When their morals and fellow-feeling decline

How Civilizations Collapse Icon

September 9, 2015

Societies are created when indvidual people come together under a common interest to achieve something. For example:

  • a group of military countries form an alliance for mutual defense or to attack another country
  • a group of criminals agree to join forces to be a crime syndicate
  • a group of teenagers agree to meet after school to start a rock band

All such alliances, syndicates, and bands are societies that require its members to agree to be part of the group or project. This agreement is an imposition which requires the members to follow do’s and dont’s which then is the basis for the morals of that group.

Since morals are the basis for the creation of societies, then the decline of morals are the cause of a society’s voluntary dissolution, whether a rock band or a civilization. All long-running civilizations are rooted in their own indigenous moral system. Their morals make their way into their laws which then regulates the egos of its citizens in order to create those long-running civilizations.

Long-running empires have their morals baked into their laws and traditions:

  • The Romans had their Roman morals
  • The Holy Roman empire had Catholicism
  • The Chinese had Confucianism
  • The Persians had Zoroastrianism
  • The Indians have Hinduism
  • The Americans have liberalism which specifically rejects monarchy
Cicero giving a speech
Cicero was the embodiment of high morals during the Roman Republic and early Roman Empire, as seen in his rhetoric. Such high morals were lost after the Romans switched to the Catholic system

In contrast, short-running empires usually have laws based on a single genius founder like Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, or Napoleon Bonaparte. Their laws, and the morals that glue their empires, vanishes after the founder dies or after three generations from the founder .

The empire declines or is destroyed when their moral systems get overturned or cancelled:

  • Roman morals were destroyed by the Catholic Church from Constantine
  • The Holy Roman Empire was destroyed by the Protestant Reformation
  • Persia was destroyed by Islam from Arabia, with its Zoroastrian morals mutating into Shia Islam
  • China’s Confucianism and the Chinese empire was destroyed by Communism
  • America’s liberalism is slowly being destroyed by neoliberalism which creates an unseen monarchy through its oligarchs

Some people wrongly attribute the collapse of empires to decadence or its citizens being selfish. This is not entirely true because the decadence might or might not be a sign of a changing moral system.

  • Rome was decadent under Caligula and Nero, but was still very much intact hundreds of years afterwards.
  • China was decadent during its Ming period, but we still consider its replacement Qing as part of the Chinese empire


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