Pax Americana

History is a study of memory and it's reproduction. When nobody lives to remember an event, we need to fantasize about what happened to be able to empathize and understand the people of the past. Learning to develop a skill for constructing a fantasy that is closer to the lived memory of someone who might have been there is quite difficult, and often times quite disenchanting. It's way more fun to let oneself be swept up in the romance of ancient heroes and mythic dreamlands of worlds now past, especially as that past grows ever distant from you in tangability.

As such, a lot of people have a very romanticized sense of the past, myself included, which, when I think about it, can feel a little strange-- that was just how people lived in a different place and time, no different from each morning I wake and each meal I eat, these are people I could have related to and spoken to, shared dreams and aspirations or even just meals with. They don't exist anymore but I can still visit their graves and look at their mechanical watches and cutlery in museums.

But when you read about the past, the stories told aren't usually about them. It's about grand empires and power politics and the mechanics of economies and armies, and that all feels very distant from me, but I think at some point I recognized that maybe it had a deeper presence in my life, a sense of chronology relative to now, that I can see in things like...

how soldiers dress
the way people speak on TV
what's important to those around me
in architecture
in infrastructure

And it's very easy to find romance in the imagery of a soldier in years past, but when met with one in person, it can feel a little intimidating or strange. And I would never understand why people spoke like that on TV as a kid, when everyone around me spoke with an accent and manner particular to here. And there are these big and fanciful names for the time period that I lived in - Pax Americana, the Unipolar Moment, the End of History - even though it's almost hard to believe I lived in a time period at all, because nothing has really happened to me in this distant and sleepy part of the world.

When I put a name to things, suddenly it seems far more interesting, because it means that somebody will look back on this, and maybe feel the same sense of fantasy and romance that I did, and that seems kind of ridiculous to me, because nothing is romantic about how I live, and that thought almost disenchants the past, but really, there's no enchantment to it. I could think endlessly of genocide and cruelty beyond cruelty, and feel so very miserable, and that disenchants the past almost as much as realizing there is no less romance to here than there is to then. Yet, enchantment is here, and now, something I found despite all the horrible things that happened around me. I think there's a lot of value to that, that no world or time or place, past, present, or future, is somewhere special in particular, and yet if I managed to find beauty here, then I can find beauty anywhere

Our time and place is really exceptional in the grand scheme of things, containing forms of suffering both incomparable and deeply common to those of the past, so it's really hard to get a sense of if this is somehow the better alternative or whatever. I know on material terms, that I live in ways that are so very decadent compared to those of the past, but surely, that isn't the only metric for a good life, because despite comfortably I lie in my bed, there is a profound loneliness to be found coddled by suburban drywall. Indeed, if we want to ask questions as to what we would prefer between now and then, wanting to fight in or be a part of the great movements of history seems to be a central point of some views of the world: To have agency as a character in a greater narrative, not merely a number, is so deeply appealing when our lives are surrounded by myths of knights and princesses for whom the concept of fate seems very real, which to us is what precisely makes their stories myths.

But, maybe that isn't really a worthwhile question, if our suffering is more or less, because all the same, I know that I'm suffering. I know that I'm deeply alone in a drywall home, in quiet and depressing suburbs, unable to ever relate to those around me, drifting through gradients of neurosis and depression in the quiet of my room where nothing really happens, growing up with the expectation always that I would do something, go somewhere, be someone, only to have those expectations crushed as the world around me changed.

and yet
I could still find romance in this
I could still be loved.
I could still show love
and I shared in the beauty of the world with others
and our shared sense of beauty made it worth living in

So to all those hopeless romantics who read this centuries on, I love you!

24th of February, 2022 - 4:04 AM

As quickly as it came, it went. For the past week, the curtains seem to be closing on the mythical End of History, armies moving and diplomats speaking. All of the sudden the world seems so fast! It seems so much more alive than it was when I was growing up...

And I think what I got to grow up around was really special

24th of February, 2022 - 02:41 PM


23rd of April, 2022 - 12:09 AM

Perhaps that was somewhat overdramatic, yet perhaps somewhat fitting. Nothing actually changed with the events that transpired that day as far as how I lived went. I went to sleep in the same room and woke up in the same room. Months past, and the news seemed more and more bleak, and perhaps in countries more closeby, prices went up, but life continued as it had before, here, so I can't help but feel as if what I said was silly.

At the same time, I think it taught me a lesson in fin de si├Ęcle ennui. For many Europeans at the time, the move from the 19th century to the 20th felt as if a cosmic shift, even though the actual transformation of things would only occur nearly two decades later. Nothing actually changed, but it signaled an end all the same. It's really hard to demarcate historical boundaries, because they're not really perceptible things. You wake up the next day, the next day, another more, and entire eras can pass and you just keep moving. And for many people, it seems as if nothing has changed at all, if you live at the far corners and provinces of an Empire, which I happen to.

It's a really boring perspective, isn't it? Of some suburban loser from the middle of nowhere and how they felt about profound tragedies in far away countries. I guess that boredom is ironically what makes it interesting, and silly.