Painful Truth: What’s the plan for after the lights go out?

What happens when – eventually – a big modern empire like the United States falls?

What was it like, living in Britian 1,700 years ago, somewhere around what is now London?

Well, things probably weren’t perfect. No one had the faintest idea what an antibiotic was, slavery was legal, and democracy was very much not a thing.

But, by the standards of the ancient world, there were worse places to be. What is now England was part of the Roman Empire. There were roads, and actual baths with hot water, and art and imported wine and literacy.

And then it all went away. Rome fell, and the next couple hundred years are more archeology than history when it comes to Britain. Written sources and hot baths were in short supply for a while.

I’m thinking about this partly because Canada is, in many ways, a kind of appendage to the world’s larger powers.

I don’t think that the United States is going to suddenly collapse, or that Europe or China are about to rupture. But history has never recorded a powerful society that didn’t eventually fall.

So even if Canada ticks along just fine, we’re at the mercy of the rest of the world. And there are a few troubling trends out there.

Forget all about Donald Trump for a moment. (Ah, isn’t that a pleasant sensation?)

In the U.K., Brexit is making the future impossible to predict. Hard-right parties are solidifying their rule in Poland and Hungary. Racist political parties and organizations are going public in multiple countries. Russia, which looked semi-promising in the ’90s, is embracing low-grade war, hacking, and oligarchy. Central Asia is riddled with petty dictatorships. The president of China is giving himself powers even more dictatorial than those he had before.

I don’t pretend that this is all adding up to a certainty. But trends towards increased xenophobia and centralized rule have not traditionally been good things.

So what happens when – not if – things go bad outside of Canada’s borders?

Hopefully, we won’t have to find out. But someday, our descendants will.

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