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.
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’.