Do you have the nagging sense that our empire is in decline?

If so, don't be embarrassed by it. Historically speaking, we're in very good company. Far larger and longer-lived empires than ours have come and gone over the millennia.

This was hit home for me on a recent trip. I scored a major "dad win" by taking my youngest daughter, Grace, to England for her 18th birthday (we live in Massachusetts, USA).

All on her own, Grace developed an abiding love of mythology at a very young age: Greek, Roman, Norse, Native American, Aztec…you name it. She's read the Iliad four times, a different version each time, as each has the biases of the translator subtly woven throughout.

Naturally, her dream mini-vacation involved going to the British Museum where the Rosetta stone lies, along with Viking horde treasures and every possible Roman, Greek and Egyptian artifact one could hope to see.

The British empire came of age at the perfect time to muscle in and “retrieve" the cultural treasures of many different countries. Such are the spoils of empire.

Who knows, perhaps one day we'll see sliced off segments of the Palace of Westminster on display in Cairo's main square. History ebbs and it flows. Back and forth. Victors and losers swapping places over and over again.

If the British Museum reveals anything it's just that. The long sweep of human history shows us that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

The treasures on display at the British Museum also show us that every race and culture has revered beauty. The most intricate and delicate and objectively beautiful jewelry and adornments were worn by kings and queens, priestesses, nobles, and warlords alike.

Sutton Hoo

Consider the find of the Sutton Hoo burial mound. An eminently important and revered individual (possibly Raedwald) was buried sometime around the year 740, with an enormous ship 89 feet in length serving as his burial chamber.

Just imagine how many people it took to dig a hole in the ground that held the ship to its gunnels, and then bring forward enough earth to cover the whole affair in a gigantic mound of earth more than ten feet high in the middle. As a gardener, I can tell you that dirt is heavy stuff that really resists being moved by hand. Hundreds of people must have labored for a very long time to create this burial mound.

Whoever this person was, he was revered enough to be buried with an astonishing collection of wealth. And, perhaps more amazingly, none of it was looted.

Here's the sword belt, made of an intricate lattice of pure gold and polished garnet:

Isn't that a beautiful work of art?

Again, nobody came back and looted this afterwards. Maybe they killed the workers who built the gravesite, but surely folks still knew a very rich ruler had been buried in the area. And yet nobody looted the site. To me, it's hard not see that as a sign of how much the man buried there was respected by his kinsmen.

Here's a close up of the dragons head from that sword belt:

If you've ever worked with garnet, you know just how devilishly hard it is (a 7.5 on a scale of 10) and how much work it must have taken to polish up even one of those tiny panels, let alone all of them, and into such careful shapes.

Similarly, these shoulder clasps meant to secure an article of clothing (like a cape or cloak) are also magnificent:

Again, the detail and workmanship are impressive. But what struck me most was how these works of art are so … beautiful. And from a time of early medieval history referred to 'the dark ages' and popularly described as a period of bleak survival.

If they were, somebody still had the resources to churn out works of extraordinary precision and beauty. That much is clear.

The rest of the artifacts are similarly extraordinary -- especially the helmet, shields, and coinage. Just take a look at this purse lid:

Taken together, I see a culture where reverence mattered. Sutton Hoo's buried leader was revered enough that his tomb was not looted afterwards, promptly or otherwise. The items buried display a reverence for his authority as well as for beauty.

These burial artifacts were by no means trivial items. Each one could have supported a family for many generations at a time when resources were scarce, only obtainable through the hard labor of many.

And yet they were left untouched. Who among today's leaders would be honored enough as a leader that their tomb would not be looted for massive personal gain? Where can you see that our culture reveres beauty to the same degree, being willing to place so much collective effort into its creation?

The Taranto Scepter

Everywhere else in the British Museum were similar displays of honoring the feminine -- the women and the goddesses of the world. Many of the Egyptian displays caught my eye, as did the Greek, but one piece stood out so much that I came back to it three times, so amazed was I by the beauty of it and the message I took from it.

It came from “The Tomb of the Taranto Priestess" and dated from 350 – 340 BC. Since kings did not rule Taranto during that period, it is believed to have been the property of a priestess.

First, her scepter is truly extraordinary:

The entire scepter is perhaps 18 inches in length and capped in extraordinary gold adornment. But what really caught my eye is the gold mesh you see running down the shaft (lost to history, thought to have been bone?). It consists of extremely fine gold wire wrapped in even finer gold wire, and is woven into a meshwork of little diamond shapes with tiny circles at their corners. Each of these circles contained a tiny gem or enameled treasure of some sort (most, again, lost to history).

Here's a close up:

The gold wire used is finer than hair. This scepter speaks of power and delicacy in equal balance, one reinforcing the other. Only the lightest of touch could hold the scepter without breaking strands of gold that fine. That made me think of the woman who wielded it with such a delicate touch.

Again, this person was revered to such an extent that an object of such immense value and beauty was entombed with her, and not robbed at a later time by someone who knew what the tomb contained.

Power, honor, reverence, and beauty. All attributes that show up again and again all throughout history.

The entire British Museum is packed to the rafters with such expressions. I came away both elated to have gotten back in touch with these better expressions of humanity, but also saddened because I can't locate their equivalent in today's world.

One missing element from today? Reverence for the goddess, for the feminine. I cannot think of a single western homage paid to the feminine. No temples to the goddesses and no elevation of feminine attributes.

This is important to note, not because we wish to bash the masculine, but because anything out of balance requires rebalancing. In fact, re-elevating the feminine will actually bring honor and meaning back to the masculine.

Our world is caught up entirely in money, and power, and wars, and force. We revere power over rather than power within.

So the questions I'd like to leave you with are these.

  • Where do you have beauty in your life? Do you consciously manifest it?
  • What do you revere?
  • How honorable are you?
  • Do you instill a sense of loyalty in those around you? Who would rob your grave and how quickly after you passed?
  • Who do you honor, and how? Also, why?
  • How important is it for you to be surrounded by people you can trust, and whose opinions you trust?
  • Where and how do you respect, honor and encourage the feminine in yourself (whether you are male or female), in others, and especially in nature?

Finally, are you ready for the massive changes that are coming?

Our Empire Of Debt

The British museum is a testament to the fact that empires have been rising and falling for thousands of years. The common elements of every empire include its own appreciation for works of extreme beauty and human craftsmanship, along with strict hierarchy. They all expressed a strong connection to the divine, however they felt it, each with their own mythologies and attendant religions to make sense of it all…and help cement the rulers place(s) at the top, of course.

Each empire had a mythology by which it self-organized and people bought into that belief system. Looking back they seem like such obvious mental traps it's easy to scoff and wonder how people could have been so blinkered.

Here's the thing about hierarchical societies in every era…in every single one there were always a very few haves and a whole lot of have nots. How were the masses kept in line? Why did the vast bulk of humanity in every empire live in relative poverty and misery, never lifting a finger in revolt except under very rare circumstances?

The connection to yourself is this; each society has a set of reasons in place that explain to the people on the lower levels why they belong there. In some prior cultures the explanation was that authority was invested the royal blood line. You either had it or you didn't.

In other societies, the rulers were said to be closer to the gods, if not descended directly from them. To go against the rulers meant you were assaulting or dishonoring the very gods you prayed to and on which you utterly depended.

While the mythologies in place “explaining" the hierarchy differed, the results did not. They always resulted in a few at the top and an expanding pyramid of population and entitlement laid out below them.

The middle management in this story, those that had relative advantage were the necessary keepers of the systems in each culture and each system. They had more to lose than to gain through revolt and so they stayed true to the system through their entire lives.

The people on the very bottom, despite having a vast numerical advantage, had the limiting belief that they had no power. So revolts almost never happened. Systems of hierarchy persisted until the empire had run its course, almost always failing because it ran out of resources to maintain itself and its growing complexity.

The lessons of history are absolute; nothing lasts. Everything changes, especially who's in charge.

So what are our explanations today that keep us all in line? What keeps us from revolt? To what do we bow our daily collective heads in fealty to?

The answer is Money.

What we call “money" today was a wicked genius invention that popped up right around the same moment in history when humans were working out other keen, life-altering inventions such as clocks, and printing presses.

“None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free."
~ Goethe

A person in debt is a person controlled. But they think it was their own decision. Hence the Goethe quote above. A nation in debt is a nation controlled. The debt trap is especially insidious, and it relies on the illusion of free will combined with the full weight of 'the law.'

By attaching a stated rate of interest to a loan, a person's future output was yours if you were the holder of that note. What a stroke of pure (evil) genius! Set the rate high enough and the term long enough and you can get all of your money paid back plus another 100% of that amount or more, every bit of which was actually the future productive output (i.e. time) of the borrower.

Conjure up a promissory note out of thin air and then you get to skim the true productive output of that person, regardless of outcome. Whether they succeeded or failed in the endeavor, you still won. If they paid you back, the win was obvious. If they failed you often had collateral on the back end protecting your “investment." No matter what, you won.

And even if that wasn't the case? Well, you lost the amount of effort on your end that it took to draft up the note. In other words, nothing really.

I've yet to find this laid out in any museum even though the introduction of debt-based money was arguably the most course-altering invention of the past thousand years. It transformed millions of human slaves kept in check by threat of power and physical coercion (if not death) into billions of humans perfectly willing to hand over their labor to a very few elites at the top who did little to no work themselves.

Before this transformative invention money was always a very concrete thing – you either had a stash of silver or gold or you didn't. Afterwards money became abstract. You could loan someone something you never had, written on a slip of paper, and the belief invested in that idea was sufficient to enslave that person until that debt was repaid. “Your" money might never be seen or handled by you at all, which is true for most people today. It exists as digits on a statement or computer screen. Yours, but utterly intangible. A powerful force, never actually seen or handled. In other words, a shared idea. A mythology imbued with tremendous power by a culture that served to enforce the current system of hierarchy.

There is a vast empire now spanning the globe but the mystery of it all is that it's not based on or in any one country. It is an empire of debt. Those issuing the debt are harvesting the output of entire nations, no different in final effect than the Romans enforcing the practice of tithing from extant countries in AD 100.

We now live in a world of, by and for bankers, and other financial elites. Where once it was your royal lineage, or direct connection to the sun god Ra that assured your place at the top, today it's your proximity to the temples of money.

But what happens when the economic pie is no longer expanding, yet the keepers of the system seem unable to turn off their own desires to grab more, more and yet more from that same pie?

That is where we find ourselves today. The economic oxygen is being sucked from the middle and lower classes and the social and political pressures are building.

Meanwhile more and more claims (currency and debts) are being piled on top of this stagnant economic pie thereby increasing the pressure on a creaking system. Someday that all gives way rather spectacularly and ends very badly. History says it ends with a lot of social anarchy and quite possibly another world war.

In Part 2: What History Tells Us Will Come Next, we provide a detailed analysis of how late-stage empires always collapse as the elites exhaust the resources of the masses. We are seeing clear signs of that today.

As we progress from here, the disparity between the haves and have-nots is only going to intensify, with debt (and our debt-based money system) being used as the primary weapon for controlling an increasingly dispossessed public.

Are you prepared?

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

On Wednesday's TV show, Glenn Beck sat down with radio show host, author, political commentator, and film critic, Michael Medved.

Michael had an interesting prediction for the 2020 election outcome: a brokered convention by the DNC will usher in former First Lady Michelle Obama to run against President Donald Trump.

Watch the video below to hear why he's making this surprising forecast:

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To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

On Thursday's "Glenn Beck Radio Program," BlazeTV's White House correspondent Jon Miller described the current situation in Virginia after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a state of emergency and banned people carrying guns at Capitol Square just days before a pro-Second-Amendment rally scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jon told Glenn that Gov. Northam and the Virginia Legislature are "trying to deprive the people of their Second Amendment rights" but the citizens of Virginia are "rising up" to defend their constitutional rights.

"I do think this is the flashpoint," Jon said. "They [Virginia lawmakers] are saying, 'You cannot exercise your rights ... and instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, we are putting pressure. We're trying to escalate it and we're trying to enrage the citizenry even more'."

Glenn noted how Gov. Northam initially blamed the threat of violence from Antifa for his decision to ban weapons but quickly changed his narrative to blame "white supremacists" to vilify the people who are standing up for the Second Amendment and the Constitution.

"What he's doing is, he's making all all the law-abiding citizens of Virginia into white supremacists," Glenn said.

"Sadly, that's exactly right," Jon replied. "And I think he knows exactly what he's doing."

Watch the video to catch more of the conversation below:

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Ryan: Trump Louisiana Finale

Photo by Jim Dale

Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

At the end of Trump rallies, I would throw on my Carhartt jacket, sneak out of the press area, then blend in with everyone as they left, filing out through swinging doors.

Often, someone held the door open for me. Just 30 minutes earlier, the same person had most likely had most likely hissed at me for being a journalist. And now they were Sunday smiles and "Oh, yes, thank you, sir" like some redneck concierge.

People flooded out of the arena with the stupidity of a fire drill mishap, desperate to survive.

The air smacked you as soon as you crossed the threshold, back into Louisiana. And the lawn was a wasteland of camping chairs and coolers and shopping bags and to-go containers and soda cans and articles of clothing and even a few tents.

In Monroe, in the dark, the Trump supporters bobbled over mounds of waste like elephants trying to tiptoe. And the trash was as neutral to them as concrete or grass. They plodded over it because it, an object, had somehow gotten in their way.

It did not matter that they were responsible for this wreckage.Out in the sharp-edged moonlight, rally-goers hooted and yapped and boogied and danced, and the bbq food truck was all smoke and paper plates.

They were even more pumped than they had been before the rally, like 6,000 eight year olds who'd been chugging Mountain Dew for hours. Which made Donald Trump the father, the trooper, God of the Underworld, Mr. Elite, Sheriff on high horse, the AR-15 sticker of the family.

Ritualistic mayhem, all at once. And, there in Louisiana, Trump's supporters had gotten a taste of it. They were all so happy. It bordered on rage.

Still, I could not imagine their view of America. Worse, after a day of strange hostilities, I did not care.

My highest priority, my job as a reporter, was to care. To understand them and the world that they inhabit. But I did not give a damn and I never wanted to come back.

Worst of all, I would be back. In less than a week.

Was this how dogs felt on the 4th of July? Hunched in a corner while everyone else gets drunk and launches wailing light into the sky? configurations of blue and red and white.

It was 10:00 p.m. and we'd been traveling since 11:00 a.m., and we still had 5 hours to go and all I wanted was a home, my home, any home, just not here, in the cold sweat of this nowhere. Grey-mangled sky. No evidence of planes or satellites or any proof of modern-day. Just century-old bridges that trains shuffled over one clack at a time.

And casinos, all spangles and neon like the 1960s in Las Vegas. Kitchy and dumb, too tacky for lighthearted gambling. And only in the nicer cities, like Shreveport, which is not nice at all.

And swamp. Black water that rarely shimmered. Inhabited by gadflies and leeches and not one single fish that was pretty.

Full of alligators, and other killing types. The storks gnawing on frogs, the vultures never hungry. The coyotes with nobody to stop them and so much land to themselves. The roaches in the wild, like tiny wildebeests.

Then, the occasional deer carcass on the side of the road, eyes splayed as if distracted, tongue out, relaxed but empty. The diseased willows like skeletons in hairnets. The owls that never quit staring. A million facets of wilderness that would outlive us all.

Because Nature has poise. It thrives and is original.

Because silence is impossible. Even in an anechoic chamber, perfectly soundproofed, you can hear your own heartbeat, steady as a drum. A never-ending war.

I put "Headache" by Grouper on repeat as we glided west. We were deadlocked to asphalt, rubber over tarface.

And I thought about lines from a Rita Dove poem titled "I have been a stranger in a strange land"

He was off cataloging the universe, probably,
pretending he could organize
what was clearly someone else's chaos.

Wasn't that exactly what I was doing? Looking for an impossible answer, examining every single accident, eager for meaning? telling myself, "If it happens and matters the next year, in America, I want to be there, or to know what it means. I owe it to whoever cares to listen."

Humans are collectors and I had gone overboard.

Because maybe this wasn't even my home. These landmarks, what did they mean? Was I obvious here? When I smiled, did I trick them into believing that I felt some vague sense of approval? Or did my expressions betray me?

Out in all that garbage-streaked emptiness — despite the occasional burst of passing halogen — I couldn't tell if everything we encountered was haunted or just old, derelict, broken, useless. One never-ending landfill.

Around those parts, they'd made everything into junk. Homes. Roads. Glass. Nature. Life itself, they made into junk.

I cringed as we passed yet another deer carcass mounded on the side of the road.

As written in Job 35:11,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?

Nobody. Look at nature and you feel something powerful. Look at an animal, in all of its untamable majesty, and you capture a deep love, all swept up in the power of creation. But, here, all I saw were poor creatures who people had slammed into and kept driving. Driving to where? For what reason? What exactly was so important that they left a trail of dead animals behind them?

So I crossed myself dolorously and said an "Our Father" and recited a stanza from Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

Out here, nothing but darkness. Needing some light, by God. Give me something better than a Moon that hides like an underfed coward.

Jade told me about some of the more traumatic things she'd seen while working at the State Fair.

"Bro, they pull roaches out of the iced lemonade jugs and act like nothing happened."

"All right but what about the corn dogs?"

"You do not want to know, little bro."

She looked around in the quiet. "Back in the day, the Louisiana Congress refused to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21," she said. "They didn't want to lose all that drunk gambler money. So the federal government cut off funding to highways."

We glided through moon-pale landscape for an hour before I realized what she had meant. That there weren't any light poles or billboards along the road. Nothing to guide us or distract us. Just us, alone. And it felt like outer space had collapsed, swallowed us like jellybeans.

Like two teenagers playing a prank on the universe.

In the cozy Subaru Crosstrek, in the old wild night, brimming with the uncertainty of life and the nonchalance of failure, we paraded ourselves back to Dallas. Alive in the river silence that follows us everywhere.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Next, the Iowa caucuses. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

The Iowa primary is just around the corner, and concerns of election interference from the last presidential election still loom. Back in 2016, The Associated Press found that a majority of U.S. elections systems still use Windows 7 as an operating system, making them highly susceptible to bugs and errors. And last year, a Mississippi voter tried multiple times to vote for the candidate of his choice, but the system continuously switched his vote to the other candidate. It's pretty clear: America's voting systems desperately need an update.

That's where blockchain voting comes in.

Blockchain voting is a record-keeping system that's 100% verifiable and nearly impossible to hack. Blockchain, the newest innovation in cybersecurity, is set to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2025. Its genius is in its decentralized nature, distributing information throughout a network of computers, requiring would-be hackers to infiltrate a much larger system. Infiltrating multiple access points spread across many computers requires a significant amount of computing power, which often costs more than hackers expect to get in return.

Blockchain voting wouldn't allow for many weak spots. For instance, Voatz, arguably the leading mobile voting platform, requires a person to take a picture of their government-issued ID and a picture of themselves before voting (a feature, of course, not present in vote-by-mail, where the only form of identity verification is a handwritten signature, which is easily forgeable). Voters select their choices and hit submit. They then receive an immediate receipt of their choices via email, another security feature not present in vote-by-mail, or even in-person voting. And because the system operates on blockchain technology, it's nearly impossible to tamper with.

Votes are then tabulated, and the election results are published, providing a paper trail, which is a top priority for elections security experts.

The benefits of blockchain voting can't be dismissed. Folks can cast their vote from the comfort of their homes, offices, etc., vastly increasing the number of people who can participate in the electoral process. Two to three-hour lines at polling places, which often deter voters, would become significantly diminished.

Even outside of the voting increase, the upsides are manifold. Thanks to the photo identification requirements, voter fraud—whether real or merely suspected—would be eliminated. The environment would win, too, since we'd no longer be wasting paper on mail-in ballots. Moreover, the financial burden on election offices would be alleviated, because there's decreased staff time spent on the election, saving the taxpayer money.

From Oregon to West Virginia, elections offices have already implemented blockchain voting, and the results have been highly positive. For example, the city of Denver utilized mobile voting for overseas voters in their 2019 municipal elections. The system was secure and free of technical errors, and participants reported that it was very user-friendly. Utah County used the same system for their 2019 primary and general elections. An independent audit revealed that every vote that was cast on the app was counted and counted correctly. These successful test cases are laying the groundwork for even larger expansions of the program in 2020.

With this vital switch, our elections become significantly more secure, accurate, and efficient. But right now, our election infrastructure is a sitting duck for manipulation. Our current lack of election integrity undermines the results of both local and national elections, fans the flames of partisanship, and zaps voter confidence in the democratic system. While there's never a silver bullet or quick fix to those kinds of things, blockchain voting would push us much closer to a solution than anything else.

Chris Harelson is the Executive Director at Prosperity Council and a Young Voices contributor.