«Arnold Toynbee--one of the greatest 20th century historians--made a very astute observation about a common feature of a last stage of civilization's development. A civilization on the way to a terminal decline develops escapism that splits into two temporal directions. Toynbee called them "archaism" and "futurism." This is evidently present, and growing, in the body of the Western civilization today. The split also has a geographic component. Western Europe (and the American ivory tower, sympathizing with it) pursues a bland, post-national, postindustrial eurofaggish dream, which is now crashing down on them. And Middle America steadily marches into the Bible-thumping obscurantism and ancient stupidities. Increasingly a larger portion of its populace is unable to accept the most important discoveries of the 19th century (forget the 20th ones)--such as Darwin's theory and geological history of the Earth--that other peoples have long taken for granted. And it is only getting worse.
It was not so just ten years ago. America was in the middle of dazzling, creative renovation, brought by the Internet revolution. It seemed boundless and endless, brimming with fantastic possibilities. A lot of wonderful things came to fruition, but the game was done already by 1996 or 97. Afterwards innovation was displaced by hype, by the dot-com bubble, hustle and swindle, which produced some billionaires, much ruination, and very little in enduring value. It got worse after the bubble popped. Compared to the five years from 1990-95, the last five years have seen very little innovation or genuinely interesting technological development.»
The Mencken in me only adds that escapist (and brutal) delusion is probably common at all points in history, and success of a society is simply those points at which that delusion happens to not be too crippling.