Of Ozymandias and Empires Poisoned Chalice

Nothing displays the futility of empire better than Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Nothing displays the futility of empire better than Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

UK – Growing up as I did soon after the start of the decline of the British Empire. My childhood was full of stories about how great the empire was and that it had stretched over quarter of the globe. How we had defeated Evil in the form of Germany both World Wars. More than that there were endless tales about glorious battles won against horrendous odds by heroic British soldiers against hordes of savage natives.

But this was a distorting mirror. I have to thank an internet friend Elaine for educating me. Well opening my eyes so that I could see the truth and educate myself.

I learned that Boer war. Which was supposed to be a quick smash and grab raid for Gold and Diamonds. Instead it demonstrated just how weak and rotten the empire had become. It took the full might of the worlds largest empire for three years to crush a few hundred thousand Boer farmers.

Roll along for a few years and along comes the First World War. The myth was that we won the war. Again that was not wholly true. The UK was only on the winning side. It was United States of America that came out on top of that one. The UK and France went Bankrupt. Russia had a revolution and Germany, Austria Hungary and the Ottomans all lost their empires.

The greed and stupidity of the UK and France after the war that sowed the seeds of the Second world and the ongoing mayhem in the Middle East today. The Sykes-Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement and the Balfour Declaration being the the worst offenders.

Flit forwards a few more years via a massive banking crash to the Second World War. Once again the UK was on the winning side, and went bankrupt once again. Although the French surrendered, they did not lose their empire. We did not lose ours either. But the USA forced the UK to give India its independence and give up the UK’s west Indian bases.

Churchill handed the mantle of Empire to the USA.

Both France and the UK both settled down to a slow decline and withdrawal from empire. The French had major defeats in Indochina and Algeria speeded up the process.

But there is a catch. Both the UK and France are afflicted by the longing for what has been lost. Unlike Germany which had to rebuild from scratch.

But Empire is good, right?

It is certainly an attractive concept for those who want results quickly. Like all short cuts and quick fixes Empire carrys a dark side. The first is a sense of superiority of the Empires population. The false sense of We are doing Gods work on Earth.

Pretty words, but they are just words. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because the reality of Empire is all about theft on a grand scale. Rather than build an economic zone of your own it is easier to steal one.

Another consequence of this smug superiority is that it invariably leads to racism and laziness.

The laziness comes from the having a captive market. A Captive market that has to consume your products, because they cannot get them elsewhere else. Which inevitability leads to a lack of innovation and competitiveness in the world markets.

I must add that the innovation still carries on, but the money men do not allow it to get to market on the principals of, If it is not broken do not fix it and Why rock the boat. In short stagnation.

Which brings us to financial empires.

Financial empire is good, right?

On the face of it it would seem that having a financial empire would be a good thing. After all the ability to raise finance to pay for future investments and new products. That is true. But once again there is a very big but.

That but is growth. A financial empire requires liquidity in exactly the same way that any other gambling operation does. I.E ready cash and lots of it.

The inevitable consequence of this is that the financial markets demand big returns very quickly. When big returns are not available there is the tried and tested tactic of takeover and asset stripping.

All good reasons why financial markets need strict regulation to protect people and the country from the sharks like Bernard Madoff and the hedge funds.

The trouble is that the sharks can and have bought both the political and legal process. In this way the sharks have prevented and frustrated any meaningful regulation and investigation of the financial markets.

If finance dominates then it drains the rest of the economy.

OK Empire sucks. What we should be looking for?

Over and over again we see that everything is a double edged sword. That is there is no one or right answer to any particular question. The trick seems to be to judge at which the point when crutch becomes a wheel chair.

Finance is the lubricant that allows commerce and production to thrive.

There is another name for this it is called balance. It is vital that no one thing takes over the other parts of the whole.

The financial industry does not create wealth! It can only redistribute wealth. Growth has to be earned, and that requires farming, industry and resources.

The difference between growth and the the growth of the money supply is called inflation. Inflation by definition is a devaluation of the value of the currency.
Nothing sums up the futility of Empire better than Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Author: Dr Suusi Watson

Editor of the Bastard

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