The rise and fall of America in one generation. Mine
I grew up in America at the end of history, in the 1990s. The Cold War was over, Vietnam was past. Civil Rights were won and World War II was long gone. Nobody even remembered the last pandemic. America had won or at least survived it all. Last man standing, the last man of history. Francis Fukuyama called it The End Of History and it really felt like that. I was there and it was fucking boring. We lit fires and did drugs to pass the time.
In just 30 years, however, history has violently restarted and America has lost the plot. America has started another Cold War and lost another 19-year quagmire in Afghanistan. Somehow Civil Rights have been lost and Nazis have overrun the Capitol. Nobody remembers anything but pandemic. We're only at the end of history in the sense that capitalism has ravaged the planet. Now my children are growing up at the end of the world.
What the fuck were we thinking? What the hell happened? How did things collapse so fast? The American empire rose and fell in just one generation. Mine.
The End Of History
Fukuyama's essay really captures how people thought at the time. Writing even before the Soviet Union fell, he captured the sense that liberalism (democracy + capitalism) was the only ideology left. Indeed, that it was the best idea ever.
I was an immigrant growing up in suburban Ohio and it really felt like this. There was just so much stuff in America, and such beautiful words in its story. They were obviously doing something right, the supermarket was so big that Thatha warned us to not get lost. Especially after the USSR fell (allegedly also in awe of American supermarkets) everyone seemed to follow along. Sri Lanka, India, China, everybody was literally liberalizing.
What Fukuyama calls liberalism was the last ideology standing, and he confidently declared it the victor of history. Liberalism was the final Super Saiyan form of governance, the best and the baddest, no further transformations could occur. Fukuyama said,
What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.
To Fukuyama, the end of history actually dated from 1806, when white people discovered this shit. If they ended up informing everyone through genocide, slavery, and exploitation, well, you're welcome.
It's tempting to dunk on Fukuyama for hubris, but he's describing actual western thought, not inventing it. When Fukuyama says "that the basic principles of the liberal democratic state could not be improved upon" he's just stating the actual basis of western foreign policy. The West really thinks it's doing people a favor by bombing and besieging them. They're civilizing them. It's not conquest, really, they're just 'extending our principles spatially'.
He's also stating the actual basis of international development. Rich, white countries are called 'developed' (as in done) and everyone else is just 'developing' to be like them. If they need to be couped and sanctioned to help them along, so be it. In the long run, it's all for the best. Just helping backwards outposts along to the end of history.
Of course, what Fukuyama is saying isn't even especially original. The entire premise of colonialism is that Europe was a superior civilization. Everyone else were just savages, who should be thankful for the civilizing mission. The premise of white supremacy is white supremacy. Fukuyama was just modernizing the old imperial hubris and stating it out loud.
When Fukuyama says his empire is the best ever, you have to understand that every empire says that. No Egyptian priest was like "you know, Ra is great, but there must be bigger suns." Fuck no. Every empire is the greatest, the best, none shall surpass. Every empire wears the same sneer of cold command, and they all end up in the dust like old Ozy'mandem. As the Shelley poem goes,