A Bit Of History
U.S.: "Empire of Liberty," Built Upon Three Holocausts
In the 1780s, Thomas Jefferson bragged of a new "empire of liberty," i.e., a nation created essentially for the benefit of White male property and slave owners/speculators, who were to thrive in freedom, prosperity, and tranquility through expansion. Even before formal creation of the Republic, acquisition of Florida, Cuba, the West Indies, Mexico, the western frontier, and Canada were discussed so frequently there was an assumption that Providence intended it. George Washington talked in 1783 of "a rising empire." James Madison believed in "imperial republicanism" as he led the 1787 Constitutional convention behind locked doors to create a new and far more powerful national government. Note that a people’s democracy was not intended by our "Founding Fathers" [See Tucker, Robert W. and David C. Hendrickson. (1990). Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson. Oxford: Oxford University Press; William Appleman Williams. (1980). Empire As A Way Of Life. Oxford, especially chapters 2-4, and pp. 31, 43, 51, 59].
The ugliest truth is that our civilization is built on three unspeakable holocausts, each justified by a White racist ideology, causing the murder of millions, each committed with impunity: (1) acquiring free land at gunpoint while systematically brutalizing hundreds of Indigenous cultures; (2) acquiring free labor by force from ancient Indigenous cultures in Africa by violent removal of those who survived capture; and (3) acquiring cheap resources, labor and markets through thousands of overt and covert interventions at gunpoint into more than 100 countries.
Four Blips in Modern Human History
In addition to our three unspoken holocausts mentioned above, we have been deeply influenced by at least four major blips in history. First, the 5,500-year (nearly 300-generation) period of acceptance and deference to large vertical authority structures (whether monarchial, military, or elected) has led to a chronic pattern of mindless obedience (De La Boetie). Second, 500 years of Eurocentric colonialism materially benefited 20 percent of the world’s population as it impoverished and plundered the non-Eurocentric 80 percent. Third, in a much briefer blip, we have become conditioned to the conveniences of the industrial revolution/oil age (soon to be over). And fourth, an even briefer blip of the post-WW II middle class (now virtually depleted).
Consequently, those of us living today among the rich 20 percent, even if personally not so rich, have profited from the wonders of "Western civilization." We have been conditioned to live by its materialist values. But we have become addicted to a grotesque way of life, spending nearly $50 billion a year alone on cosmetics and toiletries (and nearly $80 billion each on tobacco and soft drinks, $15 billion on pet food). [SEE euromonitor.com/factfile].
It is instructive to examine the psychic dynamics of the U.S. "More is not enough!" [See psychiatrist Peter C. Whybrow's, America Mania (2005), in which he discovers that the biochemical processes in the brain related to highs induced from shopping are similar with that of alcohol and drug use]. Our addictions suggest that substantial human archetypal needs are unmet in materialist, class-oriented societies. Psychologist Carl Jung concluded that Western materialist cultures lose connection with deeper meanings of life. Social epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson recently documented that individuals and whole societies have become severely stressed from social and economic inequality [The Impact of Inequality (2005)]. Class positioning, he concludes, is the most common cause of sickness and social malaise, and that inequality seriously obstructs sustainable economic activity and social health.
The majority of European Americans grew up in the brief post-WWII middle class. All of us grew up in the 200-year blip of the oil age and the industrial revolution that facilitated the speed, complex technologies, and population explosions that accompany the religion of consumption. For the most part, if we were living in the middle or upper class, life seemed like a good deal. But it is becoming increasingly obvious that it has all been a delusion.
Our "wonderful way of life" has always been dependent upon a massive system of both domestic and global exploitation beyond comprehension. This has been facilitated ad nauseum by our political/economic/military "democratic" system directed by one oligarchic party with two right wings, one of soft imperialism, the other hard. Believing ourselves to be exceptional, it has been nearly impossible to understand the consequences of our lifestyle on billions of other people and the Earth herself.
Individual and Collective Complicity
Nonetheless, most of us routinely legitimize the entire scam by voting for one of the usually White male oligarchs/plutarchs while dutifully paying the taxes demanded by their laws (which we foolishly call our laws). To add insult to injury, we allow ourselves or our sons and daughters, often with enthusiastic patriotism, to become loyal military troopers implementing the forceful global policies that allow us, who comprise but 4.6 percent of the world’s population, to continue consuming anywhere from 25 percent to nearly half the Earth’s resources.
The social myth lingers that we live in a democratic society committed to "justice for all." However, this mythology has pre-empted our capacity to SEE the ugly social secret that our system is in fact an oligarchy committed to exploitation of the many for the benefit of a few.
In these early years of the third millennium, we are finally experiencing the convergence of several ominous political, economic and ecological realities serving as epochal wake-up calls
I myself did not have a clue to this tangle of lies, illusions, and delusions until I found myself in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta villages shortly after air strikes where I witnessed the napalmed and burned bodies of as many as 900 unarmed fishing villagers and their children over the course of just one week. This bombing was committed with malice aforethought, intended to systematically eliminate (murder by genocide) all Vietnamese who did not openly support the South Vietnamese Government, a corrupt bunch in turn created by our own corrupt, Mafioso-like government.
Subsequently, I delved into details of "American" history. What we did in Southeast Asia from 1950-1975 turns out to be no aberration, just as Iraq and Afghanistan are not aberrations. From the moment our ancestors became "settlers" on this continent, the die was cast. Our savagery has known no limits. Whatever is perceived as being in our way is removed as w
e seek expansion, profits, and convenience via free land, cheap resources, slave labor, hegemonic power, and hateful vengeance.
Assimilation or elimination
Invariably we describe people who would obstruct our imperial goals with derogatory names like "savages", "gooks", "communists", "evil people", "terrorists", etc. Read the history of how one’s hometown came to be settled. For example, the quaint little university town of Arcata, California, once known as Union(town), where in 1860 "little children and old women were mercilessly stabbed and their skulls crushed by axes," their bodies being stacked in town. Or Geneva, New York where in 1779, George Washington’s orders were ruthlessly carried out to complete "its total destruction and devastation." Consider today’s settlers in Israel/Palestine. Note how easily they justify inflicting barbaric behavior on others (projections outward) by describing their inferiority while believing in themselves as superior (disowned shadows). The spectacularly frightening nature of the 9/11 crimes is familiar to a majority of the world’s people. From 1965 to 1973, for example, a period of nearly 3,300 days, the United States waged an unspeakable war of atrocity, a de facto policy of genocide, against the peoples of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, such that more than 1,500 human beings were murdered every day! Read about the thousands of skirmishes the White militia and/or the U.S. Army engaged in against the Indigenous of this country over several hundred years. Over 10 million Indigenous in North America alone succumbed to removal, imprisonment, or death due to strange diseases, bullets and axes. Our ancestors often recorded vivid accounts that included gory details such as bashing the brains of "merciless Indian savages" (a phrase from the U.S. Declaration of Independence).
From the 1790s to the early 2000s, the U.S. military overtly intervened more than 500 times in over 100 nations to pursue its hegemonic designs (and thousands of covert interventions). One military study revealed that between 1869 and 1897, the U.S. Navy made 5,980 port calls to further U.S. commercial and political advantages. Virtually all U.S. wars and interventions have been masked under elaborate rhetorical pretexts, such that we learned an extraordinarily censored version of history. The U.S. military and various police agencies have also intervened hundreds of thousands of times domestically.
The pattern has been consistent: either people will assimilate into the White culture, or be eliminated by it. White supremacy is the cult and we have all been subjected to it
Living with painful shame I believe has driven us to do nearly anything to avoid facing the disowned part of our collective and individual psyche. Disowned shadows possess explosive emotional energy, often manifesting in pathological distractions like avoidance, denial, invasions, addictions, etc., which push us to further regress, as if reverting from adolescence to early childhood.
Facing the fraud of our mythological "exceptionalism" terrifies us. We project onto others the very "terrorism" that has built our civilization. Ironically, we have to project our own shadow, "terrorism," onto others, such that we actually come to believe those "evil" others are terrorizing us at every moment. I believe that the political leaders we "choose" or accept, ironically represent our own unmet needs for security. Disowned shadows possess intense subconscious power over us, such that we tend to look to authority figures to rescue us. The capitalist predators and their oligarchic political protectors thrive on inducing fear to maintain an obedient, consuming populace.
Our most imperative healing need is to reckon with our imperial history, our lifestyle addictions, and the consequences of both, and prepare for a leap in consciousness that will take us on a path of responsibility for the consequences of our choices. Focusing on the whos and hows of 9/11, and the evils of Bush, easily can become obsessions. However, I believe they serve as huge distractions from facing our collective shadow, the denial of which overwhelms us with its emotional charge. Our government’s deranged and extraordinarily dangerous response to 9/11 can be explained partially because the spectacular 9/11 act, like the shocking, humiliating slaughter of Col. George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry at Little Bighorn one hundred twenty-five years earlier, pierced our self-delusion of omnipotence, requiring us to resort to historic acts of vengeance (distraction) to preserve the delusion. Note that after Custer’s fiasco, the nation was obsessed with completing the genocide of the Indigenous people (eliminating the "Indian problem"), which it accomplished with brute force in 15 years. The emotional energy of disowned shadows is enormous, and extremely lethal when not owned up to.
As a people we are totally capable of busting out of our fear and insecurity and seeking solace in our community as we refuse to comply with the demands of the market. That means we stop shopping other than from local economies, reduce driving and flying to radically minimal levels, and instead, begin cycling, rebuilding local neighborhoods, striving for regional (100-mile?) food diets and zero net energy housing. It means understanding that the mechanical process of voting is the least significant act of participation in a vibrant decentralized democracy. It means recognizing that our system is broken, broken beyond repair. Our way of conducting political business and choosing "leaders" has failed. Political survival goes to the richest. This stalemate offers us humble human beings an incredible opportunity for a renewal from below. Now we have permission to consciously consider not voting in national political selection shams, and more certainly means not paying money (taxes) to our multi-headed Hydra "democracy" that insists on doing whatever it wants despite the expressed sentiments of the people. Thus, creative downsizing and simplifying (contraction) is indispensable to our liberation.
Healing: Contraction, not Distraction
I dream that those responsible for the 9/11 crimes will someday be held to account, and that Bush and company (and all the elected politicians who support a war OF terror, preventive wars, warrantless wiretapping, elimination of Habeas Corpus, torture, etc.) will face Nuremberg trials. Impeachment is an insufficient response, and assumes that the political system itself is authentically accountable. But the distractions, even obsessions, about 9/11 and ridding ourselves of Bush conveniently allow us to avoid addressing directly our disowned, dark cultural shadow: historical complicity with empire through obedience, silence, and consumerism. Our one-party centralized system, disguised as a "Constitutional democracy," thrives on continued plunder which is legitimized by and with our votes and tax dollars!
Facing our addicton to AWOL is a precondition to healing. Taking responsibility suggests radically altering our lifestyles toward right livelihood and sustainability. This requires dramatic contraction. "Slow, simple, small, quiet, and local" (the motto of the 2006 Veterans (Human-Powered) Ride For Peace and Sustainability from Eugene, Oregon to the national Veterans For Peace convention in Seattle, Washington) offers a bold antidote to the impending austerity, likely die-offs, and almost inevitable collapse of every system we are dependent upon. Breaking addictions to mindless consumption and rapid travel are revolutionary ac
ts. Aligning our actual day-to-day choices with our values and rhetoric enables survival with dignity. Once we know deeply within ourselves that every choice has a consequence (the Iroquois Seventh Generation discernment principle), our choices will change dramatically, a leap in consciousness begging to happen.
Our body-minds already know at very deep levels that everything is interconnected in a sacred weave, everywhere at every moment. We just need to access that wisdom. Quantum physics confirms Martin Luther King Jr.’s wisdom, "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Right here, right now, where I am standing