A Seaman's Quest

One man's search for truth

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History, Politics, and Religion

The Cycles of History

Crisis of the Century

We have been through other crises but this time is unique. America has weathered some serious storms over the centuries. These include full scale revolution, civil war, multiple world wars, economic collapse, pandemic, and famine.

About every generation there is a time of reckoning that could be seen as a wake up call. During this time of crisis we reevaluate what it means to be an American. The last such event was 9-11.

Traumatic events affect everyone in society. But how we experience the event depend on our life stage and circumstances. Each generation will see events differently and assign different types of lessons based on their age. For example, children and grandparents may live through a war but the impact is very unique for each of them.

Minor and Major Catastrophes

During our lifetime we will expect to experience four of these minor crisis points. Each of them will leave an imprint based on the lessons that we learn and the meaning we assign. Generations are aligned in their thinking based on the events and the life stage in which they were experienced.

But there is a much larger cycle of history that also has a profound influence on our nation and the world as a whole. As we look back over the last 300 years we see periods of time that threaten our very existence. These times of upheaval are so great that they define the characteristics of how we live for the next century.

Every eighty years we look into the abyss. We envision the peril and we move to do what must be done. There simply is no alternative to success we must build the new world. The old world structures are no longer available to us.

New World Order

These dates define a turning point, with a BEFORE and AFTER. The way we live is altered - there is no turning back. We make new decisions about how we will live going forward. The way we lived before is no longer acceptable.

These dates are just trigger points that signal a long period of change. They are simply the trigger for a transition that may occur over many years.
We find ourselves caught in a season of profound turmoil now. We will get through it but there is no going back. The only way forward is through.

Facing the Current Challenges

We are facing a cataclysmic meltdown in many of the institutions that directly affect our lives. We are at a historic inflection point - a hinge point in our story. Every institution and practice will be reinvented to better fit the demand of the new world.

The crisis of our time is severe and will force us to adapt. The irony and hope is that, after we adapt the world will be far better than the old one we left behind. I believe in the American spirit and fully trust that we will innovate through the crisis.

I also believe in the basic goodness of our people (even though it has been in hiding for the last few years). We must and we will rally to meet the challenges that face us.

In order to succeed we must ...

I know we will do what is required.

Ancient Empires

Understanding of the empires of the world gives us a lens that illuminates the time in which we live. The ancient empires functioned on the same principles that have governed all empires throughout history.

The Bible tells the story of three major empires that dominated world history for two thousand years.  As we study all of recorded history we see that there has seldom been a time when world affairs were not controlled by empires.  Often, there were competing empires that controlled different parts of the world at the same time.

Empires exist to concentrate wealth and power into the hands of a few people who are the ruling class. When empires exist at the same time they are almost certain to go to war with each other.  In fact the study of history is largely the study of empires and how they rise and fall.  Even the greatest empires eventually crumble.

The Egyptian empire was the dominant force in world politics between 2055 BC - 664 BC.  The empire went through four distinct periods of development over its 1400 year supremacy.  Ramses the Great, who was the builder of the pyramids and slave owner of the jewish population, died in 1213 BC.  He embodies the ideals of a great empire, and in many ways serves as a prototype of all the emperors that would come later.

The Babylonian empire really encompasses multiple kingdoms and ethnic groups, that conquered each over a period of 100 years.  Founded around 1800 BC the empire changed hands frequently from the Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, and Persians. Nebuchadnezzar II (604 BC) marked the high point of the empire.  Cyrus, the first Persian emperor, conquered Babylon in 539 BC.

Nebuchadnezzar was the first to use the title "king of kings" to show that all other kings were inferior and owed him fealty.  Attempted invasions of Greece under both Darius and Xerxes failed to enforce the imperial demands.  Eventually Alexander the Great conquered the entire Persian empire in 331 BC.  The glory days of the Babylonians really only lasted about 300 years, but the empire existed for 1500 years.

Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world, all the way to India.  After his death the empire began to crumble and was gobbled up by Rome.  Julius Caesar and his successor Augustus established the Roman empire that ruled most of the world from 43 BC for 500 years.  This morphed into the Byzantine empire which lasted another 1000 years in the east (modern day Turkey).  It is not unreasonable to think about the continuity from Alexander (331 BC) to the last of the Byzantine emperors (1476 AD).  This is an 1800 year run of dominance.

These three ancient world empires have many similar characteristics that have been replicated by the many empires that have come after them.  Let's take a look at several of the important aspects of empires.

Revolution

Prime Directive

The first goal of any empire is to make the empire expand. Breadth is sought by extending the borders in every direction. Depth seeks to make the empire more invasive of the lives of its subjects.

Empires exist for the benefit of the elite ruling class and use the common people to build the prosperity of the empire. It is vital to strike a balance between increased wealth and prosperity for the rich and the burden placed on the common people.

If the empire exploits the people beyond a limit then unrest will build. Over time this will turn into full scale revolt as it did in the Americas in 1776.

A New Country

The revolution was a success but the consequences were far different than anyone could have predicted. The royal family had been overthrown but the reign of terror had just started. It would be years before anything remotely like a normal life would be restored.

The Americans were supportive of the rebels, seeing it through the eyes of their own revolution. The US Constitution was a document that had just been ratified the previous year and would dictate how the new country would be led. George Washington had taken office as President, refusing to be king.

Democracy was a bold new experiment in modern times. Democratic ideas had been tried throughout the centuries and given the world some good governments in Croatia and Venice. But you would have to look back all the way to ancient Greece to see the type of society that the Americans were hoping to create.

Few believed that government by the Demos (Greek word for public) is even possible or desirable. How could peasants be educated to a level where they would not simply destroy the government. After all, the citizens would eventually figure out how to control the public purse and vote themselves all of the money. Once this happened it was game over for the country. But for now, the American government was working and life was far better for the US citizens than it had been for them as colonists.

Another Revolution

The French had been very helpful in the American revolution, now it was their opportunity to reinvent their government structure. Perhaps they would adopt the same Constitution that the Americans had just ratified? Certainly they would learn from the revolutionaries in America.

But that was not what happened. The revolution was merely the beginning of many years of suffering for the masses. Instead of freedom, the revolution brought waves of violence and fear. Public executions became a sick form of entertainment for the survivors, until it was their turn to serve the guillotine.

Why were the French and American revolutions so different? Why did one bring freedom while the other brought death? The key to understanding this lies with the leaders of the two rebellions. We must understand what motivated them by examining what they believed to be true.

Freedom and Equality

It is human nature to want to make a better life for me and people exactly like me. What is unusual is the desire to want a better for life for someone that is not like me. There is nothing admirable or heroic in fighting for your own rights. But if you fight for the rights of the defenseless then you are a true hero.

The American revolutionaries were far more concerned with the long-term sustainability of the government that was being established. Guys such as Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Paul Revere, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington all spent countless hours arguing with each other about the very ideals that would carry the new country forward.

These amazing leaders were able to look beyond their own interests to the interests of distant generations. The system they set up has served us well for over two centuries. I hope that it will continue to last. That will depend on what we do next.

Winner Takes All

The French revolutionaries stand out in stark contrast to the Americans. The leaders that took control were motivated by self-interest that led them to ruthless acts of brutality. Their slogan was Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood, but the reality could not have been farther from the truth. You are one of us until we believe that you are our enemy.

In France, the country was led by warlords who were each competing for power, and all dissent was suppressed with extreme prejudice. The revolution was exported to all of its neighbors and within years all of Europe was in flames. Every citizen was forced to serve the army and its massive military build-up. Napoleon raised an army of one million men to attack Russia and returned in defeat with around 30,000.

Our Challenge

The French revolution failed to benefit its citizens because it was based on a bad foundation. The American leaders were driven by a deep moral conviction that they needed to defend the defenseless. You can hear it in their own words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

If we lose this morality we lose everything. It may take years for the despair to come but it will eventually catch us. I choose to devote my energy to the ideals of America's founders. I hope that there are many of us that are deeply committed to preserving the peace that we enjoy by promoting a more just and equal society where everyone can thrive.

Colliding Empires

The Persian Invasions

In ancient times Greece ruled the world. The golden age offered a new level of philosophy, art, invention, and prosperity. This period of time lasted for a couple centuries but changed the world forever.

The Greeks colonized the entire known world taking their culture with them. They also built expansive cities such as Athens, which was the center of cosmopolitan life.

In 490 BC a series of Persian rulers (Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes), raised enormous armies and attempted to invade Greece and subjugate it citizens. At a key moment the Spartans rallied a small army that blocked the Persian advance long enough for all of the city states in Greece to deploy their soldiers. The Persians were defeated and the Spartans became legend and the city-state of Athens ruled the oceans with it navy.

Economic and social prosperity

This initiated a time of unparalleled prosperity and innovation. The Greeks had stood up against the most powerful army on earth and won. Almost everyone at that time was farming, but people began to congregate in towns and cities.

A major element of the success against Xerxes was the defeat of the Persian naval forces at Salamis. There, the Persians allowed themselves to be boxed into a narrow passage and the Greeks set ships afire and drove them into the Persian fleet.

Athens became the recognized leader of the world for the ship building industry. The naval operations became that source of wealth through trade all across the Mediterranean and put Athens at the center of worldwide trade routes.

With wealth pouring in culture prospered. There was a shift in the lives of many people away from agriculture and cities grew. This time saw the emergence of poets, mathematicians, architects, sculptures, philosophers, and potters.

Politics

Classical Greece became the birthplace of democracy. Much of what was lost after the decline of the ancient world would be reborn in North America two thousand years later. These ideals of reason, freedom, prosperity, and self-government that were present in Greece would eventually flow to the rest of the world.

Athens emerged as the dominant city-state at the end of the Persian Wars. However, Athens was not the only superpower around, and this would eventually end the high times. Another city state emerged that had a very different set of ideals. Children in Sparta were raised from their earliest years to serve the state. The highest ideal was to become a member of the elite military society known as the Peers.

Sparta was run by the military, not by a single man. The Peers would appoint a person to function as king, but the group really held the power. Every male child was a potential warrior and every other person was needed to feed and supply the army. This is as close as the world has ever gotten to a pure military society.

After the defeat of the Persians, Athens and Sparta were on a collision course, as two superpowers are destined to be. Athenians used their ships to consolidate their dominance in trade. They remind us of the expansion of the US after WW II: Unlimited opportunity through commercialization. Democracy is a means to continue this prosperity. It makes expansion and consolidation of wealth and power sustainable for the long term.

Sparta would not allow it. They were opposed to the very idea of the power and influence of Athens. After all, they were the true heroes of the war against Xerxes. If not for them everyone would be speaking Persian now! The thing that Sparta had on their side was the single-minded focus on military might. Sparta reminds me of the Soviet Union, where the people serve the military.

Peloponnesian War (Athens vs. Sparta)

Conflict in the Peloponnesian War happened in small, isolated situations over a period of time. There was a growing tension over control and influence. When this escalation of conflict finally erupted into war it was no surprise to anyone. In fact, everyone on both sides was clamoring to go to battle. Over a period of a hundred years the tensions kept getting worse.

Ultimately, the Athenians and Spartans would engage in thirty years of civil war. By the end of the Peloponnesian Wars both sides were brought to ruin. People were starving and the plagues that ravaged Athens were part of the byproduct of war. The thriving civilization that was once Greece was in tatters.

Years later Alexander would arise and command an army that would retaliate against the Persians, but for now Greece was depleted. What a loss for the world.

This conflict embodies the ideals that are at the heart of many conflicts throughout history. Control versus Freedom. This is at the root of many wars and even the political tension that we often feel today. No society can prosper for long unless it can hold the tension between the needs of control and freedom.

Societies that focus exclusively on control eventually believe that the biggest treat is from rebellion. They put an inordinate amount of effort into controlling the behavior and eventually the thoughts of the people. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that culminates in their demise. People will not be oppressed forever without rising up.

Freedom lovers tend toward anarchy. The ideal of everyone doing what they want may turn into the rich and powerful defining ways for themselves to get more freedom, while limiting the opportunity of others. Rebellion is never a form of government. The world has seen too many rebellions that slid directly into dictatorships.

Lessons from History

There are very many lessons that can be learned from this period of history. At this moment we stand at a crossroads in our home history. It is worth studying how others handled their situations to understand our opportunities and dangers.

Here are several lessons that I think are worth pondering.

Christian Nationalism

I consider Christian Nationalism the single greatest threat to our national security. I ran across this as a series of Tweets and thought it was worth repeating.

Top 10 Indicators

by Samuel Perry

In our studies we rely on survey questions to measure CN's distribution & impact among Americans. But since folks can't pass around surveys, here's a diagnostic.

TOP 10 INDICATORS YOU'RE SEEING CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM: