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Byron Shire
June 2, 2023

The rise and fall of empires

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Terry Pratchett once suggested our species’ name should be Pan Narrans, the storytelling chimpanzee, because that’s what we do and we’re supremely good at it – creating stories.

All of our empires have had their own stories/cultural narratives, that were justifications of how our societies operate, what the rules are and, more importantly, where the money has to go. Our empires grew by replacing cultural stories elsewhere, usually with violence.

Our empires all fell when sufficient people decided they were sick of being told what to do. For instance, the Holy Roman Catholic Empire lost its primacy when Henry VIII would no longer be told what to do, the British Empire collapsed as a rapidly growing procession of colonies refused to be told what to do.

From what we’ve seen it’s probable that the fall of all empires was accompanied by massive and vindictive violence on the part of the empire attempting to retain control which, of course, they never do. Once the word gets around the playground that the bully isn’t invincible, others begin to stand up and the collapse accelerates.

It presents something of a problem if the schoolyard bully has the capability of saying, ‘If I can’t have the playground, nobody can’ and mean it. If, in their story, they have a great bearded sky daddy to save them from the apocalypse they’re creating, it can be particularly alarming.

We are Pan Nerrans, we make up stories, and none of them have any universal truth, so we have complete licence to make up other stories, hopefully based on reality, like the reality of the largest and most important question ever presented to our species.

Are we living sustainably on this planet? We’re clearly not. And unsustainable is terminal, so we have an existential need to find another way. Luckily, if we’re to have a sustainable future it will probably require a healthy environment and a healthy society, something that’s likely to be more abundant and prosperous than anything we humans have ever done, potentially a massive economic advantage. Just not for the curators of this empire’s story, the wealthy elite who have always run everything, including our mainstream narrative, and make a mountain of money out of conflict and war.

If we can find a way to monetise that economic advantage, we can start writing the story of our sustainable future, potentially by far the most prosperous era our species has ever known. If, of course, we make it through this transition. If not, it’s probably goodbye us.

Robin Harrison, Binna Burra

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    • But it did do a good job of minimising conflict in Europe. Once it couldn’t do that anymore, it faded away and was replaced by the Treaty of Westphalia. Empires, civilisations, etc, go away when they no longer provide the services they were created for. Once the woke marxiods have finished making the west completely dysfunctional, it will go away also, and those who broke it will blame every one/thing else for its demise.


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