Tag Archives: cyclical history

The fate of empires: mass immigration

One of the oft-repeated phenomena of great empires is the influx of foreigners to the capital city. Roman historians often complain of the number of Asians and Africans in Rome. Baghdad, in its prime in the ninth century, was international in its population—Persians, Turks, Arabs, Armenians, Egyptians, Africans and Greeks mingled in its streets. In London today, Cypriots, Greeks, Italians, Russians, Africans, Germans and Indians jostle one another on the buses and in the underground, so that it sometimes seems difficult to find any British. The same applies to New York, perhaps even more so. This problem does not consist in any inferiority of one race as compared with another, but simply in the differences between them.

In the age of the first outburst and the subsequent Age of Conquests, the race is normally ethnically more or less homogeneous. This state of affairs facilitates a feeling of solidarity and comradeship. But in the Ages of Commerce and Affluence, every type of foreigner floods into the great city, the streets of which are reputed to be paved with gold. As, in most cases, this great city is also the capital of the empire, the cosmopolitan crowd at the seat of empire exercises a political influence greatly in excess of its relative numbers.

Second- or third-generation foreign immigrants may appear outwardly to be entirely assimilated, but they often constitute a weakness in two directions. First, their basic human nature often differs from that of the original imperial stock. If the earlier imperial race was stubborn and slow-moving, the immigrants might come from more emotional races, thereby introducing cracks and schisms into the national policies, even if all were equally loyal.

Second, while the nation is still affluent, all the diverse races may appear equally loyal. But in an acute emergency, the immigrants will often be less willing to sacrifice their lives and their property than will be the original descendants of the founder race.

Third, the immigrants are liable to form communities of their own, protecting primarily their own interests, and only in the second degree that of the nation as a whole.

Fourth, many of the foreign immigrants will probably belong to races originally conquered by and absorbed into the empire. While the empire is enjoying its High Noon of prosperity, all these people are proud and glad to be imperial citizens. But when decline sets in, it is extraordinary how the memory of ancient wars, perhaps centuries before, is suddenly revived, and local or provincial movements appear demanding secession or independence. Some day this phenomenon will doubtless appear in the now apparently monolithic and authoritarian Soviet empire. It is amazing for how long such provincial sentiments can survive.

John Glubb, The Fate of Empires.

More parallels.

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Nietzsche’s cyclic theory of morality

I can’t find my hardcopy Kaufmann translation, so this is pulled from here. Starts on p. 158. Paragraph breaks added where they do the least damage.

A species originates, a type grows sturdy and strong, in the long struggle with essentially constant unfavorable conditions. Conversely, people know from the experience of breeders that species with overabundant diets and, in general, more than their share of protection and care, will immediately show a striking tendency towards variations of the type, and will be rich in wonders and monstrosities (including monstrous vices).

You only need to see an aristocratic community (such as Venice or an ancient Greek polis) as an organization that has been established, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, for the sake of breeding: the people living there together are self-reliant and want to see their species succeed, mainly because if they do not succeed they run a horrible risk of being eradicated.

Here there are none of the advantages, excesses, and protections that are favorable to variation. The species needs itself to be a species, to be something that, by virtue of its very hardness, uniformity, and simplicity of form, can succeed and make itself persevere in constant struggle with its neighbors or with the oppressed who are or threaten to become rebellious. A tremendous range of experiences teaches it which qualities are primarily responsible for the fact that, despite all gods and men, it still exists, it keeps prevailing. It calls these qualities virtues, and these are the only virtues it fosters. It does so with harshness; in fact, it desires harshness.

Every aristocratic morality is intolerant about the education of the young, disposal over women, marriage customs, relations between old and young and penal laws (which only concern deviants): – it considers intolerance itself to be a virtue, under the rubric of “justice.” A type whose traits are few in number but very strong, a species of people who are strict, warlike, clever, and silent, close to each other and closed up (which gives them the most subtle feeling for the charms and nuances of association) will, in this way, establish itself (as a species) over and above the change of generations.

The continuous struggle with constant unfavorable conditions is, as I have said, what causes a type to become sturdy and hard. But, eventually, a fortunate state will arise and the enormous tension will relax; perhaps none of the neighbors are enemies anymore, and the means of life, even of enjoying life, exist in abundance.

With a single stroke, the bonds and constraints of the old discipline are torn: it does not seem to be necessary any more, to be a condition of existence, – if it wanted to continue, it could do so only as a form of luxury, as an archaic taste. Variation, whether as deviation (into something higher, finer, rarer) or as degeneration and monstrosity, suddenly comes onto the scene in the greatest abundance and splendor; the individual dares to be individual and different. At these turning points of history, a magnificent, diverse, jungle-like growth and upward striving, a kind of tropical tempo in the competition to grow will appear alongside (and often mixed up and tangled together with) an immense destruction and self-destruction.

This is due to the wild egoisms that are turned explosively against each other, that wrestle each other “for sun and light,” and can no longer derive any limitation, restraint, or refuge from morality as it has existed so far. It was this very morality that accumulated the tremendous amount of force to put such a threatening tension into the bow: – and now it is, now it is being “outlived.”

The dangerous and uncanny point has been reached when the greatest, most diverse, most comprehensive life lives past the old morality. The “individual” is left standing there, forced to give himself laws, forced to rely on his own arts and wiles of self-preservation, self-enhancement, self-redemption. There is nothing but new whys and hows; there are no longer any shared formulas; misunderstanding is allied with disregard; decay, ruin, and the highest desires are horribly entwined; the genius of the race overflows from every cornucopia of good and bad; there is a disastrous simultaneity of spring and autumn, filled with new charms and veils that are well suited to the young, still unexhausted, still indefatigable corruption.

Danger has returned, the mother of morals, great danger, displaced onto the individual this time, onto the neighbor or friend, onto the street, onto your own child, onto your own heart, onto all of your own-most, secret-most wishes and wills: and the moral philosophers emerging at this time – what will they have to preach? These sharp observers and layabouts discover that everything is rapidly coming to an end, that everything around them is ruined and creates ruin, that nothing lasts as long as the day after tomorrow except one species of person, the hopelessly mediocre. Only the mediocre have prospects for continuing on, for propagating – they are the people of the future, the only survivors: “Be like them! Be mediocre!” is the only morality that still makes sense, that still finds ears.

But this morality of mediocrity is difficult to preach! It can never admit what it is and what it wants! It has to talk about moderation and dignity and duty and loving your neighbors, – it will have a hard time hiding its irony! –