The Science of Deep Time – October 17, 2018

Deep Time is cyclical, too

Fact is that history is cyclical at all levels. Not only immediate history (current century, millennium) but also deep history (tens of thousands of years going back thousands of generations) is cyclical.

A myriad sources[1] describe humanity’s inevitable march in a circle. We are truly condemned to repeat not only the errors but also the earlier successes of our ancestors. Humanity seems to be dancing a frustratingly inept tango, taking 2 steps back for every 2.00000000000001 steps forward. Ineluctably, after hitting a home run we are doomed to running out of steam and falling back into the ways of the past.

Progress is in no way, shape or form linear. We advance towards our future, at half-speed, almost reluctantly and we are eager to abandon the Race at a moment’s notice. We are afraid perhaps of our own progress so we find a deeply disturbing comfort in failure.

Case in point: the Roman Empire was one of the most successful constructs of the last 2000 years. And yet it only took 100 years to start cracking at the seams (from the Crisis of the Third Century in 235 AD until Constantine the Great in 313 AD), and another 150 to fall apart and evaporate in barbarian, pre-medieval kingdoms (331-476 AD).[2]

Whereas before, a money flush economy was thriving, and a strong middle class was driving and was driven it, by the end of the 5th century AD, not only the imperial Mediterranean basin, but the classical greco-roman civilization itself was disappearing under the encroaching thrusts of illiterate, heretical barbarians. Money became a scarce resource, wars eroded trade, and cities succumbed to plague, fear and negative demographical pressures. The urban world of the empire all but disappeared and by the early 6th century, rural communities resorting to barter and under the protection of a local potentate, were becoming the norm.

Interestingly enough, it took three centuries and the emergence of three Frank kings (King Pepin the Short, Charles Martel, and Charlemagne) before this trend was arrested, and a new Pax Christiana started coalescing the “centrifugal quicksilvery fabric” of medieval Europe back into a semblance of a unified structure under the pretense of imperial aspirations. This process started in the 8th century but it took 1,200 years before Europe found itself unified in a centralized and semi-functional structure: the European Union. In other words, it took and is still taking a lot of time to put back together the magisterial Roman Empire.

Today, we are confronted with another dissolution process, that of the mighty USA. Like Rome and Byzantium before her, and like all big and small, long lasting or ephemeral empires, the United States of America is coming to grips with its own limited lifespan. It is clear that America can no longer be considered the driving force of our time. Not in a world where more than 50% of all industrial manufactured goods are created in China. This doesn’t mean that America is necessarily heading towards the same end as the Roman Empire. However, one thing is clear. If the American people do not understand the depth of its moral, cultural and socio-economic and political crisis, they are doomed to follow the downward course of their imperial predecessors. If nothing changes, the U.S. will drink its “cup of poison” and succumb to its potency. If however, stern measures are implemented, America has the resources to make a comeback and reassert itself as a strong world leader.

Case in point: America has retired its space faring shuttle program in mid 1990s. It is now all but reliant on Russian rockets to reach out and place people and gear into Earth’s low orbit. After putting men on the Moon in 1969, in the context of the Cold War and its Space Race, America has decided to take it easy. It has relinquished the space and innovation race, all but abandoning any claim towards scientific prowess, to Russia, China and India. America remains still the 1st military power but it can be argued that without science, its hard power will vanish too.

In fact, the USA has taken it so easy that it looks like India, Japan and China stand better chances to send people to Mars by the middle of this century. It is this type of technological laissez faire attitude that is signaling to the world that America does not have the inclination, mental mindset or resources to maintain its imperial station.

[1] The Decline And Fall Of The American Empire? By Keith Roberts, May 25, 2011, 11:30am

[2] Momigliano, Arnaldo. 1973. “La caduta senza rumore di un impero nel 476 d.C.” (“The noiseless fall of an empire in 476 AD”). Rivista storica italiana, 85 (1973), 5–21.

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