What kind of insights into the frailties of civilization would you get if you were a genius archaeologist, expert on the Maya, with a PhD from Harvard, living in a tent in Guatemala? Read this piece in which Arthur Demarest, and his interlocutor, Ted Fischer, both of Vanderbilt, talk about how and why civilizations collapse. Gloomy stuff, with no prediction intended on my end, but interesting and well worth the time.
The related audio podcast is excellent, too. A highlight is the unusual, but persuasive, way in which Demarest thinks about ideology and religion. This comes up eleven minutes into the conversation.