The Decline of a Civilization

Civilization in decline is a very real thing. Civilizations rise and fall in their world standing, power shifts, the strength of nations ebb and wane as time passes. Moral and ethical decay accompany the slow collapse of nation states and this phenomenon is something the far Right has been harping on for years.  Unfortunately, the Right is the cause, not the solution.  And the economic downgrade on the S&P is sign number one.

The economic downgrade is not a reflection of the so-called moral liberalization of the US.  While the Right talks about “moral decline,” they seem incapable of addressing the underlying truths of cultural and political systems throughout the ages.  Quite simply, feeding people, improving the quality of life, sparking innovation, etc. is THE moral imperative of a representative government.  It is NOT to fixate on cultural changes they deem unworthy of their dictatorial interpretation of God, the family and the state.  Civilizations, regardless of the diatribe they put forward, do not fall because of gay marriage and birth control.  Every great revolutionary movement and/or period of chaotic turmoil that engulfs a nation is inevitably tied first and foremost to economic decline, the disparity of wealth between rich and poor and fanaticism brought about by fanatical groups bent of controlling the populace through a mix of fear and exploitation.  In other words, the arguments of those responsible for the economic slipping of the US don’t stand up to scrutiny, either in the current state of the world or from a historical perspective.

Britain, Germany, France, and Singapore – all of who have AAA standing – are cases in point.  All have universal healthcare, taxes that are equitable and a social system that is simply more tolerant when addressing issues of sexuality and religion.  While the EU certainly is dealing with its own economic woes, they are significantly more stable than the US and better positioned to grow in the years to come.  Unlike some of our governors, they are focusing on resolving their problems rather than calling for God (and a deity that excludes Jews, Muslims, Catholics and Hindus at that) to intervene. The focus for those nations with AAA standing is to generate revenue while reducing spending. The result is not perfect, to be sure, but they are still better situated that the US as it flounders in deadlock brought on by Tea Party lunatics whose understanding of economics is rooted in a bizarre mix of fundamentalist ideology and a grotesque bastardization of Adam Smith’s writings on free markets. It is rather like Hitler coopting Nietzsche.  But then, their policies aren’t meant for everyone.  No, they are meant to increase the power of the few, exclude the bulk of the population from economic and political discourse, instill fear in an increasingly entrenched subservient socioeconomic class and kick the “weirdoes” into line.

The decline of Rome, Persia, China (though once again in ascendancy) were all tied to fanaticism, backward-looking social policy and economic collapse.  The rich are exalted and encouraged to exploit the poor, tacitly or otherwise.  The keys to the kingdom are handed to the supposed “barbarians” by the very people who belittle them as being morally and culturally inferior.  And this is by no means an issue of ancient history. Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union and Pol Pot’ Khmer Rouge are all modern examples of what happens when the lunatic fringe is given charge.  And while all of these groups responded to economic collapse with hyper-taxation, so to speak, the underlying conditions that led to it were the same as what we see before us now – economic collapse brought on by mismanagement and unstable governments.  The response was a factor of the time, just as the Tea Party mentality is a US response to our economic chaos.  Unfortunately, the results are ultimately the same – further economic decline that leads to complete economic reorganization, abuses of power by a fanatical elite and the scapegoating of populations who don’t tow the line. So much for the moral superiority of our would be paragons of Truth.  It is simple.  The mad have taken over the madhouse and they can’t seem to understand that their behavior is making things worse (and will no doubt continue to do so).

So what it means to business?  Everything.  Innovation will continue to falter, the gulf between the rich and poor will lead to further social disparity and the economy will continue to deteriorate.  It doesn’t matter what you produce and how you market it when there is no one there to buy it.  Free enterprise is crushed rather than encouraged.  The entrepreneurial spirit is dashed when people eventually begin to buy into the lies propagated by people more obsessed with their own power and station than the conditions of the country in which they live.  Can feed your family?  It’s because of homosexuals.  Can’t treat your child’s cancer?  It’s your own damn fault.  Roads falling apart and bridges falling down?  The private sector will right the problem.  Now get back to work scrubbing the floors. Our downgrading by the S&P is not a reflection of the moral decay espoused by the Right, it is a reflection of their own moral lacking and completely misguided understanding of economics.  And it reflects, I believe, much harsher times ahead.

Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

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  1. Spot-on analysis. There are times when it seems that our collapse is inevitable simply because we encourage it so relentlessly, and in so many ways. ‘Idiocracy’ is the scariest movie of all time because it’s just barely an exaggeration. We’re proud of who we are, and no discussion of ‘facts’ will change our minds. What’s fascinating for me is the speculation about how it all plays out. Just what will this land of ours look like in 25 or 50 or 75 years? I’m in Denver, where people are by-and-large hopeful and reasonably rational. There are good things going on, even if it’s in the context of a massive economic clusterfuck. But you’re in KC, right? Much closer to the beating heart of our national stupidity. How do things feel around there? Please let us know when the xtian militias begin to invade the larger midwestern towns. They’ll be heading my way soon after….

  2. I stated on another history teachers and professors “history education” website that this article really gets into the more comprehensive and less superficial coverage of the current debt ceiling and Standard and Poor situation in the perspective of historical events in the U.S. and the world and the rise and decline of civilizations.

  3. Steve, Allen, Harold: It would be nice to hear an agenda of specific steps to be taken to reverse the current trends in US, world, and popular economics, an agenda based on specific faults and specific countermeasures. I may or may not agree with all that is said in the powerful article, but here I am emoting without any direction as to where to hang my eager energy. Did we not have a similar conversation about eight years ago? The undefined “They” will not likely fix things; “WE” must do so. I would like to do it constitutionally. Give me more !

    1. Charles, the agenda’s for you to decide, my friend. I’m not involved in politics, but I am lucky enough to be a schoolteacher. And I get to wage my own joyful little war against the stupid. In my world it looks like this:

      Throw your TeeVee away. Get back to talking to people face to face. Get back to doing things for/with them. Drive less, ride bike more. Reduce your participation in corporate capitalism day by day. Cook your own meals, maybe from food you grew. Enjoy these meals as if it were an act of outright rebellion. Invite people over to help with that. Do work that matters to you personally. Ride bike more. Support local business for all the reasons you can imagine, but mostly because their stuff is better. Enjoy the natural world instead of trying to overcome it. Ride bike more. Encourage others to do all of this if you can do so w/out being a total dick about it.

      That’s a start. That’s what I’m trying to do. Mostly, its going really well. I’m blessed, but I take partial credit. This life is intentional.

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