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The West is in a Trance

By Barry Casselman

Western society appears to be in a hypnotic state. In every sector of the inhabited world, the multiple and varied civilizations of humanity are undergoing great change.

The recent discovery of jewelry objects of 75,000 year-old prehistoric Africa, predating hitherto earliest similar objects by 30,000 years, illustrates why it is difficult for us, living in this time of unprecedented velocity of change, to grasp the full nature of this change.

The human species, according to scientists, was set into its motion millions of years ago. So-called history itself is only about 5,000-10,000 years old. The transformation of our species has always appeared to take place in an incredibly slow manner. Physical evolution itself required thousands of generations for us to climb its genetic ladder, as subspecies and attributes, no longer viable, were discarded and new skills necessary for survival were added.

The illustration already mentioned, a 30,000-year period during which the evidence of crude and simple jewelry suggests that human life itself apparently changed little, is mind-boggling to us who live in a world where immense new concepts and applications in medicine, physics and astronomy are taking place almost daily.

It is no wonder that the West, for a few centuries the dominant force on the planet, is in a political trance. The East, which dominated much of the civilized world 1,000 years ago (when Europe was paralyzed in its "Dark Ages"), now appears to return as a pivotal force in the world as the ancient countries of China and India, by force of their populations and skills, assert themselves.

After centuries of raging strife, war and violence against itself, Europe seemed to be on the verge of political transformation by inaugurating the European Union. But the end of the Cold War has brought back many of its contradictions, pretensions and prejudices, as prosperity drew so many from its impoverished former colonies to settle in Europe. Its resentment against the United States, after enjoying the New World's protection and assistance for much of the 20th century, portends a difficult relationship in the 21st century, as the two foundations of the West face the competition from the East, and the threat from Islamofascist terrorism.

I am increasingly convinced that the West is in denial of what is truly happening in the world. This self-delusion is the most dangerous response possible to the intense and rapid change all over the planet. This self-denial takes many forms, including obsessions with abstract issues of little real consequence, e.g., animal rights, capital punishment, celebrity gossip, political correctness, etc. It is accompanied by the rise of secular mandates and the suppression of spiritual values. It exhibits excesses of greed that threaten both capitalism and representative government.

The malign forces that conspire against the West (in contrast to the benign forces which only wish to compete with it), however, are not paralyzed. They are moving and growing at great speed.

September 11 was only the most recent earthquake in the West's somnambulism. More are coming. We must always remember that the Earth's core is hot and molten. Volcanoes and earthquakes are the cryptic messages that this Earth core incessantly sends to the surface, and to all who dwell on it.

Our "old" planet, of course, is not so very old in the scheme of the known universe, and our species is not so very old as a dweller on the land and voyager on the sea -- and recently, a passenger in the air.

Every great civilization has its day. A few have more than one day. But no civilization or people has all the days to themselves.

This trance is no accident.

Barry Casselman writes about national politics for Preludium News Service.

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