Friday, October 3, 2008

How history repeats itself

Let me be clear- I'm not advocating anything. My tendency is to notice patterns. I have to do that to be able to reduce complex processes to predictable routines that can be encoded in a program. It's how I'm wired and how my mind was trained. Todays complete failure of the Congress to heed to the will of the people and exercise any type of practical judgment reminded me of some passages I read in The Outline of History by H.G. Wells. Here are some excerpts...

Chapter 26: Section 1: The Science of Thwarting the Common Man

Our world to-day is still far from solving the problem of representation and from producing a public assembly which will really summarize, crystallize and express the thought and will of the community; our elections are still largely an ingenious mockery of the common voter, who finds himself helpless in the face of party organizations which reduce his free choice of a representative to the less palatable of two political hacks...

The comita tributa could be worked at times so as to vote altogether counter to the general feeling of the people. And, as we have already noted, the great mass of voters in Italy were also disenfranchised by distance.

There can be no doubt that all Italy, all the empire, was festering with discomfort, anxiety, and discontent in the century after the destruction of Carthage; a few men were growing very rich, and the majority of people found themselves entangled in an inexplicable net of uncertain prices, jumpy markets, and debts; but yet there was no way at all of stating and clearing up the general dissatisfaction. There is no record of a single attempt to make the popular assembly a straightforward and workable public organ. Beneath the superficial appearances of public affairs struggled a mute giant of public opinion and public will, which sometimes made a great political effort, a rush to vote or such-like, or broke into actual violence. So long as there was no actual violence, the Senate and the financiers kept on in their own disastrous way. Only when they were badly frightened would governing cliques or parties desist from some nefarious policy and heed the common good.

The real method of popular expression in Italy in those days was not the comitia tributa, but the strike and insurrection, the righteous and necessary methods of all cheated or suppressed peoples.

Section 2: Finance in the Roman State

Another respect in which the Roman system was a crude anticipation of our own... was that it was a cash- and credit-using system.

People began to buy land and the like not for use, but to sell again at a profit: people borrowed to buy, speculation developed.

We, who can look at the problem with a large perspective, can see that what happened to Rome was "money" - the new freedoms and chances and opportunities that money opened out. Money floated the Romans off the firm ground; everyone was getting hold of money, the majority by the simple expedient of running into debt...

The Equestrian order, in particular, became the money power. Everyone was developing property. Farmers were giving up corn and cattle, borrowing money, buying slaves, and starting the more intensive cultivation of oil and wine.

A small body of very shrewd men was growing immensely rich. Many patricians were growing poor and irritated and unscrupulous. Among the middling sort of people there was much hope, much adventure, and much more disappointment. The growing mass of the expropriated was permeated by that vague, baffled and hopeless sense of being inexplicably bested, which is the preparatory condition for all great revolutionary movements.

4 comments:

A Pilgrim's Porridge said...

wow...

wow.

yeah, that sounds freakishly familiar. You just stumbled across this?

Creepy, the way history repeats itself and the country is too ignorant to stand up and recognize - or maybe they're not. maybe this is just the beginning and we are at the cusp of change?

The Angry Coder said...

I read it some time ago and even at that time, it stuck out. It really came to mind after yesterday!

Percussivity said...

A very fitting passage. The unfortunate likelyhood is that the economy will somehow get back to a somewhat stable state and people will just forget this happened until it happens again... then they will all act surprised again and blame whoever the media doesn't like at that time. This country has far too short a memory.

CurbDestroyer Chronicles said...

You'll all love this then. Steven LaTourette on the House Floor - Oct 3, 2008

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4vkNXHioR8&eurl=http://forums.roadbikereview.com/showthread.php?t=149642