by Umair Haque
(and What the World
can Learn from it...)
Nowhere else in the world, for example, are real income, life expectancy, happiness, and trust all plummeting, apart from maybe Venezuela (No, "but at least we're not Venezuela!" is not the bar to aim for, my friends.)
Their downfall is, of course, a self-inflicted catastrophe.
But the interesting question is:
And what does it tell us
about what it takes to prosper and thrive in the 21st
century, which is something that America (the United States) and
Britain clearly aren't doing, and maybe aren't capable of doing?
America and Britain aren't just any countries. They are the former hegemons of the world's most powerful empires. Britain, until the first half of the 20th century, and America, picking up where Britain left off.
Is this just a strange cosmic coincidence - that it is the two greatest empires of the most recent past who are the ones seemingly most incapable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century?
There aren't coincidences that great, my friends. Such tides of history always whisper lessons to be learned.
What is this one trying
to urgently teach us?
Let me explain what I
mean - because it is not just about spending too much money and
grasping too high. Not at all. It is about the kind of a place and
people such a country ends up limited to being - and perhaps can
then never really easily outgrow.
The primary objective of your institutions, the aspiration of your best and brightest, must be subjugating others, instead of lifting them up - after all, empires are made of subjects, not equals.
You must instill in people an admiration for violence - since empires are run with bullets, whether fired from drones or armies.
Your science and art and so forth must be dedicated, fundamentally, to the proposition that somehow, you are the 'natural' masters of the world which is your dominion - no matter how they claim to admire freedom and equality and truth.
You cannot plan for any
kind of long term good - your primary motive is simply to acquire,
colonize, plunder, take the next possession.
Thus, the overarching organizing principle of your entire empire must be just this:
Everyone - even the weak - must come to buy into this principle, treasure it, cheer it, applaud it - even when they themselves are the ones being destroyed.
Just think of how Donald Trump embodies all those values to a comical, disgusting degree...
You can't do it without accomplishing most or all of the above.
Every empire, from Rome to Egypt to America to Britain, has needed to build these ramparts and beams of the human mind and spirit to be an empire.
Empires are Darwinian
things, little pecking orders of humanity - what they are not
is democracies, really, though they might be so in name, they cannot
be in spirit, in intellect, in sentiment, in truth.
What's really curious about them? Just think of Trumpism and Brexit as you read the next paragraph. These are societies which cannot brook the idea of being equals with any other.
Isn't that Trumpism and Brexit are really about - we must be number one? They are societies which cannot cooperate with any other - or even cooperate amongst themselves. They are societies which cannot plan for the long term.
Societies which seem to revel in both their cruelty and their ignorance, while the world looks on, aghast.
Don't these two lists seem weirdly, eerily, strikingly similar to you - the list of the qualities it takes to be an empire, and the list of savage, intractable problems afflicting Britain and America, which have caused them to crater into extreme ruin?
That's not a coincidence either. It is cause and effect...
Let me put that more clearly...
Sure, America didn't call countries it's colonies - it said (LOL) that it "liberated" them.
What that means is that
they effectively became colonies of American style predatory
capitalism (take a look at Puerto Rico - or Iraq.) Just a century
ago, half the world was a British colony - I don't need to tell
you that story.
After all, sooner or later, you're going to run out of tempting frontiers, helpless savages, Manhattans to trade for beads, fish in the ocean, and so on, right?
That day might seem a long way away - but it has to come, after all.
Well, then, my friends, you are screwed - if you can't give up the colonial mindset, then you will have to colonize yourself.
What do I mean by this curious phrase, "colonize yourself"? I mean that you will have to exploit your own people the very same way that you exploited others before.
You will have to teach
them to exploit each other, just the same way that they once
exploited poorer people of different "colors" and creeds, when there
are no more of those strangers in new frontiers left to conquer, no
more fresh mountains left to plunder.
Americans were told to turn on themselves. They obeyed. What else did they know? That is what they'd been told all their lives - that this mindset of exploitation and violence is good.
So off the American went
to work as a manager at a
HMO, where his job was to deny
people healthcare, or as a minor-league corporate droid, where his
job was to find cleverer ways to jack up profits he never even saw a
larger share of.
Though Britain tried to overcome empire's hangover, by building great public institutions, like the NHS, in the end, the values of greed and selfishness and hate, the need to be supreme, won out.
But all that meant was that
Brits began to exploit each other. That is not just what
Brexit clearly shows - but its root
causes, Brits getting poorer for a decade or two, as they turned on
Empires require colonial mindsets. Attitudes of materialism, selfishness, greed, cruelty, domination. But what happens when an empire runs out of things to colonize? Do you see any countries in the world left to colonize easily? I don't.
What happens when a country that used to be an empire runs out of things to colonize is this:
That is the story of
American collapse and Britain's stunning decline in one
That is the greatest lesson of the 20th century.
How do we know? From the nations which truly turned their backs on empire. Many other nations had empires, too - just not ones as great and strong. So perhaps they were easier to let go of. Or perhaps it was the great war and its horrors which taught them the lesson better.
Still, nations like France, Germany, and Spain did a better job of letting the colonialist mindset go.
After the war, Europe tried hard to build a new continent on a new attitude - wealth would not come from seizing it from others anymore, but from cooperating to lift one another up.
What had the road of
seizing wealth, life, prosperity from others ended in after all ...
but horror and ruin?
The English speaking
countries probably won't lead the world in the 21st
century. That shouldn't be controversial. They can barely manage
themselves at this point. But the lesson, I think, cuts deep and
Maturity beyond what, exactly?
You see, the Anglos of the world have never given up their strange love of and lust for all these things , whether it comes in the form of,
But violence and greed and cruelty cannot lead anyone anymore to prosperity in the 21st century.
There is nobody left to colonize and exploit left but yourself, your very own society, in a world which is out of easy frontiers and helpless peoples.
Nobody's trading Manhattans for beads anymore, are they?
And so violence and greed is only left in one form:
foolishly, tragically, the only choice that English speaking
world seem able to make anymore is self-destruction
- because the problem is that empire's price is an addiction to
ruin in the first place, but in the end, there is no one to ruin but