Dying Cultures

I often wondered if generations before us have felt this same sense of impending doom that our epoch currently feels. I don’t wonder about it anymore because I have come to the sad conclusion that, yes, of course past peoples felt the dark hand of Death coming for them … because it was coming for them. It comes for us all.

The difference is not only that I am here observing this happening around me, making the feeling seem real and new and unique to me and my own short life on Earth, but also the realization that our media makes it possible for us all to feel the Hand of Death – from the locked -in Facebook junkie to the nomad in the netbar.

Individuals facing death is one thing … Cultures facing death is another. The loss of a culture, a language, a set of traditions seems so much more horrifying. Horror in the Heart of Darkness sense, not in the Nightmare on Elm Street sense. True inescapable horror.

I once heard an Islamist say that he and his people would use horror to defeat the West. At the time I saw it as the horror of suicide and blood in the Nightmare sense … blood is horrifying. But now. Now I see that he meant the horror of a billion screams for mercy sense. The horror of a culture that sees no place for itself in the future.

When the last nomad sells his horse

Spengler has a book that talks all about the Death of Civilizations. He attributes it to apathy about the future and a lack of a true belief. He argues that Christianity (Judeo-Christian Gods) are the answer. Basically, modern life crushes traditions and traditions are the bones of culture. Without ceremonies and traditonal practices to anchor us together as a community we drift away from each other and face the world alone. Cultures that lose those traditions disappear.

That’s why Tibetans set themselves on fire. That’s why Muslims blow themselves up.

They are screaming out to the rest of us that, as we march on toward a future with no true faith, they are left behind to die a slow death. So some of them scream out at us in fury and horror and a sorrow that bespeaks a loneliness few can imagine. We are a rootless tribe, we backpacking Westerners in search of truth.

How many times have I seen us attempt to band together, to create our own ceremonies, to establish our own rites only to have the “new Tribe” disintegrate under the onslaught of futility. Two homies of mine aren’t riding anymore. If they don’t get back on the horse, then I know we’re done for.


The world shrinks and we get farther and farther apart. We have to come to terms with this inescapable fact.

In fact the more I look around China the more I believe that Americans (and some Europeans) are trying to export this death to China. China is a nasty ugly place, make no mistake about it. But they have a community and a culture that can withstand virtually any bombardment. To be “Chinese” is a rock in an ocean of uncertainty. I am glad I am not Chinese, because my own experience would rebel and most likely self-immolate if placed inside Chinese-dom. But I envy them their certainty.

What an amazing challenge they face. To maintain culture, demographics, economic growth and stability in the face of an all-out assault on national culture, Chinese ascendance and the system of governance they have now. China must practice cultural genocide in Tibet because to allow the Tibetan model of simplicity and faith to survive will threaten the Han model of complex consumption and national conformity.

There is a geographic element to this argument that I think many expats might understand. We (the expats) do not feel at home anywhere really. There are comfortable places and ideal situations, but there is no home. There is no community that accepts and embraces and longs for our return.

I wrote this a long time ago:

“We now have the choice to survive these next four years and emerge as a nation, or to disintegrate into bands of nomadic philanthropists and venture capitalists, roaming the earth in search of a legacy.”

America: the Last Hope

Spengler feels that America is the West’s last hope for cultural continuity in the face of world-wide apathetic (and not so apathetic) acceptance of Death. We still have more than 2 kids per family, on average. We have a lot of land to mess with. And even with all of the bullshit, America is still pretty rich and powerful.


America has a special brand of Christianity that, in Spengler’s opinion, is immune to the all-around sadness that is killing faith everywhere else.

Sounds pretty simplistic and self-serving doesn’t it? Spengler the American Jew claiming that Israel and it’s bodyguard, the religious right in the US, hold the keys to the future. Spengler says some other amazing things. Like the resistance to a universal Christian Empire was a mistake and that female literacy is a huge reason why cultures die – because educated women aren’t interested in extended periods of pregnancy, breastfeeding and motherhood.Ā Subservience to the Christians and a “re-assessment” of female literacy being the unspoken solutions to the death of a civilization.

True? Perhaps. Insane? Perhaps.

But basically what Spengler wants is community. Tradition. Culture. His personal preference is for Jewish-style community. All good, feel free.

But what other alternatives are there, for Westerners? Can a religion be founded in this day and age and maintain itself for more than a generation before it succumbs, disintegrates, goes ballistic? We don’t know.

And that’s why we shouldn’t ask for whom the bell tolls when a Tibetan goes up in flames or a Muslim explodes into tiny fragments. Without an alternative to nihilism, we all face the Hand of Death.


Picture of Sascha Matuszak
Sascha Matuszak

2 thoughts on “Dying Cultures

  1. You, sir, are a wordsmith of insane evokery. I always get so much out of your posts. I even schedule which train stations I’m going to read them between to get maximum uninterrupted time to focus on them. Thanks šŸ™‚

  2. wow that’s some love. i usually just consider this to be a sounding board for stuff i don’t quite understand yet, but its nice and kinda scary to know people just might read the things you write down

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