End of empire

Sam Smith

The initial theme for today is a modest one: the collapse of the American empire and its associated culture. One test of the state of an empire is whether a handful of angry young men with box cutters can wreck your major economic and military edifices and throw the country into total panic. One test of the state of your culture is whether you can think of much over the past few years to which you reacted by thinking “that’s the best [whatever] that I’ve seen-heard-read in a long time.” Another test is when you find yourself saying of some public figure, “I’m sure glad such people are around at a time like this.”

Based on these tests, it seems that, at the very least, America will have to be held back next year – no matter how hard are media and our politicians try to give it a social promotion. When you can’t trust your presidents of either major party, your beloved Constitution is in tatters, you have to submit to investigative fondling before flying to Des Moines, your Catholic cardinals say it’s okay to bugger little boys as long as you don’t do it too often and it doesn’t become “notorious,” a corporation thrice declared by Fortune Magazine to be the most innovative in the country turns out to be a den of thieves, the accountants who are meant to protect us from such scoundrels turn out to be co-conspirators, our lawmakers spend most of their time finding new things to prohibit, we feel we have to give kids drug tests to make sure they’re safe to sing in the choir, our teachers have forgotten how to teach our children how to read, our journalists have forgotten how to write or to tell a lie from a fact, and our music doesn’t even have 7th chords in it anymore, you’ve got a problem and one that’s not really Al-Queda’s fault.

Empires and cultures are not permanent and while thinking about the possibility that ours is collapsing may seem a dismal exercise it is far less so than enduring the dangerous frustrations and failures involved in having one’s contrary myth constantly butt up against reality like a boozer who insists he is not drunk attempting to drive home. Instead of defending the non-existent we could turn our energies instead towards devising a new and saner existence.

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