The other day Billy Beck made his call, that America is essentially over with.
Arnold J. Toynbee, the author of the magisterial A Study of History, which I still consider the greatest intellectual achievement of the 20th Century, worked on the big canvas where civilizations rise and fall. He identified and studied about twenty-three civilizations throughout known history.
On the Toynbee scale the Western Civilization, that is to say our civilization, of which the United States is what Toynbee called a “march,” is up around 1500 years old. It is quite possible that the first signs that it was coming apart pre-date the founding of the U.S.
So it is probably a legitimate thing to say that American society has come to pass only during the decline of the West and perhaps constitutes what Toynbee calls a “tour de force” — a late rally for the West during what is otherwise a plunge into civilizational disintegration.
Or maybe not. Maybe the U.S. is a successor-in-interest to the West, an “affiliated” offshoot of the West, much the way the West and Orthodox Christian civilization were affiliated offshots of Hellenic (Graeco-Roman) civilization.
In either case, we face a series of crises, all of them essentially metaphysical crises, including the decline of our great religion, Christianity, whence we draw our highest transcendent universal values.
It’s pretty clear to me that America without its Scriptural underpinnings as the absolute referent for its values and mode of being looks increasingly like a postmodern Carthage, an atavistic society of degeneration that embraces a culture of death. The West and America have always seen degenerate behaviors but always had recourse to a transcendent vision that rejected them. Now we’re moving into what appears to be a phase of puritanical relativism, where degenerate behavior is normalized and the transcendent vision is rejected.
The individual as an embodied soul created in the image and likeness of God, whose duties and fidelities are infinitely more important than his appetites and urges, is reduced by puritanical relativism to a self-activating fetish who is further reduced to a bag of flesh no better than other animals and condemned to an empty and meaningless life and death.
That right there is the end of everything that we ever truly loved or was ever truly lovable about the high status of the individual in the West and America.