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Reentering The Dark Ages
Aug 1, 2003 - 1:10:00 AM
LOS ANGELES—I don't mean to sound alarmist, but as I watch and read about political events unfolding I'm reminded of Frederico Fellini's 1970's-era film Satyricon, which depicts a brutish, violent, surreal world of debauchery and despair set within the decay of the declining Roman Empire. Nothing throughout made sense, as chaos and confrontation had long before replaced civilized discourse in a scenario dealing with the primordial dark side of humanity, and to this day I'm afraid to see it again. Witness then my alarm as the world, both near and far, begins to resemble Fellini's vision of the corruption of the soul as darkness descended upon mankind.
Do I think we are on the verge of reentering the Dark Ages? I ask you. As occurred then, the advances of humanity, crafted by the great Egyptian and Greek civilizations, were reversed by the specters of religious zealotry and political intolerance filling the void left by the crumbling Roman Empire. Enlightenment swiftly receded as world order broke down, ushering in centuries of inquisitions and crusades. Disease ravaged the populations of entire continents, as feudalism replaced pluralism, and base tribal instincts buried civil society under the ash of violence and despair. Sound familiar? How about this? The prevailing empire had become overly extended abroad, and overtly consumptive, self-absorbed and culturally decadent at home. The greatest empire of all time came crashing down as a result of values that clashed with the "natural order" of human existence, clearing the way for a thousand years of barbarism.
Photo courtesy of IMDB.
What about today? Well, in addition to the aforementioned realities, our society is also fractured along class lines, the government is run by captains of commerce, and the wealthiest most influential state in the Union -California- is bankrupt and spinning off toward political and fiscal chaos. The inequities of capitalism have ravaged the middle class, the president used false pretenses as an excuse to invade Iraq, and the Supreme Court has decreed that discrimination is alright as long as Caucasians are the victims. We have been forced to cut spending for the education of our children so as to fund tax relief for the wealthy, while runaway immigration is turning cities into teeming, resource-draining barrios. On the international stage, we find ourselves (or will soon find ourselves) depleting the national treasure so as to placate South Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia, Congo, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bosnia, Iran, the Philippines...with the only thanks to be expected upon mission completion will be shouts of "Yankee Go Home!! (And take me with you)."
There are our usual holdover Cold War adversaries, China and Russia, neither of whom can be trusted with anything, and economic giant Japan continues to be mired in a decades-long recession that renders it irrelevant, unable to help or offer anything other than humility. Even our European allies (with the exception of England) delight in American confusion of clarity, so impotent and fearful of American power and influence that spite remains their only contribution to world order. Islamic fundamentalism remains an imminent threat, changing aspects of our lives previously taken for granted, from air travel to civil rights. Ethiopia is starving (as usual) and Mexico is mad at us over immigration policies (as usual). Latin America seems to be having second thoughts about the inherent constraints of democracy and blames the United States for foisting it upon them. Africa screams for American troops to be plopped into the middle of its various brutal civil wars and ethnic cleansing in the name of "national security". The deranged Fascist dwarf that rules North Korea continues to threaten everyone with nuclear holocaust for no discernible reason, and seemingly every human being in the incendiary, underdeveloped Third (and Fourth) World carries an AK-47. That's Satyricon...
As the age of darkness approaches, only the American Empire stands in its way--a bright beacon against the blackness of anarchy. But the right values are even more critical than an overpowering military. This is our challenge, because as the Romans discovered, without the former, the latter is merely a temporary hedge against decadence and ruin.
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