When Utopianism Is Shattered By Reality

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"You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."

"In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: Who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: Who does not obey shall not eat."

~ Leon Trotsky (1879—1940)

What sort of national leader persecutes the people within the nation he rules? That question can be answered in part by asking another question: Which Emperors led Rome in persecuting Christians? Serious students of Roman history are taught that it was under those Emperors which historians consider the "good" Emperors that Christians had the most to fear. Why? The answer resides in the assumption that the "good" Emperors were those men whose overriding concern was for the welfare of the Empire.

On the other hand "bad" Emperors placed most of their time and attention on their own hedonistic pleasures while caring little or nothing for the Empire’s security, or its economic problems.

Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161—180) was considered one such "good" Emperor and was proclaimed a great Stoic philosopher for his composition "Meditations." As such, he was, in the beginning, respected by a number of Christian communities. That is until the Empire began having serious problems.

In 162 A.D. Rome faced a devastating famine which had resulted from a noteworthy deluge of the Tiber River. This flood had destroyed a significant portion of Rome, left fields unusable, and drowned cattle. On the heels of the Tiber flood the empire experienced earthquakes, a series of fires, then plagues of insects.

These events, understandably, began to unnerve the populations in the various affected provinces. The people’s discontent took the form of questioning: "Why have the ancient Roman gods allowed this to happen to us?" "Who is to blame for our misfortunes?"

The local governors, faced with the growing discontent of terrified and dispirited populations seeking an appropriate scapegoat, settled on the upstart Christian communities. This resulted in "new" decrees (Eusebius; Church History IV.26.5) being issued around the year 162 AD blaming the Christian communities for the Roman’s travails.

The problems faced by the emperor and the empire were compounded when the legions in Britain sought to persuade their general, Statius Priscus, to declare himself emperor and march on Rome. Further tribulations came with the uprising of the Parthians under Vologaeses III. Roman forces commanded by Serverianus were annihilated at the battle of Elegia in Cappadocia (presently eastern central Turkey) allowing the Parthians to overwhelm and occupy Syria.

Lucius Verus, the adopted son of Emperor Hadrian and co-regent with Marcus Aurelius, was considered a man of great courage with superior leadership abilities and as such it was decided he should be the commander which would contest the Parthian rebellion. Verus, however, had a problem. His luxurious lifestyle, gambling and a beauty by the name of Panthea — described as "low-born girl-friend” — along with various other "debaucheries" put the Armenian campaign and possibly the empire in peril.

Lucius, however, was blessed with very capable generals. Because of these generals the Parthian War was favorably concluded when the Parthian leader, Vologases IV, sued for peace then ceded western Mesopotamia to the Romans in late 164 or early 165 AD. It had taken nearly half the decade but the Romans finally had something to cheer over.

On Lucius’ return to Rome he was rewarded with a parade of triumph. The cheers of victory, however, were short lived because the returning military also brought with them a catastrophic disease. The whole Roman Empire was going to face and deal with what historians call the Antonine Plague.

This plague, whether small pox or measles, would ravage the empire for some fifteen years, take the lives of Emperor Lucius Verus in 169 AD, his co-regent Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD along with an estimated five million people throughout the Roman Empire. It would also twist the Romans’ social and economic world into a monster of Biblical proportions.

The Antonine plague turned once thriving prosperous towns and villages from Persia to the Rhine into ghost towns. With a decimated population the empire’s economy teetered on ruin, yet taxes were increased to support greater military spending and an overstuffed bureaucracy. Huge "donations" of grain were stolen from the remaining farms to support the troops as well as the hungry in the large population centers, including Rome. Romans were saddled with land taxes, every imaginable property tax, occupation taxes, and poll taxes. Almost every attempt to be a productive citizen of the Roman Empire was penalized.

In the words of the 19th century historian Barthold Georg Niebuhr this plague during "the reign of M. Aurelius forms a turning point in so many things, and above all in literature and art, I have no doubt that this crisis was brought about by that plague… The ancient world never recovered from the blow inflicted on it by the plague which visited it in the reign of M. Aurelius.”

Adding to the suffering of the Roman people, weakened armies were sent to deal with Britons who threatened to revolt, barbarian tribes beyond the Alps looking to invade Italy and the ever seditious, unrepentant Parthians.

To the Roman people it must have seemed to have been the end of the world. The Roman hubris of invincibility which had prevailed during the years of Pax Romana (Roman peace) was now forever gone. No longer could the gluttonous and smug upper class, along with the corrupt and vile urban masses which had been appeased through imperial gratuities, punctuated with blood-drenched public games, pretend that everything in the Roman world was working in perfect harmony.

The once civilized Romans now actively turned their anger on the Christians, who they deemed responsible for every calamity the empire experienced. Ancient "tattletale" law concerning perjury was set aside to the point that Christian apologists were alarmed. (For an example of this ancient Roman law see 9.8.3.)

Clement of Alexandria writes: "For the shameless informers and coveters of the property of others, taking occasion from the decrees, openly carry on robbery night and day, despoiling those who are guilty of no wrong."

All appeals to the emperor for justice fell on deaf ears; Christian blood was now to flow freely in many parts of the empire. The populations of the Roman Empire were to see, in all the accompanying death and misery visited on the Christian communities, justification that indeed, the Roman gods had been angered because the empire had tolerated Christianity. So the cry of the Roman masses Christianos ad leonem (Throw the Christians to the lions) continued unabated.

To be fair the Romans did offer Christians a means of escape, if they would only swear allegiance and offer incense to the Emperor they would be allowed to continue living. Those who didn’t? Well, they were immediately declared disloyal traitors who were planning to revolt against the empire.

The Christians’ refusal to be broken was a continuing bewilderment to Aurelius and the Romans, but ultimately their defiance was the very thing that saved them.

The previous account of Roman society during the reign of Marcus Aurelius shows clearly what can occur in any closely structured collective when that society comes under extreme stress. We all would like to believe we would never partake in wholesale murder, theft, or carnage as the Romans did. Only "evil" people do such things and "we" would never cross that line.

The Romans, in desperation, looked for and found a scapegoat. Yet, we witness, and then excuse, the same process when our national interests or national security are deemed threatened by an external or internal foe and many times on the slimmest of evidence or a plethora of state sponsored propaganda.

A case in point was the dehumanization of the German population in America and fear they were subjected to starting in 1915.

The dehumanization of those thought to be the problem or threat, will transform what had been ordinary, normal people into indifferent or actively willful participants in the most hideous crimes. It also causes otherwise loving mothers to wrap their sons in the flag and send them to war. Simply, mass fear causes otherwise rational, reasonable people to respond irrationally. The need to "conform" becomes mindless, brute conformity; we are no different than the ancient Romans and are subject to the same influences.

Recently I read a most interesting article written by Glenn Harlan Reynolds. In Consent of the governed — and the lack thereof Mr. Reynolds points out that "only 21 percent of American voters believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed." This is contrasted by a poll in which it was discovered that a "full 63 percent of the u2018political class’ believe that the government enjoys the consent of the governed."

With 79 percent of those polled believing that there is no consent giving the federal government the right to rule; coupled with a continuing and ultimate economic catastrophe; unprecedented federal intrusion into the people’s personal lives; unparalleled political malfeasance; extortion; increasing social unrest with the rising specter of civil war, Americans should be concerned that their government maintains its rule only from a position of brute force. Here I presume that the remaining 37 percent of the political class feel secure in their despotism.

However, before we resort to the sharpening then brandishing of the long knives let us step back and see where we are today in the scheme of things. There is always enough time to fight but the time for reasoning and preparing may be far more precious and limited.

Ultimately we as humans want to be responsible for the safety and security of our families and communities. We take this responsibility willingly and because it is crucial; but to accomplish it we must survive the onslaught of powerful counterproductive forces. As such it is appropriate that the word survive contains the very essence of what is needed.

Size up the situation

Are we in imminent or immediate danger? If not, then what must be done or acquired to prepare for future possibilities? If we are in danger what response is morally justified and will assure the safety of our loved ones and others in our group?

Are we being manipulated?

For an intriguing discussion of free market thinking and why it is so productive, I highly recommend a wonderful little book by Tom Baugh. In Starving the Monkeys Mr. Baugh lays out the case for free market economics in a manner that is easy to read and rife with personal experiences.

If you enjoyed Atlas Shrugged you will find in Mr. Baugh gives an up-to-date and no-nonsense "examination of the problems, and solutions that are more practical than hoping to run away to a prepared Galt’s Gulch retreat or community."

Beyond this Mr. Baugh gives the reader sound reasoning for a solid education in math and the physical sciences with practical means of resisting government influences. Mr. Baugh is not interested in telling you what to think but seeing that you have the tools to make good rational and ultimately life saving decisions.

What is the psychology and methodology of those forces arrayed against us?

The human capacity for evil, as seen above, is almost limitless. The psychology behind conformity to immoral social pressures is fully explored in Philip Zimbardo’s book, "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil." Mr. Zimbardo also gives an excellent discussion on heroism and how ordinary people can successfully resist the powers of a cruel out-of-control system.

Don’t bet for a moment this country is immune to the ravages of "good" people.

Undue Haste will be disastrous

Don’t allow irrational fear or anger to be the driving force in your actions. Conserve your resources and energy until you know what must be done then move quickly.

I was interested how the economic law of scarcity came into focus during Gerald Celente’s recent experience during the earthquake in Chile. Mr. Celente recounts that he "bolted from bed, put on his pants, slipped on his shoes, grabbed his jacket and ran for the stairwell."

He goes on to report his thoughts were "get out of the hotel before it collapsed. Nothing else counted. Personal possessions (passports, wallets, money, watches) became instant nonessentials. When it comes to life and death, the only things to leave behind are everything." (Emphasis mine)

Mr. Celente took exactly what was needed and moved quickly to find the scarcity of safety.

Unless there is an immediate need (as in the case of an earthquake, or a medical emergency) to move or act, energy and resources are precious and time of less importance.

Resist — Remember who and where you are

Take stock of yourself. Are the actions of the group rational and consistent with your own moral code? If not then find others who will be supportive. A good support group can make all the difference in your survival. If you are in a group where there is dissension; get out. The infighting and bickering will only get worse as the stress on the group increases.

Even though those second-century Christians were armed they refused to fight. Why? As a small community within the Roman Empire, they knew it was futile and would only lead to more deaths within their own ranks. The simple principle is that without the majority supporting an armed rebellion it is doomed to fail and the Roman population was in no mood to support anyone.

Have an escape plan in place and be prepared to use it.

Vanquish Fear and Panic

I have no idea how many have lost their lives because their emotions overrode their common sense.

Recently, I received an email from a friend in which he noted that in an emergency (a fire for example) in a public building, where a large crowd is present, the majority of dead will be found at the front door. I have since found out that under life and death stress most will egress a building by the same route they entered. In short, don’t follow the herd.

In the event of social chaos, panic and fear will be lessened by family, friends and faith.

Improvise

No matter what the emergency you won’t have everything you need. Look around you; you will be surprised what is available to help you.

Value Living

No matter what occurs don’t give in to pessimism or defeatism. Shun those people like the plague.

Essential skills

Learn and train yourself in skills which you feel are indispensable; especially those things, which at present, someone else has to do for you.

Learn how to barter and trade value for value.

This is by no means an extensive list and it should be expanded, but use it as a good starting point.

We are already witness to the dehumanization of those who are opposed to the present administration and its agenda. It is only going to get worse. Everything you put into place now will be to your advantage later.

Contrary to the beliefs of some, we don’t have to suffer the fate of those second-century Christians.

For far too long we have allowed ourselves to be deluded into thinking that Americans would always be free; that guaranteed "checks and balances" within government would never allow to occur what we witnessed over the last few weeks with the "health care" monstrosity. Reality has finally assaulted our idealistic fantasies, now the devil wants his due.

Oh, and don’t bet that Leon Trotsky was wrong on either of his points; I guarantee you will lose the bet.

I opened this article with this question. "What sort of national leader persecutes the people within the nation he rules?" I’ll wager you already knew the answer.

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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