To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?
Thomas Babington Macaulay
“Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the war of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians as they warred against each other, beginning to write as soon as the war was on foot, with expectation it should prove a great one and most worthy the relation of all that had been before it; conjecturing so much both from this, that they flourished on both sides in all manner of provision, and also because he saw the rest of Greece siding with the one or the other faction, some then presently and some intending so to do. For this was certainly the greatest commotion that ever happened among the Grecians, reaching also to part of the barbarians and, as a man may say, to most nations. For the actions that preceded this and those again that are yet more ancient, though the truth of them through length of time cannot by any means clearly be discovered, yet for any argument that, looking into times far past, I have yet light on to persuade me, I do not think they have been very great, either for matter of war or otherwise.”
In 1629 Thomas Hobbes the philosopher (or we should say the social scientist) translated into English, Thucydides “Peloponnesian War.” Above is Thucydides’ introduction. He believed that this was the greatest war that had ever been fought among the Greeks. And in this belief, he was probably right. And in a sense every major war that was fought afterward in which European peoples fought amongst themselves became the greatest war. After the Peloponnesian war, Sparta fought with the other Hellenic city states such as Thebes until they wore each other down. That allowed the related Macedonian nation to conquer the Greeks and that led to Alexander’s conquest of the Persian empire. And the squabbling of the successor kingdoms of Alexander’s generals was the incubator for the Roman empire.
But when the rotted corpse of the Caesars’ world disintegrated sometime during the 5th century A.D. it formed the fertile soil that nurtured our Western civilization. And now the United States of America is approaching the point where it will need a new name. Calling it a democratic republic is sort of a bad joke. The form of the government is some kind of self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And its extent is no longer defined by the outline of the fifty states. Much like Rome it has many vassal states that while technically not American territory nevertheless are almost completely controlled by America.
And like Rome the American Empire has an enormous amount of momentum. Even in the midst of precipitous decline in many aspects of its existence the shear mass of this human organization is staggering to behold. And because of this scope it will take a long time for the creature to die. Unfortunately, we will be the witnesses to the early stages of this downfall. And it is already on display. Just as the Roman republic died with the destruction of the small Roman farmers so our society will degenerate into a feudal existence with the dominance of the corporate oligarchs over small independent businesses. And in fact, the last few years has greatly accelerated this process.
And our age’s equivalent to the Roman “bread and circuses” is the vision of welfare and the metaverse where everyone commits slow suicide to make room for the depopulated Gaia model. It almost makes 5th century Rome sound humanistic.
I was recently skimming through Macchiavelli’s “History of Florence.” It begins with the Fall of Rome and after the Carolingian period quickly devolves into endless petty wars between a long series of German Holy Roman Emperors named Frederic, French Kings named Louis and Neapolitan Dukes named Rodrigo battling the Popes for control of Tuscany and Lombardy. And it occurred to me that someday that will be North America. Idiotic descendants of the Pilgrims will be warring endlessly with some Asiatic warlords and Neo-Aztecs for possession of Lake Winnipesaukee. And if that’s the case then my ancestors might as well have remained in Southern Italy and at least have had the comfort of snow free March weather.
If I were a Stoic, I’d look at the whole thing as the way of the world and just make the best of it without whining about it. But my ancestors made a tradition of bitterly complaining about just about everything that was outside of their control and just about everything was outside of their control. At the same time, it meant trying to make the most of the things we could control; family, food and friends.
But just as Thucydides did with Athens and Tacitus did with Republican Rome, we will get a chance to see up close and personal how a once free people get turned into serfs. It won’t be pretty but it will be momentous. I hope the movie version has good CGI effects.
31OCT2023 – Quote of the Day
We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality.
Thomas Babington Macaulay
The first frost is due Tuesday night. I’ve heard there could be snow or freezing rain. That’s Halloween, so everyone is hoping it holds off until the kids are home from their candy raids. Of course, a dusting of snow would be alright but freezing rain would be awful. I remember many years ago when my children were still small and I walked them through the sidewalks of the small town common where we lived at the time when a freezing rain began. Their plastic pumpkin candy containers filled up with rain and ruined their treats. But worse still they were frozen to the bone by the time we walked home. Truly a miserable end to an exciting night for the young.
I had the family over today for a kid’s birthday party. Amazing. Remarkable how much good will and high spirits can be created with some pasta and meat sauce. Well, there was ice cream cake too. I guess that could be an extenuating circumstance. I also learned that a pool table will turn into a Nok Hockey table if you allow for the inventiveness of small children. Instead of a pool cue they use billiard balls as paddles to shoot the other balls back and forth at each other. Of course, it was probably a little dangerous. Some small hands might have been pinched while they played and more than a few times the balls came flying off the table and bounced and banged their way across the room. But they had a good time. Later on, we had a couple of normal games with the older kids and I tried to teach Princess Sack of Potatoes how to use the cue to make a shot but let’s just say that her way of clearing the table seemed to make her happier. So, all good stuff.
And we found an old book of “Scary Stories” that I had read to my kids all those years ago. And I heard about how scary my delivery had been. And some approved of those convincing dramatics and some had been too afraid. And I remembered the occasion so many years ago and it surprised me that they still remembered the details. And so, I offered the book to the children’s mothers and told them to use their own judgement as to when the children were old enough for the story of “The Big Toe.”
So, kids are still kids. Even with all the nonsense that’s been introduced to ruin them. They still enjoy being scared by a ghost story and misusing their parents’ toys and all the same things that we did. You can still enjoy being a parent and grandparent and a kid. It’s just a lot more expensive. But that’s nothing new.
But something has changed in the last fifty years. Our government doesn’t want any more kids. At least not ones whose parents were born here. Nobody is planning for them to have jobs and lives and eventually kids of their own. Slowly but surely. Methodically and cold-bloodedly, they’ve strangled off the world that produced all that living. All the jobs that were located in factories and plants that produced everything from shoes to phones to washing machines no longer exist. Or rather they exist in China, Thailand and Malaysia. Our kids and grandkids are out of luck. They’re not needed. They’re not even needed as engineers, architects, managers or accountants. Even those things have been outsourced. The message is we’re not needed and we’re not wanted. There’s no room for us and certainly not for any of our kids.
And yet the American people haven’t said no. Well, some of them have said no. But there hasn’t been an upswelling of anger at seeing their country chloroformed. I find this remarkable. Are we that blind? Are we that stupid? I guess we are. What seems obvious to me is that unless this changes very soon there won’t be much left. Just the managerial elite and their servants. And I’m sure they’ll keep squeezing even that fraction down to a minimum.
So human capital is no longer the thing. Well, we’ve been told over and over again that “our democracy” is a precious thing. If the powers that be aren’t careful, they may find out what raw democracy means when it goes looking for the hand that shut off the work that used to keep it busy. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
A single breaker may recede; but the tide is evidently coming in.
Thomas Babington Macaulay
Today will be a great celebration of grandchildishness so there will be a slow period on site. And the next few days will be especially busy for me in the work world, an enormous amount of to-do-ing will envelop me. I pray I’ll have the strength to avoid excessive honesty.
I’ve been watching the requisite number of horror movies that the holiday warrants. Several I haven’t seen in decades. What I noticed is that in the 1980s a quite generous dose of humor was added to the formula and that gave these movies their distinctive feel. “Lost Boys,” “An American Werewolf in London,” John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” It does feel like a time machine watching these old movies. Even with the gore it feels like a sunnier world than our own. I haven’t decided which, if any, I intend to review. But I better hurry or they’ll already be behind the times.
So stay tuned. The world is bound to dismay us soon and I’ll have something hyperbolic to say about it.
In keeping with the season some wolfbane from the garden. Something with poison in it.