I like the certainty behind it, the sureness, the confidence it implies. There was a time when we actually were proud of ourselves, certain of our faith and culture. Certain that It was true, certain that is was a shining example to the world.
Its hard to know exactly what happened, because so much has happened, but the revolutions of the eighteenth century obviously left their scars and planted the seeds for the evil to come.
Nationalism was another of the viral contagions from the French Revolution that spread over Europe, it destroyed the Holy Roman Empire, it was used by atheist utopians to unify Italy and dispose the rightful Kings, Dukes and old republics of that peninsula as well as strip the Patrimony of St Peter from the Popes.
Nationalism led to pointless hatreds between people who should be the firmest of friends, the Hungarians, the Poles, The Germans, the Irish, The Catalans were all infected by this virus, this highest of lies!
And nationalism led directly to that most foolish of wars, the Great War!
The world was in a bad state in 1914 anyway, what with France a republic, poisoned with laicite and Portugal having recently overthrown their King. Then looking to the east, China had become a republic in 1911 leaving a vacuum that would not be filled until 1949. Ireland was on the verge of a bitter civil war, Italy, that plastic Kingdom was still trying to keep the Neapolitans and Sicilians down, The Balkans was a ferment of racialism, ethnic and sectarian enmity and all over the world ill educated but zealous ideologues stirred trouble, Communists, Anarchists, Republicans, Nationalists, Zionists and atheists!
If the economy had continued to grow, if peace had continued to reign, if the rightful kings and emperors of the world had continued to rule, prosperity would have diffused most of these passions.
Yet despite these problems, Christendom still existed, there was still a confidence in who we were, faith, history, monarchy and culture were real to people back then, and they believed that Christendom was a light to a dark world!
It’s not easy to maintain that confidence after thirty million battle dead, forty million dead after a pandemic, the collapse of three empires, mass starvation, the use of poison gas, the desecration of churches and monasteries, the rape of nuns, the murder of an imperial family, genocide, ethnic cleansing, the pulling apart of ancient nations and a series of unlawful coup d’etats. This is bound to affect the morale of any civilisation; I suppose we should only be thankful that it failed to destroy us completely!
In July and August 1914 the military High Commands of Austria, Germany and Russia instigated what can only be called coup d’etats against the wishes and desires of their rightful sovereigns!
Czar Nicholas and Kaiser Wilhelm did not want war, and worked for peace in the weeks that followed the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Franz Josef was an elderly and broken man, easily led by his conniving ministers and generals. Together the generals of Austria and Germany sealed the fates of their sovereigns and empires and decided to go to war!
The Russian generals too, decided for war, they were tired of Nicholas’ prevarication, his fear of war and its consequences, one of his generals stated after receiving the go ahead for general mobilisation, that he disconnected his phone to stop the Czar from rescinding his order as he had done many times in the past! This is treason, and the Russian generals, as eager for blood and death as their Austrian and German peers committed treason, for them war and the mirage of glory was more important then their sovereign Lord!
Wilhelm was stunned when he rushed back to Berlin after the Russians mobilised, to find that he had been effectively sidelined in the decision to go to war, he was presented with a fait acompli, like their Russian peers, his generals did not trust the Kaiser, as he too feared the consequences of war.
1914 marked the triumph of nationalism and militarism and ‘the future’, over the ‘forces of conservatism’, as Tony Blair so eloquently put it! It marked the end of the power of the aristocrats, kings and emperors and their replacement with bureaucrats, generals and politicians. This was the true significance of those fateful weeks!
There was nothing conservative about that war, nothing right, nothing moral, nothing noble or glorious, it was a bloody mistake, or maybe not, perhaps that is exactly how the ‘modern world’ needed to be birthed? In 1914, the state, whether the Russian state, the German state, the British state, the Italian, French or American States were small, mostly harmless things, one did not need a passport or any identification to travel the world in those days, one did not need the states approval to invest ones money abroad, or to take that money on holiday, one did not need the governments permission to keep ones pub open after ten in the evening, one did not need to register a gun or pay very much in tax, one did not need to be numbered, licenced, authorised or stamped by the government, AJP Taylor wrote that ‘an Englishman could live his whole life and the government would be unaware of his existence.
By 1918 all this had changed and changed completely. War had been the excuse to bring in passports, so now they would know when and where one had gone, War was the excuse to steal property, in the form of railways and the coal mines, condemning them to their slow decline. War was the excuse for more and ever higher taxes, taking more and more of a mans wage, War was the excuse for the first ID cards, the dream of many a totalitarian and pushy bureaucrat, War was the excuse to close pubs and dance halls after 10 pm, War was the excuse to change time zones, War was the excuse to use poison gas, chemicals and billions of shells to kill as many as the enemy as possible, War was the excuse to cast aside decency and civility to achieve ‘victory’.
None of the things mentioned above were rescinded after the war, some are still in force to this day, the barbarity of total war degraded all of us, it opened the gates of hell and was the template for future wars and the conduct of instigators of Babi Yar and Mai Lai.
Worst of all Christendom died in the trenches of the Great War, the fury of that barbaric war, along with all the chaos, bloodshed and misery that followed knocked many peoples faith, for some it convinced them there was no God, for the professional atheist it was an opening, they condemned the old order, the one that had been overthrown as the instigator of this viciousness!
The anarchists, communists, atheists and other trouble makers seized the opportunities provided by the war to end completely the old order of the world, the did this at Versailles and condemned us to an other war twenty years later which would finish off any semblance of the overthrown order.
I love to explore Europe, seeing the great cities, the great centres of our culture, but it also saddens me, as I look upon mere buildings, the treasures of Europe and experience the place, all the time I know what happened, this suicide, this murder of us took place among all this beauty and achievement by fools, by greedy men who thought nothing of tradition or faith or morals!
Christendom still lingers in some places, the odd village, some faded cities far from the centres of power, and the memory of the old order also lingers in places, the cathedrals, palaces and older parts of cities that were fortunate enough not to be flattened in the next war. Mostly it lingers in the hearts of the faithful, who in spite of the scorn and derision continue with their quiet but resolute faith in God.
Christendom survives, but only now in a spiritual sense!
We now live in a ‘modern’ world, one committed to ‘progress’ and egalitarianism; truly, the world has been remade in the image of the Jacobins!