When a Civilization Goes Mad
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 Obama’s 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 don’t 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 philosopher’s utterances that keeps on echoing, “Only a god can save us now.”