Monday, March 11, 2013

The Byzantine Cathedral Chose Poorly, Too

Many Americans feel a disconnect between their station in life, their culture, their beliefs and those elements of the elite class of technocrats. Other Americans dislike the feel of bureaucrats and self serving Mandarins having a bit too much control using opaque laws and a corrupt court system. We even use the word byzantine to describe any convoluted government application process. That is because an apparatus of complex government officials, educated in our cultural centers has been done multiple times before, and possibly none better than in the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines had an entire legion of eunuchs and administrators to handle the Justinian law code, the Imperial court and government authority throughout the Empire. This bureaucracy had immense power and combined with the growth in scholarship and knowledge in the capital became a key factor in the downfall of the Byzantine Empire. As mentioned in a prior post and sounding creepily similar to modern America, incompetent Emperors and a power hungry & well educated civil service made moves that brought the Empire into decline and ruin.
The Byzantine Empire had periods of stability when succession was well defined with Emperors (Basileus) having one or multiple male heirs. These periods of stability as well as that education within the court could allow teenage Emperors to rise to the throne and rule well. When succession was murky, the Orthodox Church and military had a pretty strong hand in selecting the next Basileus, even when the prior Basileus had made his intentions known. There were misses, but sometimes the military's choice, blessed by the Patriarch, would perform well. If not, usually a faction within the capital or military, would overthrow the ineffective or cruel leader. The healthy collection of eunuchs helped. These eunuchs were often from good families and younger sons. The eunuchs were involved with plenty of intrigues, but could never hold the throne. They could accumulate immense wealth though, and this had to be dealt with at times. They had a good system going with a positive relationship between state and church, a healthy military and well defended borders.
Problem was that the Empire enjoyed too much success. They had wealth, growing knowledge centers, the Caliphates were reeling a bit because of internal problems, the frontiers were well defended, the agricultural sector was booming, they had subjugated the enemy to their west and had a buffer zone to the east. At the heart of it all, they had a perfectly situated, impregnable capital with walls no one could breach and Greek Fire to keep the boats at bay if a naval landing was attempted. It came down to power. The eunuchs and civil service wanted more. The large estate aristocracy was itching for the throne. The military was embroiled in a rivalry with the civil service, but was kept at arm's length by Basileus worried about military coups. They all sought their glory and not their nation's. Worst of all, the court's top eunuchs and civil servants started to realize that a compliant Basileus would give them what they wanted, and with weak imperial leadership and a Church + military weaker than centuries past, they could finally install the type of man they wanted. The Byzantine cathedral, sorry, court could drag the nation down to meet their goals, care for their whims and fully actualize their power. Michael Psellus was an important eunuch and bragged about his power to install and guide multiple leaders. These would be the very Basileus who would fail miserably after the confusing post-Basil II period and set the Empire on the road to ruin. Psellus didn't care for that, only for his will and his desires to be expressed through the Empire.
An average peasant farmer, soldier or even citizens of Constantinople and the surrounding areas probably wondered what the hell was going on with the leadership of the Empire. They probably did not feel the elite were in anyway aligned with their interests. This is America and western European republics today. They pick our leaders: Obama over Hillary and even Bush over McCain. What? Bush over McCain! Go back and look at polling in early 2000. McCain would have crushed Gore. With Bush it was a much closer race, which the media felt they could manipulate in Gore's favor (the boner mag cover). The media even wrote nice, cheery front runner articles for the inevitable nominee Bush that continuously attributed McCain's success to otherwordly factors or luck; very little about policy. McCain was a useful toy to go after Bush and drain him of millions. The media wing of the cathedral had no clue just how easy he could fundraise, and how much stink there was to the Clinton presidency after eight years. The native populations of the West are increasingly mad with the modern day eunuchs in charge. Oligarchies arise in any system, but some have actual goals rather than pure power as the current one appears to be obsessed with in every aspect of life. Our current power clique's actions have definitely contributed to our decline, but it might not be too late to prevent ruin unlike the Byzantines. Our hope must be that we do not end up forced to convert or die at the sword of a semi-civilized foreigner. Many people attribute the following quote to Mark Twain, which is applicable here, "history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme".

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