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What was true in history is true now

Below is a passage of observation by Theodor Mommsen from his magnum opus; “The History of Rome”, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1902. This work would have been a major part of the teaching of Classics in many universities of that era. The accrued knowledge ought to have welded itself to our culture, social science and general knowledge, and should be learned wisdom to use and reflect upon through the years. But it is not! … It is a waste of knowledge up there with the loss for millennia of the knowledge for making concrete … How many mistakes could have been avoided and lives spared if such knowledge was digested with integrity or even was taken seriously.

I, myself, am disgusted and disappointed at the lax attention to such knowledge by those who ought to know better. As a tradesman who was taught the accrued skills of my craft, accumulated over many millennia of a society working with timber and construction … applied and improved upon through the wisdom and knowledge of many times illiterate but astute artisans. I feel disappointed and let down by a clique of higher-educated “elite” who seem to prove Mommsen’s observations below to be so accurate.

However, it is neither wit nor wisdom on my part to make these observations, for I am but the messenger. It is however, on the part of those who ought to understand and know better; an utter betrayal of a fine education and a dishonourable disgrace of political knowledge. I would say that those “revered institutions” of private school education and  “sandstone” tertiary education, that conduct their system of instruction of their charges under a banner of pompous and insincere Latin mottos or logos that preach such lofty aspirations but in truth are little better than the most vulgar colloquial slang spat into a gutter by an inebriated starting-price bookie after a bad day at the races.

Theodore Mommsen:

“It is true that the history of past centuries ought to be the instructress of the present; but not in the vulgar sense, as if one could simply by turning over the leaves discover the conjunctures of the present in the records of the past and collect from these the symptoms for a political diagnosis and for the specifics for a prescription; it is instructive only so far as the observation of earlier forms of culture reveals the organic conditions of civilization generally – the fundamental forces everywhere alike, and the manner of their combination everywhere different – and leads and encourages men, not to unreflecting imitation, but to independent reproduction.

In this sense the history of Caesar and of Roman Imperialism, with all the unsurpassed greatness of the master worker, with all the historical necessity of the work, is in truth a more bitter censure of modern autocracy than could be written by the hand of man. According to the same law of nature in virtue of which the smallest organism infinitely surpasses the most artistic machine, every constitution however defective which gives play to the free self-determination of a majority of citizens infinitely surpasses the most brilliant and humane absolutism; for the former is capable of development and therefore living, the latter is what it is and therefore dead. This law of nature has verified itself in the Roman absolute military monarchy and verified itself all the more completely , that, under the impulse of its creator’s genius and in the absence of all material extraneous complications, that monarchy developed itself more purely and freely than any similar state. From Caesar’s time, as the sequel will show and Gibbon has shown long ago, the Roman system had only an external coherence and received only a mechanical extension, while internally it became even with him utterly withered and dead.

If in the early stages of the autocracy and above all in Caesar’s own soul the hopeful dream of a combination of free popular development and absolute rule was still cherished, the government of the highly-gifted emperors of the Julian house soon taught men in a terrible form how far it was possible to hold fire and water in the same vessel.” (Mommsen; “Roman History”).

And that was Julius Caesar who tried and failed … and he was a genius! What have we in these times: A moron! An utter moron! And they (the LNP) are trying to pass more laws to restrict civil governance and restrain the equality of the masses … It’s got to a point where I am sick and tired of hearing “experts” in law or politics, or military advice or economics, from a plethora of institutions and universities who pontificate on their subject of choice, yet have either no capacity or no intention of protesting in any worthwhile physical manner against those of their similar standard of education who perpetrate this descent into bedlam that seems our fate. If these “behemoths” of learning and “influence”, cannot demonstrate either in the face of political imbecility … then I ask; What effing use are they? … One might as well have a dog and bark oneself!

If we of the labouring classes have to cop the flak, the penalties of an unjust society without noticeable help from those better placed to influence, then they can go their way and we will ours … for they will just be another burden for us to carry.


  1. Nearly Normal Frederick

    Human culture is created by a vast almost unstoppable pattern patterning which more or less repeats itself over and over and over again, most of which we are completely oblivious to.
    In this time and place, due to our super sophisticated technology and the fact that the entire world is now saturated with weapons of all kind, especially weapons of mass destruction, and the fact then many of the psychotic players who have them are full of murderously reasonable intentions, we are in an historically unique situation in which we can destroy humankind, and possibly all life on this planet. One false or even calculated move could very well set of a global conflagration. It seems that the various players in the psychotic dramas now being played out in the Middle East are setting up this “end time” scenario.
    Remember that based on the best selling Left Behind series of books 30 million dreadfully sane Christians in the USA staunchly believe that “Jesus” is coming back any day now. Some/many of them are even preying (praying) for such an event. The drama being played in Israel and the former Old Testament Biblical lands is THE key element of this phenomenon.
    We are like tiny stick figures running around on the tip of a huge iceberg, most of which is of course not visible. Another metaphor is that of Humpty Dumpty. We attempt to make sense of things from the position of a tiny fragment of Humpty’s shattered shell, lying flat on the ground with any depth and completeness of vision or understanding being completely impossible. Based on that fragment of a mis-understanding of our total situation we make all kinds of grand statements as to how things seem to be, and attempt to devise cultural mechanisms which provide at least some degree of certainty, at least for the few.
    Indeed ours is an Unconscious Civilization, which is the title of a book by John Ralston Saul.

    Came across a very interesting book via George Monbiot. It is titled The Patterning Instinct by Jeremy Lent.

  2. Joseph Carli

    “The Struggle of the Order (494-287 B.C.)

    To right their wrongs the plebeians went on what today would be called a general strike. In 494 BC they marched out of Rome in a body and threatened to make a new city. This strike terrified the patricians. They agreed to cancel all debts and to release people who were in prison for debt. Furthermore, the plebeians were granted the right to be represented by new officials, called tribunes. The tribunes had the right to veto the act of any magistrate which was unjust to any citizen.

    From this beginning the plebeians went on to gain other rights. They soon won recognition for an assembly of their own, the concilium plebis. They forced the appointment of commissions of ten men, called decemvirs, to put state laws into writing and to have them engraved on 12 bronze tablets. This took place in 450 BC. They won the right to marry patricians by the lex Canuleia in 445 BC. They won appointment or election to public offices, one after another. The chief of these, which were established to relieve the consuls of the growing burdens of administration, were those of quaestors, or treasurers; censors, who kept the lists of the citizens, assessed taxes, and supervised public morals; and praetors, or judges.

    The struggle was a long one, and it was not until 367 BC that it was decided one of the two consuls should be a plebeian. In 350 BC the plebeians were admitted to the dictatorship. This was an extraordinary magistracy whereby supreme power at critical times was given to one man.”

    Mabey it is now time for another walkout …

  3. Joseph Carli

    Get the suits out of parliament and replace them with overalls!..Bring in many more working-class politicians…bring on a general strike !

  4. guest

    Joseph,when it comes to politics, there are rivals and would-be assassins everywhere. Even in academic circles as well. It is about the power, the money or the ideology – or all of those.

    Take climate change for example. The CSIRO is gutted, the Minister for Science is eliminated. The IPCC is accused of being a bunch of thieves and liars intent on taking over the world. Scientists in particular parts of science, such as geology, oceanography or microbiology, become experts and might even deny the reality of climate change, especially if they are attached to industry of the business-as-usual kind. But there is no coherent science of denial/skepticism.

    Differences of opinion occur in many disciplines, such as economics, politics, history…etc. It was ever thus. That is how progress is made in thinking. And while we might read Mommsen or Gibbon, circumstances vary. What is constant is the fact we are dealing with people – and they are not perfect. Not even tradies.

    As for Latin mottos being “little more than the most vulgar colloquial slang”, they are aspirations, perhaps better understood with a little more study of Latin since you are a student of Roman history.

  5. Joseph Carli

    Here, Guest..for you I will re-write even the bible!

    ” Wisdom has built her house;

    she has hewn out its seven pillars.

    She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;

    she has also set her table.

    Rebuke the wise and they will love you.

    Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;

    teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

    Folly is an unruly politician;

    they are simple and know nothing.

    To those who have no sense they say;

    “Stolen goods are yours;

    Vice taken in secret is delicious!”

    But little do they know that the dead are there,

    that their guests are deep in the realm of the dead.

    So never accept to be the guest of a politician!”

  6. guest

    Joseph, your appeal to the mobile vulgus is a tactic tried by Roman demagogues such as the Gracchi brothers. It has been said they over-estimated the power of the plebs as a power base. They were suppressed and crushed by the power of the senate.

    But even after the old kings of Rome were removed, and a Republic established, “kings” such as Caesar (called Rex by his opponents) led to the power of dictators until the Roman Empire fell apart under the attack of the “barbarians”.

    We can see dictators at work in the world today, inflaming fear of the “barbarians’ who are intent on destroying the West, they say. Read about Trump in the writing of Naomi Klein (2017).

    As for overalls, do you mean tradies and feminists marching into Parliament? What about fish and chip shop owners? Are union leaders allowed? Are Rhode Scholars to be banned?

  7. Joseph Carli are making the usual mistake of an overconfident yet unqualified middle-class and by your pruning, you have cut only the fruit off the vine and left nothing but the canes…you need to employ a skilled person to do your overseeing!…can I suggest an experienced tradesperson?

    And ; Oops!..I left a little of the biblical quote off my last post..:

    “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;

    whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.

    Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;”

  8. Joseph Carli

    It is obvious to me, guest that you have not R-E-A-D my article, but only skimmed and in doing so have misinterpreted what I have written…

  9. Joseph Carli

    But I remember attaching a bit of a chuckle limerick to one of my classics essays on the Gracchi Bros..:

    ” Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus,
    And his ol’ mate ; Fulvius Flaccus,
    Tried to distribute the land,
    But that capitalist band.,
    Cried; “My God!..They’re trying to dak us!”

    The lecturer didn’t think much of my humour either…now why is that?


    Joseph Carli. ‘Bring in many more working-class politicians’. How do you define ‘working class?’ For Marx the defining characteristic is class consciousness.Those who are workers in a subordinate relation to the means of production were first proletarians without a working-class consciousness. It is not until the proletariat acquires class consciousness that the proletariat becomes ‘working class’. For other analysts, it is merely an objective definition determined by income levels etc and this is the one commonly circulated by anti- socialist Australian politicians. Hence, under that definition any one who works for a living is ‘working class’. However, many are blue collared but many of those have no class consciousness at all and are, in effect, petite borgeoisie or proletariat with a false consciousness and have, as they see it, some sort of investment in the continuation of the current system. Alf Garnet from the TV series ‘Till Death Do Us Part’, played so well by the great English actor Warren Mitchell, is the great fictional example of the proletariat in false consciousness. John Howard’s ‘battlers’ would also be counted among those as would many One Nation supporters. So Joe, how do you define ‘working class?’

  11. Joseph Carli

    Jeeezus, OTMP…I bet you’d even argue about how many currants per square inch defined what was a slice of fruit loaf!…How would you differentiate the real women and children from the drag-queens and height-challenged when the captain shouted at the sinking of the ship ; “Right! she’s going down..into the life-boats..women and children first!”

    Anyway..didn’t Marx say that he wouldn’t be a member of any class that would have HIM as a member?


    Joseph. Further. My point is, if the ‘working class’ that you advocate should be brought in as politicians are merely petite borgeoisie or proletariat without class consciousness how will that help any-ones situation? What will it achieve? What change would there be? We could just end up with the Nazi Party or One Nation… a popularist gov steeped in rhetoric and prejudice without any genuine consciousness.


    Joe. ‘Jeeezus, OTMP…I bet you’d even argue about how many currants per square inch defined what was a slice of fruit loaf!” Jeeezus and hail Mary Joe I was just bloody asking a question? LOL. (Loved your pece by the way. Ur a good writer. Should be writing fiction with that fluent, eloquent style}, However, I will leave the current counting to the plebs.

  14. Joseph Carli

    OTMP..: ” Should be writing fiction with that fluent, eloquent style…” Flatterer!… do you expect to be taken seriously with a moniker like : OTMP?…what major parties?…Xmas, birthdays or the new year?

    And BTW..I thought you were pissed off with “the clique” here and were going to migrate to Tierra del Fuego


    .’..migrate to Tierra del Fuego’. Waiting for my refugee application to be processed.

    PS: ” …didn’t Marx say that he wouldn’t be a member of any class that would have HIM as a member”. That was Groucho not Karl. And he said ‘club’ not ‘class’.

  16. guest

    Thank you, Joseph, for your easy dismissal that I have not read your missive.

    You say that Mommsen should be a lesson for makers of empires, but the British Empire was made by scholars of Mommsen and Gibbon – and perhaps you are right: the Empire collapsed mid-C20th.

    Right now, we have the global neo-liberal economic trade empire which is in state of collapse – which is why the idea of climate change terrifies them.

    You speak of a “betrayal of fine education”. Are you seriously suggesting that every neo-liberal should read Mommsen more carefully?

    You speak of insincere Latin mottos as “vulgar colloquial slang”. Could they be better said in English?

    You criticise academics for not solving the political problems enveloping politicians. But the politicians will not listen for reasons I have pointed out. You suggest we have more presence of workers – no doubt the ones willing to take on economics, industrial relations, international trade regulations, the constitution, etc, etc.

    I get the drift of what you say (I think – but am willing to be corrected). I like your idealism and the provocation of your ideas, but when you play identity politics and blame academics for not guiding politicians on the right path (or at least the one you want), I become a little annoyed. We know that the IPCC, for example, has tried to persuade politicians and industrialists and the common person about climate change, but do they listen? Not at all, for reasons I have outlined.

    Nor has every person read Mommsen or Gibbon – and made good use of the knowledge. There are other books we could read with the same bad result, if we let it (such as Naomi Klein, who advocates community action).

  17. Joseph Carli you sow…And those “noble, aspirational” Latin mottos might just as well and perhaps more honestly be better spat in bloody plain English!

    But what I am saying is that with all the glittering prizes and accolades and lucre heaped upon those who lay claim to and present certificates of knowledge of subject (be they of whatever) and are increasingly interviewed on media for their expert opinion, yet the situation NEVER seems to get any better, the conflicts NEVER seem to be resolved peacefully and the only majority who gets it in the neck are the poor and vulnerable who have the LEAST influence in changing policy ..So I repeat as I wrote above..:

    ” It’s got to a point where I am sick and tired of hearing “experts” in law or politics, or military advice or economics, from a plethora of institutions and universities who pontificate on their subject of choice, yet have either no capacity or no intention of protesting in any worthwhile physical manner against those of their similar standard of education who perpetrate this descent into bedlam that seems our fate. If these “behemoths” of learning and “influence”, cannot demonstrate either in the face of political imbecility … then I ask; What effing use are they? … One might as well have a dog and bark oneself!

    If we of the labouring classes have to cop the flak, the penalties of an unjust society without noticeable help from those better placed to influence, then they can go their way and we will ours … for they will just be another burden for us to carry.”

  18. Joseph Carli

    OTMP…Now, as for writing fiction, you have to understand the nature of the Australian reading public when it comes to new fiction thrust into their view…It is rarely appreciated..because, you see, the average Aussie reader still suffers somewhat from the cultural cringe of the 50’s and 60’s, where any work of art (ART!!…whassthat!?) first must be allocated a certain degree of “cred” via an award or a prize or acceptable, verifiable critique before it becomes “kosher art” ask Richard Flannigan…before that it is at best a “try-hard” or “suss”…I relate a little incident back when Albert Namatjira first exhibited his works in Adelaide…The then curator of the National Art Gallery..A Mr. Robert Campbell (if I am to believe Mrs. Joyce Batty : “Namatjira..A wanderer between two worlds”) dismissed his work as “:daubings..pot-boilers” and declared that he wouldn’t hang any of them in his gallery…But at a later exhibition, when Albert Namatjira had become an accepted artist by those who knew these things, at another exhibition in Adelaide, Mr. Robert Campbell approached Albert on the side and hurriedly whispered to him if the gallery could have one or two paintings…wait for it….”a little bit cheap?”..

    Do you hear that ; OTMP…: “A little bit cheap”…what’s that again!? ..I got my cupped hand to my ear!!…I’m not hearing you!…I said : “A little bit cheap”…to Albert bleedin’ Namatjira!!…and THAT is why I write articles like the one above…because..and not to take it personally, everybody..I hate the middle-class, petty-effing-booshwahh for their piss-weak, piss poor, money-grubbling screwing over of every-effing-thing of value in our otherwise half decent society that they can get their grubby hands on!

  19. Phil

    Joseph, your writing seems to have stung others to carp – endlessly. I like reading your material – it gives cause to pause and think.

    You seem to me to be a most unusual amalgam and I like what results.

  20. S G B

    Like your work Joseph

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