From the Archives, Feb. 12, 1980: Our society is worth saving

Polar Star

Gary L. Wells / Columnist

President Carter, in his State of the Union address, said, “The decade ahead will be a time of rapid change as nations everywhere seek to deal with new problems and age-old tensions. But America need have no fear. We can thrive in a world of change if we remain true to our values…”

What are our values? The dollar? The home and family? Personal and national integrity? What is it that people place primarily in their lives?

Do we have values that we can or should remain true to?

The current economic situation would indicate that placing one’s hopes in the dollar is a rather shaky proposition.

The rising divorce rate among those who even bother to get married, causes one to question whether the family is even considered an important part of the mainstream of our society anymore.

Where is our personal or national integrity?

Crime is rising sky high. White collar crime. Violent crime. Juvenile crime.

Apathy seems to be the new law of the land.

Those who take the time to express concern about the path our society is taking, are looked as spoilsports and old fogies. There is a prevailing attitude that nothing is wrong unless you get caught. And it’s the getting caught that makes whatever it is you get caught at wrong.

Throughout the writings of Arnold Toynbee is the thought that societies break down, not as a result of aggression from without, but because of decay from within.

In “Civilization on Trial” Toynbee wrote, “…history has repeated itself about twenty times in producing human societies of the species to which our Western society belongs…Moreover, when we study the histories of these dead and moribund civilizations…we find indications of what looks like a recurring pattern in the process of their breakdowns, declines, and falls.”

In examining our society (and remember this was something evident even 30 years ago) Toynbee wrote, “There is nothing to prevent our Western civilization from following historical precedent, if it chooses, by committing social suicide.”

What are the manifestations of social suicide? Let’s take a brief look at a couple of major examples from the past.

Much has been said about the glory of the Greeks. But up until the time of Philip of Macedonia, Greek society was confined to a small number of city-states. Philip brought the peninsula together and his son, Alexander, took it out into the rest of the world.

At one time Alexander was very concerned about the preservation of his society-then all of a sudden he could care less. Why?

If Will Durant, author of The Life of Greece, is to be believed, it’s because Alexander was too busy drinking himself into an early grave mourning the death of his homosexual lover. And the Greeks went down the drain.

Gibbons in “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” said that Rome fell because of the barbarians and the Christians. Toynbee disagrees.

In “Study of History, Vol IV” he wrote that it was the Christians that enabled Rome to last as long as it did. He puts forth the idea that if a substantial minority had stopped yelling “BRead and circuses” long enough to look around them, the barbarians would have never pulled Rome down. It wouldn’t have taken a majority.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer, philosopher and historian from L’Abri, Switzerland, in “How Should We Then Live?” outlines the Roman frame of mind as the barbarians were at the gates.

“The decadent Romans,” Schaeffer wrote, “were given to a thirst for violence and a gratification of the senses. This is especially evident in their rampant sexuality.”

He concludes: “Because of the general apathy and its results (aggravated inflation, government work programs and a relinquishing of individual freedoms)………few thought the old civilization worth saving.”

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Is our society worth saving?

I believe it is. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.

It’s going to take people who care enough to get up off their butts.

It’s going to take a realization that the “values” our society is currently resting upon stink.

It’s going to take individuals establishing honesty, integrity, and morality within themselves.

The formula is, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

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1 Response

  1. Cultural warrior says:

    The reason why great civilizations often decline has more to do with cultural heritage than conflict. If the people in a nation stop protecting their cultures, their civilizations eventually end.

    For instance, ancient Rome started to decline when it lost its primary religion and culture to Christian fundamentalism. The last Roman emperor is arguably pagan Justinian (framed as the apostate by Christians who fantasize their own religious myths were more “real” than the Roman ones). The name persisted but subsequent iterations of alleged Romans, run by Christians, weren’t Roman any more.

    Likewise America is now in slow decline because it no longer protects it’s western heritage while secular nations like China are becoming more western than alleged westerners. What made America great wasn’t religion, it was its adoption of Greek and Roman culture mixed in with other later European contributions along the same vein (most notably British, French and German who also borrowed heavily from Greece and Rome). What made ancient Greeks and Romans great wasn’t their mysticism. It was that many of them looked beyond the religions of the day and instead rationalized the world.

    By comparison, many Americans today think western civilization means middle eastern religions like Christianity and Judaism. They frame America as “Judeo-Christian” culture rather than Greco-Roman culture (the latter being the real building blocks by the US forefathers).

    Albeit religion is not as extreme as places like Saudi Arabia, this is dangerous behavior (of the sort that threatens the destruction of America). Most Americans no longer even know basic western history like ancient Macedonians were a Hellenic people. Today even mainstream American politicians and media now claim ancient Paeonia and an antihellenic Slavic people are founders of the Hellenistic period.
    Unfortunately most Americans are interested in protecting mysticism than western culture these days.

    It’s not that nations should mimic ancient cultures or even past generations of the same nation but there themes that should be protected. Otherwise the nation is toast. Some believing the world would be better without nationalism. Extreme nationalism (including racism) is a negative but antinationalism is also a negative. IMHO antinationalists may mean well but they deluding themselves. Nationalism is part of civilization just like gravity. If one nation commits seppuku another will just fill the void. National stability is far better than national instability.

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