The tendency of civilization to decline appears consistent throughout its lifespan. As it periodically starts to shed its rotten flesh, civilization must dissect, consume, and incorporate both the living and the dead in order to continue maintaining itself. Decomposition describes the specific moments when appendages of civilization become gangrene and they must be replaced. When the beast Leviathan has its belly filled, it rests and remains hidden; all is quiet in Erebor. At other moments, the State resembles a frenzied, rampaging zombie, desperate to pull out the organs of the living, only to continue its wandering. As the undead civilization continues its rampage, for it to be lubed-up, upgraded, is what some call progress. But for each acre that civilization advances, enslavement and inescapable assimilation into the cult of death follow.
Can history be viewed as anything, if not narration? What is history besides human tradition, (oral, then written) meant to delineate and notarize the cyclical degradations and rejuvenations of Leviathan? The Aztecs observed and recorded the Sun in a similar fashion, and built temples to worship it…Without irony, Marxism teaches that men make history. What it fails to understand: history is fabrication.
History can perhaps be viewed as a journal of nightmares. When one momentarily awakens from these dreams, their content (for a fleeting moment) can be scribbled down in haste. One can log, categorize, and analyze these horrors to their own content, but the dreams will never be more than blurry nightmares, representations that are always limited in their perspective and experience. To base our actions on these fears is to be controlled by the dream-world and the monsters residing within, thus allowing the nightmares to continue.
There hardly appear to exist any laws of history. The narrative of human history is full of examples where civilizations decomposed and rejuvenated later on, sometimes with hundreds or thousands of years time in between. Capitalism itself has seemed to severely degrade and rejuvenate many times already, and so did other civilizations. We can’t be sure capitalism won’t make a comeback from where it stands today, much less put an exact date on this. The naive economic determinists constantly re-write their laws to accommodate the news of the day, and the constant re-writing of history itself.
As individuals within society gain more and more resentment for the state of things at-large, their resentment can take the form of passive (and sometimes not-so passive) nihilism. Individuals often appear dismayed with “the direction the world is headed in”, the futility of changing the world seems apparent, while believing change is somehow right around the corner, or never coming at all. Dissatisfaction can also lead to rebelliousness, or in the most radical cases, revolution. This can only go as far as the victory of the revolution, before recuperation and assimilation into the beast.
History gives the sense of decomposition being ahistorical. There has been no singular reason civilizations collapse, it’s always a complex process. The collapse of capitalism, when and if it happens, seems likely to attain the same complexity.
Amiri Baraka’s poem Something in the Way of Things always reminded me of decomposition:
Something in the way of things
Something that will quit and won’t start
Something you know but can’t stand
Can’t know get along with
I seen something
I seen something
And you seen it too
You seen it too
You just can’t call its name