The poet was talking of old men, but the American Global Capitalist Empire seems determined to follow his advice. It will not to go gently, but like old men, it will go. We pretty much know what to expect when a person dies, but what can we expect when an empire dies?
Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius – and the madness is well underway.
The history books tell us how empires fall apart, but they tend to focus on the effect on the ruling class, the loss of control by the central government, the barbarians at the gates. Life among the hoi polloi is usually expressed only in statistics: so many starved, this many migrated, that number died of disease. Drought and war have always led to large migrations and the current situation is no exception. Migrations place significant stress on the economies and capabilities of target destinations, and this stress may well show up as social & political unrest. Resource wars and race wars will be added to the existing warscape.
The decline of America will be more traumatic and the trauma more widespread because we are more powerful than any previous empire (the bigger they are, the harder they fall?) and our influence is global. To make matters worse, the world has less flexibility to absorb the upcoming shocks: much larger populations; fewer areas to provide ‘sanctuary’; climate change and associated severe weather; lack of wide-spread knowledge/skills for functioning without the supporting infrastructure for production, transportation, healthcare, etc.
Throughout most of history, surviving the fall of kingdoms and empires was mostly a matter of not getting killed by one army or the other, not starving to death because the combatants had stolen or destroyed the crops and not succumbing to the diseases which increase under war conditions. In other words, being lucky. But if one was lucky enough to survive, one went back to doing pretty much what one had done before and what one’s parents, grandparents, etc. had done for 1000 years, maybe in the same place or maybe in a new country. Today, most people in the Developed World haven’t a clue about surviving the fall of Empire, much less prospering.
And all the ‘survivalists’ with their high-tech gear and backyard gardens in remote locations are going to be in for a rude shock. I told one such friend that it is pointless to install solar power when the equipment hooked to it cannot be serviced/replaced. His response was that he would stockpile spare parts, lightbulbs, etc to last out his lifetime (and by implication, screw the next generation). I suggested that instead of installing solar panels, he should learn to live without electricity. He was stunned at the idea.
In some ways, 3rd World denizens – if we haven’t killed them off in our death throes – may actually be in a better position to deal with the demise of the American Empire than are Americans. 😀