An old friend wrote to me earlier with this question:-
On another thing: how can you relate to the brand new pride item of Austria, that is Conchita Wurst and the seemingly unstoppable bandwagon of gay pride? A press comment recently recalled in a Hungarian paper that the Roman Empire died in decadence around 450 but the eastern half of it survived the downfall of Rome by a thousand years. So the turn toward the East of the Hungarian government at least in trade relations seems to be realistic policy and well justified by the stagnation in the euro zone. What is your view of all this? Can the manufacturing industry in Europe still be brought back to life or is it more or less finished?
After a weeks contemplation I have begun to construct an answer.
Let’s look at Conchita Wurst first. I have discussed this with my some well informed people in Austria and was quite surprised at their comments. They were all positive in their reactions and one told me that certainly the whole episode had made him more tolerant. So, a positive result. But, is this a harbinger of imminent collapse, a re run of the decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? The abridged version of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire runs to 903 pages and over 500 of these are concerned with the fall of the Empire in West (Rome). I am being presumptuous in attempting to answer this in 500 words but here goes.
I don’t think it is possible to make any kind of comparison at all. Fourth century Rome was the only Empire around (we have to discount China I think since they and the Romans were in ignorance of each other.) It gained its supremacy through military prowess but it’s economy was predicated upon constant new conquests. So we might say that the deserts of Arabia, the Sahara and the freezing hinterland of the Russian steps were natural barriers to further expansion. Expansion into these areas would bring little in terms of economic gain so would be economically counter productive. So, Rome fell to the Barbarians. Tougher, more brutal (hard to believe) and finally, much better motivated than Rome. It seems to me that the whole of human history has robbery as its leitmotiv. The Greeks, the Romans the Goths the Vikings even the Nazis, all set out to get rich by stealing from their neighbours. At a time when economic understanding stopped at keeping gold under the bed, it really did seem the only game to play. So, if we say that decadence foreshadows a collapse we are in fact saying that the appetite for plunder has finally been satisfied. Surely, on moral grounds, this is not a bad thing?
I have conflated Empire and civilisation. Are there any “Empires”? I don’t think the EU is an Empire. Maybe the USA is, maybe China aspires to be. I am really going to have to give that some serious thought! More later.