How Civilizations Fall: Quotes to Remind Us How and Why Empires Collapse

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How Civilizations Fall: Quotes to Remind Us How and Why Empires CollapseMuch like human beings and other animals, civilizations have a life cycle. They begin, they become powerful, they become decadent, they decline. There is no reason to believe that our current civilization will be any different. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that it will decline and fall just as every other great civilization in history has done before it.

This has been a frequent subject of thought and discussion among philosophers and historians. It forms the entire basis of the apocalyptic genre of fiction – what happens when things fall apart?

Many average people consider the question as well. This is why the prepper lifestyle has become increasingly popular. People simply want to be prepared in the event that they find themselves and their families alive at the time civilization decides to fall.

The following quotes are food for thought for light preppers, heavy preppers and non-preppers alike.

Brian Miller
Curated by
Brian Miller

“As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.  On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.”

“A nation is born stoic, and dies epicurean. At its cradle (to repeat a thoughtful adage) religion stands, and philosophy accompanies it to the grave. In the beginning of all cultures a strong religious faith conceals and softens the nature of things, and gives men courage to bear pain and hardship patiently; at every step the gods are with them, and will not let them perish, until they do. Even then a firm faith will explain that it was the sins of the people that turned their gods to an avenging wrath; evil does not destroy faith, but strengthens it. If victory comes, if war is forgotten in security and peace, then wealth grows; the life of the body gives way, in the dominant classes, to the life of the senses and the mind; toil and suffering are replaced by pleasure and ease; science weakens faith even while thought and comfort weaken virility and fortitude. At last men begin to doubt the gods; they mourn the tragedy of knowledge, and seek refuge in every passing delight. Achilles is at the beginning, Epicurus at the end. After David comes Job, and after Job, Ecclesiastes.”

Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization
“Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms.” - Aristotle

“Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms.”

“All presidents but Jefferson have argued that their first job was to keep us safe. All presidents but Jefferson were wrong. If you read the Constitution, you will see that the President's first job - as Jefferson understood well - is to keep us free.”

“Persuade your fellow citizens it's a good idea and pass a law. That's what democracy is all about. It's not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.”

“The Court must be living in another world. Day by day, case by case, it is busy designing a Constitution for a country I do not recognize.”

“Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.” - Arnold Toynbee

“Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.”

“[T]he power system continues only as long as individuals try to get something for nothing. The day when a majority of individuals declares or acts as if it wants nothing from the government, declares that it will look after its own welfare and interests, then on that day the power elites are doomed.”

“The tyranny of majorities may be as bad as the tyranny of kings.”

“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

Will & Ariel Durant, “Epilogue - Why Rome Fell”, The Story of Civilization, 3 Caesar and Christ

“Government should be good for the liberty of the governed, and that is when it governs to the least possible degree. It should be good for the wealth of the nation, and that is when it acts as little as possible upon the labor that produces it and when it consumes as little as possible. It should be good for the public security, and that is when it protects as much as possible, provided that the protection does not cost more than it brings in.... It is in losing their powers of action that governments improve. Each time that the governed gain space there is progress.”

“The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.” - William Edgar Borah

“The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.”

Republican U.S. Senator from Idaho William Edgar Borah (Served from 1907 until his death in 1940)

“Do not trust governments more than governments trust their own people.”

“Great numbers of men and women were unwilling to make the effort required for the maintenance of the old order, not because they were not good enough to fulfill their civic duties, but because they were too good to be satisfied with a system from which so few derived benefit.”

“In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” - Will Rogers

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”

“They tend to speak a language common in Washington but not specifically shared by the rest of us. They talk about programs and policies, and how to implement them. Or about trade-offs and constituencies and positioning the candidate and distancing the candidate. About the story and how it will play. They speak of a candidate’s performance by which they usually mean his skill at circumventing questions. Not as citizens, but as professional insiders attended to signals pitched beyond the range of normal hearing.”

“It (preserving American ideals) requires President Eisenhower’s "alert and knowledgeable citizenry" and a long-term, open-ended commitment to check the power of government. Our democracy depends on respect for our liberties and a healthy balance between Washington’s authority and the rights of the fifty states. Government has no right to listen to your phone calls, read your e-mail, collect your bank records, or follow you through the Internet without good cause. These are violations of the constitutional right of American citizens to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Nor should your government be allowed to detain you indefinitely without trial. Yet all these values remain under threat, because various pieces of post-9/11 legislation have attempted to expand the government’s ability to do all these things.”

“The greatest threat that a superhero foreign policy poses for American democracy comes not from the enormous debt it imposes or even the heightened threat of terrorism itself, but from the potential impact of another large-scale attack on U.S. soil on the rights and privacy of American citizens. It is not China or Russia or Iran or any other emerging power or rogue state that threatens our freedom. The only government on earth that can strip Americans of their civil liberties is headquartered in Washington, D.C.”

“In short, there is no greater threat to American freedom and our civil liberties than a fear-driven response to a new terrorist attack and the misguided foreign policy response it might provoke. The attacks of September 11, 2001, created a new kind of fear for the average American, one that seemed to demand a forceful response of historic scale. The toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan wasn’t a satisfying enough answer. Our government went in search of other villains. The result: the two longest and most expensive wars in U.S. history. Beyond the costs imposed on our military is the price we have paid at home. As more revelations emerge about the thousand ways in which our government now monitors our lives, we face a disturbing truth—Americans are not even legally entitled to know how much of our privacy we have surrendered. Security cameras we once would have rejected as Orwellian are now a fact of daily American life. U.S. companies with familiar names share data about our private lives and personal choices with the government we have empowered to protect us. How much more of our freedom will we hand over to faceless bureaucrats the next time a gang of jihadis hits the jackpot? What do all those cameras and the salaries of officials charged with monitoring them cost the American taxpayer? And how much more of our privacy will we surrender in years to come? It is not power that makes America exceptional. It is freedom. Our freedom is at risk, and we must protect it.”

Ian Bremmer, Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World

“The U.S. government now poses the greatest threat to our freedoms. More than terrorism, more than domestic extremism, more than gun violence and organized crime, even more than the perceived threat posed by any single politician, the U.S. government remains a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us.”

“In America we say if anyone gets hurt, we will ban it for everyone everywhere for all time.  And before we know it, everything is banned.” - Jonathan Haidt

“In America we say if anyone gets hurt, we will ban it for everyone everywhere for all time.  And before we know it, everything is banned.”

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Always.”

“There is no better teacher than history in determining the future. There are answers worth billions of dollars in a $30 history book.”

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. - Mark Twain

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history”