There’s been a fair amount of talk lately about Brit Hume’s “come to Jesus” suggestion to Tiger:
I don’t have a whole lot to say about that, other than it goes a long way to explaining why Hume left the MSM. Not only could he not say that when he worked for ABC, he’d probably be barred from even thinking it. As is often the case with me, my thoughts headed in a completely opposite direction from the obvious.
I was actually thinking about the end of Rome, Georgian England and pre-WWI America. All three of them were distinguished by out-of-control behaviors. One responded by collapsing, as it was unable to defend itself against external forces. The other two responded by clamping down, hard and fast on societal wrongs. I wonder if we’re again at that tipping point in time.
I won’t belabor Rome. It rose; it fell. Part of its fall was its overextended borders. Part of its fall was an internal moral collapse that rendered it incapable of defending itself against its external enemies. That collapse didn’t happen quickly, taking, as it did, hundreds of years, but it still happened.
When we think of Georgian England, we think of elegant architecture, and the calm rationalism of the Enlightenment movement. The writer I always think of, of course, is Jane Austen, with her cool sarcasm and unwavering morality. We see it as a formal, intellectual, rational time — which it was, in one sector of society.
Georgian England was also a time of exceptional licentiousness. It’s no wonder that Hogarth bloomed artistically in that era. His etchings exposed the evils of drinking, as in Gin Lane:
He also examined prostitution, which was overwhelmingly prevalent in Georgian England. The plate below, the 6th in a series entitled “A Harlot’s Progress,” shows a clergyman masturbating a woman at the harlot’s funeral, mourners drink from atop the coffin and try to steal from within it, and a prostitute pick-pockets a mourner:
And of course, most of us are familiar with Hogarth’s famous “Rake’s Progress,” showing debauchery in the high life. This is the last plate, with the Rake reduced to insanity, thanks to syphilis:
By the way, modern England faces very similar cultural scourges today. Here’s a New Year’s picture of a modern-day rake’s progress — a British girl so drunk, she’s passed out in the snow:
That’s just one of thousands of pictures of debauchery that routinely find their way into the British tabloids, all of which bemoan the alcohol soaked culture that is modern Britain. Most of these pictures are ignored outside of the tabloids, although there was a suitable furor when a drunken University student urinated on a war memorial. Apparently, there are still some lines one cannot cross:
America is having her own debauchery festival. Performers simulate sex on stage (and in the audience); cities turn whole streets over to orgiastic behavior; and middle and high schools host x-rated “instructional” meetings for “victim” groups and promulgate pornographic reading lists — and that’s just the short list of cultural horrors.
The question is, where do we go from here? And that’s where I think things get interesting. The Romans fell apart (albeit in slow motion). The Georgians responded with Evangelicalism. Victorian propriety didn’t spring out of nowhere. It was a very direct, and religiously based, response to the debaucheries of the Georgian period. While Jane Austen demonstrates that the Georgian era always had a core of middle class moralists, it took the Victorians to elevate that morality to a national doctrine.
America’s path was a bit different. America, as a frontier country that had fought a revolution steeped in Protestant doctrine never had the Georgian cultural experience, although it also embraced Evangelicalism. (America, too, had giant revival meetings.) It was, simply, a more moral county in the 1700s, so it didn’t need to have a Victorian cultural backlash in the 1800s.
However, America had her own severe problem in the 1800s, and that was alcoholism. In the early to mid 19th Century, Johnny Appleseed wasn’t out there planting Golden Delicious and Fuji applies. Instead, he was planting trees with apples specifically selected to make hard cider, a strong alcoholic drink. And in the Wild West, the saloons weren’t cute places with sassy showgirls. They were centers of exceptionally hard drinking and truly pathetic prostitution.
The temperance movement, rather than being a sour-faced movement of small-minded women dedicated to destroying men’s fun was, instead, a direct response to an unprecedented wave of enormously destructive alcoholism. That women spearheaded the movement was unsurprising, since it was they who were at the mercy of alcoholic men who raped them, beat them and left them alone to raise children in a pre-birth control age.
Prohibition, the culmination of the temperance movement, brought its own crime problems in its wake. Nevertheless, Prohibition did work insofar as its goal was to break the back of the drinking culture that was destroying America. We drink today, but not as we drank then. In that way, is was a successful Constitutional experiment.
Bottom line: when debauchery takes over, society’s either collapse completely (as did Rome, which was unable to defend itself), or they take remedial steps (witness 19th Century England and late-19th and early-20th Century America). The question today is what will happen in Europe (and, specifically, England) and America. Both countries are struggling with internal cultural collapse and external enemies.
If I was a betting woman, I would say that England will yield, both internally and externally, to Islam. Externally, Islam will use bombs and guns to take over the country. Internally, an exhausted population will be grateful for the moral constraints Islam imposes on an out-of-control population. Religious prohibitions against alcohol will seem like a good thing, and the country, bounded on one side by debauchery and on the other side by guns and bombs, will willingly take on all the other limitations Islam imposes on formerly free populations.
In America, I think we’ll go the other way: It won’t be Islam that destroys us, but Christianity that saves us. I make this prediction as a Jewish woman who trusts that her Christian fellow-Americans will continue to believe in religious freedom. This means that I don’t imagine a theocracy, with militant Christians taking over Washington at gun point. I simply believe that Americans will look at what’s happening around them, and take refuge in traditional religious morality — and in this country, traditional religious morality is predominantly Christian.
Of course, America’s problems won’t end with a strong public resurgence of Judeo-Christian religious values. With Europe almost certainly having collapsed before Islam, the external hostility directed at America will be overwhelming. On the other hand, if America finds its hardcore Protestant roots, it can stand strong against that pressure.