Thursday, September 11, 2008

Anthony Everitt's Cicero

Many times I have witnessed conversations where a comparison was made between the decline of contemporary western civilization and the Roman empire. It is interesting to go back and read an account of history that details the transition in history from a republic to the emperors as seen through the eyes of the great statesman who sought to preserve the republic. Cicero is someone who decided to not enter into an agreement with Caesar and Pompey that eventually led to a civil war that brought Julius Caesar to the role of dictator for life. At the end of his life, Cicero used the very same methods he so ardently avoided earlier in his career in the hope that the republic could be preserved. After having initial success, his policy failed when the Senate did not perceive the immediate danger from an invasion from Octavian and Mark Anthony. Eventually, Anthony sends troops to kill Cicero. Of course, this is not the collapse of Rome, but it could be argued that this was the time when the Roman hegemony ultimately began to fail.
Pope John Paul II has frequently stated that the family is the center of civilization. In the time of Cicero, divorce was common and children often betrayed their family to gain political rank. I do not know how much of Everitt's warning about the decline of Rome can tell us about the decline of U.S. as an international hegemonic power. The beginning of the transition for the U.S. originated with the 1973 economic recession that saw massive adjustments in the restructuring of employment. We need to look back at our own history to see how we arrived where we are now. It is perhaps no coincidence that abortion was legalized prior to this decline. Once we started to fail to recognize the value of all human life, our civilization started its gradual decline and we find ourselves where we are today. How has family life changed in the U.S. since the Supreme Court recognized abortion as a right? There are problems with the specific comparison I am making, but nonetheless, there is also something important there.
Reading the text of Roe vs Wade we find that the justices assert that no matter what the reality of human life is, they have the power to legally interpret reality. Perhaps the downfall of our civilization is linked to a failure to adequately understand the human person and as a result to failure to understand the world in which we live.

No comments: