This old Durkheim term emerged from that era, in the 19th century, when Europeans were discovering suicide statistics. They not only gathered suicide rates, but noticed that they were rapidly increasing wherever modern industrial life was extended — to all the backward places where pre-industrial life had hardly changed from one generation to another — suddenly, many times over.

Anomie the sociologists came to know as a product of conflict between belief systems. It is a breakdown, a disintegration, of long-established social bonds, which depended upon a common worldview (Christian, for instance). It is the disappearance of an ancient order, and its replacement with chaos. It is “fragmentation of social identity and rejection of values,” according to the Wicked Paedia.

“From normlessness to gormlessness” was one of my attempts to encapsulate this “progress”; from shifting to sinking sand, as it were.  I was first reading about this phenomenon in works by T. G. Masaryk, nearly fifty years ago. (The future Czech president anticipated all of Durkheim’s insights.) As our hut of norms begins to crack and splinter, people become deeply confused. As it subsides and is crushed, they give up on it entirely, but they have nowhere to run. The suicide rate is a measure of this, by a plausible statistical inference.

This has recently been accelerating, radically, once more, especially in boys and men. One might call it a great victory for feminism, or argue from the myriad of other dislocations. But while the male suicide rate is currently many times higher, women are learning how to kill themselves, too.

The majority remain survivors, however. The great mass of men (now in the sense of “people”) are not philosophers, and have not the luxury of listening to the podcasts of the philosophers. The sky that is falling on them is no intellectual construction, or rather deconstruction. It is from their little isolated worlds of work and leisure, that meaning is vacuumed, from family and prayer to steady jobs. Opiates take their place, like cheap goods from China. The great achievement of “progress” is a growing despair. (“Trumpism” interests me, as a resisting source of the positive; in this sense I think it is genuinely backward.)

Of course, most people adapt to our brave new world, in which no one can afford to be honest, and therefore no one can be trusted. There is a form of escape in becoming deeply cynicized. That the collapse of Western Civ could be good for the economy, I first noticed a few decades ago. It is one of the paradoxes of our time. Such material problems as famine, and disease, were apparently being solved. Now we discover this was also an illusion: the extremes of consumer comfort melt away. Those who had to work for a living (unlike public and private bureaucrats, who can prattle to each other from home) suddenly found themselves locked into a nightmare.

In the end, even the bureaucrats will starve, unless the economy reopens. My neat, conventional, mindless rightwing view is the glib-libertarian one, that this is what happens when the masses lose their freedom, and the progress that was wrought by capitalism is destroyed. There is some truth in this, but it is shallow.

The world that is reopening is normless. This it has in common with the world that went before. For a moment it seems to have improved, because we can walk outside again, and if it is still Spring, there are flowers and songbirds. Paycheques may also possibly resume.

But “normal life” cannot possibly resume, because “normal” (normed, normative) is gone. Even the distinction between a man and a woman has been eliminated; systems of reward and punishment are reversed; words have changed their meaning. Left-satanist utopian agendas are what animate our political minders, who have now learnt how easy they are to impose. While we were sleeping, through the induced coma of the Batflu crisis, we proved our extraordinary capacity for prostration.

We might observe that the Batflu works through our economy as it does through our nursing homes. The old and feeble companies are killed off. The young and ruthless inherit their empty lots. Technology now makes general surveillance possible, and has provided an immediate excuse for it.

Progress has made another astounding leap. And with this, the cause of anomie advances.