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Opinion Excuse me, sir, do you have a moment to talk about a socially-unifying axiom, Jesus Christ?

DunDunDunpachi

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I'm a religious believer, but I'd like to argue this from a materialistic, atheistic perspective and to have GAF poke holes where they are found. It seems plausible, and I have a hunch some form of what I describe will be how societies pull themselves back together following these riots and panics. Here goes.

Progressive, post-modern, post-religious ideology has failed us. It isn't that our western religious roots were without error, but the replacement doesn't seem to be working. Our morals appears to be regressing back to a time when skincolor and ideological beliefs could get bad behavior handwaved (if you were one of the true believers) or could get you silenced and booed out of the room (if your beliefs didn't align with the mob).

In past times, western societies have shared a common religious root in christianity. Our social practices and "common sense" values are christian. It is true to say that Religion functions as a social unifier. We see this occur in all human societies through history. The best religions / ideologies provide a comprehensive set of dogmas and axioms to the adherent to keep society together. Consider that human-sacrifice religions have been tolerated around the world, because the utter chaos of barbarism was too much for the people to bear. It's not like we don't know what barbarism is. The human race is constantly dipping down into it, even today, constantly trying to flee it.

It is only recently that we have forgotten just how evil a human can be when they do not follow a guiding light. In the past, the world was far less comfy and far too dangerous for anyone to forget that lesson (unless you were extremely wealthy and sheltered).

A (valid) question is whether the guiding religion in a given society is a better social unifier than the available alternatives, and often the mob will forcefully answer this question for the rulers, and vice versa. Just because religion "works" doesn't mean it is "right". We've had some absolute stinkers of ideologies, both religious and irreligious. Sometimes the religion itself leads to new societal woes, and it either self-corrects or eventually is corrected by the populace.

The logical goal here would be to find a system that handles the highest percentage of possible social interactions in a decent way. If the system can keep society from falling apart completely (like we saw today in Seattle's CHAZ) then it's a pretty decent system, considering the alternatives.

Acknowledging a system's function doesn't mean ignoring its flaws, however. In various conversations, I will see someone quip "yeah right, let's not go back to the religious oppression of the European catholics, no thanks", but that isn't the proposal. The proposal is to find a system that suffers the fewest problems while addressing as many of humanity's needs and affording as much freedom as possible.

In the spirit of Pascal's Wager, I propose that societies begin answering these questions with more honesty than the past 40 years. Even if a religion is untrue or a country's history is pock-marked with genuine crimes, aren't religions and national heritages better than collectivism based on race? These systems of thought that we obey and that we teach to our children clearly have real and far-reaching consequences on the outcome of human societies. Enough data is in. We have hundreds of thousands of examples and witnesses and books and arguments to sift through.

A completely areligious, ahistorical society cannot function.

If you want to lay the numerous failures of communism attempts at anything, it is this. Call it illogical or infuriating, but the human animal needs a metaphysical belief to anchor their psyche. The State cannot be the be all end all. Human existence cannot be satisfied with mere existence. C.G. Jung was not unclear and he wrote at length about all the specific ways in which the human mind requires a metaphysical / religious anchor to properly grapple with the problems of life. Turning problems into symbols and meditating on their solution is the complex task our brain-meat evolved to perform better than any other creature on earth. Surely there is something more to religion that being "the opiate of the masses" (in a negative connotation).

Maybe it's Jesus (I happen to think so) or maybe it's a quasi-christian "cultural religion" that welcomes multiple faiths (such churches already exist and are common). I dunno what form it takes, but this is what I see for our future societies. Even if we have to grit our teeth and lie to ourselves, it seems that a unifying belief is better than none at all. How else do you tell people to not burn things down? Burning things down is the logical conclusion in a valueless, areligious society.

If you are not religious, do you think this is an acceptable compromise? Do you believe that people "finding religion" (in whatever form that takes for them) is better than what is being offered by post-modernism?

If you are religious, how do you view this proposal? Even if the adherents are half-hearted or not perfect converts, would this be preferable to what you observe in secular society?


I know a lot of minds are immediately drawn to "separation of church and state", but I'm not arguing this from a perspective of what needs to change in government. I'm simply laying out a paradigm of what ingredients make the highest-operating, least-dysfunctional society. If it happens to be a space-toad or an ancient desert-religion, then the pragmatist in me suggests we continue giving it a try and sharpening it.
 

Punished Miku

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Jordan Peterson, and Chris Hedges have written extensive books on this kind of thing, and I respect both people a lot. It's an interesting subject.

At the end of the day though, I pretty much fall 100% into the Sam Harris camp on this subject. Watching Harris debate Peterson over 3 times, both I as a listener, and apparently Harris himself who is far smarter than I am, could hardly even follow what Peterson was saying. It just comes off as religious emotional fuzzy speak - and this is from a brilliant guy. I can't help but intensely respect the crystal clear insistence of Harris on focusing on reality, and not compromising on what our best minds tell us is currently true about reality.

I just can't compromise on the truth, even if it turned out to be a public net positive - which I am not necessarily conceding. To me, it would be like living inside the Truman Show, where a happy community is held together by a lie. The truth behind the curtain may be bleak, uncertain, and without meaning, but it's still true, and our best bet for advancing as a species scientifically is to face reality head on and grow.

I personally can't help but be moved "spiritually" by science, philosophy, and just more education. To me, just a picture of the pale blue dot of our planet is more spiritually relevant to me than Christianity. It just shows the reality of our lives in the vastness of space. We're all in it together, and our differences are almost insignificant when compared to the vastness of space. All the debates our politicians have, all the scandals, all the wars, all of it takes place on a speck of dust in space - and the only example of life we can find in an impossibly large universe.

If I had to plan the reintroduction of religion into society, I also probably wouldn't pick Christianity for its utility, but probably some form of secular Buddhism instead. I think they have more of a useful tradition of meditation, physical health + mental / emotional development.

The main thing I think people need when they're children is moral instruction. It doesn't have to be religious at all. I've never been religious.

I actually probably got the strongest moral instruction in my life from Tae Kwon Do class. We had a very traditional teacher from Korea, very strict, very hardcore. But he was also great at gearing the class for families and little kids. Every class had opening and closing "mantras" where you pledge to only use your fighting techniques to help others and never for aggressive attacks. You then work on physical fitness and discipline, then repeat it again at the end of class. I think that's honestly one of the best things a kid can do to have a decent moral core is just cultivate themselves physically through guided discipline and education, learning physical self-control, and actually engaging kids in a formal setting to discuss moral instruction and explain what is right and wrong, and why it matters. I don't think you need religion for that, and I don't see us ever going back to Christianity as a society on the level it was in the past. I see a lot of military have a strong moral code as well, and its created through training, physical and emotional discipline, self-control.

And then like most things, I think there's an economic component to it as well. Extremist beliefs take hold during times of desperation. One of the main ways people attempt to deradicalize terrorists for a whole society is to help improve the living conditions in that society. If you live in a bleak wasteland with little chances for advancement, then you are more susceptible to religious belief and religious manipulation, because it helps give people some kind of direction or purpose. And as we see in the US, a lot of people are even susceptible to secular religious extremism as well, like this current SJW nonsense. There isn't a shortcut to immediately cutting this out of society. People have to simply have better lives, economically. They have to have a reason to be invested in the system and not want to tear it down and focus on ideology. Families with savings and a decent job are not as likely to be extremists, but a lot of society finds those basic economic goals out of reach.
 
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Danny Dudekisser

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Setting aside that I'm a religious kook, myself, I agree that people need a unifying set of beliefs. I don't know that they need to be religious, but they need to provide an aspirational goal of some sort.

There's waaaaay more to say about it than this, and it's a super interesting topic, but I don't have the time to type out a treatise just this second.
 

JordanN

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I consider religion, just like culture, to be expressions of certain ethnic groups.

You can get other people to follow your religion, but it in no way guarantees society as a whole is united.

If I go to North Korea and even preach about the glory of Kim Jong Un, I still don't think they're going to accept me. Or they'll look at me with suspicion, just because I'm an outsider and look nothing like the rest of Koreans.
 

NeoIkaruGAF

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Catholicism is so oppressive, it allowed its followers to bask in the most complete hypocrisy for centuries. Witch-burning, the Inquisition and such are a very small part of the history of Christianity, albeit one of its darker pages. In Italy today, everyone is a Catholic (every Italian baby gets baptized within his/her first year of life as tradition now, as opposed to even 100 years ago when it wasn't something to take for granted) and very few really are, if we watch the rate of divorces, the stories about sex and cheating, and how much and how colorfully Italians swear.
Religious functions are attended by less and less people every year, and Covid impacted that deeply as well.

This is to say that religion is far from the scourge of the advancement of humanity and society. Ironically enough, a lot of scientists of today and of yesterday were religious, while post-WWII philosophy and propaganda have been mostly about how religion and science are supposedly incompatible and religion is an obstacle to science. I'm of the opinion that religion (or philosophy, if we want a secular ideology) is very useful to stop science from going to its darker extremes unbridled. Also, while modern atheists like to forget it, religious institutions saved a lot of ancient knowledge from destruction, and gave us some of the greatest works of mankind.

I'm not the most religious person. The older women of my family when I was a child were very religious, some of them insufferably so. I inherited some of that, and I myself had some sort of a religious period in my teens, even if not to the point of going to Mass regularly, not eating meat on Fridays or such. I'd still consider myself a Catholic, even if I don't practice my religion and I've developed a habit of swearing like a Venetian sailor.

I think ideals are important to keep societies together. They don't have to be religious ideals, although religions, and the Christian religion in particular with its focus on helping others and the constant need to repent for some guilt, can give people some good rules for social life. Help others. Don't hurt them for no reason, but be stern when correcting others. Confess your sins, big and small. You can be a dick if it's for a good cause, but don't get cocky about it - hurting others is never good, even if it's for the greater good, and you shouldn't feel proud about it.

Yes, religion is full of contradictions and hypocrisies. But what we're seeing everywhere these days isn't different. A completely secular, atheistic society based on the individual doesn't seem to offer many solutions to our problems. All I see is people who try to assign guilt to others while completely ignoring their own responsibilities. They think being rude or offensive is a capital sin, that you should never suffer the smallest slight from other, that it can never be useful to learn something. They want Eden and don't even realize it.

I don't know if this is very coherent. It's a bit late here, don't have the wits to put it down in a better way.
 
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As a programmer I am familiar with likeness through concepts such as Interfaces. You can have a single interface that has a set of behaviors/operations that you can put concretely into practice. You can build via many interfaces to make good systems.

In some languages they have a less techie way of expressing this idea: Duck Typing. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it can be used like a duck.

American value concepts as brought forth by the Declaration of Independence and codified and ratified are the interface operations..

Natives, Born Citizens and Immigrants of any creed or color can live their life and be relatively bug free. People can implement These values even when they adhere to a religion or are completely atheist and be relatively bug free.

Bugs in the system are a feature. These are conditions that allow us to reimplement some core logic we all inherit (Communal and social institutions we rely on) And we can constantly run unit tests Against our implementations (legal system).

Only when we have a virus (cultural adoption of post-modernism), memory leaks (Burning off statues and mass censorship), and race conditions (but we can’t have all lives matter until black lives matter) do we have a system wide collapse.

It is pretty interesting to me at least. I just hope we get our service pack and move on instead of an OS reinstall.
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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Punished Miku Punished Miku you mentioned Tae Kwon Do, and I think that's a great feature of the West: you can bring a wide range of beliefs and paradigms into a peaceful co-habitation. The beliefs themselves might not agree and will often contradict one another, but that isn't the aim. The aim is to allow the space for the individual to decide for themselves.

We have such a wide range of knowledge, yet people still choose radicalism. It indicates that the problem isn't "lack of education" but something deeper.

Christianity was just the example I used because it is the pillar of the West, but I'm not saying it has to go back to that. My sticking point is that Christianity offered a better pillar than what we have now. In fact it has been such a good pillar that it has survived the collapse of the host-nations and has often helped civilization rebuild afterward.

Though an atheist may deny the central claims of the religion, I still think that is an interesting social phenomenon, for an ideology to have a regenerative / restorative / preserving effect. Surely these traits are desirable for the long-term health of a civilization. Presently, the nihilistic / post-modern viewpoints do not offer any unifying ideal when it comes to regenerating, restoring, or preserving. They give no value to those virtues therefore the believers place no value on history, culture, or tradition.

The value of cultural practices is that they confer a benefit even if the practitioners do not understand the meaning of the ritual or the history behind it. In the same way that push-ups will build the body whether you understand the human muscle system or not, sitting down and talking with the family every day during a meal has a proven positive effect on that social unit.

If certain practices, beliefs, cultural icons, and traditions will confer a benefit to a society even if not all practitioners understand the meaning of the ritual or the history behind it, then it seems logical to encourage those practices up to a certain point, encouragement but not enforcement. One doesn't need to be a christian to feel the emotional surge of charity during Christmas, for instance. One doesn't need to be a celtic pagan to understand the thrill of dressing up in costumes and begging for candy during Halloween, for another example. One doesn't need to have been a direct ancestor of the American rebels to appreciate the heroism of the revolutionaries and celebrate 4th of July (Independence Day).

Cultural practices that can be freely shared and freely appreciated tend to survive the longest and knit cultures together. It's interesting that a certain ideology considers this "cultural appropriation", a grave sin. The very mechanism humans use to bridge the gap between cultures is transformed into anathema.
 
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Punished Miku

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We have such a wide range of knowledge, yet people still choose radicalism. It indicates that the problem isn't "lack of education" but something deeper.

It is definitely something deeper, and I'm sure my post didn't cover everything. I agree, there are changes I've seen in culture that aren't great, and it may be a result of technology, or the internet, or longer work hours, or the breakdown of local communities, or the breakdown of cultural traditions, and many other factors I haven't considered.

One thing I do think though is that while we have access to more knowledge than ever before, we are still not actually doing a lot of moral instruction. The internet in particular seems to thrive on amorality, and that's largely how all kids are raised now. It's not cool to discuss morality. 4chan culture is basically the complete acceptance of anything, and the repudiation of moral distinction. It's actually kind of nerdy to discuss moral concerns a lot of the time online.

Anyway, it sounds like you're pretty open minded about it all and we don't really disagree on much.
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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It is definitely something deeper, and I'm sure my post didn't cover everything. I agree, there are changes I've seen in culture that aren't great, and it may be a result of technology, or the internet, or longer work hours, or the breakdown of local communities, or the breakdown of cultural traditions, and many other factors I haven't considered.

One thing I do think though is that while we have access to more knowledge than ever before, we are still not actually doing a lot of moral instruction. The internet in particular seems to thrive on amorality, and that's largely how all kids are raised now. It's now cool to discuss morality. 4chan culture is basically the complete acceptance of anything, and the repudiation of moral distinction. It's actually kind of nerdy to discuss moral concerns a lot of the time online.

Anyway, it sounds like you're pretty open minded about it all and we don't really disagree on much.
Yeah I have my own personal stance on things, but I wanted to frame the discussion from a more generalized "what kind of framework should guide us?" instead of strictly arguing that christianity is the specific one to fill that role.

Should society have a guiding star at all? I guess that's a loose way of summarizing the question. I think the answer is yes. I think a collection of people without some common guiding ideal will eventually collapse into barbarism. I think we need a beneficial ideal and not just an ideal for the sake of an ideal, so it's not merely a matter of finding some rando sky-god for the people to worship, we should orient ever increasingly toward the best of the best of the ideals, sharpening and improving as we go.

Let me use "charity". If charity for the sake of a sky-god is unacceptable, then we need to find a suitable moral impetus to replace the sky-god. This is because we know that charity, when applied according to guidelines, has an uplifting effect on society, but how to wield that instrument properly? If we reject the sky-god reason for charity, so be it, but that doesn't erase the very real effect of charity. Should the practical application of the moral be discarded when we discard the moral? (So far, society tends to say "yes" to this question).

If we aim to wield this tool of "charity" via gov't welfare, then how do we ensure we wield it better than the religions of the past? Can a value like "charity" even be upheld without some level of moral or religious weight behind it? I don't think there's such a thing as amoral charity.

The utopia lies in a better application of the morals we already have. Dystopia lies in the direction of fewer morals, looser morals, no morals.

Tolstoy thought a lot about this. He believed that the way to overcome the police state and war between nations was to elevate the "base" level of goodness and charity and humanity among the populace. Suffer under the boot if need be. Embody the purest charity, the purest humility, the purest resistance to violence in all ways, even if you died. (Tolstoy's ideas inspired Ghandi's peaceful protest ideology. )

Tolstoy saw how the west treated christianity as a cultural oddity but did not apply its morals when it came to war, to the justice system, to policing the populace, to criminal reform, to charity, etc. What was the point of a "christian nation" if this is how the nations still behave between themselves? That was his central gripe. No one has been able to resolve his criticism so far.

I think society is marching toward another realignment. Tolstoy foresaw the upcoming World War. I wonder what ideas and systems will provide the framework for the next phase. Maybe we will answer Tolstoy's challenge.
 
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dionysus

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Science has become its own religion. Really the social "sciences" I am talking about, and not the physical sciences. The scientific method is the tool that enabled us to learn so much about the physical world, and it is the greatest tool of truth I think humanity has ever come up with. But it requires the ability to run controlled experiments where all variables but one are held constant, and to observe the changes.

The scientific method cannot tell us anything about multivariable systems, like cultures, human interactions, societies, governments, economic systems, etc. But the social sciences act like their "experiments" can lead to conclusions as certain as experiments that use the scientific method. Mathematics can through statistics, chaos theory, and other mathematical systems, but those disciplines also fundamentally acknowledge uncertainty in the conclusions. The research done in the social sciences, when it is not fundamentally shoddy in the first place, often is acted on without any acknowledgement of the uncertainty reported in the original research. Moreover, the social sciences are all geared to finding ways to reach a utopian society, however that is defined. (A heaven if you will.) If we change human behavior to (follow the dogmas of the social science church), we will reach utopia. Dissenters from the prevailing direction of the social sciences are ostracized from academia (like heretics), and anyone who isn't "data driven" (the correct type of data only) is actually evil and most be ostracized in the public square.

It has all the elements of religion.

What is worse is the mathematics behind the social sciences are horrible. Thus what is accepted conclusions today are completely upended tomorrow. To fast a pace of change is just as destructive as no change at all in a society.

Nor can the social science religion address the first principles of a moral system. Is it better to be utilitarian in outcomes, or egalitarian. Questions like that. So there is no cohesive framework for a society governed by the social sciences to even agree on any moral question.

And finally, as OP states, if we look at societies that are unmoored from any metaphysical common belief system, they inevitably commit the worst atrocities imaginable based upon achieving an earthly utopia. Cambodia, USSR, Nazis, Mexico, China and the Great Leap Forward, etc. They are so absolutely devastating they tend to burn out in 50 years or less. I challenge anyone to find a Christian death toll over a similar time period. For example, the worst Christian genocide occurred over 200 years from 1200 AD in France and estimates range from 200,000 to 1,000,000. USSR, a secular society whose religion was Marxism, was doing that yearly.

 

joe_zazen

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What is the value if a Christian nation if it doesn’t behave in a 100% Christian manner? Well, the core fundamentals of the religion will still exert an influence on how it evolves.

It isn’t a fluke that a religion espousing the worth of every individual and the equality of everyone before god birthed Western Civ. Without Christianity what would the trajectory of Europe have been? Has any non-Christian culture created a system of govt based on equality and rights and freedoms enshrined in fundamental laws?

as for what we are heading towards, I’m going to say more of the same. I just cant believe that the US would repeal their constitution and give away rights and freedoms no matter how many post modern critical theory narcissists are churned out.
 
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NeilH1982

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If only we could go back to the times of strong family values and a sense of real community. Sadly there's more idiots and assholes around than there are decent people. We already share a lot of the same values, even with the people we utterly despise yet we all can't seem to manage to get along anymore because there is no unification.

It's been crumbling apart for like forever but they managed to keep us distratcted with endless wars. If our vision is overseas we don't pay attention for the forces from within which are tearing western society apart. The death of the family unit and the rise of the ego are what are to blame for the decline, not the lack of faith or unifying values. How can we expect people to respect others when most people nowadays don't even respect their own selves ?
 
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Bolivar687

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It's true that the further you move from God the more vicious society becomes. The first atheist societies in history reached the apex when they collectively murdered over 100 million of their own people in the 20th Century.

But you shouldn't try to build utopias. Idolatry and heresy are both rife with the same political obsession that drives our social unrest today.

I recently read Libertas by His Holiness Pope Leo XIII and the hypocrisy he observed there is still true today - secularists demand that the Church must not have any influence over the state, while also requiring that the state must have all repressive control over the Church. The state today leverages every advantage possible to force religious organizations to change their religious doctrine away from Biblical principles.

What we need is an inversion, the state should have no influence over the Church and the Church should be free to fulfill its mission. The Supreme Court jurisprudence in the mid 20th century concerning Church and State is completely baseless and urgently needs to be reversed. State school boards should be completely free to teach religion if their self-governing votership wish to and I genuinely believe you cannot understand Western civilization unless you study (and not just superficially survey) the Bible. You cannot say secularism has naturally grown or become obvious when the game is so thoroughly rigged to produce that outcome.

I also don't think the society described in the OP is illustrative of the US, where almost everyone believes in some form of higher power and the majority of people identify with some organized religion. Mainline denominations may be withering, but evangelicals and tradition are thriving. In the Catholic Church, it's the young faithful who are begging for the Latin Mass and scholastic philosophy, while the senior parishioners want to go to pride parades. I do think it's because we still have faith that the majority is not quite ready to burn our own history.

It's Europe where religion has been forcibly extinguished and no amount of ideology can fill that hole. Every facet of authority is already configured to privilege the disenfranchised but the populace still riots when an atrocity happens somewhere else in the world. Unfortunately they are probably just going to have to continue living with the consequences of their own materialism before things can change.
 
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mickaus

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From a religious persons perspective I think that the existence and free practice of Judeo-Christian religion generally improves society, with even the most basic principles like do not kill, do not steal and honour your parents. Modern creations such as CHAZ in Seattle show that without the influence of religious values a society can kill and steal without any remorse or introspection, if they truly wanted to create their own society they could have done it peacefully with their own abilities and eventually succeed but due to their lack of morals they not only did they not respect the rights of the citizens of Seattle, they didn’t respect the rights of other citizens of Chaz.

The post-Christian western world can already be seen to be suffering from the lack of religious morals. The developing calls for multi billion dollar climate change spending and race based reparations as well as organisations like BLM have a moral base case but the movements that support them are calling for much more extreme changes then are necessary to fulfill their moral obligations. These causes have already received much support and financial backing however there are always more calls for further finance and further personal sacrifices. In the end they ultimately work against their calls such as with climate laws allowing China and other countries to pollute as much as necessary while western nations are bankrupting and destroying their own carbon intensive industries, and reparations never being of enough value to undo history while crippling nations economies and potentially causing a drop in living standards far beyond the value of any reparations received.