Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, October 21, 2011

How the World Will End

On his radio program this morning, Glenn Beck wondered why the Fascist dictator Mussolini would have reverted to the ancient Roman model of patronage instead of the Nazi’s scorched-Earth policy to conquer Libya.  Of course, Hitler also had plenty of volunteers from the occupied countries, as well, with the same notion of ruling absolutely.  Personal ambition on the part of the occupied is one reason; Mussolini sought their buy-in.  You would think, though, that someone from Italy would have been better versed in Roman history and how the Roman empire, which he sought to inherit by force, ended.

For that matter, you would think America would be better versed.  Military supporters keep decrying the poor pay the military receives, not to mention inserting fifth columns of homosexuals into their ranks and barracks.  Yet no one heeds the call or remembers, or even knows the lessons of the decline and fall of the ancient Roman empire.

Here’s what Edward Gibbon tells us about the declining Roman Empire and its military, after the division of the Roman Empire into East and West, with two capitals:  Rome (West) and Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul (East):

The memory of Constantine has been deservedly censured for another innovation which corrupted military discipline and prepared the ruin of the empire.  The nineteen years which preceded his final victory of Licinius had been a period of licence and intestine war.  The rivals who contended for the possession of the Roman world had withdrawn the greatest part of their forces from the guard of the general frontier, and the principal cities which formed the boundary of their respective dominions were filled with soldiers who considered their countrymen as their most implacable enemies.  After the use of these internal garrisons had ceased with the civil war, the conqueror wanted either wisdom or firmness to revive the severe discipline of Diocletian and to suppress a fatal indulgence which habit had endeared and almost confirmed to the military order.  From the reign of Constantine a popular and even legal distinction was admitted between the Palatines and the Borderers – the troops of the court, as they were improperly styled, and the troops of the frontier.  The former, elevated by the superiority of their pay and privileges, were permitted, except in the extraordinary emergencies of war, to occupy their tranquil stations in the heart of the provinces.  The most flourishing cities were oppressed by the intolerable weight of quarters.

The soldiers insensibly forgot the virtues of their profession and contracted only the vices of civil life.  They were either degraded by the industry of mechanic trades or enervated by the luxury of baths and theaters.  They soon became careless of their martial exercises, curious in their diet and apparel, and, while they inspired terror to the subjects of the empire, they trembled at the hostile approach of the barbarians.  The chain of fortifications which Diocletian and his colleagues had extended along the banks of the great rivers was no longer maintained with the same care or defended with the same vigilance.  The numbers which still remained under the name of the troops of the frontier might be sufficient for ordinary defence; but their spirit was degraded by the humiliating reflection that they, who were exposed to the hardships and dangers of a perpetual warfare, were rewarded only with about two-thirds of the pay and emoluments which were lavished on the troops of the courts… [An historian of the times, Ammianus observes that they loved downy beds and houses of marble and that their cups were heavier than their swords].

The same timid policy of dividing whatever is united, of reducing whatever is eminent, of dreading every active power, and of expecting that the most feeble will prove the most obedient seems to pervade the institutions of several princes, and particularly those of Constantine.

By the way, if anyone has ever wondered where the root of the word fascist comes from, it is from the Latin, fasces.  The traditional Romance fasces consisted of a bundle of birch rods, tied together with a red leather ribbon into a cylinder, and often including a bronze axe (or sometimes two) amongst the rods, with the blade(s) on the side, projecting from the bundle. They were carried by the lictors (bodyguards) who accompanied the magistrates. The axe often represents the power over life or death through the death penalty, although after the laws of the twelve tables, no Roman magistrate could summarily execute a Roman citizen. It was used as a symbol of the Roman Republic in many circumstances, including being carried in processions, much the way a flag might be carried today.
The term is related to the modern Italian word fascio, used in the 20th century to designate peasant cooperatives and industrial workers' unions.  Numerous governments and other authorities have used the image of the fasces for a symbol of power since the end of the Roman Empire. It has also been used to hearken back to the Roman republic, particularly by those who see themselves as modern-day successors to the old republic and/or its ideals.
Italian Fascism, which derives its name from the fasces, arguably used this symbolism the most in the 20th century. The British Union of Fascists also used it in the 1930s. However, unlike (for example) the swastika, the fasces, as a widespread and long-established symbol in the West, has avoided the stigma associated with much of fascist symbolism, and many authorities continue to display them, including the federal government of the United States.  In symbols in the Roman Republic, the blade was always removed from the bundle whenever the fasces were carried inside the city, in order to symbolize the rights of citizens against arbitrary state power.
Interestingly:
·         The official seal of the U.S. Senate has as one component a pair of crossed fasces.
·         Fasces ring the base of the Statue of Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol building.
·         A frieze on the facade of the U.S. Supreme Court building depicts the figure of a Roman centurion holding a fasces, to represent order.
·         The main entrance hallways in the Wisconsin State Capitol have lamps which are decorated with stone fasces motifs.
·         At the Lincoln Memorial, Lincoln's seat of state bears the fasces—without axes—on the fronts of its arms. (Fasces also appear on the pylons flanking the main staircase leading into the memorial.)
 So how exactly did fascism (not to defend it in any way) go from representing the pre-Caesarian republic of Rome (symbolizing the rights of citizens against arbitrary power), with its early democratic ideals, to being the symbol of oppressive national governments and dictators?  How did it become such a heinous idea?  Why would Socialists, to whom the modern term seems to apply most aptly, hiss and spit at the notion of fascism (which they seem to be practicing), even and up to breaking the lamps in the Wisconsin State Capitol (at least now we know why) and why would America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, use the ancient fasces in so many of its national symbols?
I hope some history professor can explain this discrepancy.  A mere student would hazard a guess that it began with Julius Caesar and his quest for world power.  That people have confused the Roman Republic with the Roman Empire. 
Further research shows that traditionally fasces carried within the Pomerium—the sacred inner city of Rome—had their axe blades removed.  This signified that under normal political circumstances, the magistrates did not have the judicial power of life and death; within the city, that power rested with the people through the assemblies. However, during times of emergencies when the Roman Republic declared a dictatorship (dictatura), the lictors attending to the dictator kept the axe-blades even inside the Pomerium—a sign that the dictator had the ultimate power in his own hands.
This paragraph points to where our modern problem lies.  In the ancient Roman republic, “the power rested with the people through the assemblies.”  The fasces originally were reserved for times of political unrest and mass violence.  However, once Caesar seized power, the lower Assembly was abolished and the Senate was gradually stripped of all its power and influence.  By the time of Constantine, the military ruled and even they gradually lost power and influence until the Roman Empire completely disintegrated.
Someone in our times is seeking power.  Corruption has gripped our Congress, our legislature.  Our economy is struggling, and the present administration is weakening and demoralizing our military, until they’ll no longer have the means or the will to defend our country.  A symbol that preceded the depradations of Julius Caesar, in the wrong hands, in the hands of a Caesar, is a fearful power; robbed of that power to defend itself, on the other hand, freedom will just as likely fail. 
The power of the people is in a representative assembly, not an armed mob.  Certainly, anyone who wants to overthrow the United States by violent means and replace freedom with communism would feel “oppressed”, would find the fasces a hateful symbol, and would hurl accusations of “fascism” at those who would display the fasces in its original usage, as a defense of freedom.
Are we starting to get it?  We shouldn’t feel bad; the Progressives are just as offended by the sign of the Cross, as offended as many of the early Romans, prior to Constantine, were.  The Cross took the people away from their pagan religions and temples, starving the temples of their revenue.  Many Progressives are teaching young people to return to those pagan roots.

We live in strange times, where anarchistic crowds complain of fascism, even as they practice it, seeking to give power completely to our chief executive, making of him a dictator.  They would tear down those “fascist” symbols (such as the lamps in the Wisconsin State Capitol) that actually represent the protection, not the destruction, of the people’s rights.  In other words, the people’s rights are being torn down – by the people.
In their scheme of things, the OWS “people” would completely dispense with the military.  Since the “people” would rule, they would argue, there would be no need of a military.  They promise us there would be no dictators.  What a bunch of malarkey.  To be sure, they would soon prop up some benevolent dictator (like Obama).  They would have to, because he and his minions would certainly incite disorder, violence and unrest in order to necessitate his seizure of power.
It’s just another example, since ancient times, of how power corrupts and turns the world upside down.  That is how the Roman Republic/Empire ended, and that is how the world will end.

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