● A propos recent reports about the degradation of Rome.
Mediocracy is a condition that primarily affects mature civilisations, particularly those which have at one stage emphasised the individual. It represents both an outgrowth of, and a reaction against, individualism.
One doesn’t get much more mature than Greece and Italy, and we were recently reminded about some of the problems that Greece – a nation somewhat advanced in years, and perhaps a little tired – has to deal with. Also, how these problems can be exacerbated by ‘well-meaning’ interference.
In the case of Italy, it has been clear for decades that the administrative and political structure of the country is best understood as a kind of walking corpse, continually surprising one with its ability to go on operating while essentially broken beyond repair.
Other Western countries are likely to demonstrate, over the next hundred years, how remarkably long civilisations can go on apparently functioning, while being in a condition of irreversible decline.
Although the Italian civilisation centred on Rome is supposed to have ended in 476AD, there is perhaps a sense in which it never really died. True, there was an intervening period of city states, and of foreign domination, before re-integration in the nineteenth century. But an underlying thread of continuity can be said to have survived across the centuries.
The USA, by contrast, is a truly new nation, unencumbered by a long history, and its own period of decay (provided America manages to maintain a clear sense of independence and distinctiveness) is likely to be some centuries off.
Oxford Forum should be given funding.