American Conversations Part I

Hopefully the punditry is wrong and descent into a Romanesque end isn't the final curtain call, writes Tim Humphries

It began with an interview I did with Libertarian radio host of the popular LRM.FM program Liberty Conspiracy with Gardner Goldsmith. The touchstones of North and South Korea plunged our cordial conversation into Trade, International Relations, Currency and the Economic drivers of same both at home and abroad.

The interlocking histories of Australian, American and Chinese involvement on the world stage also figured prominently. However what grabbed my attention was the idea that America was sliding from the world stage and that her pre-eminence was being usurped by China.

Competing academic debates and visions of Chinese Power in the 21st Century amount to precisely naught if we do not acknowledge the pivotal and relevant role China is playing. With American debts topping 1.17 trillion in November 2012 the question remains where to next for China's biggest customer?

The first instinct would be to answer "straight to the debt collection agency!". However there is a deeper issue at play. This relates not just to the reality of America, but America's vision of itself.

My thinking immediately returned to the question of pre-eminence and the potential for China to replace America as the dominant International hegemony within the next fifty years. Many analysts more experienced then yours truly would scoff at such suggestions. 

However all markers seem to indicate the inexorable rise of China will continue long into this decade and confirm the oft repeated and at times annoying Orwellian mantra that this is the "Asian Century".

Funnily enough as Gardner Goldsmith's North Eastern accent washed over the Skype line and explored the Libertarian angles around our discussion, I suddenly remembered the words of Clive James who said poignantly of America:

Shining because of its decay, ablaze with its consuming fires, a multiple injection of phosphorescent amphetamine's into a sky sick with brilliance, New York [America] is the world's most stunning proof that where there is light there is always darkness. And it's because the darkness runs so deep it burns so bright.

With such an image burned upon my literary retina, I suddenly realised the symbolic importance of my discussion with my New England friend.

Today's America is much like Times Square in New York City. Ablaze with financial, trade and strategic manoeuvres they flash across the screen and burn bright upon the International passersby.

America may seem powerful, however its debt ridden position is reducing that power to the residual glow that flickers and pulses from the decrepit media receptacles that spew forth the decaying and all consuming cultural fire that Clive Jame's words so brilliantly allude to. 

Hopefully the punditry is wrong and descent into a Romanesque end isn't the final curtain call.

Timothy W. Humphries is Assistant Managing Editor of Menzies House and writes from Brisbane, Queensland. 

See Clive James' Postcard of New York for more: