3. What Lies Beneath
It is not the Roman Empire this paper is about. It is about the American Civil War. Civil Wars usually incite a certain fascination. These are not normal wars, these are amongst the most complicated and most heinous events in history, for it is, so to say, a war about family. The people involved are known to each other, they will be friends, siblings, offsprings, parents, spouses. So it is the more difficult to grasp the causes for such a war, the mere possibility that it has taken place at all.
On the other hand, if this is a brothers' war, and if we were to exploit that analogy: Siblings do fight. Children fight with their parents, parents with their children. If this is about family, it is about intimate relations and about the problems arising out of them. The more difficult, however, will it be for an outsider to understand it, for there may be reasons, but not always reason behind it.
If we look for causes, we must look on both sides. If we look for evidence, we must also look for subjective evidence. Even if no objective evidence of failure of one party existed, the mere thought, the suspection of its existence can be a dividing issue. Paranoia is a factor which has to be taken seriously; paranoia can also be spurred and nourished, by action or by inaction.
Differences are not necessarily a dividing issue. Differences can be productive, can be of value for either side, they need not turn out to be dividing. Most separations do not take place because of differences amongst the partners, but rather out of a growing inability to cope with these differences. Inertia is a critical element here: Something changes its course only when it is incited to do so. Normally, change is abjected and continuity preferred. Continuity allows for a certain predictability, which is a decisive factor for business management considerations.
So there needs to be some cause, some inciting elements which made this war possible, something else beyond the simple yet somehow redundant and formulaic reiteration of differences which are said to have just been too much.
It is not enough to have differences between two more or less opposing sides, as can be seen time and again in the Middle East. Differences exist, that's nothing new, nothing singular, nothing out of the ordinary. Of course there were decisive differences between the industrializing North and the more plantation-based South. Of course there are differences between people living in colder regions with rather harsh weather conditions, and those living in seemingly eternal sunshine. Of course there are differences between a rather ethnic diverse society with a constant flow of European immigrants adding to the diversity, and a society which is rather secluded and whose more or less sole ethnic oppositions are black and white.
The task is just to deal with these differences, to make them work for the common good. Ethnic diversity is one of the many strengths of America, no weakness, and so is regional diversity. So the question rather has to be, how could these differences be played out in such a way that unity was lost and a secessionist move take ground in the population. Maybe it is part of this game of chance which history is. Maybe. Maybe it's all part of a giant conspiracy. Maybe. Or perhaps it is a mixture of both: A sufficient amount of distrust and suspicion on both sides being used by those kinds of factions who - either out of ignorance, out of ennui or out of deliberation - made it possible for the conflict to erupt.