The Roman Empire built its greatness by conquering neighbouring, though not always quite near to Rome itself, lands or tribes. In the process they were trying to persuade as many people as possible to become Roman citizens. But they weren’t giving away the citizenship for free. Peoples had to earn it by showing signs of allegiance and civility. Modern superpowers, today equivalents of empires, do not do that or do that quite reluctantly. It’s perhaps good to consider if that’s a good or noble strategy.
We do think of ourselves highly and like to think that we’re noble and very civilised too. Even compared to nice, relatively advanced societies like Roman Empire, which has been after all much better than what Christianity brought to Europe for many centuries to come. And it is justifiable. Let us just consider one example, described by Tacitus in his Annales, describing the events after the execution of Sejanus:
“It was next decided to punish the remaining children of Sejanus, though the fury of the populace was subsiding, and people generally had been appeased by the previous executions. Accordingly they were carried off to prison, the boy, aware of his impending doom, and the little girl, who was so unconscious that she continually asked what was her offence, and whither she was being dragged, saying that she would do so no more, and a childish chastisement was enough for her correction. Historians of the time tell us that, as there was no precedent for the capital punishment of a virgin, she was violated by the executioner, with the rope on her neck. Then they were strangled and their bodies, mere children as they were, were flung down the Gemoniae.”
Robert Graves perhaps commented on this fetid crime in words better than I could come up in his novel I, Claudius, with the main character saying:
“Rome, you are ruined; there can be no expiation for a crime so horrible.”
But is our hubris really defensible? Of course the West is for the most part very hospitable and quite civilised. But why are we assessing the parts of the the globe that we like most? With globalisation at its peak we should be assessing the whole planet as one civilisation. And our assessment should not be based on the average, which would be bad enough, but on the lowest point, and that means we are rather close to our Roman friends.
Let us examine the lowest moral points of the globe. The first concern of our civilisation should be the problem of female genital mutilation. Still, in 21st century, this religious, barbaric custom is being practised in North Africa and parts of the Middle East and Southeast Asia. This procedure often destroys the woman’s sexual feelings for her whole life. An average of about four girls a minute is estimated to be mutilated these days. Such a swelling number of pointless human tragedies doesn’t constitute a casus belli in the eyes of the scrofulous politicians in the West. Many countries ban it officially, but don’t enforce these bans and as a result the act persists, as it happens to be the case in Indonesia, to name just one example.
That is only the most pressing matter when it comes to treating women in our age. Men still do this and other terrible things all over the world, treating women as lesser creatures and taking their inalienable human rights away, mostly due to fideism. Only recently television news across the world presented a video of a woman being publicly whipped in Sudan for wearing trousers. Martin Amis presents his view on the men who do these things, which also happens to be my view, in his wonderful piece on Islamism called The Age of Horrorism:
“All men are my brothers. I would have liked to have said it then, and I would like to say it now: all men are my brothers. But all men are not my brothers. Why? Because all women are my sisters. And the brother who denies the rights of his sister: that brother is not my brother. At the very best, he is my half-brother – by definition.”
Of course, Jews with their genital mutilation of boys should be dealt with too, but that’s a less pressing matter as their procedure is less violent and has less severe consequences.
The second low moral point of our civilisation is our reluctance to help our brothers and sisters in North Korea. Out of the countries forming the so-called Axis of Evil North Korea is certainly the worst one for its inhabitants. Kleptocracy in Iraq did and in the case of Iran still does terrible things to its citizens, but they’re no match for the squalid Kim Jong-il, who isn’t even feeding his calamitous people (not counting the propaganda). As a result we have a race of underdeveloped, both physically (North and South Korea both send their best troops to the demilitarised zone between the Koreas, North Koreans are now noticeably shorter) and mentally, people growing right next to civilised countries and no one seems to be willing to do anything to help these people.
Therefore I would argue that this reluctance to help the oppressed in less civilised parts of the world is a terrible, craven strategy, which should not be letting us sleep at night. We need to evaluate the civilisation or the zeitgeist by its weakest link, only in this way can we bring humanity together into a new, better and indelible global zeitgeist. The United Nations needs to stop its usual claptrap, stop issuing mush-headed, vacuous resolutions and start enforcing this new zeitgeist using political and economical sanctions and even military interventions when necessary. UN and superpowers need to start doing what Roman Empire tried to do — unify the world at a high moral plateau. Ultimately it is better to use violence magnanimously fighting for peace than peacefully observe other people’s hell.