Been reading an excellent history of Egypt, Greece and Rome. We sometimes forget that there were three thousand years of fully human history BC (and of course tens of thousands of years of human life, love and struggle before that). During the past several days – reading on the Esplanade in Darwin – it was the rise and fall of Rome. Very instructive. The reality was much more complex than simple rise and decline and Rome left an immense lasting legacy. But in reaching imperial heights – though its movement to empire was not in any sense planned, sort of like the rise of America as a “superpower” – it surpassed its ability to maintain itself. Is this what is happening to us too?
The world we live in offers an entirely new level of complexity (what John C Wright calls the Era of the Second Mental Structure in his excellent The Gold Age Trilogy). The many aspects of modern technology – the Internet and our growing ability to manipulate matter and biology – offer many more opportunities to correct, and also cover up, our shortcomings. So maybe decline can somehow be put off. Perhaps all this new stuff that we have seen grow into our civilization before our eyes will provide new forms of monasteries, hermitages, walled communities and the like for the next dark age (which was not so dark anyway). Maybe even some cyber urban centers where the barbarians won't be able to get us?
What can we do to keep the barbarians from the gates? Fully support those leaders who lean more toward empathy and adaptability even when they are imperfect, as they must be to be leaders in the world we live in? This means supporting guys like Obama and doing all possible to avoid the Republican dogs who just want to eat our bones while preaching at us.
Another may be to keep trying to be heard by talking with those who will stop to listen and talk back. This approach has not made great headway since Socrates tried it but the Internet provides more street corners to stand at. The other side of this is the need to be persistent, civil but persistent, in order to be heard. And then we must build on what we find with whom we find. (Socrates got hemlock for persistence so we do need to watch where we step even if we step anyway.)
These Tea Party folk show a possible further step. A movement of the civilized for civilization. Possible?