Barbarians at the Gates

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"It is in the very nature of things human that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past."

~ Hannah Arendt (1906—1975) Philosopher and Author

I must admit, the recent consternation over illegal immigrants marching, carrying the flag of Mexico, demanding a "right" to work, and threatening a general strike has brought a smile to my face. Not because I am in favor of this invasion or wish to see the illegal aliens get their way. No, I am amused at how history is repeating itself and few, if any, even notice.

For years we have heard that the government, in all quarters, exists for the purpose of protecting its citizens from external attack and from internal disorder. Yet, here we are faced with masses of people who have successfully invaded the nation and threaten us with mammoth internal disorder; while the state in all its impotence debates legislation that they claim will deliver us from the evil within.

If nothing else the last couple of weeks should have proven that Machiavelli was correct: "[N]o prince was ever at a loss for plausible reasons to cloak a breach of faith” and certainly the US government is no exception.

No, current events are not another making of the Divine Comedy whereby we can be assured, by the state, that a short time in hell will ultimately deliver us to paradise.

For unlike Dante’s journey through the Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise), the empire of the United States is embarking on a trek of destiny; a destiny that the dead empires of the past have shown, begins and ends in the inferno.

Indeed, as America cascades into another banana republic, its swan song could very well be taken from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana:

On Fortune’s throne I used to sit raised up,
Crowned with the many-colored flowers of prosperity;
Though I may have flourished happy and blessed,
Now I fall from the peak deprived of glory.

By the end of the 4th century AD the Roman Empire was staggering under crushing taxes, fraudulent judges, dishonest officials, abandoned cities and the foederati from which we get the English words federation and federalism.

The foederati was the Roman idea of subsidizing those barbarian tribes Rome needed to defend the empire. In short it was a nice way of saying that the Romans were no longer willing to fight in their own armies so they were looking for others to work at the jobs the Romans wouldn’t take. We call it the hiring of mercenaries.

This policy had put a huge number of people on the Roman payroll notably the Attacotti, Franks, Vandals, Alans and the Visigoths (western Goths).

Traditionally the payments to the barbarians took the form of money and/or food but as inflation began to make the Roman coin more and more worthless those of the foederati were allowed to settle in Roman territories as if they were Roman citizens.

However, as the barbarian became more and more discontent and the Roman State wasn’t capable of paying its debts a rebellion began to take shape among Rome’s former allies.

Out of the foederati and the Visigoths came a leader by the name of Alaric who was proclaimed king with the proclamation: "rather to seek new kingdoms by their own work, than to slumber in peaceful subjection to the rule of others."

After a number of years of Rome reneging on promises of payment, failed military campaigns by Alaric and broken treaties, Alaric and his Visigoths had had enough. So on August 24, 410 AD Alaric and his army broke into the city of Rome through the Salarian gate on the northeastern side of the city. For the first time in 800 years the great city of Rome was plundered and it lasted for three days.

When Alaric had taken what he figured he was owed, he and his army withdrew from the city of Rome. They didn’t set up a new government nor did they leave a governing military contingent.

The sack of Rome was not the fall or the end of the Roman Empire but it does have an eerily haunting resonance with some current religious writers. What happened was an uproar among the pagans of Rome who in essence claimed that Christians who had had the statue of Victory removed, and forbid the ancient pagan rites, were responsible for Rome being sacked. Clearly, the pagans argued, Rome had been invaded because the ancient gods had been discarded and in turn these same gods had withdrawn their protection from Rome.

It is almost comical how failure is never the fault of failed policies, ignorant leadership, or resulting from the natural events that follow cause and effect, rather some god somewhere hasn’t done their job.

Nevertheless, through the first three-quarters of the 5th century the Roman Empire began to shrink as its borders from the Black Sea to the North Sea were saturated with migrating, invading and dislocated illegal aliens. Of course this was due in large part to a disorganized and weak Roman state but it was also owing to the rapid advance of the Huns from the northeast.

After a sizeable amount of pillaging these displaced tribes would ask to become part of Rome’s foederati and ally themselves with Rome against Attila and his Huns. Among these newly converted Roman allies were the Angles, Saxon, Jutes, Burgundians and Suevi.

You see the Roman Empire didn’t "fall" in the traditional sense. It shattered like an earthen vase being continually struck by a hammer with each fragment becoming a little fiefdom controlled by a group of immigrants. This all occurred for a variety of reasons, most notably Rome’s need for migrant workers to fill the military ranks, failed immigration policies, and ineffectual leadership.

Thus by 476 AD the Western Roman Empire had ceased to exist because the Roman Empire had "fallen apart."

Do we call the influx of the barbarian tribes a migration, invasion, or immigration? The answer is yes, it was each of these.

So the next time you hear of illegal immigrants plundering our system through free education, free medical care, taking advantage of the welfare system, or the social security system remember the Romans and their mistakes.

When you see those illegal immigrants marching in the streets demanding to be allowed the "right" to become American citizens remember the Roman foederati.

When you hear of masses of illegal immigrants calling for riots, murder, and strikes, remember the Visigoth king Alaric and his assault on Rome.

When you hear illegal workers and their leadership demanding that the southwestern states be returned to Mexico as the rightful owner, remember the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

But most of all when you hear the lame excuses given by policy makers and our leadership for giving into the demands of these illegal malcontents remember, like Rome, it is the death rattle of a dying empire.

For those who have put their faith, trust and future in the hands of the state: Welcome to hell!

Tim Case [send him mail] is a 30-year student of the ancient histories who agrees with the first-century stoic Epictetus on this one point: u201COnly the educated are free.u201D

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