By Samuel Orrin Sewell
The United States of America is teetering on the edge of a perilous precipice, overlooking the bone yard of history. A forensic study of the bone yard of nations, empires, and cultures reveals a common cause of death; they all collapsed under their own weight.
It is also true that the bigger they are, the more likely they are to fall. It often happens quickly, when a paradigm shift that has been building for decades gradually reaches the tipping point, and everyone is shocked because they were too blind to see it coming.
The purpose of this chapter is to show that the dynamics behind the demise of nations are inextricably bound to the reality of history. History provides a laser straight imperative which manifests in all aspects of human endeavor. If we stray from that imperative we will experience tragedy and failure, whether it is the sinking of a ship, the failure of a business, or the collapse of a nation.
I intend to illustrate the application of these imperative principles of reality by giving examples from different arenas.
The people of the tribal confederacy that became the nation of Israel began to ask for “a king, like the other nations.” Samuel was the leader of Israel at the time, and he advised against such a move. Samuel was the last of the Hebrew judges, and the first of the Major Prophets who began to prophesize inside the land of Israel. He was thus at the cusp between two eras. Samuel warned the people what would happen if they got what they were asking for; “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots, and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war, and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards, and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
The rulers of nations have been behaving this way ever since Israel was established.
The rulers of nations have been behaving this way ever since Israel was established.
Thus a decentralized theocracy was replaced by a centralized monarchy. In later days the more the people attempted to centralize religion and government, the worse became the fate of Israel. Eventually it became possible to destroy Israel because the strategic strength of tribal diversity was gone and power was all centralized in one place.
Babylon took advantage of that weakness and destroyed the nation of Israel, only to fall prey to the same vulnerability of centralized political structure when Cyrus of Persia came to power and conquered Babylon.
An even worse fate befell Christianity. For the first three centuries of Christianity people gathered in their homes and worshipped, as was customary for their local brand of the Christian faith. There was no official Christian religion. Many of the traditions and writings of the early church were excluded by the state sponsored version of Christianity. By the end of fourth century AD the Christianity of Jesus and Paul no longer existed.
In February 313, Constantine met with Licinius in Milan, where they developed the Edict of Milan. The edict stated that Christians should be allowed to follow their faith without oppression. This removed the penalties for professing Christianity, and all confiscated religious property was returned. The edict protected from religious persecution not only Christians but all religions, allowing anyone to worship whichever deity they chose.
Soon thereafter, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Worse than the time of Samuel in ancient Israel, when a theocracy was replaced by a monarchy, Christianity merged with an already existent worldly empire, which became known as the Holy Roman Empire. Christianity did not begin to recover from that tragic merging until the Reformation rescued both Protestants and Catholics. Since that time the ecclesiastical hierarchy of much of the Christian church, both Catholic and Protestant, has taken on the traits of collective authority. The present day “Church” may also be teetering on the brink of an abyss.
In recent times there has emerged a decentralizing movement back to the “house churches” of Christianity’s beginnings, thus strengthening the foundation of Christianity and protecting it from a sudden, hard fall.
The important principle illustrated here is, humanity needs to correct the tendency to make everything bigger and embrace the principle of “better not bigger.”
Cyrus the Great (600 BC - 576 BC) was smarter than the Babylonians. He reestablished the nation of Israel and allowed them to run their own country. He allowed regional autonomy in each state within the Persian Empire, in the form of a satrapy system. A satrapy was an administrative unit, usually organized on a geographical basis. A 'satrap’ (governor) was the client king, who administered the region. We might say, “Cyrus decentralized the power of the Emperor and founded the United States of Persia.”
On December 10, 2003, in her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, Shirin Ebadi evoked Cyrus, saying:
“I am an Iranian, a descendant of Cyrus the Great. This emperor proclaimed at the pinnacle of power 2,500 years ago that he 'would not reign over the people if they did not wish it.' He promised not to force any person to change his religion and faith, and guaranteed freedom for all. The Charter of Cyrus the Great should be studied in the history of human rights.”
Cyrus the Great was followed by lesser men. They began to centralize power, and were conquered by Alexander the Great, who defeated the Persian armies. The descendents of Alexander continued the pattern of centralizing power that has repeated itself down to this time resulting in the fall of many nations and empires.
The historical examples of devastating outcomes resulting from “putting all of our eggs in one basket” are numerous. Egypt is another classical example.
The Egyptian Empire lasted three thousand years. That makes the Roman United Empire, which lasted over four centuries (27 BC to 395 AD,) look like it died while still an adolescent.
The Pharaohs of Egypt had a very wise policy. When they began ruling another nation they established a “temporary” governor. The princes of that new nation were treated like the family of the Pharaohs. They were educated and groomed to be national leaders. They were then returned to their homeland as soon as possible, and began to rule their own people. They simply paid taxes to the Pharaohs in exchange for the protection of Egypt’s armies and other benefits due to the United States of Egypt. There were many kings ruling over their own nations within the Egyptian Empire. Because there was a decentralization of power, Egypt was protected from collapse for millenniums. Only when the Cleopatra/Roman influence prevailed did Egypt become vulnerable, and another Empire was laid to rest in history’s bone yard.
We have explored religion and the rise and fall of nations and empires. Now let’s take a look at engineering. There is a plethora of examples from the field of engineering, but probably the most easily explained is the principle of watertight integrity. A large ship is not one floating object, but many connected, floating structures. If the hull is damaged, that part of the ship is sealed off and the rest of the structural integrity and the buoyancy of the vessel remain secure.
Aeronautical engineering always includes redundancies that aren’t really redundant. There is an electrical system to lower the landing gear. There is a hydraulic system to lower the landing gear. There is a mechanical system to lower the landing gear. Avionics always includes several ways to navigate; so even when the technology fails, most pilots can still navigate with a sextant. When you’re ten thousand feet in the air reality rules, not politics!
Centralizing the function of any machine is an invitation to failure. In fact, centralizing mechanical functions would prevent the invention of a working model in the first place.
Our DNA code is resident in every cell in our bodies. Reproduction would be impossible if the entire code for a new being was not imprinted on each cell of that creation, in humans as well as in all of the other creatures on the planet.
Because the human brain stores much of the same information in every brain cell, this built-in system assures that the brain can continue to function when parts of the brain are injured or removed. Recovery from strokes or head injuries is possible because of this decentralized system, which allows the parts to rebuild and restore function after trauma.
A brain with a centralized memory or neuron complex would be dysfunctional. A body with a centralized genetic code would prevent our very existence.
TECHNOLOGY AND PHYSICS
If a hologram of a rose is cut in half and then illuminated by a laser, each half will still be found to contain the entire image of the rose.
Indeed, even if the halves are divided again, each snippet of the film will always be found to contain a smaller, but intact version of the original image. Unlike normal photographs, every part of a hologram contains all the information possessed by the whole.
It would be very easy to destroy the essence of a normal rose photograph by cutting it in half, because the specific “rose” qualities are all collected in one place. But it is nearly impossible to destroy a holographic rose, because the central information is everywhere.
One of the greatest things about the World Wide Web is that nobody really owns it. It is a global collection of networks, both big and small. These networks connect together in many different ways to form the single entity that we know as the Internet. In fact, the very name comes from this idea of interconnected networks. Attempting to centralize the functions of the Internet would shut it down.
Some physicists are convinced that the entire universe is interconnected; that we live in a holographic reality. Quantum entanglement implies that it is the parts exchanging information with other parts that constitute the whole. The universe is protected and sustained by distributing that connective “glue” everywhere. Centralization would destroy the entire universe!
One of my fields of interest is marketing and management science. Success in this field involves reducing centralization and establishing cooperative, stand alone units of productivity.
The phrase “delegation of authority” is a way to describe how to avoid the dangers of centralized functions and decisions. A 21st century manager’s main responsibility is to break up the clusters of inertia and inefficiency that naturally collect and bog down the productivity of the corporation.
REVOLUTION AND ACTIVISM
Why do you think they are called terrorist cells? There are communist cells. There are subversive cells. Eighteenth century American patriots won the first American Revolution through the formation of cells. Today there are modern patriots who create cells that act independently from one another to affect the next American Revolution.
Why are they called cells? Often the cells are not aware of each other, nor do they know the names of the people in other cells. If there is one central authority, that administrative center can be destroyed from the outside, or can self-destruct through inertia and inefficiency, yet the free-standing units can continue to function. If there is only one command and control facility, one attack can destroy everything. For a movement to maintain security and stability when its management falters or is attacked, it must avoid the tragedy of centralization.
When I went through the Naval Leadership Training School in the early 1960s the military was still working on solutions for the problems that resulted from North Korea’s successful brainwashing and destruction of the chain of command among American prisoners of war. A diagnosis of the problems revealed that when a commanding officer was removed from his men the chain of command quickly disintegrated and individual personnel were vulnerable to brainwashing techniques. Obviously, there was too much power centralized in the higher ranking officers.
The model of our Turkish allies was held out to us an example of how to prevent such destruction of the chain of command. Unlike the Americans, the Turkish military insisted on emphasizing the authority of each individual. When a higher ranking officer was removed the junior officers quickly took command. When all the officers were removed the senior enlisted men took command. As the story was told to us, finally, the only men remaining were privates. One of the privates spoke up and said, “I am in command. I am the oldest of all the privates.”
Even the military is vulnerable when there is too much centralized power.
The Canton style of government in Switzerland is a good example of how it should be done if we want a stable political foundation and personal freedom. The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own border and controls army and currency. Public meetings and personal votes by individual citizens still establish legislation and policy. Unlike many other nations, Switzerland is not on the brink of national disaster.
So, have I made my point?
So, have I made my point?
To return to the premise of the opening paragraph, “The United States of America is teetering on the edge of a perilous precipice, overlooking the bone yard of history.” It was never intended by our founding fathers to be this way. They knew the dangers of kings and dictators. They knew that power corrupts. They did not want a strong centralized government. They wanted the power to remain with the individual states and the people. That is why they included the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. The Tenth Amendment, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Over the years the federal government has continued to erode the power of the people and the states to the point that it is time for a Second American Revolution.
We no longer have a Democracy. We no longer have a Democratic Republic.Kakistocracy: Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.
Here is our present form of government:
Here is our present form of government:
Kleptocracy: A government characterized by rampant greed and corruption
Now I have a question. Does the political leadership of America think that they are exempt from the timeless imperatives of a reality which governs all human activity, including the very universe itself? When will they realize that unless they look beyond their power driven, personal and political motivations and dismantle the monster beast called the federal government, they will take us all down with them? Unless they heed the inevitable lesson of the ages, they will most assuredly end up drinking the bitter hemlock which was eventually tasted by every despot on the planet.
Or must the citizens once again form militias, learn to “man the barricades” and sing Yankee Doodle until our politicians once again heed the lesson that the bigger they are the harder they fall?
And remember that the fall is often swift, with no warning for those who do not have eyes that see. We may not have much time to save our country before it collapses into the bone yard of the nations.
Bio: Philosopher, Clergyman, Psychotherapist, Scientist, Humorist and raconteur, Samuel Orrin Sewell, a life member of Mensa, is the Gifted Youth Coordinator for his local Mensa Chapter. He is the Director of a nation-wide, internet based psychotherapy practice. His articles are frequently published in political, religious, and behavioral science periodicals. He is a Navy veteran whose hobbies include aviation and classic cars -- and he owns a “Best in Show” award winning muscle car.