|Excerpted from Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun, in the Burning the Midnight Oil blog-within-a-blog, hosted by kos, though to the best of my knowledge he doesn’t know it.|
What if They Threw an Empire, and Nobody Came?
Sometimes there is nothing more tedious than an argument over the meaning of terms. It often gets called an argument over semantics but semantics … that is meaning … is what is important arguing over.
The trivial argument that brings “arguing over semantics” into disrepute is which meanings to attach to which word. And, of course, if you want to call that an “argument over semantics” and leave the “of words” implied, be my guest … if I can work out what you are trying to say, that’s good enough.
One of those words that spark endless argument is “Empire”. Is there an American Empire? Well, like what Empire? Like the British Empire? Like the Austro-Hungarian Empire? Like the multiple Chinese Empires? Like the several Roman Empires? Like the Zulu Empire?
Whether we call it an Empire or Empire-ish or The Natural and Automatic Consequence of Being the Latest Greatest Country on the Face of the Earth … is there an alternative?
I start on the tedium of those arguments so that you will excuse me later if I simply ignore any discussions that may emerge over whether or not what we have ought to be termed an Empire. And, yes, I know that there may be some Boomers hanging around, and some Boomers find it critically important to argue over the semantics of words … so its not like its against the rules … its just not a type of argument I’ll be participating in. I’ve got a bathroom to pain and HR paperwork to fill out.
So, our waddya call it … does it make sense?
My concern is about this waddyacallit … whether it makes any sense to turn ourselves from the richest nation on the face of the earth … in a commercial economic activity sense … to something substantially less than that, in its service?
I don’t think it is. Look at where its brought us … trying to establish a police station state in an exposed salient between an ascendant China, a Federalizing Europe, and a Russian polity flush with an oil export windfall and happy to spend it on overseas adventurism to distract its populace.
Does that make any long term sense?
For one thing, that kind of activity requires us to successfully play “the Great Game” of realpolitik geopolitics that the British played so well when they were the leading economy in the world for not one, but two successive long economic cycles. And my thinking is, we are not very well suited to playing that game. It requires giving up too much power to an unelected clique of foreign policy mandarins in order to successfully plan and pursue that kind of “chess game” foreign policy.
In the analogy used in describing software development, that kind of activity is like building a cathedral … generations may come and go as the building is proceeding, with those doing the work focusing on their own part, knowing their own place, and those in charge of the planning directing the work.
There is another type of activity, however. The parallel analogy used in describing software development is the bazaar. There are rules of behavior, and different people doing different things, and an increasible hubbub of activity … and it seems like each person is out for themselves and in contention against everyone they meet … sellers against all other sellers, buyers against all other buyers, and buyers and sellers in a constant argument over price and value.
And yet, in the din, quite a lot gets done, and often more goods and services are produced and delivered to those who need them than if there was a central administrator, running the whole thing along cathedral lines.
Now, here is a secret, just between you and me and the bright Ohio late winter sky … when the so-called “free market” people talk about “the market” … they are not interested in the market. The market is their enemy, in many respects. What they are interested in is promoting the power of the boardroom.
This is behind this Orwellian process that can be seen time and time again, where the benefits of competitive markets are praised, and then that is broadened to the technically meaningless term free markets, and then that is shifted to the term free enterprise and then that is used to justify government provision of one or another monopoly right … for example, extending copyright expirations by roughly ten years each decade, so that Mickey Mouse will never fall out of the ownership of the Disney Corporation.
After all, its the bazaar that Americans have always been better at than the cathedral building. And so to justify the gifting of power to commercial corporations so they can proceed with their cathedral building … it is talked of as if it is a bazaar.
But don’t get caught in the semantics. We are spending half our federal budget or more on the military, and that military is being brought close to the breaking point in the process of trying to establish a police-station state in Mainland Asia.
That’s not what we would be doing if we were building bazaars.
There’s Good News
That’s the bad news … but there’s good news. The good news is that we still have an opportunity to build a bazaar. We can turn our backs on fighting in the hot dusty zones of West Asia, fighting an old game against nations that are the descendents of long lines of players of that game.
We can turn out attention to dancing among the newer nations of the Arc of the Sun. If we turn our attention to it, we have much to offer them, and they have much to offer us … and when you come down to it, that’s what you need to establish a bazaar that most participants are more or less happy with.
Of course, we do have the problem that the Corporate Party has been pursuing a policy … more rapidly under their radical reactionaru wing in the Republican party, at a more temperate pace under their moderate wing in the Democratic party … of ripping the guts out of the American industrial economy and allowing the entrails to sit and fester in the sun.
Now, to in practice offer all that we are capable of offering, we will need to return to making things that do things … and, of course, in particular in the area of sustainable renewable power generation. But on the other hand, that industrial-economy-guts-ripped-out-and-festering policy is not one that I ever liked very much anyway, so I won’t be sorry to see it gone.
After all, no bazaar trader makes a sustainable living by ripping off their regular customers. So we have to re-orient our focus from serving the interests of transnational corporations while giving lip-service to the needs of low-income nations, toward actually being of service to low-income nations.
And along the way, we will have to focus on what is really happening and what people are really doing, as opposed to what people are saying is happening and what images that raises in our heads.
My approach to this is not to take on the waddyacallit head-on … be it called Empire, War on Terror, why-ever it is that we have 700+ overseas bases and the sun never sets on US forces scattered around the globe. The immediate response, after all, will be for that entrenched establishment to make a head-on counter-attack … and that’s something that they are well-practiced at.
The strategy is to look for ways to build up the mutually beneficial relationships with the Arc of the Sun … and in the process build the alternative possibility that can offer us citizens so much more, without the sacrifice of blood and treasure on the Asian Mainland.
|Midnight Oil – U.S. Forces (1983 live)
Will you know it when you see it,
high risk children dogs of war
Now market movements call the shots,
business deals in parking lots
Waiting for the meat of tomorrow
Sing me songs of no denying,