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.