Declining civilizations


Tony Bouza

My very unscholarly appreciation of history includes the bromide that great civilizations implode through moral rot rather than outside challenges. As the saying goes, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” I agree.
A recent case illustrated the point.
A Star Tribune reporter asked me to review an incident and furnish my analysis of the event. It was what I did as an expert witness for about 30 years.
It seemed to me that a mysterious tipping point occurred—through a number of failures to act morally—that plunged great societies into decline. The mental image was of a long line waiting patiently to see a movie. Someone cuts in. Okay. Then several more. Antsiness. A few more, and the line dissolves in chaos. That is the sociological metaphor that works for me.
A Chinese mogul comes to attend a prestigious business course at the University of Minnesota in 2018. One of the richest, most powerful men in China. The school moves swiftly to accommodate his comfort, serving as pimp to his needs.
An unworldly, 21-year-old hottie is impressed into volunteer service as a kind of escort.
A dinner party is arranged for 16 people (15 of them male) at a fancy restaurant. Lots of coerced toasts of wine. The volunteer gets drunk. She’s consumed more than one and a half bottles. A limo drive to her apartment follows. The mogul, now lusting, accompanies, groping her energetically. She is delivered into her apartment.
The woman is raped by the mogul. She, now pretty sober, reports the crime. She is thoroughly examined by U of M medics. The mogul is arrested. Big events are set in motion.
The police hierarchy trembles and arranges for the dropping of the charges, releases the victim’s phone number to the mogul’s attorney, and withdraws. Altogether, a pathetic betrayal of duty.
The university—except for its medical attentions—similarly withdraws, clearly anxious to accommodate a patron. Uriah Heep would have loved it.
The prosecutor is energetically absent and uninvolved in a case central to his existence. The Invisible Man.
The mogul is scot-free. The woman is scarred for life, and everyone else is in survival mode. Not one official takes up her case.
But it is the societal cost that intrigues me. That’s a lot of people doing nothing. The triumph of evil is assured.
When our institutions—police, educational, prosecutorial—fail, deliberately, to dispense justice and honor their oaths, evil triumphs. The case—parenthetically and significantly—contrasted sharply with a similar case in Australia, where the authorities did meet the challenge.
How many such corrupt actions and neglects constitute the moral erosion guaranteeing decline? So much for Minnesota Nice.

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