Everyone knows someone who is convinced that a society-wide catastrophe would be the first necessary step to a general improvement in the political situation, at least in their opinion. Such a belief makes some intuitive sense on the individual level — it is said that addicts need to hit ‘rock bottom’ before they reform themselves. What is unfortunately more common, on the historical level, is that nations, countries, and societies tend to make the same mistakes repetitively, until they are annihilated by some combination of competitors, natural catastrophes, and other competitors.
On the biological level, we are aware of the millions of formerly existing species that have gone extinct. If you have a passing familiarity with history, even former great nations, empires, and tribes have found themselves either eliminated or absorbed into larger political communities.
While on the individual level, salvation, or a person turning their own life around, may occur in some situations, at the group level, it’s not something that occurs frequently. The history of the decline of Rome is a long, mostly unbroken succession of flailing, corrupt, and insane leadership that tended towards lower and lower levels as the centuries rolled along. In time, many technologies and areas of knowledge either dispersed or were lost for centuries as political and cultural dissolution made the former level of civilization impossible to maintain over a large territory.
Of course, the Aeneid, one of Rome’s founding myths, was a story of rebirth after collapse — it ascribes Rome’s founding to fleeing members of the Trojan royal family following the annihilation of Troy by the Greeks. In this context, the entire rise of Rome was told as a sort of revenge story for the destruction of that great mythical city.
Genesis has more than one apocalypse story. Exodus is all about the rebirth of civilization in the desert. Every once in a while, the gods decide to strike a city with pillars of flame, drown all the inhabitants, or help out some dozens of boatloads of invaders to wipe you out. These things happen. Hell, sometimes your wife ignores your specific instructions, and then God turns her into a pillar of salt, just to show that He’s the boss.
It is much more frustrating to try to resist the forces of fate (whether or not you see them as metaphorical) than it is to make like Aeneas and set out for new lands, or otherwise carve a piece of the old empire off for yourself. Christianity itself replaced the classical pantheon with that of a new God, along with new laws. When the Empire split and then fell into chaos, the new Europe grew amid the ruins. Fate trumps the strength of the human will.
The end of everything you know is not going to solve any of your problems — it’s more likely to create problems for you that you never even thought of anticipating. Turnover happens in history, and that tends to create new groups of winners and losers. Sometimes those two groups stay mostly the same.
There are entire swaths of the earth where everything has sucked for more than a thousand years, and no number of local happenings do a damned thing to even make the dust taste a little better when it blows in your mouth.
The mind tends to crave knowledge of the future that it can never really have, and humanity as a species tends to ignore prophecy, even when it proves to be accurate. If you’re going to stir around the chicken guts, sniff the tea leaves, or head into a cave to have a chat with an angel, in most cases, most people are not going to pay any attention to you, and if they do, it’s to string you up, toss you out a window, or nail you to something for public amusement.
Nonetheless, we do our best to guess at the direction of the future, and to make the right decisions based on our estimations.