Skip to comments.When a Civilization Goes Mad
Posted on 08/16/2011 11:32:17 AM PDT by Kaslin
It begins with self-doubt; it ends with self-destruction.
Historian Arnold Toynbee, who developed the theory of challenge-and-response to account for the survivability of civilizations, has said that great civilizations are not murdered, they commit suicide by not meeting their challenges. A variation of this historical insight may be phrased thus: When a civilization or an empire feels inwardly that it is dying, or as Oswald Spengler put it in The Decline of the West, that it wants to die and wishes itself into the darkness, it begins to go mad. Collective madness is a sure portent that an end is approaching, that an axial transformation is about to occur, that an entire worldview or cultural habitus is on the verge of disintegration. It signals that a people has surrendered to a mortal destiny, repudiated its sustaining tradition and condign principles, and indeed has gone so far as to regard the enemy at the gates as a form of salvation. They were, those people, a kind of solution, say Constantine Cavafys effete Romans in his celebrated poem, Waiting for the Barbarians.
Western politics, Raymond Ibrahim has said, discussing the befuddled American and European outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood with its clever, phased project for infiltrating Western society, have descended into idealism and fantasy. The same can be said about the state of the Western media. The media are like the neural pathways establishing connections between the various parts of the world brain. When they begin to transmit false representations and misleading messages, the response to world events is at best incongruous and at worst drastically contorted. Both public sentiment and public policy lurch about in a kind of no-mans land, unable to make contact with things as they are. Obviously, there will always be a certain amount of misfiring in the circuitry, but when the entire system is warped and deformed, it becomes next to impossible to properly read the empirical world and react in appropriate ways. This creates a disjunction between mind and reality, which is one definition of madness.
The gradual but unrelenting insinuation of socialist and neo-Marxist doctrine into the liberal West, after it has been reliably shown to falter or collapse wherever it has been implemented, is still another index of severe mental disconnect and maladjustment to reality. Command economies are proven to be inefficient, and the welfare state, predicated on the punitive taxation of a shrinking and increasingly insolvent productive base to subsidize ever-inflating entitlement programs, has been properly described as a gigantic Ponzi scheme. Redistributionist and womb-to-tomb security states, as Margaret Thatcher famously said, will eventually run out of other peoples money. Nevertheless, this ideological will-o-the-wisp continues to be diligently pursued.
Or consider the phenomenon of multiculturalism, as interpreted and practiced in the West, which has led the countries that have adopted it into a state of social and political bedlam. Based, as Salim Mansur argues in his new book Delectable Lie, on the false idea another official lie, really that all cultures are equal, it is progressively destroying the Wests liberal democratic heritage by extending recognition to groups defined through collective identity and by elevating ethnicity over nationality. As a consequence, under the glazed and permissive view of the political class, the social fabric has critically unraveled, no-go enclaves have sprung up in many cities, the specter of homegrown terrorism haunts the public square, the structure of Western law and normative conduct has come under threat, and growing tension is the order of the day. Multiculturalism has seen the heritage culture adapting to the demands, institutions, and usages of immigrant societies rather than the other way round.
Indeed, the European Union has promulgated laws which militate against the criticism of Islam on the grounds of hate speech. Politicians, journalists, and ordinary citizens, like Geert Wilders, Lars Hedegaard, and Elisabeth Sabbaditch-Wolff, respectively, have found themselves prosecuted in court for warning their fellow citizens against the infiltration of radical Islam into the body politic. The same travesty is being repeated in Canada, whose misnamed Human Rights Commissions, which are essentially kangaroo courts that are not required to follow the rules of evidence, have tried such forthright and respectable journalists as Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn for offending Muslim sensibilities. If this is not madness, I dont know what is.
Perhaps the most conspicuous current example of collective delirium was the election of Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency of the United States. A man with no record of significant prior achievement, who sat for twenty years in the pews of a dubious church under the ministry of an anti-American and anti-Jewish, hate-spewing pastor, who has associated with various compromised individuals such as former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi, antisemite and black supremacist Louis Farrakhan, unrepentant former terrorist Bill Ayers, pro-Islamist plutocrat Khalid al-Mansour, and corrupt businessman Tony Rezko, whose political sentiments lie far to the Left, whose dossier remains in large measure under seal and whose verifiable biography is to a disturbing degree a matter of conjecture all this and much more should have alerted the electorate to his gross unsuitability for office, prompted the legacy media to investigate, and disqualified him immediately from running for the Democratic nomination.
But the emotional frenzy surrounding his candidacy ensured that sanity would not prevail in outing a man whom Robert Kimball has called a typical hothouse product of our self-satisfied liberal elite. Kimball continues, with much justification, that tens or hundreds of thousands of people will suffer because of our naïveté and Barack Obamas malevolent stupidity. The sequel has made it amply clear to all but the partisan, the myopic, and the myriad barnacles clinging to the ship of state and dependent on the largesse of the Democratic Party that America has been gravely weakened both domestically and abroad, and that it might not recover. And yet it is entirely conceivable that Obama may be re-elected to the most powerful office in the world. We recall it was not only a besotted American electorate that hoisted him on its collective shoulders; all Europe also went berserk over the man. Even the Israelis treated him like royalty when he gave his lying Sderot speech. If this is not madness, I dont know what is.
These are only a few examples, which could be multiplied indefinitely, of a civilization losing control of its future. The riots we are currently witnessing in the UK, ignited to a great extent by an entitlement culture that cannot meet the expectations it has created, is only a modest symptom of what is coming down the pike. The overall spectacle we are observing today the dramatic erosion of a sense of civic responsibility, the nihilistic relativizing of moral principle, the insidious effects of political correctness, the reluctance to deal adequately with terrorism, the mounting hostility toward Jews and Israel, the return of autocratic rule in Europe with the appointment of authoritarian bureaucrats answerable to no one to the European Parliament, the cosseting of Islam, the election of incompetents, as in the U.S., as well as in Britain, Sweden, France, Spain, Australia, and many other places the list goes on and on are infallible harbingers of cultural and civilizational decay. Good things come to an end, just like everything else. It seems highly probable that the United States in particular and Western civilization in general have begun to circle the drain. The symptoms of an imperium in its dotage are unmistakable.
The greatest civilization the world has ever known has lost confidence in itself, infected by a plague of self-doubt and self-recrimination. Having lost its bearings, it is no longer willing or able to think clearly, to make difficult choices, to defend its patrimony and resist demographic subversion, to accept the need for sacrifice, to value the radiant catalogue of its triumphs and achievements in art, science, technology, medicine, and statecraft, and, with its declining birthrate, even to reproduce itself. This is total madness. Further, the leftist illiberal trajectory it has embarked upon, as Caroline Glick writes, has led to the bid to criminalize ideological opponents and justify acts of terrorism, a radical political shift that will destroy the liberal democratic foundations of Western civilization.
Is a return to psychic health at all possible? Do civilizations convalesce? Can those who follow the maxim of the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations the object of life is to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane influence events for the better or at least defer the inevitable? Is the writing on the wall erasable graffiti or is it, shall we say, Biblically indelible?
Any way we look at it, the prognosis is not encouraging. As Martin Heidegger deposed in a 1966 Der Spiegel interview, the only one of the philosophers utterances that keeps on echoing, Only a god can save us now.
Only God can save us now.
Only God can save us now.
If we think of any society as one entity - or as one flawed individual - then the psychoanalysis might apply.
But this modern nation; the USA is an amalgam of small communities and 50 States. That regionalism mus be preserved at all costs. Those enclaves where family and faith are still paramount.
In order to remain one Nation Under God, we must not become ONE NATION without God!!!!!
Pinging to this excellent article.
The Consummation of Empire
carrol Quigley in “The Evolution of Civilizations” describes the rise and fall of six or seven civilizations (he says there are about 24 real civilizations in history). He notes that they fall because the rise of intellectualism destroys the ideological basis (generally a religion) which produced the civilization. So with nothing to believe in people turn to the irrational substitutes which claim to have answers or to pleasure-seeking and nihilism.
As people refuse more and more to fight for their civilization when it is attacked or uses its military, it becomes incapable of preserving itself from the attackers from outside the civilization. All those examined fall to invasion from lesser developed areas on the fringe of the civilizations.
He analyzes the Mesopotamian, the Canaanite, the Minoan, the Egyptian, the Classical, and Western Civilization. And finds the same things in them all in their rise and fall. The Western Civilization has been the only one which has come to the point of collapse (three times) and managed to reform itself and continue. He did not make a prediction as to whether it could do this again and puts the crisis of the 1930s at the heart of what must be reformed.
puts the crisis of the 1930s at the heart of what must be reformed.
Awesome pictures by and awesome artist. The Luminous School was fantastic and proof that American artists are or were as good as any in the 19th century at any rate.
For the most part I agree with you, but as a HUGE fan of the Pre-Raphaelites, I'd contend that movement only could have started in Europe under the protective wing of Ruskin.
My Senior Thesis for my Art History BA was on Cole's Voyage of Life. I spent many hours in the National Gallery, completely engrossed in those paintings, and indeed, they are amazing.
In a story with truly bizarre parallels to today, the Byzantine Empire was split into four factions. The Blues, Greens, Reds and Whites.
The Blues were the largest faction, and had been supported by the Emperor Justinian, but had been persuaded by the more radical Greens to join with them and overthrow the emperor.
But the empress Theodora I refused her husband’s plea to flee Constantinople and abdicate the thrown to the Green leader. Instead she called a peace conference, in which the Blues and Greens flooded into a giant amphitheater. Then she sent in a trusted slave with a bag of gold to the leader of the Blues, and reminded them that the emperor had long supported them.
They took the hint, and as a group, the Blues left the amphitheater, leaving the Greens who were more than happy to rule the whole empire for themselves. But after the Blues left, the amphitheater was surrounded by the army, who then went in and killed the Greens.
Simply by eliminating the most radical group of people in the empire, Theodora I extended the life of the empire by another 200 years.
The interesting comparison with today is if you envision these factions as we do today. Blue States and Red States, with the radical Green faction threatening our nation at every turn.
It just shows what one person can do. Empress Theodora I, by the way, was eventually given Sainthood.
Possibly, depending on your definitions of these terms.
The Roman Empire was in the process of falling apart in the 2nd century, but strong emperors rescued it for a couple more centuries.
The Byzantines had multiple episodes of collapse or semi-collapse over a thousand years followed by resurgence.
The Chinese imperial system fell apart many times from warlordism and invasion over three thousand years, but always came back in recognizably the same form.
Of course, the question is whether these examples were really the "same civilization" when they bounced back, or had morphed into what was essentially a new one.
The Nika riots.
Estimate half the city destroyed and 30,000 rioters killed.
Has parallels to the way Jehu handled the Baal worshippers. Get all your worst opponents together in one place and then send in the military.
Quigley says that the rise of civilizations are powered by what he calls “instruments of expansion”. For the Classical civilization, for example, it was slavery.
Western Civilization has had three periods of crisis and reformed itself three time going through three instruments of expansion: commercial capitalism, state mercantilism, industrial capitalism, we entered into the stage of monopoly capitalism around 1900 which produced the disaster of the 1930s and resulted in what he calls a “pluralist economy”. Whether this will be a successful reform of monopoly capitalism is still up in the air.
I am also a huge fan of the Pre-Raphaelites. They would or might be the only exceptions to my claim. However, if women were really as beautiful as they represented I would be in deeep trouble since I love nothing more than a beautiful woman.
There is a gal who works a half a block away from me who looks like she stepped out of a Rossetti painting. Every now and then when I'm leaving for lunch or home at the end of the day, I'll catch a glimpse of her walking to her car. Simply stunning.
And as I read that, it occurred to me, perhaps the sacrifice that must be made in order to preserve some semblence of civilization is the sacrifice of the cities. Let them burn; let them riot; let them riot and loot and burn until there’s nothing left to steal and nothing left to do except to beat one another senseless as they turn to stealing from one another. Then as the electricity begins to fail and the water supplies are cut off, they’ll begin to consume one another in a frenzy of killing while the saner members die attempting to flee the cities only to find themselves dying of hunger and thirst and feral animals having insufficiently provisioned themselves for the attempted escape. And the few that do manage to make it to the next town or village will be greeted by the well placed bullets of the righteous and their torn bodies will be burned in the town square.
That’s a heavy price to pay for the preservation of civilization, but it’s a price we should gladly pay.
The only civilization that is still around after some 3000 years are the Jews. If Jews could revive their language and country after so long being without it I think it is possible that the West could reform itself.
I am optimistic that we’ll get through this this time of darkness and decline but the West is going to have to go through some really bad times in order to do so because the only time we seem to learn is through lessons taught combined with pain.
Just because we live in a time where we seem to be on the edge of civilizational collapse doesn’t mean we should give up. Quite to the contrary. We should be digging in our heels and doing what is needed to buck the trend.
My late wife had that kind of beauty especially her eyes and hair. I adored her for many reasons. You could not take a bad picture of her. I, on the other hand, either looked demented or like a gargoyle in most pictures.
Quigley does not consider the Jews a civilization but a religious subdivision of the Canaanite civilization which was destroyed by the Romans in the first century BC. And the Jews were expelled from their homeland a short time (by historical standards) later. Now the Jews are a religious subdivision of Western Civilization.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we should give up but we must recognize the issues which are facing us or there is no hope we can deal with them.
I remember a discussion we had in school which posed the question of civilization’s demise and homo sapiens’ retrogression; i.e. going back to a primitive existence of killing animals for food, sleeping under the stars, bathing in rivers.
We concluded that any form of survival and renewal was not regression. However, we did note that becoming dependent on others for necessities (other peoples labor) was equal to descending to a feral state.
There were only Blues and Greens. Theodora did indeed show backbone in a stirring speech when Justinian was on the verge of fleeing. Both Blues and Greens were slaughtered in the Hippodrome, in an assault of the Veringian (sp?) Guard - the first appearance of the Vikings in history. Interestingly, the assault was planned and led by a eunuch, Narcissus (sp?), who later had some success campaigning in Italy.
Finally, the Roman Empire (sometimes called Byzantium, though they and their enemies (Muslims) always called it Rome) endured for over 900 more years (fall of Constantinople to the Turks was on May 29, 1453, and Nike Riots were in 532 AD).
May America last so long!
But Rossetti couldn't draw (sorry - he just couldn't - look at the abortive "Found" or his paintings of his wife, who made a lovely Ophelia for Millais) and most of his women look downright weird. The prettiest ones (and not that pretty) were just Fanny Cornforth drawn over and over and over again.
There is NO civilization without cities and there NEVER HAS BEEN. That is where the word comes from. Urbanization is one of the requirements for a real civilization.
When civilizations collapse the first thing that goes is urban life and the commerce they produce. When the cities collapse and the economies they sustain, populations flee to the countryside and eke out a miserable subsistence life of greatly diminished productivity. This is what is called a “Dark Age” and they have recurred whenever civilizations collapse.
Your idea is similar to what Pol Pot tried to do to Cambodia. It is just as sick.
Balderdash; modern societies have no need for cities in fact cities have become nothing more than holding pens for the unproductive. Even now, businesses see the benefits of fleeing the cities; they can communicate via modern technoligies such as the internet and the internet and the servers are being relocated to secure bunker like facilities outside the cities. As the evil concentrates in the urban jungles of festering depravity and false intellectualism, the productive, the civilized are relocating to the exurbs and beyond.
“There were four major factional teams of chariot racing, differentiated by the colour of the uniform in which they competed; the colours were also worn by their supporters. These were the Blues, the Reds, the Greens, and the Whites...”
“As Justinian rallied himself, he created a plan that involved Narses, a popular eunuch, as well as the generals, Belisarius and Mundus. Carrying a bag of gold given to him by Justinian, the slightly built eunuch entered the Hippodrome alone and unarmed, against a murderous mob that had already killed hundreds.
“Narses went directly to the Blues’ section, where he approached the important Blues and reminded them that Emperor Justinian supported them over the Greens. He also reminded them that the man they were crowning, Hypatius, was a Green. Then, he distributed the gold. The Blue leaders spoke quietly with each other and then they spoke to their followers. Then, in the middle of Hypatius’s coronation, the Blues stormed out of the Hippodrome.
“The Greens sat, stunned. Then, Imperial troops led by Belisarius and Mundus stormed into the Hippodrome, killing the remaining rebels.”
And it’s the only Canaanite culture that practiced ethical monotheism which has preserved them for this long that had religious and civil components to them.
Yes, Jews have have lived outside of their homeland for much longer than they have lived in it but when was the last time you saw a civilization rise from the ashes of history to having their language and land back? Name me one. Any one, any one?
Starting in the 1960s Jews started coming back to Judaism for the first time in their history just as the Prophets foretold.
Were there any ugly people in Pre-Raphaelite paintings? I have not seen any.
“However, we did note that becoming dependent on others for necessities (other peoples labor) was equal to descending to a feral state.”
Ludicrous statement. You are cheering stepping away from civilization.
From Wikipedia? I rest my case.
Your idea is called tribalism not civilization.
Wow...I've never before seen anybody so succinctly express their seething jealousy of an artist's talent and his models' beauty in one fell swoop. Congratulations.
Unlike Wikipedia, he was alive at the time of the riots. Looks like the Wikipedia dude got some of the details right, but where he got "Reds and Whites" I'll never know. First I've ever heard of that. And it was just a straight up fight [slaughter]; no silly bribe attempt.
Did you get "200 years" from Wikipedia as well?
THX for the post-
Cities are still the economic powerhouses in a society. Without cities farmers could not make a living. Ideas come out of cities. They are the creative elements within a society. The rest of the society just follows the leads of cities. The fact is that the big blue states (their cities actually) provide the majority of federal taxes and subsidize the majority of red states.
Check the Tax Foundation’s site for confirmation of this and it will show you that NJ gets $0.61 back for every dollar sent to Washington, Il. gets $0.75, NY $0.79, MASS $0.81, Calif $0.78, Mich $0.91, Conn $0.69. Ala $1.66, Miss $2.02, Louisiana $1.78, Ark $1.41, Virginia $1.51, S. Carolina $1.35.
Should Chicago disappear all its suburbs would either disappear as well or turn into near ghost towns. Cities provide the places where new ideas can be tried and developed. The choices provided in one like Chicago are so vast that no one person can even take advantage of them.
If I want to hire someone to do highly skilled or technical work there are literally thousands of people to choose from. In small towns there are very few. Having a huge market allows production to achieve the lowest marginal cost (Adam Smith explains this in the Wealth of Nations). Jane Jacobs explains the critical importance of cities in “The Economy of Cities” and the “Wealth of Cities”.
We’re already living a version of tribalism; the descent into tribalism began sometime ago. What I’m suggesting is that we leave the cities to those with clear tribal identities. They already take actions based upon their tribal allegences; it is rather, those of us with no tribe that they assault. Thus, leave the cities to the tribes and the civilized can carry on civilized pursuits elsewhere.
Its kinda of funny that a discussion of civilization morphed into a discussion of Pre-Raphaelites. They certainly show civilization at its highest.
I never heard of the “Reds” and “Whites” either.
Surrendering the gems of civilization is an absurd idea which can only come from someone who does not understand either cities or civilization.
As I said Judaism is not considered a civilization and is now part of Western Civilization. That being said its story is a remarkable one.
Unfortunately, I see little evidence that Jews are becoming more religious when they are, in fact, among the biggest supporters of the worst trends against our civilization. And even in Israel are not that religious.
Don't worry, one nation without God can't exist. It's like if a wheel loses it's hub - it's not a wheel anymore.
The world imagines that it is occupied by several hundred nations of various philosophies. This is an illusion. The hub of the nations of the world is America, because we are the only country that is based upon the natural rights God gave us, and towards which the government is dependent. No other country in the world is so constructed - none.
Note, I'm not talking about the spiritual and cultural aspects of other countries, nor the massive influence they embody in human and world affairs - just their political constructions. Because it's those political constructs that form the modern, worldly battlefield.
That's why we are under such massive cultural and legal attack. This IS World War III right now, right here. Because if America goes down, so does the world. For all of our (tremendous) faults, we do indeed act as the hub of freedom. If we collapse, China and Russia and Germany and Saudi Arabia and Iran immediately pounce for everything they can get, and the world blossoms into an inferno. Every country knows this.
But there is a God. Evil will not only lose, it IS losing, massively. That's why it's thrashing around so hard right now.
In a way. The Pre-Raphaelites and their aesthete descendants show that in a secure civilization - maintained, as always, by military men and women living in the dirt in the pestilential parts of the globe - the comfortable can indulge in fantasy to their hearts' content, protected from from banal reality.
I like the paintings, especially the odalisques (I was a dancer, back in the day), but I like Whistler better.
I’m not qualified to comment on drawing ability, but I agree with AAM about the weirdness. Look at those jaws! Fine hair, though.
I think it helps to understand what the PRB's aim was...and that was, as the name implies, a return to a more medieval to proto-Renaissance style, and to get away from the academic, stylized, contrived compositions of the high Renaissance (hence, "Pre-Raphael"). In that light, the PRB's stuff can hardly be said to be any more 'weird' than say Van Der Weydn's stuff from the early 1400's..
...or countless other examples I could cite..
That lady doesn’t have a sock-me-in-the-jaw, but the arrangement to show the forehead is typical of what we see in pictures of the time. Whether it’s realistic, or an art style of the day, we have no way to know.
I understand about challenging previous conventions. However, the faces Rosetti painted are very unusual. I’m sure such exist in real life; his choice to paint them shows his personal taste. I think their jaws are weird.
I believe the Topic is “When a civilization Goes Mad”.
We were about 10 years-old and determined that if civilization crumbled - self sufficiency would be paramount.
Survival is progress - dependency is fatal.
The first, second and third waves of immigrations in the 1800s of Jews back to the Land were mostly secular, Leftist Jews from Russia. Today about 20% of Jews in Israel are religious. And that number continues to grow year after year.
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