As individuals, we stand to benefit greatly from membership in a functional society. Not least among those advantages is the ability to focus on productive behaviors, rather than defensive behaviors. Conversely, we stand to suffer greatly when society breaks down. Lack of civil protection requires us to invest a substantial part of our time protecting what we have (including life and liberty, in extreme cases), rather than creating more wealth.
Social breakdowns - whether a simple failure to provide legislated services or a confiscation of wealth by the privileged - is an accumulation of discrete events. These events are of two sorts: the acts of those breaking the social contract, and a failure of knowledgeable parties to act to hold the transgressors to account.
In reading the history of primitive societies, we gain the sense that breakdowns are highly visible affairs. The famines of the large communist states, the depredations of the Inquisition, and the suffocating rigidity of caste systems: all seem to be evidence that breakdown is recognizable by gross systemic failures. But such events do not arise suddenly: they reflect a steady erosion of the capacity of a citizenry to check the behavior of the privileged.
A proper perspective on these matters must be left to a discussion of spirituality. The power of the individual engaged in moral sacrifice is far larger than science has yet brought us to apprehend. However, even if we find ourselves committed to act in the defense of society, the question remains: what standards do we use to determine that action is necessary? Remember that we cannot rely upon knowledge of the outcome of events. We must rely upon our judgment of behavior, which will almost always be taken under cover of assurances of beneficial intent that mask the motives when a privileged class is committed to serving its self-interest.