The Roman and US Empires: A point of view
The Roman and US Empires: A point of view
“There is nothing so frightening as ignorance in action.”
First published May 7, 2010
The fall of the Roman Empire has been the subject of much debate and comment for many centuries. Indeed, the founding of our own republic was built on the founders of this country’s understanding of the Roman Empire, its rise, decline and fall. Thus, attempts to learn from history were present in the period of this country’s constitutional development known as the ‘Enlightenment´.
However, many if not most writers on the subject agree on some fundamental causes for the eventual fall of Rome.
1). Over-militarization and military overreach 2); Bankruptcy and Indebtedness as well as a widening gap between rich and poor 3); the imposition of dogmatic religious fundamentalism as the state religion, 4); the denigration of rational thought in favor of faith, and, 5), the moral decay and Bread and Circus within the Roman Empire.
The following are ideas taken from the books: The Sorrows of Empire by Chalmers Johnson, American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips and The Closing of the Western Mind by Charles Freeman – all are NY Times Best Selling Books. There are many other books as well.
Let us briefly, for we have little time, look at each one. You by no means have to agree with the analysis put forward, but it should give you some pause for thought as it is widely accepted among scientists and anthropologists.
Over militarization and military overreach
Rome was an Empire that extended from Asia to Britain, from Germany to Egypt. With constant expenditures for military adventures and colonial containments Roman soldiers were continually dispatched to Roman colonies and forever on military crusades and colonization attempts throughout the world. This constant ‘war’ economy led to financial distress not to mention foreign anger and animosity towards the Empire on part of the colonies.
Much like the United States today, the Roman Republic had slowly acquired an empire through military conquest. By the first century B.C., it dominated all of Gaul (France), most of Iberia (Spain), the coast of Africa, Greece, the Balkans, and parts of Asia Minor. Much like the Roman Emperors, the president of the US today decides when and where to wage war, and his Senate, much like that that in Rome, rubber stamps and extorts the funding for his imperial adventure, just as the original came to do in the time of Caesar and Octavian.
The Roman Senate, much like the Congress, worked well enough for two centuries. The size of the Empire and the armies its maintenance required overwhelmed the capacities of the senate and consuls.
In 49 BCE, Julius Caesar violated Roman law by bringing his army over the small stream called the Rubicon in Northern Italy and plunged the country into civil war among the imperators, the generals of Rome’s large armies. After the battle of Actium in 31 BC, Octavian emerged as the most powerful of the generals and assumed dictatorial powers in order to end the military civil wars. Think ‘Too Big to Fail’ and the US government. Think secession and the civil war that never ended in America.
In 27 BCE, the senate passed most of its power over to him, giving him the name Augustus. As the first emperor, he reigned from 27 BCE to 14 ACE. Within a few decades the Roman senate had grown to over a thousand members, while being reduced to little more than an aristocratic club of mainly military families.
Rome ruled the entire known world except for China, but in the process, Roman democracy was supplanted by dictatorship and eventually the Romans were overwhelmed by the enemies they had created through their imperial conquests. To the very end the Roman armies pretended to speak for the “senate and the Roman people” and parade under banners emblazoned with the Latin initials SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus).
Think of the US creating ‘hate’ abroad through military adventurism and you are there.
The United States began like a traditional Empire in say, Rome, Britain, Spain or Holland. We occupied and colonized the North American continent and established military outposts called forts – Fort Apache, for Leavenworth, Sutter’s Fort, Fort Sam Houston, For Laramie, Fort Osage – from coast to coast. But unlike prior empires, in modern times we did not annex territories at all. Instead we took (or sometimes merely leased) exclusive military zones within territories, creating not an empire of colonies like other Empires had done, but an Empire of bases. The bases, linked through a chain of command and supervised by the Pentagon without any significant civilian oversight, were tied into a developing military industrial complex and deeply affected the surrounding indigenous cultures, mostly for the worse.
They have helped turn us into a new kind of military empire – a consumerist Sparta, a warrior culture that flaunts the air-conditioned housing, the movie theatres, supermarkets, golf courses, and swimming pools of its legionnaires.
Another crucial characteristic that distinguishes the new American Empire from those of the past is that the bases are not needed to fight wars but are instead pure manifestations of militarism and imperialism. Militarism, as distinguished from the military, is noted by the phenomenon of militarism that puts national armed services and their institutional preservation ahead of achieving national security and thus displaces all other institutions within government.
There are over 974 US bases throughout the world that operate like small cities in remote places the public often cannot often even find on a map. They are equipped with golf courses and magnificent grounds, pools, gymnasiums and housing – ‘Club Death’. You pay for all of them with your tax money, money that could be going for real national security – health care, decent and affordable education, livable wage jobs, sustainable environments and building infrastructure, moral values that enhance human existence and more. Basically, what we call a civilian society here at home — one vanishing rapidly.
All empires have had permanent military encampments, forts or bases of some sort. These were meant to garrison conquered territory, helping to keep restless populations under control and to serve as launching points for further imperial conquests. What is most fascinating and curious about the developing form of US Empire is that in a modern phase it is solely an empire of bases, not of territories, and these bases now encircle the earth in a way that, despite centuries-old dreams of global domination, would previously have been inconceivable.
Bankruptcy, Debt and the rise of economic inequality
The military adventurism of Rome could only lead to national and private debt as the entire economy was keyed to the needs of the military. More and more of gross national product, the amount of goods and services that people produce, was jettisoned over to military containment and adventurism and war. As the society was reduced to war expenditures, the gap between rich and poor became wider and wider. This led to inequality in every avenue of life. While the rich got richer off their imperial conquests, the working class and poor became poorer and poorer while competing for less of the economic pie. Furthermore, the government or Empire itself became more and more indebted as money flowed from the coffers of the Empire to the Great War machine. Neo-liberalism it is called now under capitalist relations of production.
Rome was a slave society that existed during the time in the world when slave economies were plentiful. A small group of Aristocracy controlled Rome for their own self interests and the Roman senate was little more than coin operated politicians operating for this group of oligarchs and aristocrats. Corruption and secrecy in government were everywhere.
The majority of people lived in poverty while a small elite benefited from their labor and the public policies regarding taxation that let them avoid contributing anything to Roman society — the death of the commons. Increased spending on the military meant the average Roman citizen was taxed at higher and higher rates. The debt levels in declining Rome were severe which led to inflation and a devalued Roman currency.
Similarly, here in the US we are seeing more than two to three trillion dollars spent on an illegal war with Iraq with 12 billion or more spent per month.
And this does not even count Afghanistan, where another $1 trillion dollars used to prop up a narco-state that is corrupt, feudal and is the ‘graveyard for empires’. We have now allocated another $650 billion per year above and beyond these wars for other military adventures and the Romney-Ryan ticket wants to give the military another two trillion they don´t even want or need. Can you imagine a family of four spending more than 75%of their income on handguns and not food, education, basic services to their families and cost of their overhead?
Taxpayers can take stock of how the federal government spent their 2007 income tax dollars: over 40 percent went towards military spending, while education received just over 4 percent. The website above shows how the median income family’s 2007 income tax dollars were spent for every state and 200 cities, towns and counties. Two years later fifty cents of every tax dollar goes to the military. And this was three years ago, before Obama’s war in Afghanistan.
We are also seeing major bank collapses, 1000’s this year alone, and institutional and financial crisis not seen since the Great Depression of 1929. Here are some statistics on the Second Great Depression:
The statistics for the United States reveal a society that is certainly rich-but only for a minority:
o The average compensation in 2004 for the CEOs of the top 367 U.S. companies was $11.8 million, up from $8.1 million in 2003. On average, CEOs in 2004 made 431 times what a production worker made, up from a 107:1 ratio in 1990 and a 42:1 ratio in 1982. Take a look now, as workers lose jobs and bonuses go up look at the inequality.
o CEO pay has increased by 300 percent over the last fifteen years, whereas wages have increased in the same period by only 5 percent (and minimum wage workers have seen their pay fall 6 percent). If wages had kept up with the percentage increase in CEO pay, in 2004 the average pay for production workers would have been $110,136, instead of $27,460.
o The top 20 percent of American households control 83 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 80 percent of Americans control only about 17 percent of the nation’s wealth. The top one percent of the population controls 60% of all wealth in this country.
o A total of 34.6 million Americans in 2002-12.1 percent of the population-lived below the official poverty line (which is set absurdly low), and 8.5 million of them had jobs. Overall, Black poverty is double that of whites. Now, after the Second Great Depression of 2008 the poverty is worse. Here are statistics for 2007, imagine it now:
This was written in May of 2010 so obviously the crisis is much worse, the economic statistics more bastardly.
This has led, along with vanishing infrastructure and manufacturing, to debt levels never seen before in the history of the world.
The US now owes sixteen or more trillion dollars in debt, with another $4 ½ trillion dollars in trade debt; $2 trillion in deficits and the lowest manufacturing base in its history as jobs are outsourced overseas for cheap labor leaving hollowed out cities with no manufacturing base and no jobs. Couple this with American credit card debt of over $1 billion (not to mention student loan debt which is mounting daily and cannot be paid back due to no jobs at graduation), PayDay Loan debts, Car Title debts, check cashing joints, you name it and a negative savings rate, means people have no savings and one can see how debt is nourishing inflation, as it did in Rome and could lead to the eventual collapse of the US dollar and the US economy, much as what happened to the Soviet Union, virtually overnight.
Certainly one thing is for sure; tax breaks to the rich along with ‘free trade’ agreements like NAFTA that make the salaries of the Chinese at $77 cents an hour far more lucrative than the wages needed and deserved by America, we thus not only produce very little if anything — there simply are no jobs, they are disappearing overnight while the so-called job creators send thir loot overseas to foreign bank accounts.
The above are old statistics and the situation is now far grimmer. The gap between rich and poor in this country are at record levels and the policies regarding taxation favor the rich, while at the same time raising taxes on working people – social mobility is now stagnant or actually receding in America today. Wages refuse to rise and more and more people work two jobs each per household and live off of debt and more debt and yes, more virulent debt. Student debt alone is one trillion dollars and counting.
Debt peonage is the new economy we wish to export to ‘free’ Afghanistan or the new ‘Iraq’. This is the democracy we seek to export which is not democracy, but criminal enterprise writ large.
We are told we cannot have health care, clean air and water, federal and state government services, and pensions because the country is broke – yet Wall Street continues to receive billions; over 70 trillion dollars in value was destroyed and/or stolen by the rich during the 2008 Depression as Americans lost their jobs at a staggering pace. $150 billion paid out to bonuses to CEO’s with ‘bailout’ money from your taxes! They can now use it to “buy” elections’ and imperial minds.
Thus, the current the moral values are the following:
Competition: you are on your own buddy thinking, I got mine, you get yours, pursuit of self- interests, the belief that materialism makes one happy, the belief that consuming is how one becomes happy by getting things, the notion that other people are out to betray you, that it is a dog eat dog society of me, me, me and thus narcissm replaces any actions of altruism. This is the Hobbsian society – short, brutal and nasty and it will get worse unless conditions dramatically change.
It is a society where people are on drugs, drink, take prescription medicines for ‘diseases’ that did not even exist thirty years ago, watch TV and play video games while their society slowly loses its grip, deliquesces and circles the drain.
It is a society where an understanding of our common struggles is sacrificed on the Alter of competition for everything, when in fact, corporations never compete, they own it all and use divide and conquer policies like immigration, racism, sexism, homophobia and cultural differences to divide people so they do not recognize their common enemy.
“If the American people ever allow banks to control the issue of our currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and the corporations that will grow up will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”
—- Thomas Jefferson
As to corruption in politics, it is rampant, yet how many CEO´s and banksters have gone to prison?
Meanwhile the Bush-Cheney crime syndicate, one of the most corrupt regimes in US history, seems to be enjoying their time out of office now with no hint of any war crime tribunals or federal indictments for corruption, public thievery and yes, murder. All of this contributes to the moral decline as American hypocrisy, be it in stolen elections, lies to engage in a war of choice, or in issues of torture and the treatment of prisoners is on display for the whole world to see.
“One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds it partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun.”
—– Niebuhr Reinhold
During the Roman decline in the first century A.C.E., those who had any means moved to Egypt or Ethiopia to escape the ravages of the decline. Similarly, many retirees of the US are now moving outside of the US to live, while those who cannot afford this luxury are seeing their wealth and assets quickly evaporate or decline in value and their servitude to debt rise.
More and more people have nothing but debt, no jobs and little credit. Peonage and serfdom in the new, theocratic, plutocratic banana republic we call America.
The imposition of dogmatic fundamentalism as the state religion
Edward Gibbon, in his 1776 masterwork The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, pointed to an overconfident and intolerant Christianity as one chief cause of imperial decline of Rome. The book’s main thesis is that after the late fourth century, 325 AD, the Roman Empire made a state religion out of Christianity, which until then had just been a minor sect. That combination of church and state became crippling and divisive, so that religious excess helped to bring down an already weakening empire.
The polytheism under Rome before state mandated Christianity had been versatile and relatively tolerant. Christian Rome, however, withdrew tolerance in favor of authoritarianism and pressured its regions and peoples on behalf of the one true religion – Christianity. This worsened Roman relations with allied German tribes at the time who were practicing a somewhat different, even heretical Christianity, as well as with Jews unhappy with a revival of monotheism and the pagan beliefs. Religious coercion powerfully created the forces of disintegration and dissolution of the Roman Empire – although it claimed to unite the people.
Sound familiar? The Sarah Palins, the new right wing fascists all claim to unite when division is their weapon of choice and hate is their religion of choice. They are post-modern pagans, hiding under the rubric of religion.
The excesses of fundamentalism in this country are all too obvious. The rapture, the end times - the Armageddon snake oil salesman rank with any of the Shiite ayatollahs; and the last two Bush presidential elections certainly mark the transformation of the Republican Party into the first religious party in US history. Of course this took years of organizing and desperation.
The force of fundamentalism on American politics ranges from war and foreign policy, to public policies regarding privacy, science, education, and church and state. For the first time in our American history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power over Washington and the Whitehouse. A simple glance at Obama’s inauguration, with Pastor Rick Warren at the helm along with Rev. Lowry all testify to the state-based religious dogma of our times and the inescapable conclusion that America is a ‘Christian state’.
More than this exist the Christian fundamentalist ideals that say they are fundamentally correct and thus any other beliefs must be fundamentally wrong. This is not democracy, democracy was based on a separation of church and state and we see now, more and more calls to “God and Guns and Gold” as the new American mantra.
As the conditions of life worsen, more and more people give up hope and struggle and look to superstition and Gods for the answer to the American system of corruption. Is this the new emergence of the Digital Dark Ages?
The denigration of rational thought in favor of faith
The Greek tradition was firmly established by the fifth century BCE – its two greatest founders were Plato and his student, Aristotle. The Greek rational tradition demanded that people think for themselves and take responsibility for their actions.
Our modern world was for some time what might be called ‘the return to a Greek outlook on life’ – reason and rationality. In the Ancient Greek tradition, one (depending on race, gender, class and sexual preference) was encouraged to be free to speculate without fear and be encouraged to take individual moral responsibility. Intellectual self-confidence and curiosity were at the heart of the Greek project and achievement.
These were recast by Christianity as the dreaded sin of pride. Faith and obedience to the institutional authority, the Church, were more highly rated than those of the use of human reason. The inevitable result was intellectual stagnation. Christianity introduced a different conception of moral responsibility and sought to replace skepticism and doubt with certainty, speculation, and hypothetical reasoning with faith and dogma. The Roman dis-enlightenment closed famous libraries like the one in Alexandria, limited the availability of books by ritual burnings, discarded the work of Aristotle and Ptolemy, and embraced the dismissal of Greek logicians set forth in the Gospel of Paul.
All of this stifled inquiry and advancement in the Western world, leaving the next advancement in mathematics and sciences to Arab mathematicians, doctors and astronomers, how little we know and how easy it is to enter the zone of amnesia.
The intellectual stagnation in the west, the Dark Ages as it was known, would last for 1000 years — from the last recorded astronomical observation in 475 ACE up to the publication of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus in 1543. The Roman faith in Christianity began to create a barrier between science and faith and rational thought in general. It introduced the idea of ‘don’t think, just follow orders’.
We can see this in an extract from William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience’, in which a Jesuit explains the value of living the monastic life. The Jesuit explains that if you obey the orders of your religious superiors, no matter what they are, you can do no wrong! Dog training by the constables of obedience.
The Superior may commit a fault in commanding you to do this or that, but you are certain that you commit no fault as long as you obey because God will only ask you if you have duly performed what orders you received…. The moment what you did was done obediently, God wipes it out of your account….”
The Greek rational tradition was deliberately squashed by the Roman Government with the aid of the official Church. Plato, Aristotle and Socrates were all called pagans and their ideas were searched out and destroyed by fundamentalist Christianity. The wide-open intellectual environment of the Roman Empire, both religiously and philosophically, came to an end in the 4th century when the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official state religion – the date: 325 ACE.
The ‘official’ version became the only legal version and thus was the ‘orthodox or fundamentalist’ version. The imposition of fundamentalism under Constantine went hand in hand with the stifling of any form of independent reasoning or ‘doubt’. Christianity from the outset was, and remains along with all religions, anti-rational and immoral. Declaring war on the “wisdom of the wise” and the “empty logic of the philosophers” (Apostle Paul), Christianity closed down any alternative or contrary thinking sending the west into the long Dark Ages that were to last the long one thousand years.
“BUT WHERE THERE ARE PROPHESIES, THEY WILL CEASE; WHERE THERE ARE TONGUES, THEY WILL BE STILLED; WHERE THERE IS KNOWLEDGE, IT WILL PASS AWAY.” PAUL I CORINTHIANS 13
Libraries were burned, books banished and thinking critically was looked at as subversive. To question was to reject faith and thus mind-numbed followers dotted the landscape, as they do today. Just look at the book ban in Arizona and the GOP platform calling for the eradication of critical thinking in schools (http://truth-out.org/news/item/10144-texas-gop-declares-no-more-teaching-of-critical-thinking-skills-in-texas-public-schools).
One good way to see this closing of the Western mind is to see the dispute between St. Ambrose and the pagan Roman Senator Qunitus Aurelius Symmachus. The pagan Symmachus had an open mind while Ambrose, the bishop of Milan and teacher of St, Augustine, was the bigot.
In the late fourth century AD the seat of the Western Empire was in Milan and there were still many pagans (believers in the old traditional religion) who wished to be free to continue their form of religion. The Christian authorities were determined to repress all forms of religion save their own. One of the major symbols of the traditional religion was the Alter of Peace which adorned the senate in Rome. The Christians had it removed. In 383 AD Symmahcus and other senators petitioned the Emperor to have it restored. Ambrose (a major power behind the throne) was opposed and the petition failed. The mind sets of the two sides are clearly expressed in the following written exchange:
Symmachus: “What does it matter by which wisdom each of us arrives at the truth? It is not possible that only one road leads to so sublime a mystery.”
Ambrose: “What are you ignorant of, we know from the word of God. And what you try to infer, we have established as truth from the very wisdom of God. The truth, however, should be able to triumph without the aid of the rack and stake.”
With reason being abandoned in favor of faith, and one faith only, we can see the following quote from the Ascetic Anthony in the fourth century:
“‘Since you prefer to insist on demonstrative argument, and, being skilled in the science of it, would have us also refrain from worshipping God without a demonstrative argument, tell me first, how is the knowledge of things in general, and especially of religion, absolutely ascertained? Is it by a demonstration of argument, or through an operative power of faith? And which of the two will you put first?’ They said, Faith, owning that it was absolute knowledge. Then Antony rejoined, ‘Well said, for faith results from a disposition of the soul; but dialectics are from the science of the disputant. They, then, who possess the operative power of faith can supersede, nay, are but cumbered with demonstration in argument; for what we apprehend by faith, you are merely endeavouring to arrive at by argument, and sometimes cannot even express what we apprehend. Faith, then, which operates, is better and surer than your subtle syllogisms.’”—§ 77.” (http://www.newmanreader.org/works/historical/volume2/fathers/chapter6.html).
Anthony never did learn to read or write believing that academic achievement was not important for a man of God and could even be despised. Reason was found to have no place in a society governed by faith. Sound like Sarah Palin and the anti-intellectuals? You betcha!
The newly Christianized fourth century ACE Rome under the rule of Constantine and his successors held up the cross as Rome faced military defeat abroad and crumbling frontiers. People were told to believe in another world as they witnessed their world on the ground destroyed by imperial forces all bundled up in nationalism, patriotism and supernatural claims to religious authority.
Similar things were to occur in Spain, Holland and Britain all leading to decline and eventual destruction of these Empires as well. For all Empires eventually die due to their own hubris. See the Mayans or Easter Island.
In the US, religiosity also makes a sweeping reach across the board – from domestic policy to foreign affairs. The fundamentalist bible based disbelief in evolution, dismissal of global warming, disagreement with geological explanations of fossil fuel depletion, religious rejection of global population planning, derogation of women’s rights, opposition to stem-cell research, and so on all reveal the denigration of human reasoning for all things faith-based. This all leads to the abandonment of doubt, the ability to question and thus hope itself.
More than half of American adults believe in ghosts, one third believes in astrology, three quarters believe in angels, and four fifths believe in miracles. The Religious and Other Beliefs in America, 2003. Harris Interactive Poll, February 26th, 2003. No doubt the numbers have risen since then.
More and more people are turning to unsubstantiated superstition as they see their futures, their savings, their aspirations and their day to day lives broken by a system that puts profit before people. With a corporate media like FOX news that lies, propagandizes and otherwise confuses people, less and less rationality can be found within the corporate infotainment.
Moral decay and Bread and Circus
In the US the ‘circus’ is obviously a popular culture and mass of people who seek to entertain themselves to death, much as the Romans did as their empire fell. Obsession with celebrities, the rich and famous, material gratification, TV, movies and the vast commercialized culture all work to form the ‘circus’, part of the Empire puzzle here in the US. Although in Rome, gladiators and lions performed to entertain the masses and this was brought to the people by the Emperor himself 185 days per year by 187 A.C.E. In the Coliseum of the mind, today the ‘circus’ is bought and sold 24 and 7 in the marketplace by large corporations that control both the means of ideas and their distribution.
With sports, gambling, celebrities, pornography, shallow Newzak, Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingram, right wing purveyors of hate and scurrilous radio talk show hosts who scream one sided opinions and crass, commercialized entertainment provide the full course sophistry of American life. This can be seen as more and more people succumb to the dumbing down of existence, leading them further and further away from an actual understanding of how their government and economy works and often without even a desire to know.
The plasma TV on the wall of the Platos Cave now provides the circus for our modern society; a place where people can now be entertained as opposed to educated — a place to watch ‘Cheaters’ and ‘American Most Wanted’, Game Shows, and cooking and animal shows on TV while their rulers make social and economic decisions that will effect the air, water and food they will consume.
And then there is the Orwellian doublespeak:
The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink. Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.
—Part II, Chapter IX —The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism
The same people who control the society, the corporations and oligarchs, bring the circus to the masses as visual sport on TV – weapons of mass distraction. For as Marx noted:
“The ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas”
This was what kept the Emperors and the aristocracy in power during the time of the decline in Rome; it is doing the same thing today in the United States while at the same time adding to its decline but it does so all on cable or satellite. Fables on cable. Propaganda and sophistic lies are now disseminated within seconds on the 24/7 media cycle and soaked up by sleep walkers on treadmills in gyms throughout America.
The corporatization of culture and the rise of moral decay
Increasingly, the language and values of our culture are those of corporations, something that became fashionable in the Reagan administration and has been cursing us ever since. It is so rampant that even the band Metallica pondered whether it should have a mission statement.
The rich are lionized and idolized for they are, we are told, the winners who have all the answers. We working people are little more than a means to an end for these large corporations that use people at work and then get over on them by getting them to worship materialism and consumption – to equate wealth with money, when wealth is community, friends and family.
Among the values of this corporate culture is the elevation of managers, bankers, stock brokers, financial manipulators and salespersons to iconic status. Fifty years ago this would have been considered a joke; today it is widely accepted. Inherent in this bizarre value system is the inference that those who make or create things are less important than those who finance them, manage or sell them.
In other words, as a matter of government, economic, and intellectual policy the content of our culture is no longer as important as how well it can be marketed to the masses. Any culture with such priorities does not have a long life expectancy and couple this with the ideology of craven self-interest, competition, scarcity thinking, go-it-alone individualism, narcism and materialism that runs roughshod over the American landscape and psychology, it is no wonder we see the collapse of social notions of ‘the common good’. Simply gaze on the devastation that is Katrina for any evidence that might substantiate the claim.
This shock doctrine episode in New Orleans exemplified all the ills of immorality — from poverty, racism, aristocracy, callous disregard for others, cronyism coupled with underinvestment, disinvestment, inequality, militarism, ineptitude, dissembling, sectarianism, cynicism and callousness–all the hallmarks of Empire–were on display.
As the years rolled by, immigration, corporate welfare, democratic deficits and gentrification would be added to the list until the actual collapse of the ‘free market’ economic system we know as neo-liberalism finally occured in September of 2008.
The Decline and fall of the US Empire?
Militarism and imperialism always bring with them the sorrows of Empire. Roman imperial sorrows mounted over hundreds of years. According to now deceased, Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Diego, if present trends continue four sorrows of Empire can be visited on the US. If true, their cumulative impact will guarantee that the US will cease to bear any resemblance to the country once outlined in our Constitution — a resemblance seen in a house of mirrors.
1. A continued state of perpetual war leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction among smaller nations as they try to ward off US imperialism;
2. A loss of democracy, civil and constitutional rights as the presidency fully-eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from the ‘Executive branch of government’ to something more like a Pentagonized Presidency. Congress is little more than a whore for the corporations, as anyone not blind can see.
3. An already shredded principle of truthfulness will continue to be and has been, increasingly replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, glorification of war, power and the military legions (or military armies).
4. Lastly, there will be bankruptcy as we pour all of our county’s economic resources into more grandiose military schemes and projects while shortchanging the education, health, and the safety of our citizens. Drones now think, kids are not supposed to.
Whether one sees analogies between Rome or any of the other 24 civilizations that we know of which have declined and fallen within the history of humankind, is certainly arguable. However, the decline and collapse of civilizations, it can be argued, involve human choices and these choices can be studied throughout and through history; these are and were human choices among the citizens of these civilizations.
If citizens are not educated to think critically and historically and are concerned with only amusing themselves to death (the Circus) then the consequences for such a civilization can be called into question. Our time in history is now troubled by both environmental concerns and thermonuclear capabilities that have the power to end life as we know it.
The question at issue is simple:
What choices based on what reasoning do we wish to make as citizens and people, both as individuals and as members of ‘the commons’ or civilization? Do we wish to work to provide equality of opportunity for our world citizens here on earth? Or do we wish to abandon rationality for pie in the sky thinking that supernaturalism fraudulently offers; the belief that this life on earth is little more than purgatory, for the time when we will die and go on to the wonderful ‘afterlife’.
I ask: “Is there life ‘before’ death?” Or are we so alienated, so apathetic that we abandon this life and our hopes to build a sustainable future so that we can live to die for some promised afterlife by rich, hypocritical tent-preachers with 800 numbers and ‘rent-boys’?
Think about it all, for you are living in the greatest decline this country has ever seen and now, more than 30% of adults between 20 and 27, live with their parents for they cannot afford housing. Students graduate with $70 thousand dollars in debt from paying for schools, while in Denmark and Sweden you get paid to go to school. This debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and now that there are no jobs, what will young people do? Who will pick up the night-crawling debt?
The time now is to become educated as to how your capitalist system of economics works, for it doesn’t work for you; it works for those that own it: the large multinational corporations that hate competition, have no allegiance to geographical boundaries and will destroy this country and the world as we know it if we do not stop them. They will do this as they are through war, expansion of markets, outsourcing and robotizing work until there is no work to be had. They will as Marx said: dig their own grave but they will outsource the grave digging to us.
Think about it! Organize in your communities, for the past may be in part the future, but remember Heraclitus the great Greek philosopher who sagaciously stated:
“One can never stand in the same river twice.”