Inconveniently, the often denied key issue of our day is the consequence of mass migration. Let us, for a moment, use our past as the screen to project the present on it. While this is not about history, nevertheless, if you recognize in the past the present, and then detect the future, then so be it.
We begin with the elementary. Our day’s mass migration and historic immigration seem to be similar but their substance is, even if unwelcome to many, different.
Yes, immigration has been a factor in the luck of some societies. English speaking countries come to mind. At the same time, this does not apply to Latin America which tells that, by itself, immigration was not an unqualified blessing. When immigration became part of a success story, it was subject to controls. It considered the host’s needs, the entrant’s qualities, and the mass to be absorbed.
On the canvas of projection, immigration also plays a role in the decline of societies. A movement of peoples into areas where they were not indigenous could show an imperial power’s desire to create new ethnic facts. Alternatively, the generous open door for refugees could create a new local majority, followed by secession. Southern and East-Central Europe provides examples. Several cases of today’s instability and backwardness relate to such occurrences.
Due to the writer’s background, the progression refugee — immigrant, settler, secessionist, lost province — will remain unelaborated in favor of another, often misquoted, aspect of past experience. Western Civilization provides an example for a migration of peoples. A consequence was the (overly maligned) Middle Ages.
The migration of peoples, and its impact upon our civilization, contemporary parallels. Apologies are due for bringing up events that might provoke a feeling of discomfort.
Not unlike contemporary Europe, the Roman Empire of the first centuries of our time was a large state around the shores of its “lake,” the Mediterranean. In time, its original military power and its cultural- economic achievements became a mismatch. Although made by the sword, this civilization lost its ability to maintain itself. The reason is manifold. In part, rational self-esteem gave way to a fashion that liked to imitate and to overstate the enemy’s virtues. An ideological vacuum developed that sucked in those that the state’s economic policy disregarded. Decline became accelerated by state-dependent entitled elements. Misgovernment, nurtured self-doubt, and a welfare dispensing — but not value creating — economy supported an inner crisis. Thus the old system broke down while nothing to replace it emerged.
The significant difference to the present state of western, and western-inspired civilization and it antagonists, is in the technological balance. The economic power, productivity, and the applied military hardware of developed countries towers over Islamic entities. Ancient Rome only had technical equivalency with its foes.
Only regarding the harnessing the potential of horses had the invading hordes an advantage. On the other hand, a declining Europe’s Germanic, Slavic and Oriental enemies had other motives than the present’s challenger. Our jihadists wish to destroy a sin-based civilization to be replaced with what they claim to have fled when they applied as refugees. Thus, the motives of those that set up their successor states on Rome’s ruins differed fundamentally from the present’s challengers.
Attila might have called himself the “Scourge of God,” however most invaders of Europe did not really intend to smash what they found. This is the reason why, for centuries, German tribes and Rome could coexist along a boundary. What the Germanic tribes wanted was to share the Roman way of life. The destruction and the cultural reverse we call the Dark Ages were not their intended outcome.
“Joining” and “sharing” failed for a reason. A destructive component was that open borders did not respond to a need for the contributions of the newcomers. Much rather, the inflow expressed the host’s weakness. Masking material-spiritual weakness by claims of magnanimity is unconvincing because debility cannot be covered up by claims about generosity. Also, the arrivals did not enter the Empire’s as individuals but as organized groups. Then and now, the term “migration of peoples” fits the facts better than “immigration.” Concessions that surrendered the host’s sovereignty — as in the case of the “no-go-zones” of the present — followed.
Concurrently, Rome had lost its ability to integrate new peoples because its system ailed as severely as is the magnitude of the coming financial collapse of the Euro-zone. Also, the mass of those that demanded entrance into the empire meant that, regardless of the attempted “dialogue,” the numbers to be assimilated were too towering. Additionally, Rome neglected to maintain her order and to defend herself militarily. Albeit willing, German mercenaries could not, even when they tried, fill the gap created by the hedonism and the bad citizenship of the indigenous.
On this level then, the classical culture’s attempt at “multiculturalism” might be depicted as open minded flexibility. However, in reality, it also expressed decadence and a death wish paired with lost bearings. Looking back, what Rome lacked was the contemporaries’ ability to perceive that the decades of confusing turbulence experienced had a connecting theme. No one could then tell them what the Romans did not realize but what we know nowadays. It was that they were living through a process we now properly term as the “Fall of the Roman Empire.”
Measured according to that insight, the threat of our time is that there are too many “Romans” around. That condition prompts this question: Will they allow their past to become our future?