Friday 23 October 2015

A Time Of Fear

Terror Drives Them Westward: Syrian refugees trudge the dusty roads of Serbia en route to "Angela's" country - Germany. It is impossible to view the great throngs of migrants, piling up like driftwood against the newly-erected fences of the European Union, and not recall the Great Migration of uprooted peoples into the Western Roman Empire between 300-800 AD.
IT WAS A TIME of fear. People cast worried glances to the East, where rumour reported whole peoples on the move. Travellers said they were fleeing in terror from men who laid waste to villages, towns and cities without scruple or regret. Women, children, the temples of the gods: none were spared. Military commanders looked to the strength of the Empire’s defences: to the mighty walls and high gates that had stood for so long – and they wondered.
Between 300 and 800AD successive waves of migrant peoples beat against and washed over the borders of the Western Roman Empire. During these turbulent centuries, the component peoples of the “Great Migration” laid down the ethnic foundations of modern Europe. Some of its most powerful nations still bear the titles of these “Dark Age” migrants. The Frankish tribes settled in what is now France. The Angles gave their name to England. Rome’s empire, however, did not endure. The West fell.
It is impossible to view the great throngs of migrants piling up like driftwood against the newly-erected fences of the European Union and not recall the Great Migration. Impossible, too, not to imagine the panicky communications between all those provincial governors and the Emperor’s servants back in Rome. “What are we supposed to do with all these people! Should we feed them – or slay them?”
Rome’s answer, then, was the same as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s, now: “Let them in.” Like the ranks of Rome’s fourth century legions, the ranks of Germany’s industrial workers have been thinning of late. Dangerously low birth-rates dictate that the Empire of Porsche and Mercedes Benz admit as many auxiliaries as it can lay its hands on.
No doubt the bureaucrats in Rome, fervent believers in the Empire’s ability to make loyal Roman citizens out of the most unprepossessing of barbarian material, reassured their provincial governors that all would be well. These Goths were doughty warriors, they said. Properly trained they would ensure that the Emperor’s legions remained invincible.
Chancellor Merkel is equally upbeat. The upwards of a million refugees pouring across Germany’s borders from the civil war in Syria, and all those other great concentrations of misery along the North African coast, will soon be made into “Good Germans”. In the coming decades, the Fatherland’s complexion may grow a few shades darker, but Germany’s culture will survive unscathed.
The Romans’ optimism was misplaced. The migrant peoples admitted to the Empire may have swelled the legions depleted ranks, but they were never accepted as equals by “real” Romans. In the years ahead, ethnic rivalries would erupt into riots: blood would be spilled; hatreds flare and burn. The legions, increasingly composed of “barbarians”, would hear of these massacres, and the Emperor’s military resources would haemorrhage like an untended wound. In 410AD, the Visigoth chieftain, Alaric, sacked Rome. Saint Jerome, hearing the news in far off Bethlehem, lamented: “The city which had taken the whole world was itself taken.”
Alaric's Visigoths conquer Rome 410 AD.
Chancellor Merkel’s confidence may be equally misplaced. As the so-called “Summer of Smiles” – during which trainloads of exhausted refugees were met by Germans beaming with love and goodwill – gave way to Autumn gales and cold driving rain; and the refugees’ tent cities began springing up outside quiet German villages and towns; anti-immigrant demonstrators started appearing in the streets. The German people would appear to be much less confident of their assimilationist capacities than their increasingly unpopular Chancellor.
Forty years after the sack of Rome, Visigoth and Roman fought side-by-side on the Catalaunian Plains of Western Gaul against Attila and his Huns. It was from such fierce Asiatic tribesmen, the Huns especially, that so many of the peoples who joined the Great Migration were fleeing. By combining their strength, and defeating Attila, the Roman general, Flavius Aetius, and his Visigothic ally, Theodoric, were able to give the civilised communities of the Western Empire a few more decades of security and stability.
Modern day equivalents of Attila's Huns - Soldiers of the Islamic State.
How sad it is that the modern-day equivalents of Flavius and Theodoric – Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin – cannot emulate their predecessors’ success by putting aside their differences and combining their strengths against the modern-day equivalent of Attila the Hun – Islamic State and its army of jihadis.
What other means is there of stemming the human tide lapping at Europe’s borders? The West looks down from its crumbling walls – and it wonders.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 23 October 2015.


Nick J said...

This subject I have discussed with a Facebook group in UK who are fervently anti immigrant to a large degree because of the ethnic and religious tensions in British cities between locals and generations of Islamic immigrants. The same scenario exists in France and Germany and the locals fear becoming a minority demographic and religion. How realistic this is I know not.

Whilst I am not anti immigrant into the EU a little projection into NZs here and now might stop a lot of "liberal" thought in its tracks, and confuse logic with emotion. Imagine we were faced with a Asian Pacific catastrophe such as runaway global warming and suddenly we had to take in the whole of Polynesia. Then imagine the disaster gets worse and we have countless millions of Islamic Indonesians trying to get here. If we accept our society changes forever, maybe our children will be forced to convert, Sharia to apply. Yet if we fail to respond these unfortunates die. What do we do?

I might sound alarmist but Roman history as Chris demonstrates shows, given some futures we can project, we should consider what we would do? My Facebook group in Europe rightly contend that their economic and political elites never allowed a debate on immigration, years back those who tried such as Enoch Powell were demonised. Yet Powell in retrospect was quite prescient. As Chris pointed out the Roman elite said, "It will be alright". They were wrong.

I don't know where I would sit in debating this issue, both scenarios of let them in or leave them out terrify me. But it must be put to the people to decide. Our leaders have totally failed us by blithely driving their economic and political imperatives forward in the face of known future challenges.

Brendan McNeill said...

If I may quote Bret Stephens of the WSJ:

"Europe is reaching its end not because of its sclerotic economy, or stagnant demography, or the dysfunctions of the superstate. Nor is the real cause the massive influx of Middle Eastern and African migrants. Those desperate people are just the latest stiff breeze against the timber of a desiccated civilization.

Europe is dying because it has become morally incompetent. It isn’t that Europe stands for nothing. It’s that it stands for shallow things, shallowly. Europeans believe in human rights, tolerance, openness, peace, progress, the environment, pleasure. These beliefs are all very nice, but they are also secondary.

What Europeans no longer believe in are the things from which their beliefs spring: Judaism and Christianity; liberalism and the Enlightenment; martial pride and capability; capitalism and wealth. Still less do they believe in fighting or sacrificing or paying or even arguing for these things. Having ignored and undermined their own foundations, they wonder why their house is coming apart."

Anonymous said...

The cause of this mess is the American led, European supported, militarily policies in Syria. The Assad government is not a enemy of the West, their are a secular government whose people once enjoyed a high standard of living. The Syrian government were attacked by rebels of dubious political allegiances. The Americans supported these rebels with arms and military advisors / advice. ISIL supported by Saudi Arabia soon joined in and much of the American equipment soon was in ISIL hands. Much of the cities and country of Syria have been destroyed and millions of people sought refuge. Saudi and other Sunni countries refuse to take any refugees. The West should be grateful that the Russians have now gone to Syria's aid, the Russians will attempt to kill anyone whose is fighting Assad, ISIL and Rebels. The American have walked away from the fighting. It has shades of Vietnam. THE ONLY WAY OUT OF THIS MESS IS FOR THE RUSSIANS AND ASSAD TO WIN AND KILL ISIL / REBELS, FOR THE WORLD TO REBUILD SYRIA AND FOR THE REFUGEES TO BE SENT BACK TO THEIR COUNTRY, FORCIBLY IF NEED BE. All countries now hosting refugees have plenty of social problems amongst their inhabitants without the extra and gigantic problem of forced Islamic occupation of Christen countries. WHAT TOTAL FUCK_UP CAUSED BY AMERICA, BRITAIN, FRANCE, GERMANY. WE MUST SUPPORT RUSSIA.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Human rights, tolerance, openness, peace, progress, the environment." Are all 'shallow' things? Sweet Baby Jesus Brendan, I don't think you are theologically qualified in Christianity either. These are things that are often marginally touched on in Christianity and Judaism – more so in Judaism I suspect – but then I'm not theologically qualified in it.
They are the stuff of the Enlightenment to a great extent. And religion was often anathema to those great Enlightenment thinkers. Many of those who created the American Constitution for instance.
On the other hand, wealth is supposed to be a 'deep' thing? God help us, you are severely twisted.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The difference between then and today is that the Roman Empire existed solely to transfer wealth from the provinces to Rome. Why then, would anyone outside of Rome be particularly loyal to it. Whereas Western Europe seems to have things that the refugees want, including safety, and some of those shallow things that Brendan goes on about like freedom and tolerance and so on. People who have suffered war and persecution I suspect are more likely to be grateful for freedom and tolerance, than Judaism and Christianity, martial pride and capability, or even capitalism and wealth.

Bushbaptist said...

The whole shebang can be laid at the door of the US, they caused it with their stupidity and wet dreams of empire.

When Iaq fell, Paul Bremmer, the Sultan of Baghdad, disbanded the Iraqi Army (mostly Sunni) and send them on their way. Un-employed, angry and armed to the teeth. That has to go down in invasion history as the ultimately stupid action of a dipshit US President.

The Sunni were excluded from the oil income which was controlled by the Shia and Kurds. That increased their hatred. The end result is ISIS/Daesh who want to carve out a kingdom in he area with their own set of rules.

They carved out a chunk of Iraq and Syria next door for that kingdom. Iraq was a fully secular country as was Syria but the US doesn't care about such mundane things, they just want a group of small oil rich Emerites that have no military strength to challenge the US and Israel's interests. Ask yourself-- why is Israel supporting ISIL? What is Isreal's place in all of this? Find out the answer and things will fall into place.

It is now a sectarian war between the Saudi Arabia (Wahabbi Sunni) and Iran (Shia).

Assad won the Election in Syria in a demonstrably free and open election and is the legitimate President of Syria. Russia knows this and is supporting Assad as we should be. When the Yanx decide that the Govt. of a country is not in their (or Israel's) interests, they are quite happy to overthrow or invade and put a puppet Govt. in place. Think Mossadeq (Iran), Allende (Chile) Ngong Diem (Vietnam) - the list is long and interesting. Syria had an army that was a match for Israel's IDF so it had to go. End of story.

Everything I have written here is easily researched so go and do so.

Davo Stevens

greywarbler said...

Strategic thinking, historical thinking, has there been any sort of thinking amongst the players in the human chess game. As people try to live, look after their loved ones in Syria or on the roads out, the debacle is at the feet of the powerful and the defence forces. What happens when defence forces get too powerful? They are trained to attack, and are permanent, politicians are temporary, between them an unholy alliance.

Powerful people as seen in the posturing Tony Blair, and resulting suicidal Dr David Kelly - it was the impending destruction of Iraq and his career that finished him though. Kelly's death led not to an inquest, but a public inquiry by Lord Hutton, which brought a rare glimpse into the secret worlds of Whitehall, British intelligence, the low arts of high politics, and the workings of the BBC.

The dabbling by the west in the name of democracy, which is a sham in most western countries now, is like the Christianity of the missionaries, a poor thing at home. And democracy is a shibboleth today, as religion probably was centuries ago.

Radio NZ - a doctor in Syria despairs, 150 hospitals have been attacked this year, he says they are trying to help but providing the most basic of the basic.

Attempts by Slovenia to stem the flow of migrants since Hungary sealed its border with Croatia on Friday have triggered a knock-on effect through the Balkans, with thousands held up at border crossings.

About 19,500 refugees or migrants have entered Slovenia since Friday (16/10) United Kingdom's Interior Ministry said, creating bottlenecks
as migrants attempted to find new routes through the region.

Canada is withdrawing bombers from the Syrian run. The USA and Russia are talking about working together. It has a feeling of 'We have to bomb the village to save the people". But how can people eat, sleep, have hope with the continued destruction. And if ISIS wins, what then.
So they are leaving.

An Egyptian journalist with The Telegraph travelled with migrants and heard their stories.

There is a little charity set up by NZ in Greece that provides help in one place. Here are links that gave some info and I donated and must do again and on in various ways and places. This is beyond imagination, as
Chris says, people piled like driftwood against hastily raised barriers.
Also from Give a Little through Spark:

peterlepaysan said...

The russians have been blatant they will destroy anyone who opposes Assad.

Russia's great lust (since Peter the Great's time) is permanrnt warm water ports.

Crimea (already annexed), Ukraine (contested)and Syria offer Russia that.

ISIS/ISIL/DAESH whatever offer Russia an excuse to be involved militarily in Syria.

They are there to support Assad (or anyone else who will guarantee Russian access to warm water ports giving access to the Mediterranean Sea and or the Persian Gulf.

manfred said...

So Brendan condemns Islam for being martial and including theories of warfare in its scriptural canon, but he wishes the West had the same virile nature.

It reminds me of a book by John Buchan where one of the German stooges who had captured the lead character, Richard Hannay, was praising his Kaiser.

The cruel Kraut, well known for his ruthlessness, spoke of the kindness and saintliness of his beloved Kaiser. The implication was that although those doing the dirty work of fighting the war were often brutal and merciless, it was somehow alright because of the godly virtues of their leader. What class of man this Kaiser is - you ugly Brits would never understand!

Brendan is quick to speak of the otherworldly 'pacifism' of the Christ of the New Testament but suggests very worldly courses of action for the civilisation which has traditionally claimed Christ as its exemplar.

Such courses of action as being more 'martial' and flouting the teaching of 'love they neighbour' by sending Syrian refugees back to their deaths.

It seems like the same kind of 'my culture good, yours bad' kind of thinking that has fuelled wars since time immemorial.

Anonymous said...

Well written, Chris!

I'm sure *you* don't need reminding that the Middle East mess is actually a very different sort of mess from Vietnam. Almost the only thing it has in common is that US intervention has made things worse.

Angela Merkel's open doors policy has made this mess worse, leading to a sort of gold rush that has overwhelmed the real refugees. Meanwhile, a few people are making a good profit out of those camps. Someone on the internet likened them to puppy mills.

greywarbler said...

One of the Anonymous blames Angela Merkel for being too welcoming and so encouraging refugees. Do you think that was a scientific level of welcome that if applied at the right level would have resulted in just the right number of fleeing hopeless? Doh! This isn't a fairly tale where the magic of the piper of Hamelin (in German Rattenfänger von Hameln) caused the flock of followers!

I have read John Buchan's books too manfred. He is so nobly inspired by the ideals of Britishness and its fine qualities, in all his daring deeds and tireless exploits in colonial lands. That pervades his adventure stories. He became Governor-General of Canada I think. His book Greenmantle about WW1, written in 1916, has an enduring theme.

The book opens in November 1915... Hannay is summoned to the Foreign Office by Sir Walter Bullivant, a senior intelligence man,... Bullivant gives Hannay an outline of the political situation in the Middle East, and hints that the Germans and their Turkish allies are plotting to cause a great uprising throughout the Muslim world, that will throw the whole of the Middle East, India and North Africa into turmoil;
Bullivant proposes that Hannay takes on the task of investigating rumours. The only clue he is given is a slip of paper left by a spy, Bullivant's own son, recently killed in the region, bearing the words Kasredin, cancer and v.I.

And peterlepaysan's take against Russia is evidenced by his line:
"Russia's great lust (since Peter the Great's time) is permanrnt warm water ports."
If lust was replaced by the word 'need' or 'obssession' then it would be accurate. It's all in the emotional stress accompanying the word.
One can just as easily say that 'USA's great lust for surrounding itself with off-shore USA defence stations led it to annex Hawaii along with many other strategically placed entities.'

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It seems the Americans have learned buggery all from Vietnam, and the Russians seem to have forgotten to some extent at least the lessons from Afghanistan. It's quite possible there will be a stalemate, the Russians will then declare victory and go home. But if they put in too many ground troops, they'd better be ready for the long haul. Many of their opponents are quite martial - as Brendan would say :-).