Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Frivolity is the frequent companion of pessimism, Glubb finds:

As the nation declines in power and wealth, a universal pessimism gradually pervades the people, and itself hastens the decline. There is nothing succeeds like success, and, in the Ages of Conquest and Commerce, the nation was carried triumphantly onwards on the wave of its own self-con?dence. Republican Rome was repeatedly on the verge of extinction — in 390 B.C. when the Gauls sacked the city and in 216 B.C. after the Battle of Cannae. But no disasters could shake the resolution of the early Romans. Yet, in the later stages of Roman decline, the whole empire was deeply pessimistic, thereby sapping its own resolution.

Frivolity is the frequent companion of pessimism. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. The resemblance between various declining nations in this respect is truly surprising. The Roman mob, we have seen, demanded free meals and public games. Gladiatorial shows, chariot races and athletic events were their passion. In the Byzantine Empire the rivalries of the Greens and the Blues in the hippodrome attained the importance of a major crisis.

Judging by the time and space allotted to them in the Press and television, football and baseball are the activities which today chie?y interest the public in Britain and the United States respectively.

The heroes of declining nations are always the same — the athlete, the singer or the actor. The word ‘celebrity’ today is used to designate a comedian or a football player, not a statesman, a general, or a literary genius.


  1. Rollory says:

    I had a very interesting exchange with someone in a MMO a while back about what it is that makes a hero. I had tossed off a comment that a hero is someone that makes people look up to them and be impressed almost in spite of yourself. The person I was talking with answered that, no, a hero is someone who makes you want to emulate them, to accomplish the same things they’ve done.

    The problem with that is that such a definition turns any “hero” into merely “first”. And once a hundred, or a thousand, or more, other people have replicated the achievement, so what? Who cares anymore? Everybody’s done it. The first person becomes a historical footnote, not a hero.

    A hero is someone who do things that others cannot emulate — things that can never be reproduced. This of course requires that the hero be a person who is inherently, in terms of innate ability, someone completely out of the ordinary due to natural gifts which none other can equal or reproduce. Which is of course anathema to any sort of democratic equalitarian.

    That’s part of why we don’t have heroes today. We deliberately define them out of existence, so people in general can’t recognize them when they see them.

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