The Reluctance To Let Empire Die

The clone emperors (one dude at different ages) in Foundation

One of the things I found implausible in the show Foundation was how loyal people remained to Empire. Even people predicting the end of Empire didn’t want it to end. It made no sense to me at the time, but now it does.

On Medium we have people like Umair Haque predicting the end of civilization for years, then turning around and calling for this collapsing civilization to fix Afghanistan or Ukraine with its military. He looks at potential nuclear war and says “we have plenty of room to escalate wisely here.”

Umair talks about how Western countries are fucking everything up—including COVID and the planet—but these same countries are somehow going to fix everything. How does one reconcile these beliefs? Even those ringing the doom-bell can’t hear the cognitive dissonance ringing in their own ears.

I can see now — especially with Ukraine — that people quite critical of the ruling White Empire are still fundamentally loyal. They don’t want to give up power, they want to use it for good. They don’t want to put the sword down, they just want to wield it better.

This is where we disagree.

Like silly hobbitses, too many people do not want to give up power. Even if it’s actively killing them, actively starving millions, and actively destroying the Earth. They still think that they can just wield this power differently, and not that the power itself is the problem.

They not only think the ring of great power can be wielded responsibly, they think they’re wearing it. They actually believe the hype that they live in a democracy, that they care about human rights, despite all the bloody evidence to the contrary.

They don’t get it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and unipolar global power cannot be redeemed. The fact is that the combination of colonial powers from America to Europe to Australia is just an abomination. One ‘rules-based’ order to rule them all is just tyranny writ large. The whole thing needs to be tipped into Mount Doom. Not reforged.

Can you see how we disagree?

Some people are blowing trumpets to warn Empire. Not me. I’m trying to blow Jericho down. That Bible verse goes very hard. It says:

And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.

In short, everyone can go to hell except, like, Cardi B.

The message is not ‘hey, rebuild Empire, but with more diversity.’ It is to destroyEmpire. It is to end its power, not to wield it more responsibly. As the Bible says “And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed.” Then the Bible calls for killing every man, woman, and child, but I won’t go that far.

But you get what I mean.

Foundation is a spotty series, but it’s (and Lee Pace’s) depiction of a clone emperor is impeccable. They captures not just the hubris of one man that he could live eternally, but of the whole clan that wills it, even the people that view the whole project critically.

Pace’s character is literally called ‘Empire’ and this Empire knows it’s going to die and the people within Empire know it’s going to die, and yet none of them wants it to die. This seemed implausible on first viewing, but lately I’ve seen that the fiction matches reality. I see the same bargaining around White Empire on the daily. Hell, I think this is the fundamental behavior of living.

Each of us knows we’re going to die and yet we don’t want to die. Why would it be any different for the higher self we call a society? It’s like the Damien Hirst piece The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. We don’t know what death is. How can we know death? It’s physically impossible.

We live so deep in the ideologies of colonialism and capitalism and liberalism that we can sooner imagine the end of the world than the end of how we perceive the world. I don’t begrudge anyone their journey to this realization, it took me awhile to even have words for this feeling, and I physically left the heart of Empire 18 years ago. It took that long for my brain to grow up and leave.

And I can’t even say I’m right. I thought I was right before. All I know is that the millions dead in war, in plague, and in coming pestilence, they’re giving us something more than opinions about reality. They’re giving us a new and harsh reality. Enough people are dying and will die. It’s impossible that White Empire will not die. And yet it’s impossible for Empire itself to understand this, and nearly impossible for its citizenry. Like every empire before it, its tombstone will read NOT ME!