Wikimedia Commons has a really great atlas of European History. You can get a really good feel for the events that let up to the creation of various empires an especially the events that preceded their fall. Since these maps come from all over and were made at various times, they also give a look at the thinking that was taking place at the time and under which group they were made.
What I found especially intriguing was how there areas were aligned after the fall of these empires/states etc.
Relating to this is an essay by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism that caught my eye, we Yves goes into how she has the uneasy feeling that the “shit is going to hit the fan.” I have not known Ives to be of the “Sky is falling” mindset, so I this particular piece was rather intriguing.
The feeling I have is that of heightened generalized tension, the social/political equivalent of the sort of disturbance that animals detect in advance of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, of pressure building up along major fault lines. The other way to articulate this vibe is that it is as if events are being influenced by a large unseen gravitational or magnetic force, as if a black hole had moved into the ‘hood. We can’t see the hidden superdense object, but we can infer that it’s distorting the space around it.
Now if you just want to go with the ‘maybe this is just your neurosis’ view, we are in the midst of a counterrevolution, and it’s not exactly cheery to be watching its progress on a daily basis.
It isn’t just that the economic rights for ordinary workers and the social safety nets of the New Deal and the earlier labor movements here and abroad are being demolished. Major elements of a broad social and political architecture that served as the foundation for the Industrial Revolution are being torn apart: the Statute of Fraud (essential to give people of every level of society decent protection of property rights) and access to legal remedies; basic protection of personal rights (habeas corpus, due process, protection against unlawful search and seizure); local policing (as in policing being accountable to local governments). Decent quality public education and the freedom of the press are also under assault. People here have used various terms for this new political order that is being put in place; neofeudalism works as well as any, but it looks intended to dial the clock back on many economic and civil rights of ordinary people, not back to the Gilded Age, but to before the French and American Revolutions.
She goes into to how this country (and I have to say not just this country) appears to be falling into the abyss of despotism with the systematic elimination of civil rights and social contracts. Listing the those more stellar moments of the Obama administration that have been pushing us thusly:
Derailing Grayson’s session with Greenwald (which will go ahead in September, so what sort of victory was it to push it into a busier news period?)
Getting snippy in that Democratic caucus meeting when asked about Larry Summers and later calling senators who opposed Summers to his office to tell them to lay off
Launching a Big Lie speaking tour on how he’s creating middle class jobs (which seems to be landing like a lead balloon)
Launching a faux independent surveillance investigation (as I’ve said before, having Clapper on the committee is tantamount to saying, ‘So what are you going to do? Impeach me?’)
A bizarre flurry of ‘look, over there, an airplane’ of actions that garner positive headlines. Mind you, this is standard operating procedure…except that there’s been a weird flurry in August, when most of them could have been held back to September: the London Whale prosecutions. Opposing the AMR-US Air merger. The announcement of an investigation into the use of antipsychotics on children.
Suggesting that he has gone off the rails even more than usual. The piece leaves out that Egypt is on the verge of chaotic social anarchy — which Chris Hedges goes into — or the the mess in Syria has become so recidivist that it’s boring. That nearly all of the EU countries are close to economic collapse, even The Netherlands. That there a few areas where the current PTB in charge are increasingly despised by more than a few of the citizens. And the republicans are scared shitless of an HRC run in 2016, convinced she would be a “shoe in.” Considering the state of affairs here, that does not seem unreasonable. All she has to do is look marginally less corrupt that anyone else. Not that difficult these days.
To get back to the original point of this post — empires, kingdoms, nation states exist only as long the the citizens lives are more or less reasonable. Once this ceases to be the case, they will begin to tightly align themselves with those of like mind — world view, religious beliefs, financial or social strata, culture or ethnic group. IE that in which they feel the most secure and comfortable in increasingly insecure times. Like animal herds that bunch together just before some cataclysm. That they will only support the facade of these empires, kingdoms, nation states — which only benefit directly the elites that created them — when people can live pretty well under them.
When that ceases to be the case, all bets are off.
We can see this through out history. Even the more present day with the break up of the Soviet Union followed by the break up of the various states that composed it. In this respect I would say that Yves paranoia is well founded. When this is all over we will likely see a very different world. Even here in North America where the United States may become significantly un-united.
Which brings up another interesting aspect of all, of this. The “American Culture” that most people remember or seem to picture was one that was made up out of whole cloth. Fictionalized as it were by the media and Hollywood. A culture bereft of all minorities or anything that might upset or offend anyone, lest it deprive these industries of any customers and income. Not just Black people, but Italians, Irish, Scottish, Native Americans, Germans, Asians …. Radio, TV, Movies gave us a fictional view of White “Middle America” that never existed. America itself was presented as it’s own stereo type. Nobody had an accent unless it was in the script.
Now the very same media and communication technology has ripped this facade away. Exposing it to be as it has always been. There by increasing peoples feelings of insecurity. “before the French and American Revolutions.”
Interesting times indeed.