An open space for global conversation
King Leopold of Belgium enslaved the entire African Congo for his personal profits. It was called the Belgian Congo, but was actually the personal property of Leopold, not of Belgium. He never set foot there, he just sent agents, mercenaries, and troops, paying them to send back ivory and rubber, but he didn't give them any money to pay the Africans for hunting ivory and gathering rubber, he just supplied weapons with which to kill Africans who refused to work. At a conservative estimate, half the population of the Congo was killed. Many more were mutilated, as Leopold's mercenaries and agents were particularly fond of cutting off the hands of people who didn't fulfill their quotas, and payments for murders of Africans had to be accompanied by the hands as proof of kills.
The US (this didn't begin under Obama, but is continuing under Obama as we speak) also uses mercenaries and local proxies (the US government calls them warlords) to obtain cobalt, copper, coltan, industrial diamonds, rubber, gum arabic, and many other natural resources from the Congo, and a favorite method used by Obama's proxies (Africans friendly to the US but not to their own people--Africans the US put in power as African leaders after assassinating the elected leaders of those countries), to force people off their lands and make them work in the mines or on plantations as slave labor, is to rape and sodomize women, men, young children, and the elderly with tree branches and rifles--a method not even Leopold's most sadistic agents utilized to obtain resources.
The Belgian people thought, if they thought about it at all, that Leopold was a humanitarian who was helping to civilize the African savages. People in the US, if they think about today's Democratic Republic of Congo, think the genocide of more than six million Congolese is being perpetrated by local warlords, and never suspect that the US put those warlords in power, armed them, trained them, and then rewarded them for giving concessions to US corporations and killing and enslaving the Congolese so that the corporations can have easy access to the metals necessary for computers, cell phones, iPods, etc.
The death toll is comparable, the atrocities are worse, and the cover story is just as plausible to those who really don't care to investigate. Anyone who is interested can do a google search for "keith harmon snow," a former genocide investigator in Africa for the United Nations and an activist for the Congolese.
But that is only one instance of what the US is doing to "globalize" (read: recolonize) the world.
The US government is fully owned by the big multinational private corporations that fund it, and no matter who is in office, the US government will continue to do the bidding of the wealthy global elites intent on continuing to murder millions of innocents and polluting the entire planet for profit. The profits involved are so enormous that they are almost impossible to imagine, but those profits all go to the wealthy elites and their puppets, with ordinary people in Africa never seeing any benefit and ordinary people in the US being taxed to pay for the troops and mercenaries that are committing these genocides on behalf of private corporations.
Yes, we do need a new system. This one isn't just broken, it is killing humanity and destroying the planet.
But many people in the US are afraid of change or afraid of different political parties or candidates because they believe that other systems were worse, so let's compare our system to others:
The old Soviet Union, fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany are good systems for comparison, as most US citizens find them abhorrent. Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler were all elected, just like US presidents, and their elections were rigged, just as ours are. They all started or took part in wars of aggression just as the US does under every administration. They all denied basic human rights just as Obama does with his drone bombs and his assassination hit list, as Bush did with torture and rendition, and as previous US Presidents did by installing brutal dictators favorable to the US who tortured and murdered their own people with US training and support. They all spent more money on guns than on butter, just as this government does. They all governed for the benefit of private profits just as the US government does. They all made extensive use of prison or slave labor just as Obama does and previous US Presidents have done. None of them allowed public opinion to influence their policy decisions and neither does the US government.
Where the US differed was in providing a higher standard of living and more material goods to some (not generally to Native Americans, people of color, or the poor), however those days are gone forever. In order to comply with the demands of the corporations that fund, own, and control it, the US government has had to outsource US jobs, deregulate and then bail out banks, destroy unions and the middle class, slash social programs, and is continuing to turn the US into a banana republic as it has done to so many other countries. Remember, the multinational corporations are multinational. They used the US as long as it was useful, and will squeeze every last drop of blood out of it they can, as they always do, but they don't particularly need the US because they're multinational.
We need a new system. Some hope is with the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South African, who have united to try to stop the US from destroying them. Other hopes lie with countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, which, to a greater or larger extent, managed to get out from under the iron heel of the US. But here in the US itself, I see very little hope. Arundhati Roy told Occupy Wall Street in New York City of being happy to see people in the US rising up to join the global struggle, but here in San Diego I see Occupiers waving the imperialist US flag, registering voters, and believing that the government which they think used to respect their rights, might do so again. The US government only appeared to respect their rights when they were useful, and they are no longer useful. They are supporting the most fascist country on the face of the earth now, and it will never respect their rights or anyone else's. It has never cared for anything except profits and power and never will. And many citizens of the empire have never cared for anything except consumer goods and never will.
I was chatting on Twitter with a woman in South Africa last night, who was surprised to learn that the US has exempted itself from all international laws and treaties including the World Court, the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Principles, and the Magna Carta, and who told me not to be depressed but to keep educating and informing people. I replied that I'm not depressed and that of course I'll continue to do whatever I can, but I pointed out that, as anyone who has ever tried it knows, raising the social consciousness of cabbages isn't the easiest task in the world.
In San Diego it was the Democrats who co-opted the Occupy Movement. First they started by registering voters, apparently something non-partisan. Then they moved on to getting Occupy San Diego to make demands on local and federal government. They understand that those in power will not accede to their demands, so their next step will be to encourage Occupiers to vote, in hopes of electing people who might. Of course those people will have to function within the current system, so they won't be allowed to accede any demands either. But liberals and progressives who fear Ron Paul, the Tea Party, and the Republicans, will vote for Obama out of fear that other candidates might be worse. It is difficult to imagine anything worse than genocidal war crimes, but that's not their concern at all--they are only concerned with their own personal civil rights, rights which have been totally eliminated under Obama and which no US administration will be allowed by the corporations to respect.
It is sad to see people attempting to Occupy capitalism, imperialism, and fascism instead of joining the global struggle for social and economic justice. But few US citizens understand that the global struggle is against US imperialism and colonialism. A couple of people at yesterday's GA attempted to block the constant rightward drift of Occupy San Diego, but they were ignored, the proposals were tabled for reconsideration at another two GAs, to meet the 3-day rule requirement, and their objections will then be swept away with the 90% rule OSD uses so frequently. The Democratic Party operatives respond to all objections by saying that making demands is just a strategy. It is. A strategy to co-opt Occupy San Diego into supporting the status quo instead of trying to change the system. After all, the system is, according to those who support it, basically good and just needs a few more good people elected and a few temporary reforms. It must be a good system, or else why would they have their cell phones and computers and livestreams manufactured with coltan mined in the Congo.
Only now it isn't just the Congolese or citizens of other countries who are being brutalized. The global system of capitalist imperialism that has murdered so many millions of people and polluted so much of the planet is coming home now. The US is no longer a colony of England. The old colonial powers like France, Belgium, Holland, and Portugal are now smaller than the big multinational corporations. The US is now a colony of the big multinational corporations. And these big multinational corporations are more heartless and inhumane than any king or conqueror ever was. And as we have allowed them to do unto others, they will now be doing unto us. What goes around, comes around. Yes, "it's the economy stupid," as Clinton said before pushing through GATT and NAFTA, but it isn't the US economy, it is the global economy. And the name of the system dominating it is US capitalist imperialism. That's the system that manufactures the pepper spray, the tear gas, the helicopters, the drones, the riot gear, the assault weapons, the bioweapons, and the nuclear weapons that enable the corporations to obtain the coltan to produce the videocams and laptops and cell phones Occupiers use to document police brutality. We are purchasing our own oppression so that we can document it. Because we're the only ones left who don't already know about it.
I agree. Neo-colonialism and how you say it, Mark, US Capitalist Imperialism, is NOT working. It is not a sustainable solution or method for the people of this world. Systemically, we need a big change. Maybe there are more people in the US who do understand this, and who are still awakening the heavy giant that it is. Just like maybe people in the US are becoming more aware of the global impacts of the multinational corporate empire they live in. Maybe. I'm not sure. I do know, that when I hear a speaker talking about how the OWS can't organize itself, or that they can't list their demands, then that speaker is attempting to downplay the broader and the more global nature of the movement itself. And most of the mainstream media downplays, even ignores the many and varied serious discussions of how do we change this system entirely. And we know that the mainstream media, well, they are in fact, the globalists attempting to minimize the people's ability to globally localize.
I've had the book Economic Hit Man on my shelf for at least 5 or 6 years now. Some people haven't heard about it. Some people are just now hearing about it. I signed off on any TV service for 3 or 4 years now. Some people turned it off decades ago. Some still have it on. It takes alot of time to get a message out, especially if that message is being blocked by the very instrument that we all "thought" was sending out the message that helped us to carry on our lives. The newspapers and magazines we read were not really interested in "us". We ":thought" they were for a time. And then somehow, something gets through, and for me, I learned. This structure, this system...it's not working for my behalf, and for whoever's behalf it is working for...it's gonna catch up to them, cause it's hurting everything. The water, the land, the air. It's not working.
You have written a very good article explaining the structure we currently live in. It certainly broadens the discussion and makes space for a systemic change. I'd say it identifies the root. It names it. Thanks for sharing your article.
You're right, Marca, this system is in no way sustainable. Sitting at my computer, I know that its manufacture required, at a minimum, children in Africa being forced to rape and kill their own sisters and mothers so that they would become easily controlled child soldiers for the warlord proxies of the US and the big corporations (with no home to go to and filled with guilt and shame, these child soldiers become robots of war) seeking coltan, copper, and other natural resources in the Congo, unsafe factories, sweat shops, and prison labor to process those raw materials and build the chips and wiring of my computer, and huge profits to those who own the big corporations that sell computers. As much as I enjoy using my computer to expose the system, I know that buying it supported the system I'm opposing. I've been using computers since the late '60s, but for much of that time I didn't own or have access to one and I was just as happy as when I did.
Some academics have used the term, "deliberate ignorance," to describe people who simply don't want to know the real costs of their consumer goods. I just watched a video somebody posted here on Occupy Cafe that showed people happily using cell phones, mentioned the Venus Project, a high technology project that would require the deaths of billions of people and greatly increased pollution of the planet so that a privileged few could live in comfort, and yet called for sustainability and peace. But I also read a topic David Loy posted about Buddhist teachings that calls for detachment from material goods and greed, which is, I believe, the only possible path to peace.
Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff and similar videos are great teaching tools. They tell people to look at where things come from, how they are produced, where they go when we're done with them, and who benefits. While I do own a computer at present, I've expended a great deal of energy over the years to avoid owning a car, a TV, a cell phone, an iPod, an e-reader, and similar gadgets, particularly when friends and corporations seem to always be offering to give me one "free." There's nothing free about it. It means selling my soul by sacrificing other human beings and the global environment in return for toys.
Those who support the system here in the US either don't know and/or don't want to know exactly what it is that they're supporting, or they know and they believe that the benefits that they derive are worth the cost. After all, very little of that cost is paid by them--most is paid by other people elsewhere and the consequences are falling to the children of people here, not to the parents. Raising social consciousness in a society dominated by mass media marketeers is heartbreakingly challenging, and it is encouraging to see a response by somebody who "gets it." Thank you, Marca.
I thank you. Thanks, Mark.
I have thought alot today about labeling the problem. And I watched this interview on Booktv with Chris Hedges. I think I'll go ahead and share the link here.
There are multiple parts in this interview where Chris describes what we are discussing in your post. Naming the system as US Capitalist Imperialism or how Chris labels it as Inverted Totalitarianism.
As I sit here with my laptop, I realize that I am part of the current problem, on the consumer side. But mostly, because I do not have a voice in the US government, me being an actual person instead of a corporation, the the real cost of the computer is externalized by the corporation. And I don't agree with that. And my hope is that OWS is wrapping itself around this issue as well. Now, the only way I can get my voice heard is to not buy the computer. But..if I don't buy the computer...I can't discuss this with you or virtually anyone else, because my humanity is being spent on the treadmill to make ends meet and this leaves little time left to actually have a conversation of quality about the unfairness of the corporate state. And round and round it goes. It's futile and not designed for sustainability. Yes, I did see the "Story of Stuff" and whole heartedly agree with it.
So, I am not sure what my point is right now, except that I can see this broader picture of how askew things are. And when I saw this video today with Chris Hedges, I really thought some more about this discussion. So I just thought I would share it with you and to folks here at Occupy Cafe.
That's an excellent interview with Chris Hedges, Marca, and I enjoyed all three hours. Thank you for posting the link. The only egregious mistake he made was in comparing Gaddafi to Ceausescu. Even the most cursory research would have told him that Romanians were starving under Ceausescu, while Libyans enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa before the US invasion, and that the CIA propaganda about Gaddafi killing Libyans was false and totally unfounded. No evidence for those allegations has ever surfaced.
In keeping with this topic, here's a comment I posted to AlterNet yesterday in response to an immigrant rights activist who believes that they must keep fighting within the system:
MLK may have been correct about the arc of the universe, but the US is not the universe, it is an empire. The arc of empires has never bent towards justice. Empires tend to become more and more unjust as they expand, until they eventually overextend themselves and collapse. Justice never enters into it, unless you can call the collapse itself a form of justice, which indeed it is.
After the long drawn out and extremely expensive debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is now attempting to recolonize Africa. No matter which party is in power, AFRICOM will remain in place and continue to expand. As it does so, millions of Africans will be killed so that the US can get the oil, copper, cobalt, coltan, industrial diamonds, rubber, and other natural resources it needs to continue its military expansion. The US has already killed millions of Africans but it flies below the radar of most people because the CIA uses proxies and mercenaries to do the killing instead of using US troops.
Are immigrants to the US willing to pay that price? Many came here fleeing US-instigated wars, US death squads, brutal US-installed dictators, and the destruction of their countries' economies due to US-imposed trade policies. Many US Americans who were born here couldn't care less how many people of color the US government kills so that the big multinational corporations can manufacture more computers, cell phones, portable music players, TVs, cars, tanks, planes, bombs, and whatever else it takes to keep the empire alive. As an anti-genocide activist, I care.
Easy for me to say because I was born here? Well, I spent much of my life living in third and fourth world countries and seeing first hand the suffering that sustains US materialism. The question isn't which oligarchs are in power or how to wring some concessions from them, the question is if people are willing to continue to submit to oligarchy. I know that there are many people among immigrant communities who are opposed to predatory capitalism, imperialism, neocolonialism and genocide. But even if the US lifestyle is worth it, which I don't believe it is, as I've been just as happy living in mud huts without electricity and running water as I am now in senior housing where I do have such luxuries, it is not sustainable. It cannot continue because it is destroying the planet.
Of course I support immigrant rights, just as I support all human rights. But with the NDAA, not even those born here are safe from being disappeared and/or assassinated without due process. What the US government has done in other countries, it is now doing here. Is it worth fighting for the right not to be deported as an undocumented worker, only to find that you can be deported as a US citizen? We do have to fight like hell, but we have to fight the system, not fight for privileges within it.