“I think a great many of us are haunted by the feeling that our society, and by ours I don’t mean just the United States or Europe, but our whole world-wide technological civilisation, whether officially labelled capitalist, socialist, or communist, is going to smash and probably deserves to.
Like the third century, [ours] is an age of stress and anxiety. In our case, it is not that our techniques are too primitive to cope with new problems, but the very fantastic success of our technology is creating a hideous, noisy, over-crowded world in which it is increasingly difficult to lead a human life. […] as for our public entertainments, the fare offered by television [and internet] is still a shade less brutal and vulgar than that provided by the amphitheatre, but only a shade, and maybe not for long.
I have no idea what is actually going to happen before I die except that I am not going to like it.” (1)
All I did was adding a mention of internet and deleting “the twentieth” – so as not to spoil the startling illusion of topicality. Because this is actually a piece written in 1966, drawing parallels between the 3rd Century Roman empire and the 20th Century. To complete the comparison, following topics could of course have been added : migrations, shifting identities, religious fermentation – to name but a few.
(1) from “The Fall of Rome” by W. H. Auden. (written in 1966, published in Bowersock’s “From Gibbon to Auden - Essays on the Classical Tradition”)