Join Me Next Tuesday Night At PBS For Some Baling Wire

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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  • Since he was also behind the BBC series Chimerica, I'm sure it will be that the Chinese are eating us economically, and throw in the Indians, too.

    Since he is a Brit, I wonder if he is that concerned with "our" institutions.

    And, if anything from the 1968 convention to last weekend prove anything, the military isn't such a great unifying force either. About the only thing it has proved is that it has overwhelming conventional force if we decide to use it, and sometimes a special ops unit that works. As someone pointed out on a Tribune comment board today, NATO sure hasn't freed Syria, but I doubt that there is any miltary stomach for doing so, and certainly not united US and UK sentiment.

  • In reply to jack:

    I too will be curious to see how HE sees it....lets talk more after Tuesday!

  • In reply to Jack Spatafora:

    After watching two hours of it, it seemed like he wasn't going to get close to either of our views, unless there were going to be another 12 episodes, but such was not indicated.

    The only thing close to mine was that once we had a textile industry, but now, China makes our textiles, and since the West can't afford to purchase as many, now dresses in the Western clothes they make.

    The point that would seem to negate yours is that there are more Protestants than ever, but I don't necessarily agree that the Bible thumping ones foster the "Protestant work ethic."

    It seems like your focus was more on the West disintegrating from the inside. It seems like his focus was more on the influence of the West and how other parts either succumb or try to resist it. At the end, he indicated that some cataclysm could wipe civilization out, but, again, unlike you, indicated that it would be sudden rather than rot.

    I hope I haven't mischaracterized viewpoints (his and yours) too much.

  • In reply to jack:

    I rather think you summed us up well...he did indeed focus on what is outside us whereas I focuses on what was going on inside...when it comes to guessing history, I imagine we all fall sort...because as they say: It's hard to predict -- especially the future

  • In reply to Jack Spatafora:

    Even he took the view that you can only extrapolate from the past, such as, based on a train ride through the Berlin Wall, he said that the Wall was crumbling, but his editor wouldn't print it, and that the Inca empire quickly crumbled due to the Spanish guns and diseases.

    In fact, Googling Niall Ferguson Civilization (which I did to try to get verification whether this was a series) indicates that it was based on a book, so both of us could have predicted what this show would have been by reading first, instead of being mesmerized by the PBS commercials.

  • In reply to jack:

    Right you are...altho PBS adds all the lovely footage a book can't....he also writes for Newsweek...where I believe he is a Romney man...not I!

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