Emerson explained it all 150 years ago. Today his words ring as true as ever
"Brexit Signals the End of the Neocon's "End of History"
by Vladimir Golstein
"Every experiment that has a sensual and selfish aim, will fail. As long as our civilization is essentially one of property, of fences, of exclusiveness, it will be mocked by delusions. Our riches will leave us sick; there will be bitterness in our laughter, and our wine will burn our mouth. Only that good profits which we can taste with all doors open, and which serves all men."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The world history knows plenty of rulers who wanted to conquer and united the world: Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Rome, Catholic Church, Napoleon, British Empire, World Communism. Yet, their efforts always come to naught. Like a coil of a spring, the conquered rebel and try to re-assert their will, precisely because the conquerors, despite their rhetoric of peace and prosperity imposed their will upon others; their visions of harmony came at the at the price of violence and exploitation.
It is easy to recognize the attempts to accomplish a similar task in the efforts of the American Empire. “The exceptional nation” and “world-pre-eminent power” has been rather explicit about its desire to end history and impose its enlightened and beneficial rule all over the world. This process began in earnest with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of Cold War. Similar to Marxists, the end of history was announced. The truth, in the form of liberal democracy and laissez faire capitalism was formulated, and the world was made to confirm to that truth. Anyone resisting was bombed, as the examples of Yugoslavia and various Middle Eastern countries revealed.
Well, it is clear, that Francis Fukuyama triumphant pronouncement was a bit premature, to say the least. The stubborn world balked immediately, yet, those who resisted it were located at the outskirts of the new empire. Their concerns were dismissed, while they themselves were demonized and destined to be conquered. Looked objectively, the amount of demons popping up all over the world was pushed beyond any credibility: Milosevic, Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Assad, Hugo Chavez, Putin. The presence of these demons did not challenge the narrative of the end of history in a meaningful way. Demons are viewed as historical aberration; their fate is to be exorcised.
The Brexit, on the other hand, announced the renewal of history loud and clear. The message was delivered from within. Not from the backward barbarians trying to resist the enlightened and beneficial rule, but from very heart of the new empire. This time, it is the populace of the empire that have resisted, and decided that the imposition of the will of some faceless bureaucrats in Brussels serving the interests of Washington and its misguided rulers was too getting too heavy and burdensome.
British citizens recognized that, which was long clear to the conquered barbarians. They saw that despite the rhetoric, the empire does not really serve them, that it serves the notorious 1% instead. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with the onslaught of the shock capitalism and globalism, all hell broke lose. It became fashionable to promote greed, unscrupulous careerism, and blatant disregard for others. Who cares? And if the workers complained, the ideological apparatus was ready to point to the sad example of the Soviets: do you want this drab, bleak socialism, without toilet paper and consumer goods? Is that what you want?
This dismissal of common men’s concerns, this peddling of naïve hope that the new rulers would somehow take care of the weak and the poor, rather than the rich and the powerful, has finally began to sink in the minds of the British voters, at least in the minds of “the weak and poor” part of it, which, thanks to the efforts of the elites has been multiplying exponentially.
People in England understood that the consumer driving economy needs consumers rather than the dole recipients, the slaves who are silenced by bread and circus. It is becoming clearer by the day that the taxes and profits should go for the development of science, technology, new jobs, rather than acquiring private islands, beating the drums of war and demonizing foreign countries. People sensed it. They might be not always sophisticated enough to understand the academic arguments about foreign policy or bond yields, but they know well enough that with the lack of competition, it is the incompetent, greedy and well-connected people who get on top, that this situation generates incompetence, that the new elite is becoming way too cozy with the equally incompetent bankers and equally incompetent military industrial complex.
What makes significant and meaningful progress is the competition. Competition does not just improve products and productivity. It is the competition of systems, parties, corporations that enable little man, developing company or developing nation to survive and to find its niche. All the traditional engines of development– like rivalry and competition has been thrown out of the window with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The history has ended. The rest became technicality. What anyone with the ability to see clearly has witnessed during the last quarter of the century is the slow merging of politicians, industrialists, media –into one giant “end of the history elite,” the rise of the global elite.
This emergence of the global elite spreading its rule from Washington to Brussels is the most significant phenomenon of the recent history. What the common people, that is, the people without any hope of entering the ranks of the elite, found disturbing is in your face merging of the traditional competitors and rivals. It is clear for any common man that while The Labor is fighting Tories, while British bureaucrats are challenging European ones, France challenges Germany, Europe challenges America, Soviet System challenges the Western one, while press is challenging business, Pepsi is challenging Coke, rock stars are challenging the establishment –in other words, while these rich and powerful are fighting each other, the common man has a chance to fend for his own, mind his business and find some useful employment with one of the rivaling competitors.
But what nobody really wants to see, is the dreaded merging of all these rivals into one scary elite, united by their greed, by their contempt of common man, and by their calculators that tells them how to maximize the prophet and squeeze the workers, natural, resources, or countries, in the most efficient and ruthless way. If finally sank it to the people of England that Tony Blair and David Cameron are the different face donned by same corrupt and incompetent elite. One hopes that their American cousins across the ocean would recognize in their turn interchangeability of Clintons and Bushes, and that it is the high time to restart the history in earnest.
So all glory to the British people, who, inspired by their great sense of history and tradition, have decided to get the engine of history going again. Common men want their bureaucrats serve them and challenge the bureaucrats of other parties. They want their businessmen and politicians challenge other countries on behalf of them. They want their press challenge the elites on behalf of them. And if the current leaders are not capable to do so, if their minds are too befogged by the fake harmony, fake unity, and fake globalism, it is clear, that the new leaders would replace them soon, the leaders who wouldn’t be afraid to introduce separation and divisions. Because it is becoming more and more clear that those who argue for accord and harmony and unity, are being disingenuous. Theirs is the unity of the one percent. Can we blame 99% of the population for not wanting this unity?
Napoleon’s efforts to impose his will upon the whole world and bring the end the history by ushering his thousand-year rule were brilliantly summarized by the visionary American, Ralph Waldo Emerson. This great writer pronounced his verdict on the fate of such efforts. It now fell on the British citizens to redeliver this point to the myopic Napoleons of Washington, since they, obviously don’t read their own classics, preferring ridiculous policy papers, delivered by their agenda-driven think tanks and its subservient intellectuals:
"Here was an experiment, under the most favorable conditions, of the powers of intellect without conscience. Never was such a leader so endowed and so weaponed; never leader found such aids and followers. And what was the result of this vast talent and power, of these immense armies, burned cities, squandered treasures, immolated millions of men, of this demoralized Europe? It came to no result. All passed away like the smoke of his artillery, and left no trace. He left France smaller, poorer, feebler, than he found it; and the whole contest for freedom was to be begun again. When men saw that after victory was another war; after the destruction of armies, new conscriptions; and they who had toiled so desperately were never nearer to the reward,- they could not spend what they had earned, nor repose on their down-beds, nor strut in their chateaux,- they deserted him. Men found that his absorbing egotism was deadly to all other men…
It was not Bonaparte's fault. He did all that in him lay to live and thrive without moral principle. It was the nature of things, the eternal law of man and of the world which baulked and ruined him; and the result, in a million experiments, will be the same. Every experiment, by multitudes or by individuals, that has a sensual and selfish aim, will fail. As long as our civilization is essentially one of property, of fences, of exclusiveness, it will be mocked by delusions. Our riches will leave us sick; there will be bitterness in our laughter, and our wine will burn our mouth. Only that good profits which we can taste with all doors open, and which serves all men."
The author is a professor of Slavic studies at Brown University, Rhode Island, USA. He is an expert on 19th - 20th century Russian literature.