Neither are great civilizations built in a day, nor do they collapse all of a sudden.
Deterioration is gradual, therefore noticeable. In the Land of Israel, the First Temple was destroyed due to idolatry. The Second Temple was destroyed due to baseless hatred. In the 21st century, the subtler combination of irrationality with pusillanimity constitutes the fatal concoction. Our relationship to the obvious serves as an index through which the symptoms of decline are noted. Let all concerned for the commonwealth take caution, for here is how we sophisticated moderns lose civilization:
- Cognitive Dissonance – A cerebral malfunction resulting in psychological blindness. We see something perfectly well but fail to recognize what it evidently is. A mental block prevents us from acknowledging the obvious.
- Denial – The matter become clearer and reality loses its blur, yet we stubbornly refuse to admit what the matter signifies, instead suggesting that the proof must be partial and the evidence circumstantial or falsified. Conclusions drawn in this state fly in the face of facts. The blatantly obvious is rejected and disbelieved.
- Delusive Ideology – Ideologues are prejudiced and their biases substitute for facts. Prejudicial lenses preclude deviant views from the ideologue’s mind. If the obvious does not align with an ideologue’s worldview, it is summarily discounted and dispensed with.
- Aversion to Judgment – Decision-making becomes taboo. We are spoon-fed pap and gulp it down uncritically, abdicating the rudimentary responsibility to think. Judging is conflated with sentencing and regarded as a harsh action in and of itself. Abstaining from the matter altogether is thus considered to be the proper course. Neutrality and impartiality replace cerebration and discernment. Ideation is abruptly aborted and intellection rendered stillborn. Choosing becomes treason. We withdraw from the obvious for fear of being perceived as judgmental and severe in nature, thereby absolving ourselves of all charges in advance.
- Political Correctness – The judicial ability is retained, yet we refuse to call a thing by its name so as not to cause offense. This is a form of self-censorship, and is falsely conflated with good taste. We account ourselves cultivated and munificent for refraining from forthrightness; those frank and outspoken are ostracized as boorish and unrefined. If there are beasts to behold, they go unnamed and untamed. Problems are swept under the rug of pretense. The obvious is subsumed and rebranded in more socially and politically palatable terminology.
- Moral Equivalency – Issues are discernible and named, but they are equated in value despite precise and glaring disparities. Relativism is the order of the day. Good and evil, right and wrong, innocence and guilt – all these binaries are deliberately confused as antipodal extremes are brought into artificial congruence. Moral clarity is muddled and logical cogency diluted. All inherent preference is suspended out of a misguided attempt to achieve balance where there is none. The obvious is left in abeyance while the weighing scales are disingenuously leveled.
- Identity Loss – When the fundamental values of a society are attenuated, its ontology andraisons d’être are called into question. The resulting identity deficit, the diminishing of identity integrity, inevitably eventuates in disintegration. Morals, ethics, values, virtues, and principles are sundered like marble columns and stone arches before our very eyes as the foundational premise of our civilization collapses. When we forget those things we stand for, we lose all motivation and capacity to preserve them. The obvious becomes untenable once we lose sight of who we are and what we cherish.
- Surrender – Befuddled by existential ennui and essential malaise, we fall prey to a complacent acceptance of the status quo. What ramifies throughout the societal ranks is the absence of willpower to resist the onslaught of barbarism. Barbarians feed on weakness and cowardice, gain momentum, and propel themselves from the wild frontier toward then across civilization’s border, where they are met by weak-kneed, stooping figures, hollowed shells too gutted and spineless to withstand them. Those long ago resigned to their fate are invariably extinguished or else made servile to their vanquishers. History reveals that great civilizations decline and fall due to internal erosion, not external invasion. Intrinsic corruption and corrosion invite outsiders to raid, rape, pillage, and plunder. Conquest is thus merely the coup de grâce, a finishing stroke in the aftermath of prolonged dissolution. In most cases, conquerors appear more impressive than they deserve because the conquered first methodically, albeit unwittingly, lay the groundwork for them. Any species of predatory brutes can kick in a Maginot Line, and most do.Gentle readers, glance again at the above list. Anything seem familiar?