Spengler’s Ominous Prophecy
A QUESTION haunts America: Is it in decline on the world scene? Foreign-policy discourse is filled with commentary declaring that it is. Some—Parag Khanna’s work comes to mind—suggests the decline is the product of forces beyond America’s control. Others—Yale’s Paul Kennedy included—contend that America has fostered, at least partially, its own decline through “imperial overstretch” and other actions born of global ambition. Still others—Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution and Stratfor’s George Friedman, for example—dispute that America is in decline at all. But the question is front and center and inescapable.
It may be the wrong question. America is a product of Western civilization—part and parcel of it, inseparable from it. Thus, no serious analysis of America’s fate as a global power can be undertaken without placing it within the context of the West, meaning primarily Europe.
Kagan disputes this. In his influential little book of 2003, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, he famously suggested Americans are from Mars whereas Europeans are from Venus. “They agree on little and understand one another less and less,” he wrote, adding, “When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways.”
Perhaps. But they share the same cultural heritage, and their fates are bound together, whether they like it or not. Think of Greece and Rome, both part and parcel of the classical civilization. They honored the same gods, pursued the same modes of artistic expression and viewed politics in largely the same way during their periods of greatest flowering. And their fates were intertwined—enforced with brutal finality by Roman military potentates Mummius on the ground and Metellus at sea even as the younger Scipio was destroying Carthage in a way the Greeks never experienced because, unlike Carthage, they didn’t represent an alien civilization. Will Durant pegs the end of Greek civilization at ad 325, when Constantine founded Constantinople and Rome took a decisive turn away from its heritage—and that of Greece.
So it is with America and Europe. Hence, an analysis of American decline must lead to questions about Western decline. And an analysis of Western decline must lead to Oswald Spengler, the German intellectual who in 1918 produced the first volume of his bombshell work Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West), followed by the second volume in 1922. Spengler’s thesis forced his readers to look at history through an entirely new prism. They did, and he enjoyed a surge of influence. But the man and his work are in eclipse today, and there’s little evidence that scholars pondering American decline have consulted the dark musings of this German romantic or his overarching theory of history. Robert D. Kaplan, the itinerant scholar of peoples and cultures, describes Spengler as “at once . . . turgid, hypnotic, profound, and, frankly, at times unintelligible in English translation.” He sees far more historical validity in the forces of geography than in Spengler’s ardent musings about the power of culture in directing history.
Continue reading HERE.
Elvis Presley signing autographs, October 20, 1955
Speech before the House of Representatives
by David (Davy) Crockett
Not Yours to Give
One day in the House of Representatives, a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Mr. Crockett arose:
“Mr. Speaker — I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this house, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.
“Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and, if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.
“He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and of course, was lost.
“Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:
Read it all HERE.
Customers on Amazon have been having some fun adding reviews for the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer, a simple banana-shaped device that can “slice an entire banana with one quick motion.”
Inside The Online Matchmaking Industry’s Giant Blind Date
How eager young geniuses of love like the founder of TheComplete.me plan to disrupt Big Relationship at the annual digital dating conference in Miami.
One guy says he can compute your “energetic compatibility” by punching the birthdates of you and your mate into an algorithm. When asked what information the algorithm takes into account, he shoots back, “Oh I can’t reveal that!” And then whispers: “It’s like our oracle.” Another guy insists he can predict your “mate value” by gauging facial characteristics, like the space between your eyes, apparently unaware that such dogma was discredited decades ago. The pleas and promises come fast and ardent: We can eliminate deception in online-dating! We can catch romance scammers! We have The Next Thing!
Welcome to Miami. The online-dating industry conference, an annual three-day affair, hosts a diverse mix of the date-o-sphere’s rich and poor. You’ve got the big corporate players (Google; Bing; and IAC, owner of Match and OkCupid); the geek-outsiders-cum-major-industry-disrupters (Plenty of Fish, Grindr); the pious marriage specialists; the purveyors of deviance; the upstart wannabes and the unabashed snake-oil salesmen. Some are too confident to brag or sell themselves. Others are too desperate or disillusioned not to.
Continue reading HERE.
Of alarms, militias, and destiny
Recent works such as What you’ll see in the rebellion and Something funny happened on the way to the tyranny have brought many fresh new eyes to this outpost on the Internet. We are a nation on the cusp of repeating history.
Anyone familiar with an accurate telling of the political truths leading up to the events of mid-April, 1775 in small towns and villages west of Boston knows that while the Colonials and their British masters were at loggerheads for the better part of a decade over a number of issues including taxation and liberty, the immediate and proximate trigger of the first American Revolutionary war was an attempt by General Thomas Gage to disarm the Colonists.
Yes, the American Revolution was triggered by a gun control raid that was met with force by the American people.
The Colonials—they would have been uncomfortable thinking of themselves as anything but British prior to early 1775—were a spirited, raucous bunch. They worked hard, and were civically-minded, deeply concerned about the welfare of their fellow citizens, and jealously guarded their liberties. David Hackett Fischer’s Paul Revere’s Ride is a historical touchstone for those of us involved in the Appleseed Project, because Fischer goes well beyond just the few hours of Revere’s historic ride, to explain in depth the culture behind it.
Anyone could have ridden through the countryside yelling, “the Regulars are about!” and been dismissed as a crank or a drunk.
What made “Revere’s ride” special was that he wasn’t just a man. He was many men and women in a deeply interconnected network linked by the a common cause of Liberty.
Fiercely dependent and interdependent upon one another, the Colonials has been through three wars within the the preceding decades, and had devised a system of church bells, dispatch riders, signal fires and musket volleys to warn the countryside of danger. This was perfected after earlier raids during the Powder Alarm.
Read it all at Bob Owens.
Planets are being added to the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog regularly. So far none of them is small enough to be considered “Earth’s twin,” but that’s likely to change.
Our Milky Way galaxy is home to at least 100 billion alien planets, and possibly many more, a new study suggests.
“It’s a staggering number, if you think about it,” lead author Jonathan Swift, of Caltech in Pasadena, said in a statement. “Basically there’s one of these planets per star.”
Swift and his colleagues arrived at their estimate after studying a five-planet system called Kepler-32, which lies about 915 light-years from Earth. The five worlds were detected by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, which flags the tiny brightness dips caused when exoplanets cross their star’s face from the instrument’s perspective.
At the end of every December, we here at ScienceNOW take a look back at some of our favorite stories of the year. These aren’t necessarily the biggest scientific advances (see our Breakthrough of the Year). They’re simply the funniest, wackiest, and most popular items we’ve run. Enjoy, and let us know your own favorites in the comments section!
A coal-coloured rock discovered in the Sahara desert is a new type of Martian meteorite scientists have said.
Scientists have been analysing the meteorite for two years and the results of the study indicate it is different from other Martian rocks that have been discovered.
It is estimated to be 2 billion years old, and contains more water than most of the red-planet meteorites so far discovered.
So why the foot in the bathtub?