On the Decline of Civilization

In an idle moment, I stumbled upon this quote from JFK on wikiquote.org: “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

That got me thinking. Let’s just disregard for a moment whether or not you agree or disagree with the sentiment expressed. Let’s even dismiss that fact that someone else – a speech writer, perhaps – may have written this pithy little gem for JFK. We are still left with these logical conclusions:

  • FK was able to articulate this verbally and be understood by his public.
  • He most likely understood the essence of what he was saying.

Here’s the question that arises from this, for me: Can you imagine, in your wildest dreams, that George W. Bush would be capable of this? Or Stephen Harper, for that matter?

If not, then do we draw the conclusion that our society has allowed it self to settle for lesser leaders than those of the past? Or were those leaders just exceptional people who only surface every half century or so? Inquiring minds want to know.

3 thoughts on “On the Decline of Civilization

  1. “The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

    “The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. ”

    H.L. Mencken, 1920

  2. I think the “downright moron” goal was probably reached with Reagan. Bush has just proved that wasn’t a one-time fluke.

  3. I would agree that JFK probably well understood what he was saying, but to assume the general public understood, is giving the American voters way too much credit. H.L. Menchen’s quote of “as democracy is perfected” does not fit in this day and age. No one but the wealthy have any chance of ever running for a major office in the US , and the majority of those that have the money, have no desire for the modern day tabloid crap that anyone in that position has to put up with. If in America, or Canada, a common man could run on his personal beliefs and convictions and not on some half-assed party platform that they some-what agree with, we may some day have a real leader. If the country continues to pay athletes millions of dollars a year to entertain us, Maybe we should place a little higher monitary value on our leaders, and attract a actual intellect.

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