One of my favorite writers, Paul Theroux, who like myself is only here, it often seems, as an observer, chose the following extract from a novel by Henry James to introduce his 1976 novel about declining and failing societies and civilizations, "The Family Arsenal". One needn't read between James' lines to see the similarities between now and then and way back when...the lines speak volumes for themselves.
"I determined to see it"--she was speaking still of English society--"to learn for myself what it really is before we blow it up. I've been here now a year and a half and, as I tell you, I feel I've seen. It's the old regime again, the rottenness and extravagance, bristling with every iniquity and every abuse, over which the French Revolution passed like a whirlwind; or perhaps even more a reproduction of the Roman world in its decadence, gouty, apoplectic, depraved, gorged and clogged with wealth and spoils, selfishness and scepticism, and waiting for the onset of the barbarians. You and I are the barbarians, you know."
--HENRY JAMES, The Princess Casamassima