Twilight of the Empire

Author: Swagnarok ,

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  • Swagnarok
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    Behold, O America, thou who hath abandoned the old piety, thou who now wanders aimlessly in a thousand directions, chasing after a thousand ideological gods to find one whom might be worshipped, a new gospel is proclaimed in thy midst, uniting these feuding lands under a holy banner of righteousness and wokeness.
    IN HOC SIGNO VINCES!


  • Swagnarok
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    (It's quite long, don't get me wrong, but also a pretty amazing read.)
  • Swagnarok
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    Obama's Constantine, Trump's Julian, and AOC's Theodosius. I can see it now.
  • keithprosser
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    --> @Swagnarok
    Empires hae come and gone throughiut history.

    Perhaps what has happend now is that real power is no longer with the politicians.  Nowadays politicians go cap-in-hand to corporations begging them to build their factories in their patch.  They even rely on the mega rich to gointo space for them.

    Countries and nation loyalties mean nothing to the new power brokers - except to play them off against each other for profit.

  • oromagi
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    --> @Swagnarok
    Thanks for sharing, swag, but a long article written almost entirely in passive voice and with no specific examples. Priests and temples emerged at the same time as kings and palaces because some justification was required for the (mostly violent) stratification of society. We profit by others labor because we are chosen by god,who makes it ok by compensating the others after death.   Since religion has traditionally been the transmitter of society it is no deep analogy to call any social movement religion-like: Trumpism is like a religion, SJW is like  a religion, gun ownership is like a religion, gluten intolerance is like a religion, fortnite is like a religion. 

    Interestingly, your Roman emperors analogy effectively credits Christianity with the Fall of Rome a la Gibbon, which I’ve never found particularly persuasive. I think religion is more a lagging indicator of social change. 
  • Swagnarok
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    --> @oromagi
    Nah, if anything Christianity helped foster social cohesion in an excessively multiracial and multireligious society that was on the verge of collapse. It didn't actually save the empire but I suspect that it made the transition to the Middle Ages somewhat more smooth.

    Believe it or not, I did not link to this article as your run-of-the-mill attack on Social Justice. Rather, I did it because I actually thought it was fascinating to draw parallels between this emerging consensus and the late religious consensus of the Roman Empire reached by way of Christianity. On its face it looks like Identity Politics will only serve to tear us apart and rip our country to shreds, fracturing it into a chaotic hodgepodge of feuding "identity-states", but alternately it could develop into a coherent framework that actually serves to unite a country and fill the void Christianity left behind. Either a highly corrupt leftist "democracy" of the Latin American variety, permanently looking to slide into despotism, or a renewal of our Republic. It could be either.
    As a (completely amateur) historian and sociologist. That's my primary interest in this. As a matter of future history. Thinking of Social Justice in these terms actually makes me not want to hate it as much.
  • oromagi
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    thx, swag- always enjoy your thoughtful responses


    Nah, if anything Christianity helped foster social cohesion in an excessively multiracial and multireligious society that was on the verge of collapse. It didn't actually save the empire but I suspect that it made the transition to the Middle Ages somewhat more smooth
    I think similarly.  Christianity's role in creating a literate tradition of civil service certainly helped preserve the East and brought much of Rome into the Barbarian West.

    Believe it or not, I did not link to this article as your run-of-the-mill attack on Social Justice.
    Believe it
    Rather, I did it because I actually thought it was fascinating to draw parallels between this emerging consensus and the late religious consensus of the Roman Empire reached by way of Christianity. On its face it looks like Identity Politics will only serve to tear us apart and rip our country to shreds, fracturing it into a chaotic hodgepodge of feuding "identity-states", but alternately it could develop into a coherent framework that actually serves to unite a country and fill the void Christianity left behind. Either a highly corrupt leftist "democracy" of the Latin American variety, permanently looking to slide into despotism, or a renewal of our Republic. It could be either.
    As a (completely amateur) historian and sociologist. That's my primary interest in this. As a matter of future history. Thinking of Social Justice in these terms actually makes me not want to hate it as much.
    Well, I don't think there's much of a case for hating social justice which "is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society." I think you are thinking in the pejorative SJW sense but I try to discourage too much word creep in that direction.  I don't think identity politics is sufficiently resonant beyond the internet to warrant civil war but I am old enough to feel beyond understanding the capacities of younger generations.  I do think the notion of identity is evolving in our society but I can't tell how much is fashion and how much is some new paradigm.

    Rome is such an interesting counter-point to our present notion of identity.  The idea of self-sourcing your own identity was practically blasphemous in the old Republic.  A Roman's identity was always Roman and every role was well defined by God and State: you are born as nothing and you are given everything: family, state, role, and your identity changed by the giving.  Nero is the earliest Roman I can think of who asserted the priority of his self-identification: "What an artist dies with me."  But I think Christianity must have represented a challenge to Roman identity: if you prioritize a personal relationship with one God over Rome, family, position and that God does not prioritize Rome- are you still Roman?




  • Swagnarok
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    Rome is such an interesting counter-point to our present notion of identity.  The idea of self-sourcing your own identity was practically blasphemous in the old Republic.  A Roman's identity was always Roman and every role was well defined by God and State: you are born as nothing and you are given everything: family, state, role, and your identity changed by the giving.  Nero is the earliest Roman I can think of who asserted the priority of his self-identification: "What an artist dies with me."  But I think Christianity must have represented a challenge to Roman identity: if you prioritize a personal relationship with one God over Rome, family, position and that God does not prioritize Rome- are you still Roman?
    I think you're kind of overthinking this. As far as I can tell the majority of the empire's population (until, at least, the 4th or 5th century) would've consisted of Egyptians, Greek speakers, and Jews (collectively). Most people did not have Roman citizenship until the reforms of Caracalla in the early 3rd century. They most certainly would not be bound by Roman norms and conventions, beyond perhaps veneration of the Roman emperor as required by law.
    What allowed Christianity to be successful in the first place, beyond such obvious culprits as a well-maintained road network, relatively safe travel by land, etc, was the religious hyperpluralism that marked the empire. There were SOOOO many fringe cults out there it's not even funny. The religious landscape of the empire was some kind of buyer's market where people just picked and chose what religion they wanted to follow, based on what looked most alluring or whatnot. The reason for this was straightforward: classical paganism was dying to a large degree, especially among Greeks and Romans. The emperor was obviously not a god, and there were many instances where an ambitious general murdered the reigning emperor, then was emperor himself for a couple of months, and then finally was murdered and replaced by somebody else, who himself would likely end up being murdered and replaced.
    What people really want is something to believe in. You're never going to be happy wandering from one thing to the next hoping that one day something will stick. Christianity addressed that need better than any other contender.

    And that's why I drew the analogy to Rome. In many respects America is not like Rome. We're actually doing a pretty good job at the moment of avoiding many of the key mistakes that proved deadly to them. However, as the Greco-Romans fell into disillusionment with the traditional religion of their day, and then began a desperate search to replace it with something else, so too are Americans, who for the most part have abandoned non-superficial Christianity, dividing themselves up into ideological and identity-based tribes. It is hyperpluralism in our day, like nothing that has been seen on this earth since Rome.
    So on its face Social Justice politics, which obviously have come to wholly dominate the Democratic Party in the age of Trump, seem to be a manifestation of chaos as caused by the decline of the traditional Christian faith. But what I might've been missing is this: does it comprise a holistic narrative that the entire population can eventually get behind, and instill a strong sense of moral clarity in a confused people? Can it adequately capture the strengths of religion in its application to contemporary America? What exactly will that look like?
    That is to say, is there an order that underlies the appearance of chaos and that will serve the purposes of our generation?
  • mustardness
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    --> @Swagnarok
    "Empire" = rich ruling class. 

    Whoever has the gold makes the rules. Financial Golden Rule

    Whoever rules the internet of communication rules the masses.

    “Never underestimate the determination of a kid who is time-rich and cash-poor.”
    ― Cory Doctorow, Little Brother

    ..."China's One Belt One Road (OBOR), also called Belt and Road Initiative and the New Silk Road

    By building infrastructure in more than 50 countries, China will have enjoy a clear edge over its rivals, mainly the U.S., Japan and India. China can sell its wares to the developed countries and set up sweat shops in poorer countries as its own manufacturing slows down due to higher cost of power and rising wages. What China is aiming to build is a vast economic empire.

    It has already begun work on OBOR in right earnest in Asia, Africa and Europe. If China is able to build even half of what it has planned in the next two decades, it will be the global power that no country would be strong enough to challenge."....LINK