The American empire is beginning to die. We will not see its death, nor
will our grandchildren, but it is dying. Its leaders, sensing trouble,
are fetishizing the "old ways," the ways that brought us power in a
different world, a world in which America was young and the other empires
They have made denial a national creed. They have made arrogance a
national stance. "We do not need the others because we are America," they
say. A dying empire is like a dying dinosaur; the only question is how
much damage the huge tail will do as it thrashes around.
I have some examples. Our foreign policy is governed by our need for
oil, and yet we have no effective formal programs to reduce our need for
oil. Instead, we purchase large vehicles that use gasoline with
staggering inefficiency. We do it because we can, because God is on our side,
and something will happen because something always does.
Dick Cheney is the prophet of this mind-set. Conservation is a hobby;
use whatever you want; go to sleep, little citizens, your oil-based
politicians will protect you.
WE ARE GRADUALLY killing the earth that gives us succor. We are
poisoning the air and the water. We are cutting down the forests that give us
life; we are killing the creatures of the ocean that feed us or feed
the things we eat and use; we are ignoring the benefits of biodiversity.
Because something will happen. Because God is on our side. Because the
scientists are wrong -- indeed, it is important to our whole way of
life to marginalize science. Hey, they said we'd all be dead by the year
2000, and here we are. Fools.
We know more about the human body than we ever have. We understand more
about nutrition than we ever have. We are a child-centered culture; we
worship our little darlings and protect them from all harm. Except that
childhood obesity is on the rise. Type 2 diabetes strikes children as
young as 10. Only the very rich and very poor are thin.
We know more about the brain than we ever have. We use that knowledge
to persuade children to eat food that will make their lives more
difficult and place a greater burden on our medical system. This practice
exists outside the morality that we are so very proud of.
Inside the morality is discouraging the use of condoms that can stop
the spread of disease that also kills children. Death, where is thy
sting? We are Americans.
WE ARE PROUD of our fine economic system, and yet our government
routinely fails to punish profiteers and cheaters. We are proud of our
Constitution, yet our government seeks to suspend parts of it when we enter
an armed conflict. We are proud of our military, yet we spend billions
on politically mandated weapons systems of no utility.
Maybe this is the way empires die. Maybe they weaken themselves from
The structure is so rotten that any young and enthusiastic foe can push
it over. I dunno. Heck, I've got mine; why should I care?
This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a fine speech.
Mediocre times produce the very worst that the world has to offer:
Laden, Bush, Hussein, Sharon, and Blair. None but the feeble minded
inspiration from such a ghastly lineup of "leaders".