Indeed, many people—especially our mainstream journalists and public intellectuals—who are at least partly aware of what is impending tend to palliate and re-interpret a crisis of civilization as a transition or accommodation toward a new and more open social dispensation. It is rather telling that a leading school of contemporary historians has rewritten the catastrophic end of the Roman Empire as merely a benign transformation to Late Antiquity. What the reputable historian Bryan Ward-Perkins in The Fall of Rome and The End of Civilization has said about this revisionist perspective of the demise of Rome applies precisely to the modern mindset: “‘accommodation’ is now the fashionable word to explain how peoples from outside the empire came to live within it and rule it.” Like the current crop of newfangled historians of Imperial Rome, our politicians, journalists and intellectuals regard susceptibility to invasion as mere “accommodation.”
Ward-Perkins concludes his book with a not-so-veiled warning, pointing to “a real danger for the present day” in dismissing the threat of cultural displacement. The Romans were convinced of their social and cultural longevity, he reminds us. We, however, “would be wise not to repeat their complacency.” Thomas Sowell has sounded the same warning: “to follow Rome…as it degenerated and fractured is especially painful in view of the parallels in what is happening in our own time.”
Some trust that the barbarians will experience a gradual change of heart and others think that it is, after all, only a kind of Survivor TV show we are watching. But—and this is what is most unsettling—vast numbers of people, both among the illuminati and the general public, appear to be doing everything they can to arrange for their own quietus, using Islam as the weapon they are turning against themselves and their own civilization, as if following the self-immolation script to the letter. Dhimmis in the making, they really do want to concede the battle for supremacy, let alone existence, and step into the Spenglerian darkness. They have grown old and tired, and want only to be absolved of effort and responsibility. Sometimes what others do to us is only a kind of reflex of what we have done to ourselves. Sometimes the enemy is our chosen accomplice and subliminal ally.
The French Renaissance poet Joachim Du Bellay, in a sonnet titled Les Antiquites de Rome III, saw the origin of inevitable decrepitude in the corrosive passage of time and in the very nexus of Rome herself: “And only Rome has conquered Rome at last.” Similarly, the Alexandrian-Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, in his “Waiting for the Barbarians,” describes the citizens of Rome eagerly awaiting the arrival of the barbarians, without whom they feel abandoned and purposeless: “They were, those people, a kind of solution.” It is not so much the onslaught of the Vandals and the Lombards that leads to the destruction of Rome but the inner loss of the civilizing imperative, the erosion of pride in accomplishment, of political integrity, fiscal sobriety and belief in a system of core values, laws and conventions.
Perhaps the great Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico was not far off the mark in his masterwork The New Science when he postulated his four-stage cycle of social evolution: theocracy, aristocracy, democracy and ricorso (return, recurrence). Of course, despite the book’s title, this is not “science” in the current acceptation of the word but theory and speculation; nevertheless, it offers a compelling “calendar” for thought. It seems at least plausible to suggest that we in the West have entered Vico’s fourth stage, with the democratic experiment about to give way and spiral toward a renewed theocracy, represented by a confident and invigorated Islam.
This is where, mutatis mutandis, we seem to be today. The Rome that we now live in, governed by “defeatists and weaklings,” is opening its gates to a civilizational rival that has been at war with Christendom and the West for the last 1400 years. And never have its prospects seemed better for the restoration of its hegemony. The sequel seems almost foreordained unless we can resist the deciduous arc into the mulch of history. That is the question, a historical re-articulation of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be.” Have we inwardly chosen to collaborate in our own demise? Or can we once again find the courage, the cultural stamina and the intelligence to reaffirm the heritage of the West, wield the “hammer,” and refuse to surrender—to ourselves?
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