Posts Tagged ‘ancient rome’

Inconvenient History

March 8, 2010

Recently, a piece of tripe appeared on the New York Times editorial page (shocking!) about what wonderful shape the United States is in.  It was written by some English wanker by the name of Piers Brendon who fancies himself a student of history.

Anyway, I won’t dwell on the turgid prose of Mr. Brendon other than to say that the article attempts to debunk comparisons between the decline of ancient Rome and the precarious position that America finds itself in today.  In support of his argument, Brendon actually cites that great intellectual luminary and current Vice-President, Joe Biden!  If you’re still intrigued, you can link to the article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/opinion/25brendon.html?pagewanted=1

Whether or not there are any parallels between ancient Rome and present day America, may be a matter of wide open debate.  But one thing is for sure, the New York Times has written enough Pollyanna pieces on the present state of American culture and global standing under the rule of Obama to make even Neville Chamberlain look like an alarmist.  Of course, I wouldn’t describe anything in the New York Times as fit to print, whether it be news or the Sunday Style Section.  But when it comes to philosophizing about history, the old Grey Lady is begging to be ridiculed.  At any rate, I would much rather trust a real historian:

The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see: and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings: fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.  I hope my passion for [my country’s] past has not impaired my judgment; for I do honestly believe that no country has ever been greater and purer than ours or richer in good citizens and noble deeds; none has been free for so many generations from the vices of avarice and luxury; nowhere have thrift and plain living been for so long held in such esteem.  Indeed, poverty with us went hand in hand with contentment.  Of late years wealth has made us greedy, and self-indulgence has brought us, through every form of sensual excess, to be, if I may so put it, in love with death both individual and collective.

– Titus Livius “Livy” (59 BC – AD 17), The Early History of Rome (Emphasis added.)

The Course of Empire: Destruction, by Thomas Cole (1836)