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?


  1. I can see sudden collapse or slow slide into third world, then collapse.

    It’s not inevitable, but we’ve (they’ve) set us up for it. Only tough love and people assuming personal responsibility will stop the fall, but instead, we’ll get tough taxes and even less personal responsibility.

    I wonder if Obama’s supporters will begin to see the man behind the curtain, or if they will continue to see the figment? I wonder if they’re like the Clinton supporters who are impervious to reality?

    I grieve and hope I am wrong.

    Comment by lifepundit — November 11, 2008 @ 9:38 am

  2. Thanks for sharing this line of thought, Anwyn. I find this very interesting.

    I believe the perceived pendulum effect is caused by indirect forces, such as economic conditions and military actions, as well as the more direct force of the simple human desire to be contrary. The grass *is* always greener on the other side of the hill, don’tcha know?

    America tends to swing more toward the liberal side of the spectrum as foreign threats to national security are erased or perceived as unimportant. When there’s no problem to be solved (or we’re tired of trying) outside our borders, we become introspective and try to implement some type of utopia. Of course, utopias are folly.

    The collapse argument makes a good point, because liberalism at its extreme it becomes socialism, one of those unsustainable utopias. At some point, you have collapse, revolution or both. Fortunately, we still have a long way to get there, but the machine in office next year will have the opportunity to accelerate the process.

    Comment by Daddyman — November 12, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace