The big kerfuffle this week across the nation, of course, has been the discovery of just how far the Empire’s collecting of information on its own citizens through the NSA has gone in the name of fighting terrorism. For those few of you who may have been off in the boonies or living in a cave somewhere in the depths of the Colorado Rockies without access to the news, here are some of the pertinent articles:
For those doomers – liberal and conservative, alike – who have long suspected as much, the news only confirmed our fears. But for most Americans who still buy into the “greatest nation in the world which, therefore, can do no wrong” myths, (including, apparently, some members of our Congress who were supposed to be monitoring all this) it has come as quite a shock.
We don’t really need a basket full of conspiracy theories to explain all this. We live in an Empire. The Empire is in decline. Empires in decline have many enemies – without and within – some of them deservedly so, some probably not. Leaders of empires in decline go to extraordinary lengths to protect themselves, their empire and its perks from those enemies. Sooner or later in this process of decline, we will all become suspect as potential enemies of the Empire. (I don’t think we’re quite there, yet, but who knows for certain?)
It’s quite probable that the Oklahoma City bombing woke up our fearless leaders to the threat of the enemies within. It’s certain that 9/11 constituted a wake-up call to the dangers of their enemies abroad. That these events coincided with the blossoming of the internet and the revolution in both personal and public communications throughout the globe was good luck for an Empire determined to protect itself at all costs and pretty much bad luck for the rest of us.
And, quite frankly, after the propaganda blitz that followed 9/11, most Americans were complicit in the demise of their own privacy for the sake of security from “the terrorists” which, we were constantly told, were everywhere out to get us. Few bothered to read the contents of the PATRIOT Act, or the draft of the DSEA (Patriot II) which, though never passed due to the outcry from those of us who did, had parts of it inserted in other legislation passed back then. Few blinked an eye at the rapid and massive development of the Department of Homeland Security over the last decade. Few questioned the wisdom of our two bloody and costly wars back then, or the continued renewal of those laws giving authority to our plethora of intelligence agencies to poke, prod and pry on the promise that they were keeping us safe while protecting our rights and privacy in doing so.
This week should be a wake-up call to all of us as to where the declining Empire is headed. Can a public outcry change that? I don’t know; I don’t have much hope that it will. Over the last eight years since conventional oil peaked, the seven to ten billion barrels of unconventional oils we have discovered might have given us time to prepare for energy decline; the unexpected slowing of global warming over the last decade http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-global-warming-cooler-than-expected might have given us a chance to mitigate some of the worst effects of climate change; the slight improvement in the economy over the last few years might have given us a chance to put our various economies around the world on a truly sustainable trajectory. None of these small advantages seem to be provoking any sensible responses from ordinary Americans and certainly not from our leaders. So my doubts about a return of power to the people seem justified.
As Lord Acton wrote to Bishop Creighton, back in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And, he might well have added that, once that power is given away, it is rarely returned without massive bloodshed.
Having willingly given our power away to an imperial government, bent on pretending to the bitter end that business as usual is a viable option, what did we expect? And why are we so surprised that, in our inattention, we got what we didn’t expect, but should have?