I’m developing more and more respect for history.  Not so much single significant events or dates, but understanding the entire context and atmosphere of the past time period.  When you look back on specific events in history, without taking into account the context of the time period, you can easily come to wrong conclusions.  For example students at Missouri have started defacing a Thomas Jefferson status.  Students have placed notes on the statue that say “Racist” and “Rapist” and started a petition for the removal of the statue.

They are applying their set of modern morals to people of 250 years ago, slaves were treated as property then.  It’s not pretty to think about but it is reality, nothing about Jefferson’s behavior is at odds with the time in which he lived.  Most people are okay with gay marriage now, but put an openly gay guy in the 1920’s and imagine how he would be treated.  I think it’s unfortunate, but it’s not morally wrong, because the morals of the time have not evolved enough.  Without historical context and consideration of the time it took place, great events like the moon landing would just become a day-time TV show with amazing ratings.

There is a lot of value in understand the past.  I tend to believe that history repeats itself quite a lot.  Humans are mostly wired the same, so it makes sense when you give them a collective problem they continue to come up with the same solution and continue to make the same failures.  We learn from those failures, but we also don’t.  If Zimbabwe knew about the fate of the Wiemar Republic would they still print infinity dollars?  We already know what happened to the Roman Empire when corruption ran politics, yet we expect it to be different for us.  Somehow we are unique.

Martin Armstrong, the economist I often read, is very big into cycles.  He is a steward of history and has amassed a large personal collection of coins, and rare artifacts of the past.  He doesn’t just keep them, he uses them to develop trends from the past, for example, how much a piece of Roman currency was worth over the lifespan of the Roman Empire.  Armstrong, a computer programmer, uses the historical data and puts it in a computer AI he’s developed, to remove personal biases, prejudices, and look at impossibly long time scales.  He’s developed models for the economic cycles and war cycles, among others.

The interesting thing is he was calling for a rise in 3rd party politics and separatist movements since I started reading him maybe 6 months ago.  Poland just elected an anti-EU president, in Guatemala a comedian with zero political experience won the presidency, in the US we have Trump in the lead of GOP polls, the UK will have a vote to decide to leave the EU, Scotland narrow avoided independence from the UK earlier this year, Catalonia has voted 88% to leave Spain, the Kurds want to leave Turkey.

“Sir John Glubb was a British author and lecturer, who was decorated for his service in the Royal Engineers in WWI, and was commander of the Jordan Arab Legion from 1939 to 1956. His famous and succinct essay, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival, looks at the lifespan of empires from their origins to their eventual decline.”

Glubb, another person that sees human nature though cycles.  I disagree with his hypothesis that empires usually only last 250 years, or 10 generations, but I do think they have a time limit.  He is the summary from his essay.

(a) We do not learn from history because our studies are brief and prejudiced.

(b) In a surprising manner, 250 years emerges as the average length of national greatness.

(c) This average has not varied for 3,000 years. Does it represent ten generations?

(d) The stages of the rise and fall of great nations seem to be:

The Age of Pioneers (outburst)
The Age of Conquests
The Age of Commerce
The Age of Affluence
The Age of Intellect
The Age of Decadence.

The most interesting part of his essay was the description of the different stages of empire.  A book written in 1978, nearly 40 years ago, paints a pretty accurate picture of our current society.

 


(e) Decadence is marked by:

Defensiveness
Pessimism
Materialism
Frivolity
An influx of foreigners
The Welfare State
A weakening of religion.

(f) Decadence is due to:
Too long a period of wealth and power
Selfishness
Love of money
The loss of a sense of duty.

(g) The life histories of great states are amazingly similar, and are due to internal factors.

(h) Their falls are diverse, because they are largely the result of external causes.

(i) History should be taught as the history of the human race, though of course with emphasis on the history of the student’s own country.

 


I see the decline in trend, our decline in power.  I don’t think of it as an American Empire, maybe a Western Empire.  Europe is in the same boat as the US it seems, if not to a greater degree; they are less religious, bigger welfare states, taking in more foreigners.  But I think the US has the world beat on materialism and frivolity.  The interesting thing to consider is who will make the next empire.  As I said before China is very well positioned to do it, but I think they may be entering the age of decadency too.  I think countries with lower youth employment will be the ones to emerge better off in 50 years, if you teach young people to work hard, they will continue to work hard.  South East Asia and Thailand have 3% youth unemployment.  The EU has 20%.

One thing is for sure there is a lot of fuel for a revolution and charge from within seems impossible.  Our monetary system is the biggest culprit.  I’ve learned a lot about the US Federal Reserve but I’ve started looking into what system European countries us, which is largely the same, but the interviews with people are a new perspective nonetheless.  My next post will probably be about the film “Four Horsemen”.

I’ve also considered this quote.  The system is rigged, but he’s right we can’t just give up.

“Consequently, millions of able-bodied people have concluded the system is rigged, and stopped looking for work. This is, in my opinion, is the greatest threat our country faces.” – Mike Rowe

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