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The Shieldmaiden Blog

Aug - 11

At the end of empire

London burning. This weekend, along with the rest of the world, I watched the reports coming in with awe, distress, dread. It is not entirely unexpected, but terrible nonetheless.

I am reading that the riots are to be understood as an uprising motivated by class and racial inequity, by the frustration of an underclass betrayed by ruling elites of the failing empire in which they live, watching the wealth and privilege that surrounds them slip through their fingers as their standard of living degrades. Have we seen this before? Watching London burn, I am irresistibly reminded of Boudicca’s rebellion and burning of London during the Roman occupation. The parallel between the two is surely not complete, but I can’t help contemplating it. Much of the youth engaged in the riots, I read, are the younger generation of Britain’s colonized peoples. Britain may not be their ancestral homeland as it was that of Boudicca’s people, but nonetheless both are responses to the inequities generated by empire. It is important to note that the Iceni, Boudicca’s tribe, were collaborators with the Roman empire before rebellion; their uprising was motivated by betrayal that pushed beyond the limits of tolerance; it was motivated by a sudden realization that the promised benefits of empire would never be theirs, that the empire was in fact built on their backs. This is not to glamorize either movement, nor to justify the acts committed in them. The youth mobs have hurt innocents and destroyed homes and businesses of their own neighbors who suffered as much as they have; Boudicca’s armies killed men, women, and children alike and visited unspeakable atrocities on those in their path. Uprisings may be sparked by real injustice, and in the releasing of that rage and frustration go far beyond the boundaries of justice.

We are witnessing now the decay of our civilization, which is unmistakeably an empire in collapse. Many of you reading this, are, like me, viewing current events from a position of relative privilege and comfort, but it seems clear to me that this privilege and comfort are both built on the backs of others, and cannot last much longer at that. Our own cities may burn with strife some time soon. The unrest in Europe, of which the current riots are only the most recent and severe oubreak, has largely been triggered by forces which are already in motion here in the US as well: Debt/bank default crises, currency collapse, government austerities forced by uncontrollable deficits, abandonment of the poor and needy as services are eliminated, and civil unrest as the disenfranchised by class and race realize they have nothing left to gain by playing within the rules. Every one of these forces is already in motion here in various stages. The President himself announced baldly that austerities will be taken from support services before any cuts to the military budget are considered. This could be a scene straight out of the late Roman Empire.

Meanwhile, representative government in our Congress is being strangled by the new “Supercommittee”, which has been set up with little outcry, while we were distracted by the WWF wrestling match in Washington and historic downgrading of the government’s credit standing. This new body, in case it has not yet been made clear, gives its 12 members, to be appointed from within Congress without public input, sweeping powers over taxation and use of public funds – the power to select which elements of government will be supported and which will be defunded or discontinued. This while having only the merest nod of responsibility toward Congress itself; our representatives can only respond to the committee’s decision via a ratifying vote, yes or no; and even this is a coercive vote where failure to approve the committee’s plan will result in disabling cuts to all branches of government. This, my friends, is taxation without representation. From any point on the political spectrum, left to right, this is surely plain.

The federal government has quietly been laying the groundwork for military troops to be deployed into the streets to quell future unrest, increasing secret surveillance of private citizens, positioning the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA to deal with “threats to national security”. I don’t think it requires a paranoid person to put all these things together into a rather dystopic picture of our near future.

Watching London burn it was borne home to me that this is what the Morrigan has been urging me, urging us to prepare for. This is a call to action, to arms. Not just for those who hold an allegiance to Her, but all people who love their liberty. We are at a juncture in history where corporatist/industrial capitalism is hitting a wall in terms of resource depletion, fiscal and economic decay, and it is dragging democracy down with it. Almost no one now denies that our government serves corporations more than it serves people. Our civil institutions are decaying as the ruling elites consolidate ownership of government in order to protect themselves as they finish looting our society of material, financial and social wealth. When the elites have taken everything they can, what will remain is the shell of a democratic society in which the people will be slaves in all but name. Or, perhaps we will be left to reinvent ourselves in a post-industrial civilization like peasants after the withdrawal of Rome, choosing between autonomy without help versus feudal serfdom under the protection of the remaining elites.

I think we have some choice about this: we can fight the looting of our civilization, and we can protect ourselves and our kin from the worst effects of it. But I also want to say that much of this change is inevitable. If, as so many of us have been saying for so long, our civilization is unsustainable in its current form, then it follows that the current form will end, and the question really is how to best position ourselves toward what is to come after, and how to minimize the suffering caused by the transition. Thus for me, though the near future looks rather terrifying, I also feel enormous hope and exhilaration about the opportunity for change in the long term. I also feel that I have an obligation both to my ancestors and to those who will come after us, to heed the Morrigan’s call to arms and do what I can to help prepare our communities to better weather the storm.

So what can we do to protect ourselves, to protect the resources we still have? I don’t claim to have any new answers to this question. Many thinkers and leaders have put more time into this question than I have. But here is my instinct: power is to be found not just in numbers, but in strength of bonds. That we need both unity and autonomy. I find myself thinking again and again of the cellular pattern of Celtic tribal society. Individual households within clans and tribes, operating locally and relatively autonomously except at times of threat and need, when war leaders were chosen and delegated temporary authority for specific campaigns. I’m drawn to the parallels between this system and the leaderless cellular structure of revolutionary undergrounds and resistance movements.

I feel strongly and with a near-prophetic force that this is going to require more militancy than most of us are comfortable with. I’m contemplating this article I recently read on the role of militancy in resistance movements. The authors interviewed hold radical views, and I don’t endorse everything they say. But I encourage you to take the time to read the full article. The authors bring up some points I think we need to consider. Primarily, the insight that persuasion and reasoned debate have no influence on the drives and incentives motivating the elites – force and money are the things they understand. If this is true then the two forms of action which have the greatest real potential to bring change and to benefit people rather than corporations, are removing our wealth from the economy of empire and investing it in localized tribal economies; and intelligent application of resistance force. In both cases, we have to first be prepared. We have to create the localized tribal economies which will allow us to support ourselves autonomously, and we have to be willing, daring, and skilled enough to make forceful resistance viable.

Most of my community and probably the great majority of readers are not militant folks. We are soft, urban, sophisticated; accustomed to comfortable homes, costume parties, and the assumption that we can change the direction of civilization by voting, recycling and not buying clothing from the Gap. I know for many of you my views will seem extreme. But I can only speak the truth as I see it, and what I see is that we are nearing the end of Weimar USA, and what life requires of us will be different from what we have known before. Even if you are not personally called to active resistance against the elites, you will need the same self-defense and survival skills in order to survive and thrive in the era of instability we are entering.  We need discipline, intelligence, preparation. We need to be a skilled people, who can survive together when the trucks aren’t delivering enough food to the city’s markets or when soldiers or mobs threaten our neighborhoods. We will all need to know who our kin are, whose support we can count on and what each of us has to offer. We need to train ourselves in self-defense, weapons skills, first aid, survival, self-sufficiency. Above all, we need to commit ourselves to honorable resistance.

I am continuing to think on ways of supporting and mobilizing our communities. For today, please think about making a commitment to yourself in Her name, or in the name of your ancestors and descendents: to begin preparing. As a place to start, think about commiting to beginning training in one self-defense skill and one survival skill: Judo and vegetable gardening, or Krav maga and first-aid, or handgun practice and food storage, or Irish stick-fighting and home energy production. If you are already on your way with skills like these, please consider what you can do to bring others in your community along.

I hope to have more to share soon; I leave you with this quote from the British chieftain Calgacus:

You have not tasted servitude. There is no land beyond us and even the sea is no safe refuge when we are threatened by the Roman fleet… It is no use trying to escape their arrogance by submission or good behaviour. They have pillaged the world: when the land has nothing left for men who ravage everything, they scour the sea. If an enemy is rich, they are greedy, if he is poor, they crave glory. Neither East nor West can sate their appetite. They are the only people on earth to covet wealth and poverty with equal craving. They plunder, they butcher, they ravish, and call it by the lying name of ’empire’. They make a desert and call it ‘peace’.

3 comments on At the end of empire

  1. War has been a fascination of mine for as long as I can remember. I was a teenager when 9/11 happened, from then my interest in military shifted from the fantasy to the reality, slowly. The brutality. That's when I became interested in politics, when you look beyond the words they say and see the atrocities they commit, Patriotism takes the turn of the Patriot versus the Tyrant. I've been trying to find out… How do you stop the machine? While I like where your going… I still have the belief that ignorance is the biggest obstacle to us saving ourselves. So, my strategy is to keep learning, and then speak, not just speak but yell. I'm going to have a dramatically over-sized sign stating that the American People have been cowed by American Empire(and other tasty tidbits of invisible[at least to everyone else] facts), and I'm going to walk around Sacramento. It might just come off crazy to be a one-man protest… But I can't just sit around anymore while we get closer to catastrophe…I'm one of the 'leftist' types… I still believe that we can REFORM government, even if that reformation makes us a tribal society, there were still be a 'government' in the end. The United States must remain united, but vastly less centralized, I believe that a people's movement can get Good people into Congress who won't kneel to any dollar value. That we can at least scare the Republocrats into being more reasonable by letting them know the People still can vote when they suck too hard.So… I'm going to be vocal, and I want to create a 'Third-party' in America… the name, the most important part, is still undecided. But it's possible… especially with the power of the internet. Basically… I don't want to resort to violence, even resistance in the form of communities and survival skills seems folly for me, I live in Sacramento. My community is… Sacramento? Besides creating the "Free City of Sacramento" or a militia that claims defense of Sacramento against "Threats both foreign and domestic", I don't see how to easily unite my community. Obviously… I could start smaller… But it's still rather odd… I haven't been able to figure out how to integrate the tribal idea into my reality. Ah well… It's good to read your writing in any case, there are so many people who are awakening to the world.

  2. chemalfait says:

    well said, and something I have been aware of for decades. I've laid my groundwork. Couple of things to bear in mind:ariculture won't cut it in the beginnings of the aftermath, it won't be sustainable in what will most undoubtedly be a volatile, violent environment. Water wil also be a problem, especially those who depend on municiple water supply. Argiculture becomes a liability in that respect. Natural/wild food sources should be located for future use. Natural water supplies should also be located. Skills for extracting water from unconventional sources should be a priority as well. You'd be surprised how much can be gathered even in urban landscapes. Food preservation techniques that don't depend on power are also a must. Water is of the utmost importance, even moreso than food.Modern weapons( firearms) require a supply of ammo(powder, cartridges,shells, projectiles, loaders), these materials will also become in short supply. Skill with more primative weapons is also a big plus.The key to surviving in the beginning is to become 'formless'. Lessen that which needs to be defended. Blend into the countryside, stay mobile as much as possible.

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