Quote: "America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization."---Georges Clemenceau
Response: America has often been compared to the Roman civilization. Like the Romans at their height, we have been the richest, most powerful, most influential nation on earth. Yet the Roman civilization spanned centuries whereas America has barely survived two. I think it is very curious that the process of the birth, flowering, and decline of a nation, especially one as unique as America, should have been so accelerated. Have the advances of technology, in which America has been the world's leader, and which has sped up every other area of our lives, from transporation to information, also sped up the life span of the civilization itself?
But before I go on, I would like to mention two things. First, I obviously agree with Clemenceau to some degree. I think America is in a chronic state of degeneration. The decline is primarily moral and spiritual, rather than economic, although as we all know, what happens in the realm of thought and the spirit eventually trickles down into the material plane. But at this point in time, we are not listening to ourselves anymore as a nation. It's hard to be true to yourself when you don't know who you are.
Secondly, Clemenceau's main point seems to be that America skipped a major stage in its growth, namely "civilization." What does he mean by this? Any group of people who live in cities and have their own culture can be termed a civilization. What I think he means, and I think the fact that he's French may have something to do with his views, is that, unlike most of the European countries, America never had a point in her history in which there was a flowering of art, of music, of literature, of science, (as opposed to technology). America has never been known as a country that explores its own psyche, its dreams, and translated that exploration into beauty. We have always looked at ourselves as the extroverts of the world and the exploring and conquering we excel at has always been "out there": the "West," technology, space. Now that the frontiers have all been conquered, a nation whose philosophy is devoid of the more artistic and spiritual values may well find itself in a st!
ate of degeneration.
So far I have focused on the negative aspects of America but I don't want to give the wrong impression. The values that this country was built on, such as the freedom and rights of the individual, were unheard of until our founding fathers decided to follow their ideals and not their own vested interests. We were and still are a haven (no matter how imperfect) for the rest of the world. Perhaps it is because we are a nation of so many different people from so many different cultures that we have been unable to develop a cohesive artistic national identity. And that development can only begin when we begin looking at ourselves, exploring who we are and what meaning and purpose we really have. We have too much potential to allow ourselves to be defined only as a country with a strong economy. Our constitution guarantees us the right to pursue happiness too.
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