“America’s ‘Oh Sh*t! ’ Moment”, written by Niall Ferguson, a historian who teaches at Harvard University, in 2011, explores why civilizations collapse, and how America can avoid this. He does not focus only on America, but many civilizations in the past that have collapsed. Niall Ferguson is the author of Civilization: The West and The Rest. The article is creatively and cleverly written using the metaphor of modern technology to describe the way in which the societal collapse occurs.
This shows that the article was written for adults who are highly educated and understand and relate to technology. The article discusses the possibilities of what complete collapse would look like in American society. I believe the author successfully demonstrates and explains the very real possibility of America’s societal demise. The article, “America’s ‘Oh Sh*t! ’ Moment” is about the rapid collapse of civilizations, and how America is at risk to meet a similar end. The author gives reasons as to why America is at risk for an imminent collapse, and how they can stop it.
He proves this sudden collapsing of a civilization by giving many examples of civilizations that have collapsed in the past, such as, Machu Picchu; the lost city of the Incas, the Roman Empire, Ming Dynasty’s rule in China, the Soviet Union, North Africa and the Middle East. All civilizations share similar characteristics that eventually led to their sudden downfall. For example, they all once had strong social systems supporting their economy and government, and then suddenly collapsed as a result of internal division and external invasion.
The thesis of the article was not openly stated, but it was implied pretty clearly. The author states, “In my view, civilizations don’t rise, fall, and then gently decline, as inevitable and predictably as the four seasons or the seven ages of man. History isn’t one smooth, parabolic curve after another. Its shape is more like an exponentially steepening slope that quite suddenly drops off like a cliff. ” I think the main idea is that civilizations never have and never will gradually decline. They always drop off and collapse.
The author very strongly believes that America’s civilization is in danger of social devastation in the near future. This is clear throughout the whole article, as the author gives many reasons why America is in line for a collapse. This is a valid assumption, and is very thoroughly explored and argumented. For example, the 6 “Killer Applications”: Competition, The Scientific Revolution, The Rule of Law and Representative Government, Modern Medicine, The Consumer Society, and The Work Ethic. These are 6 factors in the potential devastation of the United States of America.
The author also states recent reasons as to why America would collapse, mainly revolving around the fact that the other countries are “catching up” to America, in these 6 areas, especially China and Japan. The author believes (and states) that Asians spend more time working and studying, and also have the majority of the world’s largest shopping malls. These countries are also making more money, and have become more competitive over the years. As the article states, “The United States’ average competitiveness score has fallen from 5. 82 to 5. 3, one of the steepest declines among the developed economies. China’s score, meanwhile, has leapt up from 4. 29 to 4. 90. ” (page 3) While I do agree with the author that China and Japan are “catching up” to America, I think the author exaggerated a little while emphasizing this point. Just because America isn’t as smart or competitive as they once were, that doesn’t mean that America will fall into a collapse. Although the author does intensify this point a lot, there is no obvious bias shown in the article. The article was, however, very well written.
It was obvious that the author was very knowledgable on the subject of civilizations collapsing, and it was very thoroughly researched. His argument was well said and he used a lot of statistics and proof. For example, to prove that Koreans work and study more than Americans, the author stated that the average Korean works 39% more hours a week than Americans, and their school year is 40 days longer than the American school year. The author also showed that he has a very wide vocabulary and used a variety of large vocabulary and figurative language.
Although, I do think that the article was a little too detailed; the author made a point, and expanded on it a little too much, thus making the article very lengthy. For example, the author used 3 paragraphs to emphasize that Koreans and other Asian countries work harder and longer then Americans. Although, this technique was successful in getting the author’s point across and persuading the reader to side with him saying that America is headed towards an imminent collapse.
Also, this did not leave very much to explore beyond the article. The only things that were left that required further exploration were the past civilizations that had collapsed. The author explained them, but if the reader had never heard of these collapses prior to reading the article, they might want to do more research on them to get a better understanding. The article overall gave me a better understand on how quickly a civilization can collapse, and the factors that lead to this.
Before reading the article I had never even heard of these past collapses, let alone the fact that America could be heading for one. The author had an interesting approach to teaching others about American politics and economics. Now, I can see clearly how America has changed over the years, and not in a good way. I would recommend this article to others, as long as they had a wide vocabulary. Overall, I agree with the author on the topic of civilizations collapsing. It is clear that that is what has happened in the past, and will likely happen as well in the future.
America has shown some factors that could lead to a collapse, which the author calls the “6 Killer Apps. ” The author believes that America needs to go back to how they used to be, driven and motivated to have money and be well educated, which, of course would be very hard to do. Collapse of a civilization is an irreversible, unstoppable thing, and I think that it’s important that we try our best to have a good society under control, so that we don’t drop off and collapse.