The Seeds of Decline

By A. G. Moore 3/12/2013

Our Homeless Poor
, Library of Congress

Image from Wikipedia
Public Domain

A recent Wall Street Journal article about increasing homelessness in the U. S emphasizes a stark reality: the country is becoming more stratified; divisions between the classes are more dramatic; and the trend toward decreased social mobility is entrenched in the culture.

Some of the statistics cited by the Journal are: homelessness among families increased by double digits in Boston, New York and D.C. over the last several years.

There is a hard-heartedness in the willingness of a culture to tolerate homelessness in it’s young. Implicit in this callousness is the message that some among us are expendable. A calculation has been made that a permanent underclass will not undermine the national character. Indeed, it seems that some with privilege consider the existence of this underclass to be essential to their well-being. It is from the desperate that cheap labor can be culled, service demanded.

One does not need tea leaves to divine the future of a nation that heads down the path of gross economic and social inequity. History portends the future. The record is rife with cultures that have rotted from within, cultures in which an elite fed indifferently upon the misery of a multitude.

No matter how starved an underclass, there is always energy left over for resentment. And this energy can be focused with laser intensity on the object of its anger.

No matter how high the walls of a secure enclave, no guard can keep from the privileged the diseases that fester in the crowded precincts of the multitude.

No matter how rapacious the überclass, economic progress is not possible in a society which has stagnated because purchasing power evaporated for the vast majority of the population.

No matter how large the police force, or the military, no amount of enforcement can keep common transportation routes safe in a culture steeped in desperation.

These arguments against economic inequity of course appeal to the practical in all of us. But one would hope that we are a people not so lost that the moral argument is irrelevant. One would hope that there is still a sense of common purpose among people of one nation, that there is among us a sense of shared responsibility toward our young. Lacking that basic threshold of decency (are we there already?) then I turn to self interest for action.

Beware the fate of cultures that have perished, not at the hand of an invading army but as a consequence of their own greed and moral decay. Beware the Romans, beware the Russians, the French and the Ottomans. As these fallen behemoths reveal, corruption insinuates itself into the fiber of a people. And this kind of corruption, like the wood of an insect-infested structure, eventually brings the house down.

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