Rollin' Like Sisyphus

Chronicle of Our Decline

A comprehensive sorting of the posts related to the Chronicle of Our Decline, laid out in chronological order, except for the primers, which have their own page that you can find here.

Part I | It’s no real secret that the world we find ourselves in today is markedly different than the one we knew yesterday and the one we anticipate tomorrow. Massive, long-term “predictions and prognostications” posts like this are a dime a dozen, and about as useful as a day-old newspaper when you don’t even have a fish to wrap. Still, though, such forward reflections may be useless, but they have merit, and I’m about to dive down that hole once again, fitted with nothing but a snorkel and a spear. Make of that what you will. As I’ve been writing this, since just before New Year’s Eve, it’s become somewhat unwieldy. I’m going to break it up into sections so that I can give it proper treatment, for once in my life. Let’s call this the Pre-Amble of Assumptions. Before I begin, let me lay out the five essential themes, or perhaps factors, that I will use to inform my speculation.

Part II | Human history, whatever else it is, breaks down rather neatly into two segments — the ebb and the flow. This is the pattern of every civic order, from the cro-magnon hunter’s circle to the Parthenon to the Concordat of Worms to Capitol Hill. This breakdown will prevail long into the future as well, haunting George Jettson as surely as it haunted Fred Flinstone. To stand up is to assume that you’ll never be laid low again; to fall down is to fear you’ll never again stand on your own two feet. These are the extremes between which the pendulum of the human experience swings, and the key to understanding everything lies in realizing that the pendulum never stops, and it’s constantly pulled by forces it can never hope to influence let alone control. That’s your one-sentence history lesson, and if you stop here, rest well with the knowledge that you now know the greater part of the story.

Part III | People love stories. So much so, that they turn everything into a narrative, crafting stories with sets of data, with selections of events, with inanimate objects, with the motions of the stars traversing the nighttime sky. And what is a story but a chain of plot points influencing and determining each other? This penchant for narrata-morphizing makes us focus on the cause of things; assigning blame, administering praise, looking for roots and establishing links. If our civic order is in decline (it is) and if it’s drundling on toward an inexorable climax (it is), our penchant for narrative demands a catalyst. One event that the dimestore historians of tomorrow will look to as the obvious First Domino in the Daisy Chain of Our Demise.

Part IV | So now that I’ve spent several hundred words denigrating all of the storycraft that goes into the scholarly understanding of just about everything, allow me to pile on with my own makeshift literary device. Meet the Baker family. They are a typical family of four, holding on to a middle class lifestyle with their finger nails. The beginning of the next 10 years finds them in the infill suburbs of a major metropolitan center in the United States.

Part V | A sense of panic pervades every rung in contemporary society, from the unbelievably rich to the unfathomably poor, and everyone in between. People are acting more and more like the old rules and ways no longer apply, whether they realize it or not. They are impatient, touchy, and overly sensitive. Considering that more people now act like this than not anymore is a pretty good pressure gauge to use for measuring our decline. And that decline is happening now. Right now.

Part VI | Indulge me while I lay out a simple math problem for you. First, you are given 288,000 units of a thing. Next, you then lose 800,000 units of that same thing. What have you gained?

Part VII | Here’s another quick math problem. Subtract 181 from 5,500. What do you get? The sum total of recorded history in years where slavery was an institutionally accepted aspect of human existence. The 181* is the amount of time that the known world** has formally abolished the practice, and save for a couple of messy wars, slavery – chattel and otherwise – exists today only on the fringes of the civic order.

Part VIII | This is where we are, diminishing all of our resources – fiscal, social, cultural, industrious – to stay standing for just a few more moments. One of the endemic features of a civilization in decline is that in every way it forfeits the future for the benefit of the present. When tomorrow is a question mark, two weeks away is a fairy tale.

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