Nov 122009

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the death of Western Civilization.  You can read what Dennis Mangan, OneSTDV, Prime (twice), and Ferdinand Bardamu had to say about it.  I was going to weigh in on this, but then I realized that this was going to take several posts, so I decided to start a series of posts about this subject.  They will all have the “death of the west?” label on them, and I will write them as I have time interspersed with all my other posts.

You will notice that I have death of the west followed by a question mark.  That’s because I’m asking the questions is Western Civilization really dying, and if so is there any way of turning it around.  While there are a lot of problems that do have the potential to bring down Western Civilization, there is also a lot of sensationalism, defeatism, misunderstandings and half truths involved.  While I do have my own guesses about the answers this is a journey I am on with you so I don’t know where it will lead.  I’m going to try my best to do this using reason and not defeatism and sensationalism.  Get all of your “OMG WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” out of your system before you continue reading.

Let’s take a look at historical models.  When talking about the death of the West usually, some type of historical model is invoked.  A common one is the fall of Rome.  That makes sense.  There are plenty of parallels between the modern world and the decline and fall of Rome that anyone can come up with.  However, it is not a one to one mapping.  There is no way it could be.  Technology is one huge difference (and this will be the subject of subsequent death of the west? posts).  There are others.  In other words, there are limits to the use of the Fall of Rome as a historical model (as would be true with any other historical model).  That doesn’t mean the Fall of Rome is completely useless.  We just have to recognize that there are limits.

Another problem is not fully understanding a historical model.  Take the Fall of Rome again.  When people talk about the Fall of Rome what they are really referring to (usually) is the fall of the Western half of the Roman Empire.  The Byzantine Empire lasted for another thousand years.  Aspects like that could be important in using a historical model like the Fall of Rome because it tells us different things.

The historical models that could help us may not be well known.  The reason why the Fall of Rome model gets used a lot is because its something we are all familiar with.  It may or may not be the best model.  Other models might also provide useful knowledge.  Take the fall of the Sassanid dynasty of Iran, the last pre-Islamic dynasty of Iran.  The Sassanids had fought several wars against the Byzantines which depleted their treasury leading to high taxes and subsequent rebellions over those high taxes.  They had also expanded their empire into several client states which weakened the empire.  There was infighting among the dynasty which led to a woman taking over as empress for two years who some historians have described as a feminist.  All of this made the Sassanid empire weak enough to fall to invading Muslims.  Sound familiar?  Like with all historical models appropriate skepticism must be applied, but this is one model to consider.

Sometimes historical models can be stretched to the point where they make no sense.  One model that comes up in this context (or specifically the fall of the United States) is the collapse of the Soviet Union.  While there are a few (and only a few) aspects that are comparable, the fact of the matter is that the collapse of the Soviet Union is not a useful model.  You may remember that Russian KGB analyst that claimed that the US will break up in 2010 as shown on the map below.

This is an example of how applying the collapse of the Soviet Union to the US in nothing short of lunacy.  It would take me days to document all the ways this guy is wrong so here is a few.  You have the basic things problems such as why the US would break up on state lines as opposed to natural borders.  The republics of the USSR had more natural borders.  Why would Arizona and SoCal end up as part of the Chinese controlled state given the Hispanic population there?  The deep south will fight to the death rather than become a part of Mexico.  South Carolina will never join up with the EU.  The “Central North American” republic can’t exist as a part of Canada or as a client state since in either case that would mean Canada would effectively cease to be Canada.  The list goes on and on.

Even if you think this makes sense and all that is needed is some adjustments of the borders, you’re wrong.  The reason why is because this is not about the breakup of the US.  It’s shoehorning the breakup of the Soviet Union in North America and is based on Russian fears of being absorbed by their neighbors.  It fails a real analysis of the United States so no matter what you try, it isn’t salvageable.

I used this example because I wanted to show you just how far historical models can be taken out of their original context.  This gives us no useful knowledge.  The only reason you heard about this Russian KGB guy and his so called analysis is because of sensationalism.  Who wouldn’t want to get a bunch of web hits by talking about how the US is about to breakup?  A lot of people enjoyed reading this since it allowed them to run around screaming, “OMG THE US IS ABOUT TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

When we anaylize the possible death of the west, we need to do in a sober and reasoned fashion.  Sensationalism, hysteria, and drunk Russians will not help us.  That is what you need to take away from this post more than anything else.

  8 Responses to “Death of the West? – Using Historical Models”

  1. The primary difference between the western and eastern roman empires was the role of women. In the west women gained a great deal of power. So much power that roman men gave up marrying them and having families. Some recent research from Roman Britain indicates that most Romans simply stopped having kids and died off. Oddly enough before the rise of women in the west Romans were well know for out reproducing rabbits.

    The east was very much a Greek empire. Women had few if any rights and events like loosing 50% of the population to a plague was recovered from quickly.

  2. Continuing last post:
    Even with such factors the roman's lasted 600 years. That's a great run for a empire and it's a lot longer than we have been around. Everything dies, the only question is how long it takes.

    Looking forward to the rest of your posts.

  3. I agree that the west is on its way out.

    Maybe even the same way Rome went out…it will lose its will to live, become demographically too weak, and be subsumed by other, more vigorous cultures.

    Like Grim, I note the prominence of the role of women in the decline of Rome. They had feminism too, just like we did, and Cato's warnings then sound pretty prescient nowadays.

    But the root cause of the West's decline isn't necessarily feminism. Rather, I posit that the West's decline came when we killed God and replaced him with a nihilist humanist philosophy.

    With nothing to look up to, we elevated the self as our new deity and haven't stopped navel-gazing ever since.

  4. But the root cause of the West's decline isn't necessarily feminism. Rather, I posit that the West's decline came when we killed God and replaced him with a nihilist humanist philosophy.

    Yes, this is the underlying reason.

  5. We are all going to die.

    That's a given, there's no escaping that.

    Technology actually hastened the nihilist humanist philosophy. A whole host of factors have converged to amplify everything that is going wrong and accelerating the changes.

  6. To quote Mark Twain. History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme. There are also many parallels between the U.S. and say the democracy of Athens during the 5th and 4th century BCE.

  7. Does anyone else (besides me) NOT think that the decline of the West is (mainly) due to nihilistic, humanist philosophy?

    Is 'nihilistic' meant to describe humanist thought?

  8. But…but…but don't you know the Mayan calendar ends in 2012?? And that the anti-christ is in Israel?? And that social security numbers are the mark of the beast?? And that the US isn't in the book of Revelations?? So we're gone when the pre-trib rapture takes place?? 😛

    This was a good post and one I most appreciate. If you think what you read about online is bad, you should see where some let their twisted end times theology take them. One of my closest friends had a father who went off the deep end about Y2K. He took out large amounts of credit to purchase all sorts of supplies, per his pastor's encouragement, and their family never recovered from these foolish financial decisions while she and her siblings were still at home.

    I'm of the belief that a bit of food storage is wise, as are some basic survival skills. Earthquakes and flu outbreaks could make these skills useful. Spending vast amounts of money due to a "prophecy" are something else entirely though. Many of the world is ending websites, even those that are secular, remind me of the loons who are counting down the days to the rapture and obsessing over all the signs.

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