a degree in Classical History in my area, and there’s ONE Latin class in 100 miles radius. Taught at inconvenient times. Oh, they also suppressed any assistants and refused to give tenure to anyone who didn’t LOUDLY endorse the party line.
How is it going? Well, someone published a paper about the colleges likely to collapse in the next decade and had to take it down on threats of lawsuits. Because the snake will remain a closed system, damn it. It will. It won’t look at the list and look for correctives. It can’t look for correctives. It’s eaten only itself for so long, it can no longer even perceive alternatives exist, much less consider eating something alien to itself.
Journalism: the determined pursuit of that which is not news, the worship of credentials, and marginalizing of non-leftist reporters. The narrative uber alas. Drinking their own ink, or eating their own tail, if you prefer.
I want to point out that in ALL these cases, as far gone as they are, the systems could still save themselves. All it would take is discarding everything they think they know, and trying a COMPLETELY new approach. Like, someone in Trad pub could take a look at what is succeeding in Indie, discard the holy writ of “a book, maybe two a year”, discard the idea that paper bricks ARE the product. Find a way to tabulate ebook sales for multiple authors. (It’s harder than you think. Yes, my husband has a system and a program. He does the books for a medium size indie. Even with the system and the program, when he’s doing them he invents new swear words.) Start a novel-factory, with shared worlds. Indie authors cannot write in shared worlds without … well, sharing (which brings up that royalty thing.) Publicize hell out of the initial novels/worlds. And I mean insane levels of publicity, what they reserve for hyper best sellers (which don’t need it, but that’s something else.) The paper books will sell because people will collect them. Instant money.
Of course it would require them to discard a lot of things, like their idea of what sells, for instance, which is mostly acquired from their peers which right now are all flailing.
So why don’t they do it? Because they can’t. Between education and work experience, they have become unable to take in external information. It would break their minds. And they would have to be willing to embrace it. They would have to be able to take in ….intellectual input that isn’t themselves.
This is the problem of the PRC, to go back to above. They do incredibly stupid things, because in their system it WOULD work, and they can’t conceive of anything outside their system. They’ve never gone “Wait, why do I believe this?” and “What if it’s this instead?” They’ve been in power so long they can’t even imagine doing that. The world is what their beliefs define, and Ouroboros eats well tonight. And as long as they last.
Our … oh, well, for lack of a better term, our Deep State, our entrenched bureaucracy has the exact same issue.
Look, I’ve been watching the sad spectacle and wondering how anyone SENTIENT can be taken in by it. In fact, amid the general public, the only ones swallowing this nonsense are the headline-skimmers, who are fooled by the Mass Media’s Mass Illusion.
But why does the Mass Media buy it and hysterically try to perpetuate the illusion? Why do people who are obviously sane but embedded in the system buy it? Even non-malevolent people?
I mean, okay, people like Schiff are malevolent, but the thing is even he THOUGHT he had something.
And our intelligence systems have been corrupt and insane for a while, even though it didn’t benefit them at all. Take their buying the USSR’s population figures or economic figures wholesale. Or now China’s. It makes no sense. A child could see the holes in those things. (Or Heinlein. Who visited.) But they can’t. When facts prove them wrong it’s a shock, and they often hide the facts.
So, Ouroboros. See, it starts with credentialism and Academia, which was penetrated and largely controlled by the enemies of the US and sometimes outright communists by the 50s. And people hiring people who come from the right colleges, and sound GOOD to them.
Without realizing it, the wellsprings of all thought on the left (and Academia and bureaucracy are left-cultures, even if individual members try not to be) became the Marxist religion.
Man doesn’t live of bread alone. We live of narrative too. Story, if you will. We’re brief creatures, time is eternal. Story gives us a purpose and our place in it. It can be “I will live x number of years and raise my children well, and they will live after me and raise their children well.” But it always involves more. “At the end of time we’ll be found worthy because we lived by x principles.” “We are doing the righteous thing, because we follow x precepts.”
Most people don’t examine those precepts or where they come from. (Being religious makes it easier to know where they come from, and most religions are an improvement over the stuff fed the young ones now.)
And most precepts they’ve been fed, particularly at the elite-credential level that we get our bureaucrats from, are Marxism. The ideas of how things happen goes back to Marx, from revolutions to international peace, to the relative strength of countries.
These people really, honestly — at least a lot of them — want to serve our country. It’s just that all their ideas rest on not only wrong but bizarre foundations originating in the mind of a 19th century grifter who was good at one thing only: creating a closed and plausible narrative.
This is why, for instance, they “know” nationalism is wrong bad evil think. Because workers of the world are all the same, of course. (Weirdly Marx was nationalist. But some of his construction hinted at internationalism, and that’s the train that ran away after WWI and WWII.) Or that, honestly, a president shouldn’t do anything the bureaucrats oppose, because history has nothing to do with individuals. It’s all “mass movements.”
Mostly, what we’re seeing play out in the house, is the panic of Ouroboros when it realizes there is something outside itself, that doesn’t conform to itself. In human societies this always involves hysterical doubling down.
Eat faster, snake. That tail is poisoned, and it will spell the end of you.
And maybe, over time, society will free itself of your poisonous assumptions.
Even if your death throws are going to throw us all into disorder.
Build under, build over, build around. Get ready to take the weight of the sclerotic self-eating structures when they collapse.
Because I expect an Earth shattering Kaboom.