In the year 410, Alaric, the leader of the Visigoths, attacked Rome and succeeded in sacking it. Rome had been battling with enemies for years along its far-flung borders, and in some cases had admitted some of these people into the empire. But Alaric and his army did what many Romans thought was unthinkable: entered the city itself. The invasion was blamed by some on the rise of Christianity and a shift away from the ancient traditions and gods. This moved Augustine to write “The City of God,” in which he argued that Rome was suffering retribution for its past sins and unrighteousness, not because of the rising religion. The city would be hit again by the Vandals in 455, before finally falling in 476 to Germanic tribes.
Whether or not you are a Christian, Augustine had a point. By the time Alaric and his band of merry men were at the gates, Rome’s boundaries had become so large that they were unmanageable, the military was diluted, and the empire manufactured very few goods of its own. It relied instead on imports and slave labor. Taxes and unemployment were high, the government was corrupt, and the empire had a history of civil war.
Also noteworthy, Rome saw a decline in its citizens’ behavior over the years (during its years of peace and prosperity, the city itself may have been home to 32,000 prostitutes.) And of course, there was the philosophy of “bread and circuses,” which held that if you kept the population fed and entertained, they might not notice that things were going to hell. Some have also posited that the lead pipes used to bring water to homes may have contributed to collective cognitive decline.
Rome, as impressive as it was, had its faults and a history of human rights violations. But we should take note of the fact that a nation could climb to such heights only to end up in ruins. Do any of the above conditions sound familiar? They should. Whether or not Rome had it coming is up for debate. Augustine seemed to think so. And there are those who would argue that America has it coming as well. Like Rome, America has its sins. But at the very least, recognizing the signs of decline can help you brace yourself, and maybe put things into context.
You can comb the pages of PJ Media for stories about the corruption, economic incompetence, and lousy domestic and foreign policies that the U.S. shares with the Roman Empire. But what about the moral slide? One might say that the culprits are legion (pun intended). The Grammys, OnlyFans, etc. You name it, you can find something out there to assist you in degrading your body, mind, and soul.
I saw a meme a while back stating that older car manuals used to tell owners how to adjust the valves. Newer car manuals tell users not to drink the battery water. It is probably a joke, but it is apropos. We have become a nation so obsessed with our own stomachs and entertainment and so devoid of critical thinking skills that such a warning would not be out of place.
To a certain degree, the lead pipe is either in your hand or sitting on a desktop. And the lead poisoning it brings is astounding. Take for example TikTok. While it may or may not be a socio-political tooth of the CCP, it is certainly a sewer conduit for some of the dumbest ideas in human human history.
The latest casualty of TikTok-induced lack of judgement is one Briatney Portillo, who suffered a heart attack after participating in the “dry scoop” challenge. One downs a scoop of protein powder instead of mixing it with water, as directed on the label. Also of late, officials in St. George, Utah, are blaming an incident in which someone damaged the window of a school bus by throwing a bottle from an oncoming car on a TikTok challenge. In the meantime, officials at a school district in Florida are bracing for the latest challenge in which students slap a teacher on the backside, which can carry criminal charges.
Other challenges have included overdosing on Benadryl, licking random things to contract COVID-19 (including one instance in which a woman licked a toilet seat on an airplane), dancing partially or completely unclothed, suffocating oneself until one blacks out, injecting hyaluronic acid, and dropping pennies into a partially plugged-in outlet in order to create a spark. Then there is the future MENSA reject who took up the challenge of eating corn on the cob that had been placed on an electric drill. And then there are some challenges that I simply will not list here.
You, dear reader, are savvy enough to know that TikTok is just one symptom of a culture in decline, and I am sure you could compile a list that is simultaneously hilarious, nauseating, and downright frightening.
Oh and by the way, America? There is a Mr. Alaric here to see you.