The One About Rabbits

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

What is the evidence that people despair in The West? Bruce Charlton offers this:

Two bits of evidence came to mind while thinking about Richard Adams’s great fantasy novel Watership Down (1972) — the one about rabbits. If you have not yet read it: you should give it a try: I will try to avoid spoilers.

During their adventures, the heroes come across two contrasting dystopias: Cowslip’s Warren, which superficially seems like a hedonic, lotus-eater’s paradise; and Efrafa which embodies military virtue of courage, loyalty and organization.

But although both warrens have good qualities, each has a sign that something is very wrong, and indeed intolerably, fatally wrong — and these are signs we see in the modern West.

In Cowslip’s Warren the ‘poet’ rabbit is a kind of degenerate who tells ‘decadent’ stories of despair, paradox, unattainable yearning, the beauty of horror — and the traditional encouraging stories of the rabbit’s trickster-god El-Ahrairah are regarded by the Warren with embarrassment as being childish, simplistic, outdated.

Something is deeply wrong when the creative artists communicate inversions of the Good.

And in Efrafa, for all the efficiency and technical capability, the does (female rabbits) have stopped reproducing (by reabsorbing their kittens): a sign of their profound stress and despair.

I feel this way about our civilization. Our most admired and accomplished art is despairing, our women have (all but) stopped reproducing.

Whatever else is happening is pretty much irrelevant: these signs indicate extreme, underlying despair — which despair is what underpins our self-hatred, our inability to defend our values, the active but denied pursuit of cultural suicide.


  1. Harry Jones says:

    The officially recognized creative class is out of touch and not representative. The fact that artist colonies exist tells us all we need to know about them. It’s all Vermilion Sands.

    As for not reproducing, he’s got a point there. But we don’t need that to tell us there’s an awful lot of stress in modern life.

    What causes stress? A lot of things – lack of resources, war, pestilence, too much noise, too much crime, long commutes. What causes a lot of things? Overpopulation. Hell is other people. Hence we have evolved non-reproduction as a response to stress. It’s not maladaptive.

    But here’s what is maladaptive: megacities. Crowding too many people together in a small area creates an artificial experience of overpopulation.

    Suburban sprawl would have ameliorated that, but the policy makers decided that was evil. So we’re left with a worse evil.

    It would be nice to rightsize cities. Top out the population per city at around 300 thousand, no buildings taller than fifteen stories, and have more cities instead of bigger cities. But our deep water harbors are where they are. Perhaps the Internet and telepresence can help. Telecommute for office workers and waldoes for dockworkers?

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