I have this idea that every civilization that collapsed (Mayan, Egyptian, Babylonian, Indus Valley), and 99% of all recorded civilizations have collapsed, and left us only archaeological remains, had within it two main groups:
One group lets call them “conservatives”, though I am sure they bear no relation to conservatives today, said the status quo is fine. It has served us well and this pesky drought/barbarian invasion/plague/internal strife/monstrous inequality/failure of our food supply/changing climate is just some natural rhythm and we mustn’t change anything in our society because change is bad and we would rather die out than change.
And another group, lets call them “liberals”, though again no connection with today’s liberals, who said: well actually this looks pretty threatening and we had better change our society quite significantly, to make it more resilient in the face of what is happening, or this devastating change will destroy our civilization and we would rather change than die out.
And then of course the “conservatives” accused the “liberals” of making up the story of the drought/barbarian invasion etc to justify change which they wanted anyway. And so the civilization achieved political grid-lock and died of it. As in all likelihood there is a possibility will we….
The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) said it well:
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunk-less legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.