Our ancient societies evolved much like a species does. Over time, they tested out their hypotheses about how the wide world out there operated. They kept the ideas that worked, and pitched out the rest. From that came culture, wisdom and even religion.
Part of this original culture was that we had social castes, which were viewed as preferable to social classes, which are ranking by wealth. Social castes were ranking by ability, and wealth came later, namely because the king would gift the most useful people with large amounts of money in the theory that they would make good use of that power.
Eventually, crisis hit. A Mongol invasion, a black plague or two, even social instability caused by the wealth of new areas to colonize. However, at the same time, the wealth of the past through innovations in agriculture, hygiene and social order meant that there were more people than ever before. The population grew, from the poorest upward.
In this instability, many people became discontented. They grumbled and agitated. The rising population had outpaced its food supply and, instead of blaming the selfishness of individuals for going forward with raising larger families despite warnings about food supply, they found a scapegoat: they blamed the kings.
Naturally, they waged a type of guerrilla war. Your goal as a guerrilla is to be passive-aggressive, or to provoke your enemy into attacking you by needling them with many small but easily hidden aggressions until they finally lash out. Sabotage became common, as did petty attacks, thefts, accusations, and so on. This brought the situation to a boiling point.
At this juncture, the nature of warfare after the rifle became clear: whoever has the most people wins. The herd overran the kings, and proclaimed a new age. Since they needed to sell this to their fellow citizens, they claimed it as an age when all individuals were equal and decisions would be made by merit not inheritance.
It sounds good, on the surface. 224 years later, we’re seeing what it actually means. In reality, we have replaced an orderly system for finding leaders, in which those who actually accomplished something got ahead, with a system by which those who “play the game” well enough get ahead. In that, we have sewn the seeds of our doom.
The average person now grows up in a world of standardized tests. Since IQ is racist and assessing critical thinking is probably classist, these tests measure memorization ability. Thus school becomes a quest for those who can memorize the most details and recite them accurately. Whoever gets the most points wins.
What this creates however is a group of “merit”-selected people who are oblivious to anything but the test, and are helpless outside a world where they are told what to know and how to repeat it. If you ever look at actions by a government, or lawyers, or even doctors and think, “How can they be so stupid in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary?” you’re seeing the end result of this problem.
The bigger problem is that our society is now entirely driven by reference to its internal conclusions. It has shut reality out of the picture. We have books and rules of facts, and those tools have now become our masters. Those who master them become our leaders; those leaders in turn do not refer to facts outside of the books, but only look at reality through that filter.
Think of the many filters — this is a concept from Immanuel Kant — that we have in our lives. There’s the moral filter of good/bad, which ignores consequences of actions, where often “bad” acts are needed to get “good” consequences and vice versa. There’s the filter of what other people make popular, and thus is worth money or votes. There’s the filter of rules, “gaming the system” versus being good at something in reality.
Currently, our society is chasing its own tail into the abyss. The books give us certain rules and facts, and we follow those; when that doesn’t work out, we redouble our efforts using the same rules and facts. Like robots, we cannot deviate from our programming because we’ve eliminated the people who can think outside the box.
In fact, our current political environment is manic with the desire to achieve power over anyone who might know better. We want only people inside of the Ideology and its approved rules and facts. Anything else is a threat, and probably Hitler or Satan. We want our warm cult-like environment inside so that we can exclude the world.
This is how civilizations die. The final double-tap may come from invaders, or overpopulation/low food supply (these are the same thing). But what causes the death is our inability to make leadership decisions because our leadership is based on a robotic obedience to a filter, and ignores reality itself, eventually seeing it as “moral” to exclude reality.
Like civilizations before us, we will do what our books tell us and follow our facts and rules until we fall apart. The wall we run into isn’t that the rules were wrong, only that they were not realistic. And so we create a little in-group, a hive-mind prone to groupthink, drop out from reality, and like robots march toward the cataclysm.