The True and Unbending Stink of Destiny
“The universe,” it said, “was born a long, long time ago, perhaps ten or fifteen billion years ago. Our own solar system — this star, this planet and all the others — seem to have come into being some two or three billion years ago. For a long time, nothing whatever lived here. But then, after a billion years or so, life appeared.”
“Excuse me,” the anthropologist said. “You say that life appeared. Where did that happen, according to your myth — I mean, according to your scientific account.”
The creature seemed baffled by the question and turned a pale lavender. “Do you mean in what precise spot?”
“No. I mean, did this happen on the land or in the sea?”
“Land?” the other asked. “What is land?”
“Oh, you know,” he said, waving toward the shore, “the expanse of dirt and rocks that begins over there.”
The creature turned a deeper shade of lavender and said, “I can’t imagine what you’re gibbering about. The dirt and rocks over there are simply the lip of the vast bowl that holds the sea.”
“Oh yes,” the anthropologist said, “I see what you mean. Quite. Go on.”
“Very well,” the other said. “For many millions of centuries the life of the world was merely microorganisms floating helplessly in a chemical broth. But little by little, more complex forms appeared: single-celled creatures, slimes, algae, polyps, and so on.
“But finally,” the creature said, turning quite pink with pride as he came to the climax of his story, “but finally jellyfish appeared!”
— excerpted from Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
The Romans, I'm guessing, probably thought that all of history up to that point had led to their ascension. It's likely that they could not see past their own dominance of the known world at the time to comprehend the idea that their empire had an inevitable shelf life. Like the jellyfish in Quinn's tale, the average Roman citizen couldn't see past the "lip of the vast bowl that holds the sea."
I'd hazard a guess that the Aztecs were no more precognitive than the Romans. Neither were the Greeks. The Han Dynasty? Nope.
No more clued into the eminent demise than the American citizen is to the idea that one serious illness could destroy his entire security in a matter of months or that guy who leaves the bar drunk and gets into a car could see that he was going to hit that girl on her bike and spiral into oblivion.
This is true because we all have a set of horse blinders on called hubris. We are afflicted with the unquestioning belief that we are special. That, somehow, we are the exception to the natural rhythms of the universe.
A 2014 study "sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.
Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that 'the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.' Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to 'precipitous collapse — often lasting centuries — have been quite common.'
"By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: 'the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity;' and 'the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or 'Commoners') [poor]' These social phenomena have played 'a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,' in all such cases over 'the last five thousand years.'"
Those who are secure in beliefs in Christianity seem to selectively forget that their God had no trouble leveling Sodom and flooding the entire planet because He was pissed at our blindness to His commands. They seem to believe that we are special ("made in His image") just like the jellyfish.
Americans seem to believe that our democracy is the pinnacle of all civilizations. That we are special. That we are the exception to the inevitable patterns of history.
Just like each of us, destined to die at some point in the Game, our civilization is programmed to tip and collapse. The only question is exactly the same question faced by each of us in the knowledge that we will die no matter what we do to prevent it — what are we prepared to do with the time we have remaining?