The Last Empire (Hopefully)

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Is Trump really positive for covid? Did Melania say “fuck Christmas”? Did Brad Parscale win the Florida Man crown this year? Will the Proud Boys stand by?  Is my ballot in the creek? These are the Days of Our Lives (cue the Werther’s original, loose perfumed powder atmosphere of a 70’s era grandparent living room). Our government has the plot and timing of a very poorly written soap opera.


The minimum wage should loosely be around $22 an hour to have kept pace with inflation and productivity (it isn’t even a third of that now). Diabetic individuals are indeed rationing insulin (despite water-like prices!). Parents are being expected to work full time, have young children at home doing online school–or send them in person during a pandemic! The social contract between citizens and this government seems to be written in a very small print that none of us adequately read before agreeing to.

All this and psychedelics are illegal. Any relief from this onslaught to your very soul must be in the form of a prescription, a liquor store receipt, or the ever popular, mindless scrolling dopamine delivery smart phone. A wonderful way to shut out all meaningful contact—physical presence, but mentally checked out. We are a mangled, disjointed species to be certain, but even we deserve better than this. The question is…..what next?

It seems no longer a question of if, but when as far as the disintegration of the American Empire. It’s truly happening now. Just looking around at the crumbling infrastructure, the raging homelessness, the everyday low level panic that the average American has knowing there is no viable safety net. One misstep and….well, things will go badly.

Empire is a funny thing, each one seems to last a shorter period of time than its predecessor. It’s as if greed, unmitigated growth as well as plunder isn’t a sustainable prospect. How long has it taken for the Western model of conquer, mine (materials and people), and bring in colored paper to hoard—how long has it taken to bring us to the brink of climate catastrophe? How many species are simply gone for good due to this malignant expansion?

The remains might be a world unrecognizable to us. I’m guessing that our imagination is not entirely up to the task as far as contemplating what is to come. What we can do is discard all notions that these idiots will save us. We will save ourselves, if it is to be done, by localized empathy and decentralized power structures. I use the term power loosely, more in a manner that you use your strength to help one in need. That is what power should be, a form of strength to help up another.

When a natural disaster occurs, generally people come together to assist one another. They check on neighbors and behave in a much more admirable manner than the leaders who toss paper towels at them or pass over on a plane, screwing up their “empathy shot”. Our failures come from the blind allegiance to these silly personas. When things collapse, and they will, we will need to have made plans, or at the very least, free our minds to solve problems. What emerges will be either a toxic, vicious future full of continued violence or it can be small sustainable groups that give purpose for ourselves and to each other. We are a conflicted species so there will always be problems, but what we’ve managed to tolerate the last couple thousand of years is absolute lunacy. Suicidal lunacy.

Our current paradigm will evaporate. It simply will. We can’t continue to cede autonomy to the short-sighted, pathologically greedy who would sell our  recently murdered corpses for the trace elements. We are going to face a rapidly changing world and to say that something different is not possible is to ignore the vast swath of human history on this planet. What you know is what you’ve been taught, and that’s a sliver of the truth. The conquerors frame the narrative.

Humans would have simply gone extinct thousands of years ago if we didn’t have the capacity to work together and form groups with common decency and shared purpose. We would never consider (well most of us) charging our loved ones for taking care of them when they are sick, but for some reason, writ large, it’s become just fine to profit and cannibalize off each other. This is a mental construct that the more removed you are from someone, the easier it is to write them off or simply harvest them in one way or another. The new sustainability will require that it is never okay to treat others in this manner. Not other humans, not animals, not the earth.

We will always have sociopaths to deal with, but we don’t need to be handing over the keys to them. Their condition needs to be relegated to an illness, not the model for our young to emulate in order to be considered a success in our deeply disturbed world.

Right now we are like caged animals in a zoo. I don’t know if an animal raised in captivity can ever behave in a “normal” fashion. We do have to try if our lives are to have meaning beyond a filthy growth splaying out of a petri dish.

Those who would ridicule my words are not startled by the frothy nonsense coming from politician mouths. A person making money from wagers on fights is not the source to trust when they tell you that people have no other instincts than to fight. If you stop fighting for them, they lose. They have every reason to construct a system through indoctrination that leads you to believe you have nothing better to hope for than to be told what to do, to spend most of your time toiling for others so they can accumulate that colored paper. We are better than all of this.


Kathleen Wallace writes out of the US Midwest. Her writing is collected on her Substack page.