Trends continue until they don’t. It is just the way things always have been. When you look at the broad sweep of human history and the story of cultures and civilizations it is actually easy to lose sight of the fact that, at some point, things stopped working. It all fell apart.
Think about a 20 year old Roman in 390 AD. Theodosius is on the throne. The Empire is unified. Sure, there are problems, but things seem ok. The administration rolls along. Taxes are collected. Laws enforced. Sure, there is a worrying drop in population and it is getting harder and harder to find recruits for the Army. And, yeah, there doesn’t seem to be enough money to fully maintain the roads and aqueducts, but things are patched up and held together. Life is fine.
Be the time that Roman turns 40, Alaric is sacking Rome. That quick. It was like a lightening flash to contemporary observers. It was unimaginable that the Eternal City, inviolate for 800 years, could fall to an enemy. But, fall it did…as a helpless Roman government looked on, and didn’t really care that Rome fell.
What we’re now experiencing is that sort of thing. It appears that all is fairly ok and none of us envision any sort of collapse…but the roads aren’t very well maintained and urban sanitation is in decline and we’re even having some trouble getting water to everyone and keeping all the lights on. It is not quite yet bad. It is all holding together. But the edifice sways and cracks and the keen ear can hear the foundations crumble.
Why is it like this? Well, to get into our current context: we have a massive transportation crisis. For a variety of reasons – mostly government actions in the United States and around the world – goods are not getting to market. We have, in our government, a Department of Transportation which is specifically charged with this issue: making sure transport runs smoothly. It is run by the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana who, as far as I can tell, has never been responsible for transporting anything. The kicker: he’s been on paternity leave for the past two months as this completely foreseen crisis emerged. What we have is a very complex system of living which requires continual attention from people well versed in how it all works. We don’t have that. And we likely, for the most part, don’t even know we don’t have it. We just assume that someone in there knows what to do. Just as, I’m sure, the average Gaius on the street in Rome assumed that someone would make sure an Army was available to stop Alaric.
NASA people were in their 20’s and 30’s when we went to the Moon. Now NASA people are in their 60’s. How many young structural engineers are there? How many 17 year olds being taught how to weld in an apprenticeship? How sure are you that if there was an explosion at your local power plant – caused by negligence at the plant as the people there weren’t well versed enough to see the problem coming – that there are sufficient people with knowledge on how to rebuild it? And what happens is such a disaster strikes two cities at once? What happens if the people who do know decide that they’ll look after their own and to hell with strangers?
We’re in a very bad way and worse – because not only do we lack sufficient people who know, we’re also deliberately creating things which weaken the resiliency of the system. Building windmills instead of nuke plants. Building high speed rail when what’s needed is a newer and better interstate. Telling people to stop watering their lawns when we need dams and aqueducts. And all systems can stand the strain right up until they can’t. The bridge rated for ten ton traffic is fine until that 10.01 ton vehicle arrives.
Can we stem the tide? We won’t know unless we do. We certainly can’t stem it with the current leadership. But will new leadership – even extremely Trumpist leadership – make a difference? I don’t know. I had a small back and forth on Twitter where a guy – and he’s a really good guy – was arguing that the squares should just chill while the out there do their thing. It immediately struck me as false and I pointed out that, no, you can’t do that. If you are one of the Bohemians, then your moral duty is to curb yourself so that the normal – who do the actual work of life – can get on with their business. That, in fact, a society is morally justified in banning and punishing odd behavior. Taking it further, I realized that allowing slums and bums to be as they are is a crime against humanity – because it is a crime against those who do. The man or woman who makes, mines or grows things needs order, cleanliness and public decency. They can’t function where bums are allowed to defecate on the streets while purple-haired weirdos smash windows for “justice”. Anything – even the slightest thing – which causes distress for those who make, mine and grow must be prohibited and maximum force must be applied to anyone who still wants to cause the doers a problem.
And, in the end, that is what will be applied to those who won’t do their duty: maximum force. It all turns on when it will happen – before or after our societal collapse. That is, and to put it crudely, will we bust heads as we insist everyone cuts their hair, pulls up their pants and get a job before or after things fall apart? It would be better if it was before – repairing what we have is a lot easier than rebuilding what used to be (last time we had to rebuild is was about a 500 year process). All this drivel about being genderfluid, an “influencer”, an aspiring transblack poet or what have you will be tossed aside. Society is for men and women and it functions because men and women do their duty…and everyone who won’t conform to the norm will find that nonconforming is no longer an option.
We’ll find out soon which way we go.