I have said, many times, that our current cultural degeneracy is historically unique.
Turns out I just didn’t go far enough back.
And, of course, if you aren’t a professional historian, you’re dependent on the interpretations of others, and past instances of pathological decline like the one we are experiencing today are apt to be described by modern authors in complimentary terms that obscure what was actually going on.
My first example comes from the Sassanid Empire:
Mazdak is sometimes described as a “reformer.” In reality, he was a cultural revolutionary. Active at the turn of the 6th century, Mazdak preached the virtues of pacifism, though his followers often took part in riots where they’d kill lots of people they didn’t like. And like most “highly evolved” people, Mazdak was a vegetarian. He wore various forms of hair shirts, looking like a slob being seen as a sign of dignity in his faith. His faith also required the total abolition of private property. Mazdak, despite being a sort of priest, was a radical anti-clerical type. His ire was against the dominant Zoroastrian religion of Persia. He managed to have most of the fire temples closed; in this, he was even more effective against the powerful Zoroastrian clerics than the Bolsheviks were against Russian Orthodoxy. Mazdak opened the state granaries to the people so they didn’t have to work: these were store houses against disaster or for military uses. Mazdak even required sexual ethics much like those presently known as Polyamory. Yes, Mazdak was all for free love—especially for himself. At one point, Kavadh I, the soft-hearted (to say nothing of soft-headed) king who allowed this highly evolved nincompoop to ruin his country, was even going to have a go at wife swapping with Mazdak.
Source: The Dawn of Decadence. The author goes on to give a couple more examples from history.
Men build civilization and men tear it down. They build it by intention, exertion, and discipline, under an image of order. They tear it down by acts of casual omission as much as by acts of concupiscent aggression and destruction. Omission and aggression can operate in synchronization to destroy a society. Civilization indeed carries with it many of the causes of its own gradual declension. In the achievement of widespread and sustained security, for example, the likelihood that the beneficiary generation will fail to appreciate the formative insights of the benefactor generation runs high. Complacency results. The beneficiary generation then fails in the obligation to maintain the basis of security, institutional, economic, military or otherwise. It can embrace novel “theories” that titillate through being exotic in their vocabulary and counterintuitive in their implications and which, being incompatible with received lore, undermine that lore and weaken the cultural health. The society is too busy “having fun” to reflect on its situation. In the succession of the beneficiary generation, once again, an Oedipal contempt for the benefactor generation can develop, which seriously distorts the concept of reality of the beneficiaries.
I might take more bleak satisfaction in the knowledge that the evil regime which now has the West by the throat will come to an end, except that this time, it is likelier to be far worse than barbarians sacking Rome. This time, the barbarians will have nukes. And biological weapons. And who knows what else. Civilizations have collapsed many times in human history, but this time, the entire species might go down with it.