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Letters from Down under

The End of Empire

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

Or have we eaten on the insane root that takes the reason prisoner? Macbeth, act 1

Great nations build great empires. That is the inevitable result of being great – they cannot stay contained or else they wither, so they conquer and rule until they reach the limit of their ability to do so. Every example throughout history follows the same pattern, but have different approaches and time spans. Some are founded on emerging philosophies – Jewish, Moslem, Christian, Buddhist, Communist for example, some on superior technology and ability. The earliest seem to have lasted for centuries - Mayan, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Roman for example, some are much shorter in span, most notably the British at about 200 years.

The most recent, of course, is the American. Currently at about 70 years old, it is following the trend of ever shortening tenures, and I suspect may well be the last to exist. When you follow the history of their rise and fall there is one thing that stands out: The longest were those that imposed not just the rule of law, but their culture and genes. They came, took over, established camps, stayed, intermarried, and introduced their beliefs and practices until they had been assimilated. They also ruled with an iron rod, were often barbarous, used the conquered as slaves, imposed their laws and exploited all the resources.

But the key component of maintaining an empire was tenure. Each area they subjugated had a military that stayed, a civil service that promulgated the rules, collected tribute, and kept the lines of communication open. When the rulers became lazy, overweening and corrupt, or when other forces came into play – such as being conquered themselves, or catastrophe such as plague - their empire declined, generally slowly, always inevitably.

In the case of the USA something else came to pass. For one thing, no one in power has ever thought of calling your expansion as anything more than being the world’s policeman. This was ignorant, because the actuality was similar to empire building except for the staying on bit. Take Japan. Your military was ordered to establish bases there immediately after WW2, and they are still there. It is an immensely important strategic area, and that alone was sufficient reason to pour billions of dollars and thousands of personnel into it. But intermarry? Only a little bit. Impose your laws? No. Your empire was self centred and self serving, removing anyone you saw as a threat – often by illegal means – subverting governments, establishing puppets, but never for the benefit of that country. You have never cared much about the welfare of the conquered, their own industry or trade, except as it impinged on your own.

And that was OK, because the west went along with it. You brought some prosperity to your allies, you exported your technology, your brilliant salesmanship, your diversions and make believe, and we grumbled but smiled. Your friendship was vital – protection and other rhetorics, tourism and obesity, and a yardstick for our own endeavours, all were given because of empire. We put up and shut up, simpered and bobbed, because we were, to be honest, secretly terrified of China, of encroaching communism; we were stiff upper lipped about losing our mum, Briton, and your friendship was better than your enmity. Some of our leaders feared standing up for their country because it might bring your displeasure.

So here’s the new picture. Your days of glory are over. Irrespective of what Hollywood would have you believe, they’re gone. They were declining, and many were beginning to realise that the dream was wishful thinking, that it was time to face the fact that America was great, just not impossibly so.

Well, that was then, but now world events have conspired to nail you to the mast of your own rhetoric. And wonder of wonders, the prophet of reality is the biggest liar to ever grace your podium. Mr Trump has revealed the actuality, (unwittingly, of course, because his slogan of making something great again is written on his cap), that world hegemony is now unaffordable. If he is master of anything, it is master of the deal – and an empire is not a good one. This must be terribly disappointing to the establishment who have never been able to see past their dark glasses, who intended to rule forever on the sweat of the masses (oops, that sounds like Marx), and think they are most of the way to achieving that outcome.

They have 98%of the wealth, 80% of world trade, an unknown percentage of the resources, an economy based on armaments, legislation that keeps wages stagnant, taxes low, and complete autonomy. It must be galling that their president has said he is going to put up walls to make you introspective and isolationist, that he continues to deal with anyone anywhere any time he likes. They cannot hide the smiles, however, as his posturing diverts attention away from their hidden agendas, his style keeps the critics confused, and their plans are rumbling along juggernaut style.

He cannot simply pull rabbits out of hats, though. That would require diplomacy, enormous consideration and realistic agendas. They applaud him for keeping tensions , (and therefore the share market), high; for being their ignorant puppet, their front of house spruiker, and spokesperson for their philosophy that greed is good, the poor must suffer, only the able survive, and that the love of money is the only pleasure allowed.

Shakespeare got it right about the insane root. Reason sure has been taken prisoner, and I reckon they have been adding that ground up root to the water supply in Washington and all mad Murdoch publications, because it is truly hard to imagine such insanity running loose in the corridors of power in this day and age. Yes, in olden times empires had their share of Neros or Cleopatras, but they weren’t civilised. Or were they?


Glad go just watch from

Melbourne, Australia

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker