This phrase and passage from Cullen Murphy’s April Atlantic essay, “No, Really, Are We Rome?”, have stuck with me:
But resilience does not prevent calamity. And being blindsided in slow motion is the hardest fate to avoid. The historian Ramsay MacMullen once distilled the long arc of the Roman Empire into three words — ‘fewer have more’ — but only the time-lapse perspective of a millennium and a half allows us to understand such a thing with brutal clarity. The sack of Washington unfolded suddenly, in a way no one could miss. The greater dangers come in stealth.