Video of the Week: The Fall of Rome – Modern Parallels
Stefan Molyneux creates a lot of high quality content, and this 2 1/2 hour long presentation on The Fall of Rome and Modern Parallels is no exception. It’s often said history repeats itself, but this presentation proves history doesn’t repeat as much as it echoes. When one looks back across a couple of thousand of years of history, it’s hard not to see parallels between Roman society and Western society. (The similarities even stretch back to Ancient Greece, and all other “High Cultures” studied by Spengler, the prophet of Western decline on whose ideas the Decline of the West section of The New Modern Man are built. Molyneux doesn’t really touch on Spengler, but he doesn’t need to in this tour de force history lesson).
As an aside, illustrating just how similar some of our present day problems are to historical problems faced by our “parent” civilizations, Polybius wrote this account of the demographic death of Greece, and with only “Greece” changed to “America” or “Europe” this 2,000 year old quote could just as easily apply in the early 21st century:
In our time, all Greece was visited by a dearth of children and general decay of population…this evil grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting attention, by our men becoming perverted to the passion for show and money and the pleasures of an idle life.
Whether demographic decline or cultural decay or another measure, each historian has their own model of how a society rises and declines. It’s important to recognize the similarities between each model. The rise and fall of Rome seems to follow this cycle:
Beyond that very prescient quote and general cycle of rise and fall of a civilization, early in the video Molyneux points out it’s ultimately the decisions that get made that create the consequences everyone else must deal with, so it’s not some inevitable causality that afflicts decline on a people as much as it is the cultural “zeitgeist” of the time. He also points out historical knowledge is more important than historical fact, a pearl of wisdom from none other than the great Lord Acton. So, while the consequences of past decisions and historical cycles aren’t impossible to escape, they’re extremely hard to escape.
At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Scotland to Iraq. That is an enormous swath of real estate. Even 2,000 years ago you could travel anywhere in this large empire and have your currency accepted virtually anywhere while being protected by the same laws. As Molyneux points out, this was a truly amazing accomplishment, especially considering the timeframe. At the American Empire’s peak, it stretched from sea to shining sea. Someday soon perhaps, as Pat Buchanan predicted the U.S. could also breakup into smaller pieces.
Since the very foundations of the West lie in Rome, it is very important to study the rise and fall of that civilization. Molyneux notes the decline of the West is far advanced. He presents the fundamental realities of why Rome fell, and why they’re of fundamental importance to guiding our decisions as we face a similar fate.
Of course, we have long been ensconced in the “decadence” phase. This leads to an enormous welfare state and immigrants who only come to take advantage of the largesse. Thus, in its success lies each society’s own demise. Molyneux also touches on how revisionist history in the liberal education system is leading to generations of spineless people debased from their history with nothing to be proud of. His synthesis of history with philosophy really works, and is illuminating insofar as letting us know just how far we have fallen.
This presentation is more enlightening and detailed than many of the college level history classes I took. It’s an excellent crash course in why things have become so fucked, and why we have a slim chance of recovery at this point. Enjoy. Hopefully you will find it as enlightening as I did.
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