Reminds me of the change that took place towards the end of second century Rome:
We are apt to wonder to-day at the great political and national developments that have altered the whole aspect of Europe since the French Revolution, and to reflect rather idly on their rapidity. Yet the past has its own stories of rapid change, and not the least striking of them Is the disappearance of that world of thought which we call Classical. By 180 A.D. nearly every distinctive mark of classical antiquity is gone–the old political ideas, the old philosophies, the old literatures, and much else with them. Old forms and names remain–there are still consuls and archons, poets and philosophers, but the atmosphere is another,and the names have a new meaning, if they have any at all. But the mere survival of the names hid for many the fact that they were living in a new era. (T.R. Glover, The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire. Boston: Beacon Press, 1909., p. 196)
The rigid continuity of American history–one constitution, no violent overthrows or even a meanginful suspension of same constitution, and an educational system whose civics teachers lull their students into naïvité and a false sense of security–make it easy to ignore the real changes that are taking place. We may still have a President, Senate, House and Supreme Court. But whether we still have the equality of opportunity–to say nothing of those Creator endowed inalienable rights–that are quintissentially American is another story altogether.
One other change that bodes ill is our obsession with laws unaccompanied by an equal obsession with personal integrity. I discussed this relative to Bernard Madoff, but the ancient historian Polybius observed the following:
“…This is the reason why, apart from anything else, Greek statesmen, if entrusted with a single talent, though protected by ten checking-clerks, as many seals and twice as many witnesses, yet cannot be induced to keep faith ; whereas among the Romans, in their magistracies and embassies, men have the handling of a great amount of money, and yet from pure respect to their oath keep their faith intact.” (quoted in ibid, p. 4)
It’s important to note that our Founding Fathers, well versed in classical history and literature, understood the importance of a society built on personal integrity and not just a plethora of laws. Evangelicals are quick to attribute this solely to their Biblical base, but in reality there’s more to it than that, much to the dissappointment of both sides of the debate. It seems that we’re going the “Greek” way these days (in more ways than one) and, this time, we may just not beat the Persians (and other competitors) the way they did.