Or was I being particularly - and egregiously - obtuse?
For the past four or five months, I've been answering random questions (they're only nominally reference-y in scope) on Aardvark - which Google picked up about a month ago. At first, it was really fun. Some of the questions were Yelp-like: best location for X in the City, doctor recommendations, etc... And then there were the host of students trying to get homework done in about 100 characters or less.
But I think, in hindsight, I went a little crazy with this poor guy from California yesterday. X asked:
Rome was so successful for so long and,why is it that great civilizations,like Rome, seem destined to fail? I ask this question, in reference to the United States of America.
Something about the question just set me off. I mean, how audacious is it to be the arbiter of US failure? As far as I know, I still live in the United States of America. Nor do I recall seeing barbarian hordes raping and pillaging (metaphorically?) the landscape during my morning commute. So I responded with this:
I think that is a very wide sweeping generalization on civilizations that are extremely distinct in composition. The idea of something "destined to fail" presupposes that there was a master plan inherent in their foundation (if, in fact, "destiny" exists at all). This is not true of either Rome nor the United States.
X responded with:
You are absoltely right I was new to aardvark and was more interested in asking a question than actually thinking to ask a intelligent question. Thank you for your answer.
Which made me feel like a first class heel. And a bad librarian. Siggghhhhh. So I'm trying to make it up to X from California with this:
In hindsight, I think my answer was a little obtuse ;) There are many, many reasons why there is no longer a Roman Civilization - although the US is still chugging along. Was there a particular facet that you wondered about: bureaucracy, food logistics, barbarian incursions, etc...?
Hoping that the use of an emoticon will reveal that I am actually a nice librarian... hopefully.