Rantings and tirades of a frustrated economist.
Thank you so much for those links. I'm currently in a "hate your heritage because you are 'privileged'" American history course (first half until 1865) and the professor is going on and on about how the Indians were so advanced and Europeans ran over them and destroyed a mighty civilization. This gives me all the fuel I need for my fire.
Of course we're enjoying the decline.We've got our 62 oz. cup of high fructose corn syrup in one hand and a carton of cigarettes in the other. We're lounging in the back yards by the pools of our heavily mortgaged houses that we are paying for on credit. Between gulps and puffs, we're watching Jersey Shore and are more concerned with getting a tan to look like Snooki than whatever they're trying to tell us on the "news."In short, we're living in 2012 where our college degrees are worthless and our only way forward is either leaving the country or praying that the next pre-appointed stooges running for office "fix things."And people are somehow surprised that Gen Zero has been turning to lives of hedonism in record numbers. Can't stand the heat? Anesthetize with your substance of choice. 2012.
It took Rome 500 years to decline. We should be so lucky. Then they were on life support for a thousand more.
I read "Worthless" and a lot of your blog, and it rings true to my experience - I did an undergrad in the humanities, my first Master's in Arabic, and my second Master's in STEM. I turned towards the sciences (not an easy task when you've been coddled in the Liberal Arts), because I intuited that the relevance of my languages, and my prospects for employment, could change if the US changed its focus abroad. And it did, so it was a good bet to make, because now people studying Arabic are in the same position as French majors, or Russian majors after the Cold War. What amazes me about area/language studies is how potentially useful it could be. The ability to quote the Qur'an, knowing what the local customs are, knowing what to do/say and what not to do/say, goes a long way in relating to Arabs and the Muslim world, and our soldiers in Iraq could have saved a lot of hassle had they been given some basic etiquette lessons at the start (as they later were, but only 4-5 years after we invaded). But Middle Eastern studies and Arabic specifically aims to *not* teach students these things, since they're too "Orientalist". In most programs, you only read the feel-good parts of the Qur'an, and not the parts where Muhammad became bitter and adversarial towards Jews and Christians. You study Arabic, but you study the literary language, not the dialects that people actually speak - and they're as different as Spanish is from Latin. You don't learn things like how power in the Arab world is based on familial nepotism, strengthened by consanguinous marriage. You don't learn the names or genealogies of the important tribes whose descendants populate the Gulf monarchies, or their intricate web of intrigues and rivalries, or who the Alawites are. Nor is one class taught on the Sunni-Shiite divide, because that just isn't important. You don't learn how things really work. What you do learn is that Arabs are victims of the West, and that Israel is the worst thing to happen to them, that American foreign policy is controlled exclusively by Jews who hate Arabs and Islam. You learn that "Israel's purpose is to destroy Islam, and therefore any act of violence against an Israeli or someone who agrees with Israel's right to exist is an act of religious tolerance". And you learn how to say, in perfect literary Arabic, things like "feminism", "deconstruction", "selfhood", "comparative literature", "oppression", "representational violence", "Orientalism", and "the Zionist Entity". You learn what to think, what to say, and what the Middle East would be if it were not for the Jews. Real helpful when you're lost in the desert and you need to ask the Bedouin where the highway is.
Constantinople was the light of the world for over 1000 years. Relative to the barbarism and thuggery that dominated both the West and East (and the Middle East, as usual), the Byzantines led the greatest civilization in history. The Renaissance began very soon after its fall, and the diaspora of its thinkers.
But Rome did decline in less than two hundred years after the end of the Punic wrs. It can be argued, I certaintly would argue, that it started to decline from its greatest glory after Sulla and Marius. Yes the empire borders grew and the city of Rome grew more wealthy, however, closer inspection shows that it was during this period that the middle classes that made up Roman society began to disappear. And the wealth of Rome was simply a city tacking wealth from its provinces and consuming it in ever more hedonistic displays (D.C anyone?)Rome was founded by the citizen farmer, much like colonial America, however, as time went on land, and wealth, began to coalesce into the hands of a few. The transition from republic into imperium formally started the clock on the Roman civilization.Why? Simply because while the empire would thrive under the rule of elightened despots (Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, Arelius, Diocletan, and Constantine) it would stagnant during midly capable emperors (Cladius, Appius, and many others) and sevrely regress under mad or incompetent emperors.Even worse, the imperium system closed off the doors of leadership too all but a few. Rome, like America is now or was, was extremely adaptable, however, the transition to imperium stopped that.This is why I will forever return to in my writings, or conversations with friends, about the need for more than a passing analogy to Rome. America is declining, but the decline doesn't mean the end of empire. No, it means the decline of the American Dream. I fear of a future were our 'empire' reminds unchallenged in the world, yet it is increasingly supported on the backs of ever impoverished Americans.Remember, the Soviet Union was impoverished, especially compared to America, yet they were still the equals and rivals of America during their day. A soceity does not have to be prosperous to be powerful.
America is more like the Ottoman Empire than anything else. It's a multicultural mess with a godawful current account and increasingly backwards capital technology and labor skills.China is only "winning" our current history because they're bothering to show up. That's 4/5th of the battle.
And Rome's empire encompassed a culturally homogeneous people?Like I said, we need more than passing allusions to past empires. America may not be the next Rome, but Rome is the best comparison to America.
The points are good. Also relevant is the view that the coup de grace to Italy and Spain, the rump of the Western Roman Empire, was given by the eruption of Muslim pirates into the eastern Mediterranean. They terminated trade and they conducted massive slaving operations which depopulated coastal areas.The Eastern Roman Empire, which was very strong initially, also suffered greatly from the rise of Islam; and, of course, in 1452 Constantinople was subjugated by Islamic forces under Mehmet II.
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