A Civilization begins, according to Professor Toynbee, with a large-scale transference of action from physical affairs to the spiritual; individuals seek not only food and shelter, but also Beauty, Truth, and Knowledge. When the reverse occurs, a civilization breaks down.
It can be fairly said that Karl Marx led the Western European Christian Civilization to the brink of breakdown by denying that the Spiritual domains even exist; he claimed that Man DOES live by bread alone. His successors - Lenin, Brezhnev, Pol Pot, even the heretic Hitler - sought vainly to substitute the State in the place of God, for men to follow and obey. Their efforts produced only corruption and evil, and displayed the normal condition of Man: the rot of the soul. The spiritual void these men caused within Western society led the West as close to breakdown - without actually entering that condition - as any Civilization had ever been.
In the 1980's, non-Marxist leaders finally achieved positions of prominence: Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Pope John Paul II. They demonstrated the existence of the Spiritual aspects of Man's life. They called upon people to resist Evil and seek out Good. And they showed Man's inherent inability to be satisfied with the rule of Brute Force; the fallacy of the Worship of the Collective Self (in the form of the State); and mankind's need to find God in order to find Goodness. Hearing their call, the Western Civilization revived and threw off the nearly-Dominant Minority of Marx's followers.
The new Creative Minority (usually called "Conservatives") tackled the questions confronting the West. After addressing the immediate problems, they sought out larger challenges. The re-inspired Western Civilization proved itself able to halt and reverse the rape of the earth's beauty and resources; they reached for and attained the stars; they brought luxury within the reach of any one who would aspire to it. Indeed, by the mid-2100's, the average Western "man in the street" could devote most of his time and energy to such esoteric (non-survival) pursuits as theology, political ideology, social and cultural identification, the development of self-awareness, and role-playing games.
As is the way of Mankind, after about a century and a half, the Conservatives' creativity was tapped out. At about the same time (after 2175), unfortunately, it got dramatically drier across North America, Africa, and Asia. (This was a natural, but very harsh, dry phase of climate.) Despite all efforts, seas of grass opened where bountiful farmland had been. The conservative motto, "A man-sized effort for a man-sized task," was not adequate to the problems which developed as the steppes and prairies dried out.
The Western European Christian Civilization had several possible Responses to the Challenge of providing sustenance and comfort to tens of billions of people in a much drier world. They could have accepted a lesser level of comfort. They could have sought out new technological efficiencies to use what existed, or looked off-world to make up the losses. Lastly, they could resort to violence against each other.
Unfortunately, there was no creative leadership willing (and able) to seek out new Technology; the Star-Drive could not be made cost-efficient; and the necessary mind-set for Accepting Less was neither widespread nor popular. So the response producing the quickest results - Violence - was acted upon. Western Civilization definitively broke down in 2181, when a migrating horde of well-armed "refugees" entered China from Central Asia, seeking food and farmland. An ever-increasing spiral of civil strife and warfare began in the Westernized world. This series of wars is often called the Social Wars.
The West has had a fascination with ever-less-discriminate weapons. This began with the cannon and gunpowder musket, continued through the machine gun, poison gas, and the atomic bomb, and culminated in the weapons used in the Social Wars. These wars were destructive and disruptive to bystanders as well as to the participants. The sheer scope of the wars finally inflicted mortal psychological wounds on Western Civilization; men just could not live together in mutual trust and respect. Secret (and non-secret) societies became common.
The West's would-be Universal State, called simply the World-Nation, came into the fullness of its strength in 2252. This government encompassed southern Africa, Argentina, southern Brazil, the Mahgrib, and - by conquest - all the off-Earth colonies. This state (barely) had enough naked power and subtle influence to bring a halt to the world-wide feuds. The following relaxed era, 2252 to 2309, allowed all the surviving nations to rebuild themselves and fortify against the next round of wars. The world's population also rebounded over these two generations, to some twenty billion.
In these years, the people of America had to digest a military result that felt like a defeat. This was an unusual and uncomfortable event for them. Unable or unwilling to resolve the issue, America indulged itself in a bout of Archaism; spiritual solace was found in a revival of the architecture and other physical trappings of America's heyday. This alone was harmless, but they also rediscovered the Founding Fathers' political ideas, ideals and institutions. Western political theory of the late 2200's was dominated by latter-day Absolute Monarchs; this body of theory cannot peacefully co-exist with the concepts of Democracy and Liberty. Eventually the mutual antagonism of ideas spilled over into the realm of actions, and the Final War began.
The Final War spiraled uncontrollably until all the nations, peoples, and factions of the Earth were involved. There was no sanctuary; no place escaped attack from some quarter. Every social group, from greatest to least, was drawn into the inferno. They all - from the World-Nation to the Amish - were destroyed. In 2322, The Apocalypse destroyed the other War-capable organizations, so the Final War ended.
The Interregnum has lasted since 2322. The Climate pendulum has at last begun to swing away from its driest phase. Under the "standard model" of history, an interregnum would last 300 years; it has been only 150 years so far. Yet even Professor Toynbee himself would admit that no Civilization has followed the model exactly. (Complicating the discussion is the fact that the Mutated Animals of the world are by definition not human, and may not obey the human laws and tendencies.) Every society in the process of becoming a proto-Civilization has first had to solve the problem of Chaos. This solution may at last prove possible, as both Climate and Living Nature move away from their most hostile extremes.
It is now 2471, the dawn of GAMMA WORLD.
1200 A distinct Western European Christian Civilization forms, encompassing England, France,
Germany, and Italy.
1850 Karl Marx publishes Communist Manifest
1980 Marxian Dominant Minority overthrown by Conservatives
2175 Nomad formation and irruptions (Climate dries)
2181 Western breakdown. Conservatives overthrown without replacement.
Social Wars and Shadow Years begin
2252 World-Nation enforces peace. Social Wars end
2309 Final War begins
2322 Final War ends; Western Civilization destroyed. Shadow Years end.
Interregnum - The Black Years
2471 GAMMA WORLD game begins play
2475 Climate begins to moisten noticeably