Is civilization in decline or does the media just make it look that way?

upside down world
Upside-down World. Photo by Aaron Apple.

I was going to write: “Lately I feel like the world is spinning out of control, going bat-shit crazy, and the walls of civilization as we know it are crumbling around my ears.” Then I thought, “When haven’t I felt like that?” Except it always feels like the spinning out of control and disintegration is accelerating and I see no reason to doubt that perception. It’s a law of nature (isn’t it?) that unless there is sufficient friction or resistance to stop it, an object travelling in one direction will accelerate.

What makes me think the world is spinning out of control? Mostly the media. The media seems to show an increase in violence, bad weather, war, and economic woe all over the world. I turn on the news to avoid being totally ignorant about what’s happening in the world, but sometimes I think I might achieve a more accurate picture of the world if I didn’t turn on the news  but instead became more aware of what is happening in my immediate surroundings. The media accelerates the acceleration by ginning up people’s emotions and making us believe things are even worse than they are.

Have I or has anyone I know ever had a violent encounter with a cop? Well no. A few unpleasant encounters perhaps, but no violent ones.  Do I hate anyone because of their race? I never have. Have any of my black friends ever encountered racism? Some of them say they have, most of them seem to have great jobs, nice cars, loving families, and as far as I can see, happy lives. Have I ever witnessed hatred toward gay people? No. Disapproval perhaps, but not hatred. All of the gay people I know are employed, in a loving relationship, have nice houses, and seem perfectly happy except when they are complaining about discrimination.

I know that just because I have not personally seen or experienced something, it doesn’t happen. Just because I’ve never encountered a murder does not mean people are not murdered. I am just saying that when you watch the media you see incidents that become larger than they, in reality, are. It’s like zeroing in on a mole on someone’s otherwise basically healthy body and talking about that mole in a dramatic way all day long in front of millions of people. The people begin to think the mole is the most important thing about that body.

Don’t get me wrong. If I never looked at the news  I would still be keenly aware that I live in an imperfect world. I see homeless people, I see people who have lost limbs in war, I see poverty and urban blight, and I see neighbors whose houses are foreclosed. The most frequent problem I see is my daily life have to do with the high cost and accessibility of healthcare, traffic and car problems, and people with various employment troubles – people who either cannot find a good job or who are unhappy with the job they have or who own a small business are harassed by government fees, taxes, and regulations. I have also personally known people who were victims of crime: mugging, burglary, cars theft,  date drugging, and assault.

My overall perception is that our civilization is experiencing a general decline. My belief is that this decline is directly connected with a massive level corruption among those people who have the most power and influence at high levels. But this has always been so. Civilizations, once they reach a certain level of material success, begin to decline. Successful civilizations breed a comfortable luxury-loving lifestyle among the most successful, and wealth breeds power and privilege, and power and privilege breeds fear of losing power and privilege. Those who can naturally do things to ensure they stay in power even when it means exploiting and bleeding dry anyone they can – the poor, the middle class, anyone who can be exploited.

Sooner or later the exploited classes can no longer support the powerful in the manner they desire, and one way or another, the civilization begins to crumble. Perhaps the lower classes rebel. Perhaps food begins to run short even for the exploiters. Perhaps the money system collapses. It’s just common sense, human nature being what it is, that this will happen.

If the human race wants to stop the natural cycle of growth, predation, and decline, the human race must change its nature. Instead of wanting to accumulate wealth and power for ourselves and whatever tribe we identify with, we must want to promote the well-being of others and other tribes at least as much as we want to promote the well-being of ourselves and our own tribes. This amounts to a transplant of our animal nature with a new kind of nature, a nature we might call spiritual, just because that is the only way we have to describe it.

I believe this is what Jesus was trying to teach us. You want the Kingdom of Heaven? Well the Kingdom of Heaven cannot happen either on earth or anywhere else unless it is populated by citizens equipped to live according to its operating principles. Such citizens would actually love looking out for their neighbors before tending to their own needs – as opposed to pretending to think like this.

The principles of peace and love mean no violence – even if the occasional rogue does violence to you – because violence breeds more violence. It’s that pesky acceleration principle again. The only way to put the brakes on the acceleration of violence is to not do it. This is hard for humans in our current state of evolution. For one thing, we think we need violence for defense of self and loved ones, and it does seem to me hard to get around that one. But not only do we think violence is necessary, we love it! This is proven by how much money we spend to watch it in movies and pretend we are doing it in video games. We put our money where our heart is.

Some people love war because it is profitable and some people actually love war for its own sake. They love the gear, the weapons, the comradeship, the adventure, the feeling of killing bad guys, etc. To create a civilization based on peace and love, we’d have to give up all war. That’s right. No soldiers, no special forces, no weapons, no drills, no cool uniforms, no war planes, no tanks, no marching, no fighting, no medals of valor. I really think some people would rather go to hell than give up the fun and drama of all that.

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