For those of you that do not know, Dan Carlin is the creator of the “Hardcore History” podcast, which is an amazingly well-done podcast about some of history’s greatest moments, largest wars, and most brutal situations. It is my favorite podcast to listen to because it is both incredibly informative and quite entertaining. Dan Carlin’s new book, The End is Always Near, is no different.
Like his podcast, The End is Always Near covers a wide variety of topics, but in a deep-dive manner that leaves the reader better informed about the history of what is being discussed. I will get more into that in the summary of the book, but just know that even if you are not particularly interested in reading about nuclear war, pandemics, the Bronze Age collapse, or the Fall of Rome, that’s okay!
All of those are discussed, along with other topics, and they are only somewhat related. If you want to skip a chapter because you are not interested in that case of the end being near, you can, or, if you are like me and hang onto every word, you can do that too! Carlin’s writing style and diverse set of topics makes The End is Always Near a book that can be appealing to any audience.
Furthermore, we are currently dealing with a massive pandemic that has swept the globe. It is scary, but this is far from the first time humanity has had to deal with such a threat. In fact, I think that if you read The End is Always Near, you will be able to put this current pandemic in perspective and relax.
So, all of that is my long-winded way of saying that after you finish this review of The End is Always Near, you should order a copy for yourself and read it! No matter what your interests are, science, military history, political history, classical Greece, etc. there will be something in it that interests you.
Summary of The End is Always Near
The End is Always Near is not about one topic. Yes, most the stoires in it relate to the collapse of a civilization and how humanity first fell and then eventually recovered, albeit usually under a different political system or, at least, a different ruler.
But, even that is not true about the last two chapters, which are on nuclear weapons and how Armageddon might happen in the modern-day not due to fate, natural disaster, or political mismanagement, but rather because we have created weapons to strong to use without destroying the world. However, that has not yet happened, even during the “hottest” days of the Cold War, which are described in The Best and the Brightest and Bridge of Spies, so while the end might be near, there is really no way to tell.
Additionally, to begin the book, before discussing actual examples of societal collapse. Carlin discusses whether hard times do, in fact, create better men and what the effects of past child-rearing practices might have had on those societies. We have all heard the “History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up” quote by Voltaire, but is that actually true? Or does civilization and wealth provide benefits that, even in times of war, outweigh the benefits of growing up tough under hard times? According to Carlin in The End is Always Near, the answer might not be what you first think.
Similarly, according to him, most parents up until a few decades ago would be considered abusive by our modern standards. They beat kids not just with belts or swiches, but sometimes with metal rods! Also, they were far more willing to abandon or send away their kids. What effect did that have on society? Did it make society tougher, or just full of sociopaths inured to violence and trauma? Read The End is Always Near to find out!
Other than those chapters, however, Carlin’s The End is Always Near, is a compilation of examples of how societies have fallen. He begins with the Bronze Age collapse that devastated the Egyptian Empire, knocked out the Mycenaean Greeks that defeated Troy, and led to suffering all around the Mediterranean. In that chapter of The End is Always Near, Carlin discusses not only what we know happened, but also how it might have happened. Famine, civil war, piracy, a pandemic, some combination of those, or something else entirely could be to blame. We do not know. But, we do know that there was a collapse and that something happened next; civilization rose from the ashes.
Next, Carlin discusses how the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires battled each other and both eventually crumbled, forgotten by the time Xenophon encountered devastated and abandoned cities in the Middle East hundreds of years later during the time of the Spartans and Athenians. Even by the standards of those Greeks that we consider ancient, the Babylonians (which you might have recently learned about from my review of The Richest Man in Babylon) were ancient. How did they fall? How did the similar Assyrian Empire fall? And what effect did that have on civilization? Carlin answers all those questions and more in The End is Always Near.
Next, Carlin gives examples of the effects “barbarians” have on civilizations. In all of the aforementioned empires, along with others, namely the Roman Empire and Anglo-Saxon England, barbarian invasion played a large role in societal chaos. But, were those barbarians always bringing “the end of the world” with them, as many of us are taught to believe? Or, especially in the case of the Romans, were the German tribes simply overthrowing a corrupt and ineffective government and replacing it with something functional? Yes, the Romans were gone, but were the Carolingians that eventually replaced them any worse? Read The End is Always Near to find out!
The last example Carlin gives of societal collapse is the Dark Age/Medieval Age collapse is the one most relevant to today. That is his discussion of pandemics. From smallpox to the bubonic plague, past generations had to death with mortality due to disease that people today simply could not handle. We in America have had ~150,000 deaths from the Chinese Flu, which is saddening and not something to be diminished. But Medieval Europe lost about 1/3 of its population from the plague. That would be ~110 million Americans dead. Could we handle that? Or would society collapse? Based on our fear-filled response to something as small as the Chinese Flu, I do not have high hopes that we would make it through.
Finally, Carlin discusses nuclear weapons and how the end is always near in the modern world because of them. In an afternoon, every city could be wiped out. However, that has not yet happened. We have managed to responsibly exercise control of those weapons and their immense power.
The overarching point, in my view, of The End is Always Near is that humanity finds a way to survive. Whatever collapse happened, civilization rebounded. There might have been dips in the standard of living, literary rates have fluctuated as has prosperity and everyday violence. But, overall, society has found a way to rebound. Hopefully, that will continue to hold true.
Analysis of The End is Always Near
I thought that The End is Always Near was a fantastic book. It was fast paced, well written, full of valuable information, packed with citations that helped prove the validity of Carlin’s points, and very relevant to our current world situation.
A problem America, and much of the modern Western world, has is that the overwhelming majority of our citizens have no historical knowledge. They do not know about the Roman Empire or the collapse of it. They know little about the Persians, Babylonians, Ancient Greeks, or Egyptians. What little they do know comes from either the Bible or movies like “300,” not books like The End is Always Near.
While the Bible is the word of God and an excellent source on some historical events, it is not the best source of historical knowledge out there. And while I am sure that “300” is entertaining, there is more to learn than can be learned on the big screen. People need to read and learn history because it is what informs us about what might happen in the present and future.
Our societal lack of historical knowledge is a major problem because it means people cannot put things in context. Two particular examples from today stand out to me.
The first is the Chinese Flu issue. In the grand scheme of plagues the world has had to deal with, it is remarkably insignificant. The common flu is generally worse. The Black Death, Plague of Justinian, and even once-common maladies like smallpox killed far more people that Coronavirus will ever even infect. And that was in a world with far fewer people.
Those of us that have an even tenuous grasp of history understand that. We can read about what has happened with plagues in the past and see that this one is not really all that bad. However, few people can put it in context like that. So, because of their ignorance and fear, we are all forced to remain locked up and socially distanced. Convince those around you to read The End is Always Near, especially if they are scared about the Chinese Flu. Reading The End is Always Near will help them understand the limited scope of the threat.
The second example is that few people would understand Carlin’s discussion of barbarians at the gate and how they led to societal collapses. In The End is Always Near, Carlin discusses how the Roman Empire grew soft and fell apart once it started hiring the German barbarians as fighters and letting them into the Empire. Men who once would have been brave citizen-soldiers instead stayed in Rome and lived out lives of debauchery, relying on their German mercenaries to protect them. Emperors were little more than figureheads. The entire system, which had created standards of living that would not be brought back for over 1000 years, collapsed under the weight of barbarian migrations.
Does that sound like anything to you? Perhaps the mass of illegal immigrants at our border and already in our nation? Like the Romans in The End is Always Near, modern America is facing hordes of relatively uncivilized masses pressing to get into the nation to escape unrest in their home country. But, unlike the Romans, most of our leaders are not even willing to try to fight back.
President Trump is willing to fight back, mainly because he understands the threat posed by illegal immigration and masses of unskilled workers, but many of the cowardly establishment Republicans and globalist-minded Democrats are not. They would prefer “diversity” and the collapse of civilization to standing up for a strict immigration system that only lets in those that would be good for the nation.
It is as if they do not realize the historical fact, which is well-documented in books like The End is Always Near, that barbarian mass migrations have destroyed civilizations. The migration of the “sea people” might have led to the Bronze Age collapse. The migrations of Germanic tribes into the Western Roman Empire destroyed it. The Byzantine Empire was destroyed by Ottoman barbarians. And now America has millions pressing against the wall that President Trump is trying to build.
History can be ignored, but the facts of life cannot be avoided. If we want to create a better world today, we need to study the past and then make decisions based on that. Reading books like The End is Always Near that describe past catastrophes and put current ones in context is a great way to do so.
For example, based on The End is Always Near, the current pandemic does not seem like much of a big deal, other than that the tyrannical response to it, such as demanding that we all wear masks, has weakened our faith in the government to protect our liberties. On the other hand, the disaster of illegal immigration does seem like a big problem for America. Uncivilized hordes, like the one of illegal immigrants at our southern border, have collapsed civilizations.
So, putting those problems in context can help us with recognizing their scope and the true threat posed by them.
Read The End is Always Near. It is a great book. Dan Carlin is almost as good of a writer as he is a podcast producer (on that note, I would also recommend that you listen to his Hardcore History podcast).
I have no idea if Carlin is a conservative or Republican. I doubt it, but I am not sure. He probably would disagree with that last point about illegal immigration and the threat posed by it. But, he is a genius and his writings are worth reading. And, frankly, I could not care less. His work is excellent, whether you are talking about his podcast or this new book of his.
I think the lesson in that is that we should seek out quality, not ideological conformity. Carlin, even though he is not a trained historian, is an expert in his field that has devoted his life to teaching other about history in a fun and informational way. And, as you can see by reading this book, he does so excellently and in the process teaches many lessons of history that can apply to both conservatives and liberals.
All that is to say that ideology does not matter. If the history is accurate, then the book is worth reading. And that is certainly true in this case. Order yourself a copy of The End is Always Near. You won’t regret it!
By: Gen Z Conservative