It used to be that life was getting materially better but spiritually worse, that men enjoyed expanding freedom at the cost that their choices meant less and less, and conservatives argued that the loss outweighed the more obvious gain. This situation has changed.
While the destruction of tradition, religion, and the family accelerates, there is no longer even any promise of material benefits. From a hedonic point of view, the world is getting worse, and there is no prospect of this decline slowing or reversing. Inflation means most of us are getting poorer, which hurts the poor much more than comfortable people like me, but we’ve all lost the simple pleasure of being able to breathe easily now that we must wear these damned masks. We’ve lost the taken-for-granted pleasure of seeing people’s faces. We have no sense of personal freedom, but are reconciled to being locked up whenever the government thinks it necessary. We are told that, to stop global warming, we must soon drastically reduce our energy use and give up red meat and dairy. Alas, it seems that even so some degree of further global warming is inevitable, and our summers are permanently ruined by droughts and wildfires. Technical advance has slowed; I suspect in some areas our machines and software have actually begun to degrade. Our cities become increasingly violent and lawless, with no public will to suppress this. The sexual revolution is over. Many bought into the revolution because of the appeal of easy sex, but now intersexual relations are becoming more dangerous, the culture more censorious, women not easier but uglier and more shrewish. The common man isn’t even offered any benefit from progress, but promised that it will bring his justified punishment. One can argue about whether these losses advance a greater good, but one must admit that a pure hedonist with a time machine would certainly prefer to escape to the 1950s, 1970s, or 1990s.
As to ideology, it is shocking how in less than two years what was an extreme view has come to monopolize all thought in Europe and the Americas. Wokism has routed not only us conservatives, who barely had a toehold on social acceptability before anyway, but even our enemies who only a few years ago seemed so formidable. Conservatism is dead, but liberalism is also dead. Neutrality was the heart of liberalism as defended by analytic political philosophers, but who would dare defend it today? Nor would anyone respectable defend “classical” i.e. procedural liberalism, which provides legal protections to the wicked as well as to the righteous. Utilitarianism, including minimax-type variants favored by Rawlsian progressives of yesteryear, is dead, because it concerns itself equally with the utility of the wicked and the righteous, refuses as a matter of deliberate principle to discriminate between them. Tolerance has disappeared from the Leftist vocabulary. Postmodernism is dead, now that we possess the one true faith. Leftism–the division of the world into absolutely evil oppressors and absolutely innocent victims–was always incompatible with liberalism and post-modernism, with their skepticism of moral absolutes, but Leftism was before not strong or self-confident enough to so openly discard its allies of convenience.
What’s going on? Before, progress–meaning Leftist advance–was driven mainly by positive incentives, by the comfort and license it promised to the majority. There were negative incentives–the media could make your life very unpleasant if you caused too much obstruction–but these only had to be imposed on a minority of recalcitrants. Now progress continues–faster than before–but there’s no more carrot; it’s all stick. There’s a witch-hunting mass media prowling the land with a million volunteer spies who will ruin your life if you betray any lack of enthusiasm. With that kind of stick, who needs a carrot?
If I were to guess, I’d say that only a few percent of regime supporters (meaning almost everybody) are motivated primarily by self-interest. This could only be perverts and the minority of non-asian minorities in the professional classes. Everyone else supports it because of disinterested approval of social justice (i.e. motivated by hatred) or because of expediency (i.e. motivated by fear). It’s hard to tell how many belong to each camp, since people like to think of themselves as idealists (hatred-motivated) rather than as cowards. The young have less guile, so it’s easier to guess for college-age kids. I’d say about half fall into each camp.