|The American Empire and the Fourth World by Anthony J. Hall|
This has been the central problem of Empire from antiquity. Humans are hard wired to live in small-ish communities, and the nation-state, let alone mperial Grandeur, doesn't really fit the human psyche.
Empire seems to be the preference of certain predatory types, however (Alexander of Macedonia, anyone?) and their rise in the political realm leads to amalgamation of peoples and territories -- or their extinction -- which is the key component of the Imperial Idea. You make the Outer Darkness go away by bringing it inside; absorbing it, in other words, and bringing Light.
Or something like that.
The United States was an Imperial project from the beginning of European conquest and settlement, and its independence from Britain did not in any way disturb the Imperial nature of the American government and much of its society. In fact, independence broadened and enhanced the Imperial interests of the Americans -- which the British had been keeping in check. Consequently, upon independence, the Americans set out immediately to dispossess and exterminate the Indians and seize ever more land for their own settlement and prosperity.
The American idea was to establish a continent-spanning domestic empire, pushing out or killing off any who got in the way of it, then expand across the seas, wherever need and desire and opportunity allowed and required.
The Domestic Empire was established by the time of the Civil War. Alaska was acquired soon thereafter. The frontier "closed" just about the time there were probes into the overseas projects -- which included ultimately seizing Hawaii and the remnants of the Spanish Empire, establishing bases in China, and asserting primal authority over the independent nations of Central and South America.
Canada and Mexico, of course, were thought of as dependencies and reliable resources for personnel and materiel.
The notion of having a large domestic empire, comparable to that of China or Russia, was built on the idea of what would later be called lebenstraum -- literally, "living room;" having enough available real estate, in other words, for the yeomen of yore to live free and/or die. Americans have long romanticized the Westward Expansion, but it was no picnic for those who tried it. It was, however, a way for those who would otherwise have been discontent -- and likely troublesome -- in more established communities and societies (ie: Back East) to set out on their own and be quasi-independent. To boldly go and to Pioneer.
This is something that was not possible in most of Europe and the opportunity presented by the possibility of doing so in America was one of the many reasons so many people left Europe to settle in America. They could do things in America they couldn't do in Europe, and one of them was to become a nearly independent lord of creation.
It's still possible in the United States, at least to some degree, at least in the fantasy way of Wall Street speculation. But the result has been a fractious population, numberless unsustainable towns and cities, rape of the environment -- oh, and that aforementioned genocide of those who came before.
The result, in other words, is too big.
Much as California has become all but ungovernable, the United States, as a domestic empire, is trending the same direction. Our anachronistic political and governance system is barely functional where it isn't creaking and disintegrating. A handful of very wealthy individuals and interests has essentially captured the key components of government and is operating them -- to the extent they still operate at all -- for their own benefit, bugger the rest of us. But the fact is, government as we've known it has been falling to pieces since the '80's, and to my mind, it can't be revived as it was formerly. Our Betters have known this for many years, and they have set out to put in place an alternative corporate state, a project that's pretty much complete.
The People are not even represented in that vision of the New America.
But the People were barely represented in pre-corporate America. Empires don't take into account the interests of the People. It's not in their nature. They are only concerned with the interests of the handful of individuals (and it is always very few compared to the populations under Imperial subjugation) who own, run and control the apparatus of Empire.
I believe it was Orwell who pointed out that there were barely a thousand British functionaries who ran the British Raj in India and thereby controlled populations of hundreds of millions.
It wasn't better in Britain itself during the heyday of the British Empire. And through most of the 19th Century and well into the 20th, life was hell for most of the British People. They didn't have it that much better than the jibbering Natives of Africa and India and elsewhere under the British Crown.
And it was unsustainable. The fluorescence of the British Empire was quite a brief one, all things considered. The American Empire still has generations to run. I don't buy the conventional wisdom that the American Empire is In Decline. No, it is still in its growth phase, though continued growth overseas is problematic at best. Americans abroad have shown themselves, time and again, to be utter barbarians, and the most recent forays into Imperial conquest abroad haven't worked out so well. Americans, therefore, may not see any further expansion of their conquests abroad in the future. But if the Americans don't do it, someone else will.
Instead of overseas conquest we see an increasing level of domestic exploitation, led by those very few predators who own and control resources and the government and operate for their own benefit alone.
The People appear to be almost powerless against it, and part of the reason for their apparent powerlessness is the very size of the nation within which they are trying to assert their own interests.
The People cannot effectively resist -- or at least they haven't been able to.
If you're trying to resist the entire apparatus of exploitation and governance, of course the individual or any conceivable amalgamation of individuals has very little overt power (there are exceptions, but they don't really apply to the current circumstance.)
This is the chief advantage of national size for the predators and exploiters who rule. The national entity is too large and too strong to take on as a whole.
But it's also too large to be sustained as it is.
It will have to fragment, and the real potential for resistance (should the People actually want to resist, and I've never been entirely sure they do) is to be found in encouraging, pioneering, or inducing that fragmentation.
It will happen on its own, sooner or later.
But many Americans are already living as if it has taken place, and from those Americans, others can learn many lessons.
Once I have a bit more time, I'll try to expand on that thought...
[Final Moving Day is scheduled for next Wednesday.... yikes.]