Julius Caesar once said: “If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it.”
At the sight of the word empire, many tend to think of a distant past. Perhaps one of the most famous historical examples conjured to mind is the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire lasted three centuries before collapsing into military dictatorship and general disarray. The first two centuries are often referred to as Pax Romana — The Roman Peace — suggesting it was a time of peace and prosperity.
While the era of the Roman Empire could be argued to have been a very prosperous time for certain people, it was by no imagination peaceful. It was built on rape, pillage, slavery and brutalization just like all empires.
Imperialism is a filthy business undertaken by only the largest, most powerful and most egomaniacal entities. It is fitting that after World War II, it was the United States and the Soviet Union that stepped into the profession.
Since the U.S. deposed the Soviet Union in the 1980s via 30 years of horrendous proxy wars fought in the Middle East, Asia and South America, the U.S. has been the unipolar power of the world.
As Naomi Klein wrote so brilliantly in “The Shock Doctrine,” we have spent this time imposing our economic system — and thereby our entire way of life — on the world through institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization; not to mention the aforementioned proxy wars.
As hard as it may be to imagine, surrounded by a seemingly infinite amount of consumer luxury, the U.S. empire is fizzling away. Telltale signs are omnipresent.
The overreach of our military, the self-destructive citizenry, the deadlock of the government, the collapse of the electoral system; all are signposts on the road to ruin.
Military overreach is cited by multiple historians, including Chalmers Johnson, as one of the predominant causes for an empire’s decline. Particularly since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, political analysts have been concerned that the U.S. is overextending its military reach.
U.S. military expenditures have risen enormously since 1998, from $291 billion to $731.75 billion in 2019. Military expenditure has only fallen in four of the last 20 years, despite the drastic deescalations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Involvement in two wars for the entire lives of most of NAU’s student body has cost trillions of dollars and resulted in over 500,000 deaths, around half of which have been civilians.
We have accomplished next to nothing in either country. Afghanistan is still under the influence of al-Qaeda, and Iraq has gone through nonstop turmoil since our arrival. In fact, the U.S. hasn’t decisively won a war since World War II.
At home, wage stagnation, increasing inflation and fluctuation in unemployment rates that look like seismographic readouts led to concerns of an increasing sense of anomie among the U.S. populace.
Anomie is a term coined by French sociologist Emile Durkheim and it refers to a society’s “breakdown of standards and values or ... a lack of purpose or ideals.”
Suicide rates are up a staggering 35% since 1999. Nearly 50,000 people took their own lives in the U.S. in 2018.
In 2019, another 50,000 overdosed on opioids, while some 20 million people are reported to have a substance abuse disorder as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The average number of mass shootings in the U.S. in the last 20 years is 2.6 times higher than the 20 years before.
This is the face of anomie, and it is the self-destruction of a society. Running parallel to this anomie is anger at the state, which has manifested itself in social unrest across the country and political spectrum.
While protesters have been taking to the streets to protest unjust, state-sanctioned murders and fascism in general, others have stormed political buildings, plotted kidnappings of governors and planted bombs outside the Capitol.
Both represent a legitimate sense of anger — though not always pointed in the right direction nor for the right reasons — with an increasingly corporatocratic government failing to address the basic needs of the governed.
In Texas this past February, residents’ utilities completely shut down, leading people to freeze to death, die of carbon monoxide poisoning and experience the flooding of their homes after pipes burst.
Democrats in Congress passed a stimulus package that included one-time $1400 relief checks, while other countries have been getting monthly checks of this size since the start of the pandemic.
Toward the end of the Roman Empire, the aristocratic class was known for their hedonism and absolute obliviousness and indifference to the suffering that surrounded them. The U.S. is shaping up to be no different.
During the last year of the pandemic, 664 monstrous billionaires have increased their cumulative wealth by $1.3 trillion. In the early weeks of 2021, 24 million people reported not having enough food.
This place is going to go up like a powder keg.