Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Asleep Awakes

I fell asleep last night while thinking tiring thoughts.

Anglo-Saxons still carry the burden of their past, the unsettling lack of fit between empire-building and empire-burning. I looked across the darkling plain, as Matthew Arnold puts it, and saw ignorant armies clashing by night on the battlefield of the spirit.

How else to explain the contempt, revulsion, fear and disgust that comes out of the USA as it used to come out of Victorian England? There is a kind of socially-mandated or oddball respect for the ancient cultures of China, India, Persia and the rest of the cradle of civilisation — a cradle that runs from Asia's western border with the Mediterranean and Africa to its eastern border on the Pacific, rocking on its base in the Indian Ocean. But there is also a visceral horror at the purported barbarism and inhumanity of the evil Oriental who can be found throughout the region.

This is why the United States of America, while speaking peace and joy, still wants to keep bases in the Indian Ocean (where the US really doesn't belong), float navies in the South China Sea (which has been the Nanyang or Southern Ocean to China for centuries), and neutralise the Persian Iranian nuclear programme (despite the fact that Pakistan and India, just round the corner, already have nukes ready to go). They deny the overwhelming desire to obtain and keep a resource-rich empire, with very British precedent, while lusting after the kingdoms of the world.

Such an insecure power. When the crude but much-trumpeted beginning of that power came in 1776, my ancestors had left China and settled elsewhere already. My ancestors lost the use of their Chinese language before the USA was more than a dream. By the time the present 50-state confederation (with protectorates and assorted imperial fragments) was formed, English had become my mother tongue — but not American.

But America has a right to be an Eastern Pacific and Northern Atlantic power. Where it fails is its oil-driven hunger to be a Middle Eastern power (meddling through proxies) as well. This meddling in Asia is what did for Britain eventually, and may yet do for the Pax Americana. It ain't healthy, cowboy.

America the beautiful, God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. But stay out of other people's seas, do.

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