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A dying civilization becomes a failed state.
It is a widespread feeling that “You can't destroy our life to fix climate when the fix will make the rich richer and trash us”.
This sets up the obvious dilemma: what do we give up, where will be the sacrifice zones? We don’t want to think about this and may prefer to drift over the edge.
Toynbee describes the difference between civilizations and universal states. A cvilization has a shared belief system, while a universal state has a bureaucracy but no shared belief except its own immortality.
He argues that the ultimate sign a civilization has broken down is when the dominant minority forms a "universal state", which stifles political creativity within the existing social order. ( quoting editor of Study of History)
For example Toynbee writes
First the Dominant Minority attempts to hold by force—against all right and reason—a position of inherited privilege which it has ceased to merit; and then the Proletariat repays injustice with resentment, fear with hate, and violence with violence. Yet the whole movement ends in positive acts of creation. The Dominant Minority creates a universal state, the Internal Proletariat a universal church, and the External Proletariat a bevy of barbarian war-bands."
It is easy to see our own situation in these ideas. Our Senate is a dead institution incapable of dealing with our real problems (population, energy, climate well-being, war.). The presidency is dead trying to pump thin blood into a huge dying politics. We have no shared belief except the elite think they have the right to rule but have no platform, and no goal.
Toynbee and Joseph Tainter are telling us the same story: existing dynamics will kill us: extraction of wealth from the people and land.
Where can revitalization come from? Most proposals are too weak to counter the tide and actually are designed to support the existing political and economic regimes. We are trapped in Burning Man. The paths out are difficult but we will try.