The following characterization of the demise of autocratic political societies was written by the Japanese political satirist Nakae Chomin in1887 attacking a stubbornly despotic government in his country. As our country becomes increasingly autocratic, run by the wealthy few who are gradually and with fixed purpose disenfranchizing the voting population, who couldn’t care less, I was struck by the sober truths in this passage.
“Even in this case another and even more dreadful source of disease arises. What is it? People support themselves by their labor, submit part of their income to the government, and consequently feel their duties to the state are completely fulfilled. They grow indifferent. Scholars think only of perfecting their writings. Artists think only of polishing their skills. Those engaged in agriculture, industry, and commerce think only of high profits and become indifferent to everything else. Under these circumstances, the function of the brain gradually shrinks, and the complete human being is reduced to a mere digester of food. In other words, the scholar’s writings, the artist’s skills, the works of those engaged in agriculture, industry, and commerce eventually become sediments at the bottom of a barrel, without vitality or change. The entire nation becomes a mere lump of slimy, jelly like flesh.”
He wasn’t thinking of the United States in 2013, of course, but the prediction is a bit chilling none the less.