The end of civilisation as we know it

Civilsation as we know it is always ending. But some endings look worse than others and we are in such a new world that it is hard not to be pessimistic. What is needed to keep things turning over are disappearing at an astounding rate. This is from Victor Davis Hanson in a post he titles, The Last Generation of the West and the Thin Strand of Civilization. There have been forecasts like this before, and maybe this too will pass. But it seems to me as well that we are entering a new more barbarous world about which it is hard to be optimistic. This is how it ends, that is, this is how the article ends. You can then go back and read it all for yourself from the beginning.

What do I mean about the “thinning strand of civilization”?

A shrinking percentage of our population feeds us, finds our energy, protects us, and builds things we count on. They get up each morning to do these things, in part in quest for the good life, in part out of a sense of social obligation and basic humanity, in part because they know they will die if idle and thrive only when busy, and in part simply because “they like it.”

We can stack the deck against them with ever higher taxes, ever more regulations, ever more obligations to others, and they may well continue. But not if we also damn them as the “1%” and call them the agents of inequality and the fat cats who did not build what they built or who profited when they should not have.

You cannot expect the military to protect us, and then continually order it to reflect every aspect of postmodern American sensitivity in a risky premodern world. Filing a lawsuit to divert a river’s water to the sea during a drought is a lot easier and cleaner than welding together well-casings at sea. Last week, an off-duty armed correctional officer in Fresno intervened in a wild carjacking, shooting and killing the gang-member killer and thus limiting his carnage to one death and two woundings rather than five or six killings — at the very moment Harvey Weinstein — of guns-blazing Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction fame and profits — promised to destroy the NRA. These contrasts say everything about the premodern, the postmodern and the innocent who pay the tab in-between.

Each day when I drive to work I try to look at the surrounding communities, and count how many are working and how many of the able-bodied are not. I listen to the car radio and tally up how many stories, both in their subject matter and method of presentation, seem to preserve civilization, or how many seem to tear it down. I try to assess how many drivers stay between the lines, how many weave while texting or zoom in and out of traffic at 90mph or honk and flip off drivers.

Today, as the reader can note from the tone of this apocalyptic essay, civilization seemed to be losing.

And not a whit less momentous is this, which opens an article titled, The Humanities and Us:

In 2011, the University of California at Los Angeles decimated its English major. Such a development may seem insignificant, compared with, say, the federal takeover of health care. It is not. What happened at UCLA is part of a momentous shift in our culture that bears on our relationship to the past—and to civilization itself.

Until 2011, students majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, two in Shakespeare, and one in Milton—the cornerstones of English literature. Following a revolt of the junior faculty, however, during which it was announced that Shakespeare was part of the “Empire,” UCLA junked these individual author requirements and replaced them with a mandate that all English majors take a total of three courses in the following four areas: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability, and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing. In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent as to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton, or Shakespeare, but was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”

Are these not barbarians? They are, and if they are, then we all are. What will pull us back from the edge this time? More high tech than before but a Dark Age coming all the same.

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