Monday, October 05, 2020

The Antonine Plague Spurred The Rise Of The Roman Catholic West

charleshughsmith |  Things change, supposedly immutable systems crumble and delusions die. That's the lay of the land in the The Empire of Uncertainty I described yesterday.

It's difficult not to be reminded of the Antonine Plague of 165 AD that crippled the Western Roman Empire. The exact nature of the virus that struck down as many as one-third of the Empire's residents is unknown; it's thought to be an early variant of measles or smallpox.

One would have guessed the populace achieved "herd immunity" after the first wave devastated the Empire, but that's not what happened. The plague continued until 180 AD, and recurred a decade later, continuing to sow misery and economic costs.

Valiant co-Emperor Verus fell ill and died in 169 AD, leaving his adopted brother Marcus Aurelius to struggle on as the sole leader of Rome's efforts to repel invasions and maintain its defenses.

What's different now is the extreme fragility of America's financial and social orders. The apparent strength of the economy rests on increasing extremes of financialization and its corrupting fruit, soaring wealth/power inequality.

"The market" would have us believe corporations profiting from "engagement" (i.e. divisiveness and turmoil) are the most valuable assets in the land. If the Empire's most precious assets are the derangements of "engagement," then what else do we need to know about its advanced fragility?

If data stripmined from debt-dependent consumers is the most profitable resource in the nation, that's a definition of distortion and delusion. It's almost as if the American economy and social order have discounted the material world, as if financial leverage, data-mining and "engagement" are all that really matters and the material world will magically take care of itself.