Thursday, October 21, 2010

Those who forget the past... (you know the rest)

In 1984, German historian and professor Alexander Demandt published a collection of 210 theories ("Der Fall Roms") regarding the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Other ideas have entered the unending debate since, but many of Demandt's estimations undoubtedly mirror America's present state of affairs.  They include --

Absence of character, apathy, bankruptcy, bastardization, bureaucracy, centralization, childlessness, communism, complacency, corruption, cosmopolitanism, cultural neurosis, decline of the cities, deforestation, degeneration of the intellect, demoralization, despotism, egoism, epidemics, escapism, exploitation, gluttony, hedonism, heresy, homosexuality, inflation, intellectualism, irrationality, mystery religions, pacifism, polytheism, prostitution, rationalism, rhetoric, sensuality, shamelessness, social and cultural leveling, socialism, vain gloriousness and vulgarization.

While reviewing Are We Rome? by Vanity Fair editor-at-large Cullen Murphy, NPR's Linda Kulman drew an ominous, yet undeniable comparison between the United States and Rome when she referenced "...the dangerous blurring of public and private responsibilities, paired with an inflated sense of power that can blind us to what's happening beyond our borders."  Kulman ended on a more sanguine note: "Where Rome was all about self-satisfaction, America prides itself on self-improvement.  It's this optimistic quality ... that may make it possible for us to reinvent ourselves instead of going the way of the ancient empire."

Let us hope that her assessment is accurate.

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