Commentary on Political Economy

Saturday 21 May 2022


 My good friend Paul Monk in The Oz likens the challenge Australians face to defend what is left of the “public thing” (the res-publica) to what the Greek city-states confronted in their epic struggle against the vast Persian armies cobbled together by the various kings (Cyrus, Darius) in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. (Before Christ). 

Alas, the historical analogy is mistaken, and this also vitiates the political analysis. However much the autocracies (China, Russia) may seem to resemble the Persian Empire, the reality remains that the present-day empires (and one could add here Turkey, Iran and India) are immensely more homogeneous and cohesive than the loose confederation of satrapies that the Persian kings tried unsuccessfully to knit together into a compact network. And this is because the modern autocratic empires benefit in part from religious fanaticism (Iran, Turkey and India) and in part from truly horrific mediatic propagandistic networks that easily assure them popular support and consensus through disinformation and indoctrination.

Not only. But on the Western side we have a historical configuration far more akin to that of the Late Roman Empire internally economically stagnating and defeatist through the undermining pacifism and passivity of rising Christianity.

The Greek polein or city states, like the early Roman Republic, were made up of fiercely independent slave landowners who took a very active part in the running of the polis or city-state (whence the word “politics”) for which they were more than prepared to give up their lives. (Amazingly, Ukraine has turned out to be a very unlikely emulator of that ancient spirit.) The same obviously and emphatically does not apply to Western societies, for reasons that I have been articulating seriatim (from time to time).

Far be it for me to criticise my valiant and capable friend (I like his reference to Dennys Prior of the Classics Department whom I remember fondly). But the justice of my objection is hardly confutable - alas!

My uni friend Paul Monk is a TRUE PATRIOT, one of the few left. He deserves a monument!

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