By Vijay Prozak11 January 2005
In the end stages of every great civilization, several things happen. First, impetus is lost: people no longer have an urge to create civilization as, heck, it's already here, let's enjoy it and not think too hard, because the people that made this place, they took life too seriously, man. Second, consensus is lost, in that people accustomed to appreciating the benefits of society no longer have the singular focus on maintaining it that comprises a healthy goal set. Once consensus is lost, what we commonly call "values" cannot exist, since there's no agreement about what is valued. After this, the symptoms set in, namely internal division, loss of learning and culture, and of course, bad breeding, first within the bloodline and then miscegenation.
This is how great civilizations fall, and you can see their ruins today all over the earth. T.S. Eliot was correct to note that "it ends" with a whimper and not a bang, because by the time the ancient structures are falling, there are few left who can actually realize what's happening. Most of the population have already transitioned to the idea of living among the ruins in a more primitive state, and lacking most qualities of discernment in themselves, aren't much concerned about how all finer things are crumbling around them, because they still have their fast food and television and are content with that. There is rarely a sudden appearance by the forces of evil to sweep into the streets and crush a vibrant culture; rather, the collapse of a great civilization is as anticlimactic as the death of a terminal cancer patient.
One can survive such a society, but it requires doing something most free-willed people find abhorrent: dedicating themselves in the largest part toward earning money, and sacrificing most of their time to this goal. Work six day weeks and bring home a fat paycheck, and you can get out into the suburbs where most people are gentler. You can afford the Alta Dena organic dairy milk, the no-pesticide vegetables, the finer clothes; you can drive a nice car, and buy memberships in places where the screaming rabble don't congregate. However, ultimately, such a lifestyle requires increasing amounts of money as the rest of the economy collapses and thus such finer things become aberrations in a consumer environment rewarding goods that above all are cheap -- quality becomes second to quantity.
Of course, the mutant corpses survive. There will be "art" -- but it will be little more than decoration, "unique" patterns and styles designed to shock or amuse: the kind of stuff that Hitler, being an artist, had no problem ordered being destroyed. There will be "culture," but it will consist of going to places where you buy things to participate in cultural events with all of the decorum and depth of a Nirvana concert. The institutes of higher learning will continue but will devote most of their time to teaching the ways of the new society, re-interpreting the older knowledge to fit the new rubric and, consequently, destroying it as a system of thought. It, too, will become aesthetics, and although it will exist in reference books (if not burned by the "progressive" newcomers) there will be only a handful who understand it, and none who can add to it.