THE FATE OF EMPIRES and SEARCH FOR SURVIVAL By Sir John Glubb
The Fate of Empires 24
Knowledge and our experience (perhaps our basic human intellects) are inadequate to pronounce whether or not the rise and fall of great nations is the best system for the best of all possible worlds. These doubts, however, need not prevent us from attempting to acquire more knowledge on the rise and fall of great powers, or from endeavouring, in the light of such knowledge, to improve the moral quality of human life.
Perhaps, in fact, we may reach the conclusion that the successive rise and fall of great nations is inevitable and, indeed, a system divinely ordained. But even this would be an immense gain. For we should know where we stand in relation to our human brothers and sisters. In our present state of mental chaos on the subject, we divide ourselves into nations, parties or communities and fight, hate and vilify one another over developments which may perhaps be divinely ordained and which seem to us, if we take a broader view, completely uncontrollable and inevitable. If we could accept these great movements as beyond our control, there would be no excuse for our hating one another because of them.
However varied, confusing and contradictory the religious history of the world may appear, the noblest and most spiritual of the devotees of all religions seem to reach the conclusion that love is the key to human life. Any expansion of our knowledge which may lead to a reduction in our unjustified hates is therefore surely well worth while.
As numerous points of interest have arisen in the course of this essay, I close with a brief summary, to refresh the reader’s mind.
(a) We do not learn from history because our studies are brief and prejudiced.
(b) In a surprising manner, 250 years emerges as the average length of national greatness.
(c) This average has not varied for 3,000years. Does it represent ten generations?
(d) The stages of the rise and fall of great nations seem to be:
• The Age of Pioneers (outburst)
• The Age of Conquests
• The Age of Commerce
• The Age of Affluence
• The Age of Intellect
• The Age of Decadence.
(e) Decadence is marked by:
• An influx of foreigners
• The Welfare State
• A weakening of religion.
(f) Decadence is due to:
• Too long a period of wealth and power
• Love of money
• The loss of a sense of duty.
(g) The life histories of great states are amazingly similar, and are due to internal factors.
(h) Their falls are diverse, because they are largely the result of external causes.
(i) History should be taught as the history of the human race, though of course with emphasis on the history of the student’s own country.