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The Cookiepus Conspiracy

Mindless ramblings, leading to perfect clarity.
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
I never understood the point of comparing the U.S. to Rome in a negative light.

First of all, the U.S. does not hide its fascination with the Roman Empire — take one look at most of the architecture in D.C. There are fasces on the back of the dime. Yes, fasces. No, not Godwin's law yet. E pluribus unum isn't Spanish, either.

So yes, the United States is quite fond of Rome, and no, it's not very astute to point it out.

Is it bad to be like Rome? Our Plastic Canadians are fond of reminding us that we're tubling down the same way the Roman Empire did. Well, what of it?

What Empire hasn't come down? Where're Incas and Mayas? Where's Spain and France and Great Britain? Where're the Otomans?

Obviously America's lead will diminish eventually. "Gam zeh ya'avor" — "This too shall pass." You don't have to compare it to Rome to drive the point home. It's got nothing to do with Osama and 9/11, or Iraq, or anything else. What goes up, must come down. Regardles.

So what's the difference? Rome eventually turned out to be Italy. France, England, etc. managed to deal well with the loss of Empire. Otomans became Turks. Aztecs and Incas were less lucky in what happened to them — and it's worth noting that what happened to them is exactly the same thing that happened to non-Empire having Indians of North America. Empire or no, they were fucked.

Carpe Diem, the Romans said. They knew that things may not always be as good as they are now. But for a while, at least, they had it good. And they got remembered, too. If they didn't have an Empire, no one would remember them. And the barbarians would have gotten them much sooner, too.

Whether America is somehow analogous to Rome in its political situation is debatable. The notion that there must eventually be a shift in the balance of power is inevitably true, and does not need any belabored similarity to Rome to be so. In the end, something's gotta give. We'll probably be in the shitter eventually. The choise is between being in the shitter now AND later, or only later. Luckily it's the later. So it was for Rome, and all others.

Oh, and Bush is no Nazi. His situation is similar to that of Cold War leaders. The country is faced with a very real threat coming from zealots of an incompatible ideology (take my word for the fact that real communists were no less aversed to spreading the ideology by force than the militant muslims with whom we're having our current difficulties are aversed to spreading theirs)

The Hitler analogy would be apt if Bush made up an enemy by scapegoating a group (say, Muslims) and suspended elections until such time that this group is eradicated. Instead, he goes out of his way to make sure people know that our problem isn't with Muslims (neither foreign nor domestic) but only with those people who organize into groups for the purpose of murdering American citizens. Seems reasonable to me, and doesn't resonante with the picture of Nazism. The fact that we're even having this come up in discussion shows that the oposition has done much to paint Bush as a Hitler rather than addressing issues point by point.

That's really the point, anyway. Let's judge Bush, America, and it's policies on their merits, and not by trying to relate them to ill-matching historical symbols.

Monday, June 02, 2003
A while ago, in an unrelated thread, I had an idea that the basic difference between American systems and the Soviet (etc) models is that in the former, the focus is the individual, and in the later, the focus is the group.

The Chinese dam story is a good example of this distinction. Here we are talking about "hundreds of thousands of people being displaced" and "destruction of historical items." In our minds, these things are valid objections to the dam project. In communist China (China is uncomunist in several aspects, but the idea of centrally-planned government-directed public works is not one of them) these things aren't a factor. As a group, the Chinese are going to benefit from the dam. The individuals that are going to suffer are less important.

This is not a condemnation. I believe in hydroenergy and I am sure that China is better off long term with this project (seismic concerns aside, that's their business)

What I am saying is that this is exactly what socialism and communism are about. The individual must sacrifice for the better of the community. The point of friction comes when the individual decides he doesn't want to sacrifice. Stalin called them Kulaks. The solution was simple.

You take the good with the bad. In America, they can't force you to sacrifice your SUV for the common good - bad for the group. But they are also less likely to move a million people like you to build a dam - for the common good, and that's probably a good thing. More individual good = less group good.

You pick.


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