National swagger and whistling in the dark
A correspondent best known for penning the infamous “Letter to Dr. Laura” sent me this brief review of a new book yesterday:
I just finished a new book that I must enthusiastically recommend:
“Are We Rome?” by Cullen Murphy. It’s a sobering comparison of the USA and the Roman Empire in its latter stages. Just a few of his observations:
- Roman leaders had a mindset that Rome was invincible, and refused to visualize military defeat by “inferior” forces.
- Romans saw themselves as the center of the Universe, with no need to understand other cultures.
- Over the years, the Roman government, and in particular its military services, became increasingly privatized, resulting in lack of oversight and an epidemic of corruption.
- In Rome, the economic disparity between the numerically tiny ruling class and the majority working class greatly increased over the course of its history.
- Rome began as a secular republic and ended as an empire with an official state religion.
It’s food for thought when we contemplate the best direction for the United States.
This is exactly why I am more afraid of preening, ignorant, pious, tough-talking, denialist politicians than of our country’s enemies. It has never seemed likely to me that America could be brought down by an outside enemy without mutual destruction by superpowers. But our situation is more analogous to cancer.