AuthorTopic: Civilization Collapse History  (Read 1398 times)

Offline RE

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Civilization Collapse History
« on: July 25, 2015, 04:01:31 AM »
Fuck Rome, let's go back to the Bronze Age...


Lessons From The Last Time Civilization Collapsed

August 19, 2014 8:49 AM ET
Adam Frank

From the Abu Simbel temples in southern Egypt, dating back to the 13th century B.C.

Consider this, if you would: a network of far-flung, powerful, high-tech civilizations closely tied by trade and diplomatic embassies; an accelerating threat of climate change and its pressure on food production; a rising wave of displaced populations ready to sweep across and overwhelm developed nations.

Sound familiar?

While that laundry list of impending doom could be aimed at our era, it's actually a description of the world 3,000 years ago. It is humanity's first "global" dark age as described by archaeologist and George Washington University professor Eric H. Cline in his recent book 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed.

1177 B.C. is, for Cline, a milepost. A thousand years before Rome or Christ or Buddha, there existed a powerful array of civilizations in the Near and Middle East that had risen to the height of their glory. Then, fairly suddenly, the great web of interconnected civilizations imploded and disappeared.

The question that haunts Eric Cline is why. What drove such a complex set of societies to all perish almost all at once? The answers and its lesson, Cline argues, are a story we moderns should not ignore. When I asked him about the parallels between 1177 B.C. and A.D. 2014, Cline responded:

    "The world of the Late Bronze Age and ours today have more similarities than one might expect, particularly in terms of relationships, both at the personal level and at the state level. Thus, they had marriages and divorces, embassies and embargoes, and so on. They also had problems with climate change and security at the international level. These are not necessarily unique to just them and us, but the combination of similar problems (climate change and drought, earthquakes, war, economic problems) at the very same time just might be unique to both."

The Year Civilization Collapsed

by Eric H. Cline

The Late Bronze Age that Cline is interested in stretches from about 1500 B.C. to 1100 B.C. The Bronze Age itself, as opposed to the Stone Age before it, begins somewhere around 3000 B.C. At that point, people developed sophisticated metallurgy techniques allowing them to mix copper and tin into an alloy — bronze — strong enough for serious sword blades and other goods. It is in the Bronze Age that city building, and the sprawling kingdoms they engendered, begins in earnest. Egypt of the pharaohs was a Bronze Age civilization as was the Babylonian empire.

It was the transport of copper and tin for bronze that helped establish complex trade networks. Grain and manufactured goods also became part of that transportation web. Alliances between city-states followed. In this way, the Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites, Cypriots, Minoans, Mycenaeans, Assyrians and Babylonians became the economic powerhouses of the ancient world — what Cline calls the "Group of 8." Together they built the first version of a "global" culture using long-distance economic and military partnerships that required advanced — for its day — technologies.

So what took all these cultures down at the same time? The story begins, but does not end, with climate change.

The evidence that a prolonged shift in climate was a factor in bringing down the Mediterranean Bronze Age comes from a number of studies, including one published in 2013, showing that cooling sea surface temperatures led to lower rainfall over inland farming areas. Pollen analysis from sea sediments also indicates a fairly rapid transition to a drier climate during this period that includes the Late Bronze Age collapse.

What followed were drought, scarcity and desperation. Ancient voices, preserved in stone, tell the human side of the climate change story. A letter from a commercial officer living in the starving, inland city of Emar begs the recipient in his hometown of Ugarit, in northern Syria, to bring aid quickly. "There is famine in your [i.e. our] house; we will all die of hunger. If you do not arrive quickly, we ourselves will die of hunger. You will not see a living soul ..."

And with famine came migration and wars. The scourge of the era was the mysterious "Sea Peoples" who had swept across the region. According to Cline, it is likely that the marauding Sea Peoples came from the western Mediterranean and "were probably fleeing their island homes because of the drought and famine ... moving across the Mediterranean as both refugees and conquerors."

The wars took their own toll. "Be on the lookout for the enemy and make yourself very strong!" proclaims a letter to the King of Ugarit near the end. The warning appears to have arrived too late. Another letter tells of the army's humiliation. "The city was sacked. Our food in the threshing floors was burned and the vineyards were also destroyed. Our city is sacked. May you know it! May you know it!"

For Cline, climate change — along with the famines and migration it brought — comprised a "perfect storm" of cataclysms that weakened the great Bronze Age "global" culture. But the final blow, the deepest reason for the collapse, may have come from within the very structure of that society.

The world of the Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians was complex, in the technical meaning of the word. It was a system with many agents and many overlapping connections. That complexity was both a strength and weakness. Cline points to recent research in the study of so-called complex systems that shows how susceptible they can be to cascades of disruption and failure from even small perturbations. Perhaps, Cline says, the Bronze Age societies exhibited the property called "hypercoherence" where interdependencies are so complex that stability becomes ever harder to maintain.

Thus complexity itself may have been the greatest threat to late Bronze Age civilization once the pressures began. And it is that fact, more than anything else, that speaks to the dangers we face today. As Cline wrote in the Huffington Post:

    "We live in a world that has more similarities to that of the Late Bronze Age than one might suspect, including, as the British archaeologist Susan Sherratt has put it, an 'increasingly homogeneous yet uncontrollable global economy and culture' in which 'political uncertainties on one side of the world can drastically affect the economies of regions thousands of miles away.' "

So, what exactly is the lesson Cline thinks we should take away from 1177 B.C.? In an email to me, Cline wrote:

    "We should be aware that no society is invulnerable and that every society in the history of the world has ultimately collapsed. We should also be thankful that we are advanced enough to understand what is happening."

But are we advanced enough to do anything with our understanding?
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Offline RE

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Civilization Collapse History: Roman Empire Collapse Video
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2016, 05:18:32 PM »
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Offline agelbert

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Re: Civilization Collapse History
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2016, 05:23:07 PM »
Leges         Sine    Moribus      Vanae   
if it has not works, is dead, being alone.

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The Death of the Republic
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2017, 08:32:15 AM »

The Death of the Republic
Posted on May 21, 2017

By Chris Hedges

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The deep state’s decision in ancient Rome—dominated by a bloated military and a corrupt oligarchy, much like the United States of 2017—to strangle the vain and idiotic Emperor Commodus in his bath in the year 192 did not halt the growing chaos and precipitous decline of the Roman Empire.

Commodus, like a number of other late Roman emperors, and like President Trump, was incompetent and consumed by his own vanity. He commissioned innumerable statues of himself as Hercules and had little interest in governance. He used his position as head of state to make himself the star of his own ongoing public show. He fought victoriously as a gladiator in the arena in fixed bouts. Power for Commodus, as it is for Trump, was primarily about catering to his bottomless narcissism, hedonism and lust for wealth. He sold public offices so the ancient equivalents of Betsy DeVos and Steve Mnuchin could orchestrate a vast kleptocracy.

Commodus was replaced by the reformer Pertinax, the Bernie Sanders of his day, who attempted in vain to curb the power of the Praetorian Guards, the ancient version of the military-industrial complex. This effort saw the Praetorian Guards assassinate Pertinax after he was in power only three months. The Guards then auctioned off the office of emperor to the highest bidder. The next emperor, Didius Julianus, lasted 66 days. There would be five emperors in A.D. 193, the year after the assassination of Commodus. Trump and our decaying empire have ominous historical precedents. If the deep state replaces Trump, whose ineptitude and imbecility are embarrassing to the empire, that action will not restore our democracy any more than replacing Commodus restored democracy in Rome. Our republic is dead.

Societies that once were open and had democratic traditions are easy prey for the enemies of democracy. These demagogues pay deference to the patriotic ideals, rituals, practices and forms of the old democratic political system while dismantling it. When the Roman Emperor Augustus—he referred to himself as the “first citizen”—neutered the republic, he was careful to maintain the form of the old republic. Lenin and the Bolsheviks did the same when they seized and crushed the autonomous soviets. Even the Nazis and the Stalinists insisted they ruled democratic states. Thomas Paine wrote that despotic government is a fungus that grows out of a corrupt civil society. This is what happened to these older democracies. It is what happened to us.

Our constitutional rights—due process, habeas corpus, privacy, a fair trial, freedom from exploitation, fair elections and dissent—have been taken from us by judicial fiat. These rights exist only in name. The vast disconnect between the purported values of the state and reality renders political discourse absurd.

Corporations, cannibalizing the federal budget, legally empower themselves to exploit and pillage. It is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries can hold sick children hostage while their parents bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughters. Those burdened by student loans can never wipe out the debt by declaring bankruptcy. In many states, those who attempt to publicize the conditions in the vast factory farms where diseased animals are warehoused for slaughter can be charged with a criminal offense. Corporations legally carry out tax boycotts. Companies have orchestrated free trade deals that destroy small farmers and businesses and deindustrialize the country. Labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders have been defanged. The Supreme Court, in an inversion of rights worthy of George Orwell, defines unlimited corporate contributions to electoral campaigns as a right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Much of the press, owned by large corporations, is an echo chamber for the elites. State and city enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations that hike rates and deny services to the poor. The educational system is being slowly privatized and turned into a species of vocational training.

Wages are stagnant or have declined. Unemployment and underemployment—masked by falsified statistics—have thrust half the country into chronic poverty. Social services are abolished in the name of austerity. Culture and the arts have been replaced by sexual commodification, banal entertainment and graphic depictions of violence. The infrastructure, neglected and underfunded, is collapsing. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, arrests, food shortages and untreated illnesses that lead to early death plague a harried underclass. The desperate flee into an underground economy dominated by drugs, crime and human trafficking. The state, rather than address the economic misery, militarizes police departments and empowers them to use lethal force against unarmed civilians. It fills the prisons with 2.3 million citizens, only a tiny percentage of whom had a trial. One million prisoners work for corporations inside prisons as modern-day slaves.

The amendments of the Constitution, designed to protect the citizen from tyranny, are meaningless. The Fourth Amendment, for example, reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The reality is that our telephone calls, emails, texts and financial, judicial and medical records, along with every website we visit and our physical travels, are tracked, recorded and stored in perpetuity in government computer banks.

The state tortures, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantanamo Bay, but also in supermax ADX [administrative maximum] facilities such as the one at Florence, Colo., where inmates suffer psychological breakdowns from prolonged solitary confinement. Prisoners, although they are citizens, endure around-the-clock electronic monitoring and 23-hour-a-day lockdowns. They undergo extreme sensory deprivation. They endure beatings. They must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. They can write only one letter a week to one relative and cannot use more than three pieces of paper. They often have no access to fresh air and take their one hour of daily recreation in a huge cage that resembles a treadmill for hamsters.

The state uses “special administrative measures,” known as SAMs, to strip prisoners of their judicial rights. SAMs restrict prisoners’ communication with the outside world. They end calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. Prisoners under SAMs are not permitted to see most of the evidence against them because of a legal provision called the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA. CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from those being prosecuted. You can be tried and convicted, like Joseph K. in Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” without ever seeing the evidence used to find you guilty. Under SAMs, it is against the law for those who have contact with an inmate—including attorneys—to speak about his or her physical and psychological conditions.

And when prisoners are released, they have lost the right to vote and receive public assistance and are burdened with fines that, if unpaid, will put them back behind bars. They are subject to arbitrary searches and arrests. They spend the rest of their lives marginalized as members of a vast criminal caste.

The executive branch of government has empowered itself to assassinate U.S. citizens. It can call the Army into the streets to quell civil unrest under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which ended a prohibition on the military acting as a domestic police force. The executive branch can order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. This is called “extraordinary rendition.” Those taken into custody by the military can be denied due process and habeas corpus rights and held indefinitely in military facilities. Activists and dissidents, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can face indefinite incarceration.

Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations are criminalized. The state assumed the power to detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.

The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are meaningless theater. No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, who is powerless in the face of corporate exploitation, can be described as free. The relationship between the state and the citizen who is watched constantly is one of master and slave. And the shackles will not be removed if Trump disappears.
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The Romans and Us. Why State Violence is on the Rise
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2018, 01:11:23 AM »

Monday, January 8, 2018
The Romans and Us. Why State Violence is on the Rise

The Spanish police injured hundreds of people, including women and the elderly, during the referendum for the independence of Catalunya, in 2017 (image source). It was not the worst that states can do - and have have been doing - to their citizens, but it is an indication that state violence is on the rise. Perhaps we can find reasons for this trend if we look back at history, all the way to ancient Rome. The Romans were extremely cruel and violent, perhaps an effect of their reliance on slaves. In our case, we have replaced human slaves with fossil slaves (fossil fuels) but, as they are abandoning us, we risk to return to the violence of ancient times.

The more you study ancient Roman history, the more you realize how similar to us the Romans were. The economy, money, commerce, travel, bureaucracy, laws - so many things in our world find a parallel in the Roman world, even though often in a much less sophisticated form. So, if you were to use a time machine to be transported to ancient Rome, you would find yourself in a familiar world in almost all respects. Except for one thing: you would be startled by the violence you would encounter. Real, harsh, brutal violence; blood and death right in front of you, in the streets, in the arenas, in theaters. It was not the random kind of violence we call "crime," it was violence codified, sanctioned and enacted by the state.

When we think of violence in Roman times, we normally think of gladiator games. Those were surely bloody and violent, but just part of the story of how the Roman state managed violence. The Roman courts meted capital punishment with an ease which, for us, is bewildering. Poor people, slaves, and non-Roman citizens were especially likely to be declared "noxii" (plural of noxius) and condemned to death.

In those times, there was no such thing as a "humane" way of killing the noxii. On the contrary, their suffering was supposed to be an example - the more they suffered, the better. They were tortured, beaten, flogged, crucified, chocked, dismembered, burned, and more. It seems that they could even be killed also for theater plays: when the plot involved the death of a character, the actor playing the role could be replaced with a noxius who would be killed for real for the pleasure of the audience. (Tertullian reports this, although it is not clear how common it was)

As another example, the Roman law said that when a slave killed a master, all the slaves of that household were to be executed, even those not involved in the murder. Tacitus, (Ann. 14.42.2) reports that the law was put into practice when the slaves of a rich patrician - hundreds, at least - were executed after that their master had been killed by one of them over, apparently, a love rivalry. That was justified because it was to be seen as an example.

How is it that a supposedly advanced civilization as the Roman one could behave in this way? One word: slavery.

That needs to be explained. First of all, all societies are based on some kind of social control. If humans were ants, cooperation would be coded in their genes. But, in humans, personal interest may go against the common good. To avoid that, there is a need for negative or positive enforcement: what we commonly call the carrot or the stick.

Positive enforcement may be food, sex, shelter, and other forms of gratification. Negative reinforcements can be the denial of all that, but also physical punishment: flogging, beating, torturing, etc.

In our society, we tend to believe that positive reinforcements are better than negative ones. For instance, we agree that our accountants, lawyers, teachers, doctors, and many others don't do their job because they are flogged or beaten if they don't. They do their best because they look for money, the primary form of positive enticement in our world.

Our society is possibly the most monetarized in history in the sense that we tend to believe that money can push people to do more or less everything. You probably know the joke about how economists hunt elephants: they don't, but they believe that elephants will hunt themselves if they are paid enough.

But how about the ancient Romans? In many cases, they used money just like we do. For instance, the Roman soldiers fought because they were paid: the very word "soldier" comes from a late Roman coin. Probably, the Romans knew perfectly well that negative reinforcements - beating, flogging, etc. - were not the best way to entice people to do their best. But they had a big problem with their slaves.

Slaves were the backbone of the Roman society, but how could they be motivated to work? By paying them money? Hardly. The majority of slaves were engaged in menial tasks, sometimes they were expendable manpower for mines and other dangerous tasks. Giving money to them would have had no sense: how could they spend it? The Roman economy couldn't produce the variety of toys and trinkets that we use to mark people's social status - a game we know as "keeping up with the Joneses."

It is true that some slaves formed an upper crust of professionals - they occupied the social space that's today occupied by the middle class. These relatively well to do slaves could own money, but that didn't change the fact that they were slaves and, in most cases, they were expected to remain so for life. Freeing slaves was maybe a positive stimulus, but it was rare and often just a way for a master to get rid of an old and useless slave.

So, negative enforcements - the stick - were used to control the slaves. Harsh punishments were lavishly applied not only to slaves, but the underclass of the libertii (freed slaves), the poor, and the foreigners. The Romans were so cruel because they had to constantly remind to the underclass what was their place and that they were always just one step away from being sent ad bestias, condemned to be eaten by wild beasts in the circus.

Everything has a logic and it seems that also being cruel has a logic - although not a pleasant one. And now we can apply this logic to our society. We don't have human slaves, but we have fossil slaves in the form of fossil fuels. We deal with fossil fuels in ways similar to those the Romans used toward their slaves (as noted also by Mouhot). Just like the Romans used their human slaves to build their civilization, we used the power of fossil fuels to build ours. One of the consequences is that we didn't need (so far) the kind of wanton cruelty that the Romans used toward their slaves. Our fossil slaves never complained about being burned inside boilers and engines.

But it is also true that fossil fuels are becoming gradually more expensive as we use them, because of the depletion of the best resources. Then, we badly need to reduce their use in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Our fossil slaves are leaving us; it is unavoidable.

The consequences are already visible: increasing inequality, extreme poverty, societal stress, and more. We haven't returned to the kind of formal separation among classes that defines some people as "slaves" in the Roman sense of the term, but we are seeing the rise of "debt slaves." In principle, debt is something that is supposed to be repaid by hard work. But, in many cases, it is becoming apparent that no matter how hard and for how long a person will work, they'll never be able to repay their debt. So, how can debt slaves be motivated?

The answer is the same that the ancient Romans had found: using negative enforcement methods, that is punishments, even harsh ones, meted by the state in its various branches: the police, the judiciary, the army, etc. And it seems to be exactly what we are seeing.

It is difficult to find reliable statistics on the increasing trend of state violence. Possibly, the most evident set of data we have is for the incarcerations in the US, showing an increase of a factor of five of the number of inmates from 1980 to 2014. Other forms of state-sanctioned violence can be judged only in qualitative terms, but it seems clear that we are in a historical phase in which states are more and more torturing, beating, shooting, and harassing unarmed citizens. The beating of Spanish citizens by the state police in Catalunya in 2017 is just an example.

So, here we are: seeing a spiral of violence that threatens to engulf all of us. To avoid that, I think we can learn a lot from the experience of the ancient Romans. Their source of energy was human slaves and that was the reason leading them to be so terribly cruel and violent. We have been lucky enough that we didn't need human slaves (so far) and so we could create a reasonably peaceful society - at least a society that was far less cruel than that of the ancient Romans. But if we have to revert to human slaves, we'll return to a cruel and bloody world, as it has been the rule for most of human history.

If we want to avoid this sad destiny, the only hope we have is to replace the fossil slaves with renewable, solid-state slaves who won't complain about staying in the sun to provide energy for us. A solar powered society doesn't need human slaves and it can be reasonably peaceful. We can build a society based on solar energy, but we have to do it fast, before the dark fossil slaves leave us forever.


A good book on violence in Roman times is "Spectacles of Death"; by Donald G. Kyle (1998) a paper on economic inequality during the Roman Empire is the one by Scheidel, W., & Friesen, S. (2010). "The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire", Journal of Roman Studies, 99 DOI: 10.3815/007543509789745223
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