04:02:16 pm on
Tuesday 26 Sep 2017

The Cycle Repeats
AJ Robinson


“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
 

That’s a line from a famous, eponymous poem. I learned that poem back in high school, in a creative writing class. Ozymandias was one of the few poems the teacher didn't have to explain to the class.


Nothing lasts forever.

We got it right off the bat. The poem is about the futility experienced by man trying to create permanence in a world where nothing lasts forever. To me it also reinforced that old saying: "This too shall pass."

Over the course of many millennia, many empires have risen, ruled and fallen. Some have literally vanished from the face of the earth leaving nothing more than a few ruins. Others left no trace, such as Atlantis, which Plato used metaphorically.

These days, we see our world as permanent, especially given our various technological accomplishments. Now, sure, the various colonial powers of Europe have declined and the Soviet Union has crumbled, but we're certain the American "Empire" will stand firm.

No, the fall, of America, began some time ago. The signs are clear. It’s ironic the pattern of decline is much the same as appeared before. Rome fell, in much the same way. The British Empire also dissolved similarly.


How could such decline go unnoticed?

I used to wonder how such empires could fall without the people knowing it and trying to stop it. Well, it's very hard to see the full scope of such a problem, especially when you're part of it and it is going on around you. Largely, it goes back to a saying my father often mentioned: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it."

Our problem is so many people do not remember the past, both recent and distant. When I hear calls for the abolishment of the minimum wage, child labor laws, overtime pay and so on, I think about how many people literally died winning those rights for us. When I see voter apathy, I think of the suffragists and civil rights workers who also gave their lives that others might take those rights for granted. When I hear calls for tax cuts for the so-called job creators and the elimination of the social safety net, I remember that trickle-down economics failed years ago. I recall my history classes that spoke of the suffering of the poor and elderly back when the wealthy lived like kings.


It comes down to one simple thing: personal experience.

When people don't experience something or, as in the case of trickle-down economics, don't understand how something has affected them, it isn't tangible and, thus, they can dismiss it, especially if their leaders can keep them distracted. This is what happened in Rome, with the "bread and circuses." Keep the people fed and entertained, and you can do what you want.

Unfortunately, here's what I see in our future: essentially a return to the Gilded Age. A few super wealthy, most of the rest of us struggling and the politicians and pundits telling us how great things are or that prosperity is just around the corner. America will decline in power and prestige, unions will all but vanish and we'll have to re-fight for quite a few of our rights.

Now, I might be wrong. After all, with our modern technology we're able to get news and organize better and faster. Thus, it is possible we can deflect the coming change. It wouldn't take a lot, even a minimal course correction would be enough to help millions be able to live decently. It can happen; we just have to have the strength and drive to accomplish it.

I'm not optimistic. I keep thinking of that statue in the sand. I keep thinking of Ozymandias, king of kings.

 

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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