On Elections in an Empire
By Dennis Loo (11/26/15)
Everyone in the world knows, including in this country, that the US is the sole superpower.
What everyone does not know, most especially those in this country, is what exactly being a superpower entails.
The simplest way to put this - and the way that members of the pundit class have increasingly openly admitted in the last fifteen years or so - is that the US in an Empire.
This is explicitly admitted to and gladly embraced by both right wing and some of the liberal wing of the intelligentsia: people who appear in syndicated columns in places like the Washington Post, on MSNBC and Fox, and in books and magazines.
This would be news to most but not all of the public who are more likely to get the version of this as in "This is the greatest country on earth!" Let's leave aside the fact that the vast majority of people who pronounce this particular cliche have never traveled at all or much outside of the US and if they have they haven't ventured very far beyond the tourist enclaves - so how would they know? What's their basis for comparison? They are convinced that the US must be the greatest country on earth because they hear it so often in school, from politicians, media, friends, and family. They are taught in school that we have rights few in the world do like the freedom of speech and assembly, the right to privacy, to due process, to being treated as innocent until proven guilty, etc. The same people who are so very proud of these rights that distinguish the US from so many other countries are also the very same people who almost without exception would never dream of actually exercising these rights and who are among the most likely people to condemn those who do exercise those rights as unpatriotic dissidents. If they did exercise those rights or saw those rights being trampeled here in the US or by the US abroad then their pronouncing that tired old cliche would end forthwith.
But this is not the main point of my essay. My main point is what being an Empire means. In answering this question I am going to reprint something that I previously published here, but before posting it let me make one more observation about the US presidential nominations process. The most salient feature of these Democratic and Republican candidates this season is that a majority of voters are disaffected. This is evident in the popularity of Donald Trump (who probably thought he was not going to still be in the race and certainly didn't think that he would be the front runner by this point), Dr. Ben Carson, and Bernie Sanders, the so-called socialist. Sanders is more of a New Deal Democrat but by today's standards I guess being an FDR-style Democrat counts as being a flaming socialist. For sure Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee and for sure he is in the race objectively to draw the very disaffected into the illusion that they have a voice until the time comes when Sanders bows out gracefully and endorses Hillary. And then all of those or most of those who have been so energized by his candidacy will swallow the poison pill of "realism," and vote for Clinton, the "lesser evil." Never mind that the Democrat is not the lesser evil than the Republican, just the more reasonable and less reactionary sounding one, but no less an imperialist in their policies.
From the concluding passage of the following article, by way of introduction:
An Empire that wants to stay an empire will engage in atrocities as part of its arsenal to try to hold onto power. Empires such as Rome, the British Empire, and the US Empire do this not because those in authority such as Caesar or the Prime Minister or the President are evil individuals (although some of them might be evil) but because the system, in this case an empire, requires this for the empire to continue to be an empire. Empires by definition can only exist because they plunder and oppress whole nations and populations. Empires maintain an enormously unequal relationship with those that they dominate. If they did not use enormous amounts of violence to maintain their power, empires would be unable to stay empires because the nations and people that they plunder would successfully resist their being dominated. Empires use generous amounts of savage force to try to intimidate those who would otherwise resist being dominated. They do not stay empires because the majority of people who are dominated by them willingly allow themselves to be dominated and plundered. People of oppressed countries do not vote to be plundered.
This site aims to accomplish two related goals. First, it complements Dennis Loo's book Globalization and the Demolition of Society so that people reading the book can get more deeply into it. (See navigation bar above, labeled "GDS Book Annotations"). We believe that his book is a landmark, providing a solid foundation for politics of a new path. Taking such a path is critical to humanity and the planet's future. As his book's dust jacket states:
[F]ree market fundamentalism - also known as neoliberalism - makes us not more secure or prosperous: it tears the social fabric and undermines security, leading inevitably to disasters on the individual, regional, and global levels.
Neoliberalism is based on the mantra that market forces should run everything. It aims to eliminate job and income security, the social safety net (including welfare and other social guarantees), unions, pensions, public services, and the governmental regulation of corporations. It consequently undermines the basis for people to voluntarily cooperate with authority as almost everyone is increasingly left by themselves to face gargantuan private interests, with governmental and corporate authority ever more indifferent to the public’s welfare.
Those in charge of our collective fates in government and business personify a heartless system based on profit and plunder. They have been relentlessly instituting profoundly immoral and unjust policies even while they insist that they are doing the opposite. We, on the other hand, stand for and are fighting for a radically different system and set of values than this.
Second, in order to get at the truth and because the ways in which humanity's historic striving for understanding and its capacity to wonder and imagine are very rich and diverse, we seek to reflect that richness and diversity on our site. See "About Us" on navigation bar. We intend to be engaging and compelling, as the best investigative journalism and art are, and relentlessly scientific, rigorous, and direct, as those who cherish the truth are. We believe that we can be both accessible and sophisticated. As Loo lays out in his book,
Defeating the empire is not something that occurs only on the literal battlefield. It is also something that is determined throughout the continuum of battles over many issues, including: ideas; philosophy; forms of organization and leadership in economy, politics, and other realms; ways of arguing; ways of responding to and respecting empirical data; interest in truth as opposed to expedience; how people and the environment should be treated; the nature of relations among people (e.g., between women and men, different races and ethnicities, rich and poor countries, etc.); ways of responding to criticism and ideas that are not your own; ways of handling one’s own errors and those of others; and more, all the way up through how warfare is carried out. The contrast between the methods and goals of the neoliberals and those of us who seek an entirely different world is stark. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 326-7)