With no real vision for humanity tomorrow, we begin to lose sight of the things that matter today.
Thiel, as a René Girard'ian at heart, also sees we are sweeping an elephant under the rug: humans are and will always be violent as part of our nature, and violence can be a great unifier if we don't have something to counter this. The Enlightenment values may have attempted to counter this with the idea that we will use reason to form social contracts, but in truth, such reason needs a virtuous and principled underpinning. Without it, we can easily become swept up by the will for power — even if it's only accumulating more followers of our tweets.
Our ancestors found a way to keep our violent nature at bay; however, with a price to be paid: the scapegoat. Thiel says,
“That murder is the secret origin of all religions and political institutions, and is remember and transfigured in the form of myth. The scapegoat, perceive as the primal source of conflict and disorder, had to die for there to be peace. By violence, violence was brought to an end and society was born. But because society rests on the belied in its own order and justice, the founding act of violence must be concealed - by the myth that the slain victim was really guilty. Thus violence is lodged at the heart of society; myth is merely discourse ephemeral to violence.”But this is how things use to work. It doesn't mean our violent natures went away, its just the Enlightenment took over with the belief there is a natural goodness to humanity and we can all come together and form our social contracts. But violence can be activated in every direction; from the common man to the intelligentsia (as we've seen with the 20th century atrocities). With myth abandoned, we are living on borrowed time before the malice of humanity is unleashed.
To think we have matured beyond our violent past, Kevin Williamson notes: “About 13 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of Democrats believe political violence would be justified in 2020 if their party lost the presidential election.” If 10 percent is a tipping point, we are getting closer to trouble. As mob rule becomes more dominant, then Thiel is correct that the will to power will superimpose itself over any real discourse. As Williamson adds, “Groups do not think in any meaningful sense. People think — one at a time.”
In his excellent book, Violence Unveiled, which honors René Girard's work, the author Gil Bailie notes:
“When cultures lose their ability to generate lasting forms of camaraderie at the expense of their victims and enemies, they are soon overtaken by the social tensions and fractional rivalries their sacrificial mechanisms can no longer reconcile. Unless one of these factions can convincingly declare its violence to be metaphysically distinct from the violence that is physically indistinguishable from it, no resolution is possible, and the society teeters on the brink of “apocolyptic” violence.”Girard's brilliance was to see the only way out of mimetic violence was not to return to the sacrificial and scapegoating myths of the past, or even a purely intellectual process of the Enlightenment philosophers, but to find real religious transcendence. Since we are condemned to religion through our passional instincts, we require the transcendent mystery of God to do a Will that transcends our will to power.
We begin to realize the beauty of the Gospels where the Christ figure overturns the victim by converging it with the prophet. Christ dies to undermine the structures of our sacred violence, and is resurrected to show us how to live sacredly without such structures. His sacrifice points us to an end of all external sacrifice as a means to a transcendent order — which can only happen through our own internal sacrifice! Mimetic violence is turned on its head as the one true myth deconstructs it and, in turn, offers a God-centered way of being that holds all factions together.
The stark contrast of this choice from where we are today only supports Thiel's concerns going forward. The real issue at hand for the modern world is its belief that it can “fulfill the requirements of the second commandment without having to bother with the first” (Bailie).
We probably can not.