Twilight of the Empire

Do you feel sorry for the Italians living under the oppressive hand of the Mafia? Don’t feel sorry for them. The only reason the Mafia have been able to rise up and stay in power is that the Italian people can’t play by the rules. Granted, that is something of an oversimplification, but in their culture, they find playing by the rules to be unbearable. They simply cannot tolerate boundaries like that. So because they cannot keep themselves from seeking an advantage by cheating, they also cannot prevent predators from taking advantage of them.

It’s the same with Greece, a lot of Asian countries, most of Africa, etc. Thugs rule, sometimes in the official government, often outside of it, because the people can’t/won’t rule themselves.

Think about it. Nobody really has any advantage, but if everyone is seeking advantage, then it’s too easy for someone with power to offer an advantage in exchange for some kind of surrender. Feudalism is hard wired into Creation itself, but there’s more than one kind of feudalism. If you do it intentionally, it can work well in building a strong and prosperous community. If not, you fall into the defaults. Default feudalism is when people who lack strength turn to those who are strong for some kind of advantage over the rest of the same community. They agree to certain constraints in things that seem too long term to worry about, so they can have short term advantages.

It’s the same for a lot of cultures that cannot seem to rise out of poverty or near poverty. They have a leadership that cheats on them because everyone in the whole country would cheat if they had the power. It doesn’t have to mean they would cheat at everything, only a certain few things in life that allow predators to manipulate them. As long as they feel entitled to cheat in some way or another, they will always languish under the lash of the strong.

In fact, it’s pretty much a sliding scale. To the degree a people are willing to be bound under rules, to that degree they can be wealthy and powerful. As long as everyone follows those rules at home, they can easily get away with preying on the rule breakers everywhere else and rob the world to enrich their own. Sounds like the USA, no?

Except, it’s not that way any more. The bulk of the Americans still have an instinct for rules, but the culture doesn’t support it as much as it once did. The boundaries have gotten so fuzzy that no one can be sure where they are, so they don’t feel safe and they don’t feel like they can trust others to play fair. In search of safety, they embrace slavery.

Yeah, it’s that trust thing again. High trust societies are always wealthy, because they don’t tolerate waste and corruption. America is no longer a high trust society. You can lay the blame where you like, but the USA will become a third world country because it acts like one. The only reason corrupt people can gain control of the government system is because US residents can’t agree on where to draw the boundaries. And those with prosperous boundaries aren’t willing to enforce them on others, because they don’t have a clear idea of what “others” means.

Sometime after WW2, Americans became soft about their traditional boundaries, less provincial and more cosmopolitan. Yes, it began earlier than that, but after WW2 is when it became obvious. America stopped assimilating people from other cultures; she let them keep their tribal identities.

There are multiple sets of boundaries now, different with each tribe. It’s a proliferation of tribes competing with each other, willing to cheat each other in favor of their own tribe. Americans have allowed too many foreign tribes to invade the land. There was a time when one tribe in particular held the upper hand, giving rise to a uniquely American identity. That’s gone now. America let herself become complacent, and let other tribes slip inside the system, pretending to belong to the American tribe, but most certainly not committed to American peace and prosperity.

It’s in part because of the insufferable American arrogance. There are any number of lies Americans believed about their own greatness. America became imperial, thinking she had arrived. The people were no longer hungry and worried about having to struggle for it. They thought it was just a natural gift, so they could afford to let the moral guard down. Already pretty materialistic, America became little else but materialistic. Americans imagined there was something magical about it, so that they could afford to let anyone come here and pretend to become an American.

But they didn’t come to be Americans. They came to advance their own tribe, while America still pretended nobody could possibly have that motivation, because she had thrown it away for herself.

Well, that’s the life-cycle of civilizations and empires, folks. America is a particularly egregious example of it, because it has become one of the shortest lived empires in human history, considering how powerful she was. Like the ancient Hittite Empire, America knew how to conquer, but not how to rule. The Hittite Empire dissolved, fell apart because they had no culture for self-rule, much less imperial rule. American’s still don’t understand how to rule themselves. Soon we will see if the American culture has fit her people for slavery.

About Ed Hurst

Avid cyclist, Disabled Veteran, Bible History teacher, and wannabe writer; retired.
This entry was posted in social sciences and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Twilight of the Empire

  1. Jay DiNitto says:

    America was an “interesting” experiment in lots of ways–that’s putting it as positive as I can. At the beginning there was that capacity for self-rule, but immediately the government wore away at it (I think it started at the Whiskey Tax). It took a little bit, but even the stock of Americans at that time, and their immediate descendants, became comfortable with the two sets of rules: ones for the authoritarians, and ones for us.


  2. Ed Hurst says:

    We never really had self rule. We came close, but the elites were never committed to it in the first place.


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