Sorry if this is a little rusty. It has been a while due to the all-consuming graduate school. 🙂
Without further ado, I wanted to write about the world crisis, because I am such a salient and insightful commentator. The world is in crisis, so they say. Many people who are not willfully avoiding the issues are calling this a clash of civilizations. Definitely worth reading in this class is the article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Newsweek, Muslim Rage & The Last Gasp of Islamic Hate.
However, I an not convinced that clash of civilizations is the right term for today’s crisis. For instance between 264 BC to 146 BC (Dates from the History channel, not a great source, but I think they can manage that.) there was a true clash of civilizations. This between Carthage and Rome in the three Punic wars. Another real clash of civilizations was during the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens. One might also count the clash between America and Japan in WWII. However, these clashes of civilizations have something in common that today’s world does not. They have two recognizable opponents. Today, we have a clash of chaos and civilization.
Everyone who calls the murderous attacks ‘protests’ are on the side of chaos. Everyone who rationalizes the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the recent attacks on American diplomats, and even the 9/11 mass murders are aiding and abetting chaos. Of course there are the most direct agents of chaos, Al Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Iran, Syria… All this makes me think of a section of ‘The Ballad of the White Horse’ about the fall of Rome. (Ok, I admit, this whole post was all a cover for me to quote my favorite poetry at length.)
For the end of the world was long ago,
And all we dwell to-day
As children of some second birth,
Like a strange people left on earth
After a judgment day.
For the end of the world was long ago,
When the ends of the world waxed free,
When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,
And the sun drowned in the sea.
When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.
When the ends of the earth came marching in
To torch and cresset gleam.
And the roads of the world that lead to Rome
Were filled with faces that moved like foam,
Like faces in a dream.
And men rode out of the eastern lands,
Broad river and burning plain;
Trees that are Titan flowers to see,
And tiger skies, striped horribly,
With tints of tropic rain.
Where Ind’s enamelled peaks arise
Around that inmost one,
Where ancient eagles on its brink,
Vast as archangels, gather and drink
The sacrament of the sun.
And men brake out of the northern lands,
Enormous lands alone,
Where a spell is laid upon life and lust
And the rain is changed to a silver dust
And the sea to a great green stone.
And a Shape that moveth murkily
In mirrors of ice and night,
Hath blanched with fear all beasts and birds,
As death and a shock of evil words
Blast a man’s hair with white.
And the cry of the palms and the purple moons,
Or the cry of the frost and foam,
Swept ever around an inmost place,
And the din of distant race on race
Cried and replied round Rome.
I think only a few commentators are talking about today’s events in these terms. But there is no civilization for America and her western (and eastern) allies to clash against, only chaos, and one or two billion hungry and angry people. With this mind, Alfred’s question in the ballad resonates with me:
“When our last bow is broken, Queen,
And our last javelin cast,
Under some sad, green evening sky,
Holding a ruined cross on high,
Under warm westland grass to lie,
Shall we come home at last?”
Of course, here I can only think of the 9/11 Cross:
And the answer, from St. Mary (well… Chesterton) in part reads:
“The men of the East may spell the stars,
And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.
“The men of the East may search the scrolls
For sure fates and fame,
But the men that drink the blood of God
Go singing to their shame.
“The wise men know what wicked things
Are written on the sky,
They trim sad lamps, they touch sad strings,
Hearing the heavy purple wings,
Where the forgotten seraph kings
Still plot how God shall die.
“The wise men know all evil things
Under the twisted trees,
Where the perverse in pleasure pine
And men are weary of green wine
And sick of crimson seas.
“But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.
“I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.
“Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?”
Note: All quotes from The Ballad of the White Horse are copied from Project Gutenberg. Also, there is an analyst, a little nutty in a Libertarian sort of way, who proclaims half the world ‘Chaostan’ and since I read a number of his ‘Uncle Eric’ economy books, and this came up, I am sure it influenced my thinking. Also, more importantly are Mark Styen America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It and David Goldman’s How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too)