So I hear this latest financial crisis (centered in Slovakia of all places) has brought the world to the brink of economic destruction. But to be honest I’d probably be more worried about the decline and iminent doom of our society and culture had the same thing not REPEATEDLY happened to every other long-standing society and culture on the planet.
Rampant social hubris and a resulting decline of moral cohesion seems par for the course. It happened to all the great empires— Greece, Rome, China, France, Britain— and now to the modern “American” and “Post-Soviet European” empires as well.
It seems like a repetitive cycle set on continuous play. Modern information technology has increased the speed of the process, of course. But when a modern empire collapses it doesn’t really change all that much; it just pretends that nothing happened and adapts to accept a lesser role on the world stage.
Once upon a time, in the greatest civilization the world had ever seen… the average citizen grew bored, apathetic, and increasingly violent in his ever-changing pursuit of diversionary pleasure. The family unit suffered, the government became increasingly pervasive and corrupt, the streets were full of youth gangs, and it was widely believed by learned philosophers and sociologists that the world was coming to an end.
That was Rome in the second century AD. Rome managed to hold out for another two centuries or so. Neither did all Roman knowledge and culture disappear, nor did the Italians vanish from the face of the Earth when the Western Roman Empire toppled.
Once upon a time in the greatest civilization the world had ever seen… widespread drug addiction took over the communities, the family unit suffered, violence was rampant, the government became increasingly pervasive and corrupt, the streets were full of youth gangs, and it was widely believed by learned philosophers and sociologists that the world was coming to an end.
That was China in the middle of the 19th century, when the British-financed opium trade reduced their society to ruin. But China still exists, along with chinese culture, engineering, and three millenia of accumulated civilization.
Once upon a time in the greatest civilization the world had ever seen… moral values declined, the wealth was split in a terribly uneven manner between upper and lower classes, pollution was rampant and unchecked, the family unit suffered, the government became increasingly pervasive and corrupt, the streets were full of the homeless and youth gangs, social services groaned beneath the weight of an ever-increasing public welfare system, the rest of the world moaned angrily that the civilization was trying to “police the world” by interfering in areas where it did not belong, drug use was on the rise, and it was widely believed by learned philosophers and sociologists that the world was coming to an end.
That was the British Empire, circa 1890.
History repeats itself. Just as long as our stockpiled nukes never go off and we don’t biologically engineer a mutant virus that exterminates all human life, it can be expected to go right on repeating itself. Though one smallish comet strike would still put the permanent kabosh on our species in about two minutes, and there wouldn’t be a damn thing we could do to stop it.
Crises come and go, but no matter how loudly the world press hollers to sell more newpapers, we are never as big and powerful as we like to think we are. Nor are the temporary fumblings of our culture and society nearly as dire or important as we believe them to be.
Relax. The Euro will be okay. Or maybe not. In any case, life goes on.