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Following The Footsteps to Rome

Mark A. Goldman                                                                    Dated: 9/25/2010


At the height of its power, Rome had become an enlightened culture.  The arts and sciences flourished, education and technology had matured to the point that it had inspired investments in such innovations as the Aqueducts and other such amenities that made the people more productive and successful than any other culture of its time.  Soon the ruling elite were wealthy beyond their wildest dreams and yet they continued to dream of even greater wealth and power.  They eventually came to a crossroads perhaps without even realizing that is where they had arrived: 

Wanting more wealth the ruling elite had a choice:  They could expand the educational opportunities of their people, thus unleashing the creative power of the masses in hopes of even greater technological and scientific innovation and discovery that might promise to increase the common wealth of the nation…. Or they could simply tax their people a bit more and fill their coffers immediately.  After all, they reasoned, the people had grown happy and successful because of their leadership and investments in infrastructure… they should get more of the bounty.  They chose the latter option. 

At first this seemed to work ok, but eventually the people began to resent having to postpone their own enjoyment and didn’t like having to pay this extra bounty to their leaders, and so they began to object.  These objections didn’t quite sit well with the leadership and so they reinforced their army and made a show of power to help the people understand which side their bread was buttered on.  All this led to a more creative strategy on the part of the leadership.  Look, they told themselves, we have more power and wealth than anyone in the vicinity.  Why don’t we just reinforce our army and conquer other peoples and bring back the wealth that we capture… and of course, that’s what they began to do.   Now this strategy turned out to be fantastically successful. 

The people of Rome loved this idea.  It meant that they would not be taxed as much but rather it would be the conquered peoples that would have to pay the price.  So Rome prospered.  But slowly and without much notice by the ruling elite or the people, as their empire expanded, keeping the army well fed and happy became more and more expensive.  With each successive venture more weapons had to be produced and greater distances had to be traveled to reach each new territory to be conquered.  The people who had grown happy and relatively wealthy didn’t like sending their youth off to war and it became unpopular.  So the ruling elite had to beef up their security forces even more to keep people in line at the same time they had to improve their weaponry and defend their borders.  

Eventually, the ruling elite had to tax the people again and this time even more to keep all of these ventures going and the income coming in from these foreign places.  In addition to increased taxes, less money was being spent on infrastructure and education, and people who used to be fairly well off now became less productive to the point, eventually, where they could hardly support themselves let alone send money back to the emperor.  Eventually, the cost of defending the empire which was now being regularly attacked, required more wealth than the emperor could raise and the entire enterprise collapsed.  Now this story is a short version of what happened and probably not very accurate as to details, but in general, this is how it went.

Now fast forward a couple of thousand years to present day United States of America.  We are at a point where we are the recognized super power of the world.  We have prospered because of our great educational systems, our infrastructure, and of course our scientific and technological innovation.  But much of our success depended upon cheap energy in the form of oil.  In the beginning, the US was the world’s largest producer of oil and it was so cheap to extract that we grew fat and happy on its use.  Where we used to pay 10 cents for a gallon of gasoline, now we pay $3 or more. 

But if the truth be known, and if our accounting systems were accurate, the actual cost of a gallon of gas is probably more like $100/gallon.  Now how can this be? 

Well, like Rome our wealth once was created by the innovations and advances of our local economy.  As we saw our own natural resources dwindle, our own wealthy elite began to see that if we were going to remain wealthy, we had two choices.  We could either greatly expand the educational opportunities of our people; give them more of a stake in the wealth that was being created and thereby release their creative energies in hopes that their innovations would lead to sustainable wealth, or like Rome, we could expand our armies and begin to expropriate the wealth of other nations.  And like Rome we took this second option.

Like Rome we now tax our people indirectly by slowly withdrawing the infrastructure that allows them to prosper and grow.  Rather than expand the educational opportunities of all children, we limit them.  Instead we spend great sums of money to maintain great armies around the world, largely to insure that we can expropriate the wealth of other nations, the most important source of which is oil.  We do not like to send our children to war to die and to kill and so great amounts of wealth has to be spent to misdirect the people’s attention to other matters.  

And so our ruling elite spends enormous amounts of money to influence our media and other institutions to make sure that these institutions hide the truth about how we maintain the illusion of our own wealth.  We tell our children that they need to go to school and get good grades so that eventually they can get a good job and earn lots of money.  We don’t realize what we are really telling them is that they have to go to school so that they can be taught to think like, act like, and accept the values of those who one day will pay their salaries.  We must teach them to fit into a culture that requires an acceptance of the status quo and voluntary unconsciousness if they want to get ahead in life.  

Maintaining that status quo requires the direct or indirect usurping of wealth belonging to and produced by the people of other nations... at the same time that it requires we suspend our disbelief at how we are told we have become as wealthy as we are.  

The ruling elite, in order to maintain their power and position, must corrupt the media and the political processes in a manner that allows them to maintain their lifestyle… and that lifestyle, to be maintained, requires a great standing army, security forces to keep track of people to make sure that they do not act out their inevitable frustrations.  They have to keep the mainstream media in line and make sure that what children learn in school is aligned with and consistent to their ends.  

All of this deception requires great wealth to produce and sustain.  It costs a lot of money to create and maintain illusions and these illusions and the mentality that is required to maintain them is what I call the popular culture or state of consciousness.  And of course all of this expense, in reality, is what it cost to keep the supply of oil flowing.  When people stop believing in these illusions, the whole enterprise will collapse.  

As it turns out, if people continue to believe in these illusions the entire enterprise will collapse anyway… because the enterprise is built entirely on illusions and illusions cannot sustain results or alter reality.  

We have stopped producing real wealth as we try to take the wealth that other people have and make it our own.  We have become what Rome once was and we are following in their footsteps to our own destruction.  

Our tax laws, our financial arrangements, our legal system and our educational system have all been corrupted in the process of creating and maintaining a popular world view that has brought us to this point in support of our ruling elite.  But that world view is unsustainable.  Still, those who benefit from it do not want it to change.  

And so, like that culture that we read about that died, having cut down all the trees on which its economy was based, we are also on a trajectory of consuming our own sources of wealth.  You would have thought that when there was only one tree left on that island, that the people would have protected it with their lives.  Instead they fought with each other to determine who was going to get to cut it down and consume the prize.  We seem to be following in their footsteps too.

What I do know is that the wealthy elite are terrorized to the bone by the thought of peak oil which is coming fast upon us and can only think to defend themselves by throwing culture, law, art, and civilization itself out the window... in favor of relying on brute force for their survival.  It’s going to be death and destruction to anyone who gets in their way or has what they think they need to survive.  Anyone who lives out of such terror cannot easily be dissuaded.  If the rest of us also gives into our fears, once we understand the challenges we face, it will be a free for all.  A zero sum game with no winner other than the last man standing there with his horse and plow in hand.

The accumulated wisdom that we need to survive and prosper has already been thought of and expressed.  You will find it on the bookshelves of almost any library or searchable on the internet.  And yet we are left to wonder… will it ever matter to most of us that some of us took the time to think things through and write down what we have come to understand for the benefit of all mankind

The answer to this question still eludes me.


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