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Jared Diamond's "Collapse" gives an interesting account of the collapse of
the Mayan civilization. As far as I can understand it, their civilization
was based partly slavery and partly feudal relations. Diamond writes: The
Kings' "attention was evidently focused on their short-term concerns of
enriching themselves, waging wars, erecting monuments, competing with each
other, and extracting enough food from the peasants to support all those
activities.... Maya kings sought to outdo each other with more and more
impressive temples, covered with thicker and thicker plaster -- reminiscent
in turn of the extravagant conspicuous consumption by moern American CEO.
The passivity of Easter (Island) chiefs and Maya kings in the face of the
real big [environmental] threats to their societies completes our list of
disquieting parallels."

In his book, Diamond recounts the collapse of various other societies, from
the Norse society in Greenland to Anasazi society in America's Chaco Canyon
to Easter Island society. He also recounts how a few societies successfully
dealt with similar environmental challenges as those that collapsed. What
he doesn't point out is that all those societies that survived were
non-class societies and all those which collapsed were class societies. In
every case of a collapse, what comes clear is that the ruling class had to
maintain its methods of extracting wealth from nature because the culture -
and hence the justification for their rule - was based on that.

John Reimann

"No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them."
Assata Shakur
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