Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The more things change, the more they stay the same...


French journalist Jean-Baptiste Karr is known for his aphorism "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" ("The more things change, the more they stay the same").

I was reminded of his well-known saying when I read this article over at Didact's Reach (a blog I recommend highly to those who are willing to take a long, hard, objective, sometimes painful look at reality - which is often very uncomfortable to those who've cocooned themselves in false optimism).

Very few generations, ever, can lay claim to having witnessed two different empires fall. Ours will be among that select group. Within my lifetime, we have seen the Fall of the Soviet Union – with, as it happens, nary a shot fired – and we will almost surely live to see the Fall of the American Empire.

Unfortunately, the latter Fall will likely be bloody, brutal, and barbaric beyond our limited ability to comprehend.

. . .

But it is worth asking what happened to Rome in the years between 120 AD, approximately the high-water mark of the empire itself, and 476 AD. How did Rome go from a city of roughly half a MILLION, that controlled most of the ancient world, and at its peak determined the fortunes of roughly one quarter of that world’s population, end up as a broken backwater town of less than 5,000 inhabitants where wolves roamed what was left of the Forum?!?!

It happened because the Romans lost track of what made them great in the first place.

They allowed for a vast gulf to emerge between their elites and their people. Then they permitted nearly unlimited immigration from barbarian nations into their own territory. They simultaneously embarked on empire-breaking wars of conquest and expansion, taking the Roman Way wherever they went. And they did an amazing job of that, no question – the entire reason why Western civilisation exists as a thing today, is because the Romans exported their engineering, laws, roads, and culture all over Europe.

But they forgot that empires destroy nations, by definition. And they forgot that, in order to sustain an empire, you need VAST amounts of military expenditure to make it work. To do that, you need to tax your productive base – or you need to print lots of money. And to do that, you will INEVITABLY impoverish the very people upon which your empire depends to keep everyone fed and warm.

Does any of this sound familiar or applicable to our current pickle? Yeah. I thought so.

The Western world is repeating, almost line for line, every single mistake made by its predecessors among the Romans. With a bit of luck, whatever is left of the shattered remnants of our civilisation will remember what idiots our predecessors were, and will avoid making those same mistakes, at least for a few generations.

For the hard truth is that, as bad as things appear to be right now, humanity never really learns. We are flawed, Fallen, and broken by nature, and as such we are condemned to keep doing the same old stupid **** until we finally pull our collective head out of our collective arse and point ourselves back to the Truth.

There's more at the link.

I wish I didn't have to agree with the author, but it's very hard to find a flaw in his argument.  All the mistakes he identifies, we are indeed making (or, rather, our so-called "leaders" are).  They appear to be oblivious to the consequences of their actions, and utterly ignorant of the lessons of history.  It's as if they think they can decree Utopia, and it'll magically happen.  Sunshine and roses, milk and honey, rainbows and unicorn farts . . . all appearing at their command, pretty as can be.

Oh, boy, are they in for a rude awakening!  Sadly, the rest of us will have no choice but to experience it, too.



LindaG said...

People who don't (or refuse to) learn from history...

Tom said...

Worth noting is that the Romans had managed to assimilate barbarian peoples before, and done a reasonably good job of it (Gauls, Britons, etc.) However, in the latter days of the empire, they stopped trying to do so, and in fact actively tried to avoid doing so.

Beans said...

What Tom said, we (the USA) did a very good job of assimilation (and elimination) but now, since that feckless jackanape Teddy Kennedy turned our immigration laws upside down, assimilation is seen as a negative thing.

Ah, well, like the fall of the Roman Empire, it will not be as bad as most people think. The world didn't suddenly descend into an anti-intellectual black world, as a lot of learning was kept alive. It just, well, wasn't as bright and shiny a world as it was before the decline of the Roman Empire.

Really, the real destruction of Rome's Empire came during the attempt by Justinian to reunite the two Romes and the resulting plague during his time. Curiously, said Justinian's Plague came from... Survey says... Hand me the envelope please... (crinkle, tear, crinkle) CHINA. Where all the great plagues have come from. Even the ones supposedly started in India or America all have come from China. (And that does include Spanish Influenza, from China, yep.) And it's always western China. And where's Wuhan? Western China.


Maybe the world would be better if we just firebombed and nuked Western China (and Beijing...) Burn the source of the world's plagues out forever.


Mike Austin said...

It does not help his "argument" that his essay is riddled with historical inaccuracies---the population of the city of Rome in 476 AD was not 5000, but 150,000; and the Forum was not filled with wolves in that era---just to name a few.

The soft-core porn does not help either.

The Western Empire "fell" in 476 AD. What this meant for the average person was...wait for it!...absolutely nothing. Rome in the West carried on until the ravages of Justinian's invasions of Italy in 535. Italy was pillaged for 20 years and ended up ruined and despoiled.

It was not barbarians who did this to Italy, but the sophisticated Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian and his brilliant military henchman Belisarius.

tweell said...

The brilliant Xi and his not so brilliant henchman Biden are well along the process of destroying the USA. History may not repeat, but it does rhyme.

jxbdz said...

"The worst thing about living in the declining era of a great civilization is knowing that you are." - Robert Heinlein

Bear Claw Chris Lapp said...

A majority of studied history for the book "The Fourth Turning" is based on Roman study of the same cycles. They have their own word for it as well Saceleum or something like that.