The decline and fall of civilizations is man-made and as such reversible.
To the extent that it is run by the Red-Greens, the apple of Western civilization has been allowed by its supposed guardians to house maggots. The resulting rot is not the product of unavoidable decay at work. Those that think that a law makes civilizations rise and then fall hide behind a fake determinism that excuses the accountable.
Civilizations, like the graphic tabulations of temperatures, have their natural ups and downs. Not “rise and fall”, rather “achievement, stagnation, correction, decline, recovery or crash” are the fitting words. Whether a down is followed by a recovery or a collapse is not an expression of “fate” but of choices. Like wealth and poverty, so decline and subjection are largely man-made. A translatable Yiddish-Hungarian proverb expresses the idea when it warns, “misfortune seldom comes from above”.
The ailment of our culture is not what the cultural pessimists claim it to be. Not an arbitrary act of God has brought the advanced world to bloom. Nor is it true that the same power intends to reconvert it into dust. It cannot be argued convincingly that the competitors that have risen to political, military, and economic power are at this time ready for the role of the Goths, the Vandals and the Huns during the decline of Rome. In the course of the “American century” alone, three destructive challengers (Nazis, Maoists and the USSR) have come, been seen, and were stumbled into oblivion. The successor states seek their place under the sun by selectively imitating the originally Western, currently global, pattern. That means an effort to find a local application of the measures that made the industrial democracies thrive. As hinted, this intention is selective in the case of Russia and China. The restraint is indicative of the earlier ways of steering the country – the tainted practitioners continue to be well represented in government. It remains to be seen, whether trying to avoid the “pitfalls” of the open society will endanger the goal of general modernization.
Indeed, the case of China shows that the example of the decline and fall of Europe’s Greco-Roman civilizations overstresses a case and that it relies on selective evidence. China used to be, to apply an old British term, “top nation”. To a much greater extent than the machinations of the “imperialists”, her 19th century decline is due to internal policies that reflect “incorrect thinking”. Projected upon the canvas of the humiliation of the “unequal treaties”, today’s Chinas both testify to the reversibility of decline.
The theories of inevitable decline concentrate on the rise and the triumph of hostile powers. Granted, even today applied Western civilization, including its globalized mutants that are anything but “Western”, has foes that wish its destruction.
Of the potential foes, only Russia and Communist China are potential superpowers. Even at this stage of their development, their goal is not destruction but parity to be followed by limiting their American competitor’s influence. Continued economic and political growth is to deliver the means by which this can be achieved. However, evolution will also cause the convergence of the systems. The current leadership in Moscow and Beijing might not desire this outcome. Nevertheless, this might prove to be the unanticipated consequence of their policies. It is difficult to predict the final balance that will emerge out of the pursued and contradictory goals of growth-development and confrontation-dominance. Nevertheless, a ”final” conflict does not seem to be a key component of the yet amorphous scenario.
The foes that wish to destroy the modern world are a motley crew. They wish to reverse modernization and to jettison democracy. Furthermore, they also intend to overcome mankind’s division in nation states in favor of a world order that expresses their religious or secular concept. Iran, Jihadists, North Korea, Cuba, Bolivarians, Sandinistas and other cavemen are, to the extent of their limited means and the conditional succor from powers that instrumentalize them, inclined to engage in physical confrontation. Regardless of a fanatical commitment, these policies are unlikely to end in a conquest of the advanced world from the outside.
The impression should not arise that the deficiencies of outsiders that crave physical destruction implies security. It is said about some nations that they cannot be defeated without the participation of their own people. You get the point if you recall the US’ efforts in Viet Nam. It was the home front that proved to be decisive.
The reference to the enemy within should not be misinterpreted. It is a threadbare trick of suppressive authoritarians to claim that the “enemy’s hand” is in everything that their policies ruin. That suggests that the struggle against the external enemy can be won at home if the nest is “purged”.
The developed world’s internal weakness does not come from the traditional principles of the democratic system that some think needs revision. Nor is it that the “opposition” must be weeded out root and branch. Alas the critical vulnerability has complex causes and therefore remedies such as “driving out the …., or decapitating all the …. , and unmasking ….“ will not do. Much rather, our culture needs to be appreciated –as do its imitators- and needs to be defended.
A book-length list could follow here itemizing why advanced societies have lost control over immigration, why policies to eliminate the causes of crime aid criminals, or why some acts of “good will” steel the aggressor’s resolve. The reader will by himself find illustrations of how democracy’s tenets are allowed by a dissident section of the political class to undermine liberty as a system.
Significantly, it is not the cunning or the power of the enemies of the open society that cause our weakness. Nor are the system’s inadequacies to be blamed. Our practice is faulty. A search for the source of peril leads us to the role of the developed world’s “political class”. Its members are overcome by guilt toward the forces that attack the systems entrusted to them. As a result, they operate under the handicap of lacking conviction regarding the legitimacy of the systems they are to defend.
In addition to this sense of guilt, the political class and its bureaucratic accomplices suffer from moral relativism. Additionally, they also lack appreciation for the achievements of their culture. Equally potent is the ignorance regarding the man-made causes of poverty and wealth.
Increasingly, concerned citizens are questioning the resulting policies of incremental surrender. The response to that is elitist mistrust of the ability of the common man and his common sense. Ironically, we may add that this skepticism is partially funded. Through elections determined by voters that succumb to party labels that do not conform to the package’s content, power is given to the wrong crowd. The so empowered are not convinced that what they govern is worth defending. In any case, the appointed custodians of the public weal do not believe that a need to defend and to preserve exists because their ideology deprives them of the ability to identify a looming clear and present danger.