History is full of dead civilizations. Few apart from a few archaeologists much cares about who the Etruscans were or what gods they worshiped, but the Etruscans mattered a lot to the Etruscans before they were destroyed by military invasion. The Etruscans are mostly significant because of the civilization that absorbed them afterwards.
Anyway. No one gets weepy over the Etruscans like they get weepy over dead lions. They’re a long-extinct people.
Some mixture of economic declines and military & naval losses resulted in a string of rolling catastrophes for them which they weren’t able to recover from. They lost their independence and coherence to their stronger neighbors, in stages. It’s certain that the Etruscans were aware that they were in decline, but there was no period of time during which awareness would have made much of a difference at all in their collective fate.
In democratic politics, agitators tend to see raising mass awareness as the critical antecedent to the resolution of some political problem or another. This is so solidly believed that ‘raising awareness’ often becomes the sole end of an agitation. The idea is that the people will ‘wake up,’ demand action, just action will happen, and the world will be improved. It’s often the case instead — just about always — that the demanded action is stupid and destructive, because the enthusiastic masses have no idea how to manage anything at all.
Agitation is usually something that’s better directed against your enemies, which is what it’s typically used for even when some idealistic cover story or another gets adopted. The point of agitation, properly understood, is to undermine the authority of some state or another that you want to destroy. It’s not something that results in an improvement, properly understood.
In a universal suffrage democracy, mass agitation isn’t actually quite so important as it sometimes seems. The way to get a law passed is to bribe politicians to pass the laws that you write, and then those politicians will use the bribe money to agitate the party faithful to keep them in office. Politicians challenge one another for a chance to be a channel for that bribery. They will also sometimes get the chance to serve on helpfully labeled committees and caucuses that tell bribers from different industries whom they should funnel money to, for convenience purposes.
Bribing officials must always happen for private advantage at public expense, because otherwise there would be no motive to do it — and the advantage must come at the expense of some group.
Occasionally, the politicians will create or expand bureaucracies which will actually do the work of governing. Those bureaucracies tend to be immune from the effects of public opinion, even when it’s nearly unanimous. This tension makes it so that the state continually bleeds off legitimacy over time. The politician says “you, the people, are the sovereigns here — I will do what you ask of me in return for your votes.” After the election, the politician is not actually capable of doing what he promised, and the bureaucracies will actually rule.
Politicians have the right to perform ‘oversight’ on bureaucracies, which means that they can hold televised meetings in which they make a big show of ceremonial authority over bureaucracies which they can’t actually execute on.
Popular sovereignty is the legitimizing myth, which the actual process of ruling in a modern state then undermines. After this happens, the people whose job it is to generate that legitimacy — the press — have to stoke up more demonstrations of popular sovereignty. People marching around in the street, yelling, and burning things has come to be identified with popular sovereignty, which, come to think of it, is appropriate considering democracy’s historical record. There’s no such thing as actual popular sovereignty, but it’s easier to pretend that there is when you have mobs of ‘the people’ manifesting themselves to burn things down and complain.
This is a recipe for constant civil conflict, and constant civil conflict weakens a civilization against external enemies, and those external enemies will eventually overwhelm it. Awareness of this does nothing to stop the process.