The chicken-and-egg question of civilization decline dogs us repeatedly. Which came first, democracy or breakdown? The answer may be shocking: the tendency of humans toward individualism, manifested in both bourgeois oblivion and prole present-tense me-firsting, overcomes societies once they succeed.
From Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs:
The Divisionists occupy a mid-way position, could in fact be termed moderates…. They are called Divisionists because they literally divide. They cut off tiny bits of their flesh and grow exact replicas of themselves in embryo jelly. It seems probable, unless the process of division is halted, that eventually there will be only one replica of one sex on the planet: that is one person in the world with millions of separate bodies…. Are these bodies actually independent, and could they in time develop varied characteristics? I doubt it. Replicas must periodically recharge with the Mother Cell. This is an article of faith with the Divisionists, who live in fear of a replica revolution…. Some Divisionists think that the process can be halted short of the eventual monopoly of one replica. They say: “Just let me plant a few more replicas all over so I won’t be lonely when I travel…. And we must strictly control the division of Undesirables….” Every replica but your own is eventually an “Undesirable.” Of course if someone starts inundating an area with Identical Replicas, everyone knows what is going on. The other citizens are subject to declare a “Schluppit” (wholesale massacre of all identifiable replicas). To avoid extermination of their replicas, citizens dye, distort, and alter them with face and body molds. Only the most abandoned and shameless characters venture to manufacture I.R.s — Identical Replicas. (81)
The more important question with this in mind is how to resist it. So far the best resistance has come from aristocracy, but aristocrats tend to sacrifice themselves in battle, lessening the ratio of intelligent leaders to unpunished herd. And worse, when the intelligent are made into babysitters, they tend to self-destruct.
Compounding this is the tendency for human beings, even intelligent ones, to create a false social reality in which human intentions and feelings matter more than reality. Socializing reprograms our brains to defer to other people, not reality. On top of that, symbolic reality is more powerful to us, including the approval of others, because it creates a stronger signal in our brains.
If any human society survives in the future, it will do so through a dogmatic elitism and strict attention to morality of thriving in all areas. Ugliness will be banished, and the one-fifth of every generation that are born neurotic, resentful and oblivious will be dispatched to other lands. This seems harsh, but like nature, its harshness will result in better outcomes.
For those who imagine golden fields surrounded by happy people, this may be the price necessary to pay. Good to the good, and bad to the bad, in all things with an eye toward biology, namely that allowing the bad to persist endangers not just other people, but the shared effort toward which we give our lives in cooperation that takes up our irreplaceable time.
Fred Nietzsche is probably right in that currently, humanity is in the saddle between ape and greatness, and what holds us back is our fear for ourselves that has us resisting commitment to greater things than our own desires. And yet as the last century has shown us, a society dedicated to human desires becomes ugly and corrupting for all.