Friday, October 31, 2008

On Empires

No empire is eternal; All empires are destined to die.

There are three ways in which empires die- Decay, disintegration, and destruction. The first two deaths are internal, while the last is external. Decay occurs through decadence or gradual weakening of the state; Disintegration is when the empire splits into multiple factions, each opposed to another; Destruction happens when an external power annexes or disbands the empire.

There have been many vast empires, often made by the power of a single great conqueror. However, while there are vast empires, and while there are lasting empires, there are no vast empires that last long. The conqueror's empire, fueled by expansion, is doomed to fail, as when the conqueror dies, few can fill his void. Alexander was great, but the Macedonian empire disintegrated upon his death. This tale is repeated throughout history.

Perhaps the greatness of a conqueror should not be based on how vast an empire he commands, but on how long his empire can endure his absence. A ruler that spends his energies on strengthening the organs of the empire, that focuses on longevity rather than size, might be able to create an entity that by far survives himself.

And yet, the resulting nation might only be staving off the inevitable. The stronger the systems that prop an empire, the more inflexible the same systems become. With the passage of time, the same rules that ensured strength in the past would become inefficient and irrelevant. The nation does not die outright, but rather fades into the shadows. It decays.

Sometimes, I wonder about the fate of Singapore. Admittedly, many systems are in place to ensure the survival of this nation. And yet, while the same systems are immutably strong, they are also lacking in flexibility. Hence, while I do not think Singapore will experience a catastrophic end, I do fear that eventually, it would fade into irrelevance.

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