WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD: FROM BLOOD AND OIL TO THE PONZI EMPIRE
The role of empire in the American Society is much like it was in the Star Wars saga.
The sinews of war are infinite money ____ Cicero
If you control the oil, you control entire nations… if you control the money, you control the entire world _____ Henry Kissinger
When I was embedded with U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan, the soldiers started telling me that the U.S. government is wasting tens of billions of American taxpayer dollars on scandalously mismanaged aid and logistics contracts that end up financing the Taliban. _____ Douglas Wissing
We all know the Iraq War was all about oil. ____ Alan Greenspan
Once you run a current-account deficits, you depend upon the kindness of strangers. This might be the beginning of the end of the American Empire. ____ Nouriel Roubini
This past fall the US celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, and the ignominious end of the 20-year Afghan War, not to mention the growing stalemate and in Syria (including sporadic “targeted killings”). Plus, the US seems to be on the brink of more dangerous altercations in former soviet regions, as well as a much hotter cold war with China. These events, especially the bigger debacles, raise the specter of the impending demise of the American Empire. Meanwhile, the average American does not even recognize its imperialist proclivities. This collective ignorance may stem from an antiquated definition of empires involving large scale colonization, with conquistadors and such. They deny empire despite past colonial expansions by the US (e.g., in its own hemisphere as well as far flung portions of the Pacific) and numerous military posts across the globe currently. These blind spots might also stem from the fact that the American Empire is barely theirs. It is more like an uncontrollable cancer on the body politic. Generally speaking, the United States is mostly just a conduit for global financial powers.
Decline of the American Empire is a direct manifestation of decades of the blatant abuse of energy resources and technologies and the natural environment generally. It is also the result of deeply flawed and inherently self-destructive systems of money and banking. Additionally, imperialism has proven increasingly incompatible with American’s mostly rhetorical but deeply emotional commitment to democracy. As the scholars of modern imperialism (e.g., Hannah Arendt and Michael Hudson, etc.) observed, empires generally culminate in extremely tyrannical regimes. Furthermore, recent technological advances have dramatically extended surveillance and security measures; not to mention a level of propaganda production that would make Joseph Goebbels giddy. Recent agitation of hyper-tribalism and mutual vilification, while diverting attention from major malfeasance, make it more difficult to build acquiesce for imperialist projects.
Ultimately, the role of empire in American society is much like it was in the StarsWars saga, recall how the whole mess started with theTradeFederation. Except in our galaxy, there are no Jedi and virtually no Resistance (save a few rag-tag antifas and scattered remnants of anti-war, civil rights, and Occupy Wall Street movements). The ranks of the Sith are mostly filled by corporate and bank executives (but not any ethnic minority), and their lords, like Palatine/Darth Sidious remain invisible to the society at large. Their DeathStars are the privatized Central Banks, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), etc.; theDebtStars, as it were. However, their fearsome weapons (e.g., SWIFT Systems), often misfire. The Stormtroopers are, unfortunately, our sons and daughters (or the hapless Canadian kids shown above), bamboozled by ersatz patriotism or simply without other prospects. However, I suspect many are similar to Finn and Jannah. The requirement to murder civilians at will has forced the increased use of dramatically more expensive private mercenaries (e.g., Blackwater), as well as robotic war machines. In our debt wars the level villainy may be less intense perhaps, and shifting loyalties and identity crises abound, like Anakin, Dooku, and Ben. More central perhaps, we have many a cheap hood with an overly large presence, like Jabba the Hutt, pervading our political system.
I would cast either Henry Kissinger or Dick Cheney, as DarthVader (accept they were never drawn to the light). However, in the name of gender equity, Condi Rice could certainly play Vader, given her skill with the Jedi Mind Trick (“we had no idea they would fly planes into buildings”, move along). How about Donald Rumsfeld as Grand Moff Tarkin? Stephen Miller is definitely Darth Maul, with his double-sided light saber stuck up his racist ass. Your casting choices, of course, would probably vary wildly from mine. Yet, remember that most of the true-blue roadies, toadies, and rulers of the American Empire remain hidden; sometimes even to themselves. Service to empire is not so much a matter of conspiracy theories as it is subliminal class and cultural imperatives, tainted by the recent exaltation of sociopathic impulses. More importantly, empire demands that all us become unwitting accomplices in the horrors it clandestinely conducts in our name (e.g., “Black Site” torture chambers).
The reductio ad-absurdum of the Blood for Oil Empire came with the ridiculously conceived and executed “War on Terror”. As one pundit put it, “having a war on terror (an instrument of asymmetric warfare for millennia) is like having a war on blitzkrieg”. And turning it into a fake religious “crusade” has only made matters worse. Okay, Muslims probably do not appreciate us pissing on their holly places, but I am sorry Mr. President, they don’t “hate us because of our freedom”. They hate us because we propped-up their cruelest dictators (e.g., the Shah of Iran) stole their resources, dismantled their fragile economies, and last but not least, we murdered their women and children on an industrial scale. Yet, even that type of hatred rarely manifests itself in open war. Empires occasionally have to cultivate full-scale military confrontations, often involving seed funding for shifting militant groups (e.g., the Sons of Iraq). Paying both your friends and enemies to fight can be a costly proposition. According to scholars at Brown University, the direct costs of the “forever war on terror” is 8 trillion (not including burgeoning “Black Budgets”) and counting, as well as nearly a million deaths (mostly civilians). What have we got to show for it, besides galactic amounts of ill-will? Nada, unless you happen to be an investment banker, arms merchant, oil broker and/or all the above. Let us consider one of the greatest follies thus far.
Afghanistan has been a contested region for centuries. Its reputation as “the Graveyard of Empires” is well earned. Being the round-about between Europe and Asia, and critical terminus for the great “Silk Road”, empires often collided there. It was strange piece of prime real estate, being an extremely impoverished (goat herder economy) in a remote corner of the world (amid the mountains of the Hindu Kush), but it has abundant poppy fields. The list of would-be or temporary imperial occupiers included: Persia, Greece, China, India, Arabia, Britain, Russia, and America. Most broke themselves against its rocks and will. Afghanistan’s strategic value in our times is mostly just as a pathway to the rich oil fields of the Caspian region.
Serious US attention began in the early 1980s, following the Soviet invasion in Dec. 1979. The US provided arms and intelligence to the rebel group known as the Mujahideen. This was accomplished, in large part, via the assistance of a Saudi financial organizer, Osama Bin Laden, who happened to be prodigal son of an old Bush family friend. Initially 20 billion US dollars was sent for training and arming these Islamic “freedom fighters”. It was not until mid-1980s, when they were provided much more funding and advanced weaponry (hand-held “Stinger” missiles), that the tide begins to turn. Following the Russian rout, the US began to renege on its promises to continue support the various pro-western forces and eventually another Islamic fundamentalist group, the Taliban, took power, and brutalized the population.
Flashing forward to 9/11/2001, W already had his prepackaged fall guy, our old friend Osama, who was hiding out in Afghanistan. He ordered the Taliban to turn him over, and they agreed to do so. But only if Bush would guarantee him a fair trial. W clearly didn’t want “no stinking” trial, and the American people were already primed for immediate and massive vengeance, so he ordered an invasion and “regime change”. W’s business partners in the Military/Industrial/Banking Complex really needed to blow lots of things up, rebuild, and blow them up again. Rumsfeld bemoaned the fact that “Afghanistan was not a target rich environment”. Nonetheless, the prospect of an oil pipeline that bypassed the Iranians and the Russians, brought Bush’s Big Oil buddies on board — Not to mention restoring opium production that the Taliban had shut down. One Canadian colonel once told me in confidence that his troops there mostly to guard the poppies. Besides an Afghan War would have to do until the administration could “manufacture consent” for invading oil rich Iraq (with the lies about Iraqi involvement in 9/11 and their mythical WMDs).
After 20 years the American Empire, like so many others, could not subdue Afghanistan and it left behind enough weapons to destabilize the entire Persia Gulf. This debacle also reminds us that empires need not win the wars that they create in the old-fashioned sense. They might even prefer “never ending wars” with their evolving rationales, to provide cover and confusion for their own more plentiful and powerful terrorist activities. Defeats can be also be blamed on invented scapegoats to incite further nationalistic insanity, where demagogues invoke a mythical “Golden age” and highlight the need to restore the empire’s “rightful place in the world”.
A Brief Review of the Bloody Oil Empire
We need to go back a good bit further than Afghanistan and Iraq to grasp the odd admixture of blood, money, and oil in the American Empire. America obviously has its own pre-oil imperial history, dating back to slave production systems and expropriated indigenous and neighboring foreign lands. The arrival of the what most would recognize as the American Empire, nevertheless, fully emerged as an extension of global financial interests in the years prior to WWI. Recall how the “father of globalization”, Woodrow Wilson, lied about not entering a “purely European conflict” and also mislead Americans that his new “Income Tax” would only impact the very wealthy. He further proclaimed that to have been duped into signing the clandestinely conceived (i.e., Jekyll Island) bill that created the Federal Reserve (a private banking cartel, not much more governmental than the Federal Express) just before Christmas in 1913, when much of Congress had left town. But I get ahead of myself.
European bankers (primarily British) have driven the course of America dating back to before and especially after the Revolutionary War. Several historians maintain that the War of 1812 was a result of a US failure to renew the charter of the nefarious 1st National Bank (a precursor to the Federal Reserve). During the ensuing years a second try at a central bank also failed due to large scale corruption. Yet not until the years leading up to the First World War did oil become the primary preoccupation of global bankers and they intensified their involvement in the two great oil regions (the US and the Middle East/North Africa). Oil was not just beginning to replace coal as fuel for Britain’s vast navies, it was emerging as the underlying engine of all economic growth. Exponential and extremely wasteful growth is requisite for usurious debt production which is the true raison d état of global finance. This illogical axiom prevails, despite being enforced on a fragile and finite planet with severe environmental (especially climatic) restrictions.
Since antiquity warfare was the primary source of debt generation (i.e., borrowing to provision the fighting and borrowing to rebuild post-destruction). Large banks often funded both sides in major conflicts. They also encouraged cloak-and-dagger statecraft on a relatively routine basis: influencing the media (whipping up nationalistic frenzies), spurring rebellions, inspiring “false flag” attacks, and prompting the assassination of leaders.
Since the 1st World War, wars would be fought by machines, and machines would run on oil. Wars would now be fought with and over oil. WWI was in the works well before the Archduke lost his life to a bumbling Serbian nationalist. The Kaiser had been building new oil powered dreadnoughts to challenge Britain’s dominance of the seas, and British warships were on-station long before war was declared. Germany was also constructing a railroad to Baghdad, and WWI offered the perfect pretext to nip this and others oily power grabs in the bud. Churchill’s debacle at Gallipoli, when Naval Minister and Lawrence’s running round the Arabian desert attest to the integral position of the oil in the military enterprise.
Oil as The Prize of empire took on a life of its own following the first war. US banks (most tied indirectly to global “Money Trusts”) were feeling their oats, and wanted more of the spoils of war. Global bankers were again extending their networks. They refinanced German reparations and even started funneling funds to an upstart named Hitler, allowing him win office and eventually to rearm Germany. Bankers, industrialists, and generals thought they could control their little Austrian corporal.
Once unleashed the 3rd Reich made speedy incursions into oil regions. Their North African inroads were not fully met until the US reluctantly put boots on the ground there. Of course, the US had been supplying and lending its destroyers to the British navy for many months before actually joining the war. Which, by the way, was done over the objection of some pro-German groups and a few powerful financial interests. Plus, the US had introduced intense sanctions and cut-off vital resources to Japan well before Pearl Harbor. Everyone seemed to know that some sort of war, preferably on a more modest scale, was coming since the mid-1930s. It was vitally needed to lift the globe out of economic turmoil, initiated by yet another bank panic and the crash of hyper-leveraged stock markets, and culminating in world-wide depression. But, wars as economic policy, rarely go that smoothly, especially with global financial interests are hedging their bets on who the new hegemon might be.
Following WWII, the American Empire came into full bloom. Furthermore, the US domestic economy was more inclusive (if you were white and male, of course) as it had ever been. Residual New Deal policies left it with highly progressive tax, strong labor unions, and tightly regulated financial systems. It was, moreover, the only fully intact industrial economy, and an unparalleled military power. The Marshall Plan and other foreign rebuilding programs kept global banking buzzing, and bolstered demand for US exports. The US also controlled the lion’s share of the global oil supply. More importantly it dominated global finance via the Bretton Woods agreements of 1944, which pegged major currencies on the US dollar (and the dollar on Gold), and established the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Global Reserve Currency status dictated that virtually all world’s banks be required to hold their marginal reserves in US dollars. This gave the American Empire a far less abrupt tool for recolonizing the decolonizing planet.
In the ensuing years, the Kabuki (shadow) Theater of perpetual conflict was kept alive by way of a mostly contrived bi-polar world, used in part to sustain a mammoth Military Industrial Complex (the term coined in the warning issued in Eisenhower’s farewell address). One by one, the American Empire engineered the tiny nations into a corner. They could accept financial domination (e.g., “IMF Hitmen”) or face military coups and/or well-funded civil wars (often settled by US troops). Recall how the fall of our old friend Muamar Gaddafi only came after he announced his plan to introduce a new gold-backed dinar. And, whatever happened Iran’s plan to have its own oil trading market? Whether friend or foe, in contested regions, tiny bands could acquire loads of US loans and expensive military hardware. But, being a loyal customer was no guarantee of future support. The American Empire would trade puppet regimes, including the US government, like kids trading bubblegum cards.
Meanwhile a new version of corporatism (or mild fascism) came to dominate US domestic politics (including the courts), which Princeton Professor, Sheldon Wolin, labeled “inverted totalitarianism”. New imperial trade regimes (e.g., WTO) set the rules of the “New World Order” (or odor). Furthermore, the obliteration of electoral finance rules allowed multi-national corporations and global banking interests to buy as many politicians (from both parties) and judges as they wanted. Even those who would not be bought, were, nonetheless, manipulated.
Gradually finance would be completely self-regulated and pushed apart from the purview of politicians (e.g., they never audit the Fed). While still arcane and obscure to the public at large, financial machinations still require substantial popular backstopping, well beyond providing human cannon fodder for its wars of choice. The Empire may even re-invert matters back to old fashioned totalitarianism (e.g., police states and cultist leaders) with the Dark Sideof the Force seeing the light of day.
The Rise of the Ponzi Empire
After nearly 30 years of relatively shared prosperity in the US, the American Empire began to sputter. Beyond the instability of one modest sized nation laying claim to most of the planetary resources, a series of unfortunate events began to unfold in the late 1960s and early 70s. The US was not only defeated in the protracted and largely pointless Viet Nam War, public support for militarism declined dramatically. Bogus attacks in the Gulf of Tonkin would no longer cut it. Going forward, generating US bloodlust would require “Pearl Harbor magnitude” events (according to the Project for New American Century). As the war in Indochina was concluding, fair-weather friends stated a run on the US Gold reserves. Nixon acted upon the advice of the ubiquitous Henry Kissinger, and unilaterally abandoned Bretton Woods. US dollar would remain the Global Reserve Currency, yet would be completely fiat (backed by nothing but the US military, when “faith and credit” falter). More critically, by the late 1960s US domestic oil production peaked, just as predicted years earlier. Plus, global production was predicted to peak around 2005. To stop the oil rich nations from demanding Gold for oil, the US would maintain the value of the “Petro Dollar” via secret agreements.
Darth K was not done yet, he sent Nixon to initiate relations with China resulting in a deluge of investment and trade, and culminating in a precipitous US deindustrialization. China’s rising economic and military power makes it the heir apparent for global hegemon. However, Beijing’s antagonisms with global finance may forestall the transition further. Plus, Americans will “not go gentle into that good night”. As one pundit put it, “the US might even win a war with China, if it can get the banks to have at them first”.
One might think that the American Empire’s financial goose was pretty much cooked following the all the corporate and accounting scandals (e.g., Enron etc., etc.) Savings and Loan Crises, and the Dot Com frenzy, but au contraire. A more monstrous financial phoenix had already taken flight from the ashes of the old New World Order. The US could continue to use its extraordinary advantage in global finance to fashion a new perpetual motion debt machine. With blood and oil running thin, fiat US dollars, mostly a figment of banker imaginations, would be pinnacle of imperial power. The average American still doesn’t comprehend how all money comes into being as debt. Even more puzzling is how with debts as assets for further debts, banks went from marginal reserve (less than 10%) fraudsters (with periodic runs) to legalized counterfeiters. The spilling of raging rivers of blood were still a vital element of imperial fun and profits, but they would now take back seat to the pure production of exorbitant debt and phenomenal “phantom wealth”. A new feudal gentry could now invest without having to take on the risks of novel industries or capricious wars. The US homeland, furthermore, could be raped, pillaged and subjected to “accumulation by dispossession” just like the American Empire had done to 3rd World nations. Political leaders of both parties were glad to join the kleptocratic cavalcade. All they needed to do is remove any remaining New Deal restrictions of the US banking industry (e.g., Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that had erected a fire wall between commercial and investment banking).
The brave new world of funnier funny money would also be aided and abetted by the emerging pseudo-science of Financial Engineering (FE), which created the illusion that risk could be magically removed by merely slicing, dicing, and recombining debts. The FE “quants”, as they were called, facilitated galactic levels of leveraging. A single set of debts could be “rehypothecated” (with debts as assets to collateralize new debts) 100 times over in the City of London (Wall Street’s partner in crime). These labyrinthine piles of debts upon debts with their variegated risk tranches (filled with “junk” like subprime mortgages) would get top ratings (AAA or “investment grade”) from the duplicitous Rating Agencies.
When these hidden risks became real, it also became apparent that they were underwritten by the oblivious US taxpayers. How much time and money would you spend in Vegas if you knew that loses would be restored? By way of orchestrated crises and their associated bailouts, as well as Federal Reserve actions (e.g., “quantitative easing”), the most reckless marauders were recapitalized. The Fed backstop once reserved for their member banks, now often goes to highly select foreign and shadow banks, as well as to purchase individual stocks of multinational corporations. In other words, the US Central Bank is actually the bank of the world. You might ask, where does it get the trillions of US dollars it doles out so generously to its secret friends? It literally creates them “out of thin air” (which is what banks do).
Prophetic finance professor, John Edmunds, noted in respected magazine Foreign Policy that, since the military embarrassments of the 1970s financial turmoil of the 1980s, “securities” (the repacking and expansion of debts) were “the new world wealth machine”. Securitization and “financialization of everything” were the new mantras. With the expropriation of the Internet by “Big Data” monopolies, virtually all aspects of human existence could be monetized, uberized, and securitized. Gradually, the FIRE sector (finance, insurance, real estate) displaced the autos and even Big Pharma/Big Medicine industries (until OxyContin and Covid perhaps). Plus, the tail that wags the new barking mad bank dog is “Shadow Banking” (not even self-regulated hedge, venture, private equity, and sovereign wealth funds) as well as various legalized loan sharks (e.g., payday, title, etc. loans, with some charging 500% interest).
Increasingly exotic debt derivatives (e.g., the infamous credit default swaps) and other more spuriously collateralized obligations were used to build astronomical levels of phantom wealth. At one point the nominal value of financial derivatives was hovering around a quadrillion US dollar. CDSs could act like “naked shorts” (often illegal short selling of stocks that one doesn’t own), but also serve as insurance on the secretly super-risky piles of debt that the same bank had sold to their more gullible customers. For special customers, it would be like allowing everyone in your neighborhood to buy, with a small initial premium, a replacement value fire insurance policy on your home and then employ an arsonist. Billions in excess of the original asset values, could be conjured out of a couple of defaults. And when the default insurance defaults the tax payers were placed on the hook (e.g., the AIG bail out). Along with the new Big Data Daddies (e.g., Zuck. Bezos, Pichai, etc.) as well as other anti-competitive extractors (e.g., Bill Gates), the Imperial Lords of Finance have burdened the US society with an overabundance of rentiers.
In classic economics rentiers (those who acquire more unearned wealth in their sleep, via unproductive or purely extractive practices related to land and loans) were a major problem to be addressed by significant regulation. When Adam Smith spoke of “free markets” he referred to those that were free from rents. Yet, as most mainstream economists became sycophantic apologists for empire, concerns about the rule of rentiers magically disappeared. Land, the primary source of rents, was buried into the mystery of capital. John Maynard Keynes once offhandedly remarked that we would have to “euthanize the rentiers”, metaphorically speaking. However, they euthanized the rest of us.
As David Graeber, famed anthropologist and activist, demonstrated in his modern classic, Debt: The First 5000 Years, Empires came into being to legitimize the threat of force to acquire and administer debts, as well as seize people’s others wealth. For most Empires, debts, were used to build great civilizations, and advance the arts and sciences. The American Empire pushed the debt machinery into a totally new epoch which might be called all debt all the time. The Robber Barons of our 1st Gilded Age, while equally corrupt monopolists, at least they built things (steel mills, railroads, diverse industries) and employed people. The Robber Barons of our present (2nd) Gilded Age, on-the-other-hand, build their monopolies by privatizing public resources and spaces (via networks and instruments of surveillance) and by inflating the value of already existing assets. Furthermore, they made information its own asset class on par with oil. The monopolization of technology platforms actually suppress innovation and further extract rents from ideas of others. The wealthy, in general, also vastly expand their wealth by vigorously avoiding taxes, and employing armies of lobbyists to create special loopholes for their income and capital gains.
In this era of hyper-financialization, all sorts of businesses borrowed the suspect practices from the banks. Car companies don’t want to sell you a car, they want sell you a lease or a car loan, a repair contract, and an insurance policy. Plus, with the stepped-up repossession measures, they extract value a couple times more from single vehicle. Moreover, New Robber Barons produced even greater phantom wealth, by focusing solely on “shareholder value” and hyper-inflating stock prices. Price to future earnings ratios became completely insane, relying upon monumentally overestimated levels of growth for decades to come. Heretofore viable firms became empty shells for pump and dump, as CEOs allied themselves with the corporate raiders, meager maniacs, and shadow bankers. Bankruptcies became a common business tactic, especially when it allowed the jettisoning of faltering pension funds. Meanwhile, when activities which built real things were moved “off shore” (mostly China), commitments to company towns that had given huge tax breaks and subsidies over decades became a joke.
As the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008 (and never actually resolved) should have taught us, this fabulously fake US economy is exceeding frail. Given the level of leveraging and over-enabled speculation, a single maverick hedge fund (e.g., Long-term Capital) could bring down the entire house of cards. Yet, inherent instabilities, long identified by scholars from Joseph Schumpeter to Hyman Minsky, remained ignored. Additional mountains of money must be continuously added to merely paper over the gaping wounds inflicted in previous crises. One analyst likened it to trying to fill a bathtub without putting in the stopper. Meanwhile, increasing intolerance for skyrocketing inequality and growing awareness of the intricacies of empire are on the rise.
Imperial Collapse: Never Pretty, but often Productive
The once hidden expanses of empire are now leaving more dirty linen hanging in the breeze. Despite their reliance on esoteric mathematics and life tenure judges to protect their anti-regulatory apparatus, recent crises have begun to lift the curtain on their deus ex machina. It is completely amazing to me how much of the skullduggery and buggery is done in broad daylight these days. One can only hope that empire cannot divert attention from the “mother of all” Ponzi schemes much longer, no matter how many cultural hornets nests they smash. I still remain optimistic that as these anti-democratic undercurrents fully emerge, they will ultimately be the undoing of empire.
Anthropologists and historian have told us that human existence before the Age of Empires (5 thousand years ago) was not as “brutish and short” as the defenders of Leviathan tried to convince us. They also tell us that a number of these communal economies still survived into the 20th Century. As David Graeber maintained, human beings still have the power to change their societies for the better, with far less empire. When Thorstein Veblen, a nearly forgotten American economist, characterized the 1st Gilded Age, in his classic, the Theory of the Leisure Class, he drew upon anthropology to contend that it had moved backward to barbarism on his continuum of civilization. And, it could always leap forward to a more inclusive industrial model (with fewer imperial ambitions). However, it could also slide further back to a pre-imperial commonwealth, and that might be more promising for the average citizen. However, when empires begin to unravel, they seem to want to rekindle an ancient animus against groups that harbor any elements of communal culture, ergo the trajectory toward ethnic and racial hatreds in totalitarianism. The occupants of empire, according to Veblen, are required to a worship the new cult of militarism as well as several other institutions which legitimize predation and privilege. Modern empires, moreover, pursued a form of collective brain washing, convincing the peasants that they too could somehow become princes. As John Steinbeck contended, “socialism never took root in American because the poor there see themselves not as exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires”.
In the final analysis empires die because they force humans to deny their basic instincts for cooperation, mutual respect, and shared prosperity. Unlike the tales of the fall of Rome, it was the Romans who were the real barbarians. Empires are simply not designed for human existence, and conditions often improve for the downtrodden once they subside. The average Italian’s way of life did not somehow vanish with the end of the Roman Empire. Plus, like most empires it dissolved from inside out, experiencing internal destruction well before external invaders arrived. They had long sense dissolved “The Republic” (sound familiar) and fell prey to increasing despotic emperors; not to mention creating specious species (fake coins with debased metals).
The American Empire is experiencing the same type of internal disturbances, much of its fueled by elite forces who are now hiding behind political gridlock, xenophobia, racism and theocratic gobbledlygook. It could easily explode into complete chaos. Widespread social unrest, in turn, might even trigger temporary popular support for full-frontal fascism. It is a GrandInquisitor like game, where many eagerly trade their birthright for a tiny bit of personal security. But this may be an imperial hail-Mary pass, born out of a desperation, empire’s last stand.
Perhaps after a few decades of algorithmically enhanced terror, absolutism, and object poverty for the masses, citizens might realize that empire, especially when it comes home to roost, is a fool’s game and stop playing. Or they could seek to divert dystopia now. But that is much easier said than done. A start might be to call out all defenders of the fake economy or anyone who tells you that banking can’t be made simple and boring again (like a public utility). Ditto those home-grown terrorists who preach fear and hate, in the name of dehumanizing racial and ethnic mythology. Finally, be particularly skeptical of those who tell you that your freedom is at stake in a galaxy far far away.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR READING. For discussions of modest (as well as radical) reforms, check out some of my other Medium missives, as well as (https://www.amazon.com/SERFS-FInance-Feudalism-Fascism-Ruminations/dp/1796405728).