Freeze Peach | Ghosts of Rome: All Great Civilizations Fall—Is America Next? (Part I)
Billionaires in Space
Gazillionaire Jeff Bezos made a short journey into space last week. When the capsule touched back down after a trifling 10-minute, 10-second flight, Bezos smirked: "Best day ever!"
Whatever you think about a guy spending billions on this Richy Rich rollercoaster ride, the implications of private companies such as Blue Origin selling space tourism for millions of dollars while numerous crises plague America is crazy-stupid-pointless-vain.
Post-pandemic America has seen millions file for unemployment, increasing food shortages, looming evictions, and (still) no basic, affordable health care. Bezos became the world's first trillionaire during the pandemic. The flip side of this cataclysm saw the number of people using food banks jump from 11% to 40%. In a country of 330 million people, this comes out to a startling 132 million going hungry.
It seems painfully lacking in self-awareness that private companies can use space as a new frontier for capitalism with US government approval. Not to mention how the billionaire space race is one giant leap backward for climate change – one tourist rocket launch produces up to 300 tons of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, where it hums for years.
Only vigorous and repeated stimuli will arouse those from blue-pilled somnambulance. As techno-feudal billionaires throw themselves at the abyss for fun, the cost of ending something like the pandemic would only be a fraction of what they could afford.
Instead, America gets a bald guy in a cowboy hat remarking...
...rather than thanking them with better pay and benefits. These days, the US bourgeoisie seems to be comfortable with their formidable brand of ultra-cynicism.
Is America Now Rome Then?
What's the saying? Rome wasn't built in a day but burned in a night – something like that. Increasingly, it seems the US is rife with allusions to Roman society, especially how its government structures echo the institutions of Republican Rome; how its Romanesque political culture is, in essence, anti-democratic, evolving to be an aristocratic-plutocratic-Medussa Head-corporatocracy. Ordinary people in ancient Rome were given practically nothing, increasingly less, as the civilization forged ahead. Roman aristocracy arrived at a stage where it saw little need in keeping poor working-class people alive. In America, capitalism as individualism's political ideology has led to conditions whereby ordinary folk are so marginalized, society itself is starting to fracture down the middle.
For example, homelessness in America wasn't particularly visible a few decades ago. Now though, the marginalized homeless – victims of Reagan-era deindustrialization and curtailing of federal funds for affordable housing – live in a country where their lives are but corporate state collateral damage where the upwards transfer of wealth to the 1% is primary.
A virtual visit to downtown Los Angeles through Google Street View might give you an idea of what's going on. Thousands are living in tents with no hope. Substance abuse and suicide are common. On the precipice of existence, citizens of the USA, the wealthiest country on the planet, prove an alternative American Dream and, more broadly, undermine the entire concept of superior "Western Values."
On The Brink
In Ancient Rome, as the population declined, the elites stopped supporting the Roman army. At this juncture, the Roman Empire – once omnipotent but bloated and weak – buckled from the weight of its narcissism, shattering like a sugar glass cardcastle.
America today has exceeded the bloated world-spanning dominance of ancient Rome. The Roman Empire fell prey to many ills that shadow the US today – overexpansion, social degradation, and poor leadership. Greatness and power do not protect from the culmination of poor decisions over decades and centuries. This tidal wave of fate is often impossible to reverse. Collapse, it seems, is relatively swift and merciless. According to the BBC, the Roman Empire covered 4.4 million sq km (1.9 million sq miles) in 390 but five years later had dropped to 2 million sq km (770,000 sq miles). By 476, the empire's reach was next to zero.
America's modern-day equivalency is its far-reaching military-industrial complex deployed in more locations than throughout its history. In 2017, an explosive Pentagon study stated that the US-backed international order established after World War 2 was "fraying" and "collapsing." The report's conclusion? More budget and more expansion of the military-industrial complex to maintain global 'access to resources.'
As he would refer himself, J.B. Browne is a half "foreign devil" living with anxiety relieved by purchase. HK-born Writer/Musician/Tinkerer.
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