Dealing With the Decline of Civilization

| 8/31/2012 9:46:04 AM

It has been a long time since I have heard advertisements for “survival foods” for those folks who are worried about a world in which we descend into chaos and anarchy.

As I listened to an ad on the radio recently, it reminded me of my state of mind in the late 1960s and 1970s when I first began to study ethnobotany and survival skills in general.

Back then, I was primarily motivated out of fear, and was concerned about my own personal physical survival. It has been a long road to today, and though I still encourage folks to store “survival foods,” I am no longer motivated by fear. Today, I have a completely different mindset about the very meaning of “survival.” 

I know that to some people the word “survival” connotes images of some burly guy in a camo outfit and a gun who is just out for himself. That’s survival, by the lowest definition. But what about your children, your family, your pets? What about the survival of your community, your environment, your city, your bank, your educational system? Real survival is vastly more than keeping your own body alive.

Through the 1980s, I gave a series of lectures about the many cultures and civilizations that have entirely vanished. Gone. My focus was to look at what causes a culture to slip into decline, and even to vanish. Then, more importantly, I attempted to see if we today in the U.S. are experiencing any of these same causes that lead to decline and extinction. Of course, most members of my audiences listened politely, but felt that “this would never happen to us.” In other words, the predictable response was denial.

According to Morris Berman in the classic “The Twilight of American Culture,” there are four factors that define a declining civilization.

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