After 20 years of work, Gibbon finally completed his history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776. The final paragraph of that monumental work reads as follows:
“… every reader(’s) … attention will be excited by an History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: the greatest, perhaps, and most awful scene in the history of mankind. The various causes and progressive effects are connected with many of the events most interesting in human annals …”
There is another, perhaps, more awful scenario being played out on this most post-modern of ages. While one cannot, without access to intimate details of a nation’s military tactics, report accurately on the strategies of foreign military policy, one can see certain organic scenarios being acted out by our government, albeit with the most ham-fisted clumsiness of a disorganised acting troupe, those anti this or that ethnic group that is perceived as the current threat da jour of our right-wing leadership … so infused with a sweaty paranoia that it can only be a matter of time before the local Mah-jong clubs will be forced to integrate with the bridge or euchre clubs in their area or risk being “cleansed” of Chinese sentiment … such is the pathetic political excuses directed in so obvious accusations to so many red herring victims.
But it’s from another source that we see destiny crooking it’s beckoning finger to the West and its failing leadership. It is the corruption of the democratic system and its Houses of Parliament by right-wing politics. Right-wing politics is so corrupting that it turns citizen against citizen, for while it was true in those ancient dictatorships that with a corrupt emperor, the social rot starts from the top and works down. But with our modern democracies, we have to concede that by voting in a corrupt prime minister and his corrupt party, we; the People, are the element of corruption that has chosen and backed the rotting that starts from the voter base and works it way to the top … we are to blame for the government we have chosen.
“Which resulted from that corruption which the party of Marius had spread among the people, at the head of which was Caesar, who was able so to blind the multitude that they did not recognize the yoke which they themselves were placing on their necks.
And although this example of Rome is to be preferred to any other example, none the less on this proposition I want to refer to people known before our times. I say, therefore, that no incident (although grave and violent) can ever restore Milan or Naples to freedom, because those people are entirely corrupt. Which was seen after the death of Filippo Visconti, who, wanting to restore liberty to Milan, did not know how and could not maintain it.” (Machiavelli: Discourses).
What we saw recorded in the history of the decline and fall of Rome, was rotting of a civilisation from within, first the ruling Houses of the prominent families, then the corruption of the armies and finally the complete decadence of the citizens themselves until there was no moral justification for the State to stand. The system became terminal, the rest is history.
What we are witnessing on our media in this very epoch is the visible, unabashed and seemingly uncontrollable corruption of both the governing body AND through selected pork-barrelling; the citizen body of politically favoured demographics. The recent by-elections of New England and Bennelong demonstrated that the electorates of those communities were more interested in a party that would, as promised, pour money and infrastructure into those favoured communities, and so they returned the sitting incumbent without regard for the broader interests of “the State”. In one case returning a person so decadent that he ought to have been rejected from the citizen body on immoral behaviour alone! … showing a callous disregard of that man’s spouse and family within their very community … they can now no longer claim moral propriety as a ruling condition of their lives … their community … that particular community can be called “decadent”.
“Perhaps in a democracy the distinctive feature of decadence is not debauchery but terminal self-absorption — the loss of the capacity for collective action, the belief in common purpose, even the acceptance of a common form of reasoning. We listen to necromancers who prophesy great things while they lead us into disaster. We sneer at the idea of a “public” and hold our fellow citizens in contempt. We think anyone who doesn’t pursue self-interest is a fool.
We cannot blame everything on Donald Trump, much though we might want to. In the decadent stage of the Roman Empire, or of Louis XVI’s France, or the dying days of the Habsburg Empire so brilliantly captured in Robert Musil’s “The Man Without Qualities”, decadence seeped downward from the rulers to the ruled. But in a democracy, the process operates reciprocally. A decadent elite licenses degraded behavior, and a debased public chooses its worst leaders. Then our Nero panders to our worst attributes — and we reward him for doing so.
“Decadence,” in short, describes a cultural, moral, and spiritual disorder — the Donald Trump in us. It is the right, of course, that first introduced the language of civilizational decay to American political discourse. A quarter of a century ago, Patrick Buchanan bellowed at the Republican National Convention that the two parties were fighting “a religious war … for the soul of America.” (James Traub: Foreign Policy Centre, The United States of America is Decadent and Depraved).
The final stage of the corruption of empire was the corruption of the armies of Rome … where the Praetorian Guard even took the Empire hostage and in an act of the most vile cynicism, put the position of Emperor up for sale by auction to the highest bidder. It was purchased by Didius Julianus, who was overthrown by the armies of the Danube who chose their own man; Septimius Severus.
A time will come when our armed forces will be politicised and used not solely for the defence of our nation, but, like that Praetorian Guard, as a political tool to be used against their own citizens or for corporate gain against weaker States. The USA already uses its military for expansion of empire and will arm those despotic states most sympathetic to furthering its corporate doctrine.
With the election of a corrupt government here in Australia, the electorate has given a mandate to those unscrupulous lobbyists and “right-wing think-tanks” to push policies most suited to a favoured few and by that consensus of electorate choice, the voting public can no longer claim that the voting majority have been “hard done by” when they are duded … more the fool they … more the victim the rest of us.
Is the electorate now decadent? You bet it is!
Is all this going to end well? You bet it isn’t! … You bloody well bet it isn’t!