Enlightenment or Obedience?
Everything that exists must participate in a life cycle that reaches death. Dying has positive and negative traits which makes it transformative and creative but simultaneously dissolving and destructive. Life cycles are eternal; they are inextricable forces that act in the shadows of human affairs that can only be endured and progressed. These periods of births, booms, decays and deaths are an integrated process in the story of western culture, which springs as a unique product of western people in all our varied forms. While we're slowly trudging through decay towards death, an inevitable self-examination and rebirth of our guiding philosophy only inches closer. This has happened on numerous occasions for numerous reasons, for better or worse, wherever the Indo-European peoples have spread throughout the world.
We are afforded the luxury to retrospectively view the 20th century through many political lenses, which is of great fortune for us but was the living misfortune of millions. I choose to examine this prior century as a continued struggle of authority against democracy; a struggle with the expectation of seeing someone be saddled to the throne of power. Self-evidently, the latter would become the global preference and Enlightenment Era individualism and democracy would wipe the sweat from its brow and catch its breath. The United Nations has since been used as an instrument of advancing the global attraction of individualism, peace and democracy. Three of the five permanent members in the United Nations Security Council (France, the United Kingdom and the United States) fully support these gilded ideals and have the tendency and ability to align themselves against dissent in the promotion of their vision of international collective security.
Having originated in Europe, Enlightenment values would spring from England's burgeoning classical liberal, Christian democracy and find a lasting influence on the foundation of American politics and culture. The focus on human happiness, the pursuit of knowledge, furthering the ideals of liberty, tolerance, constitutional government and separating religion from politics would then spread to the rest of the British Empire in subtle or major ways. Intellectuals of many stripes have been critical of this mode of thought. The most explosive reaction came in the form of fascism, wherein the fascists rejected totally the ideals of the Enlightenment as falsehoods. They instead chose to unite their nations collectively and totally for a common ideal (thus the fasces symbology et al.) underscored by natural law, which views life as a suffering to be endured, taught as a diagonal, strengthening process.
The 21st century has demonstrated to astute observers that the Enlightenment Era values of individual liberty and freedom of choice in the decay era are not without consequences. Unrestricted freedom without responsibility leads to chaos, and trouble without the power to respond has been demonstrated to exacerbate the problem. Power without accountability can lead to a stifling of freedom, and a lack of freedom creates distrust and resentment, which in the face of crisis resorts to inertia and cynicism.
This conflict between individualism and collectivism is an enduring and exhaustive process that must—and will—come to a head without hypocrisy (either can be tweaked for success). We will have to either double down on individualism, freedom and privacy and bear the consequences—whatever they are—or adopt a form of collectivism that will be discriminatory, authoritative, harsh and efficient. Examining our current situation through either political lens, using philosophical canon (often out of due context) will present the mess and chaos of which the world has become. It is always darkest before the light, but the light will arrive.
"All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." - Benito Mussolini
"All mankind... being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions." - John Locke