Monday, January 3, 2011

The Problem, Dear Brutus

It’s one forty-one in the morning, and the topic for tonight is the obvious and monumental decline of the United States of America as a world power.

There. I’ve said it. Are you happy now? We’ve had it. Done. Bye-bye. Auf wiedersehen!

There’s only one problem here.

I don’t believe it.

It’s not that I’m super patriotic – “my country, right or wrong!” (Oh. Excuse me. I think that was Germany.) We secretly want to believe that everyone in the world would be better off if they thought like we do, and that everyone yearns for a democracy exactly just like ours.

(And perhaps that’s part of the problem. We don’t actually live in a democracy. We live in a republic. You know, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic …” Oops. My bad.)

In any case, as a country we are not always the most diplomatic. But this is not a sign of decline. We’ve always been that way. In 1958 a novel was published called “The Ugly American.” Set in a fictional Asian country, it chronicles “innate arrogance and the failure to understand the local culture.” We definitely like to impose our will on our friends. (Case in point; we talked our best friend country into joining us in some prolonged for real war games. It worked for awhile. The Prime Minister who agreed to this (at the time) is now diplomatic attaché to a community of yak herders in Outer Pango-Pango.)

Perhaps the pessimists see us in decline because of our economy. I can certainly agree that it’s a mess. “Worst since the great depression,” they say. True true. But they don’t actually listen to what they are saying. It’s not “worse THAN the great depression.”

(Consider this one fact alone. In the 1930’s we were a largely pacifist nation. I don’t think anyone would question that we now have the greatest war machine on earth. I don’t think our most serious nuclear foe would want to put that to the test.)

So – seriously – how can anyone say we are in a decline that will permanently affect our status as an influential authority on the world scene? Isn’t that for history alone to decide? Pardon me. Let’s not even go that far. Tell me, o great sayers of the sooth, what’s the political climate going to be like in two weeks? Should I wear my radioactively shielded raincoat?

“The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” We see emerging nations as our replacements, when they are what they have always been – a challenge. China is an industrial leviathan, but with a flawed government. How much farther can they go before they implode? Japan is fast on their heels and, in my opinion, much more stable. We should seriously make an effort to understand their culture … but we probably won’t.

After some thought on the matter, I can see Germany becoming the dominant force in Europe. Their influence and pressure is already growing. Because of this, I see England becoming stronger. The balance. They have risen to the occasion so many times before, I see no reason why they won’t again. But it ain’t gonna be easy. It never is.

Okay. I’ve now solved the problems of the world, looked under rocks, and heaved a few at cultures I generally like. But am I right? Could be. Or could be not. Could be next week the governor of Pango-Pango will announce that his yak butter is the cure for the common cold …

Great. It will give us a whole new direction in which to lurch.


1 comment:

Views from Malmesbury said...

You know, I think some of your best stuff is done in the small wee hours!