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The Rising Returns to Courage

On power, value, and responsibility futurism.

Modernity has been defined by the general accumulation of power: technical power, intellectual power, and computational power.

But the modern age has come to an end.

Power now exceeds everything that once harnessed it to life.

How else can we explain the puzzle of multiple revolutionary breakthroughs in technology coinciding with a "secular stagnation" (Peter Thiel) and "cancellation of the future" (Mark Fisher)?

In his 1956 book, The End of the Modern World, Catholic priest Romano Guardini proposes a solution to this riddle. The increase of power is no longer an increase of value. The reason is that modernity was always based on a rejection of the West's objective grounding. Everything that made the West work was based on trust in the truth of God. Guardini's book provides a terrifying description of what we should expect next.

In a world where power continues to accelerate without the social-spiritual ground able to harness it, all of the alpha will now be found in faith and courage, rather than intelligence and technique. In other words, it is the connection to God which is now the scarce factor:

"This free union of the human person with the Absolute through unconditional freedom will enable the faithful to stand firm—God-centered—even though placeless and unprotected. It will enable man to enter into an immediate relationship with God which will cut through all force and danger. It will permit him to remain a vital person within the mounting loneliness of the future, a loneliness experienced in the very midst of the masses and all their organizations."

For Guardini, the next epoch will increasingly distinguish firm, grounded, God-fearing individuals from rootless, secular Mass Man. Though it will be a cold and lonely time for the faithful, as the last remnants of warm and fuzzy Christian sentimentalism will be washed away, it will be much worse for Mass Man. The generic secular individual will not only be incapable of effective action, Guardini suggests, but increasingly incapable of any action whatsoever.

We falsely assumed that civilization would continue to enjoy a natural stability, as it enjoyed under the pre-modern natural order. In our naive confidence we have only normalized the complete abdication of responsibility. From now on, all effective and valuable power will flow through those individuals who understand and revivify ethical standards: responsibility, honor, and a sensitivity of conscience.

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