Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

The American Golden Age Ends?

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Some time back I promised to write about America’s Golden Age, since some readers wondered how I could call recent American history a “Golden Age.” Well, looking up what is typically meant by a Golden Age, I stand corrected. A Golden Age is a flowering of art, science, and culture. Classic Golden Ages would be Elizabethan  England or the Age of Pericles in Athens. While no doubt there has been some great art and culture in the past few decades, I would hesitate to say this age stood head and shoulders above other ages. And, frankly, considering the fact that 99% percent of modern American entertainment and culture is cheesy dreck at best, pretty hard to call it a Golden Age. Centuries from now Shakespeare will still be remembered and performed, but I don’t think they will be remaking any Star Wars movies.

However, I am getting at something when I say an age is ending. I’m not sure what to call it. Some have suggested that the last few decades has been America’s second Gilded Age, but I’m talking about all of the post World War Two years, not just the past few decades. And I’m primarily talking about the United States, though to a very real extent the rest of the first world has to be included as well. That would be Western Europe and Japan basically. There really doesn’t seem to be a name for it, the Post War Age doesn’t really cover it. I think the Age of American Exceptionalism covers it nicely, so for now that is what I will call it. Granted, defining an age before it has actually ended is a bit of a stretch, but I am going somewhere with this so bear with me. The Age of American Exceptionalism lasted from about 1950 to 2008 or so, and is generally defined by the following characteristics:

1.  A general era of peace for the west. By that I mean no major wars took place inside the west. There were some minor exceptions, but most people living in the west didn’t have to worry about foreign armies marching through their lands, ethnic cleansing, civil war, becoming a refugee, famine, or any of the wide spread horrors that are so prevalent throughout history.

2. An era of unprecedented prosperity in the west. Again, there are some exceptions, but I think it’s safe to say that this period was one of the best times and places in the history of mankind for an average citizen to make a good life for themselves. This would also include virtually  precedented and widespread access to medical care and education for the average Joe.

3. An era of personal freedom. Again, for the most part, the citizens of the west lived their lives with a level of personal freedom that most people in history, including much of the rest of the contemporary world, world, couldn’t dream of.

4. Lastly, and in some ways the age’s most defining characteristic, it was the age of America. An age where American power ruled supreme over the world, and an age where American culture and values seemed to dominate the globe, and an age when Americans felt that they were special…nothing less than the God blessed defenders of the free world.

And on a personal level has been a very sheltered age for most of the people in the west, and most of them, especially in America, have little knowledge or understanding of the world  outside America. In fact, surrounded by creature comforts with endless electronic entertainment, most Americans are not only ignorant of the world, they are pretty ignorant about reality in general. We have become a soft, sheltered people, victims of our own success.

The sad thing is that we are wholly unprepared as a nation and for the most part as individuals to deal with reality should it ever breech our decades of living the American dream. This is shown by our hysterical almost monomaniacal overreaction to 9/11, a topic I will expand upon in the next post. Though if one has followed my argument, one might get a glimmer of why someone like OBL might have wanted to strike at our heartland the way he did, on some level he was trying to puncture the bubble we have created around ourselves.

However, that’s for tomorrow, for today my last point is…we as a nation are completely unprepared for the end of this age. Most Americans couldn’t even operate a hand water pump, let alone bake bread, grow a garden, or skin and cook a rabbit. It’s pretty scary if one thinks about it. I suggest reading what a Russian thinks about the possible collapse of the USA, check out the link. His point is that the collapse of the Soviet Union got pretty ugly, and the Russian people were far more prepared for it than Americans: “What if US Collapses. Soviet Collapse Lessons Every American Needs to Know.

Have a great week everyone.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being use for profit, iit s a low resolution copy of the original, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Copyright: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It’s the last shot from the last scene in The Terminator, one of my favourite movies of all time. The theme of the last scene being “there’s a storm coming in.” Yes, just more timely imagery from Doug’s Darkworld selected to illustrate the world’s descent into madness.)


Written by unitedcats

October 20, 2008 at 6:41 am

Posted in History, Philosophy, World

One Response

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  1. Agreed; in general, we as a nation have softened up because of our financial success. The country is primarily a service-based economy, most of us enjoy all these freedoms, luxuries like cars and the internet, all this space we take for granted. Why, even our poor live better than some well-off families in other countries! So much of American life has become automated too–first automobiles, then machines for manufacturing, and now computers managing all our information–and a good number of us are waiting for the day when the Arabic saying “A falling camel attracts many knives” finally rings true for this empire, as it did for the Romans.
    My only real issue with this conclusion is that it has the same basic flaw as some sociological consensuses: it is a generalization. And generalizations can be problematic, especially when discussing an empire as far-flung as the United States. We the people of Chicagoland value and cherish toughness, hard work, having the guts to traverse all weather whether pleasant or nasty! Take President Obama’s reaction to the school closures just in January, for instance; where I come from, I would be god-damned if there were closures just because of a little snow climbing up the ankles! And we’re anything BUT ignorant of the world around us; we’re a worldly and multicultural people, and we’ve got some of the best schools in all the country. I know a few people that do in fact grow their own gardens for the sake of fresh ingredients when they cook their food, one of my neighbors is a tailor, and a good number of us are crafty and do-it-yourself-minded.
    And on a more personal note, and taking into account the actual argument here about what a golden age is: I am currently enrolled at Columbia College, which just happens to be home to the strongest fiction writing department in the entire country. I am in fact looking to be writer, because, other than the obvious reason that it’s easier and cheaper to do than any Hollywood production, any good literature is both timeless and an artifact in and of itself.
    On a different note, I have gone over this article about “crash-preparedness”, and found a lot about it agreeable, except maybe the part about the suburbs. First, after committing to white flight the way many of these suburbanites did, I’d imagine they’d sooner be dead than in any refugee tents downtown. And second, in the event of a societal collapse, you’d think most people’s response would be “Flee to the farmlands,” and not “Back to the industrial city!” Still a good article non the less (we should totally go with Daley’s green-roof plan, because not only would we be saving energy, but we could grow food up there too!) In the meantime, I’m going to recommend this book and be on my way…


    Joseph Benedict

    May 28, 2009 at 9:19 pm

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