Demonic Empire & Bliss

Traditionally, there are those who are for empire, and those who are against it. Also there are those who distinguish good empires (the Athenian empire, the French “mission civilisatrice”; English Commonwealth) from the disgusting ones (say UK’s anti-Boer South Africa), to the very bad ones (plutocrat Leopold II’s Heart of Darkness Congo), or the outright demonic ones (the Kaiser’s holocaustic Namibia).

However, Manicheism goes only that far. I am going to suggest a completely different form of analysis, and approach, to the concept of empire.

An empire has subjects, just as a predator has preys. This is the conventional view. And, yet, it contains its own overcoming. Indeed, just as there is a mathematical entanglement between predator and prey, there is a philosophical entanglement between an empire and its subjects.

Good Empires Rest On Holy Wisdom; Ἁγία Σοφία, Constantinopolis

Good Empires Rest On Holy Wisdom; Ἁγία Σοφία, Constantinopolis

“Imperium” depicted initially the absolute, life-and-death ordering capability from top Roman generals. (Roman “emperors” inherited that capability, as they were always the commanders in chief, at least on paper.)

To this day, an empire is supposed to be all about a few ordering the many (thus, intrinsically “fascist”). Yet, even this Roman military root is endowed with subtlety: imperium does not reduce to fascism.

Why? The semiotics of fascism is, fundamentally, not just about the many being strong by tying up together. It’s about the law, and the law is absolute: Dura Lex, Sed Lex (Law Hard, But Law).  So the many are tied by an absolute.

Roman generals were obeyed absolutely, only when they inspired an aura of absolutism, that only vertiginous respect could confer them.

A professional special force killer was sent to assassinate Marius (seven times Consul, who triumphed in Africa over Jugurtha, and Gaul, Piedmont over invading Germans). He found the elder Marius in a room. Marius, unafraid, addressed the would be-assassin with his stentorian voice: ”Soldier, are you going to kill your general?”. Trembling, excusing himself, the assassin fled, and Marius’ enemies gave up on the notion of killing their all too respected foe.

In other words, imperium worked best when the soldiers loved their generals. After all, soldiers were armed to the teeth, trained to kill, and not to fear death. Generals need to be loved, the law does not. So imperium is an intrinsically milder notion than fascism.

Thus it’s not enough to say there are good empires, and bad ones. More generally, there are good empire-subject entanglements, and bad, unjust ones. It’s not all about just about the empire, it’s also about the subjects, and it’s also about the interactions of the one, with the others. Moreover those entanglements can be asymmetric.

Let me give an example. The Roman empire was the ultimate empire. Arguably, it’s going on, stronger than ever, 27 centuries after its founding (long story). For at least a millennium, the Romans interacted with the Celts, Jews, Egyptians, Greeks and Mesopotamians.

It was the same Roman empire, however, the outcomes were very different, and drastic differences are reflected to this day: the West became Rome, and Mesopotamia is still wrecked by war without end. By far the most complex interaction was with the Celto-Germans. It was pretty much antipodal to what happened with the Jews and the Mesopotamians, and, one can even claim, with the Greeks.

In Mesopotamia, and against the Iranians, Rome and its successor regime (“Constantinople”) struggled in vain for seven centuries. Nothing came out of it, except so much morbidity that, in the end, the Arabs overwhelmed both Persia and most of Rome.

The Jews, or rather, domineering Jewish fanatics, who made no sense whatsoever, in two formidably suicidal wars, rejected Rome. The first of these killed a million Jews, much of the population of Israel, then. It started by the cold blooded killing, inside Jerusalem, of 600 legionnaires of the Roman garrison. The strategic objective was unclear, and soon at least three Jewish factions were fighting each other, to death besides engaging the Romans.

The Romans had a sense of humor, and catapulted thousands of pig heads inside Jerusalem (I presume that they let them rot carefully first). On the less amusing side, the legions devastated forests throughout the region to build gigantic works for the siege of the holy city.

Egypt did not care about Rome one way or another. That mood of pragmatic indifference was contagious: while the titanic struggle of the Judaic War unfolded, just over the horizon, the hundreds of thousands of Jews in Alexandria did not raise the smallest protest.

Greece had been severely mistreated by the plutocratic Roman Senate, by 146 CE: Corinth was destroyed as a warning that republican independence of Greek City-States will not be tolerated. That was mass terrorism, and it marked Greece for centuries to come, as intended. Greek democracy did not recover, until the EU chased out the pro-Washington dictatorship, 21 centuries later.

And then there were the Celts and the Germans.  Those were not united, they relished their complicated world. They had adopted many traits of Greek civilization, even before the Romans showed up. Their metallurgy was second to none, and a major export to Rome. Ultimately, after 16 centuries of tragi-comedy, and all sorts of happenstance, the Celto-Germans became Rome (officially, in 800 CE).

It’s actually a curious thing: after a terrible war when Caesar intervened (Caesar was accused by some in the Senate and some historians, to have caused much of the problem), nothing anti-Roman ever happened again in Gallia. Even when the so called Gallic Empire ruled, later, it was not to reject Rome, but to improve it.

Differently from what had happened in Greece, the Romans did not rule Gaul through terror (although the war with Caesar had killed and enslaved millions, it had been a very complicated, messy affair, nothing like the cold blooded holocaust at Corinth) . Far from it. Even Latin was not imposed. In the Fifth Century the bishop of Lugdunum (= Lyon) preached in Celtic. Latin replaced Celtic completely, well after the legions were gone (that happened in 400 CE, a decision of Rome, taken when, for budgetary reasons, Rome put the Franks in charge of defending the two Germania and Gallia). Phasing out the three Celtic languages happened when the Franks, who came to rule Gaul completely in the early Sixth Century, completely gave up their own Low Countries German for Latin.

The Celto-Germano-Greco-Roman civilization became a symbiosis ruled by the Franks. Why a community of minds there, and not with Israel, or Mesopotamia? It’s obviously an explanation that involves many factors. The Celto-Germans and the Greco-Romans had a very long story, with fair intellectual trade, in both directions: by the time Caesar showed up, that intense trade was at least a millennium old. The Roman army was equipped with Celtic metal works for centuries.

Celts and Romans had important principles in common, like a quasi-religious dislike for kings, and, certainly, hatred of tyranny. This dislike was so strong that Armanius (Hermann) a once-Roman officer who treacherously annihilated Roman general Varus and his three legions (plus supporting troops, and fellow travellers), was later killed by fellow rebels for behaving, it was alleged, like a king.

Yet, as Rome became a fascist dictatorship, the Germans became more sympathetic to fascism, and kingship. Clovis, elected king of the Franks, his father, Roman imperator Childeric I, and his grandfather Merovius. Thus, Western Europe (or, at least, the elements if Western Europe which came to re-establish an empire) was pretty much evolving as one mental unit.

Such bliss of a common spirituality was not shared in the Middle East. The Jewish God symbolized tyranny made divine. Persians and Mesopotamians needed to kneel abjectly to all the plutocrats they could find. Lack of water had led the civilization of the Middle East to dictatorship. The hydraulic dictatorship (Fernand Braudel) implied “Oriental Despotism” (Karl Marx).  Fascism, cruel and demented, the “Right of Sword”.

Darius, who fought from Ethiopia to Ukraine, exhibited a clear case of the “Right of the Sword”. That existing mood was embraced 11 centuries later in the Qur’an. Unbelievably, the Sword is still festering today: arguing for the Right Of The Sword, Arab plutocrats are agitating, in 2014, to have Justinian’s Cathedral, Ἁγία Σοφία, “Holy Wisdom“,now a museum, been converted again to a mosque, so that the depiction of the real world represented therein be covered up again, as reality offends Islam.

This is an example of the persistence of moods and systems of ideas. Cynics will also point out that their genesis, namely the desert, only got worse.

Well, whatever: if we understand the situation, we can probably fix it. No empire, no law. Thus it remains to make the empire good.

Today the European Empire’s 28 heads of state approved Jean-Claude Junkers as head of the European Commission (the EU’s executive branch). The European Parliament is widely expected to elect Junkers next week. The 28 elected chiefs used the occasion to sign on the Free Trade and Association Treaty with Ukraine and Moldavia. Justly unsatisfied by this slap to Putin, they also sent Vlad the Impaler, back in Moscow, an ultimatum. Yes, an ultimatum. Electing the head of the EC is a furthering of democracy in the European empire. But democracy is naught, if it can’t bite.

The 28 EU leaders demanded that separatists return border checkpoints, release hostages and start talks to implement a peace plan drawn up by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko by June 30. Failure to do so will result in “further significant restrictive measures” against Russia.

Vlad The Invader has three days to obey. It may be time for him to remember what happened when his preceding supporter of minorities through annexations, Adolf Hitler, refused to obey. Unbelievably, France persuaded Britain to declare war.

Wisdom without doom is only gloom.

Patrice Aymé

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18 Responses to “Demonic Empire & Bliss”

  1. gmax Says:

    Good empire, bad subjects, sometimes? Hmmm… Is the EU an example? They want Europe when it brings stuff, and otherwise, whine against it. The UK in particular..


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      It’s also the nature of the interaction that is in question. For example the Arabs could not exchange in intellectual trade with Rome, differently from the Celts (who had some superior technologies). The Arabs were mostly upset that they could not raid the rich agricultural areas (Muhammad said that much). Thus the interaction with the Arabs was essentially unstable.

      Whereas in the West, and North, the non-Romans were peasants with the same fundamental values as Rome (some Gallic nations had Senates).


  2. Benign Says:

    “Empires” are failing everywhere. Time for a new network and reputation based polity.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      “Reputation based polity”? That’s an interesting approach. There is this crazy tall blonde 23 year old Frenchman in New York with 6 million followers already, and a very high repute. He basically makes idiotic or offensive videos, ambushing surprised people.

      In a celebrity civilization, repute often sinks and stinks.

      My theory is that only “empires” allow to implement law (“Empire Is A Must”). Should they fail, so would the law. But do they fail? I will assert the opposite: this is the age of empires. There are so many, so powerful, they are entangled. And Global Plutocracy rules them all.

      Serious. Brazil, for example, is an empire (OK, there could be a revolution… But that would only reinforce the Brazilian empire). India is certainly an empire (with a 30 billion dollar defense budget, increasing fast). India has about as many people as the entire planet, a century ago. And nukes, don’t forget.

      A century ago, one could go wherever, no papers needed. Nowadays, try that trick without a biometric passport. In France they fingerprint you, big time. They are not inspecting your guts yet, and the back of your eye, but it’s just a matter of time, before they put you in the brain machine and probe your synapses…

      And Iran is an empire, too…


  3. Benign Says:

    Empire is not required for law unless you define it circularly to be so. Give me a tribe any day. Our governing structures have grown to represent “national interests” that are really proxies for the industrial military financial complexes that benefit from wars.

    “Wars make history” suggests “might makes right.” Whether a tribe, a village, a nation-state, a nation or an empire, it is the prevailing and effectuated values of the people that make just law possible (not the joke that passes for law in present-day empires).

    And if it does boil down to might makes right, I’d rather have it be at a smaller scale. As I just read on,

    “Is there even one person reading Cryptogon who thinks that the American Corporate State wouldn’t light off a nuclear weapon inside the U.S. to make any problems with the little people disappear in two shakes of a lambs tail?”

    The path to just law in this empire may take some time.

    Just as there is evidence that the historical rate of violence has diminished (Pinker), I believe social evolution may make just law possible, even in what remains of today’s bloated empires when it happens.



    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      First let me say a word about Pinker. I came across his considerations about the decrease of violence. Let me point out he is not the first one to notice this. You can find it within my essays for at least a decade prior. It’s serious anthropologists who discovered this, and the discovery was made casually, by the French in Tasmania (this story is related in my essays on Tasmania). This was even before Cook got cooked as a “long pig” in Hawai’i.

      What you wish is honorable, but completely unreal. It’s actually my observation that was done all over the place. When Argentina was tribal, say 20 years ago, it was dominated by American USA vultures of the worst type. Now that the Argentinian state is strong for real, an empire, Argentina is more subject to Argentinian law, than Washington/Wall Street/SCOTUS law.

      Thus, all over. Pakistan is also an empire. A dysfunctional one, but enough of an empire to have, under cover, manipulated and resisted the USA for decades (that’s the main problem in Afghanistan).

      As I said in “EMPIRE IS A MUST”, no imperium, no application of law. So why can’t we go back to lawlessness? First, it does not work: those with bad law get conquered by those with better law (see Genghis Khan).

      Second, as we are approaching quickly a state where Jane Doe and John Smith can make a weapon of mass destruction in their basement (see Pakistan), the strict application of ever more intricate and intrusive law, is a matter of survival.

      To just call the USA a “corporate state” is not enough, misses the bigger picture, and tries to hit the enemy where its armor is the thickest. That’s why I prefer the concept of “plutocracy”. It encompasses the owners of the corporate state, and their plutophile servants in academia.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Might makes right, as long as might does not become completely insane. Yet, as the biosphere apocalypse demonstrates, might is presently wacko.


    • gmax Says:

      Social evolution is little, when accidents happen. Today is the anniversary of that Serb nationalist two bullets. OK, Patrice will say that was just a pretext… Still today’s world is an accident waiting to happen.

      Witness the European Ultimatum to Putin, RIGHT NOW.


  4. Nathan Daniel Curry Says:

    What is this Frenchman youtube name?


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Patrice Ayme No idea. He’s easy to find, though, I suspect. The reason he gets away with what he does, is that he is not a USA citizen, so was not arrested for assault yet. He is part of a company which does that. It seems to me it’s part of the general stupidification. OK, that’s needed to some extent, to make fun of the institutions. But my observation is that most people are disconnecting from the heady stuff.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Vine Star Jerome Jarre. Blah blah blah:

      He makes millions of people laugh — in just six seconds! Ellen met Vine star Jerome Jarre, and sent him on a little challenge.


  5. Patrice Ayme Says:

    Of interest:


  6. Paul Handover Says:

    It must be me! For I have read this latest essay three times and cannot distil the core message. Please send help!


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Well, it’s partly for you. It was also an answer to Eugen…
      Core message sometimes get lost in the forest of theories and facts.
      Question will help clarify it…


  7. William Harpham Says:

    I love your post. Keep them coming.


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