Posts Tagged With: Roman Empire

A Republic at Risk

When the 1776 Commission was created to produce the The 1776 Report, the normal mindless, partisan politics ensued. The report couldn’t possibly be of importance and was ignored and deleted. So I, unlike many others, decided to actually read it. Here, quoted from the report, is what it was fundamentally about:

The core assertion of the Declaration [of Independence], and the basis of the founders’ political thought, is that “all men are created equal.”

[This] does not mean that all human beings are equal in wisdom, courage, or any of the other virtues and talents that God and nature distribute unevenly among the human race. It means rather that human beings are equal in the sense that they are not by nature divided into castes, with natural rulers and ruled.

Natural equality requires not only the consent of the governed but also the recognition of fundamental human rights…as well as the fundamental duty or obligation of all to respect the rights of others. These rights are found in nature and are not created by man or government; rather, men create governments to secure natural rights. Indeed, the very purpose of government is to secure these rights, which exist independently of government, whether government recognizes them or not.

…the Ninth Amendment [establishes] that the Bill of Rights was a selective and not an exclusive list; that is, the mere fact that a right is not mentioned in the Bill of Rights is neither proof nor evidence that it does not exist.

In other words, the Declaration of Independence is a statement of the ancient belief that human rights are innate and exist whether or not any particular government thinks otherwise. These were the founding principles of the United States, all of which used to be taught in schools. That was a primary purpose of schools after all. The report writes:

Education in civics, history, and literature holds the central place in the well-being of both students and communities. For republican government, citizens with such an education are essential. The knowledge of human nature and unalienable rights — understanding what it means to be human — brings deeper perspective to public affairs, for the simple reason that educated citizens will take encouragement or warning from our past in order to navigate the present.

When the lessons of the past are ignored, the truth of natural rights ignored, and politicians try to undo or work around checks and balances of power, this is cause for great concern. When these cancers began to eat away at a republic, often hidden behind movements and catchphrases that hide the decay, one day people wake up wondering how their government moved into tyranny. History, however, tells us how easy governments can fail:

Republicanism is an ancient form of government, but one uncommon throughout history, in part because of its fragility, which has tended to make republics short-lived. Contemporary Americans tend to forget how historically rare republicanism has been, in part because of the success of republicanism in our time…

We only need to look to that famous republic, the Roman one, and its slide into tyranny, and the warnings it has left us. Edward Watts in Mortal Republic writes:

A republic is not an organism. It has no natural life span. It lives or dies solely on the basis of choices made by those in charge of its custody…The [Roman] Republic could have been saved. These men, and many others less famous as they, chose not to save it…When citizens take the health and durability of their republic for granted, that republic is at risk.

The 1776 Report wasn’t a partisan document; it was a warning. As Daniel Webster wrote, if the American experiment fails, “there will be anarchy throughout the world.”

Categories: Critical Thinking, History | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Battles Fought, Battles Avoided

People who fail to heed the past, doom the future. Likewise, those who ignore the present, as if they have no responsibility for their actions to those who come after, may change the course of history. That history may be one not wanted, or deserved, by those who inherit it.

An event in 9 A.D., in a dark German forest, probably didn’t seem like much on the global scale. When three Roman legions were destroyed by German tribes in Teutoburg Forest, it was a tragedy for sure. Nearly 20,000 were dead, an amount hard to imagine killed in only a few hours time. The loss struck Caesar Augustus hard, and no full-scale attempt to conquer and Romanize Germania would ever occur again. Rome would stay close to the militarized border along the Rhine and Danube Rivers for the remainder of its existence. As Rome endured for a few more hundred years after the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, the disaster didn’t seem like an event of significance, one that had altered history.

But it had.

Had the German region become part of Rome like western Europe, would the “barbarian” invasions of Rome centuries later never occur? Would the empire have endured longer? Would later wars between France and Germany also fail to materialize? What of the World Wars?

Of course we are speculating, we cannot know for sure how an alternate timeline would have played out. Some dismiss the battle had any serious impact on the river of time, not because of historical evidence, but out of overwrought fears the battle will be used for nationalist causes. Others point to Britannia, which expelled Roman culture after Rome left, as if that proves something contrary. Britain and Europe would be at odds for centuries, much like the situation north of the Alps. Nor are we arguing that Roman expansion was a just enterprise. However, we know what did happen, and what did not happen. We know a severe cultural divide was created, and even centuries later during multiple eras, when both sides shared the same religion, it didn’t erase the past. Rome fell for many reasons. Endless war was one of them. Many of which were with their neighbors to the north.

What should this teach us? First, we must pay attention to our past. We must cast off this hubris that believes nothing important happened prior to today. Our temporal amnesia is a dangerous disease.

Second, our decisions and actions as nations make lasting ripples far into the future. Where this chain of history goes forward is hard to see from our link, but looking back, the weight of memory is heavy and clear. We can see the connections, the causes and effects.

If we ignore the messages our ancestors have given us, we will fall into our own battles in dark forests. Regardless, if at the time, we think we are on the winning side, our descendants could lose everything.

Each generation has a responsibility to the next to preserve and pass on the canon of human history. It is how the continuity of civilization endures through both the bad and the good.

We have traded our responsibility for tribalisms, allow the elite to choose and run our governments, and abandoned intellect as we run headlong into chaos that we are told is imaginary.

If our ancestors could speak, they would ask, “Why did you not listen to us?”

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lost to the West

History is not dry or boring. No, it rivals the best novels. Take Lars Brownworth’s Lost to the West, the rest of the story of the Roman Empire.

The empire didn’t end with the collapse of Rome, but endured for centuries in the East, centered in Constantinople. That’s no idle fact for impressing your friends. Without the Byzantine Empire, the West would have become a very different place, and no doubt unrecognizable to this day.

In spite of all the setbacks brought by war, plague, and tyranny, the West emerged while much of the world receded. Perhaps we should pay closer attention to their stories. Where would we be if there hadn’t been constant restarts of civilization? Yet, in darkness, people still triumphed. There are lessons in both for us to learn.

lwest

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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