A popularly controversial statement:
A century ago the Renaissance Civilization died. Or rather the War of 1914 to 1919 dealt a fatal blow. It took most of a century for the civilization to totter off and be replaced by whatever it is we have now. The civilization that had in half a millennium conquered the world destroyed itself in a bloody pointless war that was less a crusade than a suicide pact. In many countries the fathers were lost and the grandparents were shorn of any moral authority. Not so much a chain that was broken as a maille with almost an entire row of links taken out. And twenty years later another row severely damaged. Much was lost. Much more forgotten or rejected. In many ways the United States is an outlier. It was not so singed passing between the two fire of the World wars.
This seems obvious to me, but it can be demonstrated by a few examples:
In 1900, with one and a half exceptions Western nations were monarchies. Now the few remaining monarchies are poor lost things. [I count France 1900 as half because it had changed back and forth several times and there were probably more monarchists than republicans. The monarchists were split, though, between the followers of the old monarchy and those claiming Napoleon.]
1900 massively practicing Christian. 2000 most Western countries are full of empty churches and Atheists believe themselves to be the future.
1900 We were very racist. Whites were viewed as better than Blacks. Aristocracy was better than commoner. Royalty was believed to be paramount.
2000 Even the expression ‘Old Family’ seems nonsensical.
1900 The upper classes were expected to serve in the military. It was viewed as the price of their status or as expected from those who REALLY constituted society.
2000 The richer sort of folk eschew military service. A candidate for high office in the US can say, ‘If you don’t study you will get stuck in Iraq.’
1900 Things were built to last. Durable goods such as furniture and buildings were expected to last as heirlooms. Firearms were maid of forged and milled steel and walnut and finished in ways that people are still trying to duplicate.
2000 With much better knowledge goods are considered disposable. A computer is thought to be obsolete before it is used. Data from a decade ago is hard to read. Software continuity is considered a problem. Apple products do not even have replaceable batteries. The Li-Ion cells aren’t expected to last a decade. Firearms are made of cheap alloys and plastics. Not a bad idea, but even the people making them don’t describe them as the best materials. In short engineering has gone from the permanent to the inexpensive. I don’t say this is bad, but it is a change. Then again, I don’t know if I want a 2000 AD engineer designing a dam.
1900 Educated people are expected to learn Latin. At least enough to fake. They view themselves as an international elite. Law pleas and doctrine are often in Latin. No Lo Contendere, Caveat Emptor. Medicine was in Latin or Greek. Homeostasis. Arthritis. Neurology.
2000 The Latin an Greek are washed away. American and German physicians communicate in English if at all.
Arts and traditions became vulnerable to subversive and silly memes.
1900 Literature is considered to be authors trying to express ideas.
2000 Deconstructive criticism considers the author’s opinion of the meaning of the work to be pointless, even misleading.
1900 For thousands of years poetry has been popular and consists of meter, rhyme, and alliteration. Tricks for memory and elocution.
2000 Poetry has become prose with pretension. It lacks meter, rhyme, and alliteration. Free verse used to be unrhymed iambic pentameter. Now it is just text. For that matter. When was the last great American poet? Frost? Sandberg? They were born before the catastrophe.
1900 Marxism was not taken seriously.
2000 Marxism is taken seriously after causing the deaths of, what, 2e8 people? Many governmental fads flourished when the hidebound but stable forms showed their flaw in self destruction.
More is easy to show, but it grows tiresome.
I don’t think the previous civilization was ideal or even better than ours. In many ways ours is heavenly in comparison. I just want to show how they differ. It is important to see how a civilization commits suicide in ways that seem impossible. Charles used to say war was impossible because it made no economic sense. Nonetheless it happens. We poured trillions into Iraq for what I deemed a foolish strategy. No we pour trillions into Afghanistan for no discernible strategy. Is it so hard to believe that foolish leaders could march us into a new conflagration? This is why World War One is important.