All civilizations are covenants. They are, as President Trump may have put it, “deals”. They are deals between the human and the divine. As in any contract, each side gives something to the other and each side gets something back. The people agree to undertake three obligations: love God and obey by certain rules that specify in detail just how this love would be expressed (prayer, sacrifice, etc.), lead lawful lives in which they treat each other according to other rules, rules that include prohibitions on murder, theft, adultery, etc., and finally accept the yoke of a ruling class, a class that is exempt from hard, repetitive toil in exchange for scientific progress and military protection. God?
I am hardly qualified to guess what God gets out of this, other than, perhaps, the satisfaction of seeing his creatures thrive and multiply. Civilization is a bargain that benefits most, though not all, of mankind. The alternative is much worse.
According to the Jewish calendar, we are living in the year 5,780 since the creation of the universe. Before you rush to condemn this number as that much more religious mumbo-jumbo, stop to consider that it works pretty well if you substitute in the definition of the starting point for the countdown one crucial word: civilization. In fact, we are now living in the year 5,780 (or something very close to that) from the creation of the CIVILIZED universe, which, for all intents and purposes, is the only universe that counts.
Civilized universe is the only universe that counts because uncivilized living is hell on earth. People in pre-civilizational societies of which some yet remain lead short, diseased, fearful lives. That’s how tribal people have always lived all across the globe. Never knowing where (or indeed if) their next meal would come from, always fearful of the infinite number of vengeful spirits, always at each other’s throats, duking it out for the meager pickings of their hunter-gatherer subsistence, these people are as far removed from us as any Star Trek aliens.
The Torah gives us a glimpse of that existence in the story of Cain and Abel. Although brothers, although not lacking, to say the least, for living room, they end up with one killing the other. This is the default reaction to this very day of a tribal guy from one valley meeting his counterpart from the valley next door; they immediately want to kill each other for whatever spoils they may have, including the very corpse of whoever loses the battle.
Civilizations that arose in the great river valleys of Eurasia and North Africa, be they the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Ganges, or the Yang Tze, opened the door to humanity for actually living rather than simply (and briefly) surviving. They gave people food security, protection from predators both human and otherwise, and a life under a set of just laws enforced by a powerful ruler. These civilizations gave rise to everything that defines our world today: science, art, law, and (at least until a short while ago) godliness.
Civilization reached its peak 244 years ago in Philadelphia, PA. In that year, a group of original thinkers unencumbered by history yet fully aware of it, invented a workaround for two out of civilization’s three major flaws: arbitrary and corrupt government and social stratification.
Unlike in any civilization that preceded it, the American Civilization 2.0 created both a system of government that was representative of the people and served at their leisure and simultaneously allowed for upward mobility across the strata of society. No more would people be constrained by the circumstances of their birth, no longer would they be ruled by the Russian roulette of good kings or bad. In America, everyone would be able to live up to their fullest potential and government would be refreshed every two or four years by the votes of the people.
It is rather a shame that the third flaw inherent to civilization is impossible to fix, even for people as well endowed by imagination as were the American Founding Fathers. It is a shame particularly because this final flaw, like a latent gene, is now expressing itself and in doing so destroying the American civilization and with it the smoking ember of the once great Western civilization that had managed to survive the Holocaust. This third flaw is simply this: even the best conceived civilization cannot work for people who are either incapable or unwilling to uphold their end of the covenant.
America, even before its independence from Britain, was quite busy importing such people to its shores and in the last few decades these imports have reached unsustainable levels. These people, incapable and unwilling as they are to uphold the civilizational covenant of leading godly, lawful lives, are now being whipped up into homicidal frenzy by people who hate the covenant not because of what it does to the regular folks, but because of what it does to the elites. You see, civilization in general and the American civilization even more so, places limits on the powers of the powerful because it recognizes that the ultimate power belongs to the Creator.
The people who are now driving America’s destruction at the hands of the uncivilized mob are unwilling to accept these limits and they see an opportunity to remove them by destroying civilization itself.
Both Western tradition and progressive propaganda have often romanticized pre-civilizational, tribal living. Noble savage and all that. These people have never left Eden, they say. The truth of the matter is that behind the facade of papayas and bare bosoms there was the reality of starvation, superstition, constant internecine warfare, and early death. Just pull back the veil of Eden and you find yourself in the bowels of hell. Be it as it may, a return to this “Eden” is foreclosed to us. Pre-civilizational life does not come close to feeding and clothing the numbers of people that now inhabit our planet. But this will not stop the insanity of the destroyers. It never does. Not for them is the question “what then?”
They have no answer what will happen when they defund the police, destroy science by suborning it to their crazy ideology, or demoralize productive members of society to the point of having them say the hell with this I’m going home.
Just like in Russia and in Cuba, in Cambodia and in China, they will burn everything down to the ground, decimate a generation or two, set their countries and indeed the world back by many decades, and learn nothing at all in the process.
I doubt that the destruction of American civilization can be averted at this point, but people, as my own parents and grandparents have demonstrated, can survive civilizational collapse. Happy times are not ahead of us; this is a given. But we do not have to die. Survival depends on two things: recognizing change before it’s too late and being nimble enough, resourceful enough to act on that recognition.
My great grandparents failed to recognize the civilizational collapse that was the Bolshevik revolution. While many of their fellow Jews sold everything and moved to America, they stayed behind. As a result, both my grandfathers were killed fighting the Nazis and they got trapped in a cycle of hunger, evacuation, and many near death experiences.
My step grandfather failed to recognize before it was too late that the Germans of 1941 were not the Germans of 1914, so he turned down an offer to evacuate from Ukraine to Central Asia. As a result, he watched, hidden in the crowd, as his wife and two teenage sons were shot point-blank by the Waffen SS.
In the early 1970s, when the USSR was supposedly at the height of its post-war prowess, my father recognized that it was on the verge of collapse and took us to Israel. His sister laughed at his decision. Two decades later, there she was, hat in hand, on the steps of my parent’s villa, asking for help.
Be like my father, folks. When you see what is now happening in America, do not dismiss it as anything other than what it is: the destruction of the Republic. Be resourceful. Survive.