I went to a debate tonight that posed this very question. Honestly, I went in leaning towards the affirmative, along with a great many of my fellow audience members. However, the end results ended up with nearly 80% of the assembled thinkers voting Against (as in, no it is not in terminal decline)—me included.
There were a bunch of facts thrown out. Some speakers were better than others, mostly the persuasive ones. Some used humour and an over-abundance of egg-related puns and analogies (you had to be there). But in the end there were some solid points made, and a lot of mind-expanding ripostes.
In the end I decided that it’s not about economy or power—no one doubts that America and company are flailing—but as a culture, the ideals of “Western” civilisation will continue to surge forward. They will certianly merge with other cultures, but the notions of modernity and democracy are a beacon for the entire world. And perhaps when all the world embraces “Westernisation” we can move outward. We’ll never reach the stars if we can’t cross borders.
Actually, one of the most interesting points was at question time when a lady (classic New Zealander) said that our time “had been wasted” and that a debate was a terrible way of covering the topic. Well, aside from the fact that she signed up to a classic yes/no debate so can go suck eggs, she does have a point. The adjudicator put it nicely, stating that hopefully from the debate more meaningful discussion could then go out into the world.
So I put it to you: is Western civilisation is terminal decline, and if so what can be done about it?