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“Collapse” Is this what you want to happen?

June 2, 2020

I’m going to be quoting from a book, Jared Diamond’s estimable “Collapse” (first published fifteen years ago, in 2005). The book deals with case studies of historical once-thriving societies (think Easter Island, or Norse Greenland, among others) and tries to draw conclusions as to why human societies evolve to a certain level, and then collapse. Vanish.

The facts themselves, teased out by careful scientific and sociological study, are pretty alarming. How can we do this to ourselves?

I’m going to quote some passages from the book, but edit them somewhat to eliminate the idea that a casual reader might think “Oh, that was them, that’s not us.” Because, as you know Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

From “Collapse”

“This tragedy resulted from the deliberate choice of a modern elite to foster hatred and keep itself in power. This small, privileged group first set the majority against the minority to counter a growing political opposition from within. The two groups spoke the same language, attend the same schools and churches and bars, live together in the same towns with the same government. The society became divided between the rich haves and the poor have-nots, with decreasing numbers of people in the middle.

“We cannot avoid asking ourselves: how, under these circumstances, can so many be so readily manipulated by extreme leaders? All these facts illustrate why we need to search for other contributing factors in addition to ethnic hatred.”

These words come from the middle of Diamond’s book. The final conclusions that he may have, regarding our own American society today, will not be revealed until the final chapters. But we suspect what they will have to say about how we live, how we allow demagogues and social media to tell us what they want us to know, when all along we already know what we have to do.

Read the book. Share the ideas. Change the world before its too late, as it was for the Easter Islanders, the Greenland Norse, the Rwandan dead.

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