I. Introduction. No area of Western history is quite as recondite as that of the Diadochic empires, the successor-kingdoms that sprang up in the wake of Alexander the Great’s meteoric campaigns (334 – 323 BC) to subdue the world under militaristic Hellenism. One knows that the unity of Alexander’s Imperium, ever tenuous and improvisatory, broke down immediately on his death, when his “companions” fell to bellicose squabbling over bleeding chunks of the whole. Of Ptolemy’s Macedonian Egypt, one knows something – largely because the realm’s newly built Greek metropolis, Alexandria, became culturally the most important polis in the Mediterranean world, even after Octavian conquered Cleopatra and organized her Macedonian rump-state into Rome’s emergent world-federation. To transit from historical fair-certainty to historical incertitude, however, requires only that one switch focus from the Ptolemaic kingdom in the Nile Delta to the Seleucid... Indeed, to the Seleucid what? For Seleucus’ prize in the wars of the successors stretched in geographic space from Syria and Cilicia, and associated insular territories, eastward through portions of Mesopotamia and Asia Minor into the hinterlands of Parthia and Bactria. The Seleucid kingdom’s borders, as distinct from those of the more stable Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt, remained, like the Heraclitean river, in constant flux; moreover, the Seleucid kingdom steadily withdrew in the direction of the sunrise, sacrificing its westerly regions for the defensibility of its easterly keeps, until in its last act, as the remnant Greco-Bactrian principality, it attempted to perpetuate itself against political mortality by an exodus-through-conquest from Central Asia across the Hindu Kush into Northern India.
Representation by the worst we have.
There is a wisdom that Duly Noted likes to repeat. Quite often, their most despicable members define communities. This is a likely outcome as we notice the “bad ones” first. This expresses an evolutionary trait that helps us to avoid danger. Furthermore, “good news is no news” makes us emphasize the negative. No conversation is made about good weather. Most Letters to the Editor are gripes. When have you thanked a tour operator for a perfect trip?
In a past article, I already discussed some issues of Islamic civilization which we are apt to neglect in our analysis of the current situation in the Middle East. Obviously, the potential force of democracy to conquer once primitive countries has been greatly overestimated; nobody will disagree anymore on that count. However, the explanations for this failure of democracy vary a lot, and quite independent of the political alignment of the commentators: it appears that all shades of opinion are quite confused by what is happening in countries recently “liberated” by the Arab Spring. The main reason for this confusion, as I stated before, is that most people in the west do not understand the wider civilizational questions involved: first, can we equate any popular uprising with an ideologically inspired revolution, but second, and most importantly, can revolutions in the Islamic world ever resemble those in the West and why are we so sure that the Islamic pattern of history must correspond to the earlier Western? The first point has been conceded by many observers, albeit implicitly and not in wider historical context, since today the dominant opinion is that these countries were not “ripe” for democracy and that popular rule does not necessarily imply democracy as we understand it in the west. The second point requires more insight, and is not even addressed by most commentators or journalists, although in fact to pose the question of essential differences in culture is not at all new; indeed, it only implies further investigation of the popular thesis Samuel Huntington developed about the “clash of civilizations”. But since western nations have lived in peace for over sixty years now, and we tend to believe that the whole world potentially is a prosperous and peaceful place like the western nation states, the concept of wholly different civilizations has become quite incomprehensible to most opinion makers. Nevertheless, we shall see it is essential to understand the ordeal the Muslim world is currently going through.
This is the third part of a three-part essay.
In Assignment in Utopia (1937), Eugene Lyons offers what were at the time perhaps the best eye-witness accounts of Stalinism as a state religion. He was UPI's journalist in Moscow during the early years of Stalin's rule (1928-34), which coincided with Stalin's first Five Year Plan, and, despite all we have learned since then, his first-hand observations remain both vivid and strange to this day. Among several websites that I chose at random, for example, all give 1928 -1932 as the official dates of the plan, but none comments on the transformation of five years into four. Lyons literally saw how it happened. In his chapter "Two Plus Two Equals Five," he describes the frenzied proclamations of the arithmetic that would later appear as an instrument of psychological torture in George Orwell's 1984:
Optimism ran amuck. Every new statistical success gave another justification for the coercive policies by which it was achieved. Every setback was another stimulus to the same policies. The slogan "The Five Year Plan in Four Years" was advanced, and the magic symbols "5-in-4" and "2+2=5" were posted and shouted throughout the land... . Under their pseudo-scientific exterior of charts and blueprints the planners were mystics in a trance of ardor.
We are on our way to uniform tax rates.
Much to his ultimate peril, the contemporary suffers from a weakness; he is inclined to believe anything as long as it is not obvious. Even more frequently, if facing a new encroachment that is shrewdly kept incremental, we nod assuming that it is a final and not an initial demand. Public affairs are not analyzed the way of chess players do: those think several steps beyond their move. This explains the regular rise of temporary levies that become permanent while their promised small burden mutes into millstones.
In accordance with this pattern, a new stealthy attack on private property and the soundness of advanced economic systems is constructed.
Is European civil war inevitable? Increasingly the question is posed these days not only by those who were in the past labeled alarmists and political amateurs, but by all sorts of people who are waking up to the disconcerting aspects of Muslim immigration in Europe. At first thought, predicting civil war would indeed still sound somewhat irresponsible to many westerners, especially the middle and upper classes who have retreated in pleasant and quiet suburbs, and therefore believe the whole country must look like their quiet, pleasant suburbs, populated by the same friendly and orderly kind of people. Indeed it is stunning to what extent this group have become totally isolated from evolutions in their own country, to the point that once again we may refer to “the two nations”; the pays réel, so to speak, composed of people who are often confronted with Muslim behavior and simply don’t like what they see, and the pays légal, composed of the estranged upper middle classes and politicians of all parties. I can very well imagine that all warnings about growing Islamic influence in our cities, and eventually in the country as a whole, strikes these people as apocalyptic. Nonetheless, -and this is also an answer to critics of Islam who aren’t very impressed by the Islamic threat and believe a Muslim takeover is impossible- it is very hard to deny the overwhelming evidence, both relating to current affairs and to larger historical patterns, that within the next century Europe will witness, if not an Islamic takeover, at least serious internal tensions that will probably complete the process of decline that set in after the First world war.
This is the second part of a three-part essay.
By 1948, the time was ripe for a second world enemy to be proclaimed at large since the French Revolution. Ruling class oppression was the first, but now the ravages of two world wars, economic crises in the intervening years, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s provided the necessary fuel to ignite new fears of ecological and social collapse. On the first page of his introduction, Osborn writes that, "towards the end of the Second World War," it occurred to him that another and far older planetary war had been taking place, a "silent war, eventually the most deadly war," which was responsible for more human misery "than any that has resulted from armed conflict" and "contains potentialities of ultimate disaster" beyond even the reach of "atomic power." Our Plundered Planet would have made a fitting subtitle for The Communist Manifesto, for in both works war is another word for the course of human events, in Marx by his fixation on class warfare through the ages and in Osborn through the "silent war" that "The Plunderer" began waging thousands of years ago against the earth. Even Marx's view of capitalism as the ultimate predatory force in history finds a corresponding echo in Our Plundered Planet, with "the story" of America's relationship to the land in the nineteenth century representing "the most violent and destructive of any written in the long history of civilization."
Duly Noted is convinced that it will never run out of topics. Nevertheless, a remainder of pessimism induces the writer to take notes for a feared arid patch. Often the juice that can be squeezed out of some of these observations does not suffice to fill an article. For filing them in the dustbin, they are too precious as testimonials of the illogic and the dishonesty in public affairs. Therefore, a few products our insanity follow below.
1. The forces positioned to the right of the far Left are generally presented by the PC media to readers without a correcting exposure, as “right wing extremists”. Indeed, both the left-of-center as well as the right-of-center has their share of genuine extremists. The supply of public affairs nuts being plentiful this condition is rather natural. The sane majority needs to be ashamed of their fruitcakes only if they endorse them.
This is the first part of a three-part essay.
On a cross country trip some twenty years ago, I pulled into a truck stop that caught my eye moments after it came into view. High above the rows of gas pumps two displays were mounted: a huge, inflated model of a polka dotted Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Christian billboard inspired by the Book of Revelation. It was a sign from above two ways in one, with the last quarter hour of a white clock face printed against a black background, the words "Jesus is coming - Be Prepared," and the hands permanently set to five minutes to twelve, Judgment time.
There they were, big as life: a whimsical echo of Sinclair Oil's Dino the Dinosauri and a message from Scripture on the hour of reckoning. It was American to the hilt: a super-sized comic representation of the one prehistoric animal that everyone can recognize standing next to a literal image of Revelation 1:3, "for the time is at hand," and both of them serving as commercial roadside attractions.
The decline and fall of civilizations is man-made and as such reversible.
To the extent that it is run by the Red-Greens, the apple of Western civilization has been allowed by its supposed guardians to house maggots. The resulting rot is not the product of unavoidable decay at work. Those that think that a law makes civilizations rise and then fall hide behind a fake determinism that excuses the accountable.
Civilizations, like the graphic tabulations of temperatures, have their natural ups and downs. Not “rise and fall”, rather “achievement, stagnation, correction, decline, recovery or crash” are the fitting words. Whether a down is followed by a recovery or a collapse is not an expression of “fate” but of choices. Like wealth and poverty, so decline and subjection are largely man-made. A translatable Yiddish-Hungarian proverb expresses the idea when it warns, “misfortune seldom comes from above”.