Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, July 29, 2023

MVNews this week:  Page 11


Mountain Views-News Saturday, July 29, 2023 


Love JACK Cheese?

Here is JACK! He's another one 
of our 4 "Cheese Babies." They 
were born in May and are being 
fostered with much love, so 
that they are sweet and friendly. 
You can see that Jack is a beautiful 
light orange boy. Last week I 
featured one of the girls, FONTINA. 
There are 2 more: another 
boy and another girl, so be on the lookout for them, too. 
(Spoiler alert: They're all on our website's Very Young page.) 
We would like them to be adopted in pairs. See them all at, the Very Young page. Choose 2, or 
1 if you already have a young feline friend at home. They are 
2 months old and will be already spayed/neutered, tested, 
vaxxed, chipped, and more. The adoption application is on our website, as well. Pick up 
your favorite cheeses now! 

Written in 2000, Morris 
Berman’s book is an insightful 
look at American 
culture, and perhaps where 
we are going as a culture.

His title word, “twilight,” 
suggests we’re on the decline. Berman takes 
great pains to define everything along the 
way so the reader knows precisely what he’s 
thinking. He says that this is not some sort 
of academic exercise, rather, this is an effort 
to get at the most critical questions about 
who we are as Americans today, and where 
we are going as a culture.

Do you think we’re in decline?

He quotes Neil Postman, author of “Amusing 
Ourselves to Death,” in his introduction:

“When a population becomes distracted by 
trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a 
per-petual round of entertainments, when 
serious public conversation becomes a form 
of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become 
an audience and their public business 
a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at 
risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

Does that sound like us?

Berman covers a lot of territory in his book, 
and often makes references to the fall of the 
Roman Empire. He quotes many other authors 
who look at what’s happening in the 
U.S., just so that we can all agree on the facts 
and not kid ourselves that things are really 
OK. Some examples of this decline are the 
crumbling school system and widespread 
func-tional illiteracy, violent crime, gross 
economic inequity, apathy, cynicism, and 
what he terms “spiritual death.”

Either coincidentally or by design, Berman 
observes that the U.S. is evolving into 
a corporate oligarchy that merely wears the 
trappings of a democracy. (I wonder what 
Berman has to say about a candidate for 
president who brags about wanting to move 
the Presidency closer to a dictator, with his 
followers greatly approving?)

So Berman explains a little about the Roman 
Empire, and every state that has ever exist-
ed. He tells us that declines is inevitable and 
comes to each and every civilization, and it 
is only our arrogance to think that we can 
avoid this decline. Berman quotes Joseph 
Tainter, from his book “The Collapse of 
Complex Societies,” pointing out that the 
combination of hierarchy, specialization, 
and bureaucracy takes more and more resources, 
and the trend is always towards the 
more complex, along with increasing class 
differences, greater costs, and more technology. 
Collapse is inevitable, according to Berman 
and the many authors he cites.

As societies weaken and decline, according 
to Berman, “The strong savage the weak, and 
there is no longer any higher goal than survival. 
Literacy may be lost entirely, or decline 
so dramatically that a dark age is inevitable.”

He points out that when resources got scarce 
in past smaller societies, they simply moved 
on. But today everyone wants to stay where 
they are. He explains that the solution – 
short term at least, is to “go vertical, that is 
generate another level of hierarchal control 
to solver your problems – a process that 
never ends. The whole thing is cumula-tive. 
Taxes rarely go down; information processing 
gets denser. Standing armies get larger, 
not smaller, and bureaucracies grow rather 
than shrink. Elites want – and get – more 
and more of the pie…”

Berman spends much of his time detailing 
the four factors that seem to always be present 
when a civilization collapses:

1. Accelerating social and economic 

2. Declining marginal returns with regard 
to investing in organizational solutions to 
social-economic problems;

3. Rapidly dropping levels of literacy, critical 
understanding, and general intellectual 

4. Spiritual death – that is, Spengler’s classicism: 
the emptying out of cultural content 
and the freezing (or repackaging) of it in formulas 
– kitsch, in short.

Berman devotes many pages to backing up 
these factors with specific details, such as the 
great gap of income between CEOs and ordinary 
workers, how the upper top 1% income 
earners own more and more, problems with 
Social Security staying solvent, and many 
more examples.

He spends considerable time demonstrating 
these four aspects of cultural decline, so that 
his thesis is not simply a matter of opinion. 

There are many parallels to the Roman 
Empire, as well, so the entire book makes a 
lively discussion about where we are today as 
a country. Berman is somewhat of an optimist, 
and you realize that a culture in decline 
doesn’t necessary speed downhill, but that 
there can be many twists and turns along the 
way, what Berman calls transformations.

In the end, he tells us that cultural decline 
has happened to all cultures throughout history 
and that there is nothing we can do to 
stop that decline. But he does provide positive 
ideas for things that each of us can do, 
daily, in our own lives. 

Berman suggests that in our daily choices we 
eschew such TV shows that are silly enter-
tainment, and rather choose to view quality 
education instead. He suggests that we get 
more involved in things that truly make a 
difference, such as small town radio, the arts, 
local periodicals. In truth, Berman is short 
on the details, but does provide many exam-
ples of those people who he feels are doing 
the right thing as the culture declines. 

His main thesis is that people who persisted 
with quality actions in bad times set the 
stage for a future renaissance, even if that 
renaissance is hundreds of years in the future. 
He cites the Irish monasteries that persevered 
literacy after the fall of the Roman 
Empire, and set the stage for the renaissance 
in a few hundred years. He calls such people 
New Mo-nastic Individuals, the root of the 
solution to a country in decline. 

Berman is not optimistic that the decline can 
be reversed, but he is very sure that we do 
not know exactly how it will play out. Still, 
there are many options along the way that 
individuals can and should do. I strongly 
recommend this book, and encourage you to 
use it as a study guide.

In future columns, I will share what a few 
other authors have to say about this subject, 
and what we can all do about it.

Review of 


by Morris Berman

Pet of the Week

Bella is a 5-year-old lab/shepherd mix who is ready to find 
her best friend. She is a very mellow girl- she likes sniffing 
around and exploring. Her nose is finely tuned to seek 
out snacks and she will not let up until she has completely 
cleaned up everything she can find. Bella knows some 
basic commands, but her preferred trick is to follow you 
around and bat her big brown eyes or nudge you with her 
nose until you give her a reward. She is just as content to 
just get pets or scratches as she is to get a tasty treat. Bella 
recently went on a field trip with one of our volunteers and 
had such a great day! She got to go for a car ride, which 
was so much fun. She met tons of people and sat patiently 
for pets. This sweet girl has a very loving personality and 
adores every person she has met. She’s not much of a fan 
of other dogs, though, so she should be the only dog in the 
home. Bella is eligible for the Seniors for Seniors program. 
Any dog or cat over five years old can be adopted for free 
to any adopter over 60.

 The adoption fee for dogs is $150. All dog adoptions include spay or 
neuter, microchip, and age-appropriate vaccines. New adopters will receive 
a complimentary health-and-wellness exam from VCA Animal Hospitals, as 
well as a goody bag filled with information about how to care for your pet. 
View photos of adoptable pets and schedule an adoption appointment at Adoptions are by appointment only, and new adoption 
appointments are available every Sunday and Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. 
Pets may not be available for adoption and cannot be held for potential adopters by phone 
calls or email. 

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