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(In Search Of) Civilization

Notes on Cleveland

Rockefeller Center, NYC, NY

Rockefeller Center, NYC, NY

Morris Berman, from “The Twilight of American Culture”:

If we can pull together the threads of this discussion so far, it would seem that four factors are present when a civilization collapses:

(a) Accelerating social and economic inequality

(b) Declining marginal returns with regard to investment in organizational solutions to socioeconomic problems

(c) Rapidly dropping levels of literacy, critical understanding, and general intellectual awareness

(d) Spiritual death—that is, Spengler’s classicism: the emptying out of cultural content and the freezing (or repackaging) of it in formulas—kitsch, in short.

The New York Times, reporting on Day 1 of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland:

We’re in grave danger

The lineup of speakers presented a United States in danger, threatened from abroad and from within, a once-proud nation on the very brink of chaos and dystopia. Six of the speakers were military veterans, including Marcus Luttrell, the celebrated former Navy SEAL, who bluntly warned that “the enemy is here.” A half-dozen more were relatives of Americans murdered by foreign terrorists or illegal immigrants — threats to the nation’s safety and cohesion that often mingle in the Trump worldview. Another was the former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who likened the country to a circa-1980s New York in need of a strong hand. “There is no next election,” Mr. Giuliani warned. “This is it!”

Quoted in Berman:

Sallust’s description of Rome in 80 B.C.—a government controlled by wealth, a ruling-class numb to the repetitions of political scandal, a public diverted by chariot races and gladiatorial shows—stands as a fair summary of some of our own circumstances….

—Lewis Lapham,Waiting for the Barbarians

No need to wait any longer – the Barbarians are at the gate.


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