Reflections On The Downward Spiral Of Modern Society

In 1961, Arnold J. Toynbee (April 14, 1889 – October 22, 1975) wrote A Study Of History, in which he theorized that civilizations pass through a series of stages: genesis, growth, time of troubles, universal state, and disintegration.  Carroll Quigley (November 9, 1910 – January 3, 1977) would later expand upon Toynbees’ theory with his The Evolution Of Civilizations.

Quigley theorized that human culture produces patterns of beliefs, actions, and thought, that are passed on through tradition.  The 6 divisions of human potentialities are military, political, economic, social, religious, and intellectual.  The book, which was written in 1961, predicts that modern society is on the verge of universal empire, which is characterized by growing class conflicts, decline in democracy, dying science, a decrease in inventiveness, growing irrationality, foreign entanglements, and sweeping religious movements.

My father always told me that the world was changing.  He said that with every new generation came with it, less and less respect and regard for the generations which came before them.  Until I too became an adult, I did not believe him, even though he would certainly have known better than I.  It seems to me that every new generation disrespects their previous generations more and more with each coming generation.

When I was a child, I was raised with moral values, manners, and respect for my elders, and respect for my peers.  When I was sent to school, I had to be on my best behavior, or face unavoidable consequences that were clear and enforced.  There was never a time where I can say that I was able to act out without facing some sort of repercussions, and somehow it seemed that my parents always had a way of finding out that I was in trouble, even if I was not the one to tell them.

I’m not alone when I say that today, our society has been literally turned upside down, and there is no individual cause onto which I can place the blame.  It seems that everywhere one looks, we are surrounded by celebrities on television telling us how to raise our children, and with our schedules now busier than ever, our children learn most of what they know about life from reality shows and the media.  Wholesome television programming that once taught values, respect, and manners has since been replaced with garbage television shows that now promote upset and disrespect towards one another.

There is also a complete and total lack of good and responsible parenting in modern society, where children get away with misbehaving, and nothing is done by the parents due to fear of how a little bit of necessary discipline will be viewed by outside parties.  It is almost as if modern parenting is stifled by fear of what will happen if they practice discipline through old-fashioned parenting techniques commonly practiced during the upbringing of my generation, and countless generations before.

As children during my generation, we did not get away with bad behavior because our parents, our neighbors, and our friends parents were not afraid to communicate their observations with our own parents, and any misbehavior would be dealt with immediately.  It seems that the elders of my generation were not afraid to report back to our parents as to our behavior and actions and allow them to be dealt with, or rewarded, accordingly.

As a nation, we have grown accustomed to following what the media has to say in every possible way.  We look to the media for the basis of our role models, and to set an example.  When I was a child, the media was a respectful industry, one who promoted good values, and good will.  We allow and accept that celebrities will serve as role models and will dictate how we eat, dress, act, and live.  Gone are the concepts and values of trust, responsibility, loyalty, and good values; instead we are reminded constantly that we need to seek out large sums of money, because money brings power and everything else that we desire and need in life.

I fear that one day, I may see what my father has seen, and that is a society that is so far from the society that raised him that he no longer is able to recognize or cope with the current state of society.  A society that is so backwards and alien to him that he is no longer able to accept or understand what has happened, and at the same time, unsure of what, if anything, can be done to prevent its further decline.


  • Douglas Campbell

    “The book, which was written in 1961, predicts that modern society is on the verge of universal empire, which is characterized by growing class conflicts, decline in democracy, dying science, a decrease in inventiveness, growing irrationality, foreign entanglements, and sweeping religious movements.
    Growing class conflict is caused by rising expectations
    More people world wide live in more democratic societies than at any time in history. Far more.
    Science is more wide spread and has knowledge increasing at an ever faster rate.
    There is more inventiveness now than at any previous time.
    I have no comment on growing irrationality.
    With the changes in transport and communication and international trade comes foreign entanglements.
    Sweeping religious movements – The dominant religion is dying in Europe. Christianity is spreading in Africa. Is communism, socialism, statism, a religious movement? Radical Islam is sweeping and Islam has bloody borders from the Philippines to Morocco.

  • Linda Strickler

    This is an excellent essay with which I totally agree. I think the loss of community and family life that have been replaced with TV and internet means children are left to try to figure things out without sensible, caring parental help. So rather than becoming ciivilized, they instead run in packs like animals and have brought fear to those of us who come into contact with them. When I was a child if I ever were to misbehave, any adult in our neighbourhood could tell me off and I would be absolutely mortified! Today no one dares say anything and now those who are in power have the same attitudes. Me me me and dishonesty and hiding their motives and power/money seem to be the driving forces. Oh and the whole violent/gun culture…

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