August 11, 2003

Hanson: The Sane Intellectual

A timely reminder from Victor Hanson as we sink back into our national slumber -- How We Collapse: The home front is more worrisome than the battlefield.

Western societies from ancient Athens to imperial Rome to the French republic rarely collapsed because of a shortage of resources or because foreign enemies proved too numerous or formidable in arms -- even when those enemies were grim Macedonians or Germans. Rather, in times of peace and prosperity there arose an unreal view of the world beyond their borders, one that was the product of insularity brought about by success, and an intellectual arrogance that for some can be the unfortunate byproduct of an enlightened society.

I think we are indulging in this unreal hypercriticism -- even apart from the election-season antics of our politicians -- because we are not being gassed, or shot, or even left hot or hungry. September 11 no longer evokes an image of incinerated firemen, innocents leaping out of skyscrapers, or the stench of flesh and melted plastic, but rather: squabbles over architectural designs, lawsuits, snarling over Mr. Ashcroft's new statutes, or concerns about being too rude to the Arab street.

Such smug dispensation -- as profoundly amoral as it is -- provides us, on the cheap and at a safe distance, with a sense of moral worth. Or perhaps censuring from the bleachers enables us to feel superior to those less fortunate who are still captive to their primordial appetites. We prefer to cringe at the thought that others like to see proof of their killers' deaths, prefer to shoot rather than die capturing a mass murderer, and welcome a generic profile of those who wish to kill them en masse.We should take stock of this dangerous and growing mindset -- and remember that wealthy, sophisticated societies like our own are rarely overrun. They simply implode -- whining and debating still to the end, even as they pass away.

Posted by Vanderleun at August 11, 2003 10:27 AM
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