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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Decline of Nations

No country falls but from within. Given a sufficient population and resources to hold off its enemies, the only sufficient explanation for its fall is internal.

Take the decline of the West, which is often talked about and attributed to leftist conspiracies and Islamic colonialism. But why is Japan, a First World nation whose culture and geography differs dramatically from America and Europe also in a state of economic, political and cultural decline? Not to mention demographic decline.

The Japanese left is certainly active, but blaming it for the country's decline is a more difficult proposition. Japan has a long history of Islamic outreach, but it isn't about to be Islamized and immigration is not a factor. Nor did Japan have a religious heritage that was lost to secularism. Nevertheless with its dwindling population, escapist culture, dysfunctional politics and tremulous foreign policy-- Japan's follies seem to resemble those of the West. The origins of its problems may be different, but the outcome is the same.

Taking a broader view, it almost seems as if joining the club of First World nations is a national death sentence. Sure the technology and the social benefits are nice, but they're not much good without a future.

The future is an important part of the equation, not the actual future to come, but how people see the future. Progress split the world into two kinds of societies, those that could envision a future different from the past-- and those that could only imagine the past endlessly repeating itself.

To change, you must first know that change is possible. Only then is it possible to break free of the wheel of time and rise like an arrow into the unknown reaches of the future. A hundred years ago, the world was dominated by nations that were fascinated by change and futurism. 1900 was attended by wild predictions about what life in the year 2000 might be like. That century also brought the explosion of Science Fiction, a primarily American literary genre that envisioned technology reshaping mankind.

60 years ago those elements still remained in place, but progressivism had become Dionysian, irrational pleasure seeking and substance abusing, its reformism limited to social reforms. Big government was swiftly becoming the only element of the old progressivism that still remained intact, but even that was a shell of the scientific government it was meant to be.

Pessimism has replaced optimism. Mankind is in a state of eternal war against its own social problems, class war, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on carbon and the war on terror with no solutions in sight. The Dionysian intoxication drifted between naive optimism and pessimistic melancholia aided by large doses of self-medication with drugs, prescription and illegal, to aid in their doomed search for happiness and fulfillment.

The enemies of the West had never embraced progress. The Soviet experiment was derived from a Western European model and quickly reverted to Czarist feudalism under a new name. And Islam, which had never accepted any other future than the past, was determined to tear away modernity and replace it with the past.

The Clash of Civilizations is a clash between a First World that no longer believes in its own future and an Islamic world that is determined to undo the future and bring back the past.

It is always difficult to envision the future, but the First World's visions of the future have gone from the optimistic to the pessimistic to the entirely blank. The progressives see the future as a long chain of government offices, the expansion of authority from the local to the national to the global. But there's no romance in global government as even the EU's biggest enthusiasts have trouble depicting it as anything more than some tottering gargantuan nightmare. 

Take Europa riding the bull, a common piece of EU art, the outward symbolism is of the gentler side of humanity fighting to rein in the beast of nationalism, but the actual tale is of a god in the form of the beast abducting Europa. The Eurocrats might like to pretend that the woman represents the EU, but actually they see themselves as the beast-god, ideals posing as brute force, to kidnap and ravish the nations of Europe for their own good/

The EU's motto "In Variate Concordia" or "United in Diversity" means something very different from the similar sounding, "E Pluribus Unum" or "Out of Many, One", the original motto of the US and even more different than the official motto, "In God We Trust". In Variate Concordia is contradictory, expressing the limits of the progressive vision without even knowing it is doing so.

Bigger and bigger government is not inspirational to anyone who doesn't foresee a future working for it. Nor is a national identity built out of regional and global diversity at all meaningful. A future of multicultural bureaucracy isn't visionary, it's crisis management for societies that use cheap slogans to pave over real problems.

That European vision defines the First World, but it is a vision in decline and the decline of national vision is also the decline of nations. Latecomers to the club, including America, Japan and Israel have tried to adopt the European vision with disastrous results and formerly optimistic countries now suffer from national malaise.

50 years ago, America, Japan and Israel represented the "can do" spirit. Today they're as hapless and dysfunctional as Europe and unable to imagine a future that doesn't hinge on some kind of global togetherness as expressed in UN literature and Benetton ads. The European vision has gifted every country that adopted it with oversized and unwieldy governments, unstable economies and no future.

The Islamists and Communists who gathered to feast on the corpse of Europe were a symptom of the problem-- and the problem was a failure of vision. And a failure of vision originates in a loss of identity.

To know what you want from the future, you must first know who you are. The High School student who has yet to develop an idea of the kind of life he would like to lead and the things he would like to accomplish is going to have trouble picking a profession. Are you a strong person? A contemplative one? Do you enjoy the company of people, are you interested in what makes things work? Or are you "United in Diversity" and have no idea who you are?

The American future was defined by an American identity. When the American identity switched to "United in Diversity" and the national goal became to heal the eternal wounds of classism and racism and address all the social problems, then there was literally no future left. If you define the future negatively, in terms of remedying ills, rather than positively in settling an entire continent, then the future can never arrive. And even if it did, you wouldn't want it to, because those ills, racism, sexism, poverty and pollution are the closest thing you have to an identity.

A nation does not have to be multicultural to suffer an identity crisis, not when it's piggybacking on someone else's identity crisis. Japan tried very hard to catch up to Western modernism, now it's racing Europe into economic and demographic decline, without ever opening up its borders or indulging in much political correctness, besides the ritual apologies to the Ainu. Israel is still on the rise economically and demographically, but culturally it has drunk deep of the poisoned wells of European academia.

America, Australia, Canada and the rest of them are busy with their own apologies to the indigenous peoples and the foreign peoples who were offended by something or by anything. Which amounts to apologizing for their existence. And nations that apologize for their own existence have lost their identity and their future.

The "United in Diversity" model is broken, globally and locally, and that model is used to sustain the national, regional and global federalization of government into one long iron chain of authority. Without that model, the illusion of functionality would begin breaking down, forcing a redistribution of power back to local authorities.

A more honest name for the First World model would be "Progress Through Central Authority", a distillation of everything that has gone wrong, consuming the energy and vitality of great nations. In the absence of a directional vision, the First World has become easy prey for reactionary utopians with their own perfect societies.

Islam has the demographics to conquer the West and a vision of a future that is the past, building on the progress of the cultures it conquers while crushing the spirit of inquiry that made that progress possible. Having subjugated Athens, Delhi, Constantinople and Jerusalem in the past, it has its eye on London, Paris and New York today. It knows to sweep in when the innovators falter, their cultures decay and become static, and then claim its prize.

Islam has lost Jerusalem, Athens and Delhi, but it is confident of being able to reclaim them, and Athens, despite the loss of Constantinople, is urging the downfall of Jerusalem. But to those who subscribe to the "United in Diversity" vision, what difference does it make who populates a city. All people are alike in that they are to be ruled by the same global authorities. What matters is the rule of law embodied in global government... not the beliefs and identities of individual peoples, except as cultural heritage fairs.

If the First World nations don't reclaim national visions of the future that are deeper than that, then they will fall into the hands of those whose vision isn't "United in Diversity", but "United in Submission" and "Enslaved Through Force".

Creative societies innovate, decaying societies quarrel over the scraps and invite in their own enemies to rule over them. It has happened before and it is happening again before our eyes. Our capacity to resist that decay emerges from our culture and its vision of the future. Only when we see the future as an adventure, rather than a progressive decline, will we be able to win that future for ourselves and our grandchildren.

21 comments:

Lemon said...

Yes.Nicely said.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the inclusion of Israel in your commentary, it may be true of the State of Tel Aviv, but not of the rest of Israel. Whilst the left has a stranglehold on the organs of power, the majority of the Jewish population is either religious or identifies with the tradition, knows exactly what it is doing here and what kind of future it wants to build.

Unfortunately, because of political considerations, even when the population votes right, we are still given a Labour Defense Minister (a kind of a fig leaf for international approval), and the ultraleft courts (and by extension police) and media.

Jesterhead45 said...

Daniel

In the case of the First World Nations, how much of a role do issues such as the lack of a New Frontier (Space, Ocean, etc) by some or Western misandry (as opposed to Islamic misogyny) by others play in the current decline of the First World, all of which make people question as to whether it in worth investing in the future of such societies that in turn leads to falling birth-rates, along with an increasingly self-centred attitude of “Eat and be merry for tomorrow we die / May we live long and die out”?

In the case of Japan whose population is well below replacement level, they already have the “Herbivore Men” who are basically “Going Galt” by shunning women, children, high-paying jobs and working / pursuing interests for their own benefit instead of thinking about the future, the phenomenon already appears to be spreading in the Western World.

One only has to imagine how it will affect the economies and governments of the First World if it has not already done so, along with how it will impact the fight against islam and socialism / leftism.

mindRider said...

How about the second and third world? India, China, Africa & South America. Any vision there for progress or is the daily struggle against semi-oppression and for the next meal to great a stumbling block for them to ever have a chance of leading the rest of us again to the light of real cultural optimism and advancement?

robogo said...

Here is another one, "Eendracht maakt Macht", or, Unity makes Strength.

The old South Africa used to be like America and Israel, today the New South Africa is what America is busy turning into. God forbid that the same thing happens to Israel, they have always being our (the Afrikaners) friend, America on the other hand paved the way to our decline.

There is hope though, if only whe can again Trust in God, and get rid of our corrupt covernments.

John K said...

The Dionysian factor is what I remember commenters saying about Gibbons on the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and Durant about Western Civilization in The Story of Civilization.

It's been too many years, though, for me to be certain of their endorsement of this conclusion.

DP111 said...

Money is losing its value as governments print cash to stave off debt.

Work is not regarded as of value in itself.

The founding faith of the West is trashed.

Families are breaking down, and the economy headed for the dustbin.

Men have ceased to be men, even to the extent of not defending their women from predatory Muslim aliens.

The vultures that feast on a dying body are gathering in, with Islam in the lead.

Whats the solution? Times such as these require a thorough clean out, a virtual flaming of the detritus that has built up since WWII. A good war serves the purpose in all the above.

t1klish said...

I think your mentioning the war on carbon is the basis of the whole problem. We are carbon-based life forms that exhale carbon dioxide. Self hatred is the problem. It causes love of 'other' over yourself and country even if 'other' is trying to kill you and is against everything you stand for.

Somehow a large percentage of the population has been brainwashed into self-hatred, and family and reproduction are discouraged, so it's no surprise we're going the way of everyone and everything else that didn't have enough instinct to survive. We won't survive. Those who are passionate about their own people, their own ideas, and about reproducing themselves into the future, even if they're nuts, are the ones who will be here.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

self-hatred is a clear sign of a collapsing identity, which the left exploits as self-criticism

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Anon,

I wouldn't say the majority of the population. Sizable elements do seem to know, but they're a minority even among the religious population.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Jesterhead, the lack of a new frontier or any direction besides pleasure seeking is a major issue. This type of behavior by men is becoming common in the West too.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

mindRider, much of the progress there is piggybacked on the West. India and China might do something unpredictable, but China does not seem like a great candidate for breaking with history.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

robogo, indeed

moshe said...

You forget the proximate cause of the collapse, which is also the source of the malaise you decry.

All of the nations you mention share one thing in common -- the socialist welfare state. All are undergoing a progressive demographic collapse for the same reasons: the welfare state takes away the incentive to have children, while simultaneously making it more expensive to do so.

If your retirement will be paid by someone else's sons and does not depend on having a half-dozen sons of your own, why bother with children?

The welfare state means high taxes, which means high cost of living, which means children are more expensive.

The welfare state discourages individual initiative. It infantilizes the population. It produces an ever-growing bureaucracy, piling one program upon another because each enriches yet another layer of bureaucrats and generates yet another perpetually captive constituency. Pretty soon, all ideals are discouraged, because ideals upset the status quo. Then the demographic crisis arrives, the population ages and ideals die. Ideals, after all, are a function of youth.

Old men care about their ulcerated stomachs, and the heck with noble abstractions. There is a wife and a set of kids to feed, a mortgage to pay, a job to hold down...

Young men ignore their empty stomachs and stick their heads squarely into the clouds. They can afford it -- they don't yet have ulcers, or the jobs, wives and kids that produce same.

When the tired old men begin to outnumber the impetuous youth, the society begins its slow, slouching creep toward the final collapse.

It's a vicious cycle from which there is no escape, except to deliberately dismantle the welfare state, leaving all who depended upon it to starve and riot in the streets. The which is not politically feasible.

This cycle brought down Rome and it will bring down the First World today. I am afraid that there is, barring a miracle, no escape.

SerJew said...

Youth with their heads in the clouds also brought Nazi-fascism and Communism. And religious enthusiasms. And in the end that meant piles of bodies. Are we supposed to revert to Greek-like concepts of heroic early-death?

moshe said...

SerJew, my point is not to advocate the adoption of every dumb idea the kids decide on. My point is that without the kids, there are no ideas, dumb or otherwise. An aging nation runs out of ideas and becomes a shambling corpse long before it is finally brought down by outside forces.

As an illustration, try the following exercise: name one top-level physicist who did any significant work after age 40. As another illustration, remember what you were like at age 20, and what you are like now. At what age were you more likely to drop everything and go off to fight, even die, for an abstract ideal?

SerJew said...

Well, Einstein continued publishing outstanding research till the end. So did Schrödinger.
I guess Planck was beyond 40 when he proposed quantization. And Hilbert continued working in old age.

And really "revolutionary" work is rare anyways. And it depends crucially on the contribution of zillions "lesser" scientists. There´s lot of necessary drudgery to be done, not to mention teaching the new generations. Also, a lot of pot-boilers and pure useless noise are published by young (and old) people these days.

Moreover, not all of science is Physics. And older scientists can be just priceless as advisors and teachers, and in help encouraging new talents.

Finally, the vast majority of young people don´t have the talents, will, interest and guts to do science anyways ("nerd stuff"). Im sum, I just think we have to be very careful with a mindless "youth cult"

Michael said...

The solution to all of this is for Jews to be Jews. The Jewish identity is one that defines itself by its relationship to the eternal, as described in the Torah. The God of Israel is the only ideal that can carry the entire world into an age of endless prosperity.

Never in world history has there been a platform for Israel to be a light unto the nations until now. What has to happen is for this debt depression to take hold, wipe out all remnants of the unsustainable idealism fueled by the Godless and immoral cultures that grew over the last 40 years promoting materialism, selfishness, and destroyed the modern family, and took the economy down.

When it's all said and done we will have a clean slate with which to build and we will have all of the tools of modern technology at our disposal. The light will come after the storm.

SerJew said...

No, thanks. One can be Jewish without this subscribing to this millenarist non-sense.

Michael said...

I disagree SerJew. You can't be a Jew without understanding what that means. Jew is meaningless without Torah. That's a fact your soul will have to wrestle with.

SerJew said...

Sorry, Michael, but my soul is none of your business.

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