What Is Lost?
In the fifth century storm upon storm out of the dark North swept away in a great deluge of barbarism all the civilization of the western half of the Roman Empire. From the Atlantic to Constantinople, and from the Rhine to the Danube to the deserts of Africa, all that was learned and cultivated, all that was artistic and beautiful, was overwhelmed in an avalanche of ruin in which not only the triumphs of architecture, literature, and art, produced by many centuries of a high civilization, but also those who could create such things afresh, were involved in one general destruction.
(J.R. Nyquist) Civilization is fragile. It can be swept away in a very short time. In fact, Forces are gathering right now to sweep it away. Those who should have been defending our civilization have tended to join with the destroyers: politicians, professors, artists, writers, even scientists. They don’t seem to know what they are doing.
Although we are threatened with the nuclear arsenals of Russia and China, we are not threatened — as the Romans were — with “storm upon storm out of the dark North in a great deluge of barbarism.” We are threatened with a savagery of spirit and a barbarism of mind. We are threatened with that “coldest of all cold monsters,” the state. We are threatened with a perverted intellectuality. We are threatened with the self-deluded mediocrity of our “experts,” pundits and politicians We are threatened by fake science parading as “consensus” science (as if real science could ever occur without challenging the “consensus”). We are threatened by lies that remain uncorrected, corruption that is not properly investigated, and a cowardice that won’t rally.
A year ago last fall Nancy Pelosi said Joe Biden was going to be inaugurated president regardless. Well, he was. The Constitution is observed in theory but not in practice. When the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade the decision of the Court is said to be “illegitimate.” The ruling political party no longer cares for checks and balances, fair elections or the Bill of Rights.
Those without respect, without reverence, without piety, want to reorder society to their liking. They are careful to avoid the word “socialist,” but that is the system they want. They are against the free market. They oppose capitalism. They hate Christianity. They are trying to eliminate freedom of speech. But most of all, they hate America. They absolutely, down to their bones, hate America.
The country is said to be polarized between left and right. In fact, the left is becoming a totalitarian formation. Its goals and ambitions are no longer compatible with free speech or free elections. Socialism sees itself as more important than the rule of law, superior to republican institutions. Anti-socialism is counted more and more as an absolute evil, signifying racism, sexism and classism. Thus, the very basis for party competition under free elections is in free fall.
The left is becoming the victim of its own shadow, projecting its own dictatorial ambitions onto the right. This is plain for all to see. They talk a good game when it comes to democracy, but as Nancy Pelosi demonstrated in 2020, the actual vote doesn’t matter. Biden will be inaugurated “regardless.”
This situation cannot continue indefinitely. The country is getting tired of it, and the Biden administration has worn out its welcome. As the spell of each successive falsification breaks, however, the masses are vulnerable to new narratives featuring new falsifications. The country never seems to arrive at the truth. The shopping mall regime offers us pajamas in our favorite colors. The peddlers of conspiracy theory offer many flavors to choose from. You can blame the invisible Illuminati, the Jews, the Vatican, or the CIA. Who dares to name the real malefactors — the communists? You can believe a missile hit the Pentagon, or that Ukraine is the aggressor rather than the country that invaded Ukraine. You can believe the wicked American “military-industrial” complex is responsible for the world’s woes, or that 9/11 was an inside job. Buried underneath a great mass of nonsense the truth remains hidden: Russia and China are allied, they are coming after us, and the communists are their fifth column.
The Democrats pretend to support Ukraine in the war, but their support is token. For every artillery shell the Ukrainians fire, the Russians are firing ten. NATO pretends to increase its readiness for war, but NATO is not ready. On every side a demoralizing propaganda attends. We must overcome this. And only the truth will suffice if Providence is willing.
Greatness in leadership, argued Thomas Carlyle, is very simple. Those who are the instruments of Providence are effective only insofar as they see the truth of their time and are able to act in accordance with that truth. That this is a rare thing; for most men are the dupes of wishful thinking. As Gustave Le Bon famously said: “Mankind prefers fiction to truth.”
Therefore, if regard for the truth coincides with the work of Providence (as envisioned by Carlyle), then disregard for the truth guarantees a bungled course of corruption ending in defeat. Undoubtedly, this politics of ours is a politics of mediocrity and decline because it is a politics built on insincerity.
The avalanche of ruin we face today is not from barbarian tribes threatening to cross the Rhine and the Danube. The avalanche of today is the result of an inner emptiness and want of moral seriousness. Demosthenes held that the most persuasive oratory was ethical. Only by appealing to truth and justice can we turn the tide. Of course, an oratory of fake truth and fake justice can be heard on every side.
As a lover of art and culture, G.F. Young expressed what was lost in the collapse of Roman civilization in the fifth century. He did so as one who felt the loss deeply. He called what followed a night of “two hundred years” in which barbarians fought over civilization’s corpse. Then came the eighth century and Charlemagne, who brought forty years of flickering light. Afterwards there came another hundred and fifty years of battling as “the Mohamedans” swept out of Arabia with another deluge of war and pillage. “At length,” he recounts, “in the twelfth century the re-civilization of the West is begun by the discovery in Italy of the code of the Roman law.”
Two centuries later, a “miracle” occurs. Dante, Giotto and Petrarch appear. Great literature in the classic form reappears. We see the first rendering of the classical spirit since Boëthius penned that last meditation on truth, The Consolation of Philosophy. Young wrote: “out of the very grave of that old civilization of Rome, buried nine centuries before, comes the new inspiration, the Re-birth.” Thus began the Renaissance. The flower would bloom again.
But now, the flower of that greatest of all civilizations, known as “the West,” has withered. Barbarism makes itself felt as learning turns against the classical spirit — turns against beauty in art, nobility in manners, morality in daily life. The downside of the cycle comes again. A terrible battle approaches us in our decadence. Can we reform and revive our dying world?
The truth is the key.