Mark Twain wrote out of experience of the decades just before the twentieth century began.
Back then the conquest-lust and money-lust were not fatal, but they were extreme and very damaging.
But it was impossible to save the Great Republic. She was rotten to the heart.
Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad
had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons.
The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on;
the suffrage [right to vote] was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose. There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.
– Mark Twain (died 1910)
Those two raging lusts have been allowed to progress farther and root more deeply in our culture in recent years than even in The Gilded Age.
Maybe it will be fatal this time.
Maybe it already is.
[Published May 2006 – slightly edited and re-published 2017.]