“despair of the winner,” a mental complex that makes you “agonize over a regress whenever theres progress.” Just as an idea, movement, practice gains followers and mindshare, its message becomes diluted — distorted: you cant maintain the founding fathers' level of purity and commitment in the quickly expanding base; its so tempting then to give up on the annoying newbies, idealize the “early days” — reject the “purely demographic” expansion which “poisons the spirit.” Whether the poisoning is real depends on metric: during a time of growth, measurables often decline if averaged over the current membership — but not if sampled across the movements universe, i.e. its entire potentially conquerable domain. Another, symmetric, mechanism kicks in at later stages: as you approach domination, your opponents shrink but get louder and more militant, concentrate charisma, inflate their mindshare. The universal “backslide bias” motivates you to keep pushing even when your cause is winning; but resist the temptation to dismiss any regression as an illusory backslide.  ■    Expansion erodes unity: its sad to see a single harmonic stream scatter into a delta of rivulets that dry into the sand — even if the summary volume of the descendants dwarfs the ancestral stream. Anecdotal evidence of backsliding — copycatting, primitivization, perversions — may feel creepy, emotionally striking (even though, realized or not, your point of reference also drifts off, nostalgizes to unrecognizability); backslide becomes perfectly real when the challenger — always a moving part in the system — takes a pause to regroup, refind itself, ignite a new pulsation: some even earn the reputation of chronic losers while their values continue to diffuse and morph the landscape. Last but not least, growth is stereotypically slow and organic whereas crumbling is earth-shattering, in-your-face; by a recoil of logic, when something is easy to notice it must be crumbling.  ■    One way to prevent a backslide is to control your proliferation, stay artificially closed and small — except it also precludes winning in any practical sense. Arts, languages, math, arf have all seen periods of explosive growth accompanied by much-lamented backslides; waves of “vulgarity onslaught” will not abate so long as “the rest of us” rush, over and over, to partake in the newest avant-garde — to “pull it back into the swamp.” No overall anisotropic progress is needed to replay this game of catch-up indefinitely; repeating expansion-and-cooling episodes may appear disconnected, each wave earnestly disowns its predecessors — but betrays the same underlying tectonic movement. Systems have emerged revitalized after growth/backslide turmoils (e.g. orthography simplifications, “death of grammar” in oversuccessful languages) — so much so that to prove lasting and transformative, a change now needs to have suffered at least some backsliding: extract growth from the inflation of ranks, engage the latecomers so their peripheral perspectives widen yours.

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