Well, are we in decline or not? The question of whether the West is past its prime is suddenly all the rage among the chattering classes. It's gone so far as to make it into high-level meetings between the leaders of the Western world. Even Barack Obama, on his European tour, chimed in
. . . it has become fashionable in some quarters to question whether the rise of these nations will accompany the decline of American and European influence around the world. Perhaps, the argument goes, these nations represent the future, and the time for our leadership has passed. That argument is wrong. The time for our leadership is now.
I suppose it would be tough, not to mention awkward, for the President of the United States—while touring Europe—to say anything else. Notably absent is any discussion of what decline actually means. No mention of the fact that the economic houses of the great Western powers and their citizens are teetering under the weight of previously unimaginable amounts of debt, while theBRIC nations
eat away at the previously solid ground beneath their foundation. If the West's house is not in decline, it certainly is not on an incline. There is also little discussion—despite all the rhetoric about "values"—of the discipline and virtue needed to maintain the great institutions of the West. Both the West, and the up-and-comers like China are content to limit our discussions to the type of conversation you hear in a ninth-grade changeroom: who's GDP is bigger? Whose is growing more quickly? A case in point: the Guardian, which published thestory
on Obama's response to suggestions of the "inexorable decline" of the West, also ran a story on how Chinese prisons areforcing prisoners to play computer games
. The prisoners are forced to win "virtual gold" in such games as World of Warcraft, so that the guards may then sell those credits for cold hard cash to gamers around the world. What an illustration! A nation which forces prisoners—many of them imprisoned for reasons of conscience rather than crime—to labour in front of a computer screen to aquire gold, which isn't even real, for gamers who want to cheat to get ahead in some banal game in the West. It would appear that whether you're on the decline like the West, or on the ascent like China, you're rotten to the core. Decline? Yes.But that's been happening for some time now