In his New York Times column Friday, David Brooks is worried about what might be the ultimate big picture: the collapse of Western civilization. He sees the signs all over, particularly in the rise of "strong men" around the world such as Vladimir Putin, Turkey's Recep Erdogan, Kim Jong Un, and, yes, our own president. "While running for office, Donald Trump violated every norm of statesmanship built up over these many centuries, and it turned out many people didn't notice or didn't care," writes Brooks. Modern governments, he adds, are beginning to resemble "premodern mafia states, run by family-based commercial clans." He's also worried about the rise of fringe parties, as can be seen in the presence of Marine Le Pen in France, and the "collapse of liberal values at home," as seen in the shouting down of speakers at college campuses.
"These days, the whole idea of Western civ is assumed to be reactionary and oppressive," he concludes. "All I can say is, if you think that was reactionary and oppressive, wait until you get a load of the world that comes after it." At the BBC, Rachel Nuwer paints a similarly dark picture after interviewing scientists and historians about the long-term prospects for Western societies. The two main themes are growing economic and ecological stresses, but she does end with a hint of hope, summing up the view of one of her interviewees: "Western civilization is not a lost cause, however. Using reason and science to guide decisions, paired with extraordinary leadership and exceptional goodwill, human society can progress to higher and higher levels of well-being and development." Click for Brooks' column, and for Nuwer's.