The Lesson of Empires

The evidence is pervasive, yet imprecise. Suggestions that the empire created and controlled by the United States is faltering meet with disdain. And revelations that illustrate the scope and rate of decline are harshly criticized. People uncovering clues and confirmation of the empire’s impending fall—or simply calling attention to indisputable facts—are labelled traitors. And the information they share is dismissed as bogus. Or, if pieces of the evidence are incontrovertible, politicians and other public figures claim those facts and figures are subject to improper interpretation. Most of the rest of us, though we feel uneasy about the apparent deterioration of the power and predominance of our culture, tend to reluctantly accept—at least for the moment—assurances that our position is so strong that is, effectively, eternal.

Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.

~ Leonardo da Vinci ~

Whether or not we accept promises that the Western world is and will remain preeminent does not matter. Our society is unwilling to adapt and make changes that might preserve our superior influence. Because we view the flexibility and compromise that could both save our global leadership and boost the power of “lesser” cultures as evidence of weakness, we stubbornly cling to behaviors that accelerate and ensure our unfortunate destiny as a failed empire. Attitudes reflected in assertions that “our power cannot be successfully challenged” or that “it can’t happen here” virtually guarantee that we will be unable to change course, once we pass the tipping point. Or, perhaps, we already may have reached the tipping point.

Nationalism and chauvinism and individualism and runaway patriotism pave the road to ruin. All while we patiently observe the disappearance of opportunities to transform from dominance to equality. Dominance has been our objective for a long while and we seem unwilling to relinquish it. We mistakenly accept the premise that, without dominance, we would be forced to accept inferiority. In reality, the voluntary abandonment of dominance would lead to equality. Yet equality, we seem to believe, robs us of superior power.

We have been indoctrinated to believe that the absence of control is equivalent to subservience. And, so, we accept that we need an overwhelmingly powerful military whose tools of war are meant to preserve the control to which we have become accustomed. Western society has long since accepted armed conflict as the ultimate means of securing and maintaining dominance.

The disputes—and highly visible political clashes—between progressive and conservatives are simply distractions from the plunge into inferiority and irrelevance. Despite what appears to be an enormously powerful urge to hold onto world dominance, we remain blind to the fact that our very arrogance and the exercise of control that demands obedience are the chief reasons the empire is collapsing around us. The scene is like a slow-motion video, in which cars traveling from four directions speed toward one another at a central point. A witness holding the camera can see what is coming, but cannot get the attention of the drivers until it is too late to swerve to avoid a collision. We could divert the cars well before the crash takes place, but in doing so we would relinquish our claims to the contents of the cars, something we are unwilling to do. So, we just wait for the inevitable explosion and fire which will leave us in possession of twisted metal, broken glass, and ashes.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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