The world is going, or perhaps has gone, crazy. How else can we explain Trump, BREXIT, the Gilets Jaunes (yellow jackets) in France, new weather records becoming a regular event, or an ever intensifying Cold War between the Russia, China and the United States? Many commentators attempt to provide an explanation for these events and others in isolation. Few link them in an overarching narrative. They can however be linked. That link is a great big teetering tower of lies.
Humans, whether as individuals or as societies, lie to ourselves and each other all the time; that is part of what makes us human. In normal times negative feedback loops from family, peers or society minimise lying. What can be observed at both societal and civilizational level however are positive feedback loops that have built an enormous tower of lies which guide public discourse, as recently and notably demonstrated by the collapse of the Russiagate narrative. The net result is many of the ills infecting the world today. It is only through demolishing this tower of lies that real progress towards peace, stable societies, and averting environmental catastrophe can be made.
What Joseph Goebbels (Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda) might refer to as the ‘big lie’ is that economic growth can continue indefinitely on a finite planet. Infinite growth of material consumption, as stated by economist E.F. Schumacher, on a finite world is of course impossible. Exactly when we hit the limits to growth, as postulated by the Club of Rome in the 1970s, is unclear but a strong argument could be mounted that we are in the zone of the limits as evidenced by: a changing climate, species extinction rates, the declining quality, and in some instances quantity, of mineral and energy resources, arable land and fresh water, and of course the fragile state of the debt ridden global economy. Additionally virtually every aspect of human activity has reached the point of declining marginal returns which, as convincingly argued by Joseph Tainter in his seminal work, The Collapse of Complex Societies, has driven the collapse of previous civilisations.
Despite everlasting economic growth being impossible our entire economic system is based upon this premise; our monetary system demands continuous growth or implodes as demonstrated by the Global Financial Crisis. For a time, we got away with it. The rising tide lifted if not all, at least many boats. Billions either saw their living standards rise or had a reasonable hope that they would. As we approach the limits to growth we are now experiencing the consequences of this big lie. In many countries people have seen real falls in living standards with little hope for a better future. Meanwhile the inequality between the masses and the uber-wealthy continues to grow. The net result is of course populism, the rise of extremist political parties and events such as BREXIT.
A second big lie to be exposed is the United States. Perhaps at one point the United States actually was a beacon of light for other countries, the land of the free. Those days are long gone (and well before President Trump’s arrival). The United States needs to be exposed for what it is. An amoral empire intent on global hegemony at any cost.
If we take an objective scorecard of countries invaded, elections interfered with, government’s overthrown, extrajudicial killings of foreign nationals, economic damage caused and the source of regional instability, which nation would top the list? It wouldn’t be North Korea, Iran, Libya, Syria or Venezuela. It wouldn’t even be Russia or China. None of these countries come even close. The United States clearly is exceptional in this category, exceptional in that international laws and customs apparently do not apply.
The Trump administration has unmasked the true nature of the United States. Perhaps this is nothing more than recognition of the decline of US imperial power and a desperate attempt to maintain the status quo. This decline is real and accelerating rapidly as evidenced by geostrategic defeat in places such as Syria and Ukraine, an increasing number of countries unwilling to accept the primacy of the United States (and thus labelled ‘rogue’, ‘evil’ or ‘revisionist’) and the deterioration of relationships with many of its key long-time allies such as Turkey and even European nations. Professor Stephen Cohen makes an extremely convincing argument that the United States is in a Cold War with Russia that is much more dangerous than the previous Cold War, attributing most of the blame to misguided policies by the United States since the end of the Soviet Union. At the moment nuclear war is not only possible but plausible.
The United States does not offer Australia security, as stated in documents such as the 2016 Defence White Paper, but rather insecurity through its hyper-aggressive foreign policy. If Malcolm Fraser’s maxim is true that great states do what is in their interests, the trajectory of the United States foreign policy is such that Australia will have to act against its own interests (if it is not already doing so) to maintain our alliance at some point in the foreseeable future.
To make America great again requires the adoption of a non-interventionist foreign policy by the United States. Unless and until the United States adopts such a policy it is in Australia’s best interests, both for our prosperity and security, to adopt an independent foreign policy.
Whether the tower of lies can be dismantled will largely define the future. This will not be easy. Many have their status, livelihoods and even their reputations invested in the tower of lies. The consequences of not doing so however will be even more traumatic. I suspect that much of the craziness that we are currently observing in the world is but the tip of the iceberg. Economic depression, political extremism, environmental disaster and conflict up to and including nuclear war are the likely consequence of failing to dismantle these lies. Surely we can do better than that?
Cameron Leckie served 24 years in the Australian Army and is currently studying Agricultural Engineering.