Monday, September 2, 2019

Decline in Slow Motion

Back when I began this blog, in February 2009, thus more than a decade ago, I kicked things off by introducing one of the main interests in my life, cyclic history (that post is here). Now I’m urged to resume making entries to this blog by a person who cannot be denied. And what with having watched CNN and MSNBC all these months (rather than posting blog entries), I am keenly aware just how accurate my cyclic historians have been. Hence this post too will deal with cultural decline; indeed, if I wished to reflect the decline I see in the title of this post, I’d call it Decline in SloMo. That phrase is much more up-to-date with the linguistic trends. After all, as yesterday’s New York Times reported, our President is either quite unaware of the difference between there and their, or he does not give a damn. Now to explain “slow motion”…

Long ago and far away, back when I first became aware of the cyclic nature of cultures and civilizations, the world looked much more rational than it does today. I was then reading books about the societal collapse of Rome; and, looking around, etc., I wondered how it might have manifested in ordinary life. A clue was present in the very few fictional works that have survived from roughly the fourth through twelfth centuries of Europe. In those no one held forth about the Decline of Rome. The stories may have been about disorders, military or otherwise, but the landscapes were still green, the forests still dark, and the rivers just kept running on. They’re still running on today.

The facts is that every culture/civilization exists in a different time zone than ordinary human life. It often take a culture 500 years to reach adulthood and once again as long to reach senescence. If we are living eighty-some-odd years of one of those periods, developments marking growth or the decline of these gigantic and seemingly organic structures will not show, in detail, changes that, in cumulation, produce new societal patterns that, in their turn, will be called cultures. One of my gurus, the German historian, Oswald Spengler—he who argued most convincingly that cultures/civilizations are organic—used the words “culture” for the youthful and “civilization” for the adult phase of these structures. In the late stages of civilizations, absurd and often irrational events sometimes multiply so that even the half-asleep among us begin to shake their head. Such a time is with us now, are, indeed, displayed across the world. Then, looking around, some days, one can’t help but see that the old historians, who saw all this coming back in the 1930s, had glimpsed something real in the future. Events still proceed in slow motion; hence we still maintain hopes that normalcy will once again return; and return it will, eventually; but in SloMo that might take another 500 years.

With that cheerful thought, my resumption of blogging has begun this Labor Day 2019.

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