Thoughts from the Margins of an Empire in Decline

Since my recent piece I have been barraged with messages, tags, etc. Several have requested I weigh in on their personal pages with friends of theirs who may have objected to some of what I had to say or who are demanding I produce “solutions” to the problem of American Empire. I am sorry but I don’t have the time to get to all of these requests. But I appreciate people taking time to really think through the issues and what I had written. Thinking and discussing are good things.

As I stated in my piece, the only hope we have is for the dissolution of the American Empire if we want to have a livable future. This was mistaken by some to mean that there is a plan for this in the works or that ordinary people have control over this. The truth is that ordinary people do, in fact, have agency, but only when they organize en masse and in solidarity to fully disrupt the power arrangement. Outside of this, we are at the whims of the powerful and the caprice of societal trends and schisms.

Whatever the outcome of this election (and at this point it appears, predictably, that Biden will win and Trump will do everything within his power to sow chaos and discord), the American Empire will hobble on for several more years. If Biden wins, many white Liberals will likely go back to sleep, ignoring the cries of Black and Brown people besieged by a racist police state and the agony of millions of foreign victims of America’s brutal military/surveillance state. I have already seen many of them say they “look forward to getting back to normal.”

But what was normal? No healthcare for working people and the poor? Continuing police brutality? Growing income inequity? Continued subsidies for corporations? The fossil fuel industry? The arms industry? Record deportations of immigrants, as what occurred under Obama? Drone bombing wedding parties and ambulances in Afghanistan? More support for despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia? Or military juntas in Egypt or Honduras? Or apartheid in Israel/Palestine? The steady destruction of the environment thanks to unbridled industry? Of course, if Trump somehow manages to win the swift slide toward a more overt fascism will be inevitable. But does any person of conscience really want to return to “normal?”

To be sure, the American Empire has been in a state of decline for the last 20 years. So its eventual dissolution is inevitable. This may take decades (Rome didn’t fall in a day), but it will dissolve because it is failing in all the ways empires fail. Bloated, over extended and expensive military and the accompanying occupations and forays. Disintegrating social safety nets. Growing economic shocks, insecurity and disparity between rich and poor. Ecological devastation and depletion. General lack of confidence in a unifying imperial ethos among its subjects. It isn’t alone in this. China and Russia are facing similar prospects. But the American Empire remains the most powerful and wealthy hegemony on the planet.

So I think it is more constructive to realize that we have no power over this dissolution. What we do have power over is how we organize and react to it. On an individual basis this might mean some tough choices like relocating. On a broader basis, this might mean joining or building resilient communities in places as far as possible from the epicenter of the empire’s collapse, since that is where most of the chaos will be located.
But my piece was not primarily intended for an American audience. It was written for the rest of us. Those of us living on the margins of empire, outside of its physical borders, yet are subject to its ruthless rule in various ways. Incidentally, this would include Native peoples who reside on bantustans within the empire itself.

I respectfully encourage my American readers to remember that their government, military and intelligence agencies have and continue to interfere in the political, economic and social affairs of virtually every other nation and region on the planet. Therefore, we have every right to voice our rage, and owe you no explanation or “solutions” to your problems. We care about the poorest and most vulnerable among you, but we simply want your empire to fall for the sake of humanity and the entire planet.

I care deeply for my friends and family in the US. I care especially for those who will face oppression, poverty and violence no matter who gets elected. But right now my concern is more for those living on the margins of American Empire. Because they are, and have always been, the main victims of its ruthless bellicosity, exploitation and belligerence.

Kenn Orphan November 2020

  • Title painting is The Course of Empire, Destruction, 1836, by Thomas Cole. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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