Civilisations and all that they embody have a tendency to be temporary over the longer timescale. Whether that be the idealism of the Native American Indian, the Mayan civilisation, the Roman Empire, The Golden Horde or Western European Capitalism there are features about their demise that always seem to repeat. Whether that happens after 100 years or 10,000 years of ‘civilisation’ isn’t the point but it is apparent that in order to survive through all circumstances repeated conflict is necessary to maintain the periods of peace and prosperity. By being either lucky, (no one knows you exist or can’t get to you) or by colonial expansion (successive empires) a civilisation can last a considerable time but even the best examples are a long way from forever.
Eventually though, partly through size, competence, diverging ideologies, and wishful thinking these peaceful periods end to the surprise of everyone who had become accustomed to an ordered and progressively liberal world. Often such panaceas lasted for more than a lifetime with only occasional skirmishes occurring that weren’t sufficiently severe to damage the overall structure of the status quo but, eventually something more serious happens. It seems that if you have something of value, eventually someone else will want it and be prepared to use force to take it from you.
The most recent examples are the two world wars that set the foundation for a period of relative peace and economic prosperity never before experienced. It’s easy to become accustomed to that which we now regard as normal and it’s equally easy to assume that it would remain that way indefinitely. Such naivety of recent peaceful experience creates a liberalism which, in context, adds to the general well being of society. However, the expectation that all will be well from now on gathers a growing impotence to protect that which was once hard fought for and has the effect of diminishing our ability to successfully defend it.
One problem, of course is to see the threat coming, a second to take it seriously enough but the principle and culturally most difficult aspect is the will to act effectively to protect our way of life. Usually all three of these requirements are lacking and that pattern seems to be repeating again.
There are no shortages of world threats. Some we can deal with because they have the same problems as we do and a governmental structure we can understand, yet others are more difficult to quantify or even understand, even to the point of failing to develop an accurate description of the threat.
Two such threats currently are the army of ISIS and the associated and more difficult, in terms of recognition, impending catastrophe of massive and unstoppable population migration.
Before discussing these current issues in more detail I want to briefly allude to other recent cultural extinctions.
The Native American Indian occupied their continent for about 14,000 years living in relative harmony in, what might now be considered a ‘Green’ utopia. However that was not to last, from the first landing of Columbus in 1492 their way of life was doomed. They didn’t see the threat coming, were unprepared and technologically inferior as well as having no immunity to European diseases. Despite being superior in number we all know what happened to them because they were incapable of defending a lifestyle that they had every right to assume would continue forever.
This pattern has been repeated across the globe.
A slightly different collapse might be that of the Golden Horde, initially a fierce aggressor and conquering force that lasted for around 200 years but collapsing for the same reasons that all societies collapse eventually that of competing factions. Quite simply, if you are King someone else will want to be.
Returning to today it seems we are inaccurately describing both the advancing ISIS army and the growing threat of uncontrolled migration.
ISIS, are constantly referred to as brutal terrorists, as if such brutality is somehow new and unique to them, as opposed to any conquering army. They may not line up in regimental colours as we might like and their command structures may be unfamiliar but their objectives are the same as any army on the move; to gain territory and subsequently power; and, of course, money. They use religion as a conduit for recruitment which is not a new strategy and oddly are both supported and opposed by the radical Islamist Saudi Arabia as well as receiving ‘soft’ support from this religious idealism and perspective that exists in virtually every country. Using religion to support warring intent is certainly not new and we all understand that Christianity was very effectively used in this manner for centuries.
As for brutality, if one considers that Queen Mary burnt (alive) about 180 people for the, now risible, crime of heresy and that Harry. S. Trueman destroyed two entire cities at a stroke, beheading seems quite a humanitarian way to end a life even though it is currently being described otherwise. One only has to imagine the suffering of (innocent) babies, children, women and the elderly who were outside of the immediate blast range of those atomic bombs (burning to death slowly) to gain some perspective on what is happening today. It seems that presentation is everything. All war is brutal yet nothing, it seems is easier than attracting young men to their deaths for a perceived cause.
The brutality, it seems, cannot be avoided as one cannot successfully fight a proportional or humanitarian war.
The other current threat is that of migration to which our government (and every other government) seems incapable of mounting an effective response. The collective yet structurally impotent EU has neither the ability nor a sufficiently focussed authority to do anything other than wring hands.
The questions to be asked now are:
- How much of a threat is migration (both lawful and unlawful)?
- What should we do about it?
The answer to both of these is that the first will be constantly understated and the second will be firmly based on the first. So what has to happen to change this?
Will things change when the first lorry driver is killed by migrants trying to break in to the UK? I suspect not. Procrastination and empty words will overcome any spark of desire to do something material after all it’s only one person. What about when the 10th person is killed? Will things change when the first house is broken into and occupied whilst the owners are on holiday or will it be when fighting breaks out on the streets?
I suspect the migrants are aware that ongoing success relies on a continual understated perception of threat and may be one reason why, amongst all the desire and bravado violence has remained minimal. That will not, however, always remain so.
Their motivations are the same as the early American settlers and the ambitious Julius Caesar; they want what they believe we’ve got.
History has many examples, of civilised societies (and stratas within a society as epitomised by the French, Russian and other revolutions) underestimating threats to their own existence and failing to address them in time. Let’s hope we recognise and act appropriately, for at least an extension of our way of life, though history suggests it isn’t going to happen without a real change of political will.