Quote note (#199)

An excuse to link this, by Niall Ferguson, because the next Chaos Patch is almost a week away:

I am not going to repeat what you have already read or heard. I am not going to say that what happened in Paris on Friday night was unprecedented horror, for it was not. I am not going to say that the world stands with France, for it is a hollow phrase. Nor am I going to applaud Francois Hollande’s pledge of “pitiless” vengeance, for I do not believe it. I am, instead, going to tell you that this is exactly how civilisations fall. […] …

ADDED: Article has maddeningly retreated behind a paywall. (I wouldn’t have linked it — or would have quoted a lot more of it — if I’d predicted that was going to happen.) Apologies. And thanks to Nydwracu — in the comment thread — for doing something practical about that …

November 16, 2015admin 23 Comments »


23 Responses to this entry

  • Quote note (#199) | Neoreactive Says:

    […] By admin […]

    Posted on November 16th, 2015 at 3:49 pm Reply | Quote
  • Dave Says:

    Article is behind a pay wall.


    admin Reply:

    Damnit — It was free-access when I linked it (though paywall at the Sunday Times). See Nydwracu’s comment.


    freihals Reply:

    I’ll leave this here:



    Of course, I’d never encourage or endorse illegal activity.


    Posted on November 16th, 2015 at 6:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • nydwracu Says:

    Copypasted to avoid the trivial inconvenience of the paywall:

    Here is how Edward Gibbon described the Goths’ sack of Rome in August 410AD: “ … In the hour of savage licence, when every ­passion was inflamed, and every restraint was removed … a cruel slaughter was made of the ­Romans; and … the streets of the city were filled with dead bodies … Whenever the Barbarians were provoked by opposition, they ­extended the promiscuous massacre to the feeble, the innocent, and the helpless …”

    Now, does that not describe the scenes we witnessed in Paris on Friday night? True, Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788, represented Rome’s demise as a slow burn. Gibbon covered more than 1400 years of history. The causes he identified ranged from the personality disorders of individual emperors to the power of the Praetorian Guard and the rise of Sassanid Persia. Decline shaded into fall, with monotheism acting as a kind of imperial dry rot.

    For many years, more modern historians of “late antiquity” ­tended to agree with Gibbon about the gradual nature of the process. Indeed, some went further, arguing “decline” was an anachronistic term, like the word “barbarian”.

    Far from declining and falling, they insisted, the Roman Empire had imperceptibly merged with the Germanic tribes, producing a multicultural post-imperial idyll that deserved a more flattering label than “Dark Ages”.

    Recently, however, a new generation of historians has raised the possibility the process of Roman decline was in fact sudden — and bloody — rather than smooth.

    For Bryan Ward-Perkins, what happened was “violent seizure … by barbarian invaders”. The end of the Roman west, he writes in The Fall of Rome (2005), “witnessed horrors and dislocation of a kind I sincerely hope never to have to live through; and it destroyed a complex civilisation, throwing the ­inhabitants of the West back to a standard of living typical of prehistoric times”.

    In five decades the population of Rome itself fell by three-quarters. Archaeological evidence from the late 5th century — inferior housing, more primitive pottery, fewer coins, smaller cattle — shows the benign influence of Rome dimin­ished rapidly in the rest of western Europe.

    “The end of civilisation”, in Ward-Perkins’s phrase, came within a single ­generation.

    Peter Heather’s TheFall of the Roman Empire emphasises the ­disastrous effects not just of mass migration, but also organised vio­lence: first the westward shift of the Huns of central Asia and then the Germanic irruption into Roman territory.

    In his reading, the Visigoths who settled in Aquitaine and the Vandals who conquered Carthage were attracted to the Roman ­Empire by its wealth, but were ­enabled to seize that wealth by the arms acquired and skills learnt from the Romans ­themselves.

    “For the adventurous,” writes Heather, “the Roman Empire, while being a threat to their existence, also presented an unprecedented opportunity to prosper … Once the Huns had pushed large numbers of (alien groups) across the frontier, the Roman state became its own worst enemy. Its military power and financial sophistication both hastened the process whereby streams of incomers became coherent forces capable of carving out kingdoms from its own body politic.”

    Uncannily similar processes are destroying the European Union today, though few of us want to recognise them for what they are. Like the Roman Empire in the early 5th century, Europe has allowed its defences to crumble. As its wealth has grown, so its military prowess has shrunk, along with its self-belief. It has grown decadent in its malls and stadiums. At the same time, it has opened its gates to outsiders who have coveted its wealth without ren­ouncing their ancestral faith.

    The distant shock to this weakened edifice has been the Syrian civil war, though it has been a catalyst as much as a direct cause for the great Volkerwanderung of 2015.

    As before, they have come from all over the imperial periphery — North Africa, the Levant, South Asia — but this time they have come in their millions, not in mere tens of thousands. To be sure, most have come hoping only for a better life. Things in their own countries have become just good enough economically for them to afford to leave and just bad enough politically for them to risk leaving.

    But they cannot stream northwards and westwards without some of that political malaise coming with them. As Gibbon saw, convinced monotheists pose a grave threat to a secular empire.

    It is doubtless true to say that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe are not violent. But it is also true the majority hold views not easily reconciled with the principles of our liberal democracies, including our novel notions about sexual equality and tolerance not merely of religious diversity but of nearly all sexual proclivities. And it is thus remarkably easy for a violent minority to acquire their weapons and prepare their assaults on civilisation within these avowedly peace-loving ­communities.

    I do not know enough about the 5th century to be able to quote Romans who described each new act of barbarism as unprece­dented, even when it had happened multiple times before; or who issued pious calls for solidarity after the fall of Rome, even when standing together meant falling together; or who issued empty threats of pitiless revenge, even when all they intended to do was to strike a melodramatic ­posture.

    I do know that 21st-century ­Europe has itself to blame for the mess it is now in. Surely, nowhere in the world has devoted more ­resources to the study of history than modern Europe did.

    When I went up to Oxford more than 30 years ago, it was taken for granted that in the first term I would study Gibbon. It did no good. We learnt a lot of nonsense to the effect that nationalism was a bad thing, nation states worse and ­empires the worst things of all.

    “Romans before the fall,” wrote Ward-Perkins, “were as certain as we are today that their world would continue for ever substantially unchanged. They were wrong. We would be wise not to ­repeat their complacency.”

    Poor, poor Paris. Killed by ­complacency.

    Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch professor of history at Harvard, a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford, and the author of Kissinger 1923-68: The Idealist (Penguin).


    The top comment:

    I think if you read Gibbon carefully you will see that the Roman Empire was destroyed from within by people it originally took in as refugees. Gibbon stresses that were taken in for humanitarian reasons.

    Gibbon describes thousands of Goths, whose own country had been invaded, arriving at the Danube (the border of the Empire). At one stage they lined the river for miles, imploring the Romans to take them in. The Romans according to Gibbon graciously gave them refuge. But it was not long before they turned on their benefactors…..


    nydwracu Reply:

    (Why do blockquotes have text-transform: lowercase…?)


    Grotesque Body Reply:

    Have to thank you for making this available.

    It’s interesting that this analysis is coming from a Harvard professor (ie archbishop of the Cathedral). Physician diagnose thyself?


    R. Reply:

    Neocon. Not all of them are true believers, some are just cynical enough to acknowledge the truth.

    Note that he merely recites the symptoms..


    Alrenous Reply:

    On average decline is a slow burn. In detail it’s a punctuated equilibrium. Near stasis is interrupted by sudden jolts with a power-law distributed intensity. (e.g. 2008.) Sometimes it’s killed by a strong jolt relatively early, sometimes it will be killed by a weak jolt late in the process. Sometimes it would have been killed by a weak jolt but you get a strong one instead.


    Postnietzschean Reply:

    “I do not know enough about the 5th century to be able to quote Romans who described each new act of barbarism as unprece­dented, even when it had happened multiple times before; or who issued pious calls for solidarity after the fall of Rome, even when standing together meant falling together; or who issued empty threats of pitiless revenge, even when all they intended to do was to strike a melodramatic ­posture.”

    Sadly Niall missed this gem from Prudentius:


    “I see what moves you in these instances
    Of ancient gallantry: you say the world
    On land and sea was conquered, you retrace
    The thousands of triumphant victories
    And heavy spoils borne through the midst of Rome.
    Would you, O Roman, have me tell the cause
    Of your success and of the high renown
    That has impressed your yoke upon the world?

    God willed to join the peoples and the realms
    Of different languages and hostile cults
    Under the same empire and make all men
    Accept the bonds of one harmonious rule,
    So that religion might unite all hearts;
    For there can be no union worthy of Christ
    Unless one spirit reigns throughout the earth.”

    “Some dare to blame us for disastrous wars,
    Since we have spurned the altars of the gods,
    And say that Hannibal was driven back
    By Mars and Jupiter from the Colline Gate,
    That from the Capitol Senones fled
    Because the gods fought on the rock above!
    Let those who harp upon our past defeats
    And ancient woes note that in your regime
    I suffer no such ills. No savage foe
    Knocks at my gates, no strange barbarian
    Roams through my captured streets and carries off
    My youth in bondage far beyond the Alps.”

    “Do Carthaginian yeomen heap their boards
    With woodland pears, Sicilians feed on roots,
    Sardinians furnish acorns from their oaks
    And stony cornels form the food of Rome?

    Who now comes hungry to the circus shows?
    What mill is silent on Janiculum?
    What great provisions every province brings,
    What harvests from the earth’s rich bosoms flow
    Is shown by bread you give your people, Rome,
    Which feeds the sloth of such great multitudes.”

    Written 403 AD, 7 years before Rome was sacked by the Visigoths.


    Posted on November 16th, 2015 at 7:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • Irving Says:

    Yeah, France is cooked. There isn’t any coming back from all this, I don’t think. If they’re smart, and want to at least attempt to avoid their (in my opinion, inevitable) destruction, the French should try and start a civil war now, while they’ve still a numerical majority. But, even then, a significant chunk of the French Army is Muslim and African, and many of them aren’t going to want to take the side of the indigenous French or at least to remain neutral, and will probably fight on the side of Islam. IQ scores won’t decide the outcome of this civil war; it’ll be entirely about who is willing and capable to fight. And I’m not sure the French themselves are willing and capable anymore; they’ve been softened up by about a half-a-century of welfare-ism, sodomy, and nihilistic post-modernism, and now their time is up; they’re finished, all of them, and it isn’t going to be pretty. They’re set to be slaughtered like sheep by the Muslims, and frankly I’ve no sympathy for them; its entirely their fault.


    Grotesque Body Reply:

    While I agree with much of the above, I wouldn’t be so even-handed in my condemnation. France’s apathetic paralysis would never have reached anywhere near this level without the efforts of the Foucauldian vanguard. Many, many French people never asked for this.


    Irving Reply:

    They never asked for it, but they never did anything about it either. And now they’re set to suffer the consequences for what they (at best) failed to rise up against when they still had a chance. Again, they most that they can do at this point is fight the civil war now while they still have a fighting chance. It needn’t devolve into a race war, by the way; they can just as well try and bring at least some of the non-whites to their side against the other non-white/Muslims, as they did in Algeria, with the promise that they’ll be guaranteed citizenship after the war, if it is won. But whatever happens, it isn’t going to be pretty. And again, bad as things will get, they deserve every bit of it.


    R. Reply:

    Not a good idea to post under influence.


    Posted on November 16th, 2015 at 7:40 pm Reply | Quote
  • Quote note (#199) | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on November 16th, 2015 at 8:25 pm Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    Is anything not the Fall of Rome?

    We’ve got a lot of Civil Wars to catch up on before we’re that weakened.

    Of course it does require work to avoid being destroyed by aggressors…but that’s true for every generation of men.


    D. Reply:

    The Great War was the demise of Western Civilization. All else is commentary.


    Posted on November 16th, 2015 at 9:22 pm Reply | Quote
  • ArchonAlarion Says:

    I highly recommend Peter Heathers’ book Empires and Barbarians.

    Between the dry, academic lines, “close the gates you fools” gradually begins to echo like the sound of distant thunder.


    Posted on November 17th, 2015 at 4:01 am Reply | Quote
  • TheDividualist Says:

    A gentleman on SSC is trying to convince me how masculine virtues are not important anyhow because in modern warfare a geek pressing a button could devastate a city. But of course this only happens if the public opinion and the leadership is sufficiently unliberal to put up with devastating whole cities and getting called the mass murderers of millions of innocents. In all likeness, to convince a modern liberal to allow the use of force at all, its use must be extremely selective, basically zero collateral damage, surgical precision. This generally suggests being on the ground in person instead of high tech remote control, which is why the geek argument is false. Generally speaking the more precision and less collateral damage you want in the use of force, the more masculine virtues are required because this precision is very dangerous for the fighting man. A WWI machine gunner can just mow down anyone near him in the wrong uniform, the Navy SEAL who wants to get hostages out alive has to hit the hostage takers extremely precisely which means not shooting targets that only somewhat resemble the hostage takers, which is dangerous, and thus needs to be leaps and bounds more of a warrior.

    This means high-tech advantage matters less, and sheer cojones matters more now. Unless opinion changes.

    This doesn’t look good, definitely.


    Posted on November 17th, 2015 at 9:26 am Reply | Quote
  • Gromboolian Says:


    The 20th century wars in Europe were arguably the civil wars of Western civilisation.


    Posted on November 17th, 2015 at 12:56 pm Reply | Quote
  • Peter A. Taylor Says:

    Pushback from Mike Duncan of “Revolutions Podcast” fame:



    Posted on November 21st, 2015 at 9:46 pm Reply | Quote
  • This Week in Reaction (2015/11/22) | The Reactivity Place Says:

    […] Land notices Niall Ferguson noticing “this is exactly how civilisations fall“. Moldbug beat Ferguson to the punch. Also from Scott Alexander’s toxoplasma to […]

    Posted on November 26th, 2015 at 10:22 pm Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:

    Democratic leaders love symbolic acts and fear realistic ones. A realistic solution would be to recognize that inter-civilizational warfare is inevitable because civilizations are different, and to avoid diversity. We’d rather bomb a few tents and teenage terrorists, declare victory and go home.


    Posted on November 27th, 2015 at 1:24 pm Reply | Quote

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