Rapid Cultural Decline and What Comes Next
International Man: Nations in decline often experience cultural degeneracy. We saw that in the Roman Empire and Weimar Germany, for example.
Today, in the US, we see increasing signs of cultural degeneracy in Hollywood, advertisements, academia, science, corporations, politics, and other areas of life.
What is your take?
Doug Casey: There have been a number of major turning points throughout history. Rome in the third century was one of them. It was a period of economic, political, and military chaos, aggravated by the social chaos accompanying the rise of Christianity. These things set the stage for the complete collapse of the old civilization in the West with the barbarian invasions after Adrianople in 378.
The Renaissance changed the nature of life in Western Europe starting in the 15th century, as did the Enlightenment in the 18th century. And, most important, in many ways, the Industrial Revolution overturned the pre-existing economic order starting in the early 19th century.
Whenever the public was in a frenzy about something or other, my friend Herman Kahn (look him up) liked to quip, “There are only two important things that have happened since the dawn of history—and this isn’t one of them.” He was referring to the Agricultural Revolution around 5000 years ago and the Industrial Revolution. It’s good to keep things in perspective…
Of course, there have been plenty of bloody episodes, great discoveries, and breathtaking inventions along the way. The American Revolution, the French Revolution, WW I, WW II, the collapse of the USSR, and the rise of China are among them. But in the great sweep of history, they’re really just footnotes. It bears emphasis, though, that almost everything of any importance that has happened in the last 500 years has been about or because of Western Civilization.
They all had various effects, but none of them really attacked the basis of Western civilization itself. Psychopaths like Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were, even in their heydays, really just jackals barking at a lion.
But then things started changing in the 1960s. The 60s were fun at the time, but from a cultural viewpoint, they turned out to be an overture to the collapse of Western Civ. You may recall the motto of many college students at demonstrations was, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has to go.”
They were yahoos, of course, but it’s actually happening now, 60 years later. Thomas Cole’s superb series of five paintings, “The Course of Empire,” done about 200 years ago, says it all.
The thing to remember is that Western civilization is built on a certain set of values and virtues that have given the world something unique in history. Before the rise of Western Civ, people everywhere in the world survived by piling sticks and stones on top of one another and grubbing for roots and berries, freezing in the winter and starving in the spring, expecting an early and likely violent death.
Western Civ changed the very nature of life. It is, in fact, the only civilization worth talking about. China may have given the world Taoism, martial arts, and General Tso’s Chicken. India developed yoga, and curries are tasty. But on the whole, Ayn Rand was right when she said East minus West equals zero.
We’re now undergoing our own Great Cultural Revolution. It’s much more serious than what the Chinese attempted in the ’60s. Why? Because a whole complex of destructive ideas have now captured the apparatus of most governments, academia, media, entertainment, charities, and large corporations. The public has been both subtlety and overtly indoctrinated for generations. It’s not easy to reverse a trend this large.
But maybe you think I’m being too inflammatory. Perhaps you don’t believe Western civilization in general, and the idea of America in particular, are dying.
Fair enough. Let me give you the dozen things that made Western Civilization and America not only unique but vastly better than any other country or civilization in history. I’ve listed 12 concepts. These things are the essence of Western Civ—and are unique to it. Ask yourself if attitudes towards them haven’t changed radically in recent years. Ask yourself if the trend towards collapse of the West hasn’t accelerated since then.
Statists and collectivists have largely succeeded in corrupting the public’s attitudes towards the twelve things which made the West unique. The trend is accelerating, and trends tend to stay in motion until they reach a crisis. Once they reach a crisis—it’s called a revolution in the case of a country, or a collapse in the case of a civilization—things usually get even worse, at least for a while.
There’s much more to be said about the 12 attitudes and institutions that I’ve listed. But it’s not just a matter of academic or philosophic interest because when these foundations of civilization disappear, the good things they brought us will also wash away. They’re essential to everything—art, music, literature, science, and technology. They’re the basis of our high standard of living.
Other civilizations, like the Japanese and Chinese, have based their progress on adopting these Western attitudes and principles. But just as they’ve been accused of copying machines and technologies, it’s arguable they’ve only mimicked some of these values. Africa, most of Asia, and the Third World generally haven’t even done that. I doubt these 12 things are in the cultural DNA anywhere outside of the West—and they’re being deleted from the West.
If you’re looking for a template of what could happen in the US and all over the world in this coming decade, you might look at some news articles on Sri Lanka.
My guess is that for years to come, we’re going to see a serious devolution of civilization everywhere. The world has become top-heavy with the fruits of civilization. Hundreds of millions rely on those fruits, with no clue about how they came about. Meanwhile, the roots of the tree that produced them are rotting.
As a result, we could be looking at not just a historic financial meltdown, accompanied by a really serious economic upheaval, with wars and serious shortages. But an overthrow of traditional cultural norms, social chaos, and political totalitarianism. Of course, mankind has survived all that for at least five millennia so far. And I suppose we’ll handle this as well. There will just be more unpleasantness and inconveniences than usual in the decade to come….
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