‘Collapse of Civilization’: Theoretical explanations

Ausama Anwar

By Ausama Anwar:

A few weeks ago, I was drawn to two newspaper headlines, from ‘The Independent’ and the ‘Guardian’. The Independent announced: “Nasa-funded study warns of ‘collapse of civilisation’. It was pointing to research conducted by a mathematician called Safa Motesharri with his team of natural and social scientists. This research was funded by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center. According to it, the collapse can happen for a few reasons. “Modern civilization is heading for collapse within a matter of decades because of growing economic instability and pressure on the planet’s resources”, it said. As it happens, I wrote and about the same issues in my second book (which is awaiting publication). While reading this report for the first time I was somewhat excited to see the points in common between what I had written and the research.

Of course talking about the collapse of civilization is not new, and it has been at the core of many discussions for many years. For instance, many great philosophers – such as Ibn Khaldun, Arnold J. Toynbee and Oswald Spengler – have talked about this. But what Arnold Toynbee said may be the most accurate idea in relation to what this latest study shows. Arnold Toynbee’s ‘A Study of History’ suggested that there were numerous civilizations which followed the same cyclical civic pattern identified by Hans Mommsen. Their fall occurs when an elite culture becomes parasitic, and this leads to the rise of internal and external ‘proletariats’.

That seems to be the closest theory to what this research report is saying. It refers to “the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses” and states that these social phenomena will play “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse”.

Collapse of civilisation in the feature film. 'Planet of the Apes'

Collapse of civilization as depicted in the feature film,’Planet of the Apes’

Frankly, I wasn’t aware of all those theories and philosophers’ writings about civilization until a friend introduced them to me. The first chapter of my book takes the form of an analysis of David Mitchell’s novel ‘Cloud Atlas’. In it I write the following: “When humanity reaches the last point of civilization, therefore it falls because of a war or any other factors that cause the destruction of the world, and the world goes back to stone age, just as we already started living on earth. So for David, life’s just a circle and when humans reach the point which they started with, they’d like to see the end of the circle. And because of that David questions The History, as if the life is a circle then when was the last fall of the world (civilization) in past?”

This paragraph reveals similarities between what came across my mind while writing and the Nasa-funded research, which states: “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history”.

And in chapter two, under the title of ‘The world; before and after apocalypse’, part five, I wrote: “And as we talked about, David thinks when we reach the last point of civilization and development, there should be a cause to its destruction” and “as we see in the future model of the era before the apocalypse (in the novel), humans live in a great progressive and civilized era, and as it seems, nothing can stop them. But also we see a rebellious movement which attempts to destroy the system and the authority. That causes a civil war and we witness the collapse of the entire civilization”.

According to The Independent’s report: “Motesharri explored the factors which could lead to the collapse of civilization; starting from population growth to climate changes. (The study) found that when these converge, they are likely to cause social break downs because of the “stretching of resources” and “the economic stratification of society into ‘Elites’ and ‘Masses’.”

This is another paragraph I have written in my book : “What David Mitchel expects for the future of the civilization and development, we can use for the past of humanity (civilization) too” and “due to David’s expectation, the creation of Egypt’s pyramids in the past era, was the last point of Egypt’s civilization, and the fall (collapse) of that civilization, is coming back the era we live in now, which we get amazed when we look at the pyramids and ask “how the hell they made this? And we may have passed many civilizations, and we’re currently building another one.”

Concerning historical facts the report states the following: “The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent”.

At the time I wasn’t aware of what other philosophers have said about the collapse of the civilization and my book was written as an analytical review of David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’. But, in relation to what I have mentioned above, Arnold Toynbee and I totally agree on some points that are scientifically borne out by a Nasa-funded study made by the mathematician Safa Motesharri. It’s a warning about the ‘collapse of civilization’!

Ausama Anwar was born in 1994, in the capital of the Kurdistan region, Hawler. He is a writer and author of two books. ‘A Gate to the Intellectual’ is dedicated to youth generally with an intellectual background. ‘Hidden Idea: Some Samples from Movies’ is a work of creative movie analysis. Ausama is also a journalist at ‘Yakgrtw’ newspaper, and President of Zamwa Society Development Organization.

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