Watching tonight: I'm beginning Kenneth Clark's CIVILISATION: A PERSONAL VIEW. An excellent AP European History teacher showed us several episodes back in high school, and it, and Clark's appreciation for his civilization and the risks it had faced, seem like good viewing for rough times.
Looking at these great works of western man and remembering all that he has achieved in philosophy, poetry, science, law making . . . it does seem hard to believe that European Civilization can ever vanish. And yet, you know, it has happened once. All the live-giving human activities that we lump together under the word Civilization have been obliterated once in Western Europe. For two centuries the heart of European Civilization stopped beating.
We got through by the skin of our teeth. In the last few years we have developed an uneasy feeling that this could happen again. And advanced thinkers, who, even in Roman times, thought it fine to gang up with the Barbarians, have begun to question if civilization is worth preserving. This is why it seemed a good moment to look at some of the ways in which man, over the last 900 years, has shown himself to be an intelligent, creative, and compassionate animal. I don't believe that civilization will disappear as long as we believe in it. But it will if we won't.
-- Kenneth Clark's notes for CIVILISATION, 24 July 1968.