July 7, 2021

Unlike 9/11 response, COVID response collapsing due to anarchic polarized climate of imperial disintegration

I was skeptical of the claims that the draconian COVID protocols would be here to stay, and if anything would only get worse. "If you don't believe it, just tell me how many people leave their shoes on while going through security at any airport these days, 20 years after 9/11".

But as we saw with the entire GOP failing to defend against a stolen election, unlike their aggressive stance in the nail-biting election of 2000, nobody is in charge in this shithole country anymore. The elites could not be more polarized, more checked-out, and more abdicating of their basic responsibilities, even to their fellow elites.

We don't live in the relatively cohesive early 2000s anymore, and that was already starting the trend toward red state / blue state rivalry. There is less and less within a bipartisan consensus anymore, so it's just might makes right, and whoever happens to be stronger for awhile will impose their will on the weaker side.

That will allow Democrats to steal elections that matter in the short term -- including against their own people, as seen in the New York mayoral primary -- but it also means that none of this shit is going to last in the medium-to-long term. There's simply no broad buy-in from most of the elite class, and worse, the parts who aren't buying in are having that rubbed in their faces.

Unlike other countries, America has been an expanding empire since about 1700, and is subject to a different trajectory going forward, namely imperial disintegration. Finland, Denmark, etc., don't have to worry about the especially nasty forces tearing apart America from within. They have not been expanding empires, and they are not about to suffer from a "black hole of asabiya," as Peter Turchin describes the collapse of the potential for collective action, when empires begin disintegrating.

To compare to the Roman Empire, only because it's the most well known, our neoliberal / Reagan era was similar to their Antonine dynasty, in the mid-late 2nd century -- after their maximum territory had been reached, following centuries of expansion. It was a consolidation, resting on their laurels kind of phase -- stagnation, or saturation, rather than continued expanse and growth.

We reached our territorial maximum after WWII, occupying Japan and Germany, and gradually folding in the NATO countries. We failed to expand into the Middle East or Central Asia. None of those regions are under our sphere of influence, and those with whom we are allies were either expanding states themselves -- such as Saudi Arabia, which had been expanding since the late 1700s against the Ottoman encroachment -- or peaceful treaty partners, like Egypt. The ones we tried to conquer, like Iraq and Iran and Syria, have only slipped further out of our orbit. Ditto for Afghanistan, an even greater abject failure.

Even before that, we failed to take North Korea and Vietnam on mainland Asia, and we lost our former conquests in Cuba and the Philippines.

What comes after the stagnation phase of an empire is its disintegration, beginning really with the Year of the Five Emperors in 193 for Rome, but totally unraveling during the Crisis of the Third Century. As a sidenote, any right-winger who is telling you about Caesar (or, for Trump-era populist points, the Gracchus brothers), and lamenting the end of the Republic vs. start of the Empire, as though that's where we are now, is willfully retarded. They can't tell what stage of the Roman Empire we are in -- very obviously, past its peak of expansion, and headed toward polarized disintegration. Namely, the Third Century. There will never be any further Caesar figures in America, and any potential Constantines will be, like the original, in a far-off land that is only under American influence now, not within America proper, and will only spawn a new empire (then, the Byzantine, and now, who knows?).

It's amazing to see how little of Roman culture and society from the 3rd century onward survived. All the Roman literature and architecture -- including the colosseums, arches, columns, walls, aqueducts, everything -- basically stagnated when the rest of the empire stagnated, during the Antonines. And nothing has been retained in The Canon from the 3rd century onward. Christian culture doesn't count, just cuz it was written in Latin, as it is decidedly post-Roman.

I think American culture will go down the same way -- they'll include the early stuff, 19th C, and most of the 20th C. up through the '70s (movies more than novels for the 20th C.), and then only begrudgingly include stuff from the '80s through the 2000s, as cool as we may find it now. Probably nothing from the crisis period of the 2010s (after the Great Recession broke the economy for good). And definitely nothing from this moment onwards, again however neat we may find it at the moment.

Those earlier periods had elite buy-in from many sides, even during a period of Civil War. Just as with the civil wars in Rome, ours took place during imperial expansion -- that seems to be a general fact, as with the English Civil War taking place during the expansion of the British Empire. When the stakes are huge, as with an expanding empire, civil conflict takes the form of Team A vs. Team B vying for who gets to control and administer the high-stakes empire.

When the empire's fate is only going to decline, who gives a shit about controlling it? There are no great big teams vying for control, and there is no Team A vs. Team B kind of civil war. More like chaos and anarchy. See the Crisis of the Third Century, or the internal politics of the WWI era in most of the moribund European / Ottoman empires, or unfolding right now in America.

The elites of imperial societies preserved the culture of their fractious civil war periods because they were still part of an even longer-term rising phase of imperial expansion. They were still part of a strong Us vs. Them ethnogenesis (against the Celts, Carthagenians, etc. for Rome, and against the Indians, Nazis, and Soviets for America).

However, when national identity begins disintegrating, why bother preserving that culture? It's not built to last, indeed it seems contaminated with corrosive elements. So, ignore Roman "culture" after 200, and forget German "culture" after WWI sent their empire into a death-spiral -- but keep all the good stuff going back to the Prussian Enlightenment monarchs, when their expansion began.

In fact, the modern welfare state was pioneered by Bismarck in the 1880s, at the height of Prussian ("German") expansion and power. And it's no coincidence that it was retained through all sorts of subsequent developments -- it was created in a climate of elite consensus and harmony, which makes dismantling it sacrilegious. But the stuff from the Wilhelmine era after Bismarck and through WWI (roughly 1890 to 1920), fell by the wayside, especially the distinctive new policies like trying to make Germany a colonial power, or trying to dominate France within Europe.

That's akin to our New Deal period giving us our welfare state, from a bipartisan consensus and harmony among elites, and at the peak of our expansion, with FDR being our Bismarck -- strong, "authoritarian," and long-serving, all signs of a strong state. We have an incredibly weak state right now, with weak rulers cycling through like the barracks emperors of the Crisis of the Third Century.

And none of them are enforcing jackshit, especially if it's a new policy rather than a longstanding one -- just look at all the COVID protocols, which were largely terminated by governors of gigantic states almost immediately (e.g. DeSantis in Florida). In the wake of 9/11, did multiple governors flout the federal rules about how airports on their turf were to be run -- all the requirements about shoes, liquids, and the like? Not a chance in hell. We were still a halfway strong state and cohesive people in the early 2000s. The elites could still be brought onto the same page.

But not anymore. They've already had to call an end to the masks at the national level, and if anyone tries to bring them back, that will last for even less time than the first round. They've already been tarnished, and too many people were already breaking the rules during the first round. They will only be joined by more open rule-breakers if a second round of mask mandates is enacted.

These flailing attempts to establish order during the elite-driven anarchy will certainly cause misery and headaches along our terminal decline, but none of them are going to last like Social Security or even taking off your shoes to get on a plane. Imperial disintegration means collateral damage from elites waging war with each other in an increasingly ineffectual way -- first this method, then that method, from this ruler then from that ruler -- rather than a single method administered forever by an enduring dictator.

It also makes me wonder what from the crisis period of the 2010s will be jettisoned like the COVID protocols. I could easily see gay marriage getting stricken down at some point, like an over-indulgence of prog morality akin to Prohibition getting repealed. At least at the level of individual states refusing to enforce federal laws, and the feds being too ineffectual to enforce them.

Certainly no prog policies relating to trannies will last over the medium-to-long term, as they're only getting going during the outright disintegration period. Indeed, those ones seem destined to blow up due to polarization and lack of broad buy-in from elites, and are intended just to lord it over political enemies in the very short term. Our parasitic elites are more concerned with dunking on each during a 24-hour discourse cycle, rather than implementing anything to last 50 years or longer.

To conclude, not that I ever read them, but the thinkers of the New Deal era who were primarily concerned with analyzing / critiquing strong states and authoritarianism are now clearly of no use. Their main contribution was to break out of the strong government era, and into the neoliberal liberation era of roughly 1980 to 2020. With our societies so weakened by now, where it's outright falling apart, we won't have to look to an analysis or critique of strong states, the ratchet of authoritarian policies, and so on.

We need to look closer at analyses of disintegrating empires, such as the Roman Third Century, or Spain after its Reconquista-driven Golden Age (so, during the 19th and 20th centuries). We could look at more familiar ones like Britain, France, and Germany during their 20th-C disintegration, although that fall was padded by being absorbed into the American sphere of influence -- whereas we have no successor empire left to bail us out as we disintegrate.

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