Rome and Meta Culture

A few Twitter posts got me thinking, as I am wont to do, about the history of Western civilization and ethnic separation.

You see, around the birth of Christ, or not long after, China and Rome were mirror images of one another. Both were multi-ethnic Empires that were in the process of uniting into a single ethnic state. Indeed, China’s own historical records contain a dim awareness of what they called Da Qin, the opposite-China on the other side of the world. In typical Eastern philosophical tradition, they considered this quite natural, that the world would be balanced by two great civilized Empires on either side of it.

Rome brought together the previously disparate cultures of the Mediterranean under one banner, sending out colonia to gradually assimilate the native populations. It replaced the old Celtic traditions of Gaul and Iberia. It assimilated all of Italy. It was somewhat less successful in the East, where Greek continued to predominate. But, among the Romans, Greece was considered a sort of second Rome (more literally so later, in the form of Constantinople or New Rome), near enough to be considered a part of the same cultural stew. Most educated Romans also spoke Greek, and most educated Greeks also spoke Latin.

In history, Rome stands out as the only time the Mediterranean was unified under a single banner. It is a dream that has motivated many since, from Justinian to Charlemagne to Napoleon, all trying to bring together the feet of clay and iron once more. According to the Bible, this will never happen, though it may seem to almost happen, from time-to-time.

Whether or not you believe the prophecy, that has held true. Rome has not been reunited. But why?

There are many reasons, but in my own long research into the topic, a few notable items stand out.

1. Islam.
2. The Germanic notions of freedom.
3. Assimilation was incomplete.

For the first, we can see that in the Third Century, both China and Rome suffered depredations from barbarians, driven off the steppes. By the Fifth Century, both China and Rome had subsequently fragmented into multiple states, some ruled by the barbarians, others ruled by native dynasties.

What happened next was, again, a fascinating mirror image. China was reunified under native rule by the Sui dynasty, and Rome was reunified under native rule by Justinian the Great. For that one moment, the impossible was very nearly achieved.

China went on, under the Tang dynasty, to consolidate the gains and restore its Imperial hegemony. Rome, however, found itself facing a bolt from the blue that no one could have foreseen: Islam.

Rome before Islam: Recovering.

Rome before Islam: Recovering.

Rome after Islam: a vestigial Empire, a remnant.

Rome after Islam: a vestigial Empire, a remnant. A soon-to-be-split Frankish Empire, and the East Roman/Byzantine Empire centered around Constantinople.

Islam sundered the unity of the Mediterranean, leaving the successors of Rome in the West to fend for themselves. Even the distant Franks had considered themselves notionally “Roman” in some vague sense, before the advent of Islam. Afterward, everything changed. Trade halted because of Islamic piracy. Bastions of ancient civilization, like Syria, Egypt, Carthage, and Iberia vanished in the flood. Islam, for a brief moment, consumed those cultures and economies in what revisionist historians call “the Islamic Golden Age.”

And then they were gone forever, and the unity of the Mediterranean with it.

China never had to contend with something as civilization-destroying as Islam. Even the Mongols could not compare.

Nonetheless, a dim cultural memory remained. The monuments of Ancient Rome continued to fascinate the inhabitants of Europe. The Catholic Church remained, the last remaining Roman institution, planted on the grave of the old Empire. Latin and Greek continued as the languages of learning. France and Spain were at once the same, and yet different, such that one can speak of “Western” civilization, and yet know that the French are not the Germans, and neither are the Spanish or the Italians.

Da Qin never unified quite the way Qin did, but remained the opposite end of the civilized world even so.

The second reason can be attributed to the Germans. Contrary to today’s image of the Germans as an industrial people, engineering marvels fascinated with order (terribly so during the time of the Nazis), the Germanic ancestors of Scandinavia, Germany, etc… were actually obsessed with notions of freedom, so much so that the Romans found them more or less unconquerable. Various attempts to bring them into the Roman fold failed.

Germans loved their freedom too much.

When the German tribes were pushed into Rome by the marauding Huns, they brought their notions of democracy with them. These were not the “enlightened” notions of the Athenians, but rather a more rough-and-tough affair. German tribal Kings were not elected in any sort of fashion you or I would recognize as such, but any King which did not have the support of the warbands would not be King for long. They would simply assassinate him, or follow another King instead.

We speak of Goths, or Vandals, or Lombards, but ethnic boundaries among them were thin. A Gothic lord may switch to following a Vandal King, or a Lombard. They voted with their feet.

They had long lived on the borders of Rome, however, and had absorbed much influence from it. Contrary to the images presented by High School textbooks, these “barbarians” were Christian and reasonably civilized, in their own rough-and-tough sort of way. But they could not abide the Roman Imperial institutions, at least not without being forced to do so.

Combined with the guilds, price controls and manorial lifestyle already pioneered by Diocletian and Constantine, this set the stage for the Middle Ages, in which there was little in the way of clear boundaries between one nation and the next. Indeed, Kings were valued more for who followed them than for the territory nominally under their control. Feudalism was “voting with your feet” taken to an extreme.

Had Roman Imperial authority not been broken by the Muslims, it is possible the Germans would have been slowly integrated into Roman political life. Instead, they were cast off from the dying Empire, left to fend for themselves over the remnants of the old Roman system.

The combination produced an interesting contradiction in Western European culture. The earliest German successor states, like Ostrogothic Italy, Visigothic Spain and Frankish Gaul all shared a common trait. The Germans were ruled by one group of laws, the predecessor of the type of law we call common law, which is governed mostly by tradition: i.e. what was ruled on previously, and the Romans were ruled under the old Imperial system, created over time by the rulings and dictates of government (later codified by Justinian).

Westerners simultaneously worship the Germanic notions of freedom, almost in a tribal-like capacity, while still yearning for the next Caesar to come along and “make them great.” This produced bizarre class and cultural divisions that persist to this day. Even today it is possible to perceive the remnants of this division in any Western nation-state.

Where Roman culture was stronger, the Imperial law tended to become the dominant system (in France, for instance) and in areas where the German culture was stronger, Common Law or similar systems prevailed (Britain is a good example). But the divisions in the people remained.

To this day, there is a sort of “us vs. them” mentality in Western socio-economic classes. Indeed, the Slavic/Eastern-European world suffers the same, since they also shared a similar experience from the dying Byzantine Empire.

So the assimilation of the invaders never happened in the Roman world, like it did in the Chinese world, which absorbed Huns, Mongols and Manchus with impunity.

Rome partly assimilated Germans and Slavs, respectively, but never finished the job, leaving the old Roman world under a sort of meta-culture which persists to this day, but in a perpetually divided state.

The Iron and the Clay do not cleave.

And, ultimately, the blame for this lies at the feet of Islam. Both Western and Eastern European cultures ought to understand one thing: Islam is their enemy. It has been, and always will be. And furthermore, the importing of Third Worlders is diluting the old Roman world once more. All this will accomplish is further division, more war.

No Multi-Ethnic Empire has ever survived in the long run. Rome. Ottoman Turkey. Austria-Hungary… they all fall. Americans should take note.

The Penultimate Crusades Post

Vox.com is nearly as terrible a propaganda machine as Gawker, or the whole city government of Chicago. It is a machine, spewing lies for the benefit of its paymasters, filled with inane Social Justice Advocates. And they want you to know that Christians and Crusaders are as much a threat as militant Islamics.

Now, before I tear this pithy, oft-repeated argument a metaphorical orifice for the excretion of bodily waste, I will explain why this particular lie enrages me so. The Crusades touches upon a subject that has, in many ways, been my life’s work. The histories of the Byzantine Empire, the succeeding Ottoman Empire and the regional conflicts of Islam and Christianity have immense personal interest to me. In the interests of full disclosure, I will tell you that I am part Armenian by ancestry. Don’t let that influence you overmuch. I can’t begin to impart what I have learned on this subject in one post. Forgive this brief summary, but also allow me to recommend some reading material if you want to dig deeper yourself: John Julius Norwich’s three volume series on Byzantium and Mohammed & Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy by Emmet Scott. I have dozens more I can give you if you want to read more than that. If it exists in English and is a scholarly treatment on the subject, the odds are good I’ve read it.

Now, shall we see the best of Vox.com’s excuse for journalism?

Obama’s point was actually pretty simple. Let’s not pretend that Islam itself is to blame for ISIS or that Muslims are inherently more violent, he suggested, because the problem of religious violence is not exclusive to any one religion. In other words, don’t oversimplify the problem of ISIS to “Muslims are different from the rest of us.”

For an opening salvo in the ongoing Culture Wars, this is pathetic, worthy more of mocking than serious intellectual treatment. You see, Islam is different in this regard. Pew Research is widely regarded as Gospel by the Left. Let’s use their own data against them.

This study is oft-cited by them, because it shows that a majority of Muslims do not support the actions of terrorist groups and suicide bombers. Yet, look at the graphs. Double-digit percentages DO support these actions. In Palestine, support for suicide bombings is 46% (over 60% in Gaza). Even in moderate Turkey, it is 18%. Does anyone on God’s Green Earth think that 18% of Christians in America would support suicide bombings on Muslims? If so, that person is an unrecoverable addict to ignorance. And this is their data, not mine.

Many critics have described Obama’s assertion that Christians are equivalent to Muslims as insulting to Christians. Whether this is because they believe that Christians are inherently superior or that Muslims are inherently inferior is irrelevant. It is not so different from, say, 1960s white supremacists who called Martin Luther King an anti-white racist for asserting that white and black people are fundamentally the same.

Yes, it is different. Because we have data, right there, combined with common-sense understanding that terrorism is more likely to come from a specific source. A Muslim source. Think about it for a moment and chalk up all the terrorism to come from Christian extremist groups. Let’s be fair and include the Irish, quite possibly the only modern instance of organized Christian terrorism in recent memory. Islamic terrorism dwarfs it by orders of magnitude. Not only is identifying this not racist (as Vox.com implies here), but NOT identifying it is proof of a level of ignorance that should not be possible among anyone seriously claiming the title of journalist.

Amazingly, some have tried to dismiss Obama’s comparison altogether by arguing that, even during the Crusades, in fact Christians were the victims and Islam the aggressor.

And here comes the history lesson. It is true that Christians were not the aggressor. Your Social Studies teacher (why don’t they call that class history, I wonder?) lied to you. Your textbooks lied to you. Pop culture lied to you. President Obama is lying to you, right now. To understand the depths of lie, we must go back in history to a time before Mohammed, before Islam even existed, because this lie is so deep, so systemic, its tentacles reach into our entire understanding of European History. It hinges around a nation referred to repeatedly as the Byzantine Empire. Even now, some sense of the thing can be had in the phrase “byzantine politics”. That Empire is a black hole in history textbooks, and Leftists want to keep it that way, because any support for Islam in the West is likely to evaporate like a fart in a hurricane otherwise.

After the first Germanic invasion of the Roman Empire, in the Third Century, it became increasingly apparent that the Empire was too large to be ruled by Rome alone. The old classical civilization we know as “Roman” began to fall apart. Economic damage was great. Plagues and frontier wars increased. Sassanid Persia was a constant threat in the East. New religions (Christianity among them) sprung up all over the Empire. Much of the apocalyptic tone of early Christian writings serves as a dim cultural memory for what life in this time was like.

Christianity, in the person of Constantine, eventually reached the highest levels of State, and the Empire rapidly Christianized. The message of a better life in the next world reached receptive masses of people who knew their civilization was on the decline. Paganism hardly even put up a fight, and was extinguished in the Empire in a few generations. Rome’s syncretic meta-culture merged with Christianity to become what we now call “Western civilization.” Even as the second wave of German invaders entered the Empire, conquering vast territories, they were in turn converted by it.

There is an old quote that may or may not be apocryphal. But it captures the essence of how even the Germans felt about the situation: “An able Goth wants to be like a Roman; only a poor Roman would want to be like a Goth.” The height of the Germanic second wave captured approximately half the old Roman Empire.

500b

500 AD. The classical configuration of the German successor kingdoms. The largest, most powerful realms were the East Roman Empire, the Ostrogothic Kingdom, the Vandal Kingdom, the Visigothic Kingdom and the Frankish Kingdom.

They were all Christian, by this point. Many had been for over a century. To see how pervasive the Roman influence was, look at a common Spanish surname: Rodriguez. This is a Latin pronunciation of a German name, Roderic (the Latinized variant would be Rodericus). The Germans were speaking Latin, by and large, within the old Empire. They embraced the culture, the language and the religion. Who knows what modern Europe might look like today if this had been allowed to continue? Even then, the Romans were not done.

Scratch two German Kingdoms, and part of a third.

Scratch two German Kingdoms, and part of a third.

What we call “Western” civilization was actually once Mediterranean civilization. The inner sea had produced a sort of united meta-culture over top the local polities, and the Romans brought them together into one Empire (often through violence, but also often enough through peaceful means). Christianity provided them with one religion. Greek and Latin with two languages. You see, Europe in those days really was a sort of union, not like the pathetic excuse for a modern European “Union”. Even the distant Franks considered themselves to be a part of it.

Islam brought an end to all of this. I cannot overstate the damage Islam did to Western civilization. In the 600s, even the semi-barbaric Lombards, who had established themselves in northern Italy, used gold coinage. The Carolingians, arguably the most powerful successor to the West Roman Empire, could only manage silver coinage, and even then not a whole lot of it. The inner sea became rife with Muslim pirates. Muslim invasions destroyed ancient monuments and wrecked ancient cities. Even after the devastating destruction Rome visited upon Carthage, that city had been rebuilt and repopulated within a few decades. It was even the capital of the Roman province and the Vandal Kingdom.

Carthage was completely destroyed by the Arabs, never to return. Islam flooded the Empire, licking its wounds from a freshly terrible war with Persia. In a century, two-thirds of the Roman Empire was in the hands of Islam. The connection between the Eastern and Western Roman worlds was severed. But, somehow, both survived. Charles Martel defeated the Muslims in France, and the Romans defeated them in two of history’s most brutal sieges at Constantinople.

But the economy was devastated. Literacy rates dropped through the floor, because subsistence farming became the norm. Trade was reduced by an order of magnitude, and it would be almost 600 years before the Italians brought it back. There was no time available for scholarly studies. Only the church could afford such extravagance, and even then only in moderation. Vox.com and the Social Justice crowd would have you believe Christianity is some backward, anti-science cult. The fact remains that the church was the only scholarly light in that age. Modern science would not exist without Christianity. This is how much damage Islam did.

Do you see what he's working on? Yes. That's a book. And Monks were pretty much the only ones who had them. Even Emperor Charlemagne was *barely* literate. Kings didn't even have time for books.

Do you see what he’s working on? Yes. That’s a book. And Monks were pretty much the only ones who had them. Even Emperor Charlemagne was *barely* literate. Things were so bad, even Kings didn’t have time for books.

In modern politics, it is fashionable to think of an Islamic “Golden Age” of learning and prosperity. In reality, this was the final flowering of the conquered cultures. Most great Islamic philosophers and architects were converts to Islam. And Islam was serious about those conversions. Oh, “People of the Book” were periodically tolerated to some degree, but immense economic and social pressure was placed on them to convert. And convert they did. The Persians were also conquered by Islam. They practiced Zoroastrianism. Today, the only Zoroastrians you’ll find are in India, where some of them fled to escape Islam. The religion was equally effective in scouring the Middle East and North Africa of Christians and Jews. By 900 AD, the Islamic “Golden Age” had become a nightmare. The Arabs couldn’t run a whorehouse in port full of drunken sailors, much less a functioning multi-ethnic Empire.

Christianity seems to have done the same, some would say, except that when Christianity took over the Roman World, it did so largely peaceably. Christian nations functioned, and did so even after the population converted. Not so with Islam.

For nearly one thousand years, the rump state of the Roman Empire, which modern history contemptuously dismisses as the Byzantine Empire fought a life-or-death battle with Islam. And, in 1453 it lost. Istanbul, not Constantinople, as the song famously tells us. Anatolia, once one of the greatest bastions of Christianity would henceforth be Islamic. Can you imagine that titanic struggle? It is almost inconceivable to the modern historian, who has no contemporary basis for comparison.

You think the Alamo was a good last stand? This was history's greatest siege, 7000 militiamen and sailors against 100,000 Turkish soldiers. Yet you will never see a movie about it -- it would offend Muslims (even though Muslims WON).

Siege of Constantinople, 1453. You think the Alamo was a good last stand? This was history’s greatest siege, bar none. 7000 Christian militiamen and sailors against 100,000 Turkish soldiers for almost two months. Yet you will never see a movie about it — it would offend Muslims (even though Muslims WON).

Emperor Alexius asked Pope Urban II for help against the invaders. Even he could not have foreseen the response he got (he just wanted to borrow some knights). For a moment all of Europe and even the Byzantines themselves (Eastern Christians and Western Christians were not always very friendly) united against Islam. And Islam lost. Badly. Everywhere, Islam was on the defensive. They lost ground in Spain, the middle East, Anatolia and even Tunisia (where the Normans established an African kingdom in the 1100s). For a short time, it looked like Islam would be kicked out of the old territories of the Roman world, that 500 years of Islamic conquest would be reversed.

Alas, it was not to be. The Christians squabbled among themselves. The Fourth Crusade betrayed the Byzantines and gutted their strength. King Guy proved himself the worst ruler the Kingdom of Jerusalem would ever see, marching out to fight Saladin without even having a secured water supply, in the desert. Only in Spain would the reconquest become permanent, even then that war lasted 800 years. Elsewhere, it was all undone. Not only were the Crusades a defensive measure, a reaction to 500 years of Muslim conquest, they were an ultimately ineffective measure. Christians were their own worst enemies. Shortly after the Crusades were done, the Byzantine Empire would fall, and the with it the last great defensive bulwark in the East. The Balkans would henceforth be the plaything of the Ottoman Sultans. The resulting cultural and religious mess (wherever Islam goes, chaos follows) would be directly responsible for World War I, and as a result, indirectly for the World War II. Bosnia still seethes with the aftermath of centuries of Islamic rule.

For some reason, most of this history is censored from public schools and universities. Disdain for the Byzantine Empire is evident going back even to Gibbon’s time. But it metastasized with the advent of Leftism.  Analyzed by itself, the Crusades look pretty bad for Christians, but that’s only because modern Social Justice Warriors have expanded on this and censored the entire Muslim Jihad. A millennium of violence was excised from the high school textbooks. Go pick one of those Social Studies books up. See if you can find even a hint of any of this. This is deliberate on the part of Leftist intellectuals. They know this and desire for the West to be destroyed. With the end of the Soviet Union, their best hope for the destruction of the West is Islam. They will suppress the truth at every opportunity in pursuit of their totalitarian, apocalyptic goals.

Islam is a plague, worse than the locusts of Egypt. It destroys entire civilizations, erases history and replaces it all with a religion that hasn’t advanced in 1400 years, a religion whose people have double-digit support for outright terrorism and suicide bombing. Even in Nazi Germany, it’s hard to imagine support levels like that.

To be crystal clear: this is not a fight over the fine-grain imperfections of Obama’s historical analogy or over the implications for US foreign policy. It is a fight over whether it’s okay to hate Muslims, to apply sweeping and negative stereotypes to the one-fifth of humanity that follows a particular religion. A number of Americans, it seems, are clinging desperately to their anti-Muslim bigotry and are furious at Obama for trying to take that away from them.

Vox.com conflates hatred of a belief system (Islam) for hatred of a people. Does that mean all Muslims are evil? No. Not even a majority are evil. No totalitarian regime in the history of Earth, not even the Nazis, not even the worst Muslim regimes, have ever managed to excise all the good from people. It is not possible to do. But Islam tries anyway. And that’s the whole point. Christians have done great wrongs, same as any other people. But Islam encourages the wrongs. Islam desires the wrongs. It will not stop until the world is Muslim, until every other culture and belief system has been systematically eradicated, as it has already achieved in its own territories (see: ISIS). And then it will work on those people it deems as insufficiently Muslim. Many of the worst victims of Islamic violence are other Muslims. Go ahead and preach female equality in the Sudan. I dare you.

It must be stopped. The Crusaders tried and failed. Too much petty bickering. Too many bad men seeking only power got involved. But the idea remains.

So let me say what ought to be obvious to anyone with a functioning brain cell: WE NEED ANOTHER CRUSADE. Not some namby-pamby nation building exercise. I mean rapid, violent, and complete destruction whenever *any* Muslim nation dares attack the West. Take ten of them for every one of us. Blow up one of our schools? We blow up ten mosques. They blow up our office buildings? We blow up whole cities. Escalate until even the most pig-headed (pun) Islamic says enough and cries uncle. Imams should fear us. Muslim fathers should hush their children at the first mention of Allahu Ackbar in a public space. Then, perhaps, the moderate Muslims everyone talks about will overthrow their extremist brethren, for fear that we will kill them if they don’t.

Let’s work on reducing that double-digit approval rating for terrorism, shall we?

Is Islam the Enemy, Part II

Yesterday, I described why Islam the ideology is an enemy of the West. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it is the only enemy (the West’s internal enemies are much worse, and much closer), or that I am advocating another long war.

Islam and Arab culture in general have a great deal of respect for strength. If your culture is strong, vibrant and powerful, Islam will cheerfully submit and bide its time. As the old Ottoman Empire crumbled after the siege of Vienna in 1683, Islam was on the retreat everywhere. Many parts of the Muslim world became protectorates or outright colonies of Western countries. The West was ascendant and strong. The Muslims knew this. And yet, despite outright colonization, the West experienced less Islamic violence than today.

Handling Muslim countries properly is the key to avoiding the sort of unpleasantness France recently experienced. America did this twice in its history, in two short wars with the Barbary pirates. Both times, the Islamic country in question was quickly and efficiently attacked, massive casualties were inflicted and the subject immediately at hand was resolved. Quick, decisive action is needed. Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of how not to fight Muslim countries.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, our soldiers fought bravely and well. But we were also trying to build a Western-style democracy in a society that didn’t want one. America will never make friends of an Islamic country. It may make temporary alliances of convenience in enemy-mine situations. It may make treaties that will last for a decade or two. But then the lesson will need to be repeated, as in the Barbary pirates affair. Such quick and decisive action will convince Islamic nations that attacking the West is an exercise in futility. But, periodically, they will check to make sure. Life is cheaper in the Muslim world. When they knock on the door, lob a grenade out the window. They’ll get the message and go away for awhile.

Occupying and trying to rebuild nations in the Middle East is doomed to failure from the beginning. Free speech is anathema to them. Democracy is farcical. Even those individual Muslims who are pro-West will be drowned out by their radical compatriots. The pro-Western Muslims are considered (and to some extent, believe this themselves) to be “bad” Muslims even if you or I would consider them to be good people.

So why is terrorism such a problem? Two reasons, primarily. First, as Ron Paul often advocates, we’re in their world, fucking around with their business. Regardless of our moral justification for being there, they don’t see it the way we do, and getting them to see things our way is probably prohibitively expensive, both in blood and treasure. Would I prefer if most Muslim countries joined the 21st century and abandoned medieval warlordism? Well, naturally. Do I think it’s going to happen any time soon? Not likely.

The movie Falling Down has a great line about this sort of thing:

This is a gang land thing, isn’t it? We’re having a territorial dispute? I mean, um, I’ve wandered into your pissing ground, or whatever the damn thing is, and you’ve taken offense of my presence. And I can understand that. I mean, I wouldn’t want you people in my backyard either.

This is the crux of the problem. Muslim countries don’t want us around. Oh, sure, the House of Saud will gleefully take our money and go buy oversized skyscrapers, booze and strippers with it (Islamic leaders seldom live up to their own laws). But they don’t want us messing around with their business. Take your oil, we’ll take your money and give it to other people to maintain a nice, cozy relationship with your bankers, corporatists and other leaders. But don’t ask us to like you.

On the other side of this coin, something Ron Paul and his ilk have consistently failed to mention, you can’t just ignore Islam either. Islam has a vested self-interest in conquest. It’s interested in you. If you are weak, they will take advantage of it to expand their interests.

Certainly, letting vast numbers of Muslims into your country is going to end badly. Again, because they don’t like you. Oh sure, there are exceptions to the rule (see my earlier article for some), but as a whole Muslim immigrants don’t want to blend in, are unconcerned with Enlightenment mores and definitely don’t believe in Western democratic traditions. Islamic and Western societies are fundamentally incompatible. Do you want gay rights? Islamic countries do not. Do you want Free Speech? Freedom of Religion? Islamic countries want devotion to Allah.

There are exceptions, naturally. Turkey embraced the philosophy of Ataturk. Kemal Ataturk was a secularist first, a Muslim second, and he wished for Turkey to become closer to Europe in civilization and structure. He could not, however, jettison Islam. In Turkey, as in many Muslim countries, the secularists are actually Military Dictatorships. Again, Islam respects force. Turkey’s Kemalism was unique in that the military didn’t take direct control but it maintained its secular affiliation and quietly removed governments that became too Islamist. In recent years, however, they have been unable to prevent Erdogan and his Islamist ilk from controlling Turkey, and so the philosophy of Kemal Ataturk may not be the way out of Islamism. It appears to be more of a delaying mechanism than anything. Still, the only secular Muslims in power are dictators, the very same people America is in the business of overthrowing.

Could Islamic immigrants be assimilated into the West? Yes, though not easily. Most of their Islamic identity has to be jettisoned for this to be accomplished. One of the police officers defending the office in France was a Muslim. Some Muslim countries like the aforementioned Turkey have a number of secular-minded individuals who may be more open to the idea, but they do not run things in most Islamic countries. They are also targeted by the radicals almost as often as Westerners themselves.

Others are specifically fleeing the violence in their home countries; they leave precisely because they don’t like Islamism. Many of these people are open to conversion or outright Atheism. But Western governments and social elites have been actively discouraging assimilation in their effort to promote multiculturalism, the notion that all cultures are equally valid. They also fail to check, at the border, if someone is a secularist Muslim or not. Radicals? Moderates? Secularists? Come on in…

This is useful to them in two ways: they can take the moral high ground even when their actions directly result in the deaths of innocents (#NotAllMuslims, and “you’re just racist,” etc…) and they can keep the notion of a perpetual war with Islam on the table as a fear-driven excuse to pass draconian, tyrannical laws like the Patriot Act. Governments love having a convenient enemy around as it helps them keep their own population under their thumb and serves as a justification for measures that would never be approved in a time of relative peace.

If I were France, I would halt all Islamic immigration immediately. Furthermore, I would deport all Muslims who were not French citizens. The ones who held French citizenship could stay in the hopes that they would eventually assimilate. I would recommend this course of action to all Western countries with large Muslim minority populations. Large-scale Muslim immigration should never have been allowed in the first place, but it’s time to do damage control. Some can probably be saved.

This will never happen, though, since governments find the terrorism convenient and there is more money to be made promoting the destruction of secular Western values in the first place. The Islamic radicals sense this weakness in the West, they see the self-loathing stupidity of the Social Justice Warriors. They don’t see the young American nation that launched an attack across the sea in wooden boats to free their men. They see a nation of Bowe Bergdahls and Nancy Pelosis. Even the supposed “strong foreign policy” Republicans spend all their time building schools and “promoting democracy.” None of this says “strength” to them.

Annihilating a city or two full of militants, crucifying a radical cleric, then saying “don’t you DARE do that again” would be much more productive. Don’t stick around. They don’t want you there and you don’t need to be there. Communicate the message and then leave. They would get the lesson… for awhile. It would have to be repeated every so often, but so long as you did not let them in your country, you would survive it. The Islamic world and the Western world could then get along as they have before: distant enemies who warily respect the other (but trade a lot on the down-low).

Slavery and Romans: Forget Racism, Follow the Money

Slavery exists. Right now. In America today. But it isn’t the sort peddled by the media. They will tell you about racism, or sexism, or whatever -ism is currently in vogue. A group will be called the oppressors, another the victims.

This isn’t the slavery I refer to. Debt is.

To understand slavery, we must go back to another multi-ethnic, hegemonic empire: Rome. The Romans were consummate slavers, and they had no care whatsoever for the race of the slaves or the slavers. It was entirely possible, for instance, for a Black man to become a Roman citizen and own White slaves.

They cared about money. Slavery was a debt that you worked off.

As expert slavers, the Romans knew that a relief valve had to be created. The carrot to go with the stick, as it were. For most of Roman history, it was possible, even common, for the slave to buy his own freedom. It was also common for free men to sell themselves into slavery, even for whole families to do this. This might seem like anathema to Americans today, but in those days a poor family might survive better under a master than on their own. And, indeed, selling yourself into slavery might provide the money needed to help your family prosper. A father might sell himself into slavery to provide a dowry and a good life for his daughter.

The relief valve was imperfect. Sometimes the impetus to slave was too strong and harsh, and a Spartacus-like figure would arise, desiring to free the slaves. Other times it was too weak, and the economy struggled for a source of cheap labor. This happened in the Western Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries, as Christianity excised the practice from the Empire.

Spartacus. Let us just say that if he were alive today, he wouldn't care much for bankers either.

Spartacus. Let us just say that if he were alive today, he wouldn’t care much for bankers either.

Anyway, slavery in Rome was a system of mutual obligation. The master had to care for the slave, provide food, housing and the like. The slave was required to work for the master. The master often gave the slave great discretion in this; many were trusted advisers, artisans, blacksmiths, etc… Many were educated at the master’s expense, in order to be more useful workers. The slave might simply walk away from the master’s residence a free man (unless caught later — but that was more difficult then). But they didn’t, because life as a slave was often preferable to the alternative: life as a poor free man. And a pleased former master was a good person to have on your side. Slavers were rich and well-connected, generally.

Is this starting to sound familiar? It should. This is exactly how banking works in modern America. The bank provides you with the means to obtain a home, education, transportation, financial cushion (credit cards, etc…). In return, the bank owns your labor over a specified period. Oh, it’s more humane today than it was for the Romans. The chains are invisible, the accommodations much better than before. You can choose which jobs you wish to do, so long as the payments are made. But this is more a function of technology than any kind of sociological progress. It is more efficient in a modern context to do it this way. Overseers, whips, chains and fences are expensive, after all.

Like the slaves of old, one could do a great deal of work on the side. Any time not spent in the pursuit of the master’s orders could be used to work for yourself and collect savings. Many slaves, born into slavery, obtained their freedom in this manner. They paid off the debt to the master and left free men, often carrying along substantial savings to start a new life somewhere.

When I was a child, my grandfather used to take me into church more than I liked. I found the blathering sermons profoundly boring, as most children did. But I remember one in particular.

The pastor quoted a passage from the Bible dealing with the obedience of the slave to his master. He stopped to explain to the audience that the Bible was using terms in a different manner than we used them today. The slave was an employee, he said, and the master an employer, or a man to whom obligation was owed. Whatever else the Bible might be, it is a window into the ancient Roman world and its ways. In this, the book and the pastor were right.

You are slaves. You have debt, you have obligation to labor for another. And only when that debt is discharged and gone will you have finally purchased your freedom. Consider this next time you sign on the dotted line.

Western Civilization is Worth Saving

My concern is not for America, per se, nor any specific nation-state. It’s definitely not for a particular race, gender, or shade of skin. But I AM highly Culturalist, and not at all afraid to admit it.

What do I mean by this? I am fond of Western Civilization. No, not the consumerist parody that passes for it today. Rather, I am fond of a cultural lineage and philosophical tradition stretching back to Ancient Egypt, Greece, Babylon, Carthage, Persia and Rome.

Western civilization is not a race. It’s not even a collection of races. It’s hard to describe it exactly, but I’ve considered it a philosophical history. It isn’t clear when it began. By the time Thales of Miletus began his study of nature, it was already in existence. The many cultures and peoples around the Mediterranean coastline, who were variously Semitic, Indo-European, and some whom we’ve not been able to conclusively identify to this day, synthesized common cultural and philosophical elements borne of extended contact with one another.

From furthest reaches of British Isles, south to the pillars of Hercules bordering the Atlantic and east to the African kingdom of Axum, there was a cultural continuum. We call it “Western” today, because, for the most part, Islam absorbed and conquered most of its North African and Middle Eastern components in the centuries after the fall of Rome, leaving only Europe and some scattered outposts. But two thousand years ago, it would have been more correct to call it MEDITERRANEAN civilization.

It was borne of the unique climate and favorable trade conditions the Middle Sea created. The Mediterranean Sea was an ancient seaborne super-highway, and it generated among its disparate peoples a common syncretic meta-culture that continues to this day.

I am under no illusions that it is perfect. I don’t idealize it or worship at its altar. There is no whitewashing of its history, and it has made some whoppers (though, naturally, so has everyone else — a point commonly lost in the white noise today). But, on the whole, it’s worth preserving. It’s worth saving.

SJWs can keep their self-loathing to themselves. If they hate Western Civilization so much, why don’t they just leave it?

Evils of Bureaucracy, Part I

Evils of Bureaucracy, Part I

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Images of obstructive bureaucrats feature heavily in film. Consider the typical police procedural work. Invariably there will be a flunky or chief someplace which will insist on obviously ineffective policies. The protagonist will somehow surmount these difficulties (often threatening to resign his badge) and catch the villain. Viewers are left with the impression that the flunky is wasteful and meaningless. So why was he there in the first place?

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This might be the most common cliche in film. Policeman, meet your real enemy, the inane bureaucrat.

Reality brings us the most feared of all bureaucrats in the United States: the IRS auditor. Auditors are, perhaps, more feared than policemen and battalions of armored vehicles. Everyone is accountable to them, but as Lois Lerner and her lost hard drive attests, they are accountable to no one save, perhaps, the President.

How did the bureaucrats gain such power? Even the lesser forms, the DMV workers, bring forth images of long wait times, exceedingly poor service and demands for “papers please.”

To understand, one must go back to the very beginning of civilization, which saw the rise of agriculture, metalworking, writing and, yes, the bureaucracy. Writing is the function most tied to them. In ancient Egypt, hieroglyphs originally formed as decorations, but by the the period immediately preceding the First Dynasty, it becomes obvious that the pictographs were being used for something else entirely. It wasn’t quite writing yet, in the traditional sense that I am using to communicate now, or even the sense that later hieroglyphics would become.

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The first branding. This isn’t quite writing, yet.

No. These early markings were used in trade. Ledgers came into existence, showing certain numbers of wine jars, livestock, weapons and other products exchanged or documented. The man recording these things was probably the first bureaucrat in history. His job was to carve on the clay and stone tablets for his master, probably a wealthy merchant or noble kinglet.

Initially, bureaucrats were quite useful. The merchant had better things to do than carve pictures into rocks. But the pictures were useful, and the scribe got his share of the loot for his efforts. Things were good.

Soon, however, as writing systems advanced from ledgers to full-fledged hieroglyphics, the system began to drift from common understanding. The merchant may not have had the time to ponder the details of his accounting, but six pictures of wine jars was clearly understandable by him where sets of thousands of pictograms, each having meaning both as pictures and as sounds, might not be. Writing became the exclusive domain of the scribes, priests and the highly educated.

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Hieroglyphs were nearly impossible to understand for modern archaeologists before the Rosetta Stone was found. It was more or less the same in Ancient Egypt. While a peasant could figure some meaning from the pictographic representations, only a priest, scribe or well-educated noble could actually read it. I bet the first inscription said “ha, we’re about to steal a whole lot of shit from you.”

Bureaucrats realized that they possessed a minor superpower. Cooking the books was possible for them, so long as the books did not deviate so far beyond reality that the merchant or king discovered the deception and had them executed for the theft. Graft entered the world as an additional benefit for the bureaucrats. Eventually this benefit far outweighed the crumbs tossed their way by merchants, traders and nobles. You cannot underestimate how awesome this was for bureaucrats, they could steal without risking themselves. They could tell someone the law said this, when it really said that.  They could interpret the signs of the Gods and write down proclamations for their favor. See that tablet, peasant? It says if you don’t give your firstborn to the priests of Horus, the locusts will consume you. Yeah, that’s what it says. See? Right here!

Egypt remained remarkably static for nearly three thousand years, in this form. But more dynamic civilizations eventually supplanted them as traders. Phoenecians and Greeks (earlier, Myceneans) understood the value of written accounting, but eschewed the complex writing systems of the Egyptians and Sumerians in favor of simple alphabetical systems. Why? Because even though they couldn’t read it, they were practical folk, they knew how great it would be to not have to remember everything, or to hand someone a scroll instead of spending hours reciting cargoes. So they had to bastardize their own forms of it (they were traders, they would not spend years in a temple to learn this shit). Soon, without the burden of extensive graft, the Phoenicians and Greeks came to dominate trade. Eventually they came to dominate much of the known world, too, including Egypt itself. Graft really fucks up a civilization’s ability to mobilize in its own defense. Too many soldiers only exist on paper. Ramses II won too many victories, so how did he lose the war?

Right, bureaucrats. All of the temples say Ramses was the victor at the battle of Kadesh. History knows that is a bald-faced lie, but the peasants didn’t know any better. Ramses may have been the very first historical representation of Baghdad Bob.

Bureaucracy was, itself, innovative however. With domination of the writing system removed from them, they instead began to infiltrate the political systems of the host nations and cities. In Egypt, scribes and bureaucrats tended to avoid this (although priests occasionally got involved). After all, to them, it meant little who was on the throne so long as they got their cut of things. The Greeks and Phoenicians were wise to this and their higher rates of literacy made discovery of graft much easier.

Politically, however, the cities, with their Democratic traditions, were still weak. Favored leaders could be put forward in Republican venues. Leaders so advanced would be grateful to the bureaucracy and reward them with the desired graft. It might have been less than their due in static monarchies, but it was good enough. Graft reentered the system, trade declined and became less favored of a profession (Plato despised it — he was a bureaucrat). Increasingly, Greek and Phoenician traders moved on to found colonies far away from their parent cities, rife with bureaucracy and inefficiency. For awhile this was beneficial, and it certainly spread Greek and Phoenician cultures around.

Phoenicia itself faded away. Caught between rival Empires, it eventually fell apart. Its successor colonies continued to thrive. The Greeks, on the other hand, attracted the ire of the Persians.

Persia was part of a bureaucratic tradition too, one dating back to Sumeria and ancient Babylonia. Like Egypt, writing came gradually. Like China, the bureaucracy survived barbarian invasions, effectively subsuming invaders into Mesopotamian culture. When a culture is based on bureaucracy, like the Eygptians, Sumerians and Chinese, it can last an astonishing amount of time. Egyptian and Mesopotamian culture lasted well over 3000 years. China STILL soldiers on. They were useful to invaders, because they knew how to effectively steal from the populace. As long as the invaders got their cut, all was well for the bureaucrats.

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Looks similar to the hieroglyphs, doesn’t it? Well they were invented for the same purposes: keeping track of how much shit the bureaucracy stole and the rituals used to do the deed. Ironically, writing was one of the few positive contributions from them. Fortunately for the West, the Greeks and Phoenicians came up with simpler alphabetical writing. Sucks for the Chinese though, they are stuck with their pictographs.

And so a conflict between the spreading Greek civilization, only partially bureaucratized (and even then, only at its center), was inevitable. Similarly inevitably, the conflict resulted in an eventual Greek victory. Heavily bureaucratized societies can expand into smaller bureaucratized states with ease. They have difficulty defeating barbarians, but can assimilate them. What they struggle with is dealing with is dealing with states lacking stifling bureaucracy, because they get all of the benefits of organized civilization without the deadweight of excessive graft and waste.

So the Greeks and their Macedonian successors conquered Persia. They only needed a leader to push them into doing it, and so an eventual Alexander was almost inevitable. Unfortunately for the Greeks, this was the end of their dynamic, relatively free situation. For the Mesopotamian bureaucracy assimilated the victors as it had many times before. Greece became Persia. Rome became both. Carthage, the last and greatest of the dynamic Phoenician colonies fell to Rome who, in turn, fell to the Oriental bureaucracy. It is no coincidence that the dying Republic of Rome met its end in the sands of Egypt.

It was the triumph of the scribes, the priests and the bureaucrats. Now they would serve the Caesars. The graft continued. For a time it was good. Rome had no serious competition outside of Persia, itself just as hobbled with corruption. But over time, the graft grew, the economy weakened and dynamic religions made their appearance. Christianity won that battle, but in those days it was no sure thing. Upon victory, it was seized by the Roman bureaucrats who, to this day, still control much of it.

But successive waves of Germans, then Arabs, free of the bureaucratic tradition, broke the old Roman Empire. Its culture assimilated them, but for the first time in Western and Middle Eastern history, the great bureaucracy was broken. Rome was ravaged by the Romans themselves under Belisarius. The Goths, the Lombards and the Franks in turn destroyed the old system. The Arabs reduced North Africa, Egypt and Syria. In time, they would form bureaucracies of their own, but little connection remained to the old world. It was a dark time for grafters, but it was also a dark time for everyone.

Medieval banking provided the solution. As before, ledgers were needed by traders. How much gold did they have? How much stock in trade? This time, with alphabetical language and at least some literacy among the traders, the new bureaucrats could not use the same tactics as before. So modern banking began. At first a goldsmith would simply offer to securely store gold, for a nominal amount. But lending, exchange rates and complex financial instruments made their appearances, and goldsmiths became bankers. Watch the video that explains this in simple terms.

Within a few hundred years, bankers were the power behind the thrones of several major powers. Graft had returned. More modern attempts created central banking, fractional reserve banking and a number of other practices which, once again, involved taking things from people without their knowledge, stealing without seeming to steal. Middlemen were everywhere, but unlike a trader, who performs a function by moving goods to where they are desired, the bureaucrat does nothing.

The parasites killed the host as Rome fell. They have learned now. They merely take as much as possible without -quite- inflicting fatal damage. Socialism was a step too far, centralizing all wealth and distribution into the hands of bureaucrats, who could literally take everything. But people living under socialism generally realized something had gone terribly wrong. Perhaps they could not articulate it exactly, but they knew they were getting a raw deal, and that doesn’t work in the long run.

socialism

Apparently more subtlety is required.

So we’re back to the maximum amount of socialism possible, with central banking and a massive, 40% of GDP, bureaucracy. It seems that a bit less than 50% can be stolen, and the society still limp along. The bureaucrats have found the maximum permissible graft. But bankers still aren’t exactly popular. The people are naturally suspicious of them. Thousands of years of Darwinism ensured that paranoid folks survived in great numbers. So now, as before, bureaucracy is tied to media. If they control the gates to fame, to the media, to television, pop culture, music and publishing then, once again, only their word exists in the wild. When I said you could keep your plan, I meant only the ones that conformed with the new law! Duh! Just turn on CBS, they are saying the same thing.

And just like the first scribes of Egypt, 5000 years ago, they still speak in a language that you cannot understand, such that you don’t even know they are stealing from you. That has always been the key.

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