How To Recognize When Your Society Is Suffering A Dramatic Decline

Authored by Brandon Smith via,

When historians and analysts look at the factors surrounding the collapse of a society, they often focus on the larger events and indicators — the moments of infamy. However, I think it’s important to consider the reality that large scale societal decline is built upon a mixture of elements, prominent as well as small. Collapse is a process, not a singular event. It happens over time, not overnight. It is a spectrum of moments and terrible choices, set in motion in most cases by people in positions of power, but helped along by useful idiots among the masses. The decline of a nation or civilization requires the complicity of a host of saboteurs.

So, instead of focusing on the top down approach, which is rather common, let’s start from the foundations of our culture to better understand why there is clear and definable destabilization.

Declining Moral Compass

There is always a conflict between personal gain and personal conscience — this is the nature of being human. But in a stable society, these two things tend to balance out. Not so during societal decline, as personal gain (and even personal comfort and gratification) tends to greatly outweigh the checks and balances of moral principles.

People often mistake the term “morality” to be a religious creation, but this is not what I am necessarily referring to. The concepts of “good” and “evil” are archetypal — that is to say they are psychologically inherent in most human beings from the moment of birth. This is not a matter of faith, but a matter of fact, observed by those in the field of psychology and anthropology over the course of a century of study.  How we relate to these concepts can be affected by our environment and upbringing, but for the most part, our moral compass is psychologically ingrained. It is up to us to either follow it or not follow it.

Watching how people handle this choice is a bit of hobby of mine, and I do take notes. You can learn a lot about the state of your environment by observing what people around you tend to do when faced with the conflict of personal gain versus personal conscience. It is saddening to admit that even though I live in rural America, where you are more likely to find self-reliance and cultural stability, I can still see a faltering nation bleeding through.

I have seen supposedly good people act dishonestly in business agreements. I have seen local institutions scam hardworking citizens. I have seen a court system rife with bias and a “good old boy” attitude of favoritism. I have seen local companies pretend to be benevolent contributors to the community while at the same time running constant frauds and rackets. I have even seen a few people within the liberty movement itself put the movement at risk with their own avarice, gluttony, narcissism and sociopathy.

Again, it is important to make a note of such people and institutions, for as the system continues its downward spiral it is these people that will present the greatest threat to the innocent.

As Carl Jung notes in his book The Undiscovered Self, there is always a contingent of latent sociopaths and psychopaths within any culture; usually about 10% of the population. In normal times, they, at least most of them, are forced into moral acclimation by the rest of the populace. But in times of decline, they seem to leak out of the woodwork like a slimy fungus. During heightened collapse, they no longer have to pretend to be upstanding and they show their true colors.

Most dangerous is when latent sociopaths or full blown sociopaths assume roles of leadership or power during the worst of times. With everyone distracted by their own plight, these people can become a cancer, infecting everything with their narcissistic pursuits and causing destruction in their wake.

Disinterest In Rewarding Conscience

During wider cultural collapse, it can become “fashionable” to see acts of principle as something to be scoffed at or ridiculed or to even see them as threats to the status quo. The concept of “going along to get along” takes precedence over doing what is right even when it is hard; this attitude is not relegated to the less honest people within society.

As a system collapses, a fog of apathy can result. Good people can become passive, scrambling to their individual corner of the world and hoping evil times will simply pass them by. The phrase “I just want to put all this behind me” is spoken regularly; but as we ignore the trespasses of terrible men and women, we also enable them. How? Because by doing nothing we allow them to continue their criminality, and we subject future persons and generations to victimization.

When doing the right thing is treated as laughable or “crazy” by what seems like a majority in the midst of widespread corruption, you are truly in the middle of a great decline.

In Christian circles, the idea of “the remnant” is sometimes spoken of. In Christian terms, this usually represents a minority of true believers surviving a tumultuous and immoral era. I see “the remnant” not so much as a contingent of Christians alone, but as a contingent of people that continue to maintain their principles and conscience when faced with unprecedented adversity. In the worst of times, these people remain stalwart, even if they are ridiculed for it.

Disinterest In Independent Effort

It is said that in this world there are two kinds of people — leaders and followers.  I’m not so sure about that, but I can see why this philosophy is promoted; it helps evil people in power stay in power by encouraging passive acceptance.

I would say that there are in fact two kinds of people in this world — people who want to control others and the people that just want to be left alone. In life sometimes we are both leaders and followers; we just have to be sure that when we lead we lead by example and not by force, and when we follow, we follow someone worth a damn.

In any case, passivity is not a solution to determining our roles in society. In most situations, independent action is required by every person to make the world a better place. Yet, in an era of systemic crisis, it is usually independent effort that is the first thing to go out the window. Millions upon millions of people wait around for someone, anyone, to tell them what they should be doing and how they should be doing it. In this way, society finds itself in stasis, frozen in a position of inaction.  Poisonous collectivism wins through mass aggression, but also through mass passivity.

In fact, when individualists do take action they can be admonished for it during times of societal breakdown, even if their actions have the potential to solve a problem. The idea that one man or woman (or a small group of people) could do anything about anything is sneered at as “fantasy” or “delusion.”  But mass movements of citizens working towards a practical goal are rare, and even more rare is when these movements are not controlled or manipulated to benefit the established order. It is not mass movements that change the world for the better, but individual people and small organizations of the dedicated, acting without permission and without administration.

It is these individuals and small groups that, over time and through relentless effort, inspire a majority to do what is necessary and right. It is these people that inspire others to finally take leadership in their own lives.

Individual Self-Isolation

I write often on the plight of the individual and individual rights within society, and I continue to see the factor of the individual as the most important element in any culture. A culture based on protecting and nurturing individualism and voluntarism is the only culture, in my view, that will ever be successful at avoiding full spectrum collapse. That said, the downside to overt individualism is the danger of self isolation. That is to say, when true individuals only concern themselves with their personal circumstances and ignore the circumstances of the rest of the world, they eventually set themselves up to be crushed by that world.

Organization on a voluntary basis is not only healthy but vital in the longevity of a society. The more people turn in on themselves and only care about their own general conditions, the easier it is for evil people to do evil things unnoticed. Also, self isolation in the wake of collapse sets individuals up for failure, as no one is capable of surviving without at least some help from a wider pool of knowledge and talents.

In a system based on corruption, the establishment will encourage self isolation as a means to control the populace. Or, they will offer a false choice, between self isolation versus mindless collectivism. The truth is there is always a middle ground. Voluntary organization and individualism are not mutually exclusive. I call this the “difference between community and collectivism.” A community does not supplant the individual, while a collective requires the complete erasure of individual pursuits and thought.

If you find yourself surrounded by people who refuse any organization, even practical and voluntary organization in the face of instability, then your society may be in the latter stages of a collapse.

Disaster Denial

Even as a crisis or collapse unfolds, if a society actually reels or reacts to it and takes note of the problem, there is hope for that society. If, however, that society willfully ignores the danger and denies it exists when presented with overwhelming evidence, then that society will likely suffer complete disintegration and will probably have to start all over from scratch — hopefully with a set of principles and ideals based on conscience and honor.

The strength of a culture can be measured by its willingness to self reflect. Its survival can be determined by its willingness to accept its flaws when they arise and its willingness to repair the damage done. Self-aware societies are difficult to corrupt or control. Only in denial can people be easily manipulated and enslaved.

If you cannot accept the reality of the abyss, you cannot move to avoid it or prepare yourself to survive the fall. I see this issue as perhaps the single most important element in the fight to save the portions of our society worth saving. Educating people on the blatant facts behind our own national decline can dissolve the wall of denial, and perhaps we will find when disaster strikes that there are far more awake and aware individuals ready to act than we originally thought.


Baron von Bud beepbop Fri, 04/06/2018 - 23:25 Permalink

America started out run by the rich. The nation reached it's peak 200 years later about 1970. The wealth had flowed from the center out to the common man. Labor unions were flush and one earner households were the norm. Look around. The wealth for the common man diminishes, unions near extinct, increased wealth concentration. The wave came in and is now falling back into the sea. China is rising. Trump's tariff plan is a futile attempt to reverse the flow though I credit him for trying. As a nation, we all seem to know it's now or never.

In reply to by beepbop

techpriest Baron von Bud Sat, 04/07/2018 - 00:06 Permalink

This kind of thinking, IMO, is what got us here.

First and foremost, at the beginning we were not run by "the rich." There was no royalty or aristocracy. We had a brief but very beautiful time when anything that was done, was done by individuals who self-organized. People got rich by coming up with a product or idea that dramatically reduced the cost of goods, and this process of developing new products and ways of making things is what made everyone wealthier.

Unfortunately, we now have thieves and thugs who are spinning a false narrative, that the only way to become wealthier is to take from others. Also, it is entirely doable right now to have a single earner household with a blue collar worker. But like the 50s, that will afford you a 1950s lifestyle, when the average house was 700 square feet, a refrigerator and TV were new luxuries that not everyone had, etc.

Going off the gold standard so that the political class could take more wealth through inflation has certainly hurt us a lot, but IMO the real danger is the false narrative that whatever is considered a normal lifestyle today is in fact normal. Live way below "average," and don't spend any time in TV or movies, and you'll find pretty soon that there is plenty of money and plenty of much better things to do.

In reply to by Baron von Bud

Dindu Nuffins cheka Sat, 04/07/2018 - 06:56 Permalink

(((Prager))) laments that good vs evil has been replaced by black vs white, but when America was strong, there were very few whites boasting of their adopted black children as tokens of their goodly virtue or mouthing pieties about how we are all the same. The America of yesteryear was stable because people knew who they were, and didn't try the frankenstein absurdity of mixing races together.

In reply to by cheka

brushhog Dindu Nuffins Sat, 04/07/2018 - 08:14 Permalink

" How To Recognize When Your Society Is Suffering A Dramatic Decline "

Well one of the first clues is when they export the productivity out of the country. With the country impoverished and idle, we see the deliberate inflammation of every division you can conceive of...male/female, rich/poor, white/black, christian/other, repub/democrat...etc etc.

Next we see the theme of "collapse" being pushed down through the media into popular culture. Shows like "walking dead" become very popular...."preppers" pop up everywhere. Terrorists are imported by the millions to add an element of chaos. The president tells us we're in decline and the jobs arent returning. Cynicism of everyone and everything replaces pride and faith. This is all deliberate, its pushed down through that box in your living room, through the articles they write, the movies they make, and the songs they sing. Nothing happens organically in a society as controlled as ours. Everything is deliberate.

So now, with the whole population at each other's throats, jobless, purposeless, and the theme of societal collapse firmly implanted in the collective conscious, they begin a period of relentless negativity. Nothing positive will be permitted to reach your purview. Only dire and catastrophic scenarios, painted with a cynical, accusatory and guilt inducing brush will be allowed. "Children are starving and you are fat"...."America leads the world in opiod abuse"...."we used to be number one now we're number 35"....etc,etc. Its to strip away your pride and your optimism. Collapse begins in the MIND. Hopelessness, despair, cynicism, guilt.

Finally we begin a series of events. A war, a trade war, an economic collapse, a terror attack, mass shootings...and we blare these things 24/7 and exaggerate them, pushing the already fractured and frightened populace into a hysterical frenzy....

If I had a team of dedicated psycho-analysists, trained in group psychology, a printing press, the power of the state, and full control of the media I could not have manufactured a better [ or more obvious ] climate for collapse than what we are witnessing right now.

In reply to by Dindu Nuffins

Oldwood brushhog Sat, 04/07/2018 - 09:10 Permalink

I agree, but do not lump a "trade war" with all the rest. This supposed trade war is the first action we have seen from government that actually protects its citizens. We can only again claim liberal high ground through surrender and suicide by doing NOTHING. Any way you slice it, $500 billion annual trade deficit is a LOSING battle. Choosing to not fight back has ZERO moral or virtuous victory, regardless of what your progressive indoctrination tells you. The first criticism of defensive action is in methodology, always wanting to defer back to the procrastination of strategizing....doing nothing. So much risk in doing "something", after decades of a small number of people profiting from this permanent introspection.

So many seem to agree that "something" should be done. Something more "targeted" they say, while offering nothing substantial or concrete. More stalling while China builds a massive military, US debt, US manufacturers, real estate, raw materials, produce and meat production, a strong grip around our necks.

In reply to by brushhog

Koba the Dread techpriest Sat, 04/07/2018 - 08:52 Permalink

You rely on school boy history. America was founded by rich people for rich people. How many ordinary people signed the Declaration of Independence? How many ordinary people were at the constitutional convention to create the US Constitution? Absolutely none.

Virtually every signer of the Declaration of Independence had an arrest warrant against them. The Boston tea party wasn't because of high tea tax. The tea tax had been lowered. The tea party was composed of tea smugglers who had warehouses full of contraband tea they couldn't sell because the tea tax had been lowered.

In reply to by techpriest

NYC_Rocks techpriest Sat, 04/07/2018 - 16:26 Permalink

techpriest, great post.  Most don't understand we have actually come a long way from monarchy to democracy (still not perfect) and agrarian to industrial to service economy (moving up the food chain so to speak).  I agree with you that the Federal Reserve Act was one of the most damaging policies.  Also, letting govt get too big in general (on both left and right side issues).  We have a HUGE crony capitalism problem (banks getting bailed out is just one example).  Until the Federal gov gets the f out of the way, this country is only going to get worse.  Unfortunately the left continues to think that the solution to all problems is govt.  They are ignorant beyond belief when it comes to real economics.  Austrian economics is going to come back strong after the next crisis. It fully explains the mess we are in now.  

In reply to by techpriest

Professorlocknload Baron von Bud Sat, 04/07/2018 - 12:32 Permalink

Before 1971, when the money belonged to it's holders, and was something of value, it meant something to those who created wealth. When money became institutionalized, and controlled by the Financial Industry and it's enabler, the State, value became opaque, as did "integrity." Used to be, money "Wealth" was something that was earned. Today, it's simply created by TPTB, and redistributed to their voting constituents and cronies. What went wrong, is money itself became dishonest, and society took the cue and followed.


In reply to by Baron von Bud

Matthew John Baron von Bud Sat, 04/07/2018 - 13:28 Permalink

"The nation reached it's peak 200 years later about 1970. "

I think you are actually pretty darn close.   I would say the decline began 5 years earlier, in 1965 with the passage of the Immigration Act, which basically opened up this country, and our welfare roles, to anyone without regard to talent or assimilation.   We are slowly becoming just another third world country.

In reply to by Baron von Bud

Oldwood stacking12321 Sat, 04/07/2018 - 09:18 Permalink

Don't be stupid. The ultimate paradigm of progressivism is relativism....all things are equal, until they have the reigns of power in their hands, and THEN there is most definitely "right and wrong". Look at Facebook today, announcing that they will now protect their followers by filtering information as to fact and fiction using "third party" deciders. In order to "protect us" they will decide for us, fact check our environment for our safety.

There IS right and wrong and if that manifests itself as left and right, so be it. Do not fall into the trap that because there is evil on both sides of any line that the line does not exist. Life's choices are nothing BUT the ability to perceive the lesser of evils as their is no perfection on this planet.


In reply to by stacking12321

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 RozKo Fri, 04/06/2018 - 22:25 Permalink

I was at the grocery a few days ago and saw an older couple. She was in a wheelchair he was pushing her and dragging a cart. They have those motorized fat carts at my store. Why wasn't she using one? I asked. Apparently she was blind in one eye and thought she might hit someone. I smiled and went on about my day. That was the dumbest excuse I have heard in a while. The stupid never ends.

In reply to by RozKo

techpriest tion Sat, 04/07/2018 - 00:09 Permalink

I do that with store clerks. Sometimes we get a nice, albeit short conversation in, and sometimes not. Some are clearly making their first step in an adventurous life, and some are quite content to do what they are doing forever. Its interesting the life directions you see.

In reply to by tion

Professorlocknload Lost in translation Sat, 04/07/2018 - 12:51 Permalink

I take the chance to strike up conversation anyway. I find, at least down in these dusty cow towns, nine out of ten times my effort is rewarded. Must be that tenth psycho-whatever Brandon is referring to that is the exception. Don't run into them often. I think most of them shop at 2 AM or something. Of course, try that approach up in Vegas, and brace for a Timeshare pitch. ;)

In reply to by Lost in translation

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 tion Fri, 04/06/2018 - 22:30 Permalink

I do! The new clerk at my grocery store was quite the insufferable little environmentalist when I mentioned I didn't like the plastic bag ban in my area. Of course she mentioned that China had banned US garbage because of Trump! Not even joking! She thought there shouldn't be packaging for anything, that we should all have to show up to the store not only with bags but with a container for each item we wanted to buy!

I know, this poor snotflake was clueless about how to run a business and JIT stocking methods which are used to keep the grocery store shelves stocked at you local mega mart (Kroger, in my case). I told her that there are bulk food bins in the store (have been for many years) for people that only want a small amount and she nodded.

My god it is snotflakes like that who will compare my credit card payment to what I bought and be assigned to dig through my trash and make sure I washed out every soup can, every refried bean can, every fucking plastic or glass container and if I don't they will fine me! I didn't mention that I don't recycle. Other than those old curly bulbs, I have some I need to take to Home Depot. But other than those, everything goes in the garbage can and off to the local dump. No, I do not feel guilty. Not one bit.

In reply to by tion

TheEndIsNear HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Sat, 04/07/2018 - 00:01 Permalink

"My god it is snotflakes like that who will compare my credit card payment to what I bought and be assigned to dig through my trash and make sure I washed out every soup can, every refried bean can, every fucking plastic or glass container and if I don't they will fine me!"

In a year or two those dumb asses will be combing through your garbage hoping to find remnants of your refried beans or other of your garbage to eat.

In reply to by HRH of Aquitaine 2.0

Yen Cross tion Sat, 04/07/2018 - 05:24 Permalink

Perplexed?  I assume people are generally nice.

  There was that half breed poodle, that tried to take chunk out of my hand last week.

 The young lady dealt with the situation perfectly. She was all but 14-15 ish.

 I acted like nothing happened. My hand was severely bruised for almost a week.

 The dog was old and very protective.  Hence the lack of penetration, when clamping down on my hand. {bite pressure was hard}















In reply to by tion

Oldwood Yen Cross Sat, 04/07/2018 - 08:37 Permalink

Most people are asses out of their own insecurities. People feel under attack....and most are. Too many feel justified in berating others. I am not against judging (its a necessity of survival) but we do not need to impose that on others. We can recognize what is and isn't in our interests without attacking those we disagree or see as inferior. I know such moral thinking would be the end of ZH, but we must be able to get along.....or we won't.

In reply to by Yen Cross

lew1024 Oldwood Sat, 04/07/2018 - 17:15 Permalink

This is a quantum-effect problem, where you don't know whether a proton was emitted until you look inside the box.

In this case, the test is the social system preventing alternatives. So far, the environment has only seen diminishing aggression, it is a peaceful society. Could change, and so could their responses.


In reply to by Oldwood

Quantify BobPaulson Fri, 04/06/2018 - 23:52 Permalink

I don't know about the first sign. But the ignorance and apathy demonstrated to those I question about various world and national issues is amazing. They really don't seem to care. Too interested in various sports teams, social media pages and heads buried in a handheld computer. They will learn to care, very quickly when the SHTF.

In reply to by BobPaulson