Become a Fan
Why the end of America's empire status might actually be a good thing for Americans.
©2010 Daniel A. Brown
If you stack up all the news coming over the wires these days, you might deduce that the next twenty years are going to be nothing like the last twenty to quote visionary economist Chris Martenson. The idea that things are teetering near some kind of cosmic brink might explain why we are inundated with all sorts of prophecies dealing with either the end of the world or, if you want to get really depressed, a worldwide economic collapse that renders most of the human race impoverished and destitute.
Personally, I’m not big on predicting the future but one thing that the seers might have right is that the Age of American Empire is most likely coming to an end. While some reading this might wail in disbelief, I think in the long run, such a transition might be good for the United States. Reviewing history, it is informative to see what happened to the two most famous empires in Western Civilization, the Roman and British. The former is the most constructive because there are some unsettling parallels to our own. Despite their military and technological superiority, Roman society had become rotten from the inside out. By relying on politicians who were bought and sold like so much cattle and allowing themselves to become fat and lazy, the once fiercely independent citizenry rendered themselves impotent, easily swayed by whichever bully-boy assumed the purple for himself. Hence when the barbarians arrived at the gates, there wasn’t much will to resist.
The British avoided most of these dynamics, preferring instead to become insufferable bureaucrats who subjugated half the world for their own pleasure. Plundering Africa and India was justified by a rationale that it was “The White Man’s Burden” to do so, as if colonialism was some kind of supremacist civic duty. True, they carried this out with lots of colorful pomp and grandeur, but in the end, the malaise that set in was more soulful than physical. It took Gandhi and World War II to get the Brits back on track and make them decent chaps again. In all seriousness, I don’t believe the Beatles would have been possible had the British Empire not come to an end.
And the American Empire? Despite what is believed by brittle leftist ideologues, it is a fairly new phenomenon, the product of the post World War II era which is only 65 years old (and thus, due for retirement).
While content to spend the first hundred years or so expanding across the North American continent, our urge to garner overseas possessions didn’t take place until the 1890’s, an era when colonialism was the hobby of choice among western powers. True, we grabbed the Philippines, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, but these islands were somewhat paltry seeing that the Europeans were subjugating entire land masses. Still, doing so brought out the kind of racism and cruelty that attended the colonial mentality. And throughout the 20th century, American soldiers were used at the bidding of American corporations to quell uprisings or displace legitimate governments that threatened their profit margin.
But this was still small potatoes in the world of empire building and it is worth noting that the United States armed forces were fairly weak during the pre-war years. When we entered World War I, our air force was about equal to Peru’s and even as war threatened in the late 1930’s, the American military was drastically underfunded and somewhat antiquated. It is also ironic that during this period, it was the right wing conservatives who were the pro-peace isolationists while the Left was all on fire to (rightfully) confront the Nazi menace.
The attack on Pearl Harbor changed all that, and when the war ended, we found ourselves, with some surprise, to be a global superpower, which placed us the road we are on today.
Which has yielded a population that regards its government not unlike a surly adolescent who hates his parents but still wants them to do his laundry and give him an allowance. Every four years, we whine for change, expecting the latest leader to wave a magic wand and make everything perfect. We hate “Big Government” but still want it to take care of us without demanding any contribution from ourselves. The concept that maybe we, the people, should get off our butts, drop the protest signs (of all ideologies) and work to create our own future, seems to be bred out of us.
Or is it?
Luckily, I live in an area which understands the concept of self-reliance even if the practice is still in its infancy. We still whine at the politicians but some time in the future, we might be forced to realize that our fate lays less in Washington (or Beijing) and right here in our own county. That realization demands the responsibility to get involved and get active. Not reactively, but rather pro-active to create the kind of community that is not only pragmatically sustainable but cooperative as well. This is a harder task than waiting and complaining. It is also a challenge that can unite all the different segments of our society which, despite the issues, have a common purpose to keep our region functioning. Realizing this vision means that all of us might have to start thinking outside the boxes that constrict us, even if we pretend that they do so for the right reasons.