The point’s been made before, by people a lot smarter than me, that empires approaching their natural end, often seem quite stable to the people comfortably ensconced at or near their centers.
Just to take a few more recent examples:
In 1900 it would have been a rare citizen of Europa (or intellectual for that matter) who suspected that, within a generation, all of the European empires except the British and the French would completely collapse.
In 1920, with the Brits and the French smugly dividing up the spoils of the Great War (i.e., using “the War to end all Wars,” to create, as one wag had it, “the Peace to end all Peace”), with a special eye towards reigning in that up-and-comer, the United States, it was a real party pooper who insisted on whispering the mere possibility that, within a little more than another generation, their empires too, would be part of history’s enormous ash-bin.
Similarly, in 1980, it was only the occasional crank (exactly none of whom worked at CIA or the State Department) who was convinced the “permanent” Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would implode inside a decade.
And, marching back through history, so it has gone.
Here’s where we are now, as we sit safe and sound inside the heart of what is, on paper, the mightiest empire in the history the world….what you might call The Empire to end all Empires:
Take a story….any story.
Take the recent story of a rash of attacks on Jewish targets (cemeteries, synagogues, community centers), which has been accompanied by a much larger number of harassing threats.
The arc of the story as it percolates through the body politic goes something like this:
–Attacks/threats happen and are duly reported
–Social media (Twitter/Facebook/Blogosphere etc.) take sides.
–The left side of the spectrum keeps repeating some version of:
–The right side of the spectrum keeps repeating some version of:
–A perpetrator is discovered by the police, who release his (it’s almost always a “he”) personal information to the media who report it to the public.
–Whichever side lost this round goes silent on their own sites and, if confronted by the pesky, irrational, hateful opposition, puts its collective fingers in its collective ears and keeps repeating ICAN’THEARYOU while waiting for another shoe to drop (i.e. a second perpetrator who is more acceptable to one’s own Preferred Narrative) or a new “crisis” to emerge.
These days, a new crisis–real or manufactured–can be reliably counted upon to replace the old crisis within days, if not hours.
A new issue to rage-about-without-really-caring-about-it-too-terribly-much will be along shortly.
That’s now the complete sum of our “politics.”
The Death of Politics (and Culture and everything that attends Politics or Culture) happens just so.
You reach a point where the issue (in this case what we really should be doing, politically or culturally, to stop or at least abate the harassment of Jews) is never the issue. The issue is what sort of points can be scored off the present issue until it’s replaced by the next issue. The only value of any particular round is that, if you “win”–either the round in question or some part of the round–then it can be used to buttress your side’s moral superiority in all future rounds.
If you lose, it can be safely forgotten. If you stay within your own safety zone, then you need never hear of it again.
And if you do hear of it again?
Well, then it’s your own fault! And just know that you are totally off message.
Unless maybe you have real questions about any part of the message. In which case you just might be an Unperson.
The whole point of Twitter is that you never have to apologize! There’s a reason those people you allow into your private space are called Followers dammit.
Ah, yes. Politics.
Of course, all of this has been foretold.
For did not the Major Prophet, James Marshall Hendrix, in the Book of Axis Bold as Love, Chapter 1, Verse 7, intone…
….Fall mountains. Just don’t fall on me.
And was not the Prophet well aware that the mountains will fall? And that they will fall on us?
Well, I don’t know if he was or not. He was a Prophet, not an accountant. You need literal interpretations, take one of those English courses where they drone on about subtext. Else be a math major.
Just know that the mountains will fall. On us.
While we are busy tweeting our rage, no doubt–hurling insults at enemies who, if they are as vile and dangerous and different from what came before as we claim, require us to be in the streets, taking real risks to oppose them, instead of standing forever on the ridge, in safety, thumbs to the keypad, waiting for that half of the Security State which is currently dedicated to making us feel all warm and fuzzy to rescue us from the other really, scary half, with a bugle blowing the charge.
(Sorry there are no readily available links to the Experience’s full version…the bit from Easy Rider will have to do…)