Next Tuesday, prominent historian Nial Ferguson hosts Part II of his PBS documentary “Civilization: The West and the Rest.” Part I showed how the West has dominated these last 500 years because of such assets as capitalism and science. Now he’ll have to explain why our scientifically sophisticated capitalist Goliath is showing signs of weakness in the face of new rivals like China, Brazil, India.
Just guessing here, but likely the reason is that only one of our 5 national institutions — the Military — remains a strong unifying force among our 330 million diverse citizens. The others — Government, Law, Schools, Media and Religion — no longer provide the same baling-wire effects they once did.
Our energetically diverse population — like wild bales of cotton or wheat — requires something that can hold and bind us together. These 5 institutions have been around these 500 years, performing their job as best they can. But lately not as bast as they could!
Here’s guessing Ferguson next Tuesday will tells us what we should already know. Government is now held in suspicion more than admiration…the Law is seen working for the rich more than the rest …Schools are using more money to produce poorer results…the Media is slanted by whomever owns them… Religion, well it’s no longer something we can all reverently agree on as once we did.
This Memorial Day we will witness grand celebrations of Americans coming together in honor of their nation. What we will not see are those same Americans returning home as patriotically bound together as they just were at those events. Four of the five strands of baling wire are simply not holding as well as they once did.
Join me the next night to hear how Ferguson explains our national problem. Lets hope the gang in Washington and Wall Street and Silicon Valley are listening too. Not because Ferguson has all the answers, but because they really need to start thinking historically not just politically. Otherwise, their grandchildren and ours will be reading about the American Empire right along with all those others….
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