Sic transit gloria mundi

Sic transit gloria mundi

Compare recent political events in London to the funeral of Queen Elizabeth. Compare Britain today to its apotheosis at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. Thus passes the glory of the world. There have been 22 world empires. All have passed into history. They have failed due to geographical over reach and internal moral decay. Britain's decline has been precipitous.

In the year 69 AD there were four Roman emperors, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. Britain has had four different Chancellors of the Exchequer since 5th July of this year, Rishi Sunak, Nadhim Zahawi, Kwasi Kwarteng and Jeremy Hunt. By 28th October we will have had three Prime Ministers in almost the same span of time. This is indicative not so much of instability but of internal collapse. It is also panic like that described by Isaiah. “In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, “We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!” (4 : 1)

One of the reasons for Vladimir Putin’s contempt for the west is our sexual libertarianism. Television schedules are filled disproportionately with homosexuality, lesbianism, gender transition issues and drag costume. Putin is profoundly corrupt, wicked and murderous but he supported the request of Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill to keep homosexual propaganda out of primary schools. For this adherence to Judaeo-Christian morality, Kirill supported Putin in his war against Ukraine. There is no moral equivalence, of course. But the destruction of the moral fibre of a nation is a serious wrong. In the west extreme libertarian ideology has become the orthodoxy of the time. Its motifs, symbols and emblems are everywhere. The strategy has always been to overthrow Judaeo-Christian ethics. There is a determination to invest every aspect of society with its dogma. It campaigns ceaselessly to influence more and more. The love that cannot speak its name has become heterosexual love expressed in marriage, in other words human normality. This language has become unwelcome in schools and in the National Health Service and many institutions are changing their protocols to exclude male and female terms. Such inversion of reality must be destructive to the body politic and of humanity as a whole.

What did the Romans do for us? They partially conquered Britain. They left their villas and roads but more especially their language. It became the ‘lingua franca’ of Europe, that is, the language of international communication. Latin was for many centuries the bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, and link language that facilitated the spread of Christianity and from its heart and mind the spread of learning. The Pope still communicates in Latin, ‘urbi et orbi’, 'to the church and to the world'. Legal systems still use Latin extensively, ‘affidavit’ means 'he has sworn'; ‘cui bono’ means 'who benefits'? and ‘habeas corpus’ means 'you may have the body'.

Medieval scientists used Latin, ‘terra’ is earth, ‘sol’ is the sun, ‘luna’ is the moon, ‘Mercurius’ is Mercury and ‘Venus’ is Venus. Scientific description is still based in Latin terms, ‘prunus avium’ is wild cherry, ‘malus sylvestris’ is crab apple and ‘quercius ilex’ is evergreen oak. Biology uses Latin to this day, ‘cerebrum’ means brain, ‘auris’ means ear, ‘oris’ means mouth, ‘oculus’ means eye, ‘tibia’ means shin and ‘pes’ means foot. Without a common language the flowering of European civilisation would not have been possible. Did the good Latin brought outweigh the wrongs of the Roman’s Empire’s conquering? It can be argued that Latin’s contribution to humanity did so significantly.

The Church of Scotland still uses Latin in its proceedings. I enjoyed mistranslating some of these for the sake of humour. ‘In hunc effectum’ meant 'to deal with this matter' but I suggested ‘You’re a’ right big man’. ‘Pro re nata’ mean 'under present circumstances'; I suggested ‘A born tart’. ‘Ultra vires’ meant 'beyond the competence'; I suggested ‘superbug’. ‘Mutatis mutandis’ meant 'with necessary changes'; I suggested ‘ Aye resist improvements’. I remember secular undergraduate versions from university days. ‘Ars et celare artem’ means 'true art is to conceal art'; students suggested ‘you know what you can do with your celery’. ‘Moderatio in omnibus’ means 'moderation in everything'; students suggested ‘only five standing’ – being the cry of bus conductors on overloaded transport to university. In The Herald newspaper on the day of this writing a woman confessed that at school she had thought that ‘in loco parentis’ meant ‘my dad’s a train driver’.

English is today’s world 'lingua franca’. It is the international language of communication above all others. It is the language of airline pilots aiding safety through its common means of communication. In every airport there is an English translation. This all began with the British Empire. English became the language of education for disparate peoples and tribes under the jurisdiction of the conquering power of the time. English is the language of the United Nations, based as it is in America; and due to that country’s world empire status it remains the primary language of academe, science, technology, commerce, business, government and international relations. French aspires and fails. Chinese is too difficult for most people to learn. Russian has become a ghetto tongue. Does the good English has brought the world outweigh the wrongs of the British Empire’s conquering? I humbly suggest that it does. English has been the civilising language for billions of people enabling them to share in the substantial and dramatic progress of knowledge, learning, exploration, science and technology which has taken place over the last two hundred years.

That may not please those who advocate critical race theory and who make equations of cultures without justifying such equations. It may not please decolonisers who live western lifestyles in western universities, using English as their communicating language on computers and on mobile phones and who excoriate all that they themselves benefit from. It may not please climate activists who decry all industrial development with their wrecking agenda while it is the scientists and inventors who will save the planet earth from self-combustion.

Sic transit gloria mundi. Christianity is a quiet voice in the world. It no longer represents the religious wing of colonisation. It flourishes among 2.5 billion of humanity for a reason. It offers explanation, understanding, context, accompaniment, educational means and hope for each human journey. It also gives people ‘gloria aeterna’ - eternal glory in eternal life to follow this temporary passing phase of existence.

Robert Anderson 2017

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