is one of the lessons of archeology. In thinking about the collapses of Easter Island, Chaco Canyon, The Maya, and the Greenland Norse, all reported by Diamond in his latest book. I noticed a pattern seen in other culltural disasters as well.
Wallace, in his anthro classic "Culture & Personality" noted that when a system is on the skids, and people's coping skills dont work so well any more, they engage in "magical thinking". A term he coined.
From scripture you get the idea that the loss of morals leads to collapse. But the data actually shows that the economic decline is accompanied by a greater sense of moral loss, providing people a reason for it. As people become more desperate, their morals decline, not the other way around.
Group think also takes a toll. In every case, as the leadership realizes there is a decline in the resource base, rather than cut back to buy time to look for new solutions, they actually *INCREASE* their exploitation of all lower classes. Thus, the amount of perks which the power elite has always seen increasing, keeps on increasing, giving them the illusion that 'progress' continues.
With the Greenland Norse, besides the climate change, political changes resulted in the importation of African ivory again, which displaced the Walrus Ivory the Greenlanders were exporting. But rather than using the money to buy iron tools to harvest wood from Canada, and thereby expand into the fishing business, they used it to buy more jewelry.
On Easter Island, the stone monuments got bigger as things got worse. The Maya clearcut the forest to make charcoal to cook limestone to make plaster, and as things got worse, increased the clearcutting to make more plaster for ever larger pyramids. At Chaco Canyon, ritual cannibalism increased. You can see the increase in religious furvor, the 'magical thinking' Wallace refers to.
You can see the houses of the power elites get bigger. At Greenland, at the start, every family had a couple cows. At the end, the chief had a barn to hold 50, and everyone else had, at most, 1.
I am not here to say what the lower classes deserve, or what the power elites should charge for their management services; the anarchy that results is worse for the survivors. Revenge is sweet, but not nutritious.
Which brings up another trait. The power elites always seek to find the cheapest thing to feed the lower classes, and always goes into monoculture. The shit hits the fan when there's crop failure because there's no other food supply.
Contrast this with the report on the bone middens from the Chalcolithic tels along the Danube. Continuous occupation for 4000 years with no sign of warfare or revolution. But the bone middens show us over 100 wild plants and animals. In addition to the fish in the river and the domestic varieties they raised.
Jared Diamond reports that 80% of agribusiness raises just 5 crops: corn, wheat, rice, soybeans, & cotton. The wide variety in super markets is deceptive if you read the labels. High fructose corn syrup is all over the place.
Diamond dont deal with it, but recent neurological studies have identified over 150 neurotransmitters. Back when the minimum daily requirement was calculated there were only 7, and they really didnt know what they did. But now, we have the brain scans and much better lab equipment to look at the nervous system all the way down to the nanotech level.
And, it turns out that trace minerals, commonly found in wild food, like iron, copper, manganese, & zinc, play an important role in empowering neurotransmitters when laying down new neural pathways during learning.
But agribusiness does the land with Nitrogen, Phosphorus, & Potash. [that's a period] The trace minerals have all been leached out long ago. Which is why every generation is a little less competent than the previous.
Likewise, when the power elites increase exploitation, the lower classes no longer have time to forage and must rely on monoculture for ever greater percentages of the diet. And every generation is a little more neurotic and stupid.
You can see the diff if you look at the schools where the kids still grow up on family farms on homegrown veggies. The autism rate posted on TV is 1 out of every 155. The autism rate for the Amish? 1 in 15,000. The autism rate in my neck of Ozark woods, which is all small family farms, is 1:4000 or less. Its a low population area so statistics are not real precise.
I suspect you'll find similar results wherever the land is too steep for agribusiness, like the Appalachian or Rocky mtns. But get out your atlas and look up the small Ozark towns- where farm kids go to school- and then check the school test results at http://normessasweb.uark.edu/reportcards/select.php
The numbers jump right out at you. Zero rates of violence. Dropout rates in the single digits, classes average at the 65th percentile. Graduation rates near 90%, attendance near 95%. Then, if you actually visited the schools, you'd see the class photos in the front hall. Aint no epidemic of obesity here.
But these small towns dont have fast food outlets, much less candy machines in the schools. To a farm wife, a convenience food is something that's already dead. These kids dont get off the bus and put a remote in their hands. Its more often a wood handle for a tool. They have chores to do. Teachers dont assign much homework on that account.
When my son graduated from the Leslie High (pop 627) in 1996, 25% of the class scored over the 95th percentile on the ACT. Yet, these kids dont care to go to college. They dont want careers in the city. The guys like working outside, farming, logging, construction, etc.
Archeology is full of examples of declines in art and workmanship before a culture collapses. But I dont see that happening here. Altho, when you see a bridge collapse in a great city, you havta wonder just what's going on there. Most of you all live in a city, what do you think?
Any god watching me hasta be bored, and needs to get a life.