Premodern Diversity Vs. Civilizational Unity

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

Few Romans in the late decades of their 5th-century AD empire celebrated their newfound “diversity” of marauding Goths, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Huns, and Vandals.

These tribes en masse had crossed the unsecured Rhine and Danube borders to harvest Roman bounty without a care about what had created it.

Their agendas were focused on destroying the civilization they overran rather than peacefully integrating into and perpetuating the Empire.

Ironically, Rome’s prior greatness had been due to the extension of citizenship to diverse people throughout Europe, North Africa, and Asia.

Millions had been assimilated, integrated, and intermarried and often superseded the original Italians of the early Roman Republic. Such fractious diversity had led to unity around the idea of Rome.

New citizens learned to enjoy the advantages of habeas corpus, sophisticated roads, aqueducts, and public architecture, and the security offered by the legions.

The unity of these diverse peoples fused into a single culture that empowered Rome. In contrast, the later disunity of hundreds of thousands of tribal people flooding into and dividing Rome doomed it.

To meet the challenge of a multiracial society, the only viable pathway to a stable civilization of racially and ethnically different people is a single, shared culture.

Some nations can find collective success as a single homogenous people like Japan or Switzerland.

Or equally, but with more difficulty, nations can prosper with heterodox peoples—but only if united by a single, inclusive culture as the American melting-pot once attested.

But a baleful third option—a multicultural society of diverse, unassimilated, and often rival tribes—historically is a prescription for collective suicide.

We are beginning to see just that in America, as it sheds the melting pot, and adopts the salad bowl of unassimilated and warring tribes.

The U.S. is now seeing a rise in violent racially and religiously motivated hate crimes.

The border is nonexistent.

Millions of unlawful immigrants mock their hosts by their brazen illegal entrance.

They will receive little civic education to become Americans. But they will learn that unassimilated tribalism wins them influence and advantages.

In contrast, America was once a rare historical example of a multiracial, but single-culture democracy that actually worked.

Multigenerational Americans were often energized by keeping up with new hard-working immigrants determined to have a shot at success in a free society long denied them at home.

Other large nations have tried such a democratic multiracial experiment—most notably Brazil and India. But both are still plagued by tribal feuding and serial violence.

What once worked for America, but now is forgotten were a few precepts essential for a multiracial constitutional state wedded to generous immigration.

One, America is enriched at its cultural periphery by the food, fashion, art, music, and literature of immigrants.

But it would be destroyed if such diversity extended to its core. No one wants Middle-East norms regarding gays or emancipated women.

No one prefers Mexican jurisprudence to our courts.

No one here wants the dictatorship of Venezuela or the totalitarianism of communist China.

Two, people vote with their feet to emigrate to America. They flee their native culture and government to enjoy their antitheses in America.

But remember—no sane immigrant would flee Mexico, Gaza, or Zimbabwe only to wish to implant in their new homes the very culture and norms that drove them out from their old.

If they did that to their new home, it would then become as unattractive to them as what they fled.

Three, tribalism wrecks nations.

Just compare what happened in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, or Iraq.

Anytime one ethnic, racial, or religious group refuses to surrender its prime identity in exchange for a shared sense of self, other tribes for their own survival will do the same.

All then rebrand their superficial appearance as essential not incidental to whom they are.

And like nuclear proliferation that sees other nations go nuclear once a neighboring power gains the bomb, so too the tribalism of one group inevitably leads only to more tribalism of others. The result is endless Hobbesian strife.

Four, immigration must be measured, so that newcomers can be manageably assimilated and integrated rather than left to form rival tribal cliques.

Five, it must be legal. Otherwise, the idea of citizenship is reduced to mere residency, while the legal applicant is rendered a fool for his adherence to the law.

Six, it must be meritocratic, so immigrants come with English and skills and do not burden their hosts.

And last, it must be diverse. Only that way, can all groups abroad have equal access to the American dream.

A diversity of immigrants also ensures that no one particular ethnic or political tribe seeks to use immigration to further divide the nation.

In sum, the old immigration once enriched America, but our new version is destroying it.


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47 thoughts on “Premodern Diversity Vs. Civilizational Unity”

  1. As usual VDH you amaze me with your ability to put in words exactly what’s happening with our country. I hope it’s not too late to right this ship

  2. Solomon (smartest man then) said (KJB) with all that I have created, without God I am nothing. Jehovah God has a rule of law. Israel in those days like all countries have sinned to the point that God destroy earth with 40 days/nights with the flood. Choice without thought have consequences and can destroy you. Ask Solomon or read about it? Lots wife had to look at Sodom and Gomorrah when told not to. Eve ate the apple after being enticed. Was told not to. Look at just those 2 consequences. Cain murdered his brother, Lots wife turned to look, was told not to, then God turned her into a (In a moment) block of salt. Hamas would kill everyone and eat themselves down to one person, rape the last female have a child teach it to kill. In 600 AD their tribe picked from a hat what God to worship. Think of it, a tribe picked it’s God, wrote its rules, never seeing their make believe God. Then believes it till this day. Now there’s a uneducated Tribe, doesn’t allow reading and writing, and they chose their God. Jehovah God’s Rule of Law says “Broad is the way that leads to destruction”. **Rome got to big for its britches, killed the creator, who raised a man from the dead before their eyes.** unlearned American voted for Biden. If you want family knowledge just read 2 chapters of Gods Word, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. If you want a forever and ever society read The Book of John. This is poorly written but it’s all a true answer.

  3. Victor,

    As an American citizen who has witnessed the border crisis, I read your article with a heavy heart. I would like to thank you for educating the American people, especially now as our great nation needs it more than ever.
    The more Rome expanded; it realized it could not control the people it could not reach to assimilate into citizens. The opposite is happening to the United States. United States is not expanding its territory and does not have to. It’s the people from many lands which have invaded America. The result of a falling empire can happen the same way without enforced assimilation.
    So how exactly does America combat the unassimilated, rival tribes of unlawful immigrants now present? How does America retain its prime identity? How does America rid itself of those that are not here to be American, and are a threat to our democracy? Can the bad be turned around, or is it too late?

      1. Immediately close our borders and deport all illegal immigrants. Enforce our immigration laws, which only provide for asylum based on religious or political persecution. Any & all immigrants must be able to provide evidence of sponsorship that they not become a ward of the state. Most of these people are economic refugees, often illiterate and lacking employable skills. It’s not that complicated.

    1. As an immigrant child that was brought here legally by my mother, I believe that the answer to your questions are that children assimilate but adults do not. My mother loved this country, she became an American citizen but right until her death at the age of 88, she could hardly speak English and everyone she made friends with were also of the same nationality who also spoke Spanish.
      I, on the other hand, went into 1st grade in a New York Catholic school where no one spoke Spanish. In one month, I was fluent in English, thanks to the nuns who took time to teach me diction and so I assimilated because all my friends were Americans and I grew up that way. I married a Marine at 18 and had 2 children who never spoke Spanish. I figured if they wanted to learn, they could do so at their choosing. Both my children are extremely patriotic and like me, detest what is happening at the border. My mother waited 18 months to get approval to come here, never took a penny of welfare and even in her broken English, succeeded in her small business. So you see, those millions coming across the border will never assimilate as long as they continue to waive the flag of the country they left. Do you understand what I’m saying? I hope so!

      1. Thanks for sharing your testimony. Your mother’s experience as one who waited 18 months for legal immigration and who worked hard as a self-sustaining American is noble.

    2. When our elected representatives were predominately patriotic regardless of political sides. We understood these rules VDH so eloquently layed out as common sense. It’s is the reason that we took in and assimilated peoples but kept the population ethnocentric at 89 percent. The remaining 11 percent was open for all with the comfortable knowledge that 11 percent could never damage the ideas and world view of the 89 percent which was mainly of indo-European stock. The dilemma happened in 1965 and is finally in fruition some 60 years later. Since 1970 we have been flooded by peoples from non-European stock at exactly the opposite ratio. When house and senate Republicans argued about exactly what you see today, the Democrats scoffed w the usual lies and the media helped them beat down opposing warnings about the dangers of changing the demography of a nation as was argued by Thomas Jefferson et al. at our initial Congress sessions pertaining to who can become a US Citizen. Please study the acts of the first Congresses pertaining to US citizenship. Alas,since educating our children about the truth behind immigration and citizenship is non existent today with good reason. How can educators teach about our great founding principals, which should have been taught all over the world, to classrooms that are 89 to 100 percent non-European without seeming ethnocentric, racist, bigoted and privileged??this was the plan all along by elite intellectuals that sit at the seats of power.

  4. And eight, to have political leaders who adhere to precepts one through seven and aren’t hell-bent on destroying the greatest civilization the world has ever known.

  5. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    In one episode, echoing the current flood across the southern border, the Emperor Valens welcomed a flood of 250,000 Thervingi, who never assimilated.

    As one Roman wrote shortly afterward, Valens “took the greatest care that none of those destined to overthrow the Roman Empire should be left behind.” Sound familiar?

    — Jens Heycke

  6. The changes in immigration that Victor Hanson proposes can take root and bear fruit. Here are two key factors that could increase the possibilities:
    1. People who come to the U.S. want to work and succeed. The entrepreneurial spirit motivates people from places like El Salvador and Korea to start their own businesses, purchase homes and send money back to their home countries to support their families. Income honestly earned floats a lot of boats. People who are part of the legal economy want to have control over their decisions and destiny.
    2. Many come to the U.S. with strong religious beliefs and cultural identities. If these were combined with a minimal amount of civic education, it would overcome a lot of the tribalism and negativity about America that pervades our society.
    These positive forces are up against destructive ideas and agenda. The forces of division and tribalism consider America so inherently flawed that they want to discard the entire system, not improve it within legal, constitutional means.

    As Victor said in a recent podcast, the system, structures, and infrastructure that have been inherited in California – and the nation – are not to be handed over and left to a newer, reckless generation. We have to fight to preserve and improve them and refuse to merely cede them to the barbarians.

  7. The Democrats do not want unity. Instead, they want division and destruction. They utilize illegal aliens to gain political power so that they can rule to change the country. They do not want a representative government but domination and control.

    Those who control the Democrat party are against American values and their biblical underpinnings.

    1. Wild Ecology contradicts God’s mandate to man to rule and steward the earth and its creatures. The first man was given the responsibility to cultivate a garden out of a jungle.

    2. Feminism contradicts the different roles that God has given men and women. Husbands are to lead in lovingly and self-sacrificial to care for their wives and children and wives are to be the helpmate of their husbands so that they accomplish God’s work.

    3. Fornication, homosexuality and transvestitism contradicts God-given sexuality to reproduce and fill the earth and enjoy pleasure within the marriage relationship. Men and women are made by God to be different and to express their difference in their appearance including clothing and the length of hair.

    4. Welfare for the able contadicts God’s will for men to be industrious and work for their sustenance.

    5. Secular correctness contradicts God’s biblical morality.

    6. Illegal immigration contradicts God’s will to honor the law of the land.

    7. Equity of outcome contradicts God’s exhortation to work hard at being skilled and labor industriously to achieve wealth and position.

  8. Correction: The first man was given responsibility to cultivate a garden that he was placed in. The mandate to rule the earth and its living creatures stands for men today. Secular man believes in Wild Ecology, letting the earth run as if man does not exist and should leave no impact.

  9. What created the wealth of Rome?
    Slavery. Pillaging. Human traffic.
    Knock the Visigoths and Scandinavians all you want…..they did not keep slaves, nor did they have anything to do with those who did.

    1. The tribal peoples’ (globally) while maintaining lesser forms of servitude/enslavement, were at various periods encouraged to take slaves to trade as currency to Rome. Even the Enlightenment of the West legitimized Slavery in various restrained forms, the old Roman/barbarian Culture always at the heels of God-Given individual Freedom and Liberty–how indeed did North American English Colonies primarily originated as Protestants who pledged nominal loyalty to king and crown (while setting God above any earthly king) allow debasement into tolerating any form of enslavement? The Roman culture co-existing as leaven within Christian culture, esp as British Imperial expansion into Caribbean and other areas melded with the pre-existing slave cultures operating for generations opened the compromising to care for and rule over and quasi-Christianize the helpless slave communities rather than liberate them and grant citizenship and equality.

  10. Thank you for your insightful comments about immigration. My ancestors came from several different European countries, escaping to a new land where they could work hard and provide a better life for their children. They left language and some religions behind, both for their safety but to become Americans in heart and soul. I thank all of them for the life I’m privileged to enjoy now. I hope it won’t be lost for my great-grandchildren.

  11. Removal of the border, international invitation incentivized with a bagful of freebies, smartphones, free gov apps, checks/coupons, room & board, free legal assistance and advice, gov assistance was approved and planned as long as it increases Dem voter rolls. Opposition is weak at best and nonexistent at worst since Inauguration on January 20, 2020. Rino Representatives boast of their work at the border coordinating and aiding the incoming illegals and scammers. Apparently, they believe these newcomers will indeed soon give them their votes. The Federal Gov, constitutionally charged with guarding the border, now litigates states that attempt control of the border. Decent, clean living, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens are accused by the Fed gov of being terrorists for complaining to School Boards about immoral subjects being taught to young children; and accuses church goers attending mass as being suspect of terrorism. During all this, this Fed gov gifts actual, psychotic terrorists and their sponsors $billions and then sponsors and coordinates classes for their mental health and the well-being of their religious, spiritual brethren already in our midst.

    Such should be neither sustainable nor even viable for that matter. But if it does continue unabated more than a few months into 2025, BHO’s announced goal of ‘fundamentally’ changing America will have finally been accomplished from the phone on the desk in the den of his mansion on Martha’s Vineyard.

  12. The journey of an immigrant is a complex business. Often one is leaving one’s country where one’s status as a citizen is low to almost non existent, one’s social standing is equally low, and one’s financial status is just as non existent. The length of the journey is marked by hardships and the need to endure privations that a great many would find more than a little troubling. Stepping foot in the new country brings its own problems such a lack of knowledge of the language of the new country. Legal issues abound as do financial hardships such as obtaining employment that gives one more than a bare subsistence. Perhaps worse of all is the tendency to bring all the bad cultural habits from the old country such as accepting control over one’s everyday life as dictated by gangs of criminals. How do communities and societies teach these newcomers the social skills, the educational skills, the political skills that native residents have acquired since birth and is that undertaking possible when immigrant population sees little need for such efforts? As the number of immigrants greatly increase they will the consequences of assimilation greatly decrease. There lies the danger for this country.

    1. Good points made. Legal immigration would screen candidates for success. Those who have the desire to learn English, those who believe in America’s system of government and history, those who seek American ideals, those who have vocational skills, those who are committed to upholding the Constitution would be good candidates for legal entry.

    2. P.S. Also, candidates who are industrious and determined to be self-sustaining could be a qualification for legal immigration and an indicator for assimilation.

      P.S.S. In addition, those who know America’s history and founding values and because of that, want to identify as an America first would make a good candidate.

  13. The founding of Rome in 753 B.C. to the ‘fall of Rome’ in A.D. 476 (or A.D. 1453 ?) spanned more than one thousand years of Pre-Industrial existence. Modern civilization simply cannot fathom such lives and timescales and therefore constantly reinvents the past in order to forget it; witness the nomenclature of the Common Era, that supreme insult to the Reason or Logos for our reckoning of the years. An observer once remarked that the history of the United States is short, but glorious.

    The Roman analogy, while strikingly ominous, neglects to mention that the Republic (and then Empire) were bilingual societies, with Latin and Greek as the dominant languages. Educated Romans strove to learn Greek, in admiration and imitation, while myriad non-Romans could get by without learning any Latin. In the USA today, we are a bilingual society without such idealization. The average American citizen would not say that Spanish or Hispanic or Latin American cultures are superior to American culture, and would not strive to learn Spanish in order to imitate those.

    Lastly the article’s claim of a multiracial society must be scrutinized. Up to the 1960s the vast majority of immigrants to the United States were Europeans from different nations. The quota system once encouraged this; since then it is used to punish and restrict whites.

    1. Are we a ‘bilingual’ nation? I must disagree. True the joke of 2 languages being called bilingual, 3 languages trilingual while a single language – American holds true for much of the nation. But is Spanish the dominate second language? That may depend on where you live in the country! Pockets of Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Korean etc dominate certain areas.

      Which language would be best for US citizens to learn or which dialect for that matter? Spanish is fairly popular, in the US, but there are several dialects worldwide.
      Spanish is the 4th most spoken language in the world. English is the most spoken language in the world with 1.5 Billion speakers (that surprised me), Mandarin Chinese holds 2nd with 1.1 Billion; Hindi is 3rd with 600 million. Spanish has 560 million followed by French, Arabic, Bengali, Russian and Portugese all having between 200 and 300 million speakers.

      I would have to concur with Professor Hanson that a nation should have a single language to maintain a culture within. IMO that should be English because it was the language of business around the world. I have South Korean friends who did business in Japan, they used English to conduct business as my friends did not speak Japanese and their partners in Japan did not speak Korean.

  14. When the US was young, it needed more people. Thus it put out publicity that would encourage immigration, like the “give us your tired, your poor,” etc. on the Statue of Liberty. Beautiful words that many still believe in without a thought to demographics. America has been the third most populated country on Earth for about a century, due to immigration. We are over populated and surely don’t need more people. Our past was mostly European; my own maternal ancestors arrived in the early 1700’s from north western Europe. This has been our culture, till workers began asking for more, and reasonable things. Then our leaders opened the gates, with little publicity, around the 1970’s/’80’s and now we have 69 million Hispanics pre-Biden. And you have to speak Spanish if you want to work in Miami and some other cities. And now we have the southern welcome gate. Which must be closed. Entitled immigrants from very different cultures are coming in and changing our culture even more. European originated people are barely in the majority, do not breed as fast as the newcomers, and white people will be in the minority within this decade. And who knows what the culture will be like. I could regale you with scary tales of increased desertification and water wars, but already am too long. How is this good for us? I feel for those suffering in other countries, and that’s why I believe in foreign aid. With respect, I don’t believe diversity is necessary to success;we have plenty if it

    1. Thanks for your post. Good point that America’s needs have changed since the poem, “The New Colossus” was written in 1883 to help raise funds for the Statue of Liberty and its words engraved into a bronze plaque and mounted in the pedestal of the statue in 1903.

      After the statue’s founding and incorporation of the plaque up into the 1930’s America was not a welfare state. In 1935, President Franklin Delano Rooseveldt established the New Deal providing federal economic and social welfare programs.

      Legal immigration with migrants who are independent, hardworking, and self-sufficient, contribute to building businesses and fulfilling labor needs while not requiring support from the welfare system and taxpayer.

  15. How long before the “fly over states” decide it is time to secede from the leftist basitons of the coastal areas? Biden a month ago made another dementia riddled comment, rambling that he would prohibit illegal immigrants from leaving TX. Did Biden think he could put up a wall around TX in an attempt to turn it blue?
    As a current resident of one of those leftist bastions on the coast, it may be time for me to move as the state is legislating a DEI agenda and labels those like myself as Extreme Domestic Terrorists for wanting to maintain my individual freedoms.
    Problem is the leftist, much like mold, is infecting states across the continent. How long can states like MT, SD, ND etc hold out?
    Protesters in NYC are joined by those in Minneapolis, Dallas and other cities, that are central to states which were one time were solid conservative RED. Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania and others now label themselves ‘purple’ states as the larger cities overcome the rural voting blocks.

    Should our new Speaker of the House follow through with his Constitutional vision and we take control of the Senate and Oval Office in 2024, there may be hope for this nation. If not the world is in serious trouble with nowhere to go!

    1. Leftism is the dominate ideology in America. Controling politcal offices helps but leftist ideology needs to be challenged and minds need to be persuaded in order to make a long-term difference. Victor’s interview of Ron DeSantis reveals that Florida is taking steps to enrich minds with a school curriculum that seeks to teach American history factually and also a civics test for high school seniors.

  16. Michael Campbell

    I’ve posted here before that after California’s broadly popular Prop 187 victory in 1994, people believed that surely the U.S. government would tackle illegal immigration… that after 911 it would have no choice but to restrict both illegal and legal immigration… that after the Rio Grande migrant crisis of 2014 and again in 2023, that the government would act. But no. Not even the tragic stories from thousands of Americans annually who’ve been victims of illegal alien crimes, deadly hit-and-runs, etc. will ever move D.C. Instead, those who object are now the “domestic terrorists,” especially if they are white.

    I now believe the worst about the U.S. government — its demoralisation tactic of diminishing the concept of citizenship… its slanders from elected officials — “deplorables,” “dregs,” “chumps,” “clingers,” and “trogladytes”… its evil banality of indifference to mass deaths from fentanyl. No matter how much blood flows, Washington D.C. does not care. Don’t believe me? Search You-tube for “Pelosi to mother of boy slain” and in a brief video watch Nancy quibble with a woman whose 12-year-old child was raped and set on fire by an illegal alien.

    Is it any wonder there is societal alienation and depression from loss of community, and pessimism about the culture’s future?

    1. Good points. Politicians do what is in their own self-interests to have a job and promote their ideology to control America.

  17. St. Augustine of Hippo wrote a treatise of 22 books (lengthy chapters), “City of God,” toward the end of the 5th century. Recently, I read a current analysis which syncs with your trend toward tribalism. One must understand both the oppressed and the oppressors as those labels apply to all of mankind and each human being. One must also surrender to the moral clarity of a shared belief system. The Koran has not stood the test of time. Perhaps the Bible needs more pruning. The reality is the existence of good and evil. I’m working for the Glory of God, not the glory that once was Rome, nor the Glory that once was the Ottoman empire, nor any empires that have bragged about their own glory, including the glory of Man.

    1. Do you think that pruning the Bible removes God’s word from the minds of men? Does this glorify God? Should men be the judge of the Bible or should the Bible be the judge of men?

  18. Without BORDERS, LANGUAGE AND CULTURE you do not have a country. You have a large group of competing tribes, ultimately self destructive. My 96 year old father in law, Mexican American retired AF Colonel, commented that he worries that the country he is leaving to his heirs is worse than the country his parents gave him. Real wisdom in those comments from a first generation immigrant

  19. Excellent point. Failure of immigrants to assimilate foster tribalism which historically has torn civilizations apart, while some form of homogeneity of citizenship has proven a successful model. it does not require the complete disregard of one’s home culture, but integration and melding of cultures with the home society. There is an excellent book that further explores this thesis, and the dangers of tribalism and fractuonalism: Out of the Melting Pot, into the Fire: Multiculturalism in the World’s Past and America’s Future, by Jens Kury Heycke. A very good read with excellent historical examples of civilizations that failed to integrate diversity and ones that failed.

  20. Correct, but I don’t think ancient Rome deliberately engineered its own suicide. But modern America IS deliberately creating its own destruction.

    But not all Americans–only a few. So why is the majority allowing an elite and super-wealthy minority to do all this damage?

    Who will step up and insist that these harmful policies and behaviors be stopped?

    1. Because these wealthy can marshal more resources to the field of battle (information warfare as Mr. Alex Jones warns us) their power is often exaggerated and overstated until their folly and impotence is revealed. In proportion to their wickedness is their stupidity.

      We know who — President Trump — and we know what they did to him and what they’re continuing to do to him. In the origins of the witch hunt the existence of the witch is believed beyond any semblance of rational doubt. Therefore Trump is already guilty and the professional lawyer class need only be shown the man and they will proffer the crime!

      Extend this reckless and vindictive lawfare to the treatment a lesser profile citizen could expect to receive from the regime. We have hundreds of American citizens rotting in indefinite detention in the D.C. gulags for the 9/11 moment of the Biden regime. No thanks to all of the secret law Obama passed which allows American citizens to be prosecuted and detained without charge.

  21. If you allow immigration by meritocracy, diversity will take care of itself. We already have a ‘diversity lottery’ in place, for the sake of diversity, bringing on a multitude of public charges.

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