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The Collapse of Civilisation 101 By Peter West
Civilisations collapse when the elites become self-destructive in their greed and evil. This is a theme common to much of the reporting at this blog. Is it true? A scholarly book explores the same theme: Anne Glyn-Jones, Holding Up a Mirror: How Civilizations Decline, (Imprint Academic, Thorverton, 1996). There is also a very good video about this which can serve as Collapseology 101, an introduction to this topic by Paul Joseph Watson, who argues that almost every factor that led to the collapse of past civilisations, can be found in the West, and there are more as well, generating a situation of over-determination:
First, on the Glyn-Jones book, there are informative remarks given in an interview, saving us time in reading the book:
“Ivan Tyrrell: In your book, Holding up a Mirror - How Civilizations Decline, you describe our culture as one which "has run its course, which is morally, aesthetically and spiritually bankrupt." You also stated that our woes are the direct and logical result of the belief that the physical universe is the only reality that does or can exist: and that truth resides solely in the analysis and understanding of that 'reality'. Well the woes are what therapists are usually trying to deal with in one form or another, which is why I thought our readers would like me to interview you.
Glyn-Jones: I foresee a problem. As a therapist, you surely would approach this topic from the point of view of the individual, whereas I approach it with a predominant interest in society as a whole, and that might make our discussion difficult. …
Glyn-Jones: Well, fairly late. Fairly late in terms of the dynamics of degeneration. But we should remember that a society can be degenerate and unpleasant to live in because of the levels of crime, insecurity, unhappiness and uncertainty, but, at the same time, if it can keep its economy going and is not conquered by an outside group, it can struggle on for quite a long time. Greece didn't struggle on for very long because it had Rome on its doorstep disliking the Greek anarchy and piracy that was affecting Roman trade. The Romans just decided to stamp down hard on them and knock them into shape as it were. But then, of course, Rome degenerated. However, it managed to stagger on in a highly decadent condition for a remarkably long time while the barbarian tribes organized themselves. I was surprised as I looked at different cultures that having a superior technology does not save a sensate culture from collapse. Greek technology was superior to Roman and Roman technology was superior to the barbarians. But they all fell. And we can see a hint of that today in the way our Western, technically superior, cultures have been expelled from Somaliland, Afghanistan, Vietnam and so on. Despite considerably more advanced Western technology, our sensate cultures couldn't cope, obsessed with individualism as they are, with an idealist enemy prepared to die for a greater good.
Tyrrell: So, we can hang on for a long while, despite being so degenerate ... ?
Glyn-Jones: Yes, as long as we don't find ourselves up against a highly disciplined, cohesive enemy, and at the moment it looks as if we're not. At present the threats to our existence are internal rather than external. We can go on for a long time without a revolution that causes something new to happen. That's not to say we will be living in a particularly estimable level of civilization. Our art may become so degenerate that future generations will be completely uninterested in it. Life may become increasingly insecure. But the great threat to us is that we have a society which is devoted to the pursuit of happiness, seen largely in material terms - economic well-being - and we shall fail to deliver the goods. I'm not even talking about other sorts of happiness now, but just economic goods. Tyrrell: How come? We've never had so much materially.
Glyn-Jones: Because the financial costs of policing, arson, vandalism and family breakdown destroy the very raison-d'etre of materialist societies, namely, rising living standards. That's always happened in the past. Down here, where I live in the South West, there is a hospital which has just had to switch £80,000 into security fencing, which it would otherwise have used for patient care; there are umpteen examples like that. I read just the other day that the cost of crime to small businesses in the last 12 months was £1.5 billion. They have already reached the stage where the expense of screens to stop ram raiders, burglar alarms, in-store closed circuit television to combat shop lifting, store detectives and so on is at such a high level they can no longer make a profit. They can't even pay for insurance, the cost of crime is so great, particularly in the inner cities. The cost of more policing and prisons is crippling. Look at what's happening in the schools! The amount of finance they are now having to put into security is enormous - all over the country. Down here in Exeter, four years ago, the Municipal Mutual Insurance Company went broke. Overnight local authorities found they were uninsured. Fire engines and ambulances had to be shut up in their stations. They couldn't risk putting them on the streets uninsured. And what broke MMI was mainly insurance claims for school theft and school arson. One in eight schools are being set on fire every year by out-of control children. And computers and other electronic equipment are disappearing from schools at a rapidly increasing rate.
Tyrrell: Yes - even our little village primary school had its one and only, brand new computer stolen within 24 hours of it being installed.
Glyn-Jones: That's now typical. You also have a vast amount of fraud and theft going on in high places, and not just fraud by company directors that average citizens may be practising, but huge fraud in government, in the National Health Service, the Civil Service, in Pension Funds, in City institutions - many being fined for malpractice now - and the cost of all this corruption comes out of people's hard earned income and savings. Even pension funds aren 't safe. The degree of theft from churches, National Trust property, from people's cars, boats, houses, gardens - all of this is economically diminishing because, although you may be able to afford to replace stolen or destroyed items, or claim insurance money for it, the insurance puts the premiums up and we all have to pay for that. It's got so bad now that many people think nothing of regularly making false claims on their insurance! All this makes it more difficult to achieve the economic advance that governments like to promises us, quite apart from all the other problems we are up against now.
Tyrrell: It's as if we're running faster and faster but just going backwards.
Glyn-Jones: Moreover, going backwards on the down escalator! Another reason we shall fail to deliver the goods is permissiveness. For instance, state welfare payments for single parents are going up and up. When people say that this doesn't matter, "people are just not bothering to go through the marriage ceremony but are mostly living in pretty stable relationships", it just isn't true. Recent research showed that now 60 per cent of unmarried single mothers have never lived with the father of their baby. There's a vast level of costs involved. We just don't know to what extent the disturbed and delinquent children of broken families are adding to our costs, the costs of looking after them and paying for the damage that they do to other people.
Tyrrell: And are these all signs that the majority of us are living for immediate gratification of the senses?
Glyn-Jones: Yes. And we see this everywhere. For example, nobody is expected to be able to control themselves sexually any longer. If you fall in love, that's it. You can do anything you want. But at the beginning of this century there were millions of women across Europe left single after the First World War. Nobody expected them to go off and break up other people's marriages just because they hadn't got a man of their own. And yet now anybody who hasn't got a sexual partner of their own finds another one, and if they happen to 'fall in love' with someone who's married, never mind what damage it does to the husband or wife or children left behind. Love is now supposed to be a completely irresistible impulse. Well, the Greeks of the classical period considered that sort of love a disease - a form of madness.
Tyrrell: I'm quite sure it is. Love is a trance state. "Love is blind," as they say. Of course this is where the arts and entertainment draw much material from because relationships endlessly fascinate. How do you see the three different views of the world reflected in the culture of today? I'm intrigued whether you think that the arts actually help to create the sensate society or whether they just reflect it.
Glyn-Jones: It depends what art it is. These three different views of the world can be traced in the evolution of law and custom; in the relationship between religion and science; in attitudes to technology and to the way we exploit the material world. It's also observable in the dominant philosophies - political, moral and metaphysical; and in the way in which different societies behave. But, above all, they are made manifest in the arts. Controversy over whether dramatic entertainment is simply reflecting life; responding to a market in sensational taste; or initiating value changes that are impinging on real life, is raging now. I think that the visual arts, particularly film, television and theatre, very readily put a stamp of approval on behaviour. They validate actions and behaviour in a much stronger way than if you only read about them. Now we see the public taste for explicit sex and violence evolving with all the enthusiasm of the Roman amphitheatre. And there is no doubt this spills out onto the streets. The emotional damage done to victims of criminals, muggers, rapists and murderers is incalculable, a state of affairs which victim support groups try to ameliorate; but some sufferers are destroyed by the loss of their trust in fellow human beings. An 86-year old woman, though unhurt when her handbag containing only £4 was snatched, never smiled again and in a month she was dead. It's the elderly who remember a very different social atmosphere who are probably the most affected. The philosopher Leopold Kohr died in February 1994 a broken-hearted man shortly after the fourteenth burglary of his Gloucestershire home that left all his papers ransacked. "They have finally murdered my career," he said, "I do not think I can begin writing again."”
The little aside about Leopold Kohr is interesting as Khor was author of the book The Breakdown of Nations, (Routledge, 1957), which is the ultimate anti-globalist decentralisation book, and this had an impact upon decentralist self-reliance folk like E. F. Schumacher and Kirkpatrick Sale. It is suspicious that 14 break-ins occurred. Anyway, moving right alone, the same themes are discussed in a recent post by Paul Craig Roberts, along the same end is nigh for the West lines:
No, this is too strong for me to quote. Best go to the site under the cover of darkness, maybe with a small torch. Another piece of evidence of coming social storm and tempest is the extent by which the rich are building bunkers, getting ready to hunker down and dig in when TSHTF:
“After the 2020 Presidential Election, Rickards is much less optimistic and so are the wealthy elite. Rickards says, “The rich are building bunkers. Entrepreneurs are actually buying abandoned missile siloes with armed guards and steel doors... Here’s another interesting thing, hedge fund billionaires may trade stocks, bonds and currencies all day long, but when you ask them where do you have your own money, every one of them that I have spoken to have gold, physical gold...They all have gold. They don’t trade it, but they have it.”
I am not one for the gold fetish myself, being poor I tend to think in terms of having material possessions, like land, a bunker, food, weapons, and generally things that will survive when the rug is pulled out from under us. This is all happening sooner than many expects, and even if you are collapse-sceptical it would be good insurance to devote some time to thinking and planning, just in case.