Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
It is sometimes said that when the Roman Empire fell, your everyday Roman had no clue that it was happening. Perhaps. They were too busy going on with life to notice such things. The Roman Empire had always been there and I am sure they thought it always would be. Even if they did know, they probably couldn't have told you the reason. Heck, over a millennium and a half later we are still debating the whys.
There is another saying in the form of a philosophical inquiry. "If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?"
This past weekend has been the weekend of doom and gloom. It seems that Europe may have finally awoken to the fact that the party is over. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard had an article ominously entitled "The week that Europe stopped pretending." Likewise, Janet Daley speculates that the crisis in Spain portends the end of the Euro and Europe as we know it. The aforementioned articles are full of phrases like "capital flight" and "monetary policy." It is all very interesting and sobering at the same time and all completely besides the point.
I feel like a Roman at the end of the empire watching the whole thing going down and remarking simply, "Duh!"
Of all the articles I read this weekend on this topic, only one actually explained the real reason for the collapse of Europe (and eventually the entire west including the U.S.). It is all because we are spoiled and selfish. We have lived way beyond our means for generations. We had money for anything and everything that suited our fancy, everything and anything but children. We invented lifestyles we fancied rights and borrowed from the grandchildren we would never make to finance it. Mark Steyn says it this way.
Which means that our generation is running up debt that will have to be repaid by our shrunken progeny. One hundred Greek grandparents have 42 Greek grandchildren. Is it likely that 42 Greeks can repay the debts run up by 100 Greeks? No wonder they’d rather stick it to the Germans. But the thriftier Germans have the same deathbed demographics. If 100 Germans resent having to pick up the check for an entire continent, is it likely 42 Germans will be able to do it?
Look around you. The late-20th-century Western lifestyle isn’t going to be around much longer. In a few years’ time, our children will look at old TV commercials showing retirees dancing, golfing, cruising away their sixties and seventies, and wonder what alternative universe that came from. In turn, their children will be amazed to discover that in the early 21st century the Western world thought it entirely normal that vast swathes of the citizenry should while away their youth enjoying what, a mere hundred years earlier, would have been the leisurely varsity of the younger son of a Mitteleuropean Grand Duke.
The West is done. I don't see any way around it. It was a good run. As history runs contrary to the whims of those having a good time, we pretend it doesn't exist. The West, as we knew it, was created out of Christianity. When we rejected Christianity, we put the asterisk on our own historical footnote. So be it. Christianity, the Church and the world will go on without us. Jesus will go on without us, making good use of the willing, and his triumph is just as assured.
I put those two sayings together at the beginning of this post because in composite they formed the question most on my mind today. If an empire falls and there is no one left to hear it, does it even make a sound? If it does, I am sure it is something like a disinterested sigh.