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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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How Societies Collapse: Or, The Eerie Parallels Between Rome, Nazi Germany, and America 

A little reflection occurs to me every time I write about American collapse.

Societies collapse in much the same way — there is something like a universal way of collapse. Yet the whole problem begins with the fact that human beings, having needy egos, find their own downfall difficult to accept.

Perhaps you yourself will object — you are a mighty citizen of a proud society. Ah. Do you think the Incas, Mayas, Romans, or Nazis ever thought they obeyed the laws of history? Of course not. Becoming a powerful society makes us vulnerable to collapse because it leaves us puffed up with hubris. “We shall never fall!”, we cry, “our thousand-year reign has barely begun!”

To think one is above history is precisely where collapse begins — people who don’t understand how societies fall can’t do a whole lot to stop it. We begin the story of how a society falls thus: there is an almost hysterical atmosphere of denial that it ever could.

Step one. The economy stagnates. Life becomes harder and meaner. An atmosphere of cruelty permeates. But elites must deny stagnation— otherwise, they have admitted that they have failed: in this way, a social contract never gets repaired.

Step two. Neighbour turns on neighbour for a constant share of a dwindling pie. They must compete more and more viciously to maintain the living standards of their parents and grandparents. Social bonds blow apart. Norms begin to disintegrate.

Step three. Growing ever more anxious and desperate, seeking a truce in what has become an unwinnable battle for survival, people turn to strongmen, glorified thugs, revelling in indecency, thus flaunting their power over broken norms and failed social contract.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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