The Imperium between East and West

A Heretic’s Log: A series of philosophical essays written between September 20, 2002 and July 15, 2004.

It may not be so important to know the exact date on which the American Western Imperium, with all its pretensions at universality [1], had its real beginning. After all, the beginning is no longer with us, and the way the Cold War ended, i.e. with the utter ideological defeat of the other side, if anything, denotes the improbability of its abortion. The genie is out of the lamp and no Aladdin is in sight. Dealing with the consequences at this stage is, therefore, much more urgent than dealing with the causes. Or so it appears, at least for those interested in “crisis management.”

Still, even an Aladdin will tell you that putting the genie back in the lamp is not the ultimate goal – the crucial thing here is controlling the genie itself, if indeed it is controllable.

So, can the American Imperium be controlled? Or should it simply be opposed and, if possible, destroyed?

If the history of human empires teaches us anything it is that every empire, regardless of its circumstantial and cultural specificity, is ultimately: controlled by a small elite, subject to take-over from within, and, giving time, quite destroyable. As such, the uniqueness of the American Imperium notwithstanding, it is, in effect, a transient phenomenon.

Be that as it may, the American Imperium is the first empire in human history to be so globally dominant. Indeed, and regardless of any pretensions it makes, fails to make, or are made on its behalf, the Imperium is already universal in terms of its influence. No prior imperial venture in history stood so unopposed before [2] and exerted such a universal sway over global events and cultures. This, and we seem to be only at the beginning of its universal phase!

So what will happen when this Imperium implodes? Will there be global chaos, or will a new Imperium simply emerge out of the rubble? If so, what sort of Imperium will it be?

While chaos is always a possibility that can impose itself at any given moment in time [3], it should be clear by now that the civilizational impetus/drive/momentum/ etc., has permanently shifted to the “West.” As such, whatever new Imperium is destined to emerge upon the implosion, or simply the downsizing, of the American Imperium, it will still have to be described, due to its very nature, as Occidentale, or Western. Human unity will continue to be worked out through the institutions and the political, economic and, even, socio-cultural framework of Western Civilization. In this process, the “Orient,” indeed, has nothing left to offer except for its people, some remaining material resources and, perhaps, few spiritual hints.

These assertions, which might sound too categorical and prejudicial to some, come, in fact, as reflections of certain new geo-environmental realities. The continuing ecological degradation of the “Orient,” its population explosion and the continuing hold of Medievalistic traditions and thought patterns on the minds (and psyche) of its peoples have all combined to create a situation whereby civilization can no longer be fashioned/produced/assembled/etc. out of indigenous resources.

Civilization is, indeed, a luxury, item. It is a byproduct of leisure. People who are consumed with the search for the anthropological and psychological basics of food, shelter and security (both material andcultural), are, simply put, incapable of producing civilization. [4]

This situation is further complicated by the fact that the West exists, and the East will not be left to face its trilemma in isolation. Rather, Big Brother [5] is watching, dabbling and, by all means, attempting to determine the outcome of the processes involved in a manner more harmonious with its own interests.

For all practical purposes, therefore, the Orient is, now and forever, part and parcel of the that civilizational complex that is the West. Indeed, the contemporary West encompasses the entire world and is the legitimate heir of all of human history and heritage, minus any ethical or moral implications.

This is so, because the “victory” of the West, if we choose to refer to it as such, is, in fact, the culmination of a historical process that was launched by the emergence of food production, and that remains, in no small part, dependent on this fact.

Some might point out here, by way of a counter-argument, that food production has  indeed emerged in the East and that a good chunk of it still takes place there. This counter-argument, unfortunately, fails to take notice of the geopolitical realities involved in the operations of food production and distribution in the contemporary world. For, ancient history and geographic and national boundaries notwithstanding, all major contemporary food production and distribution in the world is carried out using western technology and institutions. More importantly, the very rules that govern the operations of international food markets are dependent on the needs of western consumers and western consumption habits.

Like it or not, then, the West is not simply feeding the World these days, it s, in fact, determining its very consumption patterns (and this applies to more than just food, as we know). For this reason, it has the privilege of continuing to “civilize” it, regardless of any negative or positive connotations that this term might evoke in the mind of some.

And since ecology seems to be on the side of the West, that is, since the West’s climate will ensure its suitability for food production for many centuries to come (global warming notwithstanding), at a time when the East continues to witness a growing and quite serious problem with desertification and scarcity of water resources – the current situation is not a transient one, but is, rather, intrinsic and culture-independent. [6]

What is  the fate of the East in this situation?

The East is dead. There is no milder way to put it. But its peoples live on and they will most probably help provide the West’s with its new generations of leaders and decision-makers in due course of time. After all, the Roman Empire had stopped being Roman long before any barbarian invasion, as its ruling, intellectual, and professional classes became dominated by non-Roman elements. Of course, the reference here is to descent and ethnicity. But, if we want to take civilization and culture into account (as indeed we should since they do represent the more important considerations here), we have to say that the Roman Empire had never stopped being Roman until its invasion and downfall.

We should also bear in mind here that the two situations are not exactly identical. For the Roman Empire became what it was by incorporating parts of the world (such as Greece, Carthage and Syria, to name a few) that were definitely not less, and perhaps even more, civilized than itself. The Western Imperium, on the other hand, is presently incorporating an East that is clearly inferior, both civilizationally and culturally. As such, there is no risk here of an actual takeover from within. The best that the peoples of the East can hope for in this situation is greater participation in running the affairs of the Imperium – an aspiration that is both logical and, on the long-run, tenable.

As such, and since the Western Imperium (currently going through its American phase) will have the advantage of being truly universal in terms of its sway, and barring some alien invasion from outer space, the downfall of the Imperium cannot take place through invasion (internal or external), but through a catastrophic failure of its basic institutions. Moreover, the downfall of the Western Imperium will signify the downfall of human civilization itself and a return to nationalistic and sectarian chaos (regardless of how nations and sects will be defined at the time).

In a sense, then, and as a cultural paradigm closed unto itself, the West too is dead, or, to be more accurate, will be so soon. The civilizational complex of which we are all part today, which is, as we said, the legitimate heir of all human history and heritage, and which currently encompasses the entire world and holds sway over it through its laws, needs  and institutions, is, in the final analysis, an imperium humanum that owes its existence and survival to all of humanity.

To summarize, then, and to flesh out the above predictions, let’s assert that the American Western Imperium will, more likely and in due course of time, grow into a more pluralistic unit, as European and international leaders learn to stand more firmly in the face of its unilateralism, following the dictates of their own particular interests. How this will occur is not important, and relapse into chaos is always a possibility as we have noted. But, barring this, a new Imperium will most likely emerge: the Human Western Imperium. Western because its overall civilizational framework will be derived in no small part from basic western institutions and experiences. Human, because it will encompass everybody – no human being is likely to remain outside its sphere of influence.

As for the culture of the new Imperium, it will naturally be based upon the overall framework of “traditional” western culture, that is, of the culture which is more reflective and harmonious with its geopolitical realties and its most recent historical developments. But, there will always be infusions from other cultures, of course, a process that is already quite noticeable today, especially in the realm of pop-culture.

Notes

[1] which are often made on its behalf rather than directly by it.

[2] judging, that is, from the nihilistic reactions of its discontents, the relative ease with which they were identified and isolated, and the clear impracticability of the Medievalistic vision which they are positing as an alternative to it.

[3] This is so because it emanates ultimately from human folly, which is, unsurprisingly, pretty unpredictable and can easily wreak havoc upon any rational system of thought. Unless, of course, we are examining matters retrospectively, which is, unfortunately, a luxury we often lack.

[4] They can indeed produce a “culture” but not a “civilization.” The difference between the two concepts, though often  used interchangeably by most international politicians and decision-makers these days, is indeed of paramount importance, as any good anthropologist or social historian will assert. On the other hand, the reference to “cultural security” is actually a reflection of a psychological rather than anthropological need, and, more importantly, the whole concept is, in effect, reflective of a fundamentalist frame of mind. As such, the search for “cultural security” cannot be conducive to civilization, due to the reactive, even retroactive, rather than proactive predilections of fundamentalism.

[5] For regardless of its avowed ideals, this is how the West has managed to present itself to the East, over the last few centuries of their interaction.

[6] That is with regard to its causes. Its effects, however, will have a major influence on the cultures involved.