The Rise and Fall of Empires

Lumpy Talbot

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Don't worry, this isn't intended as another debate on the future of the European Union although I am sure an element of that could arise. There are a fair few of us on this forum who read history for pleasure.

I wonder do the others who read history for the joy of it notice certain dynamics which always seem to be in play? The emergence and eventual degradation into ruin of empires from the Hittite, Egyptian, Phoenician, Roman to Reich. If you stand far enough back and try to be as objective as possible there is a kind of predictability to it, economically certainly, and there's a load of choices socially in considering the fall of all Empires in history.

I'm going to assert something now and I have Carlos Santoyana and Winston Churchill as armoured ghosts behind me on this, is that history can be used to analyse where we are now, and to a certain extent into a limited set of possible futures.

So I'd suggest, a little warily, that we can use history to ask a question about where we are today in Europe. Europe has become a strange thing- it has always been used to describe the physical continent and it's merrier outlying posts such as ourselves, Stettin in the Baltic and Triest in Italy. There's an idea knocking about I understand that we should have a Federal Europe. Not a new idea, but probably a lot slower and less noisy than most attempts to make us all think we are part of the same brotherhood and sisterhood. I'd say there's a power of work still to be done in that area :)

But I'm thinking more of the Western Hegemony overall. I'm going to be even more annoying and lump the United States and Europe in together under the term 'Western Hegemony'.

China is on the rise. The empire is emerging in the form of civilisation being piped to the barbarians of Europe by way of a New Silk Road and an increasingly adept skill at utilising economics for strategic gain abroad.

The United States, perhaps the brasher cousin of the Western Hegemony family is arguably in decline in reach and power across the globe because of some underlying economics and a certain feeling that the race to the bottom of the consumer society there has now reached a floor. Political Europe is uneasy, aware of the new emerging authority in the east in the ascendant as the Western Hegemony declines.

The weariness in the USA over the cost of intervention in hard power terms anywhere abroad is now palpable and it is possible for a populist President to withdraw troops summarily from one police action despite condemnation ethically from his own party, mainly because he knows as a populist America is weary of the cost in blood, tears and money in such interventions. So the Monroe doctrine debate comes back into view. And we are at a point where the USA is facing into some harsh realities. Such a place in the world costs a lot of money and resource and it just isn't there any more for lots of reasons.

Would others who read history, and wonder whether we can extrapolate a long range view, agree that we in the European section of that Western Hegemony are now also in recession as regards our cultural place in the world?
 
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McTell

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I have a pair of empire trousers that rise and fall every day.
 

parentheses

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Most of the growth in world population in the next few decades will occur in Africa.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Well, history is a challenge because it is hard to be objective about much of history. We're all subjective individuals and we would all have our own take on what was good, bad or indifferent to us about history.

In some ways I think the real job of a historian is to make a sufficiently compelling argument for an official view of what happened and then the only thing that can change that is another compelling argument for the different view of it. History itself as a study is probably one of the most argumentative but at the same time generally civilised.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Most of the growth in world population in the next few decades will occur in Africa.
Agree, but I think there could be at any time something of a leveller in high-density populations such as in Asia and Africa. Predators who out-thrive their own environmental ability to cope with them tend to develop strange new diseases which cull the herd. We are part of the fauna on this planet, the apex predator across all environments, and we are definitely outstripping our environment's ability to support us.

Over-population will cause problems in the high population density areas firest. Hence the 'bird flu', 'SARS' early tremors ahead of a possible earthquake.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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I read something a few years back about the Long Now Foundation in the States which operates as a sort of reminder that with all the instant communications to hand, society the way it has been structured since the war, economic dynamics, that the human viewpoint or risk radar is restricted to very short periods of time.

The problems of today, this week, next week, next month and no one really bothers much about the view past the next hundred years except those interested in science-fiction.

The Long Now philosophy seems to be to promote longer term thinking. The next 10,000 years. That requires humans living now to engage with such epochal thinking that it is almost alien to our senses. Well beyond our own lifetime.

It is an engaging exercise to try and stand so far back, well away from factional thinking, and think about the last 10,000 years and the next. Great one for pondering on a long journey when your kindle battery has flatlined.
 

parentheses

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Agree, but I think there could be at any time something of a leveller in high-density populations such as in Asia and Africa. Predators who out-thrive their own environmental ability to cope with them tend to develop strange new diseases which cull the herd. We are part of the fauna on this planet, the apex predator across all environments, and we are definitely outstripping our environment's ability to support us.

Over-population will cause problems in the high population density areas firest. Hence the 'bird flu', 'SARS' early tremors ahead of a possible earthquake.
Or they just move into lower density areas.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Agree, that drift at the edges is visible even in economic migration but it comes at the end of a long period where the drift has been towards massive urban centres.

Individuals don't necessarily think much beyond the food, shelter, what about tomorrow priorities. It is hard enough to get people to save for retirement now that the end is in sight for support for the ageing demographic. National economies are struggling now to provide services, the basic pension is poverty line stuff and there are swathes of the population who cannot afford to save for old age because of the cost of now.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Age demographics is an interesting area in Europe. We have ageing populations and a visibly falling birth-rate. For the under 25s in Europe there is widespread unemployment.

Sometimes it is possible to compare the Western European Hegemony with the Rise and Fall of Rome. Rome in the end was something of a tourist destination and cultural centre for a large part of the world. It is now just a museum of the past. Pretty but just one of those cities in Europe redolent of an imperial past.

The falling birth-rate could be construed as a social dynamic linked to unease about the near future. Young people with no prospects and half a brain cell and any scrap of ambition at all are actually being quite responsible in not just giving up and splurting out babbeh for the social welfare income. Some do, but the majority don't, especially those with any level of education.

The young people in Europe mostly are smart enough to know that a couple in poverty are in for an even bigger grind through life if they have dependants.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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There is a point where the moderaters can actually see where someone is intent in disrupting a thread with personal insults. It has been known to happen.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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I've reported your clear attempts at personalised provocation and thread disruption to the mods.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Looks weird, that last post now. Anyhoo, I wonder where we might be in the perceptions of Europe as a power in the world. Are we in the rise or the fall part of our cultural empire?

On the face if it it would seem there is change in the air at global superpower level. On the one hand the European federalists would like a year zero where we begin again to build our once more powerful place on the global stage. There are risks in that. Equally there are risks at that level in being seen to have become soft on defence and our priorities politically in the world.

If Europe were to have a Monroe doctrine supposedly to guide us on our interactions with other cultural blocs and single nations where would be in relation to that now?
 

blinding

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One can only hope the Eu Empire is on the Wane . We have seen more than enough of Empires .
 

Lumpy Talbot

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I'd agree with that. We could be at some kind of crossroads. We can now descend into factionalism and create a hollowed out form of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire with twin capitals and a hellish bureaucracy ever seeking to grow its own influence. That empire matches the EU in its current form like no other.

What are the other developments? The thing hanging in the air is whether we end up with the UN as a government at a global level or something like it. I suggest we aren't ready for that and at least three members of the UN Security Council are definitely going repressive, restricting civil rights for their own citizens and showing distinct signs of Skynet ambition.

We aren't in a good place to trust moves toward supranational government. I'm hoping the EU federalists will be forced to stop and think about a mandate for what they want, and I'd like to see the citizens of Europe consulted on this rather than evaded.
 

recedite

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a hollowed out form of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire with twin capitals and a hellish bureaucracy ever seeking to grow its own influence. That empire matches the EU in its current form like no other.
Constant murmurings about the rise of populists in the east, and Russian interference.
The difference now is that although Merkel and Macron might like to send in the troops to put manners on the likes of Orban, they just don't have that power. Not yet, anyway.
 

blinding

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Constant murmurings about the rise of populists in the east, and Russian interference.
The difference now is that although Merkel and Macron might like to send in the troops to put manners on the likes of Orban, they just don't have that power. Not yet, anyway.
They have slipped up not getting their Storm Troopers ready . There will be a big push from now on to have Storm Troopers ready .
 

Alphonse

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When you use the word "Reich" are you referring to Nazi Germany ? If so do you think there it has any realistic comparison to ancient Egypt ? I would say Egypt although it united between upper and lower was not an empire because it never became expansionist or invasive. China perhaps is historically an empire it's great wall being built by its first emperor. I would question the accuracy of so easily comparing different historical periods let alone the idea that they all must follow some very similar pattern of emerging and disappearing and the notion that this is applicable to the present day politics. I mean what are we supposed to do think of current political figures as being Cesar Napoleon or Alexander the Great ? And ourselves as the inhabitants of empire it all seems a bit fanciful.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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When you use the word "Reich" are you referring to Nazi Germany ? If so do you think there it has any realistic comparison to ancient Egypt ? I would say Egypt although it united between upper and lower was not an empire because it never became expansionist or invasive. China perhaps is historically an empire it's great wall being built by its first emperor. I would question the accuracy of so easily comparing different historical periods let alone the idea that they all must follow some very similar pattern of emerging and disappearing and the notion that this is applicable to the present day politics. I mean what are we supposed to do think of current political figures as being Cesar Napoleon or Alexander the Great ? And ourselves as the inhabitants of empire it all seems a bit fanciful.
I agree with your point that too close a comparison invites ridicule. But then again politicians have never been slow to drag a noble hero of the past across the stage to invite such comparisons.

I think it is the dynamic of internal strength emerging in a region or country's external relationships. A turning inward is generally a sign of some unease or distress internally which requires resources more than external gunboat diplomacy.

The USA is very definitely showing signs of a retrenchment in order to have an internal debate or attempt to resolve some internal unease. China is very definitely in a period of expansion which is a huge cultural about-turn for that mysterious giant of a place. Russia and China both are extending soft-power influence.

India is struggling with absorbing internal issues. A number of hot spots and in a large country which is filled with so many dynamics swirling around it would be as colourful as the land itself if you were to try to draw them. It seems a bit stalled, albeit temporarily.
 

shiel

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In historical terms the EU is a miracle of international cooperation.

It includes democracies that were former imperial powers and former colonies.

That is the reason that the Brexiteer racist agenda to dismantle the EU is such a catastrophe.
 


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