Shooting ourselves in the foot?

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Even by his own high standards in the art of hyperbole, President Obama excelled himself in yesterday’s inauguration speech. He said, “Our decade of war has ended…” I’m only surprised he didn’t proceed to say that henceforth, under his watch, the lion will lie down with the lamb and that a little child will lead them pacifically into Disneyland. This snippet of news from cloud cuckoo land came, incidentally, just as it became clear, even to the British press that Al Q’aeda’s and other Islamist terrorists’ threat to control North Africa is a bloody reality. Mr Cameron responds to this existential crisis by announcing a further reduction of 5000 in our already disastrously depleted armed forces.

The phrase “in denial” has never been more apt. Western civilisation, what’s left of it, is in its death throes. The comparison is with the Roman Empire of the 4th and 5th centuries. One day in that period of terminal decline, the court philosopher Sidonius went in to answer to the Emperor who told him, “I know what I will do to repel the barbarians, Sidonius – I will close the gates of the city.” And Sidonius replied, “Too late, Sir. The barbarians are already inside.”

There is so much sheer nonsense talked about the decline and fall of Rome, but the nightmare of savages raping and pillaging belongs only to Hollywood epics. The first waves of barbarians were quite civilised heretical Christians called Arians. Anyone who wishes to discover what actually brought about the downfall of the Roman Empire should read R.G. Collingwood’s Essay on Metaphysics in which he offers an analogy: it is as if there should be a legend, repeated for centuries, to the effect that a beloved ancestor had died from a sudden heart attack; whereas all his friends and contemporaries who saw him through his last illness reported at the time that it had been a slow and lingering demise.

As it was with Rome, so it is with us. In the face of external enemies we are withdrawing our legions. At the same time, we are abandoning the beliefs and fouling the institutions which made us a great civilisation. It may be a noble thing to suffer being shot in the chest, but it is a cowardly thing to shoot oneself in the foot. An established civilisation can withstand even the fiercest onslaught from without but once it loses its belief in itself, there is nothing on earth can save it. European leaders and its mass media actually blame our civilisation for the atrocities perpetrated by our enemies, to whom apologies are constantly made and to whom no offence must be given. At the same time rampant secularism, atheism and relativism are vigorously promoted at home. We despise our own inheritance and we are far gone into the business of destroying it.

Collingwood ends his book with the words, “The gravity of the peril lies in the fact that so few recognise any peril to exist. When Rome was in danger, it was the cackling of the sacred geese that saved the Capitol. I am only a professorial goose, consecrated with a cap and gown and fed at a college table; but cackling is my job, and cackle I will.”

And I am only a blogging priestly goose in a battered surplice and fed by what I can collect from Tescos. But cackling is my job too. And cackle I will.