The students arrive at their own answers to these questions, provoked by a range of material from every direction on the political spectrum and offering a range of social, economic, technological, religious, and weather related hypothesis. But the most interesting discussions in my classroom center on making comparisons between Rome and the United States and investigating if we had those things that make Republics great or have those things that make great empires collapse.
Often I wonder what it was like to be at the end of great time periods in history. A couple years ago someone suggested to me that I watch some of the movies that take place towards the end of the Roman Empire and I always meant to watch to but haven't gotten a chance yet. I think there was another Kind Arthur set during this time period, and then another one based on a lost legion or something- I haven't watched them yet but I imagine that perhaps they give a viewer a picture of what the end of civilization might look like.
Vox Day, a Christian libertarian and author of "The Return of the Great Depression" and "The Irrational Atheist" and the blog Vox Popoli, recently wrote an interesting article focusing on this very subject. In it, he suggests that the United States, like Rome before her, has let barbarians come into our nation and settle without absorbing our culture and history or learning the lesson of how to be a great lesson. These barbarians are likely marked by their thuggish attitudes, barbaric behavior in blogs and in politics, and hatred of scientific inquiry. They disdain family and relationships, they hate civil society and charity, and they find themselves more at home understanding power and its uses to advance one group over another.
Here is how Vox's article DISSOLUTION AND POST-DEMOCRACY begins:
It is always difficult for those who live through transitional periods in history to recognize that they are taking place.Read the whole thing here, and think about what it was like to be at the end of civilization, and what those who recognized the end could do to civilize the barbarians, preserve bits and pieces of civilization as it fell apart, and secure for themselves and family some sort of future in the coming Dark Ages.
While we distinguish between the Roman Republic and the Roman empire, and mark the birth of the Byzantine empire with the establishment of its capital at Constantinople, it is unlikely that the average person living under Roman rule understood, much less cared, that he was a citizen of the Roman Republic, the Eastern Roman Empire or the Western Roman Empire. Indeed, although we call them Greeks and Byzantines, the men of the Eastern Roman Empire still called themselves Romans and believed they, and not the barbarian-infested ruins of the city on the seven hills, were the true heirs to Romulus and Caesar Augustus, even though they no longer lived in Italy nor spoke Latin....
Here are some books by Vox Day in case you're interested.
UPDATE: Over at Conservatives on Fire (where many of my posts are cross-posted), reader black3actual makes a great comment, pointing out:
First, while Rome did fall slowly, it fell largely for the reasons listed, plus one even more important reason – licentiousness. They became immoral and corrupt. Our founders told us we would fail in the same way and for the same reasons – we would become immoral and corrupt (note: they did not say if, they said when).My reply to this would be that I don't favor the racial immigrant part of Vox Day's piece as much as I favor the cultural immigrant angle. To me, the fascinating aspect was not (as some are suggesting) that Hispanics, Asians, and other racial groups might be tainting some sort of racial purity here (which doesn't exist)- rather, I was thinking about cultural immigrants, those people (either born here or first generation or new real immigrants here) who don't assimilate and who instead reveal themselves through their thuggish attitudes, barbaric behavior in blogs and in politics, hatred of real scientific inquiry, disdain for traditional family and relationships, and their hatred of civil society and charity. These 'non-Americans' instead see our society as a bunch of tribes or classes, to pit against one another, in the hopes of winning for their tribe/class/group more power and wealth, especially if that power/wealth is taken from a rival tribe group and transferred to them through the power of the state.
Second, it is not so much that we let “barbarians” in as much as we have grown up our own domestic spies. Cicero – an apt commentator, given the topic at hand- had this to say about enemies within:
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”
In this case, I would suggest the traitor within came in the form of the Progressive movement, and can be found in both Parties. It was this movement which led the move away from our republican form of government and toward a more democratic one. This opened the door for other initiatives through the manipulation of public opinion. The attack on the public’s understanding of the principles of liberty is being waged in our schools, but also in our media. And political correctness is the primary means by which the gates were then flung open and the “hordes” entered – and even then, some of those “hordes” were home-grown in the form of a dependency culture and unions and every other community organization based on group identity rather than the value of the individual so necessary to a free and self-governing republic.
At least, this is what I see happening in America today, and I see it as an intentional and multi-generational campaign that is being deliberately waged to destroy this nation.