Back in Time…

It has been said that to truly understand the future (or the present for that matter) you have to start by looking back in time.  Although complex causality is far from a linear, straightforward process it still lends itself to the factors of time, circumstance, and coincidence as each plays an important, albeit not necessarily decisive, role in its ultimate course.  Unfortunately for us however, it appears that our collective memory, our collective history, our collective discourse, and our collective narrative seldom reach beyond the events which occurred eleven years ago from this day in our time.  As much as we may like to profess that we are smarter, more civilized, and more evolved than our primitive human tendencies, we still have the instinct of creating intellectual milestones, points of reference in time where one history, one era ceases and another logically begins.  We reinforce these illusory turning points in our education systems, our media, and our politics and as we continue to profess that moments in time such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the terrorist attacks of 9/11 hold distinct and tangible significance within our narrative marking time not as a continuous story but a series of separate and distinct events.  Yet, far from being the clear-cut turning points in history, under any type of closer examination these events appear to be much closer to simple footnotes within our extensive human evolution more useful for separating lessons in an introductory history course than truly understanding the patterns and processes of our human journey…

The events of September 11th, 2001 while horrible in their public display of violence and their wanton disregard for innocent human life were in fact incredibly insignificant under the long lens of human events.  And while they marked a critical political, ideological, and social change in American history and paved the way for a renewed terrorism discourse, several major wars, and a steady expansion of the modern national security state, one must always remember that political justifications and public emotional responses to world events do not directly imply the presence of complex causality and its lines of influence.  To truly gain a picture of events on that day within the context of everything else we must search deeper into our emerging realities, more deeply question the functionality of our discourse, and open up new narratives to further investigation…

To understand 9/11, and to understand the Global War on Terror, you have to go further back in time.  You have to examine the realities and the truths which have formed and shaped our manifestation of the American Empire.  You have to drag a few skeletons out of the closet and uncover a few more mass graves than you may be comfortable witnessing again.  You have to look at the positive gains to your own way of life, your own future, and that of your children and measure them up against the many pains you and your fellow human beings have suffered along the way.  You have to ask the difficult questions even though the answers you find may leave you even more confused and with a bit of difficulty falling asleep at night.  And through it all you must overcome your personal human fears and human insecurities to seek more uncomfortable versions of the truth you know exist even when few of your peers understand the purpose of your intellectual journey…

The one simple truth which I have discovered along this difficult and exhausting intellectual experiment has been that the United States of America and the empire it has built yet still publicly denies has always needed an enemy.  Enemies give a sense of purpose, a national identity, and a moral justification for some of the dirty, but necessary, undertakings of empire.  For most of our history of empire, that enemy was readily apparent through product of war, paradigmatic competition, and good circumstance.  And yet for a brief period of time, our empire struggled and stumbled without such an enemy.  While our economy boomed, albeit under another bubble brought on by fortunate technological advances amid the context of a healthy peace dividend, our identity suffered and we failed to deeply see a strong, productive, and publicly acceptable role for ourselves in the world.  Many intellectuals labeled this time as the “end of history” as many others spoke of a looming and potentially catastrophic “clash of civilizations”.  Some of us thought the market and our newly historically justified model of privatization and unregulated global capitalism could save us all, while others saw it as the very means of our collective destruction.  And then, on one fateful Tuesday morning the ghosts of our past, the product of the dark side of empire we had hoped to keep a hidden secret emerged and gave us the very enemy, the very purpose, we had sought for nearly a decade but never publically acknowledged.  In a pile of rubble and pool of blood they renewed our collective justification for the dark arts of empire.  And we ate the narrative up like a fat kid going through a box of donuts…what followed was simply a product of history, discourse, and policy…

So where do we go from here?  Eleven years later, with the painful hangovers of that day clearly in our past and our empire noticeably in decline how do we salvage the products of our history and turn them into new and better realities for the future of our children?  How do we overcome our natural attachment to milestones in our view of history and begin to examine anew the issues and factors of complex causality which led us to where we are and are now taking us into the future whether we are ready for it or not?

The simple answer coming from a humble professional soldier, amateur intellectual, and simple human being is that I just don’t know.  In fact, I have absolutely no fucking idea.  If all you are looking for are concrete answers and guidance, I recommend consulting a professional clergyman, politician, or economist as a soldier whose life is so decidedly tied to complex world events and the dark side of empire can offer neither much hope nor comfort.  Yet through this crooked and broken intellectual journey, through my research and my reading, my thoughts, and my ideas, and through the middle path which I have struggled to follow every day in my heart, I may at least be able to offer you a general direction of thought…

Ultimately, if you wish to understand any concept, any reality, you must begin by examining its opposite.  The American Empire has needed an opposite throughout its entire existence.  Without a hero, there is no villain.  And without a villain, there is never the need for a hero as he becomes but an inconvenient, frightening burden on the very society he seeks to protect from itself.  The American Empire is falling, and there is no disputing that fact when considering the evidence available.  Although the fall of empires has historically been a very messy affair, through the gradual fall of this empire and its paradigm, we can also see infinite opportunities for the dreaming and building of a new reality.  But before you set off on the course of creating new realities and paradigms, you must learn to settle your scores with old enemies and build connections and friendships which transcend your former antagonisms.  Destroy the concept of the enemy, the other, the villain, and you eliminate the narrative of aggressive empire creation which built it and created your false hero.  Reach that point and your slate may be clear…do with it was you wish, but tread carefully as many demons of histories past are counting on your failure…

So in the end, here’s to the continuation of our great human history, our great human experience.  Look forward to the future, but remember to consult the past as your guide.  And remember that old mistakes need not be repeated a second time around.  Mind your narrative and feedback loops, question everything, share your ideas, and learn to master the transition.  Eleven years feels like long ago, but the span of history reaches much further…and we surely have much longer to go in this game…



11 SEP 2012, 1240(L), Grafenwoehr, Germany


About briangdonnelly

I'm pretty much a random traveler and free thinker. Right now I live and work with the Army in North Carolina. I grew up in Missouri but am from the northeast US and have traveled a lot with the Army and life in general so I can't say I really have a "home" except where I chose to catch a few hours or rack each day. Overall, life is pretty awesome and I'm looking forward to changing the world. Hit me up if you care... Peace, Brian
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