As in life itself, we can choose at any time to make an act of self-destruction: throw ourselves in front of the oncoming train, drink the turpentine, or pull that convenient plastic bag over our faces. Each moment can be our destruction if we choose it to be so.
A different kind of oblivion also exists in each and every moment. We can choose to turn away from what we know is real, objective and external and instead hide within our own minds in notions that are subjective and internal.
When a society is formed of laws and economics, there is no actual shared goal, and so people are accustomed to two modes. In the first, they defer to the external, which is either authority or social pressures. In the second, they pursue their own desires, feelings and judgments in defiance of the external. In other words, like miscreants they obey the letter of the law and twist everything else to serve their own wants.
This deference to the external makes it easy for people to ignore the consequences of their own behavior. If the law designed to prevent criminality makes it illegal to steal, they will invent ways to steal by coercing or deceiving others. Other than what the law says is bad, everything is OK.
But they feel justified in what they do because they are obeying the laws, and the laws are forced on them by their fellow citizens, and obeying the law — nevermind the “spirit” of the law, that’s not scientific — is the only requirement.
A milder form of this is found in everyday oblivion. On her way to work, the average person passes at a least a dozen obviously bad behaviors. It’s not our job to fix them; that’s for the cops and stuff, even if this means nothing is ever done. It’s a carte blanche to ignore the world and focus on the self.
They tend to view this dichotomy of modes such that the second mode is entirely “pleasure” and the first mode is entirely “obligation.” This makes them feel like victims of obligation imposed on them by society at large, and thus take great sneering delight in cheating it to support pleasure.
In fact, our tendency toward external authority and social pressures makes it easy for people to ignore the consequences of their own behavior entirely. That in turn means they stop observing consequences at all. When we have elections, the campaign promises are considered to be the event. Those happened. The results of those promises? No one is counting — we have separated consequence from cause.
Instead, they do what they are told and the society becomes one of social image and not actions which are calculated to produce results. The more they externalize, the more oblivious and the more helpless the citizens become. They take image at face value and consider it more real than reality itself.
While they wander down this pleasant-feeling path to oblivion, the myriad details which are the consequences of not-quite-right-but-legal oblivious actions tend to pile up and drag the civilization under, unnoticed by those who are too busy focusing on their own pleasures.