I’ve been brushing up on my Western Civ these past few days and though I might remind us all of what many of us may have forgotten or – if we are under 40 – may have never been taught. Let’s start with the Greeks (WARNING: much of what we are about to review will be very politically incorrect):
First, did you know that philosophy was born in a men’s club? Actually, it was born in the gymnasiums of Greece, but they were — essentially – the men’s clubs of their time. Incidentally, male youth were taught to be both soldiers and thinking citizens in these gymnasiums. They were treated as babies. They were expected to learn discipline and wisdom from being among the men of the community while at the gymnasium. It was a masculine environment.
Did you know that the ancient Greek philosophers despised democracy – at least, democracy where the people ruled by direct popular vote? Plato labeled democracy as the most debased form of government. These ancient Greek philosophers also stated that there is such thing as objective truth and natural law, and that man’s laws must be in accord with these unamendable, natural laws. The ancient Greeks also stated that tradition was important as it taught the wisdom of those who had gone before and served to maintain a stable and moral society by reminding the people of these natural laws. Perhaps that is why Plato advocated the need for the State to take over raising and educating all children, paying no attention to the difference in the sexes in the process.
But Greece fell because of the rise of moral relativism. It started with a group of philosophers known as Sophists. The Sophists did not teach an adherence to the traditions of the past or to natural law. Instead, they taught people to argue through clever tricks of fallacious reasoning and, consequently, they soon took on the reputation of ancient snake oil salesmen. It might interest you to know that the Sophists are considered to be the first “professional educators” in Western Civilization. Eventually, the Sophists managed to destroy those beliefs that anchored their society, which led directly to the loss of the greatness: a greatness they have never again enjoyed.
This moral relativism is alive today, as exhibited in the words of Justice Kennedy writing for the majority opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey:
“at the heart o liberty is the right to define one’s own concepts of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life.”
Obviously, the fact that the essence of his words negates itself and his position as a Justice has been lost on Kennedy – most likely because he actually believes he is speaking the truth. But the ancient Greeks learned that this line of reasoning leads only to ruin and never to enlightenment.
Next, let’s jump to the Romans.
Did you know that Rome was successful partly because it was a strong patriarchal society? In fact, there is no evidence that any society has ever been built on anything but the patriarchal pattern, and that the feminization of a society is often linked to its decline (The Inevitability of Patriarchy, by Stephen Goldberg). This is because of the importance of the family in the health and strength of society. For the Romans, the family was paramount. However, as Rome became increasingly depraved, they suffered from a corresponding breakdown in the family.
“Whether because of voluntary birth control, or because of impoverishment of the stock, many Roman marriages at the end of the first and beginning of the second century were childless.”
“The feminism which triumphed in imperial times brought more in its train than advantage and superiority. By copying men too closely the Roman woman succeeded more rapidly in emulating man’s vices than in acquiring his strength.”
–Jerome Carcopino, Daily Life in Ancient Rome
Does any of that sound familiar?
But there was another reason Rome fell: massive tax hikes. That’s right, boys and girls: Rome taxed itself to death. It was even recognized during the time it was happening:
“[Tiberius] answered some governors who had written to recommend an increase in the burden of provincial taxation, with: “A good shepherd shears his flock; he does not flay them.””
–Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars
The only reason that it took longer for Rome to fall than it did for the Greeks was mostly because the Romans had intentionally designed a government that was set against itself. In other words, it was designed to separate powers and to make it difficult to enact laws in a rapid or thoughtless manner. Again, does any of this sound familiar?
And yet, we are told that our leaders are “progressing.” I just have to wonder, how does one “progress” by intentionally repeating the mistakes of the past?