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Friday, October 02, 2015

The Disconnects Of The Roman Empire

 Chateau Ausone, the one-time estate of Ausonius, c. 395 B.C.E.

I have been reading about the financial system and the 2008 Unpleasantness, and one lesson I have drawn is that things are going pretty wrong when important institutions of a Society have goals and interests that are at variance from the welfare of the whole Society.

The Praetorian Guards come to mind under the Roman Empire.
Possibly the Roman Army; I need more study in that area.
Possibly the Senatorial and Patrician classes, which allowed the gap between their wealth and the poverty of the rest of the populace to widen and widen until it yawned open, gaping like a Ginunga Gap of Armageddon.

We have liked to think that Rome was done in by decadence and luxury and bread and circuses, but I think it was more the disconnections that fractured it mortally.

Within the shelter of the social fractures grew the alternative societies: Christianity, Mithraism, an tendency to escape from society as shown in such disparate lives as those of Anthony and Ausonius.

Franz Joseph I of Austri-Hungary

I have also been reading Oscar Jaszi's study (1929) on the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
It is a great joy to learn about the world of Central Europe, an area about which I was very much ignorant; I mean, how can one hope to understand Franz Kafka without an exposure in some depth to the verities of Prague under the Hapsburgs?
In Science, how do we properly appreciate Von Neumann, Szilard, and Teller without knowledge of the Hungary part of the Dual Monarchy?

How do we understand the background to the history of the Jews in Europe with only a cursory acquaintance with Jewish life in Central Europe? Life was not all Tevye-style.

Furthermore, it is Jaszi's thesis that the only thing which could have saved the Austro-Hungarian Empire from disaster was a serious attempt to extend democracy to the vast motley of nations within its power, even though this action would tend to increase the flight from the Vienna center.

The choice was Revolution and Violence, or Democracy and possibly eventual a loosening of the imperial reins into a confederacy or independence in time.

Victoria, Empress of India

The United Kingdom accomplished just this outcome with varying degrees of success.
Many people complain and bemoan the disappearance of the British Empire; they think that more soldiers and more compulsion would have preserved the Empire.
That is an illusion.

The question now is what is happening?

People are seeking to cast a democratic vote for their governance, whether they cast a ballot or shoot a gun.


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