Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Decline of Western Civilization: Why I wrote my books


“Testing Your Outdoor Survival Skills”, et al.

Christopher Nyerges

I am often asked why I teach and write about the topics of self-reliance and survival.  Here is part of my answer.

“The city” developed organically from the earliest times of human history, presumably for the mutual survival and upliftment of all those who became a part of it.   The city because the locus for heightened social interaction, where farmers could barter and sell their goods to the far reaches of the domain, where the brightest and the best could answer your questions and resolved your needs, whether about technical, medical, or other issue.  It’s obvious why cities developed, though it has not always so altruistic.

We know, for example, that the great Mayan cities most likely had theocratic rulers whose orders were law, and sometimes that worked out well for the people.  But it could also spell the demise for the city if deluded self-important religious leaders saw themselves as more important than “the people.”  Right here in North America, there was the great city of Cahokia in what is now Illinois, which emerged, dominated, changed and improved the lives of everyone it touched, and then, for various reasons, it disappeared.

Cities and civilizations arise out of the common interests of those it serves, and they seem to follow a pattern of growth, peaking, declining, disappearing (that’s the 25 cent version of what usually takes a full semester anthropology course).

Every school child has heard about the great Roman empire, and how it “fell.”  We read the great details and shake our heads at the Roman stupidity that allowed such greatness to fall, and secretly, we believe it can never happen to us.  Really?  Well, we don’t want it to happen to us, of course, but consider that a “civilization” is a living, dynamic entity.  It’s essence and character and health are all determined by the collective mindset and collective actions of all the participants, whether you recognize that or not.  And it does seem to more and more of us that the collective mindset is too often about short-term gains, and not about the health and survival and vitality of the city, and the culture, and our civilization.

We aren’t sure exactly where we are as a people in the curve of the decline of a civilization, or whether or not we can affect that decline.  However, there is always something that the individual can do – always. 

To gain a higher perspective of what you can do, in your own life, in your own family and in your own town, I strongly encourage you to read Morris Berman’s “The Twilight of American Culture.” There are lots of good ideas there. Also, continue to read the publications that describe and promote the positive actions you can take every day in  your own life to improve your survival quotient, in the city, and in the wilderness.

Everyone wants to make the wisest choices  when our modern structures break down, either from the ravages of nature, or from man (war, terrorism, disease, etc.). 

Sometimes we can feel like we are just a drop of water in the ocean, but as we network and work with like-minded others, we can move in the direction of living solutions.

When I began teaching about wild foods and survival skills when I was still a teenager, I did so to encourage others to think likewise, but mostly I did so to clarify my own thinking on the subject.  You could call it enlightened self-interest.  Plus, by teaching and writing, I was able to meet others along the same path, people that I would have never met if I were hiding out somewhere in a cave.

I taught field trips, and I taught in the classroom. When I taught in the classroom, I found it useful to organize each subject by topic, and to teach by constantly asking questions of the students.  Those refined and edited questions became the basis for my “Testing Your Outdoor Survival Skills” textbook, which is still used by many today.  (It’s available on Amazon, or from the store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com). 

Though I still use that “Testing” textbook, I have also written “How to Survive Anywhere,” which embodies most of the ideas in “Testing Your Outdoor Survival Skills.” 

In “How to Survive Anywhere,” I mention Jane Jacobs, who is the author of “Dark Ages Ahead,” who attempts to offer solutions to anyone worried about the decline of western civilization.  Her book is worth reading; at least read page 258 of “How to Survive Anywhere,” where I summarize her thinking.  She explains some of the obvious causes of our decline, especially the idea of community.  But she does not see “dark ages” as inevitable. Rather, she says that since culture is a living dynamic entity, we need to all become living examples of the best in society, and we need to think, we need to model solutions, and we need to teach, lecture, and write! 

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