The Crossroads of the Aether
I understand how insane this sounds to some people but I am compelled to share what I feel is going to happen in the next 5 years. This is not fiction, this is not my persona, this is my reality.
Rome didn't collapse in one day. It didn't even collapse in one century. Scholars have debated for centuries what caused the downfall of Rome, well I figured it out. I use the term "Social Liquefaction" to describe the events that eventually led to Alaric sacking Rome in 410.
Liquefaction is when a solid (usually sand or other fine particulate) begins to behave like a liquid due to extreme shaking (like an earthquake) or when the particles become saturated with water so they cease to hold their solid shape (quicksand). In both cases there is a threshold, a point of no return, where the solid spontaneously liquefies and after that point behaves like a liquid until the liquefactor (water saturation or shaking) stops. I apply this term to our current social status ("us" being western civilization) because we have started to show the same symptoms that Rome did leading up to its fall. Rome's power came from its citizenry and technology, both were the pinnacle of that era. When outsiders and cult religions started popping up, other sub-sects of Roman society started clustering together into like-minded enclaves, partially shutting out other citizens based of their different belief sets. This is like water being poured into sand. Then, outside forces (Goths, Gauls, Vandals, et. al.) began to invade the outlying provinces, eventually Alaric and his Visigoths reached Italy (for the first time) in 401. This is the shaking. Roman citizens clustered in their homes, fighting their neighbors for the last scraps of food and 9 years later, the Visigoths sacked the greatest city in history with barely a single casualty.
If the parallels between Rome and our current status aren't readily clear, allow me to read into it a bit. Never before in history has it been possible to contact people anonymously across the world and share ideas. While this seems, on the surface, like a great idea, it does have many unintended consequences. Many countries and peoples want nothing to do with us, yet they are forced to put up with our culture and influence. This has caused the first part to start happening. Sub-culture upon sub-culture has sprung up to further define our social positions, and we now cluster to several different sects instead of just a family unit. (I'm a Steampunk, Democrat, pro gun, pro death penalty, pro choice). In my life, these decisions (my moral genetics) make it so I probably could argue with anyone about something. So, the water starts to pour into the sand as we find more reasons to disagree.
Then we are "terrorized" by a seeming ghost of an enemy that we can't hope to kill. It is diametrically opposed to our beliefs and it spits in the face of everything we believe about our civilization (just like the Visigoths). They don't want our technology, they don't want our influence, they just want us dead and out of their land. And we are terrorized. We have spent trillions on wars and billions on added "security" when in reality neither of those things has made us any safer. 9/11, Madrid, London bus bombs, not to mention the hundreds that go on that we don't care about because our people aren't involved. This is the shaking, and we ARE shaken.
Now, what can be done about this? Unfortunately, I think its already too late. We (Americans, not everyone) have already sacrificed our most sacred liberties to this "war on terror," accepting phone and internet surveillance, pat-downs and strip scan machines. We are clustering to those we care about and we are scared of our own shadows.
I can only say that I hope, for all our sakes, that I am wrong. And as for the single thing that caused the downfall of Rome? Simple, the founding of Rome. The inherent end to a society that feels infallible is to be shown how weak it really was. Pray for our children.