Where We Go From Here
So what is next? Are we on the cusp of a new cycle, or are we coming to the poem’s bridge? Maybe we are finally poised to break out of this iambic pentameter, and start a new ee cummings Dadaist phase.
If historical reality is allowed to sink in, I fear that the forecast is pretty bleak for our little stanza. As history is somewhat-cyclical, then we need to have an understanding of 2 main issues in order to estimate where we are going. Essentially, it is the same as understanding getting anywhere. We need to have a basic understanding of where we are now, in relation to all that is around us including our momentum, and we need to have an understanding of where the path we are on is going.
So where are we in the historical pattern? What direction have we been going? Truth be told, we have been in an era of unprecedented blessing. My generation is really the first generation in America who has known no real hardship. Generation X was born after the debacle of Vietnam, and though there have been wars since, they have seemed no different to the average American than movie trailers being played during Prime Time TV. There has been no gas rationing, no Polio, and since the toppling of the Soviet Union there hasn’t even been a real threat to our way of life.
All of this created the circumstances that made 9/11 such a powerful moment for our time. We have been dwelling carelessly in the west, as if we were teenage boys, shielded from any possibility that our bones could break, our wallets could empty, and our lives could actually end someday. Our foreign and domestic policies nationally have been mere macrocosms of the average American family. With out of wedlock birth rates aroung 50% and our budget running in the red every year, our only answer to our problems was to go out and buy a nice present to make ourselves feel better.
We are responding to the current economic crisis by firmly placing our heads further in the sand. Just like an alcoholic responding to an intervention by drinking himself into a stupor, we have responded to astounding national debt by creating a CARS program designed to spend more money helping people to buy cars that neither the government, nor the consumer can actually afford.
No one of accredited education could believe that we could continue such ridiculousness, and it is almost beyond believing that we could even pull ourselves out of this mess without massive cultural and governmental overhaul. If we truly want to know our location, it is teetering on a cliff, and we have responded to the danger in typical lemming fashion.
Great Empires don’t usually succumb to sudden external attack. Sun Tzu was right in saying that an intelligent enemy would never attack in a way that plays to ones strength. Our civilization’s enemies would rather sign our death warrant in much more strategic and subtle ways. Great empires have usually been defeated at the hands of themselves more than their sworn enemies, anyway. As Lincoln said, if America was doomed, that its end would come by suicide.
Both the Greek and Roman civilizations fell apart as their societies descended into decadence, and then turned on themselves when they could no longer support their own lifestyles. Foreign invasions were just clearing the already rotten carcasses of these empires. The British empire ended because the small island had clearly overstretched herself, and exerted her influence far beyond what she could actually defend. There is no reason to believe that we are not in the same position.
This doesn’t mean that the United States will become a barren wasteland. Instead of fracturing into states and city-states, we might continue without nearly the influence we have wielded for the last hundred years. -Ryan