The End of Empire
Part Three in the Decline of the West
An expectation of progress in the general sense is a shared optimism. Who among us dares to see the good in our times?
It is impossible to answer the question if it is forbidden to frame it. We are speechless in the face of so many unmentionable issues. We are preoccupied with substitutes, and the accurate description of our predicament is seemingly prohibited.
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This is one sign of the end of Empire. Things simply do not mean what they used to. Nothing is as it was, and the values applied to appraise the new reality seem upside, as if reflected in a spoon.
This post will treat
Cold War and Peace - Wherefore the Peace Dividend?
The Extinction of Belief - A World Without Purpose
The Limits of Legalism - The West and the Loss of God
Fail Again, Fail Better - Spectator Culture: A Joke on the Audience?
An Empire Without Courage - Three Visions of Loss
A Courageous Future - The Rehitlerisation of Viktor Orban
There are a few unattributed quotations in the text, which are all from Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I once tried to show off to some Russians about knowing his work, but they pooh-poohed me and told me to read Shalamov.
Cold War and Peace
No one mentions the peace dividend any more. The brief opportunity to rake back the vast fortunes spent on the arms race was squandered when, as the Soviet Union peacefully disbanded, the United States determined another course for its future - and that of the world.
“They grew arrogant and self-confident. They declared victory in the Cold War”
Said Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader. Speaking in December 2021, as tensions between Russia and NATO began to rise over Ukraine, he remarked that far from co-operating with Moscow to bring peace,
“… the 'winners' decided to build a new empire. Hence the idea of NATO expansion.”
Gorbachev’s remarks are unfriendly to the television audiences of the West. They remind us that others have a different point of view. One goal of empire is to assimilate these points of view - and eliminate them - and so to make a peaceful desert of opinion.
The Russians do not share the view of the US Empire, that their opinion is irrelevant and their motives always wicked because insubordinate. Their role following the peaceful dissolution of the once-barbarous Soviet Empire was to take orders and to deliver cheap product. Instead, they decided to stare down the world’s only hyperpower in a challenge which has revealed the limits of Empire, just as it shows the consequences of its breakup.
This, on reflection, is not the reckless spasm it may first appear. It is a result of the fall of the Soviet Empire. A generation or so of border skirmishes usually follows the collapse of some great international power. We will likely see the same in Europe and elsewhere as a result of the decline of our own.
It is also simply a realistic response to a situation which has become unacceptable, because the situation is governed by people who believed themselves to be the masters of reality. This too is a feature of the zenith of Empire - the intoxication of superpower. Yet there is more to the end of Empire than the conceits of dominance.
Its end is also in the making of needless enemies - at home and abroad -which divides the world into factions. This works for a time - the divide et impera of old - but works only as long as the Empire itself is coherent in its identity - which is the polite expression of its aims. The American Empire is a struggle not only for the spoils but for its own soul.
It is a vast enterprise uncertain of its own meaning, which has reduced to the manufacture of international crisis as an operating business model, whilst aggressively promoting addiction and mental illness at home. It is a ship too vast to be steered, with a limitless supply of manpower and of fuel, whose myth-making powers have failed at home as abroad. It is still vast, peerless - but no one believes in it anymore.
The extinction of belief
This is the reason the Soviet Union came to an end. From the stagnation of the 1970s it became obvious - to those who have a tendency to notice - that the Stakhanovite lurches into the future were a thing of the past. Electrification, the space race, the vast urban planning projects - the Soviet Union of the fifties and sixties seemed to pull ahead, whilst the US tore itself apart over Vietnam and the social revolution of the self.
In the decades that followed the Soviet Union stopped delivering on its promises, leaving only the most zelotic of Homo Sovieticus to cleave to the Party line. These people would refuse to see the suppression of dissidents, the empty shelves, the queues for bread. The True Believer denounces those who notice.
One day you wake up and realise you are no longer alone. It is not just you who suspects it is all a sham. It’s everyone. The walls that fell first fell in the mind.
These walls are far stronger in the West. In fact, they are the only meaningful boundaries it is dedicated to police.
The old Soviet canard about propaganda is worth repeating - that the difference between them and the West was not the fact of propaganda, but that in the West we are more willing to believe what we are told by the government. The transition to a screen based social reality has reinforced this in the credulous, but otherwise severely undermined it. This is the reason memes are so dangerous to power. They are funny because they are taboo, because they are largely true.
“[I]n the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges.”
It is unfashionable to speak of the principles on which our Free World claimed to be founded, because it has strayed so far from them as to be an enemy to them. There are two types of disenchantment - of the loss of belief - and they converge from opposite poles. The first is the disenchantment of the idealist, the second of the pragmatist. To the first, the Empire has failed because it no longer means what it should. To the second, it has failed because it does not work. The slogans are as empty as the shelves.
In the last six months a new sense of doom has emerged to compete with bright red summer weather forecasts and the endless need for war: it is the sense that the money has gone. Whether by accident or design the managers of Empire have crashed the economy, some to loot it via COVID, others via war, others still by the transfer of tax to the billionaire class that is carbon credits and higher energy levies. This makes for a broader phenomenon of decline - of wealth, and the aspiration it fosters. The freedom, the moral purpose - the dream - these had already gone.
There is nothing to believe in any more.
"In early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility.”
The Limits of Legalism
“Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims. Subsequently, however all such limitations were eroded everywhere in the West.”
The law under Liberalism exists to liberate Man from every moral, social, traditional, cultural and customary restraint. It sees these foundations of civilisation as shackles and seeks to jubilantly discard them. What it is throwing away is everything of value, in the vaunted attempt to make Man naked as a beast in his unrestricted desires.
There is no higher principle in Liberalism than the laws it makes to achieve this manumission. The project relies on the notion that everything fine is a handicap to gratification. It becomes hateful - even seditious - to promote any constructive value in place of this jamboree of ruin.
The end of Empire is the end of the third religion of Man - Liberalism. In making the self the axle of the world Man has broken the wheel.
If there is no higher purpose to the human race than the cheap satisfaction of appetites then the law will serve these to the point of man’s extinction. He will cease to be what he was, and become an instrument of manufactured wants. This has happened to the television class, to the Amazon Primed, to the Uber Eaters. A culture of grazers mesmerised by a constant spectacle. The pipeline of trash may no longer disgorge into the trough, however. This is one reason to be cheerful.
All’s well that ends.
Fail again, fail better
There is a Beckettian sense of ennui to the predictable shambles of the Regime. Some people forget Beckett was taking the mick - that he was funny. It is insulting to realise this because he is laughing at the audience through the characters onstage. Our Empire is doing much the same. To watch this spectacle and to be told grand things about the pratfalls onstage is to be humiliated. The latest show in Ukraine is nearing its finale, as has recently been signalled in the Regime media.
Britain has relaxed the sanctions against Russia, a move which makes no sense other than to do more of the same. Amnesty international has been permitted to notice out loud that the Ukrainians have been stationing military units in schools and hospitals and shopping centres since March. This betokens a change of tone, meaning the full blooded commitment to the Zelensky regime is over.
Gerhard Schroder, whose governance of Germany you may remember, has spoken out in favour of restarting Nordstream 2. He suggests Ukraine surrenders Crimea. Of course, he has been an executive on Gazprom and so on - but to mention concessions to Putin was unthinkable merely a month ago.
The line is softening. A switch in emphasis is coming. The Russians are winning along the Donbass front and the West has once again failed. It was defeated in Afghanistan, the hasty withdrawal coming not by choice but by the realisation that the country was falling to the Taliban at a rate that could not be stopped. It was a defeat. Ukraine is a defeat. The West has lost and once again the cost is enormous.
The West’s answer to the questions posed by losing two wars in as many years is the answer of the arsonist. As old flashpoints like Serbia look likely to ignite, a new blaze is being fuelled in Taiwan. The female leader of Taiwan claims ownership of all of China. This is not a position compatible with that of the actual leader of China.
We are told by hacks like Con Coughlin of the Telegraph that China is too weak to take Taiwan. This is the kind of half-story that passes for analysis in the Regime press. Of course he cannot notice that the US is too weak to take Afghanistan. Or Crimea.
Secondly, neoconservative shills such as this cannot seem to escape their own paradigm. Drum-bangers for lucrative slaughter, their imagination is limited to television warfare - shock and awe - or the blitzkrieg of their beloved Hitler documentaries. China needs do neither to win. If it blockades Taiwan it cuts off most of the world’s semiconductors. A move to provoke China into cutting off the West from the vital components on which it depends is perhaps the only way to exceed the desperate move of sanctioning Europe into disaster just to keep it on a leash.
Taiwan can and probably will be isolated into submission by China. This pivot to Taiwan may be a stopgap attention magnet, between defeat in Ukraine and the return of COVID measures in the winter. It is a prelude to war. The question is when and not if. War is a business model of American Empire. It is ruled by the neoliberal/neoconservative faction, which likes to garland itself in glittering values.
The Euston Manifesto of 2006 is the founding document of the progressive war faction in Britain. I have written before about the Kaganites and their Project for a New American Century. The stated goal was to establish worldwide American military dominance. It produced a powerful faction which secured a literal death grip on US foreign policy.
It is important to remember that Forever War has no party but much of the power. In the USA the death cult migrated from the red ties to the blue, whereas in Britain it really began with the capture of the Blairite centre. The people who signed this manifesto are proud to call themselves ‘Liberals’.
The New American Century has been a short one. It was a hotly touted reboot of an old favourite, which turned out to have suffered the same shrinkflation as the chocolate bars of your childhood.
An Empire Without Courage: Three Visions of the Loss
“The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and of course, in the United Nations.”
These quotes I include from Solzhenitsyn are helpful because he was the kind of dissident who saw the bad in everyone. He was not what the Russians call a Zapadnik - someone who thought that the answer to Russia was to Westernise. He was critical of the Soviet Union which imprisoned him and of the West to which he eventually escaped. His habit of saying things out loud which happen to be true explains his disappearance from our screens.
“The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even to excess, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer."
He is not alone in thinking the West lacks courage. This idea - perhaps borrowed from him in the way of all great artists - appears repeatedly in the writings of Robert Kagan. He considers the reluctance of some people to commit to what he likes now to call ‘Liberal interventionism’ as cowardice. He echoes the thymos, which he defines as
“a spiritedness and ferocity in defense of clan, tribe, city, or state.”
His interventions have been liberally frequent. Whose clan, tribe, city or state has been defended? It is a mystery.
Kagan’s attempt here is to provoke the West into further destruction by catcalling the cowboy. Coward! Says the fat man at his desk, as he snipes between lectures and lunches. Such people presume to lecture the brave from the shareholder’s point of view.
His idea of courage is a red rag. A taunt. It correctly perceives the decline of the moral courage of the West only to exploit and thereby further degrade it. The objection of Solzhenitsyn is sincere: the West has lost its way. The American no longer dreams, but nor is he awake.
“[The Soviet Union,] in time of peace, artificially created a famine, causing 6 million persons to die in the Ukraine in 1932 and 1933. They died on the very edge of Europe. And Europe didn't even notice it. The world didn't even notice it...”
The third perspective on courage comes from a man with much to lose and everything to gain. He is Viktor Orban, leader of Hungary - a nation which relies on the generous hand of the European Union. It is a hand that is often found at his neck.
A Courageous Future
To speak of a love of your own people is hatred in the Empire. Love is for others, not for the likes of you. Your job is to vanish, to applaud your replacement and the rapid dissolution of everything you were. Orban gave a speech at the end of July which was like a stone dropped in this pond. A pebble which plummeted, but refuses to break down. It has been called racist, which these days means some truth has been spoken that is unacceptable to power.
What was that truth?
Orban said that the West, and its idea of progress, has been in decline in spirit and in demography for years. To this he adds the sudden perception of the decline in Western power. The Empire has become desperate - so much so that it will sabotage the economy of Europe to wrest Germany away from cheap Russian gas. This, he knows, is a power play by the USA, whose moves are now so circumscribed as to make such a crazy gambit necessary. Europe has been wrecked to preserve US influence. It is a theme familiar to many provinces of the Empire. Which is worse - to be an enemy or a friend? Russia booms and Europe rations. Orban repeats the old joke amongst European diplomats:
“We have caught a Yank but he will not let go of us”
…before presenting a summary of the Empire.
“What I want to say is that the West’s negative feelings about the world are due to the fact that the crucial energy and raw materials needed for economic development are no longer in the West’s hands. What it does possess is military power and capital. The question is what it can achieve with this in the present circumstances.”
The West does not dominate - militarily or otherwise. It does not control the means to feed and fuel itself. It is dependent but dangerous. Furthermore, it is dying in four distinct ways - population, migration, gender and war.
Orban’s crime in the eyes of the Liberal press is to mention The Camp of the Saints and the demographic destiny of Europe. He dares to say ‘no’ to anti-natalism, yes to babies and families and to the future of his nation. To speak of race from this point of view is to be Hitlerised.
He laughs at how the EU has paused - only paused - its sanctions and legal hounding of the Hungarian government for the criminal act of securing its own borders. He mentions how Salvini is being criminalised for attempting the same in Italy. Salvini is of course a Fascist. People who seek to protect their own people are called very bad names, and their lives are to be ruined. Ruined in court, then by replacement, migration.
He dares furthermore to countermand the madness of gender identity, the aggressive promotion of sex without procreation. It produces a gratification oriented self, having no need of any outward connection other than a new location into which to spill its lusts. To pivot from perversion to productive ways of life is an outrage. This is the third ground for the Hitlerisation of Orban.
Finally Orban utters the heresy of peace. He calls for a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine, reminding us that such a move can only be made between the US and Russia. Europe cannot maintain its own guarantees, such as those of the Minsk Agreement, and so it is to the power of the US we must turn to compel Ukraine to honour it.
On the matter of energy, on the preservation of the way of life of his people, and on the likely status of Hungary as a refuge for Christians, Orban is oriented toward the future. He welcomes his own replacement by serious-minded and younger politicians.
His is a message of hope, reinforced by practical wisdom and policies popular because they are for, and not against, the people he is elected to protect. For this he is vilified, but his strategy is credible and realistic. His example will provide for a counterpoint to the collapsing Empire, which in Europe divides into regional factions. His is a programme of prudence, of stability, when around his homeland things will continue to fall apart.
The economic division in Europe runs south to north, with the north increasingly unwilling - or unable - to subsidise the permanent deficits of the south. Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain - once called the PIIGS - cannot expect a deindustrialising Germany to continue to float them.
From West to East appears another division.
“Migration has split Europe in two – or I could say that it has split the West in two. One half is a world where European and non-European peoples live together. These countries are no longer nations: they are nothing more than a conglomeration of peoples. I could also say that it is no longer the Western world, but the post-Western world. And around 2050, the laws of mathematics will lead to the final demographic shift: cities in this part of the continent – or that part – will see the proportion of residents of non-European origin rising to over 50 per cent of the total.”
This is a completely unacceptable fact in both senses: to utter it is to be condemned, to allow it to happen is unforgivable. The first sense is the perspective of Empire, the second of the subject peoples. This is a third tension in Europe which Orban does not mention, and one which will, in my opinion, hasten the transition to Bonapartism. Such divisions between population and power are unsustainable. You cannot build a stable future on the exclusion of the people from the process of political power.
In summary, there is no future for the Empire in its current form. Of course, the United States will continue to exist. Perhaps it will retire from Europe, to dominate once more its own hemisphere. Perhaps Europe itself will not long survive, its policies flowing downhill from a power whose interests demand that its allies are destroyed.
The final phase of imperial power is always destructive. This is the moment we inhabit. The Beast is afraid, and it will continue to lash out. Yet if a country with no coast, with no great army nor many friends can look to the future with confidence, then there is no practical reason for the sin of despair.
Remember that the world is not, nor never perfect. That what is worth having is never won cheaply, and seldom with money alone. Finally, if you have read this far, and so far refused to be deceived, then you will never be broken. What you have built within yourself can never be taken away. It is this foundation which gives a footing to the future. Make it your own. Fortify yourself. Never give up.
The final wall to fall is always in the mind.
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