WHEN we study the sad history of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it is difficult for us to understand the short-sightedness, the indifference, and the impassability of the Romans in the face of increasing danger.
And this all the more, given Rome's inveterate habit of victory. The most glorious nations of Antiquity, like Egypt, Greece, and the whole of Asia, were at its feet; the ferocity of the Celts had been tamed; the Rhine and the Danube formed part of the Empire's splendid natural bulwarks. Why should they fear that the barbarians, who roamed the virgin forests of Central Europe, might seriously endanger such a huge political edifice?
Accustomed to this outlook, the Romans did not have the necessary flexibility of mind to understand the situation that was gradually being created. The barbarians crossed the Rhine and began their invasions; the resistance put up by the legions proved weak, irresolute, insufficient.
Notwithstanding, the Romans continued to ignore the danger, on the one hand blinded by the devouring thirst for pleasures and, on the other, fooled by what the hateful Freudian terminology would call a superiority "complex." This explains the deadly calm in which they lingered until the end.
Even taking the mystery of the Roman Empire's inertia into account, the picture seems strange to us and perhaps a bit outlandish. We will understand it much better, in a more lively way, if we consider also another great mystery taking place before our eyes and in which we are participants of sorts: the great inertia of the Christian West in face of the revival of Afro-Asiatic heathenism.
The subject is too vast to be treated in entirety. To understand it well, it will suffice to consider only one aspect of the phenomenon, the revival of the Moslem world.
Accustomed to being misunderstood, Legionario has returned to this subject with an insistence sometimes considered inopportune. Still, the issue deserves to be examined once again.
Let us quickly recall some general facts.
As is known, the Moslem world comprises a territory that stretches from India, through Saudi Arabia and Asia Minor, reaches Egypt, and extends to the Atlantic Ocean. Islam's area of influence is immense in every respect: territory, population, natural resources. But until a short time ago, some factors rendered that power almost completely useless. The Prophet's religion, clearly the link that could unite the Moslems throughout the world, was divided, weak, and totally lacking in outstanding men in the fields of thought, leadership, and action. Islam was as though in a state of hibernation, and this seemed enough for the zeal of its high dignitaries.
The pleasure of stagnation and mere vegetative life was a disease that had also reached the economic and political life of the Moslem countries of Asia and Africa. In this atmosphere it was impossible for any valuable men, any new ideas, or any great undertakings to flourish. All the Moslem countries were closed upon themselves, indifferent to everything beyond the everyday calm, petty pleasures. Thus each of those nations lived in its own world and was kept distinct from the others by greatly different historical traditions. They were all kept apart by their mutual indifference and were thus rendered incapable of understanding, desiring, or carrying out a common enterprise.
In so-depressed a religious and political picture it was impossible for them to take advantage of their natural resources, which considered as a whole, encompass one of the largest potentials on earth. Everything was ruins, separation, and apathy.
Thus the East dragged through life while the West reached the apex of its prosperity. Since the Victorian era the winds of youth, enthusiasm, and hope had blown in Europe and America. The progress of science had renewed the material face of Western life. People believed in the promises of the Revolution, and in the last days of the nineteenth century they expected the twentieth to be the golden era of mankind.
In such an atmosphere, Western man was deeply convinced of the inertia and impotence of the East. Talk about the possibility of the revival of the Moslem world would sound to him as anachronic and impossible as a return to medieval customs, warfare, and political boundaries.
We still live with that illusion today. And, with Roman-like complacency, we trust that the Mediterranean separates us from the Islamic world, not realizing that new and extremely serious phenomena transpire in the lands of the Koran.
It is difficult to encompass such vast and complex phenomena with synthetical discernment. Very generally, however, it may be said that after World War I a very marked phenomenon of anti-European reaction began to simmer in the East broadly understood; that is, in all the areas of non-Christian civilization in Asia and Africa.
This reaction included two somewhat contradictory aspects, both very dangerous for the West. On the one hand, the Eastern nations were becoming impatient with the economic and military yoke of the West, showing an increasing aspiration to full sovereignty, to building an independent economy and organizing independent armies. Evidently, these aspirations implied some "Westernization"; that is, the adoption of Euro-American military, industrial, and agricultural technology, and its financial system. On the other hand, however, this patriotic surge provoked a revival of enthusiasm for local traditions, customs, religion, and history.
It is superfluous to add that the disgraceful sight of corruption and division that plagued the West contributed to stir up hatred of the West. This brought about in the whole East a renewed interest for old idols, for a "neo-paganism" a thousand times more combative, resolute, and dynamic than ancient paganism. Japan is a typical example, perhaps the epitome, of this process.
The ideological and political group that raised it to the category of a great power and coveted world domination was precisely one of those neo-pagan groups obstinately attached to old notions such as the divinity of the Emperor.
A slower but not-less-vigorous phenomenon than Japan's occurred in the Eastern world. By virtue of this phenomenon, India is about to win independence. Egypt and Persia occupy an advantageous place in international life and continue to make headway. And Mustafa Kemal had renovated Turkey long before this.
All these nations--these powers, we might say--are proud of their past, their traditions, and their culture, and steadfastly wish to maintain them. Likewise, they vaunt their natural resources, their political and military prospects, and their economic progress. Their riches increase daily. They build cities with efficient administrative structures, apt political systems, strictly pagan but very advanced universities, hospitals, museums, in a word, everything that is perceived as power and material progress. They stock up gold in their safes; gold translates into the possibility of buying weaponry, which, in turn, means world prestige.
It is worthy of note that the Nazi example made a strong impression on the East. Indeed, if a country like Germany had a government that abandoned Christianity and did not blush in reverting to ancient idols, why would it be embarrassing for a Chinese or an Arab to keep his own traditional religion?
All of this transformed the Islamic world and sent a shudder through all the Moslem peoples, from India to Morocco, meaning that their slumber had ended. Pakistan (on the verge of independence from India), Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt are the high points of the movement for Islamic revival. But in Algeria, Morocco, Libya, and Tunisia agitation also escalates. The vital chord of Islam is being resuscitated in all of those countries, and along with it the sense of unity, the realization of common interests, the concern for solidarity, and the taste for victory.
None of this was left up in the air. The Arab League, a very broad confederation of Moslem peoples, unites the whole Mohammedan world. It is the opposite of what Christendom was in the Middle Ages. The Arab League moves as a large bloc before non-Arab countries and fosters insurrection throughout northern Africa. The flight of the great mufti was a clear demonstration of the League's strength. The liberation of Abd-El-Krim was more than that because it reaffirms the League's deliberate intention to intervene in north African affairs by promoting the independence of Algeria, Tunisia, Tripoli, and Morocco.
Is great talent, perspicacity, and exceptionally good information needed to realize the danger this represents?
(TFP Magazine, May-June 1994)
by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
(Translated from “Legionário”, 15th July 1947)