Filed under:History,Not Cool,Politics,Sad — posted by Anwyn on November 10, 2008 @ 9:18 pm

As a kid trying to understand the scale of human civilization, I once observed to my father that our culture seemed to act like a pendulum, swinging back and forth between the two ends of the liberal/conservative spectrum. In my limited understanding of zeitgeists some of which were before my time, I cited the supposed characters of the various decades: the fifties, staid and proper; the sixties, loose and vulgar; the seventies, trying to recover from the sixties; the eighties–well, my pattern ended there because I was living in it and I couldn’t see anything so very decadent about jellies and stirrup pants. Dad said no, that isn’t the way it works: The civilization presses towards the loose and irresponsible end of the spectrum until it collapses.

I wasn’t completely wrong, I know, but my image was wrong. Closer to correct is that various people and forces work to hold back the tide flowing to the irresponsible end and sometimes succeed in briefly damming it. Some people seem to believe the dam has now forever burst, or if it hasn’t already, it will as soon as Obama’s economic policies are enacted and turn bigger-than-ever swaths of the electorate into dependents.

As the previous post shows, I’m cautiously pessimistic. But I wonder if, even if our time has not come now, will it, irrefutably, inexorably, and inevitably? Can Western civilizations actually collapse any more? Or do they, as Peter Hitchens says, subside into the Third World?

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace