Monday, February 25, 2019

The Blind Men and the Elephant

The decline of Western civilization is too large and multifaceted for any one man to comprehend. When we all reach out and feel different causes and consequences, we may all be in the right.
Listen to this post: Twilight Patriot - 25 Feb 2019

A lot of people believe that the Western world in general, and the United States in particular, are in a state of deep decline. But they have a lot of different opinions on what this decline actually looks like, and what started us on the path to ruin.

Was it the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913? The beginnings of American imperialism in the Philippines and World War I? The New Deal and the end of economic freedom? The Leftist overrun of the universities after World War II? The sexual revolution? Judicial despotism and legal abortion? The loss of manufacturing jobs? The fact that from Bush Jr. onward, nobody has cared about the deficit?

And those are just the usual suspects. There are dozens of more obscure events on which some thinkers pin the blame. I can even recall having an intellectually deep conversation with a man who believed that it all went downhill starting with the disappearance of good investigative journalists in the 1980s.

So is one of these perspectives right, and the others all wrong? I don’t think so. And I don’t think all the confusion means that the decline is imaginary. It’s real. Rather, I think our situation is very much like the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Here is Saxe’s version in verse:

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me!—but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried: “Ho!—what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

The decline of Western civilization is too big to be described by a single man, or attributed to a single cause. But when we reach out and feel that something is horribly wrong with the status quo, we’re not mistaken, even though we notice different flaws. There is an elephant. It has a lot of different attributes. And we need to take all of them seriously.

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