11. Europe: The Christian Ferment

11.0 Introduction

Primitive societies and societies that believe themselves threatened accept the concentration of power in one single fist. Authority is naturally conceived as a whole, which would fall into pieces if subject to differentiation. A power that is split is supposed to be a power without internal coherency, condemned to rapid disappearance. The “Supreme Commander” assumes the functions of judge, commander in chief of the army and police, and he would also be the “Pontifex Maximus”, the Supreme Pontiff, i.e. the maker of the bridge between humans and gods. The best contemporary example of this extreme control of all aspects of personal and societal activities is the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan and of the Islamic theocracy in Iran, which attempt to regulate everything. The same was true of the national socialist regime that ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945 and of the communist regime that ruled the Soviet Union.

These regimes assume the basic responsibilities of the adult human. The education of one’s own children, the care for one’s own parents, the protection of one’s own family, income and possessions, the defence of one’s own property, the care for one ‘s own health, in short the vast majority of the responsibilities that are the normal incumbency of grown-up humans are eschewed. The socialistic state therewith favours the general mediocrity, laziness and indifference of the citizens, who are considered “administered” at the service of the State and not the reverse. Privileges are bestowed by the state on the most vocal, disruptive or submissive social and professional groups, and corruption becomes generalized. This condemnable philosophy of government does not mean that the State should not engage in social activities nor proceed to a redistribution of wealth nor admit egoism and callousness in social relations nor withhold opportunities for education, affordable housing and other benefits to industrious but disfavoured citizens. It means that these concerns are the primary duty of a government by the people for the people. Socialistic governments create spurious cultures by segregating those people whose activities are protected by the State from competition, from those whose activities are not protected.

We are so used, in Northern Europe and North America, to the great revolution of Roman Catholic Christianity, which emphasizes the personal responsibility each human being bears for the conduct of his own life, that we do not measure the debilitating effect a controlled group approach may have on a society. Socialistic societies tolerate the able, the industrious and the intelligent only with difficulty. They cannot stand the vigorous criticism and competition from the discerning, which are at the base of human progress. Belizarius, the brilliant generalissimo of the Byzantine armies who eliminated the Ostrogoths, ended up a beggar. Many centuries earlier, Denys, the Greek tyrant of Syracuse, already ruled by systematically removing the outstanding members of the community. Themistocles, the Greek admiral who organized the destruction of the Persian fleet at Salamine, died in exile, ironically enough in Persia. The Roman Emperor killed by his own hand Aetius, the general who stopped Attila. Many centuries later, Voltaire warned that only those who enjoyed several thousand pounds of independent yearly annual income should dare criticism of the French government.

Roman Christianity is viscerally anti-socialist and rejects the controlled group approach that characterizes socialism. The US restated this in 1945 at Nuremberg during the process against the German National Socialist leaders: blind submission to social and hierarchical imperatives is not acceptable. Each human being is responsible for his own deeds.

The European history is a convergent phase of evolution that allowed not only the successful appearance of reason, logical thought and technology but also the notion of individual responsibility. The conjunction of rare events that provoked this evolution was the possibility for an iron-age civilization of warrior tribes to develop autonomously on the fringes of the Byzantine and Muslim Empires, the Great Schism that separated the Roman Catholic Church from the Orthodox Church, the fecund influence of a Church freed from temporal control, the impossibility to ensnare the civilization durably into a secular autochthonous empire, the inability of the Europeans to conquer the Byzantine and Muslim realms, the security for goods and people provided by the civilized Ottonian Empire, the evolvement of free cities.

Beyond these local conditions, the great play on the world’s scene was the opposition between the Nomad and the Sedentary. In this play, Christian Europe had only a minor role although it was Europe that eventually provided the means to definitely wipe out the Nomad although some irresponsible nuclear countries furnish them again today the lethal weapons that will allow them to resume combat. The knowledge to develop and manufacture firearms could be acquired because the Byzantines protected the West from lethal nomad invasions during the time needed to achieve it. Weapons of a new nature were forged that gave dominance over the enemy of civilization, the Nomad, who had evolved as a predatory animal adapted to the great steppes with camels, dromedaries and horses, with daggers, swords, arrows and shields whose excellent craftsmanship made them unbeatable. With equal numbers of men in the field, the superiority of the Nomad over the Sedentary was unquestioned and remained so until the discovery of gunpowder.

In this chapter, I will first expose the development of the Christian Faith, followed by the destruction of the Roman world, ending up with Christendom.

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