How Close Is The Return To The Dark Ages?

In my short span of life I have witnessed the collapse of two powerful world empires. Until recently I never thought I would live long enough to watch a third great nation implode. Today, if I can squeeze a few more years into living, I fear I may witness the collapse of that third empire, and possibly the greatest the world has known.
I write fear because if I do live that long I don’t think I’ll want to hover for too long waiting for what some current observers of the future refer to as “a return to the dark ages.”
This is not a new theme. For years writers like Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal have led a virtual chorus of world philosophers’ warning about the ever increasing signs that United States of America – their homeland – is heading for economic and diplomatic collapse.
Readers can Google Vidal’s Requiem for the American Empire, first published in The Nation (and now being offered in a book form collection of a dozen of his essays). Chomsky’s Requiem for the American Dream” paints a similar gloomy picture of the rise to power of the USA – and its equally dramatic decline once dreams of empire replaced its original dream of liberty, prosperity and happiness for all.
Some historians and commentators insist America didn’t reach empire status until the show of arms in World War Two culminated with the detonation of two nuclear bombs over Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But Vidal and Chomsky put American desire to be number one in the world militarily much earlier.
Vidal notes that among the first ambitions of the new republic after shaking off heavy handed British Empire imperialism and defeating the British army in battle, was protection of its borders. For protection read expansion with the need to eliminate French and Spanish footholds to the south of the new republic and tame the Mexican nuisance on its southwest border. Mexican still refer to the USA borders states as “the occupied lands.”
After sporadic scraps in the Caribbean the Spanish were forced from the Philippines by USA troops and strong support by Philippine nationalists. After the war the United Sates army stayed on. Vidal writes: “….President William McKinley, after an in depth talk with God, decided we should keep the Philippines in order, he said, to Christianize them. When reminded the Filipinos were Roman Catholics, the President said, exactly. We must Christianize them.”
If Donald Trump becomes the next President of the United States he will not be the first to be a little reckless with facts.
A few writers of the day objected to the empire building. After the Philippines Mark Twain wrote it was time to replace the stars and stripes of the American flag with the skull and crossbones of piracy and warned, “We cannot maintain an empire in the Orient and maintain a republic in America.”
The building of Empire never stopped – even though it has for years been a “construction cost” even the United States of America cannot afford. The USA National Debt clock tells us that when the next President of the USA takes over in 2017 – he or she will inherit a $154 Trillion dollars debt with current (2016) interest payments ratcheting along at $15,164 a second and the debt per citizen listed $59,566 and growing by the minute.
In the 1970’s when the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s demise as President and a colossal shattering of public faith in the presidency, San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist, the late Art Hoppe, penned a piece all readers should seek out and read. It’s about a few thousands citizens who, united in a desire for freedom, justice and equality, formed the nucleus of a small, but proudly independent nation. They were, he wrote “proud, independent, self-reliant and generally very prosperous” and above all else “they had faith; they had faith in their religion, their leaders, their country and themselves.”
Eventually, Hoppe wrote, it grew to become the “richest, mightiest nation in the whole world – admired, respected, envied and feared by one and all. It showed the world how to build good roads and super- highways; it taught the necessity of basic hygiene, the need for cleanliness and good sanitation….And for a while it even kept the peace.”
But it began to worship wealth. The rich got richer, the poor poorer with many citizens on welfare. Entertainments were offered to keep the people’s minds off life’s short comings. Festivals and circuses were arranged with highly paid athletes idolized, and morals fell to the decadence of an “eat drink and be merry materialistic society.”
Time went by and “citizens came to learn their leader were corrupt…there was fear and distrust…so it was the people lost faith in their leaders, their currency, their postal system, their religion, their country and, eventually, themselves.
“And thus, in 476 A.D Rome fell to the barbarians and the dark ages settled over western civilization.”
And the only happy thought I can find is that dark ages fell in the wake of the collapse of every empire the world has known, Greek, Roman, Spanish, British, Soviet Russia – but the world did not end. In fact in recovery it became a slightly better place.
It’s my hope and belief that all though I’ll miss the last acts of the play, it always will.

One comment

  1. While all empires eventually collapse some leave their achievements to benefit mankind. The Greeks gave us philosophy and democracy, the Romans gave us law and administration, the British gave us legal and parliamentary institutions, and the Americans the concepts of freedom and equality.

    You are right to expect the world may be a better place.

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