Anthropologist Wade Davis on “The Unraveling of America”

Anthropologist Wade Davis on “The Unraveling of America”

Published in 1922, Oswald Spengler’s “The Decline of the West” thoroughly probed the origin and “fate” of our civilization, dubbing the eccentric author a 20th-century Cassandra.

“In this engrossing and highly controversial philosophy of history, Spengler… argues that a culture blossoms from the soil of a definable landscape and dies when it has exhausted all of its possibilities,” wrote Goodreads about the controversial epic.

Has America exhausted the soil from which it sprung and bloomed? Are we cinders? Is Wade another Cassandra? Or does the fresh air blowing out of the Democratic Convention offer some hope for our future?

Below is a story published in RollingStone by Telluride adoptive son Wade Davis, a Mountainfilm regular. The title: “The Unraveling of America.”

(For more from Wade on Mountainfilm check out  Telluride Properties’ Truly Telluride Magazine. Pick up the magazine at Telluride Properties’ office, 237 South Oak across the street from Gondola Plaza or call 970-728-0808.)

Never in our lives have we experienced such a global phenomenon. For the first time in the history of the world, all of humanity, informed by the unprecedented reach of digital technology, has come together, focused on the same existential threat, consumed by the same fears and uncertainties, eagerly anticipating the same, as yet unrealized, promises of medical science.

In a single season, civilization has been brought low by a microscopic parasite 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt. COVID-19 attacks our physical bodies, but also the cultural foundations of our lives, the toolbox of community and connectivity that is for the human what claws and teeth represent to the tiger.

Our interventions to date have largely focused on mitigating the rate of spread, flattening the curve of morbidity. There is no treatment at hand, and no certainty of a vaccine on the near horizon. The fastest vaccine ever developed was for mumps. It took four years. COVID-19 killed 100,000 Americans in four months. There is some evidence that natural infection may not imply immunity, leaving some to question how effective a vaccine will be, even assuming one can be found. And it must be safe. If the global population is to be immunized, lethal complications in just one person in a thousand would imply the death of millions.

Pandemics and plagues have a way of shifting the course of history, and not always in a manner immediately evident to the survivors. In the 14th Century, the Black Death killed close to half of Europe’s population. A scarcity of labor led to increased wages. Rising expectations culminated in the Peasants Revolt of 1381, an inflection point that marked the beginning of the end of the feudal order that had dominated medieval Europe for a thousand years.

The COVID pandemic will be remembered as such a moment in history, a seminal event whose significance will unfold only in the wake of the crisis. It will mark this era much as the 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the stock market crash of 1929, and the 1933 ascent of Adolf Hitler became fundamental benchmarks of the last century, all harbingers of greater and more consequential outcomes…

This must-read continues here…

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