Malcolm Muggeridge, for years the editor of Punch magazine in Britain, and a prominent Christian spokesman, detailed several symptoms of a collapsing civilization, not only of this present hour, but of times in the past as well.
1. He says that one of the first signs of the approaching collapse is the breakdown of law and order since civilization consists of law and order.
2. Muggeridge lists a second symptom as the excessive interest in eroticism, that is, the rise of widespread immorality and the fascination with sexual themes. He sees this as a kind of an unconscious expression of the fear of impotence -- we are like children focusing upon our sexuality as some way of reassuring ourselves that our civilization has some stability and the capacity to perpetuate itself.
3. A third symptom he lists is the excessive need for excitement. In the days of the collapse of the Roman Empire, this was provided by the gladiatorial games held in the Coliseum. Today we get it from television, with its artificially-produced excitement, its violence, murder and sexuality.
4. Muggeridge sees a fourth symptom in the enormously complicated structure of taxation and administration. No one seems to be able to do anything to reduce the complexity of it. Taxation and government will keep mounting to the point where it will become insupportable, until the whole economy at last collapses under the weight of it.
5. Finally, a fifth symptom is excessive and pervasive boredom -- the sense of emptiness and meaninglessness. This, Muggeridge says, is the price of our materialism, the fact that we put so much emphasis on things. We are constantly barraged with appeals to buy this and buy that; if we only had this we would be happy, etc.
All these are signs of a collapsing civilization.
Muggeridge has gone even further. In a speech given right here at Stanford's Hoover Institute last summer, he delivered an almost prophetic foreview of the collapse of Western civilization. I would like to share these closing words of his message with you:
So the final conclusion would seem to be that whereas other civilizations had been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions and providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania; himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down. And having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer, until at last, having educated himself into imbecility and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over, a weary, battered old brontosaurus, and became extinct.