Social Collapse

Well, I saw another Facebook post that got my mind whirling again…  It posted the following Article as an example of lack of critical thinking in America:

You can almost liken this accusation of “lack of critical thinking” to my previous post about the unexamined life.  Because it is exactly that, lack of critical thinking, which leads to living an unexamined life.  When you fail to critically think about everything, you will readily fall for anything.  And America is falling for A LOT of BULL-SHIT right now!!!

It’s this article, mixed with all this current talk about our economy, politics, whose fault is it, etc, etc, that inspires this current post.  For you see, it’s not any ONE person’s fault!!!  It’s everyone’s fault!  Your fault, my fault… if something/someone can labeled human, then it is their fault!!!  You see, failing seems like it is the very nature of human society.  I’m not sure any society can be successful if it contains and/or is run by human beings.  All societies so far have failed, and who is so arrogant to say that America will be any different?!?!  I’m sure people thought this about Ancient Rome back in the day… but where the hell is Rome now?!?  Well… Rome is now exactly where America will be a thousand years from now… a mere memory.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was America.  Rome didn’t fall in a day.  …Neither will America.

There are many interesting parallels between the Roman Empire and America, and I’m going to list them out for you:

This first bit I gathered from
The first part lists out 6 similarities.  I’m only going to mention what I find are the SIGNIFICANT similarities.
1. Dominant powers: “Rome and America are the most powerful actors in their world, by many orders of magnitude. Their power includes both military might and the ‘soft power’ of language, culture, commerce, technology, and ideas.”
3. Global influence: “Both Rome and America created global structures—administrative, economic, military, cultural—that the rest of the world and their own citizens came to take for granted, as gravity and photosynthesis are taken for granted.”
4. Open society: “Both are societies made up of many peoples—open to newcomers, willing to absorb the genes and lifestyles and gods of everyone else, and to grant citizenship to incoming tribes from all corners of the earth.”
5. Culturally similar: “Romans and Americans can’t get enough of laws and lawyers and lawsuits. . . . They relish the ritual humiliation of public figures: Americans through comedy and satire, talk radio and Court TV; the Romans through vicious satire, to be sure, but also, during the republic, by means of the censorial nota, the public airing, name by name, of everything great men of the time should be ashamed of.”
6. Chosen people: “Both see themselves as chosen people, and both see their national character as exceptional.”

Next there are parallels that hint to a similar fate for America
*Like the Romans, Americans tend to see themselves as more important than they are. They tend to have an exaggerated sense of their own presence in the world and its ability to act alone.
*Another parallel can be lumped under the term privatization. “Rome had trouble maintaining a distinction between public and private responsibilities.” America is currently in the midst of privatizing functions that used to be public tasks.
*Another concerns the way Rome and America view the outside world. In a sense, this is merely the flip side of the first parallel. If you believe your country is exceptional, you tend to devalue others. And more importantly, you tend to underestimate another nation’s capabilities. Rome learned this in A.D. 9 when three legions were ambushed by a smaller German force and annihilated.  The repercussions were significant.
*The question of borders is a fifth parallel. The boundary of Rome “was less a fence and more a threshold—not so much a firm line fortified with ‘Keep Out’ signs as a permeable zone of continual interaction.” Compare that description to our border with Mexico, and so can see many similarities.
*A final parallel has to do with size and complexity. The Roman Empire got too big physically and too complex to manage effectively. The larger a country or civilization, the more “it touches, and the more susceptible it is to forces beyond its control.” To use a phrase by Murphy: “Bureaucracy is the new geography.”

These are some very interesting parallels to think about, but they are circumstantial at best!!  What other comparisons are there?

Rome was founded as an aristocratically lead nation in the hills of Italy. At some point, they turned into a republic, where citizens were represented by their Senate.  America started as an aristocratically lead society, with the powerful and influential leading the people to revolt against tyranny. These leaders, much like the ancient Roman founders of the Republic, tried to create a government that was fair. They paid much more attention to giving power to the people, to stopping tyranny, and almost none to making themselves powerful — they were, without a doubt, great men and human beings. But they were all too mortal, and they died, and much like Rome, less able men took their place, and as the country prospered, interests found reasons to chip away at the structure.

**Just as the practice in Rome of allowing outlying regions to govern their own affairs lead to outlying corruption, so did in the early years the nation struggle with corruption on a state level, with Tammany Hall a symbol of everything wrong with government. Much like Rome swelled and grew fat on the conquest and expansion, so did America expand, until we held islands in the Atlantic and Pacific, armies flung all over the world (Legion style), and interfering with every nation within our reach.
*Like Rome, our government has become more corrupt, more attuned to listening to big business than to the small man, the plebeian, the everyday Joe.
*Like Rome, the very officials elected to protect us from corruption are often found themselves to be corrupted.
*Like Rome, we are engaged in a seemingly unending series of small wars that serve mostly to antagonize those around us and drain our wealth and treasure — yet fatten the pockets of the military industrial complex. (Roman arms manufacturers and the armorers who made segmenta lorica, the Legionary armor, had more sway in the Senate than entire segments of Rome).
*Like Rome, the government defines new roles for itself on a regular basis — with no limits or checks.
*Like Rome, the government panders to the general populace, saying what they think they wish to hear and doing little once elected. It matters not if it’s a general populace in ancient Rome baying for free bread, taxes on big landowners, and to fling the Germans out, or if it’s a general populace in America baying for more welfare, taxes on big businesses, and to fling the illegal aliens out.
*Like Rome, we have become paralyzed to fix anything.
*Here’s one that should please the Ron Paul supporters: Paul had an ancient predecessor, the Brothers Grachii, who advocated increased participation in the Senate by the people, more protections for the people’s rights to own land and property, less restrictions on the people’s travel, the right for redress against patricians, land reform (the equivalent, really of money reform back then), and smaller government.  Rome, of course, was a lot more hardcore than America. They murdered the elder, and then the younger brother, in shockingly gruesome fashion. That was the end of the Brother Gratchi Revolution.
*Not long after, a series of strongmen like Pompey and Sulla ran the country, running over the rights of everyone, engaging in petty wars, running up debts. (Some say that Sulla did good things)
*And then? The collapse, the fall, the Republic replaced with an Empire, starting so slowly that by the time it was done, everyone had already become complicit in it.

Is America showing parallels to Rome, in the last days of the Republic?  Who knows if these things are accurate portrayals or just another example of finding proof of anything if you look hard enough…

The actual truth is, Sociologically and Anthropologically speaking,  Rome’s fall was signaled by MANY different signs.  So were the Mayans, the Han Dynasty, Russia, and all the other civilizations in history that have fallen…   …and now, America shows all of these symptoms too…  The common factors which seem to contribute to societal collapse are economic, environmental, social and cultural, but they manifest combined effects like a whole system out of balance.

Destratification: Complex societies stratified on the basis of class, gender, race or some other salient factor become much more homogeneous or horizontally structured. In many cases past social stratification slowly becomes irrelevant following collapse and societies become more egalitarian.
Despecialization: One of the most characteristic features of complex civilizations (and in many cases the yardstick to measure complexity) is a high level of job specialization. The most complex societies are characterized by artisans and tradespeople who specialize intensely in a given task. Indeed, the rulers of many past societies were hyper-specialized priests or priestesses who were completely supported by the work of the lower classes. During societal collapse the social institutions supporting such specialization are removed and people tend to become more generalized in their work and daily habits.
Decentralization: As power becomes decentralized people tend to be more self-regimented and have many more personal freedoms. In many instances of collapse there is a slackening of social rules and etiquette. Geographically speaking, communities become more parochial or isolated. For example, following the collapse of the Mayan civilization many Maya returned to their traditional hamlets, moving away from the large cities that had been the centers of the empire.
Destructuralization: Epiphenomena, institutions, processes, and artifacts are all manifest in the archaeological record in abundance in large civilizations. After collapse, evidence of epiphenomena, institutions, and types of artifacts change dramatically as people are forced to adopt more self-sufficient lifestyles.
Depopulation: Societal collapse is almost always associated with a decline in population densities. In extreme cases, the collapse in population is so severe that the society disappears entirely, such as happened with the Greenland Vikings, or a number of Polynesian islands. In less extreme cases, populations are reduced until a demographic balance is re-established between human societies and the depleted natural environment. A classic example is the case of Ancient Rome, which had a population of about 1.5 million during the reign of Trajan in the early 2nd century CE, but had only 15,000 inhabitants by the 9th century.

There are 5 stages of social collapse lined out by Dmitry Orlov in his book Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects

Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost. The future is no longer assumed resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out, and access to capital is lost.

Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down, and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.

Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.

Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost, as local social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush in to fill the power vacuum run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.

Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for “kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity” (Turnbull, The Mountain People). Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes “May you die today so that I die tomorrow” (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago). There may even be some cannibalism.

is it too late for change?  Who knows…  but I do know that if we continue down the path that we are going down now, America WILL fall!  And I also know I can’t do shit by myself!

…and that my friends, is what is wrong with our world!



One thought on “Social Collapse

  1. Very interesting read. While I may not agree with all the details, I do agree with one thing: the absolute lack of thinking in America. I read somewhere that 63 percent of young adults in America cannot locate Iraq on a map.

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