The Best Quotes From ‘The End Is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments….to Nuclear Near Misses’

The End Is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments, from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses,” is a fascinating book about the end of civilizations. See, we take it for granted that not only will we continue our prosperous way of living, but that it will go on indefinitely and only get better. However, that is not the lesson history teaches us. Everything from plagues to natural disasters to war to bad immigration policies has destroyed nations and even empires that have been around far longer than the United States. As you read these quotes, you will get a better sense of how lucky we have been and how precious what we have as a nation happens to be.

— “‘History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up,’ Voltaire reportedly said.”

— “The early-twentieth-century German military historian Hans Delbrück had a theory that everything that characterizes the modern military—the organization, tactics, drill, logistics, and leadership—is designed to help offset the natural advantage of the toughness that people at a lower level of civilization possess.”

— “It wasn’t until the late 1930s in the United States that child labor in such dangerous industries as mining and manufacturing was outlawed.”

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— “Part of what makes really ancient history so interesting is that there are lots of peoples who seem to just appear from nowhere in the historical records. It’s like Star Trek without the space travel. One minute there aren’t any people like the Arameans or Phrygians or Kassites, next minute they’re seemingly everywhere you look.”

— “Our modern delivery and logistics systems allow large amounts of food to be reliably shipped and to stock the shelves of even distant islands. When scenes of the ravages of modern famine appear on television charity ads, the reality displayed on camera is almost incomprehensible to most of us. But try feeding three hundred million people in the United States today with the farming technology of even two hundred years ago.”

— “First, let’s step out of our timeline to the year 1815, when the Mount Tambora volcano erupted in what’s now part of Indonesia. It is the only eruption in the last thousand years that merits a 7 out of a maximum 8 rating on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI).* It caused tsunamis and earthquakes, darkened the skies, and unleashed enough ash to cover a one-hundred-square-mile area to a depth of twelve feet. The effect on global climate was profound—1816 was known as ‘the year without summer.’ And, among other things, it was thought to have brought on famine.”

— “Smallpox is one of the most infamous diseases in history. To give an idea of its virulence, it killed an estimated 300 to 500 million people in the twentieth century alone,* but the disease was eradicated from the planet in 1980*—meaning half a billion people were killed by smallpox in just eight decades.”

— “When people don’t have food, under certain circumstances all law and order and societal controls can break down. Plagues can cause the same problems if they’re bad enough. Anarchy, revolution, and civil war can sometimes do to a society what outside invaders can’t manage. All it can take is too little food or too much disease.”

— “If, for example, a Native American from five centuries ago had a bad tooth, she might really want our modern dentistry to deal with it. But if in order to get the modern medicine she had to become modern in all the other aspects of her existence, she might not consider the deal worth it.”

— “The anthropologist Joseph Tainter said that in some regions the Roman Empire taxed its citizens so highly, and provided so few services in return, that some of those people welcomed the ‘conquering barbarians’ as liberators.”

— “Today, the Mongols are on the periphery of world events, a seemingly poor and out-of-the-way and behind-the-times culture, at least compared with what we call the “developed world.” But the Mongol people at one time ruled most of the known world and did so for several hundred years. This may have seemed like a long stretch at the time, but it was a blink of an eye compared with the ancient Assyrians.”

— “Our modern civilization to the beginning of the Renaissance, we could count it as so far lasting around five or six hundred years. Assyria and its world was three to five times older than that, depending on how you date it, but their own records show an unbroken line of kings dating all the way back to the 2300s BCE,* and Nineveh, their greatest city, fell around 600 BCE. That’s nearly two millennia that these people were a recognizable regional entity.”

— “One factor in the decline of the Assyrian Empire can be traced, paradoxically, to its conquest of surrounding populations. For centuries, the armies of the early Assyrian Empire were made up of the stout and comparatively loyal native Assyrians from the heartland of the territory. By the end of the empire, its armies comprised fewer and fewer Assyrians and more and more mercenaries and subject peoples who had been conscripted from places the Assyrians had conquered. The army was still an organizational and institutional marvel, but its manpower and loyalty were much more brittle and less dependable than they had been.”

— “In addition to killing the citizens of Babylon, the angry ‘king of the world’ diverted a river over the city, and then had salt and thorny plants sowed into the soil to create an environmental wasteland.”

— “At its height (around 100 CE), the Roman Empire was probably the greatest state the world had yet seen. Only contemporary Han dynasty China could be considered to have been on par with Rome. The empire was incredibly sophisticated, controlled an enormous landmass, governed something like seventy million* citizens, and kept the “barbarians” at bay. The fact that Rome was also one of the most warlike states in human history is not a coincidence. None of this empire building would have been possible if Rome hadn’t possessed one of the finest armies in world history.”

— “If one could transport the Roman army one thousand years into the future, it’s hard to imagine them losing to any European army until the high Middle Ages.”

— “Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, for example, stabilized the Gallic situation, but added a new Rhine River border to Rome’s frontiers with new ferocious tribal neighbors that had previously been Gaul’s problem. Now they were his problem, and Rome’s ever after. From the perspective of the Romans, it must have seemed like every barbarian tribe had another even more barbaric tribe behind it forever stretching off to the ends of the earth. If you are seeking border security, where does it end?”

— “The Visigoths, perhaps 200,000 strong, were starving, and insensitive grasping Roman officials exploited them unmercifully. To avoid starvation, the Visigoths traded their children into Roman slavery for dog’s meat at the rate of one child per dog.”

— “Some have described this as a sort of feudalistic relationship that would become a feature of the Middle Ages. In 418, for example, the emperor Honorius settled the Goths in Aquitaine, and in 435, the emperor Valentinian III gave Roman lands in North Africa to the Vandal tribe. The Visigoths were ensconced in Spain, and the Franks in much of modern-day France. Without realizing it, the Roman decision makers were parceling out the empire to the people who would eventually run these regions when the central authority fell apart—in effect creating their own successor states. As the historian Roger Collins writes: ‘What is genuinely striking…is the haphazard, almost accidental nature of the process. From 410 onwards, successive Western imperial regimes just gave way or lost practical authority over more and more of the territory of the former Empire. The Western Empire delegated itself out of existence.’ Central authority in the West fell apart over the course of the fifth century. The Visigoths—whom Rome had allowed into the empire and who had beaten them at Adrianople—ended up sacking Rome itself in 410. This was the first sacking of the Eternal City by an alien power since another tribal people, most likely Celts, had done it eight hundred years earlier.”

— “Imagine all the ripple effects if our modern world were hit with a pandemic that killed just 10 percent of the human population. That’s not close to the worst sorts of numbers of some earlier plagues, but given how many people there are in the world today, that would mean seven hundred million deaths in a short span of time. One out of every ten people. About ten times the deaths of the Second World War. What’s the aftermath of that like?”

— “If we moderns lived for one year with the sort of death rates our pre-industrial age ancestors perpetually lived with, we’d be in societal shock.”

— “One chronicler described the devastation: Great pits were dug and piled deep with the multitude of the dead. And they died by the hundreds, both day and night. And as soon as those ditches were filled, more were dug. And I, Agnolo di Tura, called the Fat, buried my five children with my own hands. And there were also those who were so sparsely covered with earth that the dogs dragged them forth and devoured many bodies throughout the city. There was no one who wept for any death, for all awaited death. And so many died that all believed it was the end of the world.”

— “The human ripples of pain are still heartbreaking when made visible to us now. Our friend Agnolo the Fat wrote: “Father abandoned child, wife husband, one brother another; for this illness seemed to strike through the breath and sight. And so they died. And none could be found to bury the dead for money or friendship. Members of a household brought their dead to a ditch as best they could, without priest, without divine offices.” The essence of that account is of an epidemic destroying the very bonds of human society. When was the last time the developed world experienced such a rapid descent into a microbial hell?”

— “By the time it receded in 1920, modern epidemiologists estimate that the (Spanish) flu had killed somewhere between fifty and one hundred million people; ‘roughly half of those who died were young men and women in the prime of their life, in their twenties and thirties,’ Barry writes. ‘If the upper estimate of the death toll is true, as many as 8 to 10 percent of young adults then living may have been killed by the virus.’* The disease wasn’t just remarkable for the number of its victims, but also for the compressed nature of its devastating labors. Although it took two years to come and go, ‘perhaps two-thirds of the deaths occurred in a period of twenty-four weeks, and more than half of those deaths occurred in even less time, from mid-September to early December 1918.’ That amount of damage in that short a period of time is disorienting and potentially destabilizing for a society.”

— “In the past, societies have been reshaped and at times have nearly crumbled under the weight of a pandemic. It’s possible that, facing mortality rates of 50, 60, or 70 percent—as people who lived through the Black Death did—we might do as they did: turn to religion, change the social structure, blame unpopular minorities and groups, or abandon previous belief systems.”

— “One estimate calculated, on the basis of this test, that if the originally requested 100 megaton bomb had been used instead, the resulting firestorm would have engulfed an area the size of the state of Maryland. It also would likely have killed the crew of any aircraft that dropped the bomb.”

— “Armies doubled in size between the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the Battle of Sedan in 1870, and then doubled again by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.”

— “The largest artillery pieces of the First World War fired shells that weighed more than Napoleon’s heavy cannons of a century before, and the infantryman’s rifle in 1914 outranged those eighteenth-century horse-drawn artillery pieces.”

— “The author Susan Southard writes in her book Nagasaki that within a second of the bomb being dropped, the resulting fireball was 750 feet in diameter, and the temperature inside it was 540,000 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than at the center of the sun. ‘Horizontal blast winds tore through the region at two and a half times the speed of a category five hurricane, pulverizing buildings, trees, plants, animals, and thousands of men, women, and children. In every direction, people were blown out of their shelters, houses, factories, schools, and hospital beds; catapulted against walls; or flattened beneath collapsed buildings.’ And all of it happened in an instant.”

— “Less than a month after the United Kingdom joined the club, the United States demonstrated that it had the technology and the working capability to build a thermonuclear weapon, the “Super”: the H-bomb. This megabomb was detonated just a couple of days before the US presidential election of 1952. The power of the bomb—even to a world getting accustomed to the mushroom cloud of atomic weapons—was truly paradigm shifting. …When the bomb exploded on an island in the Pacific, it created a fireball more than three miles wide. Lightning crackled inside it. The subsequent crater measured more than 6,000 feet across, and the hole was more than 150 feet deep. This “Super” was somewhere between four hundred and five hundred times more powerful than either of the bombs that were dropped on Japan in the Second World War.”

— “At the EXCOMM meetings, Kennedy’s decision against launching air strikes targeting installations on Cuba was opposed unanimously by his military advisers.”

— “And if the Germans crossed the channel and started splashing up on British beaches, Churchill planned on using poison gas. Is anybody going to cry ‘war crime’ if the Nazis are landing fifty miles from your house?”

— “Harris makes a point that the Royal Navy in the First World War allegedly starved eight hundred thousand mostly noncombatant Germans—all under the laws of war during the British naval blockade—and that this was considered morally acceptable because it was done to save the lives of soldiers fighting on the western front.”

— “Kate Hoffmeister was nineteen years old in 1943, writes Gwynne Dyer in his book War, when she survived a (fire)bombing raid. Hers is among the most extreme human experiences imaginable. On leaving the shelter, Hoffmeister entered a world that had become a burning inferno. People’s gas masks had melted onto their faces. Dyer quotes Hoffmeister’s experience: ‘We couldn’t go on across the Eiffestrasse because the asphalt had melted. There were people on the roadway, some already dead, some still lying alive but stuck in the asphalt. They must have rushed on to the roadway without thinking. Their feet had got stuck, and then they put out their hands to try to get out again. They were on their hands and knees screaming.'”

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John Hawkins
John Hawkins created Rightwingnews.com in 2001; built it up to a top 10,000 in the world website; created a corporation with more than 20 employees to support it; created a 3.5 million person Facebook page; became one of the most popular conservative columnists in America; was published everywhere from National Review to Human Events, to Townhall, to PJ Media, to the Daily Wire, to The Hill; wrote a book 101 Things All Young Adults Should Know that was at one point top 50 in the self-help section on Amazon; did hundreds of hours as a guest on radio shows, raised $611,000 in a GoFundMe for Brett Kavanaugh’s family and has been talked about everywhere from The New York Times to Buzzfeed, to the Washington Post, to Yahoo News, to the Rush Limbaugh Show, to USA Today. After seeing the unjust way that Brett Kavanaugh was treated during his hearings and how a lifetime worth of good work was put at risk by unprovable allegations, John Hawkins decided to create a men’s website. Welcome to Brass Pills!

 

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