June 7, 2016

The Stages of Grief at the Frontier

Can't help but be reminded of an old maxim usually ascribed to Mark Twain: "History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes." Grygiel has taken a look at the waning days of the old Roman Empire, specifically the lands and people on its periphery, to gain insights into how those affected adapted to their changing circumstances. I think the warnings about how peoples fail to appreciate what is necessary to sustain security and prosperity are of greater relevance to America in our time. The article isn't lengthy at all and worth the time to read but the highlights are wrapped-up in the concluding paragraph:

"Severinus’s story parallels our times (with all the necessary caveats). The stages of geopolitical grief are not as vivid today as in this story, but doubts are growing about the resilience of U.S. power and Washington’s commitment (under the current Administration or future ones) to allies. As U.S. power retrenches or is questioned, the frontier regions then experiences a series of adjustments. Insouciance about how security arises gives way to shock and panic when the security provider vanishes; then, self-delusion follows, as people convince themselves that security will sustain itself or that the threat is not real; and finally, if lucky to be fortified by a firm belief in something more than material goods or the satisfaction of one’s own transient preferences, the polity may find a reason to defend itself. The West may be going through all three stages at the same time, as many seem to put faith in the automatic harmony of international relations, do not necessarily believe in the dangerous nature of geopolitical competition with assertive rivals, and—perhaps most worrisome, and different from Severinus’s tale—do not seem to find a strong reason to devote resources to sustain the order from which they benefit."

Published on: June 1, 2016

The Stages of Grief at the Frontier

Jakub Grygiel

Or, how to survive when your empire dissolves.

What happens when the clout of imperial forces fades, and when the order they had created and sustained is doubted by those who benefited from it as well as by those who aspire to challenge it? What are the new dynamics that arise? How do those who were under the empire’s protective power respond? One way of answering this question is by looking at how the outer edges of empires coped with the fraying of the imperial order. That is where imperial sway is at its most fragile—and where usually its waning is felt first. This is the unquiet frontier.

In those frontier outposts, the locals have to make difficult decisions based on an assessment of how resilient their empire is, how persistent and dangerous the enemy appears, and how strong their own will is. And they experience different stages of geopolitical grief from denial and delusion to perhaps, in the best case, an attempt at indigenous security provision.

A telling case is the second half of the 5th century C.E., along the Danube that still separated a tenuous Roman order from the barbarian lands. The empire was in disarray, already weakened by internal mismanagement and foreign incursions. And the barbarian lands, as far as we know, were shaken by various tribal forces, unleashed after Hunnic dominance had quickly disintegrated with Attila’s death (of a nosebleed induced by heavy drinking, so rumor has it). Roman settlements along the Danube were thus in a dangerous spot between a frail empire and a gaggle of raiding barbarians. What to do?

The story of a most unusual character, Saint Severinus, supplies us with a picture of the situation and the challenges facing the frontier locals.

June 6, 2016

Elbert Guillory and What "Conservatism" Really Means

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Elbert Guillory, currently a Louisiana State Senator running for federal office. In the course of researching his background, I came across his explanation (recorded in 2013) for switching from the Democratic to Republican political party. Though his is speaking specifically about his reason for switching parties, I think his rationale is the most concise, clearly stated, compelling defense for the principles that serve as the foundation for the conservative movement that I can remember hearing. I don't much more about the man, but I loved his message!