T Nation

Think Tank?

Well I was just watching The Daily Show and got an Idea. There are a lot of us here that spend a good deal of our energy and time doing research and staying as informed as we can. I propose a new challenge. I propose we all go back and open some history books. Let’s examine the past great civilizations and discuss the varouse reasons that they eventually collapsed. Then lets apply what we have learned to our current global civilization and see what conclusions we can draw?

After all, I have been preaching to everyone to stop being nevative, all the while not focusing myself on something posotive. So anyone with me on this? I cant wait to see where this goes.

Vegita ~ Brother to all

I heard an idea in my Classics class that governing methods seem to cycle in order of Aristocracy ruling, then oligarchy (or whatever), then tyrants coming in and representing the middle class, then democracy, then kings come and the cycle starts over. At least that’s how things went in Ancient Greece.
Interestingly enough, when land redistribution was called for in the city-states, no one did so except Sparta, and they went, as far as I can see, ultra-communism.

And if any of the above is incorrect . . . I’m not much for taking notes . . . or getting good grades.

-Nate

[quote]Vegita wrote:
Let’s examine the past great civilizations and discuss the varouse reasons that they eventually collapsed.
Vegita ~ Brother to all[/quote]

Don’t know if you’ve seen my two comments on this already or not:

  1. In the words of John Adams, “there was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

One of the ways that happens is that the majority vote themselves money from the public treasury [sorry, don’t remember where this came from]

Ya I know this country…isn’t a democracy…still applies

  1. Did you see the thread on the terrorist who killed the Dutch Film maker? I posted this there:

Jerry Pournelle SF writer:

“How many non-Westerners can you add to a Western society before it ceases to be a Western Society? How many people who don’t understand the notions of rule of law and consent of the governed can you mix into a Western Society before it collapses? And why doesn’t anyone seem to understand this? The usual epithet for even thinking about the subject is “racist” followed by the traditional accusations of fascism. And that’s for discussing the subject…”

Political correctness will literally be the death of our civilization…it is happening already…

Most analyses on this board tend to be cursory, and for good reason. The time requirement to build an informed, accurate picture of any topic with sufficient depth is just enormous.

And quite frankly, it’s already been on done with nearly every argument imaginable. Twenty minutes with Google can give you a month of reading material.

I certainly don’t discourage the effort, but iteratively rehashing a debate is not the most efficient way to broaden your horizons.

DI

A large part of my disdain for our actions in Iraq right now is that a simple glance back over the last 100 years would have given us a preview of what we were up against. It is specifically because of my studies of history that I am so adament about the too-numerous mistakes we have made.

The sad fact is that the US has become apathetic from the “fox news” treatment of journalism, and too lazy to do any background reading. That doesn’t apply to this forum for the most part. Both the conservatives and liberals all seem to be pretty well read. That is not the case for the rest of the nation though. People are just willing to accept everything they see on TV with no desire to examine any deeper.

I certainly applaud Vegita for trying to pull us all back on the same page though. We all have more in common than we realize. We all just want a better America. We want to be prosperous, and we (most of us anyway) want peace. One of the things that really seems to be tearing us apart in here as well as across the nation, and around the world for that matter, is religious intolerance. One religion cannot achieve a peaceful “dominion” over all others. Somehow we are going to have to figure out a way to live with eachother despite our varied beliefs and backgrounds. That is the primary rift that appears to be dividing all of us. It is the root of the cultural differences in this country. How do we address this?

Thanks for injecting those thoughts into this forum, Veg.

[quote]NateN wrote:
I heard an idea in my Classics class that governing methods seem to cycle in order of Aristocracy ruling, then oligarchy (or whatever), then tyrants coming in and representing the middle [/quote]

You’re probably paraphrasing Socrates’ account of the cycling of regimes in Plato’s Republic. The idea is that each regime has it’s ideal form, and then its maximally corrupted form. Upon reaching this corrupted form, a new ideal regime sweeps in to manage the excesses of the previous one. While this seemed to hold as reasonably accurate for Ancient Greece, it doesn’t hold for the rest of the world. Here’s why: Ancient Greece was a collection of city states in which most Greeks still recognized other Greeks as civilized. Outsiders (Macedonians, Persians) were considered barbarians (Aristotle gives an account of this). Despite attempts at conquest between the various polities (city-states), most generally kept some form of autonomy and were therefore poised for revolution in regime. Empire and dominion over other Greeks wasn’t really the goal in Ancient Greece. It could be argued that the Greek city-states had an increased metabolism due to their small size, and cycled much faster than the rest of the world. But I digress.

Then we turn to Montesquieu, and he indirectly raises an objection to this account. He asks us to look at the despots of the Orient, and the duration of that system in that part of the world. Indeed, there did not seem to be the same cycle there. The Roman Empire also did not cycle… the Republic, once undermined, never was born again. We can get into a history of the Franks and mideval government, but I think it suffices to say that Plato’s application of ideal forms to regimes is flawed, espcially outside of a closed system. That is, I do not think that there is any natural law that compels men to organize their government in a consistent way as per the Platonic account.

Of course, your teacher may have just stolen and repeated Socrates’ idea so that he could appear smart with his “novel” observation. I’m no Classics Scholar, however, so you may be referring to something else.

Vegita: Part of the problem with applying past systems to current regimes is that we are in a very different world, now. After World War II, the idea of conquering other peoples for the purposes of expanding an empire fell out of favor. We now conquer economically and socially, with commerce and manipulation of officials and law. Were the US to be plunged into the worst kinds of inner turmoil, we would probably not break apart into independent states, or become a different country, or be taken over by barbarians like the Roman Empire was (though I wonder about those Canadians…).

So it isn’t clearly defined at what point we would have completed our decline. Would that be when all rights had been abrogated? Specifically, if the Bill of Rights were “overturned” or overridden? Would the Constitution need to be declared invalid? I don’t know if that would ever really happen; we’re more likely to descend into deeper and deeper corruption rather than have a leader bold enough to directly (or even circuitously) challenge the Framers.

Wow, big question, but I’ll offer a quick response.

Downfall results from license and affluence.

I’d use this quick analogy: ever know someone whose parents worked from modest beginnings and provided a life so much better than than the parents had to the child, and the child has zero appreciation for it?

That’s the cycle of civilization, in my view. Whatever we enjoy now was purchased by the hard efforts of those that sacrificed before us, but, like the unappreciative brat who didn’t have to earn it, we constantly demand more, thinking we are entitled.

This quote, to whom it is attributed is under some dispute, sums up a good view:

“Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”

When members of a civilization stop devoting themselves for some higher cause - which doesn’t have to be religion - and the members focus their attention on the individual appetites for self-gratification, the society begins its decline.

Great responses so far!

Thunder - “Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”

When members of a civilization stop devoting themselves for some higher cause - which doesn’t have to be religion - and the members focus their attention on the individual appetites for self-gratification, the society begins its decline."

This is exactly the type of syuff i’m looking for. Not necisarrily the specific factors that caused each civilization to fall, rather the human aspect of the fall. Why did the people allow it to happen. What signs were present that went unnoticed. Can we teach our children of these signs and help them always flourish? do our children need to fail?

From what I can tell from my history studies, the biggest influence of a society collapsing was individual self intrest in such an extreme form that it rose above the need of the civilization itself. One person or group would exploit another group or part of the civilization for personal gain, not realizing they were destableizng the whole culture. Are their any groups today that are being exploited to the benefit of other groups? Please no conspiracy theories here, if you have evidence present it.