The Warning Lights Are Growing Brighter

A recent Facebook post aimed at the under-50 demographic prompted a smile and a chuckle for its innate wisdom.  “Y’all better enjoy your 20s, 30s, and 40s.  Because in your 50s, that check engine light is gonna come on.”

How true!

I might add you can also expect an unwelcome guest to show up — and never leave — Arthur-Itis.  Your joints will also start making such noises prompting family members to look for the WD-40. Your eyeglasses will require new prescriptions every year, and one of the most common responses in your vocabulary will become “What?

Our body’s warning lights grow in frequency and intensity as we age. Welcome to geezerhood.

This meme about old age got me thinking about our culture and the warning lights we might see (or ignore). Cultures and Civilizations have life spans too. For example, Greek, Roman, and Mayan cultures had their day and later their decay. Do we think Western Civilization will be any different?

Alexander Fraser Tyler (1747-1813), a Scottish historian, said, 

The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from great courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.”

More recently, historian Sir John Grubb, in his 1976 book, The Fall of Empires, noted six “Ages” of the rise and fall of a civilization.  It starts with the Age of Pioneers, followed by the Age of Conquest, the Age of Commerce, the Age of Affluence, the Age of Intellect, and finds its end in the Age of Decadence. What does the Age of Decadence look like?  Grubb explains.

Frivolity, aestheticism, hedonism, cynicism, pessimism, narcissism, consumerism, materialism, nihilism, fatalism, fanatics and other negative behaviours and attitudes suffuse the population. Politics is increasingly corrupt, life increasingly unjust. A cabal of insiders accrues wealth and power at the expense of the citizens, fostering a fatal opposition of interests between haves and have nots. The majority lives for bread and circuses (panem et circusem); they worship celebrities instead of divinities… throw off social and moral restraints — especially sexuality; shirk duties but insist on entitlements.

Sound familiar?

Are there warning lights going off for us? Are we in America already in the Age of Decadence?

  • 40% of births in the US now occur outside marriage.
  • There was a 30% increase in reportable STDs between 2015 and 2019. And today, the CDC reports that 1 in 5 Americans have an STD.
  • Since 1970, the number of children raised by single mothers has doubled. 
  • In the last 60 years, the number of black children raised by single mothers skyrocketed from just over 20% to more than 70%.
  • 44% of marriages end in divorce.
  • Birth rates in the US have declined by 20% in the past 13 years.
  • The percentage of the population in the middle class dropped from 61% to 52% in the past 50 years.
  • 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography.  The Relationships in America data reveal that 43 percent of men and 9 percent of women report watching pornography in the past week. 
  • The earliest exposure to porn, on average, is age 11.
  • 93% of boys are exposed to porn before they turn 18.
  • Pediatric suicide attempts (individuals ages 6 to 19) using toxic substances rose by 26% between 2015 and 2020.
  • To celebrate his state’s passage in 2019 of the Reproductive Health Act — which allows abortion at any time during pregnancy — then-Governor Cuomo ordered the lighting up in pink of key New York landmarks. Ironically, in nearby New Jersey, a legislator introduced legislation to prohibit the slaughter of pregnant cows.
  • The cancel culture in America is having a dampening effect on free speech as progressive notions justify efforts to silence open debate. Earlier in March 2022, more than 100 Yale Law School students protested a bipartisan panel on civil liberties by shouting down and disrupting the event.  Police had to escort the speakers off-campus.

If these warning signals don’t give you pause, check your pulse, you might be dead.

Today’s dominant philosophy in Western Civilization can best be described as post-modernism — essentially believing that nothing is sacred and there is no such thing as objective fact.  “Everything’s relative” is its mantra. The moral implications are that nothing is taboo, and everything is permissible. Tolerance is a virtue though it’s ok to be absolutely intolerant to those who insist on the reality of absolute truth. We are living in an age of meaninglessness.  Yes, some might even say, the Age of Decadence.

Whether we are talking about our physical bodies or civilization, there are signs (bells, whistles, lights) that go off when things take a turn for the worse. Restoring health requires dealing with the root causes and not just the symptoms.  And just like a car, one needs to check the owner’s manual for how to maintain the full functionality of the vehicle.

Does life have an owner’s manual?

If there is a God and we are created in His image and designed for a purpose, should we not consult His owner’s manual for how to live?

Otherwise, we are left with only one option — living a meaningless life amidst the menacing glow of check engine lights in an age of decadence.

President Ronald Reagan once reminded us, 

Without God, there is no virtue because there’s no prompting of the conscience. And without God, democracy will not and cannot endure. If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” 

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  1. Katy Hall

    So so true, Buddy, and scary enough to make my stomach hurt. It’s astonishing how fast we are sliding downhill. And so very discouraging. Thanks for your thoughts.


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