The Pax Romana (Roman Peace) was a period of relative peace and stability across the Roman Empire which lasted for over 200 years, beginning with the reign of Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE).
[Notwithstanding the propensity of mankind to exalt the past and to depreciate the present, the tranquil and prosperous state of the empire was warmly felt and honestly confessed by the provincials as well as Romans. ‘They acknowledged that the true principles of the social life, laws, agriculture, and science, which had been first invented by the wisdom of Athens, were now firmly established by the power of Rome, under whose auspicious influence the fiercest barbarians were united by an equal government and common language. They affirm that, with the improvement of arts, the human species was visibly multiplied. They celebrate the increasing splendor of the cities, the beautiful face of the country, cultivated and adorned like an immense garden; and the long festival of peace, which was enjoyed by so many nations, forgetful of their ancient animosities, and delivered from the apprehension of future danger].”
I think the above passage gives ample example of the delusion embraced by the historians of that era for what was believed to be “civilisation under rule of law”. Strange as it is when a contradictory passage in “The Agricola” by that other great Roman historian, Tacitus has been roundly exampled as a salutary lesson of how not to rule a people (“Calgacus to his troops”).
(That speech could serve to explain both the below latter-day attempts at conquest, so I will not enlarge on this point lest the article become a discourse of great length).
Pax Britannica (Latin for “British Peace”, modelled after Pax Romana) was the period of relative peace in Europe (1815–1914) during which the British Empire became the global hegemonic power and adopted the role of a global police force.
Pax Americana (Latin for “American Peace”, modelled after Pax Romana and Pax Britannica) is a term applied to the concept of relative peace in the Western Hemisphere and later the world as a result of the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States beginning around the middle of the 20th century.
My reading of history informs me that the only moment when an imperial power declares for a “Pax” (a peace) is when it has either thoroughly conquered by arms the territory it wants to exploit. Or having reached a situation where it becomes too expensive in either man-power or materially to continue with a conquest by arms, it sues for a peace which leaves it not only in charge of annexed territory, but in a favourable position to continue to exercise divide and rule of the peoples within those territories. But with the subtle trick of instituting a system of governance and laws most favourable to itself, it conjures the image of “civilised debate on the floor of the house”, where the imperial power still holds all the best cards of convenience and argument to obtain an end result that is most favourable for itself and/or its vested interests. Let us not deceive ourselves that the Parliament is anything more than a re-location of force-by-arms from the field to the floor of the House, and in an environment most suited to those who consider themselves “born to rule”.
So it was with the “Pax Romana”, when Caesar Augustus set about to withdraw from the high-cost of attack in far-flung lands and set up a defensive line of forts and borders – usually on the nearside of a large river or mountain range – that it could secure and control by regulated customs crossings both persons and taxable imports.
Likewise the “Pax Britannia” (as many of us baby-boomers who were indoctrinated with the imperial British histories in our school years would know). The “red parts” on the atlas denoted “rule by British law” but in reality, those colonies of South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India (to name the major ones) were ruled with the iron fist of search out and destroy all opposition both real or imagined, using their own constructs of “rule of law” to justify the action and then plead that the local natives “never had it so good” under such a benign jurisdiction of “Pax”.
The more recent “Pax Americana” of post war years (both 1st and 2nd) gave opportunity to exploit to the maximum those countries not centrally governed or secure in that governance so that the American corporations could play the role of coloniser under the guise of “open for business” to the smaller nations of South America and the Mexican peninsula, corrupting and if need be, sending in the troops to “protect their business interests and to restore peace and order” and other spurious excuses.
The Indigenous peoples here in Australia are just these last few decades coming to terms with their most cruel suppression, after an attempt of total crushing of both the spirit and flesh of many generations since colonisation, disguised and lied about under the same old ideology of “Pax” – a kind of “Pax Australiana” – where the ruling class has taken the liberty, along with the land to exploit without redress the minerals, the natural environment and the indigenous peoples themselves.
The lie of a confected history was constructed and spoon-fed to many generations of white school-children, so that the line between “what was good for them” and “what they as a conquered race deserved” was blended together until it justified the “authorised” systematic white-washing of culture, class and history.
It failed …
… like the Romanisation of Britain failed after 400 years of occupation. The only remaining certainty from that experience was an indelible hatred by the British of ever being conquered again; a force so powerful, it gave strength against the fury and onslaught of the war machine of Nazi Germany in the 2nd WW.
The same sentiments were felt by the early American colonies about “taxation without representation” when the settlers in that Eastern American colony revolted against imperial rule, strangely though to evolve into a cruel coloniser and imperial power itself later over the Native American and the nations south of its own borders. The fruit never falls far from the tree.
The lessons learned from these histories ought to be more salubrious in this century, when all this information is available to any number of literate people. But sorrowfully, we again see a new age of “colonisation” taking place: A market-driven colonisation not of territory, but of demographics; of entire suburbs, cities and regional centres, where a steady stream of libertarian propaganda that reassures the citizens that they “ought to feel comfortable in their own skin”. And with such a banal slogan from such a rodent Prime Minister, one can hear an echo of self-perceived disadvantage from those most comfortable in their own community skin feeling threatened of having to fair-share that privilege with their neighbours or, heaven forbid, the Indigenous peoples who owned the land in the first place. Not that they would suffer any disadvantage in doing so, but would perhaps have to suffer a self-indulgent “indignity” of witnessing an oppressed people being delivered a long overdue justice that they do not believe was earned.
The histories of these lies, these “Pax Colonisation” actions that have delivered riches and privilege to the few and heart-breaking debt and dispossession to the many, need to be re-interpreted, re-written, the false doctrines sifted from the true-grit, the propaganda and lies from the struggles and declarations of injustice. It needs to be done so we can move as a nation joined rather than divided into a more balanced, equitable future for all.