Here Thar Be Monsters!
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Wolf-Crier's Festival And Pancake Breakfast
Not the the US has/had any real moral superiority, but it was a position into which it thrust itself/was thrust by the currents of history. It was an enviable position for a group of people to be in, had they something to offer beside bombs and grifts.
At any rate, they were there for whatever reasons, and they went and tossed it out the window. Of course, maintaining such a position requires at least a modicum of wisdom, which is a commodity of which Washington has never been accused of having a surplus.
As the so-called "leader of the free world," Obama had a chance to unseat China as the elephant in the living room of Southeast Asia. When he was selected the first time, Indonesia went nuts. The whole country was ready to be annexed into the US. They built statues to him and made his childhood home a museum, nay a shrine is more accurate.
Then Obama kept delaying a victory lap around Southeast Asia, and the fervor cooled a bit. When he finally came to Indonesia, he was aloof and even a bit disrespectful. In fact, everyone was waiting for his big speech in Indonesian, but the whole time here, he spoke all of four words of the local lingo. That left folks scratching their heads.
Then there was the APEC meeting just recently in Bali. Indonesia spent several millions of dollars to meet the US delegation's security demands, jumping through dozens of hoops to make sure the Terrorist in Chief wasn't accosted by his competition.
Obama cancelled at the last minute.
Suppose you're throwing a big party and it is centered around the Guest of Honor. In order to attract the GoH, you spend lavishly to make sure there are no crusts on the sandwiches, no brown M&Ms and no paprika in the egg salad, even though all your other guests love crusts, brown M&Ms and paprika. All is in readiness. Guests are arriving. The phone rings. GoH won't be able to make it after all.
In a panic to rescue your party, you turn to GoH's biggest rival, who was gracious enough to show up...and early at that. You dub him GoH and proceed as if nothing happened, but you'll never forget the snub.
And so China once again has snatched the role of leadership out from under the US, whose bloated self-importance and intense self-interest is wearing thin on the rest of the world.
Americans seem either incapable or unwilling to view themselves as others do. This lack of empathy is generally diagnosed as sociopathic when it occurs in individuals. It is common in the offspring of wealthy, powerful people, since the children inherit without the pain and suffering that tempers hubris. This leads to an inflated sense of self-importance and an inability to comprehend that those called friends are only there because you throw great parties and your left-overs are better than most people's first rounds.
But when you ultimately become withdrawn and the parties become less frequent and perhaps there's a little trouble in paradise, those 'friends' will not only not come to your aid, they lie in wait to pounce on you, should the opportunity arise. Since you can't afford to pay your bodyguards anymore, those opportunities start becoming very frequent. In your paranoia, you become a recluse, thus further reinforcing the perception that you are not worth hanging out with.
Look what has happened to America. Once upon a time, it sent people to fight its wars and people to venture into the unknown (such as Moon landings). Now, it sends drones to fight while the people hide deep in mountain redoubts. It sends robots to explore, while the people go home at night to their cushy southern California manors. Classic signs of paranoid reclusivity.
Instead of throwing lavish parties, the US argues over who will pay the tab. Once upon a time, the US was fun and everyone wanted to hang out with him. Now, to be his friend, you have to take his gifts. Instead of the cool electronics and gadgets he used to give away, now he only gives out guns and bombs, and he expects you to fill in as his bodyguard in your part of town because his regular staff up and quit and the current staff just want to sit in bunkers under mountains.
The worst part is that the world got hooked on Uncle Sugar's gifts. Everyone wanted to have some of those green bits of paper that he handed out and the world got used to having them around. Of course, Uncle Sugar handed out so much of the little green paper that it seems like everyone has a pile or two laying around these days. Used to be you could trade them with other folks for neat stuff, but now everyone's got so many of them that no one will trade anymore.
Not to mention Uncle Sugar's habit of borrowing money and not paying it back. Oh sure, he says he always pays, but really all he does is give you more paper in exchange for the original paper. The new stuff has different magical symbols and incantations on them, but really it's just more paper when it come down to it. People start losing interest in Uncle Sugar's stuff and wander off to look for more novel entertainment. Besides, Uncle is really paranoid and grumpy these days, so who wants to hang around that attitude?
Folks start doing things without inviting Uncle Sugar. He gets upset and starts throwing his weight around. He threatens everyone by saying he'll start throwing his pieces of paper from helicopters to keep everyone using them, but all that does is make folks look for alternatives.
And lo and behold! There's Uncle Chin Xiao just chomping at the bit to step in an be the new party house.
Heck, even Uncle Sugar's own family is turning its back on him. Not a good sign.
Probably too late to fix it, too.
Oh, and the whole budget crisis charade? Just histrionics to get everyone panicked and rallied around old Uncle Sugar again. But this time, the world just shrugged and went about its business. All the apocollapse tales and fear porn don't work anymore. Call it 'boy who cried wolf syndrome'. World's got better things to do.