Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Quo posterus (part one)

Posted by Jack on November 3, 2008

History is full of ruined nations – nations that rose upon their summer blush to heights of great and sometimes incredible power, only to fall back in winter to an early, quiet, or a continuously shallow, complacent grave. In the course and passage of history this is the way of things. The way things have always been, and the way they shall always be. Or is it?

Rome rose, benefactor of, and contender with, both the Greeks and the Jews, then fell, eventually in both the East, and the West, at the hands of barbarian hordes, yet in both spheres it gave birth to Christendom. Eventually Christendom rose from babe to maiden and gave birth to Europe. The peoples of Europe then in their various turns delivered up the Age of Exploration, like Christendom less a nation than a worldview of nations. And although Christendom is not thought of anymore as a political sphere of influence, it still exists, and in many ways is far more widespread and influential across the globe that at any point in her past.

There are no more colonies or lands to explore or stake by ship or sea, yet Europe too still exists, and might even be mighty in our own day had she not squandered all her virtues in the countless and often ill-conceived and vice-filled wars of those squabbling tribes we moderns now call nation-states. The Age of Exploration that Europe fathered likewise gave birth to many things, including eventually the realms of the Americas and onwards from there to our present home, to the United States of America. What then will the United States of America give birth to? What will we bear and what will we parent? And will what America generates replace her, or merely continue on along beside her, she and her children running parallel and co-prospered through future time?

In the United States we often see ourselves as the culmination of the inexorable grind of the forces of

At anchor

At anchor

historical progress. And so we are, although as with all things, all events, all ages, all nations, all peoples, we are as full with our own, and sometimes indistinct and unobserved flaws, as we are pregnant with untapped, unexplored, and unexploited potential. But we sit upon the pinnacle of history at this point in time, at this age of modernity. Uneasily we sit, but then again we have always sat uneasily upon the height of power, for we have a different view of the responsibilities, and benefits, and luxuries of power than most any other nation has ever had in the history of the world.

And because of this we are different, in many respects, in many important respects, than any who have come before us, be they Babylonian, Persian, Chinese, Greek, or Roman, or Jewish, or Frank, or French, or Italian, or German, or even Byzantine or British (those with whom we have shared the most in common politically and militarily in respect to our view of the world, and our place in it). Our work in history is different, is less easily defined, more nebulous, and yet in some respects more vital than any who have come before us along the path of recorded time.

We are Judeo-Christian in our spirit, Greek in our philosophy, Roman in our pragmatism and methods of administration and expansiveness, British in our technologies, German in our innovation and science, Byzantine (in both the good and bad senses of the term) in our politics (both internally and externally) and military capabilities and apotheosis of warfare, European in our laws, and unlike anyone else at all, ever, in the profound nature of the immense amalgamation of peoples, civilizations, languages, and ideas and ideals which formulate and comprise our culture.  And yet within this body, this unlikely organism of various and assorted traits we are also — at our soul — wild-men, frontiersmen, people along the edge of the world. What can you say of such a people other than they are a marvel the likes of which has never before been observed, and that they are a danger unlike any other peoples who have ever existed?

Yes, the United States of America is indeed a danger. A real and persistent threat, even within the heart of the maelstrom of well-intentioned struggles we have sometimes created for ourselves. We are dangerous in the ideals we champion, dangerous in our construction, dangerous in our enormous capabilities, dangerous in our very nature. Danger is knit into our very blood, bones, and being. We were created from peril, fashioned from risk, birthed in enterprise, raised in conflict and competition, molded and tempered in challenge, and made to endeavor. We are the frontier of the future. The world did not create us from blind circumstance, and neither did the past, it is the future who is our father, and our mother, the as yet unseen horizon.

But with parentage such as this that does indeed makes us dangerous. Dangerous and foreboding, to our enemies, to our allies, and to ourselves. You cannot be a thing of danger and not give pause to the timid heart. This is the way of things. This is our way. The American Way.

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5 Responses to “Quo posterus (part one)”

  1. Kathy K said

    Thank you. You said something that clicked… “we are also — at our soul — wild-men, frontiersmen, people along the edge of the world.” And I think that’s part of our present problems. There’s no more place to explore – no way to go out – no more edge. Unless we go to space. The frontiersmen are frustrated. And confined. THAT is dangerous.

  2. Jack said

    Thank you. You said something that clicked… “we are also — at our soul — wild-men, frontiersmen, people along the edge of the world.” And I think that’s part of our present problems. There’s no more place to explore – no way to go out – no more edge. Unless we go to space. The frontiersmen are frustrated. And confined. THAT is dangerous.

    I hadn’t really meant it in that particular sense Kathy.

    And although I still think there are plenty of frontiers, just not the old and obvious physical and geographical ones, I think you did make and important observation of your own.

    Americans are frontiersmen. We are frontiersmen geographically, in our nature, culturally and as a civilization, in our ideals, our politics, our view of religion, in science, technology, economics, and in what we have been and hope to become. We have a history of adopting or developing or inventing the most frontier and progressive (I hope no one will confuse the term I’m implying with the mere political philosophy) aspects of human endeavor possible. We were made as a frontiers nation with frontier ideas and ideals, in most every sense.

    Now that we are “settling” in a sense we are unfortunately also being sorely tempted to Euopeanize and acculturate ourselves to a set of ideals which are basically alien and anathema to those of our founding, and our ancestors. We are trading accommodation for innovation and progress (as I had previously meant the term, progressive).

    We are rapidly entering a stage in which stagnant and static convenience and urbanization (in the negative sense of that term, not as a civilizing force, but as an over-conforming and languishing force) seems to be reducing and replacing drive, innovation, faith, and a desire to expand and grow, with a substitute and enfeebling ideal set of retirement and decline. As recent political and economic events have shown. We have become so self-absorbed that politics supercedes progress as a primary concern of American enterprise. Our communications are all about not what we are doing right, but endless circular discussions of what is imagined to be impossible. Concentration on (usually self-created) problems precludes action and risk.

    A desire to settle and to seek security and self-comfort is upon us like a malignant pathological parasite. Rather than to follow the horizon towards what is possible, but which is by very nature also risky and dangerous, we turn towards the hearth in the hopes that an emperor will feed us bread and circuses to distract our ennui and angst. But then again we were bred to be a dangerous people, not a shy, retiring, dwindling, fearful people. So it is only natural that when we trade achievement for surety and capability for shelter it would make us sub-consciously uneasy and restless, if only in our souls. It is our nature to be active, to be in motion, to take action. Instead nowadays far too often we debate instead of risk the great thing, legislate instead of create the future, and argue instead of actualize the present. Talk has become the medium of commerce in modern America. And it is a poor coin of small value upon which to invest the potential of a nation. And upon which to bank the gain of your Posterity. Europeans talk. A lot. The UN talks. A lot. But that returns only a hoard of noise made by a horde of noisemakers. Yields little worth hearing, no deeds worth discussing, and no heroes worth noting.

    But your point that it is dangerous for America to have no more frontiers (and I think far too often nowadays we skill our own frontiers, that is we intentionally refuse our potential frontiers out of fear of the effort, rather than the reality, and thereby reduce our own frontiers to lines we will not cross simply because we will not venture a crossing) is a very interesting one, and something I will have to think about. And see how I can work it into the following parts of this essay. For it is a very valid observation.

    It is indeed dangerous for a people, and nation like the United States to think of itself as “frontierless.”

    Where there is no vision the people perish.
    And when a people become wholly self-involved, well, that’s the kind of involvement that leads to a love affair whose only real offspring is eventual disaster.

  3. jaymaster said

    Jack,

    I am so glad to see you are still alive.

    And posting!

    To be honest, I only made it through about 30% so far, but I hope to follow through later.

    Got a lot on my mind right now, ya know???

  4. Jack said

    “Got a lot on my mind right now, ya know???”

    Don’t we all.
    And glad you’re alive too.

  5. Bob Miller said

    There’s always a frontier between good and evil.

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