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21 Aug

When the human body contracts an infection, whatever the cause, there comes a time, if left untreated, the body’s defenses totally fail and that body succumbs and dies. But life—physical life—is not the only realm in which death is active. Everything originated by Man, dies. Indeed, the very universe itself is in the throes of death. Stars and planets die though from that death comes rebirth, but inevitably there will be an end to all things.

The cultures that Man creates also die and there are definite signs when a particular culture is on its way out. Often a nation can be maintained over a long period of time by certain steps taken by its leaders to prolong the process. For instance, the Roman Empire lasted a very long time by using the many races and peoples within its borders to maintain Rome’s power long after the Roman’s themselves and their descendants had withered away as a national force. Eventually, however, the formerly subject peoples realized that the “power” that was Rome was, in fact, themselves and that they could overthrow the façade that their former rulers had become by simply rising up—which they did. There is, of course, a “formula” for national life from birth to death involving eight stages:

  1. From bondage to spiritual growth – Great civilizations are formed in a crucible. American culture was formed by the injustices that occurred in colonial times. Sufferings and injustices cause—even force—spiritual growth. Suffering brings wisdom and demands a spiritual discipline that seeks justice and solutions. Fear is not countenanced because the cost of inaction is unacceptable.
  2. From spiritual growth to great courage – Having been steeled in the crucible of suffering, courage and the ability to endure great sacrifice arise. Anointed leaders emerge and people are summoned to exhibit resolution and sacrifice in order to create a better, more just world for succeeding generations. People who have little or nothing are more willing to live—and die—for something more important than themselves and their own pleasure. A battle begins, a battle requiring courage, discipline, and other virtues.
  3. From courage to liberty – As a result of the battle, the foe is vanquished and liberty together with greater justice emerges. At this point a civilization is born, rooted in its greatest ideals. Heroism and those virtues that birthed liberty are still esteemed. The ideals struggled for during the years in the crucible are still largely agreed to and acted upon.
  4. From liberty to abundance – Liberty ushers in greater prosperity because a civilization is still functioning with the twin virtues of sacrifice and hard work. But then comes the first danger: abundance! Abundance tends to take on a life of its own while the struggles that engender wisdom and steel the soul to proper discipline and priorities are pushed into the background. Christianity teaches that a man’s life does not gain value simply by virtue of his possessions. But a culture that starts to experience abundance often lives using the memories of earlier sacrifices while its people are less and less willing to make such sacrifices. Ideals diminish and abundance weighs down the national soul. The sacrifices, disciplines, and virtues responsible for the affluence of the civilization become increasingly remote and the enjoyment of possessions—and the desire for even more such—become the focus of the national will.
  5. From abundance to complacency – Complacency means to be self-satisfied and increasingly unaware of serious trends undermining the health of the culture. Everything looks splendid, so it must be splendid. It is a sort of cultural journey on the Titanic! Yet all foundations are crumbling. And as virtues, discipline, and ideals become ever more remote, those who try to bring to the attention of the people, the dangers involved are labeled extreme, harsh, and/or judgmental.
  6. From complacency to apathy – Apathy means to lack interest in, or a passion for, the things that once animated and inspired. Founded upon the complacency of the previous stage, the growing lack of attention to disturbing trends often results in outright dismissal of a now obvious danger. People no longer think or care about the sacrifices of previous generations and lose a sense that they must work for and contribute to the common good. “Civilization” is replaced by personalization and privatization in ever growing measures. Working and sacrificing for others is considered passé. Growing numbers in the culture becoming willing to live on the remains of the work of previous generations. In other words, they want—indeed, they demand—to park on someone else’s dime, but refuse to fill the meter themselves. The concepts of hard work and self-discipline erode and even, in many instances, disappear.
  7. From apathy to dependence – At this point, increasing numbers of people lack both the virtues and zeal necessary make the doomed culture work. The suffering and the sacrifices that built it in the first place are now a distant memory—if they are remembered at all. Even when they are remembered, they are often condemned as evils perpetrated by wicked people who accomplished what they did by taking advantage of those now considered “victims.” Personal discipline and work become “too difficult” and dependence upon the State grows. The collective culture—especially among the young—now moves swiftly in the direction of dependence. Suffering of any sort, even what would once have been considered mere inconvenience, now is considered intolerable. However, prior cultural and social virtues are not considered to be solutions! Indeed, they are often identified as the causes of the present “suffering.” Thus having lived on the sacrifices of others for generations, those remaining insist that “others” must solve their woes. This, of course, ushers in ever growing demands for collective solutions that in turn, deepen dependence. Eventually, what little is left of the civilization dies as the solutions demanded by its citizens move from personal virtue and individual sacrifices to centralized programs that destroy individual freedom and all concepts of personal liberty.
  8. From dependence to bondage – Of course as dependence increases, so does centralized power. Dependent people become increasingly dysfunctional and desperate. Seeking a savior—ANY savior—they look to strong central leadership. But such power results in intensifying injustice and government intrusion. But those in bondage know of no other solution. Family and personal virtue (essential ingredients for any civilization) are now replaced by an ever despotic centralized control that hungers for more and more power—and the civilization ends because the people in bondage no longer have the virtues necessary to free themselves and re-establish what once was. The whole apparatus of society becomes a dance of dependency between victims and oppressors in which neither is able to withdraw.

Oh, friend, do you recognize just where we Americans are in this unhappy state of affairs? Sadly, I do—but I haven’t the heart or the courage to consider step 9.

 


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