Saturday, July 19, 2008

Culture Change

Most often, change, atleast on a social level, occurs the way Max Planck described it: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." Years ago I read Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West. It's a long book, from which I really remember only one image. I think Spengler pleased at which one. A culture is like a plant growing in a particular soil. When the soil is exhausted--presuming a closed system (i.e., the soil isn't being replenished)--the plant dies. Cultures--or atleast historical (as opposed to cyclical) cultures--are the same. The Roman empire exhausted its possibilities (both physical, in terms of resources , and psychic or spiritual), then hung on decadent--I mean this in its deeper sense of decaying, although the meaning having to do with debauchery works, too--for a thousand years. Other empires are the same. The British Empire. The American Empire. Civilization itself has continued to grow by expanding the zone from which it takes resources. The plant has gotten pretty big, but at the cost of a lot of dead soil.

I think the exhausted soil metaphor works for individuals, too: they don't generally change until they've exhausted the possibilities of their previous way of being. Endgame, pg. 89


Filip T. said...

I like the metaphor you used here. A plant that uses up all the nutrients in the soil around it.

Very cool. I will have to remember that.

Curt said...

Filip T,

I'm glad that you can find that metaphor useful. That quote has stuck with me since I first read "Endgame".