King Canute and the Waves; the inevitable death of Empire
The legend: King Canute and the waves.
Canute set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the incoming tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes. Yet "continuing to rise as usual [the tide] dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person. Then the king leapt backwards, saying: 'Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name
This legend, which may be true, tells a story of a wise man, who, although powerful, recognized the limitations of power. This valuable lesson, first told almost 1000 years ago, has still not been learned. The subject of this legend, King Canute, was an Emperor of England, Denmark, and much of Scandinavia. He had accrued much power through his wars and diplomacy, yet died at age 40, leaving his young empire to crumble in only another 40 years when William the Conqueror destroyed his successors. This ended one empire and begat another. The subsequent empire was, to say the least, tumultuous entailing numerous wars between the English (now no longer simply Angle-Saxons)
and the Norman-French. Who won that contest is a lesson yet unlearned by modern Emperors and their courtiers.
Who lost in those struggles for transient power, money, and "glory" of course were the people who bore the brunt of the fighting, taxation and various forms of repression. Has that changed? For those not enamored by exceptionalist jingoism, this is a rhetorical question. This situation has not changed. It predates Canute by millennia (e.g., Rameses III) and continues to this day.
The root of this illusory quest for ultimate power and riches is buried deep within the human psyche. Humans are both Devils and Angels, sometimes interchangeably. There is good and evil in every person, although the proportions vary widely.
A fact, so well illustrated in human history certainly cannot be unknown to those transient claimants for wealth and fame. Why then do these events recur, ceaselessly, in many outwardly varying but inwardly similar events?
To answer this question involves both neuroscience and metaphysics, two disciplines which cannot be fully merged, if at all. The conundrum is this: humans, as a species, are incapable of modifying this fatal flaw although knowing about it quite well. Given time, in any organization, group, society, company, nation WILL eventually evolve into aggregation of power and "legitimacy" to the few at the expense of the many.
Historical examples abound in almost every culture on every content at all recorded times. This, then, sets the agenda of Reformers (of any sort, of any era) in what is ultimately a vain quest. Corruption and repression are inevitable accompaniments of human existence. To fully halt this will require something upon which we are already on the brink: the destruction of humanity (and the planet) by thermonuclear weapons (rapidly) or environmental poisoning (more slowly but just as certainly)
To those currently engaged in building or preserving Empire, the response is always: "this time it will be different". No it won't. It cannot be. We are "hardwired" to behave irrationally despite cognition of the destructive nature of our own actions. Emotion always outweighs reason. Let me repeat: emotion always outweighs reason.
Humans cannot, as a whole be re-programmed. MK Ultra is no exception. Propaganda must be continually reinforced and or the institution physical/mental constraint employed. 1984 is no fantasy. It is real. Winston Smith is everyman.
Being conscious of his own mortality, Louis XIV is reported to have said "apres moi, l'deluge". He knew his temporal greatness would not outlast his own life--he didn't care; he enjoyed his status, exalted above his fellow men. He, like Canute, had the wisdom to know that his power and glory was ultimately limited.
The question is now whether the suicidal NeoConservatives are capable of realizing this innate flaw of human behavior as well as the ultimate demise of any (and all) empires? The American empire will disintegrate. In fact it is disintegrating. Our society, as presently constituted, has institutionalized its ultimate failure. Only a few examples are necessary to illustrate this expected collapse: the failure to subsidize education for the betterment of all seeking it, the meat grinders of people and resources in wars of empire, the deprivation of human services in favor of human slaughter AND elite enrichment. Need I continue?
Pessimism? No, realism.
How does one alter the human genome to eliminate these curses of seeking power and glory? Please, someone tell me. Revolution? Bloody, painful and only sometimes effective. As said above:
We are "hardwired" to behave irrationally despite cognition of the destructive nature of our own actions. Emotion always outweighs reason. Let me repeat: emotion always outweighs reason.
Inevitably, in a dog-eat-dog world, the tougher and more devious dogs gain power. A dog's conception of power is more limited than man's but not so much different. Bigger bones, more meat, pick of mates.
Know then that the recession of the tides is always transient. High tide always comes and with it the destruction of our castles in the sand.
Let us learn from Katrina and the Waves: