A Profile in Classics

VDH is a hero of mine:

Profile in Classics: Victor Davis Hanson | Hoover Institution

Are We Civilized?

Civilization is a precarious accomplishment, as Thucydides and Edmund Burke both knew—it is difficult to secure and easy to lose. Are we at a tipping point? “We, of the modern world, don’t have a consistently civilized people. We think we do, but they have often never been tried. I worry about that.”

When an Italian cruise ship sunk off the coast of Tuscany earlier this year, there were reports of men pushing past women and children to access lifeboats. “There was not a lot of Titanic-style chivalry on board,” Hanson notes wryly. “They were all supposedly civilized. Apparently not.”

The decline in civility—in the idea of being a good citizen—has taken a particularly tough toll on men, who have not adjusted to today’s post-industrial economy as fluidly as women have. “As society has been cut off from the drudgery of nature and the tragic view of things, it has become whiney. This is probably sexist, but it’s had a more direct effect on the males of the species who have had their muscular world radically redefined.”

“All the young men I knew growing up knew how to do these things. But the young kids I see today don’t know how to run a lawn mower or a chain saw. Today’s male lives at home. He kinda’ sorta’ dates a girl, kinda’ sorta’ doesn’t date her.  He is becoming superfluous as a bread-winner and family head.”

In the ancient world, farming and war instilled a sense of duty and responsibility in men. Today? “Men don’t know much about farming, and few are in the military, but most know a great deal about video games,” says Hanson.

Hanson comes back to the virtue of self-reliance and the toll its absence is taking on society: “Today’s suburban American has a therapeutic view of the world. We think we all die in our sleep at 90 years old without ever being sick. We don’t expect to lose our jobs. When these things happen, we go to counseling, thinking life’s not fair. Or we look to the government for help.”

“The society’s attitude toward the citizen—that we will guarantee you a degree of material and psychological security—is something that we can’t honor.” He adds: “I think that we are emasculating the citizen.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.