Saturday, January 30, 2021

Civilizations: The Mirage of Immortality

In his twelve-volume A Study of History, Arnold J. Toynbee traces the rise and fall of twenty-eight civilizations. He notes that when a civilization reaches its climax, its people get blinded by “a mirage of immortality,” which makes them convinced that they are the world’s chosen people, that theirs is the final form of life, that they represent the end of history, that theirs is the promised land. Ironically, the civilizations whose people are struck with such hubris that they start believing that their way of life is immortal are the ones which are about to decline and fall. In the editor’s note to A Study of History, it is given that Toynbee always believed that civilizations mostly die by suicide and rarely by murder or natural causes.

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