As every school child knows, Civilisations have come and gone. Ours is no exception. The purpose of this article is to bring to mind a criteria by which we can measure Civilisational decline and question where Western Civilisation may be heading in the second decade of the third millennium.
Consider these characteristics:
*Migration at unprecedented levels
*Conflict between ideologies (as migrating people introduce new ideologies)
*A rise in the numbers of 'ruling elite' and their servants
*Pornography and sexual exploitation.
*An emergence of the occult and superstition.
*A growing separation between settlement and the provision of food.
Sounds like today doesn't it? But they are actually referring to the period at the end of the third and last great Kurgan Invasion into Old Europe. The school child knows this as the Doric Invasion and our characteristics describe the old world around 2000-1500 BC. From this state of flux and social chaos arose the greatest intellectual Society the world had seen. By 800 BC the emergent Greek City States were strong enough to nourish the development of writing and thus we gained the first written works, the grand poetry of Homer, which survives to this day.
These characteristics 'fit' any civilisational declline and the ensuing confusion. For instance, the decline of the Aztec Civilisation which between 800AD and 1500AD recapitulated the stages of Hellenic Civilisation. By the time the Spanish conquistadors arrived in South America there was already breakdown resulting from separation of food source (each year the crops of corn came from further away) along with internal fighting among the swollen numbers of the ruling class. Hence it was easy for the Conquistadors to complete that decline which they achieved in brutal, military fashion in a very short space of time.
These characteristics are apparent in the fall of Rome where corruption, slavery and decadence are well documented. Students of Egyptian history will recognise the same characteristics which ended that 4000 year old civilisation.
Search engine allow you to quickly research for yourself the state of these characteristics today where you live. Generally the nationall Bureau of Statistics is a good source as recent as the last census. What follows then is only a brief guide.
The fact is that migration is at its highest peak in history. This migration may be classified as:
(1) Economic and
(2) Asylum Seeker (Refugee).
The first group of economic migration has been occurring since the foundation of the R.R.S. (Regions of Recent Settlement; viz New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, North America). It is well documented in the 19th century particularly. This migration peaked after WWII when countries encouraged Europeans to migrate to start a better life in the New World. Even Australia, which for most of its history had carried a 'White Australia Policy' changed this to include post 1965 waves of migration from S.E. Asia, China and the Middle East. Today Australia's major city, Sydney has about 35% of its population born overseas and the current annual intake of migrants nationally is over 400,000.
2. Conflict between ideologies of migrant peoples.
An example of the conflict which arises can be seen in contemporary Holland. This country was liberal after WWII largely as a result of its disgust for Nazi Occupation. Post WW11 Holland opened its arms to, for example, migrants from Islamic countries. Today Holland struggles with the question of Dutch-ness and the inclusion of Islam. Holland is not the only country dealing with the question of Islamic inclusion for not long ago France declared that no religious insignia many be worn to School. As a result Islamic people felt excluded because they want to continue wearing traditional costume. In England, the home of the Enlightenment there are now over 1,000 mosques.
The great 'melting pot' of the United States now has large and clearly defined ethnic groupings comprising Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Hebraic peoples and a small remainder of Indigines. The American history of racism and conflict is well documented
At the time of writing the frustration of Islamic peoples is affecting the entire world through an idea, a word, which is terrorism or Jihad. In Iran the United States is publicly depicted as 'The Great Satan'. Even the tiny tropical island of Bali has suffered from Islamic inspired terrorism in the form of bomb blasts which killed many locals and Anglo visitors. A popular headline description stated "The Third World War-Al Queda". Quiet, stable Sweden has joined the list of countries which have suffered bomb attacks. Ideological conflict appears constantly.
Even to list the conflicts raging in the world would be exhaustive.
Simply enter 'world conflict' into any search engine and follow
the lists of prompts.
Here we take military conflict as a given for it is hard to find a spot on Earth not suffering one way or the other from military conflict and the stakes are rising with nations such as India, Pakistan and Israel (probably) holding the capacity for nuclear weapons with Iran and North Korea pursuing nuclear status.
4. A rise in the numbers of 'ruling elite' and their servants.
This is a most contentious issue because those who comprise this elite are not always conscious of their role. Most would believe that they are providing for themselves in their chosen profession and have the talent and ability to gain the position they hold. They are, in short, unconscious of their rank. Such professionals do not see themselves as serving a narrow elite. They talk in terms of democracy and the Rule of Law. Put bluntly we may see lots of advertisements in employment lists which seek lawyers, accountants and managers/administrators. The creation of financial elites such as the C.E.O, is widely apparent in any country. Ralston Saul pointed out (see End of Globalism) "... in a mere 25 years CEO salaries in the US had gone from 39 times the pay of an average worker to more than 1000 times. Elsewhere the numbers were similar. And the savings from the cuts in civil servants were more than offset by the cost of new lobbyists and consultants." It would be fair to say that the growing division between 'haves' and 'have nots' in Western Countries is at an all time high and does not appear to be abating.
Search 'Global Slavery' and gain an immediate sense of the scale of this human pathology. Whether it is a Mexican bonded into slavery in Florida, an Albanian girl held in prostitution in Tokyo, a Chinese imprisoned within a Australian Chinese household as domestic servant without wages, or any one of the growing number of young women from depressed economic conditions who are tricked into serving as prostitutes under the rule of uncaring pimps and overlords. The picture globally is one which shows clearly that respect for human life is no longer upheld by the value systems of ruling elites. Slavery is a powerful indicator of decline because it smashes so utterly the Civilisational ideal of 'the sacredness of human life'.
It may come as a surprise to some that archeological digs during
the Post WWII era have uncovered murals and images on pottery
which make it abundantly clear that there is no new form of
pornography. Every possible permutation of the human sexual
act was carried out before the rise of Greece and our current
At the risk of theorising we may note that in Freudian terms sexuality is of the Id, the base reflex, that imperative shared by all of life which produces lineage by sexual reproduction. It requires nothing more than animal reflex.
Thus it is constantly available to any person who seeks the sensation and immediacy of gratification, an immediacy well suited to the world wide web. In most cities it has become institutionalised within the sex industry.
7.An emergence of the occult and superstition
This phenomena is not difficult to understand. In the period first mentioned (i.e. c.1500 BC) the structures which held Old Europe together had been demolished. Religion, cultural explanation and myth broke down near the commencement of this period. Thus peoples who were migrating and encountering new tribes with different beliefs were left in a state of confusion. None of the old reliable methods of explaining life were available. The old ways were left in the ruins of the original settlement and people were without reliable guidance.
Humans always seek an explanation of life. Into the vacuum created by the loss of former settlement came reasoning to explain events. Every known method of divination, astrology, casting of bones, tarot, rune stones....all date from this period of about 1500 BC. Some today seem amusing, such as if a fox comes into the settlement it means there will be a fire; or if a black cat crosses one's path it will incur bad luck. Others were formulations of common sense or what we might term today Grandmother's wisdom. The point is that all forms of prophecy and foretelling arose to fill a gap in the lives of people without an established religious/mythological explanation.
It is not easy to quantify the degree to which superstition has re-emerged in recent times, however a quick look in the self-help section of your local book-shop may tell its own story. Look in your local newspaper for an astrology column and check the classifieds for services offered by psychics and faith healers who have never studied any form of medicine, therapy or psychology.
This phenomenon has arisen with the demise of the influence of formal religions and explanation of life's meaning. The last writing by the late South African, Laurens van der Post, is called "Witness to the Last Will of Man" and in this essay he points to the dangers of a loss of meaning in the Western World. That was over 20 years ago.
Elsewhere in this site you can read about the shortcomings of the two major myths in the West and particularly since god was removed from the initial myth there has been a vacuum which is readily filled by superstition or the vast new field of spiritualism.
8. A growing separation between settlement and the provision of food.
Today supermarkets offer strawberries in the middle of winter! Such produce is imported from the other hemisphere where it is summer. The adage of macrobiotics, that people ought to eat food grown in season and nearby has been rolled over by the world market mechanisms which can provide anything anywhere anytime for a price.
Our major cities have expanded further into the zones which formerly provided for market gardens and farming produce. A clear example of this may be seen in the disappearance of market gardening from western Sydney, a major city of New South Wales, which has a greater population of about 5 million. What was green and productive a generation ago is now new suburbia, the home of the so called 'aspirant classes'. I noticed the peas in tonight's dinner came from Western Europe!
The average distance traveled by fruit and vegetables on the shelves of Australia's major grocery provider is about 1500 kilometers! That means it has been grown well away from where the consumer lives and has been in cold storage for longer and longer periods of time. That distance is also enough to allow for produce from different climate and chemical composition of soil and water. Also increasingly it means our fruit and vegetables are processed for storeage and transport and so their freshness, flavour and ripeness are secondary! Notice how hard and unripe the fruit at the supermarket?
Where our milk, wheat and carrots come from is more a matter of market competition than it is of common culinary sense. Two generations ago many people had productive gardens and grew their own summer and winter vegetables, also keeping chooks (chickens) for fresh eggs and pest control. Now young people are rarely sure where their food comes form. Surveys in cities indicate that when asked where the milk comes from children often answer 'the supermarket'. There is an entire generation living with no direct connection to gardening or farming.
In every Civilisational decline there is a clear point at which the production of food occurs too far away from the cities.We can return to the Aztec Civilisation (bearing in mind this followed the earlier Mayan which may have followed an even earlier Toltec each one further south as soils were eroded). The staple food was corn and by the time the Spanish arrived there existed a crises in food provision. Tropical soils are notoriously thin and this easily exhausted. This meant that each season the corn was grown further and further away from the settlements which of course could not be moved because they comprised elaborate construction.
It is no different today. Italian or French water is
drunk at fashionable cafes everywhere. McDonalds has
art of creating
an artificial standard of its items so that farmers grow one species of potato just because that suits 'fries'. Unfortunately it also suits blight. What were once
exotic treats may be purchased any day of the week.
some areas bulldoze local citrus orchards so the market
can distribute the products of Brazil and California.
is based on the battery concept wherein chickens are
isolated from their environment and kept locked in
In our ignorance we have treated food like any other
commodity to be
shipped, flown and driven from one market to another. The local supermarket sells frozen vegetables from China yet frequently TV reports show the awful pollution in that country.
Exploitation extends into the very forests which provide our most fundamental image (not to speak of soil conservation, oxygen production or water retention which combats salination of soil). There is not one primal forest left on earth which is free from accelerating destruction. In Indonesia and Borneo enermous tracts of forest have been totally destroyed in order to supply the West with cheap palm oil. In the Amazon cleared land briefly feeds beef providing cheap meat patties for the fast food market. Elsewhere, industry chomps through old growth forests in order to provide wood chips for toilet paper and serviettes. Meantime our children suffer from obesity and diseases such as diabetes are rising along with heart disease.
Like candles in a dark night there are pockets of resistance and recovery as the benefits of growing and consuming locally are rediscovered but by and large the separation of growing and consumption promises a global food shortage or at least a cost of food which will mean that the poorest will experience famine.
While it may be frightening to consider the decline of our way
of life it is difficult, in the light of the criteria above,
to believe otherwise.
This explains also why new disciplines such as human ecology have arisen.
The current means of providing for human populations (existing paradigm) are maintained by power and military means and with each passing year the cost of maintaining these means becomes increasingly unsustainable. There is no easy place to stand in this time. Either each person is held within the current order (usually because they have a mortgage and debts to repay) or has the courage and foresight to quit and change into a new way of being.
This personal transformation is not easy, however it is immensely more satisfying to work for the future and not the past. Those unable to break away from their lives in jobs in cities will have to endure enormous suffering when the bubble bursts (an event we know must happen even though it is not possible to predict when and by what means*) and there may be a further migration from urban areas left in chaos and tribal rule. Rural areas may seem to offer a way out of misery but such migration will not succeed for many reasons. Human abuse, forms of addiction and breakdown of infrastructure will be a necessary stage of change.
Those with the best chances of healthy survival have already embraced a new way of being in the world. Their consumption is minimal, they do not control huge financial resources, they tend to their spiritual needs. To them 'small is beautiful'.
To undertake a personal transformation of values, attitudes and way of being is the greatest gift each individual can make to life on earth. It also means gaining a new way of perceiving the world around us in which we finally regain a true sense of who we are and the deep security of knowing we belong embedded within the one flowing stream of life.
* when this was written the Global Financial Crisis had not occurred. It is predicted that this GFC will be but one phase of a growing breakdown.