One of the most persistent human traits is to assume that how things are now is how they will remain and continue on into the future. You could call this “experience bias”, how people see, perceive and experience the world on a daily basis causes them to assume that what they see, perceive and experience is what will be. That which is outside of their experience does not factor into how they think about the world.
Anyone who has read history, even moderately, knows that this is not the truth. There are some things that remain relatively constant, like the nature of human beings, and the dominant relationship between human beings and nature, but even these things will work themselves out very differently in different contexts and under different kinds of pressure.
When one reads history we see that there are many stable periods in history where the day-to-day experience of people does not change all that much, and then there are epoch-changing eras where many people’s world is turned on its head in a relatively short time. The Bronze Age collapse, which I have written about previously here and here, is one example. The fall of Rome is another, as is the fall of Byzantium, the Eastern Roman Empire. The Reformation which sundered Europe, and the discovery of the New World are other examples where people’s lives and the stable orders of society were shattered and forever changed.
But there are many other instances in history as well. Sometimes everything just flashes up in a major conflagration and changes the whole world.
I was prompted to think about this again recently because I made some observations to a friend that though I note often that the Anglo-American Empire is collapsing. I don’t actually look forward to this, because the process of change is likely going to be tumultuous for the world to a degree even these previous epoch changes never reached.
The American Empire has had a power and reach beyond anything any previous empire, except maybe Britain, had in the past, and it is in the late stages of its empire, it IS in decline. The decline of the English Empire was one of the major factors in both world wars, a fact forgotten by many, and this destabilized many parts of the world.
The collapse of the United States will likely have a similar effect. There is also no guarantee that what you will end up with will be better, at least in the short term. Long term there is a very good chance it will be far superior, but the tumults in between could last for decades, or even centuries in some places, before true order is restored. There is no reason to fear it, either, it just is what it is, the collapse of such dominant powers inherently creates instability in the world.
I was also prompted to delve into this because I am reading an interesting history of France by William Stearns Davis which briefly outlines the collapse of Rome and the impact this had on the nation we today call France, which was previously simply a Province of Rome. In a moment we will look at what he writes. But once we have read that, I want us to reflect on what this may teach us about the collapse of the current world empire.
About 375 A.D. the Germanic tribes began to penetrate again into the decadent Empire, and the legions soon proved too feeble to turn them out. But the first barbarian attacks were mainly upon the Balkan lands, and not till about 400 A.D. were the Rhine barriers forced and the “Romans” (as the Gauls now gladly called themselves) trembled at the sight of their burning villages while the invaders drew nigh.
Rome had not been built in a day, Roman Gaul was not conquered in a day. Some parts were quickly overrun by the barbarians; some resisted stoutly; some temporarily expelled the first conquerors; some compounded with the invaders on terms that allowed German and Gallo-Roman to settle down rather comfortably together. It was of course a miserable time, when the old civilization was painfully dying, and when the newer civilization was anything but safely born. The liberal arts seemed sterile or dead, Cities were decaying, if they were not devastated outright by the invader; the magnificent Roman road system, which had covered Gaul like a network of modern railways, was degenerating; commerce and all but the most necessary industries were nigh perishing. The only reliable law was that of the strongest. Alone in the Church and especially in the monks’ and nuns’ cloisters seemed there any sure refuge for peace-loving men and delicate women. Nevertheless, the age of the Germanic invasions was not one of unmitigated destruction and misery. The invaders were well aware that the invaded were their superiors in everything but warfare. The barbarian chiefs were prompt to adopt not merely Roman dresses, table manners, and court ceremonial, but also to make Gallo-Roman noblemen their ministers and officials to control the great population of provincials which the Germans knew how to conquer, but afterward did not know how to govern. Much of the old Roman law survived, along with many features of the old tax system. It was an era of twilight, but not of absolute darkness.
When the Roman Empire of the West finally went under, in 476 A.D., the greater part of Gaul was already in German hands. Since 412 the formidable Visigoths had held sway in nearly all of the south with their capital at Bordeaux. Nearer the Rhine, in the east center, the Burgundians were in control. In the north (quite isolated from Italy, curiously enough) the Roman power was making its last stand, under the “Patrician” Syagrius. The Visigoths and Burgundians had gone through the forms of professing Christianity, but it was of the unorthodox Arian type – hence they were in very bad odor with the native clergy and native population, which were mostly Catholics devoted to the Nicene Creed.
Conditions therefore were anything but static, when a new power began asserting itself in the north and speedily overshadowed all Gaul. The Franks had been a loose confederacy of Germanic tribes on the right bank of the Rhine since the third century. They had occasionally fought against the Romans; more often they had been their well-paid allies and had sent their warriors into the Cæsars’ armies. For a long time they showed no great wish to invade Gaul. Then in the fifth century they gradually followed the example of their fellow Germans and began to spread into what is now the extreme north of France. It was a slow, somewhat hesitant invasion, for the Franks were sadly disunited. Salians, Ripuarians, and other tribes of their confederacy whetted their weapons to fight against one another even more than against Syagrius. They were fierce, untamed warriors in any case – not even Arians, but downright heathen: cruel in customs and very willing to settle all issues by appeal to their “franciskas” – their great battle-axes, which possibly gave them their tribal name. In 481 the chief of the Salian Franks, Hilderic, died, and passed on his stormy authority to his fifteenyear-old son Clovis. A bad man, but a mighty ruler, had thrust himself into history.”
Davis, William Stearns. A History of France from the Earliest Times to the Treaty of Versailles (pp. 19-21). Lecturable. Kindle Edition.
“It was an era of twilight, but not of absolute darkness.” That is a very succinct way to describe the state of civilisation in the era between the collapse of Rome and the consolidation of the Feudal order of the Middle Ages. Civilisation fell hard, but not completely.
One of the reasons it fell hard and not completely was because of the conquerors themselves; sie Deutsch (the Germans). For much of its history in Western Europe Rome had two main competitors and threats: the Gauls and the Germans. They had others for sure around the Mediterranean, but in western Europe its two main competitors were Celtic Gauls and the Indo-Aryan Germans. The Gauls were soundly defeated by Caesar not long before the birth of Christ, and fully subsumed into Rome and civilized in the Roman way. The Germans were another matter completely. They were never entirely subjugated by Rome as the Gauls were. Attempts were made by men like Augustus and Marcus Aurelius, great statesmen for sure, among others, but never were any of Rome’s leaders able to achieve the same with Rome that Caesar did with Gaul.
What is more, the relationship between Rome and the Germanic tribes was not just one of alien cultures clashing. For sure German tribes and confederacies battled with Rome and even defeated entire legions, but also many Germanic tribes joined the banner of Rome and fought in her legions. Because of this cross cultural influence went both ways. The Germans learnt to dress like Romans, fight like Romans and enjoy the luxuries of Rome, and the Romans learnt to fill their legions with the men of Germany to help fight against other Germanic tribes. This changed the ethnic makeup of the Roman society. Many Germans reached high ranks in the Roman military and society, able to win their citizenship and privileges through war. As noted above Franks even fought with Caesar himself against the Gauls.
This meant that when the Germans finally subjugated Rome, when Odoacer finally replaced the last Emperor, the child ruler Augustulus, they did not desire to destroy Rome, but rather dominate, to rule it, and to become the masters of that civilisation they had continually warred for and against in their long history of competition. They wanted to become Romans and to enjoy all of the luxuries and advantages of that civilisation, eventually a Germanic King would even be proclaimed ‘The Holy Roman Emperor.’ The problem was, that no matter what they said or thought, they were not Romans and they were not capable of running the civilisation as the Romans themselves had done and they were not keen to give up all their own ethnic practices as well. They instead melded the two, with the strongest influence going to their Germanic culture. You cannot add red to blue without changing the colour of both, and just as surely you cannot add Germanic to Roman without changing the nature of both. The Germans would eventually create a civilisation beyond anything the Romans had ever achieved, at least in advancement if not size, but that would not happen for some time.
In the meantime, everything began to break down. The social hierarchy of society was completely changed, Romans became servants of Germanic lords. The roads began to degrade and no one had the knowledge, manpower or finances to fix them, because they had been created by the wealth of a far superior economy than any German society of the era. The Germans may have overcome a mightier and wealthier society than theirs, but they brought it to a lower and baser level than it was under Rome itself. The legions were replaced with tribal warriors. The cities began to disband as they became unliveable. The centralization of Rome was replaced with the highly decentralized society of the Germans, which changed the nature of how civil structures could even work. Only the church maintained its Roman structure and bureaucracy, everywhere else these advanced signs of high civilisation faded and even in the Church they diminished in many areas. The very thing the Germans wanted to become, Roman, or at least enjoy the trappings of Rome, was the very thing they destroyed when they became the masters of Rome. It was called Rome for a reason, Rome was the product of the particular genius of the Roman people themselves and though they functioned for some time with foreigners in their midst, eventually the foreigners multiplied enough to snuff much of that genius out.
Brigandry increased across the former well-patrolled provinces of Rome. There was no centralized society that had a monopoly on force to ensure a just order was applied across the land. And the various peoples of Rome began to vie for the power and wealth of the once great people they had desired to become like, alongside also the many different invading peoples who came in from the North, North East, and East, who wanted to carve out parts of the Roman empire for themselves. The Roman collapse did not just impact the provinces of Rome that she had conquered to protect her own flanks, it affected the very heart of Rome itself, and the once great city became an often besieged and conquered city. The marks of high civilisation and order faded away and warlords reigned supreme. It was, as noted above, the error of rule by the strong. In France it was the Franks, the Lombards took over parts of Italy, and various different Germanic tribes, Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, Alans, Saxons etc, carved up the entire empire and mixed with the previous Roman citizens that lived in those places. What was once Roman became almost completely Germanic throughout most of the Western Roman Empire, and this is still true today. Many of the nations of modern Europe are of largely or entirely Germanic descent.
While history doesn’t exactly repeat, it does rhyme, and I suspect that the American Empire is going to go the same way. From the Civil War down till today the American nation has ceased to be a republic ruled by the voluntary union of various mostly Anglo-Saxon citizens and states, but an empire of force that has subdued first the native Americans, then the English, then more native Americans. Many people forget that it was American armies that took lands like parts of California, Texas, New Mexico and other areas from South American nations. It is a land of conquest, as much as Rome ever was, and once it had subjugated much of the North Continent of the Americas it turned its eyes outward to the rest of the world.
The main competitors for America in its lands are the various South American peoples themselves, some of whom are the descendants of the overlords of the Aztecs (the Mexica), others of whom are descended from the various native tribes, of which America conquered and subjugated their lands. And these South American people have not disappeared, they are still there, and they have not been lax in taking their land back. Over the last few decades, tens of millions of Latin Americans have moved into the United States, just like the Germanic peoples kept moving into Rome. And just like the Germans they have joined the military, the police forces and many other important aspects of society, even achieving high office in various parts of the country, including running in Presidential campaigns.
But just as the Germans in conquering Rome made Rome more German, so too is the influx of Spanish-speaking South Americans changing the nature of the United States. Of course, just like Rome it is not just people from one region moving in, people from all over the known world always flock to their centres of Imperial power, and across the United States, at every level of society, you see that America, just like Rome, is becoming a state filled with competing peoples with competing interests. It is no longer the WASPS (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) that dominate all aspects of the halls of power, it is the children of varied and sundry immigrant peoples that do. You have Irish, Italian, Jewish, African, Indian, and other peoples rising to dominant levels in the American Empire. To such an extent that the new catchcry of the United States is that they are “a nation of immigrants.” As if the English settlers who did a Revolution against an English King, who built a Western version of Britain in the Americas were no longer a unique people who created a unique society. They are now just one of the many tiles making up the mosaic of the United States, or so it is often asserted. Just as the Romans came to serve the foreigners, so too did the American peoples.
As with Rome, the more German and mixed it got, the less it looked like the Rome of old, so too with the United States, the less governed by the sons of the Revolution, the less it actually looked like the nation that revolution created. Things are still good in some places. But the signs of decay are evident, nay they are manifest. They are no more evident at the border themselves where the American people have lost complete control over their ability to determine who comes into their country. Except maybe in their foreign policy where it is becoming clear to almost everyone that the United States is a slave to foreign interests, especially to those of Israel, but also other nations.
As the US imperial power collapses, what will happen is the force of the US state will be turned both inward, and towards those it can still reach in its own region. But now, instead of being a largely unified majority Anglo-Saxon people with mostly the same Protestant religion, we have a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, just like Rome, and these different peoples will seek state power for their own varied ethnic advantages and interests. We already see this happening with the push for diversity in every aspect of the American nation, this will be exacerbated as the empire collapses and the structures start to come apart. Some of the forms and language of America will be preserved in these declining structures, just as they were in the Germanic conquered Roman societies, but they will lose much of their original meaning and significance.
It is possible a military strongman may be able to take centralized control and the United States will become an open banana republic, as opposed to this being a now poorly kept secret. It may even become dominated by an oligarchy of the various tech and industry lords, that is if they can find the mercenaries to police their techno-autocratic society. But I think it is more likely that it will start to break apart. Just as the Romans could not maintain a Roman level of civilisation, so too will America begin to look more and more like the nations its various peoples have emigrated from, particularly Latin America. This is already being observed in parts of the United States and has been written about widely. The United States will become more Latino, it will begin to look more and more like the South American republics it long interfered with.
The effect this will have on the world will be massive, as the dominant empire finally recedes, but that discussion deserves its own post. The effect this will have on the citizens of the United States will be devastating. Forget civil war, America is not divided down the middle, which is a false construct portrayed by the political elite for political reasons. There will be conflagrations all over the place, as warlords, criminal lords, and the remnants of the state seek to assert dominance as the centralized power weakens. Much like what happened in Rome (which really was an ancient Banana republic before its fall). Here people will flock to the local military garrison where the local colonel has managed to maintain order in some corner of a state. There people will seek refuge under a criminal lord turn petty ruler who has managed to maintain order in a part of their own part of the United States and subdue other criminal gangs. And in some parts of the United States, good governance will remain and the people will live in relative peace under the banner of some governor who has maintained a semblance of American society. Exactly what the lines will be is anybody’s guess, and like Europe after the collapse of Rome, they will probably be continually redrawn for some time before they finally settle down. No one could have predicted that the Franks would conquer Gaul, but many would have seen German dominance as inevitable if and when Rome fell.
This sort of event, or series of events, is not something to look forward to. It would be better if there was revival, and repentance on the parts of the American elite, a slow withdrawal of their empire and the gradual move away from the destructive policies of the post-1965 era so that America could slowly diminish on the world stage and turn inward to heal its fracturing society. That would be better. That would still change the world, but it would be a far better transition. But instead, what we see is the United States thrashing in its decline engaging in wars all over the world and we see the American people coming under a less and less pro-American elite. If this trend continues, then I think the collapse is inevitable and it will be a cataclysm the like of which the world has not seen.
Whether it will be an era of twilight and not complete darkness is for us to find out in the future. I suspect civilisation will not only survive but flourish in the Americas, just as it has in Europe and just as it will in the Middle East once Western powers stop interfering there. But the transition phase will not be fun for a lot of people. Pray you are in a place of relative peace when the collapse finally comes. The way these things go is very, very slowly and then all at once. It looks like we are seeing them speed up.