Well, okay; I’m not exactly sure how “mainstream” the Salon.com website is, but they’re certainly bigger than, say, this blog. And with their Huffington Post tie-in, and now pulling articles from Alter.Net, I’d say they’re pretty big. And they just posted an interesting comparison between the decline of Rome and the decline of America.
As is often the case, when the mainstream gets hold of something like this, the “comments” section is where things get truly interesting. The very first post, in fact, agrees with the premise, but disagrees with the reasoning behind the article; much discussion ensues. (Go ahead and read them; I’ll wait…) As ever, I’m of mixed opinion here. I’ve long compared the Roman Empire’s collapse to our own descent, but mostly based on my rather unfocused high school-level education on the subject of Rome. (I often cite the “bread-and-circuses” effect, where the citizenry can vote themselves entertainment and cheap snacks, I’m looking at the rise in obesity and “reality TV”.) Still, the first poster’s premise is that Rome exceeded its environment’s carrying capacity; I’d submit that that happened at least as soon as they started talking Empire, and probably well before.
No, what I’d call Salon’s list is a comparison of the Political Declines and Falls of the two empires. I can easily see points 2, 3, and 5; my knowledge of Roman history doesn’t extend as far as the issues raised by the other five points, but I’m willing to take the authors of those other histories at their word.
Now, none of the eight points in the article, nor even all eight taken together, are either proof of or cause of the collapse, either then or now. They’re certainly strong indications, however, that things are headed in a direction most people would rather not think about.
And yet, Perhaps it’s just me, but to quote a favorite movie of mine, I’ve felt a sudden disturbance in the Force… This is a bit more of a good one, I think. I had been seeing tension ramp up and up, as if everyone was waiting for a sudden precipitous drop (down to the next “step” in the Long Collapse). Lately, however, that seems to have eased. Have we reached the next step, and it wasn’t as far down as we feared? Or is this the calm before the storm? (Or, am I completely imagining things?) Time will tell. As is my wont, I’m cautiously optimistic, and keeping my preps stocked.