The American Century

SUBHEAD: The end of Pax Americana will be a good thing.  

By Juan Wilson on 31 December 2008 for Island Breath

Image above: The author and his sister, Diana, with the family Cadillac in front of their Levitt home in 1954.

The American Century fell short of its advertised shelf-life. Many see the American Century beginning at the start of the 20th century after the Spanish American War. Given the disasters of the first half of the last century (world war and economic failure) there really is not much to brag about. I do not see Pax Americana beginning until 1945.  

It began at the end of World War Two. Facing a global war, and with great industrial effort, we worked our way out of the Great Depression by arming ourselves for conflict on an unprecedented scale. That effort culminated in dropping nuclear devices on innocent civilians in urban centers. At the end of the war our enemies, as well as our friends, were in ruins. Physically, America was untouched. 

To our credit, unlike other victors, we aided those we vanquished with as much generosity as we gave to the allies who fought alongside us. We created goodwill from what might have been enmity and envy. In 1945 Americans began in earnest “enjoying” the fruits of their labor. We were transformed from warriors and industrialists into commuters and consumers. How sweet. As we stared into the glow of our TVs sipping iced colas, suburbia spread over the land like a suffocating oil-soaked comforter.  

The American Century died on September 11th, 2001 at the age of fifty-six. Since then America has been a zombie nation living in a voodoo economy. It is an economy that has been pretending that it was thriving as consumption and obesity reached new limits. Our fantasy of wealth, built like a house of cards, has been propped up by our continued investment and deployment of massive armaments since WW2. Our spending on weapons surpasses all the rest of the world combined. It’s all we make on our own anymore. 

The American Century finally had a stake driven through its heart on October 1st 2007 after the DOW Jones Industrial average peaked at nearly 14,100. Its been cut in half since then. The financial engine of the United States has disintegrated like a wedding cake in the rain. There is nothing left but a muddy hole in the ground. Our capability to be World Police is gone. Our levels of consumption are plummeting. Our economy will never recover. 

If the average world citizen acted like the average American the Earth would look a lot more like Mars than it does now. With seven-billion individuals the only way forward is down. Down in numbers and down in resource depletion. The alternative is the death of the oceans, the death of the forests, the melting of the poles... namely mass extinction. 

As Americans our job now is to climb back down from limb we trapped ourselves on. Obviously, one way down is climb out further, break the limb and take a catastrophic fall. That may now be inevitable, but we must try, in any case, to inch ourselves back from our suicidal perch. 

 Not only must we do this successfully, we need to demonstrate our effort to the rest of the world. Why? Because they are watching, and have been watching for a long time. I lived in Iran in the late 70’s, before the Shah fell and the imams took over. There was a deep seated love-hate relation with America. 

A common sight was a man with close-cropped hair and beard, in a western style jacket and pants standing outside a movie theater showing a Hollywood blockbuster selling cigarettes, one at a time, out of a familiar red and white box calling out “Marr-burrru, Marr-burrru!”. 

Later, outside the besieged US Embassy, those same men could be seen shouting “Death to America!” Forty-years ago philosopher Marshal McCluhan observed that American movie industry was an incendiary revolutionary stimulus. 

American movies projected onto screens in dusty theaters and thatched-huts an experience of wealth, freedom and happiness that was unobtainable in most of the world. At once, what we had was both coveted and despised. Coveted because it represented dreams coming true. Despised because it meant the end to local customs and culture.  

After 911 Americans lost an opportunity of self-examination. Only a few voices were raised to ask “Why would anyone do this to us?” If we had seriously answered that question we may have had a jump on the momentous changes underway now. 

Our unraveling might have been better anticipated. We could have reduced some of the pain we are just beginning to feel. Of course , this is not the first wafting of smoke that should have alerted us to danger. The energy crisis thirty-five years ago was the real wake-up call. We chose to sleep-in with the Reagan Administration. We chose to build a house of cards based on funny-money pouring into the coffers of the Saudis and Chinese. It’s late. The bed is on fire. But it’s not too late wake from or dream world.  

That does not mean getting a loan from Capital One for purchase of a new Toyota hybrid so you can drive it to Kukui Grove for a visit to Costco to purchase a flat of organic California strawberries. That world we know may seem to be holding on, but it is lingering voodoo economics. We, like others everywhere, must create locally nourished economy and culture. For us it cannot be dependent on tourism, GMO cornfields, Starwars research, or regular deliveries of oil and Matson containers. 

 I think it does mean acquiring tools and trades for the future. It is time, while you can, to invest in producing your own food, energy, and goods. As we move further into the collapse, our economy will have to be produced out of your garage and garden.

That includes jobs and food. Long trips will be within the KauaiBus service network. I advise getting some decent hand tools; some modest solar panel and electric storage capability; find a clean local supply of water; get material for a raised garden, chicken coop or rabbit hutch; discover a useful service you can offer your neighbors in trade for what they might offer you. 

The Hawaiian culture offers an invaluable background knowledge of how to do well here even if western civilization is driven to the stone-age. Even so, there are great dangers ahead. Blessings to you on this new year. It will certainly be an adventure.


1 comment :

Unknown said...

Aloha Juan,
Your astute and timely political analysis is appreciated and well written indeed.
I would like your permission to post American Century Story to our
Global Community Empowerment Forum,*
(*anyone can join)

and its associated on-line magazine,

I would like add the following comments;

The average American you speak of may have some material advantages that his third world contemporaries lack, but he is still the disposable pawn the powerful few, (not the just Americans) who control the worlds “wealth.”

I am not so certain, the Average American you refer to, truly exist. Or if he can be said to exist he cannot take responsibility as he only has a knee-jerk, child’s sand box illusion of the political power needed to bring change to the prevalent political system. The small percentage of Americans, who are in control of the wealth and power, of this nation, as in almost every powerful warlike nation in world history, adroitly control and manifest the political choices of the society, to preserve their wealth and status quo.

The true key to creating healing for both for our local and global communities and society as a whole will involve a truly simple and yet difficult remedy.
The powerful suggestion about exchanging useful services with our neighbors touches too lightly on a significant truth.

Greedy materialistic dreams are often promoted by our contemporary education, television and its myriad commercials, many of our movies, and even our fascination with competitive sports and winning wars.

Our wish dreams are reflections of what we want, what we think we want, and they create a path to act on our wishes in the physical world.

Our challenge now must be to help our children dream of bringing change to this planet and to create a bright beautiful and sustainable future for the children of all species.

Unfortunately our society tends to teach our children to dream of deriving happiness and success from acquisitions of money, power and control and domination over others and gratification of the senses.
The sad fact is that our society’s devotion to war and material wealth benefit a very small percentage of our species, and we are just one of 30 million or more species inhabiting our biosphere.

If these dreams are allowed to create the future; our children and their children, will suffer the consequences of vanishing forests, polluted atmosphere, poisoned water, global warming, and a progressive loss of our biodiversity.
These dreams may eventually produce a nightmare, with a big dark empty hole at the end.

We must remember that if we teach our children to focus their dreams and desires on the acquisition of wealth, power over others, and other sensational and materialistic desires this will change the future.

Ultimately it will be our children’s dreams and fantasies that create the future for everyone on the planet.

Catherine Ibarra
Publisher; Communiversity Magazine

760 729 8431

• Catherine Ibarra is the founder and creative director of Kokopelli Community Workshop Corporation
• Kokopelli Community Workshop mission is to promote a grassroots movement and allegiance of community intention toward a sustainable humanitarian future. We seek to partner with other businesses and organizations to increase communication and to create venues to aid in a powerful economic and cultural transition and transformation of our global economy and to create a sustainable humanitarian earth.

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