Past The Point Of No Return

How does one know if one is past the point of no return? It is not always easy to know where one is when it comes to questions such as this. If one looks at the past, it is not always evident or clear when this situation has happened either. How is one, for example, even to know when the Roman Empire fell in history? Though we say nowadays that the empire fell in 476AD with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus by the leader of a local Germanic tribe, the definitive fall of that empire did not occur for some decades, nor is it evident when the point of no return had been reached before then, as there had been serious problems in the empire for some time, but simultaneously considerable strength in the empire decades before the fall itself occurred, such that we would think that the fall might not have been inevitable up to some point after which there was clearly not enough strength in the empire to endure.

When does a nation fall? Not all nations fall as obviously as did, say, the Byzantine Empire in 1453, or the French in 1940. Where a nation’s strength is tested and fails in the midst of a war, then we know a given regime its over and done with. But that is not always immediately clear. What continuity existed, for example, between the Visigothic realm that fell apart in early 8th century AD Spain and the kingdom of Asturias that consolidated itself in northern Spain some decades later to begin the long task of the Reconquista, and was there a clear transition between that kingdom and the later kingdom of Leon that formed the basis of the Castile that itself became the basis of the ultimately successful Kingdom of Spain that even to this day is not itself sufficiently clear about whether it is a nation or merely a state?

When a state falls in peacetime, what sort of connection exists between one state and another? When the United States changed its government from the operation of the Continental Congress to that of the Articles of Confederation and then the government under the United States Constitution, the American nation itself endured in all of those forms, even though the forms of government had changed in all of those times. The succeeding regime, however different the government under which it ruled, did not repudiate the decisions of the governments that came before them, and in many cases contained the same people holding similar offices in all the different regimes, demonstrating that even with obvious changes, there were essential ties between them that were more substantial and less damaging than was the case in many. Even so, one sees at least some efforts at the same sort of connection between the Senate of the Roman Empire and that of the Ostrogothic Empire that followed after it, or between the Third Republic, Vichy France and its Free French competitors, and then the Fourth and Fifth Republics that followed after that, all of which had different constitutional regimes but at least some of the same people serving in them.

How are we to know when things have properly ended? It is easy to know the end of an age when that age falls in fire and blood, relatively speaking, and hard to know when that age ends when there is merely a change of regime whose distinction from the previous one is not always clear. Even when we know the end of one age and the beginning of another, it is similar not always clear when that point of no return has been reached. We may worry that we are close to or have passed such a point, but even so, there may be years or decades, or even centuries, between the point at which a fall is likely inevitable and the point at which it has happened. Sometimes with regimes or states or ages, the seeds of an inevitable fall be present from the very beginning, and may simply have to work themselves out to be clearly understood, and may only be recognized in retrospect, if at all.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Military History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s