For centuries England ruled the waves, and for a time held the greatest empire the world had ever seen, an empire where the sun never set. But they had the foresight and courage to recognize and accept America's ascension foreseen by Kipling and made official by the Great War. But America's supremacy is coming to a close, whether due to the faster pace of the times or our own cultural failings or, more likely, both. We are fast coming to the last stanza of Kipling's poem:
Take up the White Man's burden!
Have done with childish days--
The lightly-proffered laurel,
The easy ungrudged praise:
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!
Our peers? The great empires of the past: China, Rome, and above all, England. Their empires lasted far longer than our own, but I would submit that the reason their empires were much longer-lived is due to modern technology and the faster pace of change in the world of today.
Will we have the great good graces that England had when she passed that torch of supremacy to us? Will we have a poet with the foresight of Kipling who will help us understand the irresistible march of history? Poetry is the truest of arts, and perhaps the sunset of America's supremacy will be heralded by another form of art, whether in song or in film; but the artist must have the soul of a poet, and I say the time of this sunset poet is now at hand.
I suspect we can all agree that the next nation to take on the mantle of world leadership will be China. If China does take the torch of supremacy from America, then that is a new thing, for it has been the pattern over the centuries that once a people has known the greatness of empire, when they have stood at the pinnacle of power for generations and ruled not only by might but also by cultural and educational influence, once they descend from that summit, they never again ascend it. It looks as if China may be the first to break that pattern. But how many centuries did it take before they as a nation were ready to do so? That is indeed a macrosociological question that begs to be addressed, for the answer just might give a glimmer of hope that America may one day rise again.