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The Gross National Debt

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and my blog)

I'm not a person with a lot of down time.  Truth be told, that fact is a condition of my disposition rather than one of necessity.  I'm constantly busy - I have intense work things, home things, personal things, band things, volunteer things and political things that command my attention.  I'm not a person who feels at ease sitting still.

With that in mind, I celebrated the 4th by doing absolutely nothing.  I had spent a busy weekend blogging and cleaning and paying bills and found myself magically (if only momentarily) caught up.  It was oppressively hot here on the 4th and violent thunderstorms were threatening all day.  I therefore opted for the Blockbuster route.  I rented several movies (none of them very good) and sat down to watch them in air conditioned comfort.

I'm one of the few people I know who actually watches the "coming attractions" placed at the beginning of DVDs.  I am, today, thankful that I do watch them.  Because it was at the very beginning of the very first preview I watched that I saw the quote that changed my life.  Make the jump.

I consider myself well-read, though not even remotely on par with folks in academia or others who would widely be considered experts in this field or that.  I know most of the famous quotes and persons to which they are attributed.

But I had never heard of Will Durant.  I don't know if I should slap myself for not knowing who he was or pinch myself at the luck that I saw his quote, but I digress.  The quote was this:

A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.

So let's back up a bit.  William James Durant was an American philosopher, historian and writer.  Wikipedia (linked) also notes that:

He [Durant] fought for equal wages, women's suffrage and fairer working conditions for the American labor force. Durant not only wrote on many topics but also put his ideas into effect. Durant, it has been said widely, attempted to bring philosophy to the common man. He authored The Story of Philosophy, The Mansions of Philosophy, and, with the help of his wife, Ariel, wrote The Story of Civilization. He also wrote magazine articles.

Learning all of this after reading that single quote made me think of another often-fogotten American hero, Thomas Paine.  But let me return to Durant's quote and dissect it a bit in an order that makes sense to me.

The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.

Substitute "America" for "Rome" and tell me we don't have a case study of bearing witness to the decline of America today.

Many of the links above are to diaries posted right here on Daily Kos.  These are the subjects we discuss.  These are the things that frighten us, that outrage us, and oftentimes that motivate us.  Any one of them, taken alone, is devastating.  Taken together, and placed in the context of Will Durant's quote, it seems clear that we are on the brink of one thing:

A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.

Can anyone tell me that they don't think we are standing on the precipice of our own demise, laughing in a cavalier fashion while simultaneously trying to keep our footing as the foundation beneath us weakens and cracks?

Terrorism won't tear our country asunder.  Outside attacks won't do that, either.  Niether of these things will need to happen if we keep tearing ourselves apart from the inside out.

We have long ago passed the point where a change would be "good".  We are fully into the time where it is absolutely required - our suvival and the survival of the principles and values we hold so dear depend on it.  The problem is, though, that only a motivated minority seem to fully grasp the peril in which we exist.  It is incumbent upon us to work hard - harder than we ever thought we could - to strengthen the foundation of our great country and preserve it for the generations to come who have entrusted its care to us.

posted by RenaRF at 4:27 PM 7 comments links to this post


Blogger Patt said...

usIm too fat to jump!

5:45 PM  
Blogger Patt said...

sorry .Im too fat to jump,can i just pretend?

5:47 PM  
Blogger RenaRF said...

Sure Patt. But then you won't know what the post is really about!!

6:12 PM  
Blogger Orange_Cross said...

The Romans weren't that great, the only real good they were was for roads, aquaducts and honoring the Greeks. I don't agree that the US would succumb to the corruption that is cited for the fall of Rome. The important difference is that we have a much more mobile political machine, as marginal as it seems to me sometimes, there is a semblance of democracy to offset the republican tendencies. Communication of the pleas of our desperate, educated masses will sway the course of our legislation and our participation in war, torture, coddling of the elite, forsaking of the poor. I chat it up with my friends, I bring my Dad to tears, I vote, I seek out people who have different beliefs and learn things and offer opinions; our communication age is excellent. POST POST POST

1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched Mel Gisbon's film, 'Apocalypto' last night at the cinema which opens with this very same quote - and like you, it struck me with an amazing cord. The film applies the quote to life in South America just prior to the killing off of the Aztecs and shows that just prior to their destruction they had sunk to amazing moral depths of depravity.

I had the self same thought as yourself but replaced the word 'Rome' with the word 'England'. This country is slowly being defeated through a number of means: (1) Sovereignty is being usurped by the increasing influence and control from Europe (European Union laws overule UK laws), (2) Morality on many levels have declined rapidly as Judeo-Christian values are rejected, (3) The breakdown of the family unit - the fundamental building block of society, (4) The increase in a 'self' attitude (it's about what makes me happy, what works for me) instead of moral absolutes and a concern for the fellow man.

In as much as the US and the UK are both Western countries, one can't help but wonder: How long have we got....?

Nations may rise, and nations may fall but the Lord Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today and forever.

9:13 AM  
Blogger 木須炒餅Jerry said...


9:43 PM  
Blogger sad said...

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10:33 PM  

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