One of my correspondents, Irish financial advisor Christopher Quigley, recently sent me a link to his article, Civilizations Die by Suicide Not by Murder. In that article, he mentions famed historian Arnold Toynbee’s monumental work, A Study of History which describes the rise and fall of 23 civilizations throughout human history. Toynbee concluded from his study that, “civilizations start to decay when they lose their moral fiber and the cultural elite turns parasitic.” That certainly rings true for our present world—the banking and corporate elite and their political minions have clearly turned parasitic, putting power and profit above all else.
Then by some strange coincidence I happened to notice a few days ago a book on display at my public library. The book is, The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas J. Preston, which tells the story of the search for a legendary city that was supposed to have existed several hundred years ago in the eastern part of Honduras in Central America. It is a true adventure story that reads like fiction. Preston was part of a team that went looking for, and by using some highly advanced technology, ultimately found, not only a city, but extensive remnants of a lost civilization, one that appears to be distinct from the Mayan and others of the region that are well known.
In one chapter, Preston speaks more generally about the civilizations that existed in that region and tells of the decline around AD 650 of the Mayan city of Copan. He says,
“This happened even as the ruling classes apparently swelled in size over succeeding generations…in what archaeologists call the ‘increasingly parasitic role of the elite.’ (We see the same process today in the gross expansion of the Saudi royal family into no fewer than fifteen thousand princes and princesses.) This proliferation may have triggered the vicious internecine warfare and killing among the elite.”
He goes on to say, “The commoners were willing to support the privileged class as long as they kept up their end of the bargain with effective rituals.”
What does that suggest for western civilization today? Who are those that comprise our privileged class, and what is the nature of the bargain between them and the “commoners?” I leave it to the reader to ponder those questions, but I would suggest that the bargain must at least include assurances of social justice, basic human rights, and access to a fair share of our natural and cultural heritage. But however one might define that bargain, political developments around the world in recent years seem to indicate that increasing numbers of people are feeling let down by their leaders.
Are we then doomed? Will western civilization continue to decay and collapse to be followed by another dark age?
I think it is not “we” who are doomed, it is the global interest-based debt-money regime that sits at the pinnacle of the power pyramid, and the American imperial hegemony that are doomed. How long the collapse will take, how much pain and suffering will it cause, how can the present dysfunctional systems be displaced? These are all open questions. The optimist in me sees the peaceful emergence of a multi-polar political order and a sustainable and equitable global economy based on the devolution of power and new exchange and financing mechanisms that are interest-free, cooperative, and grounded in a spirit of compassion and mutual aid. –t.h.g.
Edit: This article from the BBC provides an excellent elaboration on the topic of this post: How Western Civilization Could Collapse.
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I have the same hope
Toynbee’s comment on “losing moral fiber” is close. But to be more precise, the morals and ethics internalized by a population cannot respond quickly enough to protect the population against the methods of an ever-adapting predatory class.
It is axiomatic that the only defense against gang behaviors is a widespread, internalization of not only codes of behavior for ourselves, but codes of behavior to oppose and resist bullies and despots. All societies have this to some degree, but it’s not elaborate enough to recognize and deal with a whole range of psychopathic, predatory behaviors at the top of our complex, globalized political economy. It just takes too much time. We are losing. It’s getting worse. We may be entering a 1000 year dark ages before enough of the human race “gets the memo. “
Thank you for your continued insight Tom!