"Read today, Spengler's forebodings have an uncanny and chilling association with our present predicaments. He was not saying Western civilization would vanish overnight in a puff of smoke. It would erode more slowly, as did some ancient civilizations—not to vanish forever but with symbols of their power and influence surviving (the Pyramids, the Aztec temples, the Parthenon), with the potential to re-emerge as civilizations many centuries later."So we read in The Danger of a Global Double Dip Recession Is Real, a November 29 opinion piece in U.S. News and World Report by Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the 73-year-old publisher and owner of the New York Daily News, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report, and the 147th wealthiest man in America (at least as of 2008).1
Zuckerman's excellent (and I believe very true) opinion piece draws upon the intellectual work of Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), a brilliant German philosopher whom I have quoted before on this blog.
What truly amazes me (and apparently Zuckerman) is the seemingly prophetic accuracy of Spengler, who wrote The Decline of the West at the time when the total fertility rate was still well above replacement level worldwide. Spengler knew that the same fate awaits all great civilizations if they last long enough to witness the ultimate triumph of materialism:
"When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard 'having children' as a question of pro's and con's, the great turning point has come."Spengler understood that a selfish attitude toward the gift of procreation not only signals the irreversible decline of civilization, but also becomes a primary cause.
At this level all Civilizations enter upon a stage, which lasts for centuries, of appalling depopulation. The whole pyramid of cultural man vanishes. It crumbles from the summit, first the world-cities, then the provincial forms, and finally the land itself, whose best blood has incontinently poured into the towns, merely to bolster them up awhile. At the last, only the primitive blood remains, alive, but robbed of its strongest and most promising elements.