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October 24, 2014
Saturday, August 16, 2014

Decadence blues: failing to see our own decline

By Andrew Graham-Yooll
For the Herald
A string of violent incidents seem to pass by society at large without a second thought

Human life is being devalued more rapidly than the price of a peso against a blue dollar. Yes, that has been said before by somebody.

Everybody has at some time heard talk about how we are neglecting almost everything we should be taking care of for future generations. We are busy destroying the environment God and/or Nature loaned us for a while. Efforts to reverse this seem limited to teaching children at school to throw scrap paper in the bin instead of on the floor. It doesn’t seem enough. Will we soon prefer not to waste time learning to write? Fewer use joined-up writing. Long words are no good for text messages on a screen the size of an old-fashioned watch glass —sorry, that should have read, “n gd f txt mgs on scrn”, etc.

Now we are downgrading the value of human life.

The speed of our deterioration happens at a pressing rate. It tempts comparison with the greatest reference of decline, the long fall of the Roman Empire. This is not a matter of tracing parallels, just useful to glance that way. The fall of ancient Rome starts in 190 AD, a date chosen by historians because that is when Goths and Vandals, seeking better lands, attacked the great capital. As there was no agreement among the regional chieftains between 210 and up to 300 AD Rome had about 20 emperors, each of them pushing and shoving the others. In 307 AD Constantine took over, moved the capital to the old Byzantium, called it Constantinople and stayed in power until 337 AD. He probably called that “three decades won.” His idea was to govern a series of smaller more manageable bits of the empire and play off weaker tribe leaders. However, to keep all those smaller bits in order, more troops and fortifications were needed, so taxes were raised, more money was minted, and inflation rose. Constantine was a firm ruler, an authoritarian, but he bungled his politics.

Yes, sounds familiar, can’t think why. If the argument concentrates on the degree of decline, waste no time on the paragraph above. Take an ordinary week for evidence of social failure and almost any sample passage of time is valid.

Lack of concern for human life around us, except when personally affected, is astounding. Take the sample week starting last July 15, when a young woman from Chile was stabbed to death in the front hall of her building as she got home late one night. The next day, July 16, a taxi driver travelling at great speed hit a young woman from Neuquén, dragged her 30 metres, killed her and fled. He was reported and arrested a few days later. On July 18, a man who regularly beat his partner threw their baby into the washing machine. The babe was rescued by the mother and taken to the children’s hospital. The man was described by his own father as a beast broken by drug abuse. On July 19, Friend’s Day (Día del Amigo), a daft commercial blip on the calendar of the restaurant owners fraternity, a girl named Carina went with friends to the “El Click” disco in the Congreso area, and there was raped by four males, her pleas for help unheard because the “music” was too loud. Enquiries prompted the reply, “That happens quite often here!”

That same day, July 19, in Posadas, Misiones, three policemen killed a drunken man who refused to pay for a bottle of whisky. His chest was crushed by the men in blue, and his head kicked flat. Incidents seem to become more violent and brutal as time runs on. This is only a small selection.

On July 21, our president was put on record, due to an open microphone that should have been switched off, hurrying her aides to a ceremony inaugurating a handful of China made train coaches, “Let’s get this over just in case a train comes and runs over us all” (the free translation is adjustable). It was not very sensitive of the poor little rich girl, and it was the day before 29 months were marked since July 22, 2012, when 52 people died on the Sarmiento line, killed by corruption more than by accident.

Last Wednesday, La Nación published a report on the murders of children (23 so far this year), only in robberies and shootouts, that is not counting children wounded in cross-fire, those who saw a parent killed and those who were murdered by a parent.

The fact of the matter is that one month since the day that marked the start of that short week of private tragedies, nothing much has happened to correct the situation. The political will to change matters or do better is nowhere to be seen. Media found some people detained, arrested, or whatever, but in general terms most of those events were quickly overtaken. Just as would happen in the decline and fall of any state, never mind Rome. All these people no longer matter.

Add to the distress this year, outside of the above quoted week’s tally, there is need to recall the Iron Mountain filing depot in Barracas when, on February 5 this year, a falling wall flattened and killed nine firemen. How many remember this tragedy?

There are many more incidents that emphasize our decadence. Yes, we are decadent. And there are many more people who still think they do not want to know. There goes Argentina, decadence accelerated.

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