Holes In The Stockings Of The Empire. Look At Ancient Rome For A Template Of What’s To Come In America. Part II.

by Daniel Russ on May 20, 2013

Data Infrastructure Of One Of The Most Advanced Digital Cities In America


Earlier I mentioned that all of this could be symptomatic of a much larger problem. There are probably forces in motion that are so big and powerful they cannot be ameliorated, only navigated. That is the distinct impression I get from watching Obama. I see Citizens United as perhaps the deepest symptom of rot in the Republic; an idea so bad, so utterly corrupt it deigns to cloak its own purpose. Freedom of speech for corporations, but not for whistleblowers, this is rot. Rot is the word du jour. It is corruption so deeply engrained, it doesn’t even have to hide, or even try. When Elizabeth Warren asked a banker if they had provided foreclosure victims the facts about their loans, he stuttered a feckless  and begrudging “no”. And the consequences? A tiny bit of embarrassment in a media environment that remembers only the important things: Kim Kardashian’s expanding ass and the Castro brother’s dungeon. Little reporting is done on the dungeons that Obama doesn’t even have the will, the power, or the know-how to close, the black-eye that will never heal: Gitmo. Rot is a symptom of the decline of Empires, as we mentioned. Rot might so skein through a system that it is impossible to clean it without a revolution, or martial law.  The will of the people of this country is held in check by a handful of Senators from states with fewer people that we might find at a good Laker’s riot, all invoking cryptic rules that no one understands and fewer seem to be able to change despite the pleas of a desperate nation. Rot is great description that the United States Air Force assigned to a sudden and massive dismissal of an entire nuclear launch crew. The crew was not able to confidently launch a missile, or not launch it. The problem with this sort of systemic rot in the country is that since the media is worthless, we don’t really know how deep it extends. It’s like mold in the walls. You almost don’t want to know how bad it is.


The modern American news media is not prepared to handle the truth. Amber Lyon, a reporter who won three national Emmys for coverage of three major stories – including skin diving in the Gulf to see the pollution in person –  reports that CNN receives money from the US government and accepts the direction of news stories from outside sources, including sources that are ginning up a war with Iran. In fact, CNN and other cable news sources basically sell airtime to content providers, not reporters. The right wing uses carefully worded information void talking points on the  all too willing cable news media in their meretricious attempts to pass laws that eliminate the social safety net America wants to keep intact. The confusing rhetoric passed on by the Republicans has older people yelling “Keep the government out of my Social Security”. It is a confusion built not of ignorance so much as it is born of a deliberate attempt by the right wing and the media to collude to confuse constituencies, period. When older people trust the Republican party to protect entitlements, they are trusting people who are literally being paid to kill them. The disinformation is a part of a vast right wing conspiracy to kill entitlements. So news itself is something to interpolate. To interpret. To cobble together. The smart American tries to find news from other sources other than American media. The rest of America leaves the set on HLN all day where Nancy Grace bravely faces down defendants, of course backed by the full weight and power and distortions of the largest media empire on the Earth itself. The news in America is a pastiche of good and bad. And it’s constantly changing. Today, bloggers give us as much valuable information as cash-strapped news empires. Even the still relevant and still important New York Times stumbled badly with Judith Miller giving Bush the casus beli for a war that was fabricated in the same way the Spanish American war was fabricated by a newspaper a century ago. It was sad to see the Gray Lady RSS feed the Iranian Revolution during the election a few years ago. Hell, I could do that from my phone. And digital media didn’t save us from the lies of the Iraq War. It only made it happen faster.


The arc of history does not portend well for the United States. Few democracies and republics have lasted. One might say, well the British Empire has lasted a thousand years in one form or another, and they have representative government and a social safety net and a robust international economy. Of course Britain lasted because it was willing to invade, to purloin, to obfuscate, to make war, to conquer and keep its winnings from all corners of the world. Like the US, the Brits have always painted their wars with the colors of liberation. Just like they liberated the 2000 British citizens living on the cold Falklands Islands. And the way they liberated so many uncouth savage nations of their resources to sell to an international market. Of course, the French, the Portuguese, the Italians, the Germans and the Russians and Spanish all did this. If you ever want to see the real footprint of capitalism, read The Heart Of Darkness, Joseph Conrad’s novel about the rapine development of the Congo by Belgian King Leopold II. The footprint of capitalism is Empire. Realizing that only his baroque European kingdom held no territories in Africa, Leopold invaded the Congo, enslaved the population and created rubber plantations in an effort that killed probably a million indigenous people. The cost of Empire is surely being felt in the highest realms of finance of our country where not a single person, not even the President of the United States knows how many military bases we have across the globe. The Belgians did not really know what their King was doing until it was too late. And the Americans now suffering from a crashed economy, constant warfare and we are still not sure who’s to blame, or what to fix. That we are war weary is evident. We are also numb to the problems and fear more change, as if we might not survive another hit.


Rome split in two around the third century under Diocletian, and officially in the fifth century under the pressure of politics and war. The Catholic Church controlled what was left of the old Roman Republic, and the descendants of the Greeks and Orthodox Christians controlled the Eastern Byzantine half. Do we still feel this country, America could not split? At the end of World War II there were 79 nations on the Earth. Today there are about 210. If we look at the financial cost of empire, it’s not a long walk from where we are now to a split empire. I could see South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana all passing a the same ten point state constitution amendments that would essentially make them the New Confederacy, a sort of American Taliban state. No evolution, no abortions, Ten Commandments required in public school….you can almost write it yourself. Then we’ll see checkpoints. Then we’ll see surcharges for Americans crossing state lines.


I am feeling pessimistic about the country these days. I still call this home, and am more comfortable here than anyplace on Earth, and I have traveled fairly well in my life. It’s just heartbreaking to watch an empire crumble while you’re inside it. We have a lot to be thankful for here despite the myriad problems, the intractable divide and the barren future for a united country. Then again we fool ourselves. This country has never been united. During the Revolution, about half of the Colonials were loyal to the Crown. After the American Civil War, the divide between the north and the south actually grew. The promise of digital technology is efficiency, not truth. Truth is subjective. This means that the split will happen sooner. There are a million people in this country just as disaffected as I am but for a completely different set of reasons. Like Livy, or Procopious, I am simply trying to record what I see happening.


Rome suffered terrible anarchy in the aftermath of the death of Marc Anthony in 30 BC. It was chaos and many people were displaced and died in violence. 193 AD was called the year of the five emperors when  Julianus, Niger, Albinus, Septimus Severance and Pertinax all sought the throne. All were killed or committed suicide within the year, except Septimus. The anarchy in the streets of Rome was unthinkable in more civilized times. Yet, Rome survived many more years but in many more parts and versions of itself. Neither the Roman Republic not the Roman Empire actually survived their deaths. Everything changed. Like Rome after the Empire, the version of America after World War II, the shining one where faithful young men and women eradicated a vermin, that one is gone forever and ever.



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