I’m going to get in trouble for this.
With the recent “Occupy Wall Street” protests happening, it’s time for me to reflect on history.
As a historian, I have often seen the pendulum swing between conservativism and hedonism. Note that I did not say liberalism – there is certainly a place for liberal thought in any society. Any society that becomes great gets there because of an advantage, usually military force, but it can also be due to natural resources, religion or the will of the people (hard work). Often, there is expansion: taking over someone else’s land, wealth or ideals. Such movements usually start with conservatism and good government; family values and shared thinking (for better or worse. Some shared thinking has led to Nazism, Communism and Al Queda). As the society becomes affluent, that which once made the society great usually ceases to exist or dwindles severely. The thing is, the money is still there from all that expansion; then expansion also ceases, and the society implodes or gets taken over by a “better” group.
What happens right before that implosion (usually in the form of an uprising) or hostile take-over is unsustainable spending (sound familiar?). During these “height of the empire” times, the arts, education and culture are lifted up (yeah), but the commonality that was once shared splinters. The rich become richer, the poor become poorer, family values go right out the window and the nuclear family splits apart. People begin to “think for themselves,” a noble idea, but often with terrible consequences – love for one another goes away, and everybody becomes individualistic (read selfish) and proud of it. Government morals decay; personal values decay. Stealing and adultery become more the norm – and not just in government! Things that go against established morals are actually seen as permissible and they are encouraged. Everyone feels so entitled, but few can afford to be. Debt rises. People get angry at “the establishment” (those who were overlords, or were simply better at creating wealth), and they revolt. Those who revolt (creating a new shared thought) often win, and in the process create a power and wealth vacuum. Nothing happens for a while. When a new government forms, it is usually poor, but with a healthy portion of conservatism, good government & family values.
So, where are we today America? There has been a lot of talk about the 1%, but the truth is, if you are an American, you are the 1% according to the world, and the world would dearly love to see us fail.
Europe, who I estimate has always been slightly ahead of us in “direction,” is falling apart fast (China is too, but they won’t tell us that). Are we headed in that direction?
What I see in this recent movement is: the angry poor mad at the corrupt rich. I also see selfishness brought about by entitlement on both sides; and the poor willing to “steal” from the rich, rather than work hard. Meanwhile, I see the rich unwilling to help their fellow man when they could use the help. Our government is viewed as corrupt, and our values certainly aren’t what they used to be. Few go to church anymore, marriage is secondary, sexual sin is becoming rampant (dare I say acceptable?), crime is on the rise. How are we doing America?
On the plus side, I’m loving the arts, education and culture that we’re achieving.