by Emmett R Smith
A Regular respondent to Bodwyn Wook from the UK poses the following question:
‘It’s pretty obvious to any detached historical observer that the American Empire is nearing the end of its brief global hegemony. All nations follow a trajectory which waxes, reaches its peak and flourishes for a while, and then declines. Read Paul Kennedy’s Rise and Fall of the Great Powers for a prescient forecast of your current situation.
‘When I was young, the world map was largely coloured red, and the British Empire was one on which the sun never set. Where is it now? The USA is badly overstretched – militarily, economically, financially, and – perhaps most important – morally. The hubristic crass behaviour of the Bush Administration since 9/11, committing most of the mistakes in the Prudent Statesman’s Rule Book, has accelerated the impending collapse.
‘It’s most unlikely that in 20 years from now the USA will be nearly as significant a world player as she has been for the past half-century. The question is, who is going to fill the power vacuum?’
If it all does go to Hell thus shortly for America it will be, we think at Bodwyn Wook, because of domestically too many constituencies, all toiling over the division of the subsidy-corpse. Otherwise, we must remember that some Englishmen as early as the 1880s began meditating on decline, sixty- or seventy-five years ahead of the event. Still, two scant generations is but a drop in the historical pail….
The Democrat Party as well as the GOP of course are complicit — between them, for going on a century, they have “grown” the government. And always the claim has been that this has been, and is still in Iraq now, for eleemosynary purposes, domestically and worldwide in other words.
England (the “UK”) of course shows that decline can be followed by a further increase, indeed the greatest ever, in people’s living-standards. I do agree that american managers are very possibly faced now with managing decline, also, a task complicated however in this case by a sense of looming material and environmental constraint.
Will our possible decline be — can it be — as paradoxical as was England’s?
Today “money” is far more an electronic fiction than it was sixty years ago, and therein lies the answer to our present mysteries about the direction of the next thirty years in the World.
In answer to the question of who next will take up the hegemonistic slack, the answer is not clear. China is the obvious emerging material player. But in China a new isolationist cycle could emerge. In it this time around China would continue to pursue trade but otherwise shun “moralistic” foreign policy and empire-type physical presence(s), both avoidances based on clear cost-accounting.
In such a case, interests would be pursued by case-based fiscal aggressions, winning divisive internal assent in targets by a provident displays of cash.
Something that might well constrain China onto such a path is a latent internal and somewhat-reactionary cultural pressure, stemming from social anxiety. I have been one of the few writing online to note the fact that the majority of Chinese today are in fact rather acculturated as Chinese. In addition to the horrors of their own inter-dynastic period from 1800 ca to the 1960s, there is also the fact I think that America certainly today continues to hold their unbroken media-monopoly on decadent imagery since the 1920s, something acutely disturbing to the children of the lesser gods and as we have seen most recently in the case of many Muslims. In this context, Bollywood and Nollywood are nothing to the point as the majority of their productions are still conditioned and remain hormonal, dionysian, in the “best” of american mass-entertainment terms.
Nonetheless, a certain perverse sort of power persists in depravity and its entertainment-forms, drugs legal and illegal, intrafamilial sex and casino gambling, cacophonous “music,” going to shopping mauls and pro sports “events.”
China in other words isn’t very sexy, and the Chinese will continue to recoil fastidiously from a sewer in which they simply cannot compete. Plus there are smells. This in turn, conceivably, could yield a bona fide confucianist revival, inasmuch as the photo in the online news last week, of a young chinese couple — he in a wifebeater and she in very short shorts — said to have just engaged in promiscuous sex, was sort of just silly-looking.
Thus, America very possibly will be allowed a kind of maison existence — and the internal investment necessary to sustain it — as a kind of gambling Hell to the Earth and transcontinental whorehouse. This is after all just what the more promiscuous of our Tee Vee preachers have been “warning’ us against and promising will be our comeuppance, for years….
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 12 March 2008]