Let’s start from the beginning…with the people who were contemporary to the collapse, the Romans themselves. Did they understand what was happening to them? This is a very important point: if a society, intended as its government, can understand that collapse is coming, can they do something to avoid it? It is relevant to our own situation, today.
In business people use the myth of the boiled frog to explain our inability to see and adapt to the deleterious effects of change. And while there are those who unflinchingly pursue the truth, they may be only recognized as such in the post collapse analysis. Decline is inevitable; the venal, the power hungry will eventually seize control (it’s for your own good or the children), the virtue of a culture will be replaced by hedonistic calculus, technological sophistication reaches its zenith while education its nadir, and everyone tries to saw off a limb while the tree falls. “I got mine.” Yes, you did.
Regardless of how much knowledge we accumulate, no matter how many collapsed civilizations, technological failures or business cases we study, there will always be a new generation who, as Russell Kirk described, “are like flies of the summer” caring little what went before them and nothing for what comes after, who are curious only and I mean that in the medieval sense. The more complex a system becomes the higher cost to maintain the status quo. Eventually complexity reaches the point that the problems become insurmountable and from what I have seen the more centralized the decision making authority, the faster the demise.