History

High Culture, Religion, Philosophy and Esoterica.
Jim the Moron
Posts: 2274
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:51 pm

Re: History

Post by Jim the Moron » Tue Jun 08, 2021 3:45 am

Ellen wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 9:54 pm
It isn't the macro-economic indicators that are causing the decline of complex civilizations, but rather moral decay and the loss of values and cultural norms. One can define these items in whatever way one chooses (eg, what desirable values are being lost depends on one's perspective), but this is how great civilizations fall, in my view, not because of inflation or unemployment.

American society did not unravel in the 1930's even during a deep depression. Nor did it's stablity decline perceptibly during the 1970's-80's during a period of stagflation. Today, the economic indicators at the gross or average level actually look quite good in the US. There is no sense of panic among the leading financial figures in the Biden adiministration.

Meanwhile, at lower levels of the society, things look and sound grim. In the universities, intellectual life is being extinguished. The study of Greek and Latin has been abolished at Yale because of supposed racism. Will the English language be next? How will people communicate....in made-up languages? We already have a made up language called Political Correctness, which has destroyed the meaning of many words and phrases. A new Dark Ages is emerging, in which an Ivy League degree will not be an asset. Being able to use weapons and command a loyal militia may be more useful.

"Meanwhile, at lower levels of the society, things look and sound grim."

Yes, thought control in universities abounds. But we morons are optimistic that there will be a revival of free thought, sooner than later, in spite of what is going on in "elitist" academia. As it happens, the only thing I recall from HS Latin is the droll perfect passive participle. I never could get through "The Valley of the Latin Bear."

neverfail
Posts: 6838
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: History

Post by neverfail » Tue Jun 08, 2021 6:14 pm

Why complex civilisations fall?

There cannot be a 'one shoe size fit's all' pat answer to that as no two civilisations are identical.

Edward Gibbon, the late 18th century English historian, wrote and published a book on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in which (if memory serves me correctly) Gibbon atributed the decline to Rome's adoption of Christianity. Gibbon contended that through this the Romans (and subject peoples in the provinces) had substituted other-worldly preoccupations for worldly concerns. (Not unusual for enlightenment thinkers of the day to have an 'agenda" against the Church - Gibbon likely had been inspired by Voltiare that way.

I reject Gibbon's intepretation on two counts. The first was that the old Roman world was steeped in official (and unofficial) religion veering into a host of popular superstition: indeed the pre-Christian Roman world was prodigious with "gods". The second was that over a century before the Goths struck Constantine had subdivided the Roman Empire in two. The eastern empire, ruled from Constintinople, the new Rome on the Bhosporus had been founded specifically specifically as a Christian city free of the tainted legacy of paganism that apparently still lingered on in old Rome - and what today we would call the Greek Orthodox Church was the state sponsored manditory religion of this empire. This "new Rome" survived old Rome by over a millininium. Christianity (logically) could not have been simultaneously the strength of the Byzantine Empire and the cause of the downfall of the (Western) Roman Empire, could it have?
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There is however some credance in Ellen's contention that moral decay and the loss of values and cultural norms play a role. Though how much these are mere visible symptoms and not the disease itself is a moot point.

I find the behaviour of Alaric and his army of several thousand Gothic warriors (reinforced by thousands of escaped Germanic former Roman slaves) in 410AD to have been curious. Their encampment had been in Venezia Giulia in north eastern Italy - to which they had withdrawn after abandoning their post as border guards of the Empire's Danube River. Valens, the Roman emperor of the day had ordered them to return to their border guard duties and the land that had been awarded to them by a recent former emperor in payment. Alaric treated that order as a declaration of war. His people had moved closer to the heart of the Empire for their own safety and protection.

Why attack Rome? The Roman government had abandoned the irksome city and established itself at Ravenna on Italy's Adratic coast. With that relocation would have gone the Roman treasury. A brief look at a map of italy would reveal that Alaric's marching route would have passed in close proximity to Ravenna - yet he did not attack this seat of government. A pass through the Appenine mountains level with Bolognia further south would have allowed his army passage into Tuscany and then on to Rome - a relatively level "downhill run" to the southwest.

Rome was undefended. When Valins relocated to Ravenna he would have taken his Praetorian guard with him and as for the Roman army; Romes legions were by then a distant memory. Yet Rome was encircled by a sturdy wall built two centuries earlier by another emperor which, despite long neglect, was still in a good working condition.

The Goth's lacked seigecraft so could not storm the city. But they quickly broke the adquaduct that delivered fresh drinking water to the city. Water was delivered to the plebs via a series of fountains scattered around their quarter at squares and cross-streets and within a day thirst prompted the plebs into street riots. Slaves abandoned their masters and joined the plebs in a general mayhem. Legend has it that a Roman noblewomen, desparing of how fellow Romans were destroying their city from within apparently unbarred a gate in the city wall hoping that the Goths would restore order.

Instead of staying on to rule the city the Goths joined the street rioters and plundered it.

The point was that despite not having as much as a single squad of Roman soldiers to man the walls the Goths could not get in until someone inside let them in. It must never have occurred to the rioting pleds within to form an ad-hoc militia armed with improvised weapons to defend their city against the foreign invader. Instead, once the chips were down it was every man for himself.

The inhabitants of Rome by 410AD lacked the self discipline, the love of their city and its heritage, the patriotism to endure a seige and defend their home town. Rome must have by then lost all semblance of a sense of community having degenerated into approx. half a million or so predominantly selfish, disconnected individuals.

Ellen
Posts: 248
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2020 10:02 pm

Re: History

Post by Ellen » Tue Jun 08, 2021 7:59 pm

Thanks for this history lesson NF. I have 2 comments:

1. The Christianity of Byzantium may have been more sincere and practiced than that of Rome, which might explain why it was a strength for one and a weakness for the other. Certainly one can suppose that the depth of belief in a set of ideas will have an influence on whether the ideas have their presumed effect or not. Example) If one society practices democracy in a genuine way it will likely survive longer there than in another society where it has been reduced to lip service only. Only an observant historian living and writing about his own society can tell us the degree of sincerity in the practice of a religion or ideology at a particular time in history, which is now long gone.

2. I very much like your last few paragraphs describing the moral decay that led to the collapse of Rome, in spite of the primitivity of the invading barbarians. I have read accounts of the collapse of the Crusader State in the Holyland and they also describe a similar set of circumstances. It wasn't that Salahadin was so great, but rather that the Christians had become a rabble, partially intermarried and mixed with local Arabs who had been nominally converted to Christianity without really believing in it. Internal quarrels, lack of patriotism, loss of social norms, etc led to a final military debacle in which the Christians lost their sovereignty.

This is how many societies, perhaps most, perish at the hands of an invader. Through the loss of internal coherency, shared values, and the willingness to fight for one's city or state.

Examples to the Contrary:
1. The Soviet Union did not fall to the Nazis because the Russians never lost these qualities in spite of living under a brutal Stalinist regime. They fought bravely against the Germans due to their Russian nationalism and love of their Motherland, not because of communism.

2. Britain in WWII, likewise, did not surrender to the Germans the way many other European countries did without a fight (eg, France, Austria, and others). They fought bravely until the Americans could come and rescue them, because they were English patriots defending their independence and cultural patrimony.

3. Israel in all of its wars against the Arabs/Palestinians. The Arabs keep on hoping that the Jewish state will dissolve and collapse due to its internal quarrels and obvious divisions. It never does, while the Arabs - supposedly united by a common language and faith - continue to disintegrate into smaller and smaller tribal/sectarian entities that cannot unite even while sharing a common hatred of Israel. Remember Arafat's famous comment to Oriana Fallaci in the 1980's that the reason Israel always wins is not because it is so great, but because the Arabs are so divided, demoralized and pitiful.

So, morale and internal solidarity based on shared values are the keys that hold societies together - especially in the face of an external threat. The benefit for the US today and historically is that there is no external enemy threatening to invade the country. That is the benefit of living next to 2 great oceans and Canada.

America's divisions caused by loss of shared moral values, no common culture or shared heritage that is venerated, no sense of shared patriotism is not enough to cause the country to disintegrate because there is no enemy on the doorstep to knock the whole system down. Instead, what one sees is continued internal decay and fragmentation of the body politic, which seems headed eventually for a civil conflict leading to a division of the country. But, frankly, while the Red states do share a common sense of values (conservatism, Christianity and a willingness to serve in the military), what unites the citizens of the Blue States? In my view, nothing. Just a shared sense of narcissism, victimization and individualized nihilism. This doesn't bode well for the Blue States surviving a partitioned country in spite of all their supposed superiority in human capital.

neverfail
Posts: 6838
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: History

Post by neverfail » Wed Jun 09, 2021 3:22 am

Ellen wrote:
Tue Jun 08, 2021 7:59 pm
Thanks for this history lesson NF. I have 2 comments:

1. The Christianity of Byzantium may have been more sincere and practiced than that of Rome, which might explain why it was a strength for one and a weakness for the other. Certainly one can suppose that the depth of belief in a set of ideas will have an influence on whether the ideas have their presumed effect or not. Example) If one society practices democracy in a genuine way it will likely survive longer there than in another society where it has been reduced to lip service only. Only an observant historian living and writing about his own society can tell us the degree of sincerity in the practice of a religion or ideology at a particular time in history, which is now long gone.
Delighted to encounter someone like you who appreciates it, Ellen. I hope that you won't mind if I share some further thoughts?

Worth bearing in mind that Orthodox christianity was the state religion of the Byzantine Empire which suggests that it was compulsory in all but name. In the case of the western Empire I am not sure whether it was. The Byzantime Empire might have had the tactical advantage in that for around 3 centuries in incorporated within its bounds the Holy Land - which for Christians meant the places where Christ lived his life, died and allegedly resurrected from the dead (not identical to the holy places of the Jews). That would have bestowed an added authority to the Byzantine church. The hold of the Church in the west might have been initially diminished by the fact that it was geograplically (and perhaps spiritually) further removed from the site of Christ's sojourn on Earth.

Of course, Constantinople must have lost that advantage pwemanently in 640AD after the conquering, Islamic Arabs wrested the Empire's Levantine provinces away from it.

Rome, however, rebounded. Beginning with Saint Patrick's conversion of the Irish in the 6th century (the platform from which Great Britain was ultimately converted by Irish missionary monks) Rome became more proactive in missionary efforts to convert Europe's northern, pagan peoples to Christianity and had considerable success in the enterprise. It might seem that not having an imperium of their own to shelter them from the predations of barbarians meant that the bishops of Rome could not have been as smugly satisfied as the Partiarichal archbishops in Constantinople.

I also take note of the fact that it was this same Western church, not the eastern one, that sanctioned the various crusader enterprises to wrest lands and peoples back from Islam: the most recent of these being the reconquista in Spain and Portugal
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I agree that democracy is likely to survive longer in countries where it is "embedded in the soul" of the general populace than it will in countries where it is like a latter-day impost. Given by how so many Americans have recently lost confidence in their version of democracy (at times I do not blame them) I have rerason to believe that it will survive in Canada for longer than it will in the United States. Likewise, a little longer in the USA than in the Latino republics to the south.

I forsee a similar pattern emerging in Europe. Barring being crushed and ruled by an authoritarian foreign power such as Russia I have reason to believe that the Scandanavian countries will remain democratic for centuries to come while in the case of the Mediterranean countries - who can tell? Italians have absolutely no confidence in their elected governments while Greece had military rule less than half a century ago. . Some of the eastern European countries seem to spiritually lean towards the Russian model of authoritarian government.

As for we Australians: a lot like in Scandanavia. Nothing and no one is going to stop us from enjoying democratic government. :D

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