We are like archaeologists, digging through the ruins of the near past in order to figure out where we went wrong and who we were before that. There are many stages in our thousand year decline, which was mild for at least half of that time.
Things accelerated quickly with the French Revolution but really picked up the following century when the modern government was formed: an corporation dedicated to enforcing equality with force as a means of securing its legitimacy to rule and expand.
Modern governments rely on civil rights as a replacement for natural order. Under natural order, people did not have rights except the basic ones that existed in a state of nature — life, choice, and speech — but these were understood in the context of civilization as an organic whole.
For example, if you were born a serf, you were “free” within the context of your role. Instead of rights, you had duties and privileges, and these both increased the higher up one rose in a hierarchy. This was a hereditary hierarchy because traits are inherited.
Civil rights instead created a mob, where everyone had the same rights, but all had to obey centralized command instead. Wise minds pointed out that this was a path to tyranny, but the heedless mob rushed ahead, as usual.
At this point, we set the stage for a government run by the idea of enforcing rights, yet which ultimately served itself. It flexed its muscles through some early acts, one of which was the The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 which is disturbing enough to make you go join the Klan even if you are black:
The bill authorized the President to intervene in the former rebel states that attempted to deny “any person or any class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges or immunities under the laws.” To take action against this newly defined federal crime, the President could suspend habeas corpus, deploy the U.S. military, or use “other means, as he may deem necessary.” Opponents denounced the bill as an unconstitutional attack on state governments and individual liberty. “All the powers of the Government . . . will be absorbed in the hands of one man,” warned James M. Leach of North Carolina.
This followed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and was roughly contemporary to the Fourteenth Amendment, both of which made clear that instead of the rights you had in nature, you now had the rights that humans designed for you, and instead of duties and privileges, you owed your unquestioning loyalty to the centralized state and its ideology of equality.