Tag Archives: Ancient Rome

Edward Gibbon on the Fall of Roman Empire

I just came across this in an article from The American Thinker, entitled The Quiet Revolution: How the New Left Took Over the Democratic Party, by Scott Powell. Though it’s not short, the entire piece is well worth the time it takes to read it, tracing as it does the way Marxism, Leninism and other communistic “isms” have slowly made their way into American politics, society, and government — precisely, as it happens, in the manner that some of them advised.

However when I got to the part where Powell references the famous historian Edward Gibbon and what he said regarding aspects of Roman society that were precursors to Rome’s fall, I thought the parallels as they apply to what we’re seeing in the USA today were so inescapable and sobering, I wanted to share them:

The big question is whether the nation can survive and prosper if the culture remains fractured with a majority adrift from the heritage, morality and values of liberty and personal responsibility that are at the heart of the Declaration and the Constitution.

Edward Gibbon, the renowned historian, published his first of six-volumes of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in 1776, the year Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Gibbon described six attributes that Rome embodied at its end: first, an overwhelming love of show and luxury; second, a widening gap between the rich and the poor; third, an obsession with sports and a freakishness in the arts, masquerading as creativity and originality; fourth, a decline in morals, increase in divorce and decline in the institution of the family; fifth, economic deterioration resulting from debasement of the currency, inflation, excessive taxation, and overregulation; and sixth, an increased desire by the citizenry to live off the state.

One might hope that awareness of factors associated with Rome’s fall would prompt an awakening in America. But so many are now disengaged and relatively few people read books, let alone possess the capacity to reflect deeply about causality and historical parallels. Many feel atomized and helpless.

Turning around America’s decline will require more than just political change. It’s vital to reestablish a positive and solid framework and foundation, around which a majority consensus could emerge and grow.  Such a foundation was well understood and articulated by George Washington — revered by many as the greatest of all U.S. presidents. His timeless wisdom was conveyed in both his speech consecrating the nation at its birth and also in his Farewell Address delivered eight years later upon leaving office.  He said:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports… Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

You can  Read the entire article HERE.

 

The Post That Wouldn’t and Other Things

A gaggle of geese in So California

 

Well, for two days I’ve been working on a post that just will not go right, so I decided to set it aside and dash off an update of sorts. (I thought I had it almost done last night, then realized I’d misread the quote I was commenting on. So back to the drawing board this morning, stripping out all the parts that didn’t apply. I keep rewriting it and seeing something else amiss, wondering if I should just ditch it, but for some reason keep feeling like I should go on.)

Anyway yesterday I pruned the second of the pair of my mother’s roses I brought home last summer. Now I will get to see with my own eyes how the pruning process works (this after all those lessons last fall about God pruning us). Already there are tons of buds on both plants. And in some cases even tiny bunches of leaves. This may not be a good thing on February 1, since if we get another cold spell everything would be killed. But it wouldn’t be the first time. It was 71 here this afternoon, blue skies, wispy clouds…absolutely BEAUTIFUL weather.

When I called the City of Tucson last week, I was told by the recording to leave a message and that someone would call me back as soon as they could. I left a message. They never called me back. I didn’t call them back, either, because later that day I discovered the mail forwarding order for getting my mother’s mail sent to me, and it didn’t expire for a year. So I was able to relax about all that. A couple of days later I got the tax forms I was waiting for. Now there’s just one left.

Also last week I read Dean Koontz’s The Darkest Evening of the Year.  I liked it fairly well. (it’s about dogs) (Golden Retrievers to be exact) (which are so unlike hounds that it’s hard to believe they’re both in the same species) Then I went to Amazon and was amazed at the criticisms people leveled at it. Some I thought were so off base I wondered if they were multi-tasking while trying to read the book. Texting while baking biscuits perhaps… Maybe I’ll do a post on it.

I finished the Don Nardo book, Life in Ancient Rome and still have a few things to say about that — if I can ever complete the post I’ve been stuck on.

And finally —  I may have had a breakthrough on all my struggles with working on the book and routines in the house and interruptions and hindrances and “allowing myself” to be distracted and leaving the details and trusting God for it all… But I want to wait a few days and see what happens.

Eligible to Vote

A few posts ago, (which is also unfortunately now a couple of weeks ago — where does the time go?) I wrote about how in ancient Rome the Roman senators, all part of the “ancient and venerable patrician elite,” did not consider the common people fit to rule along with them. In the post, I drew comparisons to some people in our present day government who seem to hold to the same opinion regarding the so-called common people. The middle class, lacking an Ivy League degree, common man American. The Tea Party, if you will — those bitter clingers to their guns and religion.

Considering further, however, I can see some justification for the Roman patrician’s views. The people they considered unfit included freed slaves, foreigners, and middle class plebs, all mostly illiterate, all having to work all the time (they had no weekends off, not even Sundays and only a few yearly festivals for rest). Many of them lived in the Roman equivalent of tenements, or scratched out a living on rented farm property. The vast majority owned next to nothing, had no education but what they picked up on the job, and had no time to consider much of anything except where their next meal and entertainment might be coming from.

If you have people who own nothing voting alongside people who own something, it’s just human nature that those with nothing are going to vote to force those with something to “share.”

That’s one reason why in early America one of the conditions for being eligible to vote was that you had to own property. In this way people “without so much as a farthing” wouldn’t be able to vote in a legislature of Robin Hoods — making laws that take from the rich and give to the poor. Plus it was thought that those with property would be more likely to have a vested interest in doing what was best for the community in which their property was located.

This came under attack however with the onset of the Revolution and particularly in the time between the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution. There were many reasons for objection – concerns about veterans, concerns about the effects of increasing the scope of the electorate, and even concerns about how valid property rights were as a means of determining quality voters.

Ben Franklin made an excellent point in the latter regard:

“Today a man owns a jackass worth 50 dollars and he is entitled to vote; but before the next election the jackass dies. The man in the mean time has become more experienced, his knowledge of the principles of government, and his acquaintance with mankind, are more extensive, and he is therefore better qualified to make a proper selection of rulers—but the jackass is dead and the man cannot vote. Now gentlemen, pray inform me, in whom is the right of suffrage? In the man or in the jackass?”

Ultimately, property ownership was deemed undesirable and was replaced by the paying of taxes as a qualification to vote, and as we all know, the franchise has expanded greatly from there  — and not altogether to the country’s benefit, I fear.

Because voting is not so much a right as it is a privilege, something to be conferred with care and received with gratitude and a sense of sober responsibility. Today it seems to be taken for granted, given and received as an entitlement,  a means of bribery, or of gaining power, a pain in the neck, or something other people will do, because it really doesn’t matter and “I’m just too busy doing my own thing.”

Everyone born in America today has always had it. We’ve never lived in a time when we didn’t. And yet… the entire institution seems to have been so corrupted, it’s hard to remember what a privilege it is. Not that the politicians are necessarly less upstanding today than previously, nor that the process is any less vitriolic, but that the people… a lot of people don’t really pay attention. Or is it that they’ve been distracted by things that don’t matter?

During all the hooplah with Tim Tebow last month, I read that he was number five on some list of the most influential people in America. I don’t recall who assembled the list, only that it wasn’t all athletes. Tebow was seven places (if I recall correctly) ahead of Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots. He was however, still five below the most influential person on the list… Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga?

Originally the media, the fourth estate, was to work as a check for political processes. That’s long gone out the window, but worse, what I’m seeing today is the incessant barrage of messages, accusations, stories, speculuations, promises, claims, innuendo, and out and out lies. From the news outlets, the radio, Internet, and TV. Especially radio and TV. Whoever has the most ads wins, because the poplulace has heard those the most and simply through repetition of hearing has come to believe what those ads say.

Reminds me of the Hitler salute back in the beginning of his regime talked about in Eric Larsen’s In the Garden of Beasts:  How people at first resisted it, but after awhile, when it was constantly an issue, they gave in, even though they didn’t believe in it, didn’t really hold with it… but then after awahile, all that endless saluting and Heil Hitlering eventually brought them around to where they did believe it, and wanted to do it and bought into the whole package without ever realizing what exactly was happening.

I see that happening so much today. Everywhere. In everything. And it’s sobering.

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”  Abraham Lincoln