Jim Garrison on Integral Naked - America as Empire
April 07, 2008 01:02

Politics in the 21st Century.  Part 2.  America as Empire.


Jim Garrison discusses America's transition from republic to empire, exploring the obviously difficult implications this has for the citizens of the world, as well as the unique opportunity America has to become the very last empire in history….

"We Americans look back on the 1930's and say 'how can anybody support the Nazi's or be silent during the construction of national socialism and the holocaust?' But if you look at the United States since 9/11, we have been extraordinarily passive in the face of international criminality and the construction of a national security state here at home, while being so militarily aggressive abroad—and it's happened without almost any public protest...."

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Who: Jim Garrison is the chairman and president of the State of the World Forum, which he cofounded with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1995. The State of the World Forum (SWF) is often thought of as a "shadow UN," in that it is the largest forum of world leaders outside of the United Nations. From Margaret Thatcher to Ted Turner, from the Queen of Jordan to Desmond Tutu, from Jimmy Carter to George Bush Sr., all have been part of the extraordinary dialogue that is the State of the World Forum.


"'Republics' imply single nations, democratically governed—which is what America was founded to be.  The very essence of 'empire' is the control of one nation over other nations.  While America remains a republic within its own borders, it has become an empire in relationship to the rest of the world."

"The central question before America, therefore, is what it should do with all the power that it has—how should it assert its authority, and for what end?  This means that America should acknowledge—even celebrate—its transition to empire and acquisition of global mastery...."

~Jim Garrison, America as Empire

Why exactly is America's imperial status something to be celebrated?  How can we begin to come to realistic terms with the status of America as empire, cutting through the idle alarmism and insatiable hunger for power that often spring from the American Left and Right?  And how might we begin to rise to the enormous opportunity the American empire has to transform the world for the better?

As Ken and Jim agree, the central paradox of the world is the fact that America has become the most powerful nation-state in the history of civilization, at precisely a time when the forces of history are demanding that we move beyond the very concept of nation-states, into a new era of truly world-centric global governance.  And herein lies the ultimate challenge for America: to consciously view itself as a "transitional empire," leading the human species away from political fragmentation and economic isolation, toward a genuinely integrated world governance.  In this way, America can guarantee that it will indeed be history's very last empire, by helping to make obsolete the need for imperial powers altogether.

But how is this to be done?  As Jim mentions, there are very real internal and external measures America must take, both individually and collectively.  Internally, we must acknowledge the reality of the status of America as empire, while accepting the enormous responsibilities that bears.  We must perpetually redefine and re-calibrate our notions of freedom, justice, and civic duty from generation to generation—never taking our liberties for granted, lest they run the danger of being silently taken away before anyone even notices they are gone.  And we must come together to find a new over-arching vision for America and for the world, a markedly Integral vision of humanity that can cut across multiple levels of psychological and sociological development, transcending the imaginary lines drawn on our maps, uniting us all as a single human family.

Externally, the U.S. must find a way to reverse much of the damage the Bush administration has done over the past eight years, strengthening the international institutions that we will invariably need to solve the problems facing us as a global community.  America must self-consciously use its imperial status to help the struggling nations of the world by bringing as much health and stability to these societies as possible.  Of course, this cannot be accomplished by militaristically exporting our values onto the rest of the world—conquering pre-democratic nations, dragging people to voting booths, and forcing Big Macs and apple pie down their throats.  On the contrary, being a truly benevolent empire requires a integral approach to politics and economics, surveying the whole spectrum of human motivations, values, and conditions, while supporting methods of governance that are appropriate to a particular society with particular needs.  From an Integral perspective, an entire range of political paradigms are available to us, any of which may prove useful for various geopolitical situations, including dictatorships, theocracies, monarchies, democracies, etc.  And while any of these might work for certain needs of certain people at certain times, the Integral vision continuously leads us closer and closer to genuine global governance, with an emphatic impulse toward more justice, more freedom, and more compassion.

Finally, Americans must be direly realistic about the many obstacles in our path toward becoming a truly "transitional empire."  By their very nature, empires are inherently loathed by the majority of the world—after all, no culture likes being dominated by another, regardless of whether or not it is ultimately "for their own good."  An empire's longevity depends entirely upon its ability to somehow uplift those under its dominion.  While most empires come into power with force, they can only endure with philanthropy, providing fair and benevolent solutions for those who are unable to find them otherwise. 

When empires assert their authority only to maximize their own power—rather than to maximize the degree of liberation available to humanity—catastrophic events such as the 9/11 attacks become inevitable.  Jim and Ken discuss Osama Bin Laden's actions and intentions in detail, offering a crucial exploration of the shadowy warrior behind the most world-changing event of recent times, and what may eventually turn out to be the financial bankruptcy of the greatest empire the world has ever seen.  

Of course, even the most benevolent empires must suffer through similar acts of violent insurrection, and none of this is to accuse America of becoming an entirely power-motivated imperium.  If anything, this dialogue simply points out the extraordinary precariousness of America's role in the 21st century, reminding us of the highs and lows that we are capable of as a species, both of which are actively playing themselves out within the global political scene.  It challenges us all to recognize our own civic responsibility to truly engage this world, to translate our highest ideals into real-life actions with real-life outcomes—which means that, if you have enough of an integral perspective to have made it this far into this talk summary, you should be voting!!!

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