The Thinnest Veneer of Civilization

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

Civilization is fragile. It hinges on ensuring the stuff of life.

To be able to eat, to move about, to have shelter, to be free from state or tribal coercion, to be secure abroad, and safe at home—only that allows cultures to be freed from the daily drudgery of mere survival.

Civilization alone permits humans to pursue sophisticated scientific research, the arts, and the finer aspects of culture.

So, the great achievement of Western civilization—consensual government, individual freedom, rationalism in partnership with religious belief, free market economics, and constant self-critique and audit—was to liberate people from daily worry over state violence, random crime, famine, and an often-unforgiving nature.

But so often the resulting leisure and affluence instead deluded arrogant Western societies into thinking that modern man no longer needed to worry about the fruits of civilization he took to be his elemental birthright.

As a result, the once prosperous Greek city-state, Roman Empire, Renaissance republics, and European democracies of the 1930s imploded—as civilization went headlong in reverse.

We in the modern Western world are now facing just such a crisis.

We talk grandly about the globalized Great Reset. We blindly accept the faddish New Green Deal. We virtue signal about defunding the police. We merely shrug at open borders. And we brag about banning fertilizers and pesticides, outlawing the internal combustion engine, and discounting Armageddon in the nuclear age—as if on autopilot we have already reached utopia.

But meanwhile Westerners are systematically destroying the very elements of our civilization that permitted such fantasies in the first place.

Take fuel. Europeans arrogantly lectured the world that they no longer need traditional fuels. So, they shut down nuclear power plants. They stopped drilling for oil and gas. And they banned coal.

What followed was a dystopian nightmare. Europeans will burn dirty wood this winter as their civilization reverts from postmodern abundance to premodern survival.

The Biden Administration ossified oil fields. It canceled new federal oil and gas leases. It stopped pipeline construction and hectored investors to shun fossil fuels.

When scarcity naturally followed, fuel prices soared.

The middle class has now mortgaged its upward mobility to ensure that they might afford gasoline, heating oil, and skyrocketing electricity.

The duty of the Pentagon is to keep America safe by deterring enemies, reassuring allies, and winning over neutrals.

It is not to hector soldiers based on their race. It is not to indoctrinate recruits in the woke agenda. It is not to become a partisan political force.

The result of those suicidal Pentagon detours is the fiasco in Afghanistan, the aggression of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the new bellicosity of China, and the loud threats of rogue regimes like Iran.

At home, the Biden Administration inexplicably destroyed the southern border—as if civilized nations of the past never needed such boundaries.

Utter chaos followed. Three million poured into the United States illegally. They entered without audit, and largely without skills, high-school diplomas, or capital.

The streets of our cities are anarchical—and by intent.

Defunding the police, emptying the jails, and destroying the criminal justice system unleashed a wave of criminals. It is now open season on the weak and innocent.

America is racing backwards into the 19th century wild West. Predators maim, kill, and rob with impunity. Felons correctly conclude that bankrupt postmodern “critical legal theory” will ensure them exemption from punishment.

Few Americans know anything about agriculture, except to expect limitless supplies of inexpensive, safe, and nutritious food at their beck and call.

But that entitlement for 330 million hungry mouths requires massive water projects, and new dams and reservoirs. Farmers rely on steady supplies of fertilizer, fuels, and chemicals. Take away that support—as green nihilists are attempting—and millions will soon go hungry, as they have since the dawn of civilization.

Perhaps nearly a million homeless now live on the streets of America. Our major cities have turned medieval with their open sewers, garbage-strewn sidewalks, and violent vagrants.

So, we are in a great experiment in which regressive progressivism discounts all the institutions, and the methodologies of the past that have guaranteed a safe, affluent, well-fed and sheltered America.

Instead, we arrogantly are reverting to a new feudalism as the wealthy elite—terrified of what they have wrought—selfishly retreat to their private keeps.

But the rest who suffer the consequences of elite flirtations with nihilism cannot even afford food, shelter, and fuel. And they now feel unsafe, both as individuals and as Americans.

As we suffer self-inflicted mass looting, random street violence, hyperinflation, a nonexistent border, unaffordable fuel, and a collapsing military, Americans will come to appreciate just how thin is the veneer of their civilization.

When stripped away, we are relearning that what lies just beneath is utterly terrifying.


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18 thoughts on “The Thinnest Veneer of Civilization”

  1. And history repeats itself. The Bible clearly reports the facts. Here we are. Again. This time there is no where to go. Jesus will come. Soon, I hope. In the meantime, I will stand for liberty and America.

  2. Dr Hanson -I love your wisdom and clear thinking. I live in Temecula CA and, miraculously, we have so far been spared. the horrors I watch on Tucker and hear from you. I hope this holds. I see American flags on every third or so house, including mine, no police cars, no homeless vagrants – it’s a miracle. This president is senile and insane and, just as his boss Obama wished – is bringing the USA down many a hurry before the midterms. It’s a suicide. I am sorry for America the erstwhile promise land. now a hell hole.

  3. This is the only political site i pay money for. So it is obvious I lean your way. I trust your analytical mind so here goes: Has it been asked somewhere in US history of someone putting forth the idea of passing certain important or controversial bills in one four year session but requiring them to be confirmed in the next? As an add on option, could a referendum be inserted somewhere in between to get the public’s viewpoint. Would these things break a lot things? Could it have any positive effect on political polarization by getting these party yahoos to work together over the long term instead during the passion of each election?


    1. Mark – excellent suggestions. Particularly for money bills. Funding must be created and budgeted using regular order only; NO Continuing Resolutions, and budget end dates in January (not September) so every two (House) and four (House and Senate)years, the budget is confirmed and audited by the incoming sessions, not the outgoing lame duck session.
      Penultimatey, emergency funding (for such activities as war, extraordinary foreign and military aid, natural disasters, etc.) must be passed by 2/3 majority of each body, house and senate, begun in committee with public debate and public comment on actual draft wording, and voted out to the floor by 2/3 committee vote in each house.
      Finally, in any year the House or Senate fails this timetable and process, the general party leadership and committee chairs of both houses must be replaced immediately before any action on a CR or debt limit increase can be contemplated..

  4. Dr. Hanson sees the future with crystal clarity. If only 0ur politicians could grasp a few basic principles. For example, the diesel fuel required to operate charging stations for electric cars far exceeds the gasoline utilized to drive from A to B.

  5. “But that entitlement for 330 million hungry mouths requires massive water projects, and new dams and reservoirs. Farmers rely on steady supplies of fertilizer, fuels, and chemicals. Take away that support—as green nihilists are attempting—and millions will soon go hungry, as they have since the dawn of civilization.”

    One might add: … and as they did very recently in Sri Lanka.

  6. We read VDH all the time here. What he says is true and even obvious. But our friends and family on the left seem to be living on a desert island like the mythical Japanese soldier and they don’t see what we take for granted.

    Media has kept even our closest family and friends in a metaphorical cave. Still they make money and live as if Trump would bring the reality we now face today when we know Trump kept us from just that. So now the question, is it too late? Would Trump be able to turn things around? We can only vote. We can give money to those we hope can change things back. We can pray.

  7. And so many others who warned of the stupidity occurring worldwide have been labeled, ignored and ostracized. Too many Politicians became secure in their power. God has been removed from the all scenes due to this human arrogance.
    Pray all! America still could rebound.

  8. Professor Hanson,
    Thank you for your wisdom. This country is in big trouble with democrats running it.
    God help us. Henry

    1. Look to no one person to “save us”
      We are Americans. We fight for liberty. We speak up and do what’s necessary to throw the leftists out of office.

  9. The pace of this descent has accelerated rapidly since the covid panic sacrificed freedoms to big tech and big government. It’s worth remembering that Trump would have been re-elected easily sans covid. Now the long road back must now be traveled but but the elites have so successfully insulated themselves that suffering is not yet at the necessary level. The mid terms are critical to some sort of turnaround

    1. James Wheeler—it’s even more worth remembering (or discovering, if you think two minutes about it) that the great “COVID” hoax was sprung by a coalition of democrats, globalists and the CCP for the express purpose of defeating Trump. Nothing else had worked to that point and their “Great Reset” agenda was in serious jeopardy. Trump had to be taken out at all costs and this was their grand plan. As Steve Bannon’s sign says, “there are no conspiracies, but also no coincidences”

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