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Learning Nothing From History

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

I was a historian by trade for much of my career, and believe me, it can be a very depressing profession. Especially when you see the country you love following the same path so many other nations have trod into bankruptcy, depravity, and vulnerability. And America today is a classic case of decline and eventual fall. Textbook. And so few people see it. Very sad and depressing.


Here is one historical example among countless, and limited space necessitates brevity.

Ancient Crete, in the 2nd and 1st millennia B.C., had a thriving and very advanced culture (Minoan) that lasted a few centuries. But, as with all cultures, ancient and modern, there was the eventual descent. Historian Will Durant provides a piercing analysis of what happened to that once-great civilization: “Perhaps there, too, as in most declining cultures, population control went too far and reproduction was left to the failures. Perhaps as wealth and luxury increased, the pursuit of physical pleasure sapped the vitality of the race and weakened its will to live or defend itself. A nation is born stoic and dies epicurean.” (Will Durant, The Life of Greece) Two points: “reproduction was left to the failures,” and the “pursuit of physical pleasure.” Such problems will implode any society, and have done so innumerable times. Some analysis and application.

Point One. Every society in human history has had its proportion of riffraff, of human scum, the dregs of the species, who are uncivilized and irredeemable. They are just garbage. I’m sorry, I really hate to say that, I know it sounds cruel, but it’s simply the truth. As George Gilder wrote, “If the truth be known, all too many of them [the uncouth barbarians] are entirely unsuited for civilized life. Every society must figure out ways to bring them into the disciplines and duties of citizenship.” These bottom-feeders must either be civilized (it happens in a few cases) or they need to be isolated, ostracized, in effect, quarantined, like a disease, or they will reproduce and spread like rats, a gangrene infecting the rest of the society and dragging it down closer and closer to their depraved level. Society must be ruled by excellence, or it will be ruled from a sewer.


If the lowest elements of society dominate population growth, and their offspring are not properly civilized and acculturated, they will infest the entire body politic, little by little, like a cancer, until death occurs. As in ancient Crete. And Rome. Oh, those two places still exist, of course, but not, and never again, with the glory and magnificence that caused them to ADVANCE humanity, not retard it. America is far from disappearing and ceasing to be. It will simply become another third-rate cesspool, with dangerous animals wandering every street, where people aimlessly subsist and where world leadership will shift to another country more willing and able to accept it. That may be good, it may not be; it depends on which country rises to the top of the food chain. The likeliest possibility at the moment will be a nightmare for mankind.

Point Two. As crucially, Durant said, “as wealth and luxury increased, the pursuit of physical pleasure sapped the vitality of the race and weakened its will to live or defend itself.” A nation rises from tyranny through self-control, self-sacrifice, and character. It becomes free. It gets wealthy. Then, it wants to enjoy that wealth. The decline begins because such a society produces an effeminate culture that, because it doesn’t want to lose its affluence, becomes too timid and fractured to defend itself. The people live only for self-gratification, and they lose all the virtues that produced virility and advancement in the first place. Quit eating vegetables and exercising, sit in front of the TV all evening wasting your mind, and you’ll become fat, lazy, and stupid. And totally unable to defend yourself against a stronger foe. What will happen to a society of such louses? It doesn’t take a historical genius to answer that.


American Leftists especially—and too many supposed “conservatives” nowadays—glorify and celebrate immorality, debauchery, and the utterly debased scum that are dragging America into a slime pit. At best, we wring our hands, “What can we do?” We can’t do anything, because America has already gone too far in that direction. Just for one example among many, how do we turn around the hideous perversity of drag queens and their decadent amusements? We glorified the lifestyle they arise from, and now we have no choice but to condone every monstrosity and logical consequence that lifestyle produces. It is nothing but a nation gone into moral, and mortal, decline. And how many see it?

Durant’s last point is brilliant beyond description: “A nation is born stoic and dies epicurean.” While Stoicism and Epicureanism are more complex than a simple statement can explain, his basic idea is sound. A “stoic” is a person (nation) who can bear hardship and pain, and overcome obstacles without complaint. Stoics taught that virtue is the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with nature, Divine Reason, and excellence. An Epicurean (as it has come to be defined) is devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure and luxurious living. Such a misanthrope cares nothing for the common good or virtuous living. And obviously, cannot and will not elevate any society to the heights of moral excellence and self-discipline necessary to that society’s defense, long-term survival, and improvement. A nation is born stoic, dies epicurean. And it’s obvious why.


Now, you tell me: which describes America today, Stoicism or Epicureanism? And worse yet, how many really understand? Or care?

Don’t miss out on some good American reading from the good ol’ days.  My western novels, Whitewater and River Bend, are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Eliva.com.   A third western, Allie’s Dilemma, is available for Kindle only.   And read some different posts on my blog at thailandlewis.blogspot.com.

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