I frequently read Evonomics: The next evolution of economics on the Web. It’s set up to set me email notices when there are new posts. Today I received a link to the article below which was originally published on April 26, 2016 in Capital Institute’s THE FUTURE OF FINANCE BLOG. The Evonomics republication begins:
By Sally Goerner
“The collapse of urban cultures is an event much more frequent than most observers realize. Often, collapse is well underway before societal elites become aware of it, leading to scenes of leaders responding retroactively and ineffectively as their society collapses around them.” – Sander Vander Leeuw, Archaeologist, 1997
The media has made a cottage industry out of analyzing the relationship between America’s crumbling infrastructure, outsourced jobs, stagnant wages, and evaporating middle class and the rise of anti-establishment presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Commentators are also tripping all over one another to expound daily on the ineffectual response of America’s political elite – characterized by either bewilderment or a dismissal of these anti-establishment candidates as minor hiccups in the otherwise smooth sailing of status-quo power arrangements. But the pundits are all missing the point: the Trump-Sanders phenomenon signals an American oligarchy on the brink of a civilization-threatening collapse. (…read the whole article…)
In her article, Author Sally Goerner notes: We have forgotten the lessons of the 1760s, 1850s, and 1920s. No wonder when popular wisdom equates “I never heard of that” and “hasn’t happened in 40 years” with “never happened before”. We are even conditioned by the way the media reports geologic events to think that “not in recorded history” means “unique event on Earth”. We, in the US, are a remarkably short-sighted society in terms of historical, geographic and cross-cultural perspective.
So would the US presidential election have turned out differently if every voter had read Ms. Goerner’s piece? I doubt it. Almost every US voter is a product of the US public schools and we don’t teach systems thinking or any serious form of social analysis. Schools are focused on passing down the culture of the immediately previous generation not on critical thinking that might disrupt the status quo. We talk about a global outlook but mostly we are trying to export developed-world, Western values and practices. Little emphasis is put on learning the cultural practices, infrastructure, or ethics of “primitives” or “foreigners”.
Does this shortsightedness condemn us to a collapse of civilization? Well, if by “civilization” we mean ‘what my mother taught me’, then yes. What my mother and father believed is an endangered species of thought. But a paradigm shift in conventional wisdom, even a severe episode of depopulation brought about by war, famine or epidemic disease does not necessarily mean the extinction of humanity. We have a choice either to let the pattern continue to cycle or to participate consciously in our own social evolution. We can choose to pay attention to thinkers such as Sally Goerner early and often. She has noticed that the canary in our coal mine has dropped dead off its perch. Now, are we going to continue to breathe the same fetid air or will we change it?