“Rome didn’t fall in a day,” is what I say when I’m discouraged by the progress of the human race (and who isn’t at least some times?). That statement reminds me that all change of any consequence takes time and what we look back on in the past was, often times, not noticed by the people who lived through it. We are in the same place now.
It took centuries for the Roman Empire to fall and, during its collapse, most people living in it didn’t notice. Oh, there specific invasions from time to time, and changes had to be made once in a while to some procedure or other, even some boundaries were adjusted, but over the centuries the effect was minor on individual lives. It was only way in the future when historians looked back and said: ‘by this time the Roman Empire no longer existed.’ The Romans themselves didn’t know.’
The same is happening today.
Western civilization, which has been expanding and conquering since at least 1492, is the midst of a similar great transition. There are no more continents to conquer. There are no more natives to enslave and oppress. Native peoples everywhere, except for a few isolated pockets such as deep in the Amazon, have thrown off the conquerors. They have asserted their right to their own lands and to be treated as equals. The process is not complete yet, but it is irreversible.
In the past two centuries Western civilization has been changing so that much of it is not recognizable today. Nations of Europe are no longer governed by a monarch’s whim. International treaties and organizations have bound the nations together in ways there were incomprehensible two centuries ago. Subject peoples are generally no longer oppressed by colonial masters. We now have corporations that do that, but that is only because international law has not kept pace with greed to make a buck. Laws will catch up.
Even one hundred years ago few people would have imagined a forum for the world that the United Nations has become. Very few could conceive of a union of European nations. Not only was an organization of African nations inconceivable, but the fact of Africans governing their own nations was beyond belief. Yet all this has happened. And, I believe this is just the beginning.
More and more peoples round the world are beginning to see the entire planet, and the entire human race, as one integrated system. Just like the weather, which does not stop at national borders, human civilization is interconnected. This integration became obviously apparent when photographs were taken on the moon showing the white/blue ball of Earth alone in the blackness of space. The Earth is one country, and it is the home of us all.
Some try to fight these changes. They wage social conflicts, political campaigns, and military campaigns in their efforts. They may see occasional success here and there, which will give them courage and renew their hope, but it’s like pushing water uphill. It ain’t real!
What is real is the international network of communication where individuals from nearly anywhere on the planet can see and talk to one or more persons at nearly anywhere else on the planet at the same time. This writer is personally a participant in poetry readings, book launches, and conferences that span several countries, multiple time zones and continents. This was only a fairy tale not so many years ago. When I was a child, it was impossible.
What is real is the United Nations, the first international organization to embrace the majority of the human race and the planet, as a platform for subjects to be discussed.
What is real are the multi-national treaties of mutual aid and assistance, such as NATO and (for a time) SEATO.
What is real is the European Union, the increasingly effective demonstration of multi-national cooperation as a single entity. Could the EU, which began as a trading treaty, be a fore taste of the future? Of the future political union of most or all nations? The EU, though not perfect, has been so successful for member nations and their citizens, that there is a list of other nations who what to join. So, one nation has left. The consequences of that leaving have not yet been completely realized and many people did not vote, assuming that leaving was unthinkable.
Western civilization is changing so rapidly, no one can really see where it may be going, but those actions of cooperation and unity have demonstrated great capacity and expansion, that one can’t help but wonder if the next stage of human civilization, embracing all of humanity, is on the horizon and will include and benefit us all.
Rome didn’t fall in a day, and neither has Western Civilization, but a total human civilization may well be on its way.