In some ways, it is Victor Davis Hanson I owe for whatever success I might enjoy as a blogger. Prior to diving head first into the blogosphere, I would often respond to Hanson’s missives at various venues, sometimes eliciting positive comments from others. In other words, Hanson, through his depth of knowledge and clear thinking, was—and is—inspirational. He is again at the Daily Signal:
Sometime around A.D. 60, in the age of Emperor Nero, a Roman court insider named Gaius Petronius wrote a satirical Latin novel, ‘The Satyricon,’ about moral corruption in Imperial Rome. The novel’s general landscape was Rome’s transition from an agrarian republic to a globalized multicultural superpower.
The novel survives only in a series of extended fragments. But there are enough chapters for critics to agree that the high-living Petronius, nicknamed the ‘Judge of Elegance,’ was a brilliant cynic. He often mocked the cultural consequences of the sudden and disruptive influx of money and strangers from elsewhere in the Mediterranean region into a once-traditional Roman society. [skip]
The abrupt transition from a society of rural homesteaders into metropolitan coastal hubs had created two Romes. One world was a sophisticated and cosmopolitan network of traders, schemers, investors, academics, and deep-state imperial cronies. Their seaside corridors were not so much Roman as Mediterranean. And they saw themselves more as “citizens of the world” than as mere Roman citizens.
In the novel, vast, unprecedented wealth had produced license. On-the-make urbanites suck up and flatter the childless rich in hopes of being given estates rather than earning their own money.
The rich in turn exploit the young sexually and emotionally by offering them false hopes of landing an inheritance.
Petronius seems to mock the very world in which he indulged.
His novel’s accepted norms are pornography, gratuitous violence, sexual promiscuity, transgenderism, delayed marriage, childlessness, fear of aging, homelessness, social climbing, ostentatious materialism, prolonged adolescence, and scamming and conning in lieu of working.
The characters are fixated on expensive fashion, exotic foods, and pretentious name-dropping. They are the lucky inheritors of a dynamic Roman infrastructure that had globalized three continents. Rome had incorporated the shores of the Mediterranean under uniform law, science, institutions—all kept in check by Roman bureaucracy and the overwhelming power of the legions, many of them populated by non-Romans.
Never in the history of civilization had a generation become so wealthy and leisured, so eager to gratify every conceivable appetite—and yet so bored and unhappy.
Sound familiar, gentle readers?
Petronius also argues that with too much rapid material progress comes moral regress. His final warning might be especially troubling for the current generation of Western Europeans and Americans. Even as we brag of globalizing the world and enriching the West materially and culturally, we are losing our soul in the process.
In teaching literature in general, and mythology in particular, I repeat a single axiom: times change; people don’t. It is ignorance of this truth, even rejection of it, which leads the self-imagined elite in any age the fatal conceit they can change human nature. They alone, by virtue of their education, their wealth, their associations, their unique, unprecedented ideas/philosophies and brilliance, can create a new, progressive man, right thinking, right acting, perfect in their own drastically imperfect conception of perfection. They look in the mirror and think: “if everyone could only be like me.” They alone will succeed where all before them have failed. And failed. And failed. And failed…
“They who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” an aphorism attributed to many, but unquestionably accurate. We too live in a time of unprecedented wealth and technological ease. Despite socialist’s calls for wealth redistribution, even America’s poor, for the most part, are, by the standards of the rest of the world, fabulously wealthy. Cars, air-conditioning, flat panel TVs, smart phones, are universally possessed.
It is our very material wealth and national success that makes us, like Rome, complacent. This hubris is taken to an insane degree by the self-imagined elite, the self-imagined “experts,” who would rule us. We’re not nearly as smart and moral as they. We don’t know what’s good for us; they believe they do. While Hillary Clinton was the first to call approximately half of America “deplorables,” she was merely speaking aloud what her ilk had long believed and said in semi-private. Yet it is the deplorables that may very well save America and with like-minded people everywhere, hold civilization together.
As in ancient Rome, American’s traditionally wholesome values and practices are disdained. Some will always sneer at the kind and good, but when enough of the population of a nation not only sneers, but actively works to destroy kindness, goodness and faithfulness, that nation will not long endure. When enough of the population no longer thinks their nation worth saving, when they believe all but those that think like them deplorable, fit only for condemnation and destruction, that nation will go the way of Rome, destroyed by forces internal and external that hold coherent societal beliefs, even if they have little to do with goodness and kindness.
Our present foretells a future where the self-imagined elite rule by fiat. We see this in our current Democrat/socialist party. Some ask: “Don’t Democrats realize that by impeaching the president, Republicans will impeach every future Democrat president?” “Don’t they know letting people get away with trying to depose a lawfully elected president will set a terrible precedent?”
They know. They just don’t care.
They believe when they next gain power—they think it may be as early as 2020—they will never again lose it. They will nationalize “vote harvesting.” They will do away with requiring any identification or qualifications for voting. The Constitution will remain, but will be ignored or so misinterpreted as to render it merely a curiosity, a yellowing document somewhere in the nation’s capital–which will no longer be named for George Washington because he kept slaves–and was white and a militarist, and male, and actually believed in God. They will stack the Supreme Court with as many “living constitution” politicians as required, and the electoral college will become a quaint historical curiosity, taught only—if at all—to illustrate how backward and non-woke we once were.
They will seize all privately owned weapons. Once accomplished, mass incarcerations and reeducation will begin in earnest. Wait a minute! That’s crazy talk! Is it? Would a careful reading of actual history, even the current state of affairs in Venezuela, Cuba, North Vietnam and any other socialist worker’s paradise suggest otherwise?
The difference between the fate of Rome and our fate will be normal, deplorable, middle class Americans. They are the sleeping giant the Japanese came to fear after Pearl Harbor. They are the people who marry, raise children, value kindness goodness and loyalty. They recognize the source of all goodness is God, and unashamedly choose to believe in Him. They understand the dignity in honest work, and do their best to pay attention to their own business. Like Abraham Lincoln, they hold malice toward none and charity toward all. Without consciously realizing it, it is they that hold the line between civilization and anarchy, between a representative democracy where the people rule, and a totalitarian dictatorship of the self-imagined elite.
Despite the gaseous emanations of the self-imagined elite, normal Americans are enormously tolerant. They will put up with a great deal, but when aroused, when they are fighting for their homes, their families, their liberties and their God, none will stand against them. The self-imagined elite are too arrogant, to unimaginative, too stupid to understand this. They are soft, entitled, unschooled in actual violence, metrosexuals and girly men who think their intellectual and moral superiority will prevail against missing toothed, Trump smelling, WalMart shopping, unsophisticated God and gun clingers. Hanson again:
Getting married, raising families, staying in one place, still working with our hands, and postponing gratification may be seen as boring and out of date. But nearly 2,000 years later, all of that is what still keeps civilization alive.
Then and now, we are dealing with people who believe they can construct their own reality and force others to live in it. If they do not relent, and soon, normal Americans will have no choice but to impose actual reality. If I am wrong, if they do not, history will repeat itself yet again, and civilization will die. This time we have such a very, very long way to fall…