Salon.com has an article today by Gary Kamiya. I'm getting a bit meta here with commentary on a book review, but this is the point, yes? The book in question is Are We Rome?, by Cullen Murphy. The title is pretty self-explanatory, and Kamiya says that Murphy takes a fair look at the situation, pointing out similiarities as well as differences.
Among an over-extended military, ignorance of other world cultures, and a full-steam-ahead privitization fetish, Murphy mentions the parallel of individualization. A hyper-individualized society boils down life event importance to newly miniscule scales. Insert cliche about YouTube here. Just the simple reality of permanent records of comments on things like blog posts lends a hysterical delusional importance to things that may be simply not. Such weight and faux-meaning can now be attached to more and shorter moments because the world is so big, small, and fast. According to a lay understanding of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, one result of traveling near the speed of light is that time slows down. The faster one can experience something, the more one can fit in. Similarly, living our lives in super-rich micro-moments can have the effect of making our lives fuller and richer and bigger. Or...bloated. And this raises the societal question: If we citizens at large are so micro-focused, who do we put in charge of the longview? Is government (specifically its very long-term planning) less or (counter-intuitively) more important in a privatized, individualized society?
The Flaming Lips said that "all we have is now," and our "now" is puckeringly rich; we have less need for deep consideration of the past and future when our moment-to-moment existence bubble is so full. And ironically, we of course have more need than ever for such consideration for precisely the same reasons. I wonder if this book approaches the question of Romans' awareness of their society's trip down from zenith. Was there a fringe element with the vision to see the bigger picture?
Such a fringe most definitely exists in America today. I have recently read a book by Michael C. Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon, which takes a big picture view of the state of our state. He believes very much in consipracy theories, especially regarding 9/11, which may be off-putting for some. But his frank discussion of the evident decline of our empire is compelling. I hope that these ideas become widely and seriously considered with fairness, not derision, from our instant-communication, instant-commentary culture.
This revolutionary communication ability and fast-paced me-lifestyle that is, as I mentioned earlier, shortening our daily moments and inflating our individualism may also be our saving grace if it facilitates communication of the fringe's ideas on a large-scale - and then only if the message is heeded. But, as Murphy says at one point, of the many adjectives generally applied to Americans, "heedless" is near the top of the list. Keep trying, please, sirs.