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The Last Days of the American Empire

It Was Nice While It Lasted

It Was Nice While It Lasted

Writing for the Truthdig website, Chris Hedges—America’s very own Cato—has eloquently described the period that we are living through in the United States:

The final days of empire give ample employment and power to the feckless, the insane and the idiotic. These politicians and court propagandists, hired to be the public faces on the sinking ship, mask the real work of the crew, which is systematically robbing the passengers as the vessel goes down. The mandarins of power stand in the wheelhouse barking ridiculous orders and seeing how fast they can gun the engines. They fight like children over the ship’s wheel as the vessel heads full speed into a giant ice field. They wander the decks giving pompous speeches. They shout that the SS America is the greatest ship ever built. They insist that it has the most advanced technology and embodies the highest virtues. And then, with abrupt and unexpected fury, down we will go into the frigid waters.

The last days of empire are carnivals of folly. We are in the midst of our own, plunging forward as our leaders court willful economic and environmental self-destruction. Sumer and Rome went down like this. So did the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Men and women of stunning mediocrity and depravity led the monarchies of Europe and Russia on the eve of World War I. And America has, in its own decline, offered up its share of weaklings, dolts and morons to steer it to destruction. A nation that was still rooted in reality would never glorify charlatans such as Sen. Ted Cruz, House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Newt Gingrich as they pollute the airwaves. If we had any idea what was really happening to us we would have turned in fury against Barack Obama, whose signature legacy will be utter capitulation to the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex and the security and surveillance state. We would have rallied behind those few, such as Ralph Nader, who denounced a monetary system based on gambling and the endless printing of money and condemned the willful wrecking of the ecosystem. We would have mutinied. We would have turned the ship back.

The only good thing to note is that it takes a long time for an empire to finally fall. I think of Byzantium, which struggled on for almost a thousand years after Rome fell, only to fall in 1453 to Mehmet II and his Ottoman Turks.

I strongly recommend you read the Chris Hedges article: I feel he is one of the most knowledgeable and moral commentators on today’s national and international politics. While you are at it, you might want to take a look at some of his books, including War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002), Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America (2005), I Don’t Believe in Atheists (2008), and The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009). Others are listed in his Wikipedia biography.

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