Friday, September 24, 2010

No, We Are NOT #1: A Modern-Day Nephite vs Lamanite Story

For the bulk of Book of Mormon history, the Nephite nation was more righteous, and resultantly more prosperous, than their Lamanite counterparts. During at least one period, however, the Lamanites came to exceed the Nephites in both righteousness and prosperity.

It's starting to look that Americans are the modern-day equivalent of the decadent Nephites. Who are their Lamanite equivalents?  Here's one example...

For much of their history, the people called the Nephites in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ were exceedingly prosperous, while those called Lamanites were not.
  10 And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the astatutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the blaw of Moses.

  11 And the Lord was with us; and we did aprosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind.

  13 And it came to pass that we began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land. 
  24 [But the Lamanites] because of their acursing which was upon them they did become an bidle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey. 

 In the three decades leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, however, the roles became reversed.
1 And it came to pass that when the sixty and second year of the reign of the judges *had ended, all these things had happened and the Lamanites had become, the more part of them, a righteous people, insomuch that their arighteousness did exceed that of the Nephites, because of their firmness and their steadiness in the faith.

  2 For behold, there were many of the Nephites who had become ahardened and impenitent and grossly wicked, insomuch that they did reject the word of God and all the preaching and prophesying which did come among them. 
 Gradually, the Nephites, rather than being industrious, became lazy and greedy:
31 And now behold, [Satan] had got great hold upon the hearts of the Nephites; yea, insomuch that they had become exceedingly wicked; yea, the more part of them had turned out of the away of righteousness, and did btrample under their feet the commandments of God, and did turn unto their own ways, and did build up unto themselves cidols of their gold and their silver. 
Shortly thereafter, the Nephite society dwindled in decadence, while the Lamanite society flourished.
That story reminds me distinctly of the United States of America today. To get a picture of why I say this, let's compare ourselves to China.  China recently passed Japan to become the world's second largest economy.  As America looks in our rear-view mirror with our ten-times-larger GDP we will probably remain smug for the next 25 years or so until China overtakes even the mighty US.

To illustrate the comparison, let's look at the ruminations of NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman as he talks of his recent visit to China:
For the U.S. visitor, the comparisons start from the moment one departs Beijing's South Station, a giant space-age building, and boards the bullet train to Tianjin. It takes just 25 minutes to make the 75-mile trip. In Tianjin, one arrives at another ultramodern train station — where, unlike New York City's Pennsylvania Station, all the escalators actually work. From there, you drive to the Tianjin Meijiang Convention Center, a building so gigantic and well appointed that if it were in Washington, D.C., it would be a tourist site.
Is China better than us? Yes and no, says Friedman:
But have no illusions. I am not praising China because I want to emulate their system. I am praising it because I am worried about my system. In deliberately spotlighting China's impressive growth engine, I am hoping to light a spark under America.
Studying China's ability to invest for the future doesn't make me feel we have the wrong system. It makes me feel that we are abusing our right system. There is absolutely no reason our democracy should not be able to generate the kind of focus, legitimacy, unity and stick-to-it-iveness to do big things — democratically — that China does autocratically. We've done it before. But we're not doing it now because too many of our poll-driven, toxically partisan, cable-TV-addicted, money-corrupted political class are more interested in what keeps them in power than what would again make America powerful, more interested in defeating each other than saving the country.
Or, in other words, back at the Nephite ranch:
21 But behold, Satan did stir up the ahearts of the more part of the Nephites, insomuch that they did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their bstealings.

22 And it came to pass that they did have their signs, yea, their asecret signs, and their bsecret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant, that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant. 
To be sure, there are problems with Chinese society, but China is on the ascendancy, while we, the mighty Americans are headed for Suckville. Friedman concludes his article thusly:
The very retro notion that we are undisputedly still Number 1...is extremely dangerous.
 To the observant, that goes without saying.

3 comments:

  1. Being #1 - in flushing the environment? That's what I call retro. Our #1ness was always an illusion born of misplaced values and metrics.

    Joseph

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  2. Your prediction of China's overtaking the U.S. is ill founded. China is on track to reap the consequences of its deliberate policy of reducing its ultimate resource: people.

    Instead of comprehending human capital as necessary for increased productivity, China officially views humans in excess some centrally determined number to be a net liability.

    China's economy has been able to come so far so quickly only because it had so far to go, given its starting point. But its current trajectory is unsustainable. When the realities of three full generations of state imposed elimination of extended family hits home, many of the gains seen recently will be reversed. China is destined to return to third world status. They can't rely on alien populations to keep their infrastructure afloat the way Western Europe does (for now).

    That does not mean that your criticisms of American culture are off the mark. It's just that forecasting China's future ascendancy appears to be off base.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Joseph: Always? Even from 1776/1789?

    Reach: Good points. Coincidentally, here is an article that just hit my inbox that seems to agree with your assessment of China: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/09/24/wallowing_in_decline

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