Victor Davis Hanson: The strand of civilization

by Skip

“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot…”

- Robert Heinlein

One of my most favorite folks to read is VDH – a California Professor who speaks of today’s disintegrating culture in terms of the Classic Western history and philosophy who is not seeing great things in our near future as Political Correctness and cultural hubris of Elites can’t see the cracks, crevasses, and dark corners that are now dotting our landscape.  Go read the whole thing and get depressed, but here’s a few ‘graphs to get you interested (emphasis mine):

Rather our way of life is changing not with a bang, but with a whimper, insidiously and self-inflicted, rather than abruptly and from foreign stimuli. Most of the problem is cultural. Unfortunately it was predicted by a host of pessimistic anti-democratic philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Hegel and Spengler. I’ve always hoped that these gloom-and-doomers were wrong about the Western paradigm, but some days it becomes harder.

Over 90 million Americans who could work are not working (the “non-institutionalized” over 16). What we take for granted — our electrical power, fuel, building materials, food, health care, and communications — all hinge on just 144 million getting up in the morning to produce what about 160-170 million others (the sick, the young, and the retired who need assistance along with the 90 million idle) consume.

Given that the number of non-working is growing (an additional 10 million were idled in the Obama “recovery” alone), it is likely to keep growing. At some point, we will hit a 50/50 ratio of idle versus active. Then things will get interesting… 

We forget that the obligations of the working to care for the 70-80 million who genuinely cannot work become more difficult, when the 90 million who can work for all sorts of reasons won’t. Note the theme of this essay: the more in humane fashion we provide unemployment insurance, food stamps, subsidized housing, legal advice, health care and disability insurance, the more the recipients find it all inadequate, inherent proof of unfairness and inequality, and always not enough.

As I have said before, a Socialist society is a SELFISH society – human nature is normal in that the desired wants always trump the actual needs.  Envy then drives the culture.

We will hear even more shrillness about “fairness” and “equality.” The more government support, all the more will grow the sense of being shorted. When someone idle receives a free iPhone, he doesn’t thank government for its magnanimity. More likely, he damns it for allowing someone else the ability to purchase an updated, superior model. I have talked to several students about their iPhones; so far not one has said, “Wow, I have more computer and communications power in my palm than a multi-millionaire had just 15 years ago.” Mostly they wished they had an updated version like someone better off.

…Popular culture is likewise anti-civilizational. Does anyone believe that Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, and Lady Gaga are updates to Glenn Miller, jazz, Bob Dylan and the Beatles? Even in the bimbo mode, Marilyn Monroe had an aura that Ms. Kardashian and Ms. Hilton lack. Teens wearing bobby socks and jeans have transmogrified to strange creatures in our midst with head-to -oe tattoos and piercings as if we copied Papua New Guinea rather than it us. Why the superficial skin-deep desire to revert to the premodern? When I walk in some American malls and soak in the fashion, I am reminded of National Geographic tribal photos of the 1950s.

…A shrinking percentage of our population feeds us, finds our energy, protects us, and builds things we count on. They get up each morning to do these things, in part in quest for the good life, in part out of a sense of social obligation and basic humanity, in part because they know they will die if idle and thrive only when busy, and in part simply because “they like it.”

We can stack the deck against them with ever higher taxes, ever more regulations, ever more obligations to others, and they may well continue. But not if we also damn them as the “1%” and call them the agents of inequality and the fat cats who did not build what they built or who profited when they should not have.

Like I said, go read the whole thing.  But imagine – what if the few that support the many decide that they CAN find Galt’s Gulch?

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