Friday, August 15, 2008

Why are we in the trouble we’re in?

I believe that the West is in decline. I’m not the only one. I think I may have a better handle on why, though—and it’s not necessarily the decay of morals, or of common courtesy, or of the ideals of civic responsibility or duty. I believe those are symptoms, not causes. The cause, the disease that’s rotting us from within, is something far more subtle and dangerous.

Utopia.

That’s an ideal, right? If the human race weren’t wired as it is, it would be a lovely thing. However. The human race, as it is and has been since it began (I don’t care where you place the origin—creation or evolution—both history and myth show the same), is not suited to utopia. We are not cut out for it. We need struggle. We need adversity. We need to be forced to fight for what we want, both as a race and as individuals.

What is Utopia? Thomas Moore defines it. We all know what it is. What Utopia does is remove need from the equation. What happens when all needs, all wants, are fulfilled? The human ability to face diversity is weakened, if not removed.

One very good example comes from one of the books on my recommended reading list: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. There’s nothing to teach the human race to be able to stand in the face of adversity. When the human race has lost its strength to stand, it invariably will fall to the first hint of opposition. Look at the people depicted in Brave New World. These people resort to drug use—soma—at the slightest hint of adversity: “One cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments.” “A gramme is better than a damn.” Is it any wonder that Lenina, who is accustomed to getting whatever she wants whenever she wants it, has no idea how to handle John Savage? Is it any wonder that she folds under pressure when she finds out she can’t have what she wants?

The United States and Western Europe have had the closest thing that the world has seen to Utopia since Eden. We’ve had it for the past five or six decades—a whole generation. True, there have been conflicts—Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Kosovo, and Somalia are notable examples—but we, the West, hadn’t been truly threatened since WWII. Even September 11, 2001, hasn’t really been enough to fully awaken the sleeping giant. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to wake up before the situation in Eastern Europe deteriorates into a third, fully engaged, hot, shooting, world war. And I’m not sure we have the intestinal and testicular fortitude to win it if we do, especially not after the way our politicians keep gutting our military. Don’t believe me? Look at history. Korea. Vietnam. Kuwait—and we all can see the effects now of not taking Saddam out of power then. For the past five or six decades, our politicians have refused to allow our armies to fight to win. They’ve forced us to emasculate our army in the name of peace and Utopia.

I appreciate what our selfless leaders want for us. Truly, I do. However, true peace—not only the absence of war, but also the absence of any kind of conflict—destroys the need to create. If nothing is destroyed, there is no need to rebuild bigger, better, and more beautiful than before. If there is no real enemy—whether a neighbor or the neighboring country, or even nature itself—there is no goad to push curiosity into the realm of practical invention. According to Plato, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” If necessity is invention’s mother, then conflict is its father—and utopia its enemy.

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