If not for calamitous people,
it is impossible to create calamity.
– Lao Tzu
(7.I.10) While Native Americans have a very keen awareness of “my people”, I look around in the society in which I grew up and do not see “my people”. This is perhaps Nature’s justice over the Europeans who violently invaded Turtle Island and subjugated its ancient inhabitants. My “we” is totally different than the Native American “we”. We are the product of a chronic spiritual illness, offspring of violent invaders with low esteem for women and children, sexually immature, demented with greed and hatred for the First Nations, and filled with pride and delusions of their moral and technological superiority. I say we not thinking of “my people”, but of fellow inmates in a penal colony (as were the colonists of Georgia and other early Americans), atomized individuals with no deep cultural attachment to one another, violently shouting for “peace”, demanding unconditional participation in their life-style… or else.
I do not say “we” with love and respect as do the Native Americans, but with sorrow and despair. Even though I want to see an end to the violence, greed, perversity and irreverence of fellow citizens, and peace, compassion and good will genuinely established in their hearts, what I want is beside the point – totally irrelevant. They continue invading and killing themselves and indigenous people in distant countries, yesterday in Vietnam, today in Iraq and Afghanistan, tomorrow the devil only knows where. What I want is of no consequence, just as are the prayers of religious groups pleading for a cure to this ghastly spiritual affliction plaguing the Euro-Americans, the Europeans and other “master races”. The violence, the greed, the perversity, the irreverence – all have a destined life-span. That human beings strive for a quicker remedy than that which is destined is tragi-comic. It is something over which humans have no control, like the climate.
Americans dwell in a mythological narrative that can be seen by outside observers as naive wishful thinking so distant from reality that it can only be regarded as lunacy. Their leaders daily threaten their own existence through ineptitude, corruption, exploitation of the wilderness and environment, pollution, and the mediocrity and superficiality with which humanity is plagued. I find myself in the position of the man who is in the same room with an escapee from a mental hospital who is waving a loaded revolver in all directions. In such a position, one must be cautious with words, speak soothingly and yet with hidden intent to disarm the madman and disperse the general feeling of universal doom that has invaded the room.
The international climate conference in Copenhagen has just ended in a fiasco. Famous and little-known diplomats took part, enjoying the luxury hotels, restaurants, spas and brothels of Copenhagen, bringing much pollution to the atmosphere with hundreds of jet flights that proved to be totally beside the point. Here is the demented megalomania of “my people”, whose delusion makes them believe that the weather and global climate can be controlled and altered through legislation. Such megalomania was also present in the builders of the Tower of Babel. In his famous Dictionary Samuel Johnson defines cant as “a whining pretension to goodness, in formal and affected terms.” The Copenhagen conference is where cant was a calling for the VIPs involved, the foxes in charge of the henhouse. Their “pretension to goodness” echoes that of the Norwegian Nobel committee who awarded the Peace prize to the president of “my people” now waging two bloody wars, bringing suffering, misery and calamity for generations to come – in the name of “peace”. At the core of all the rhetoric is cant. A civilization whose fuel is Greed – totally unwilling to acknowledge the connection between global warming and Greed – will suffer the same fate as the builders of the Tower of Babel: chaos and downfall.
“My people” are the contemporary colonizers, the non-indigenous peoples of the Americas – we – whose ongoing conquests are accompanied by a crisis of legitimacy. In our hearts we know that our dominance, power and wealth are the result of an epic theft, and that we in fact represent an illegitimate presence in the Americas, foreigners despite generations of habitation. Indeed, the United States government itself is foreign to the continent. Settlers swarmed to the land which indigenous peoples had inhabited for thousands of years to benefit from the spoils of colonial domination: free land, labor and natural resources. It came about at first through epic bloodshed and violence, but continued gradually through deceit, trickery and legislation.
In the 1600s Charles II deeded the entire Canadian northwest to his cousin Rubert, who was given “at the stroke of Charles’ quill, sole possession of a land mass larger than all of Europe.” (Rex Weyler, Blood of the Land, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1992) In 1763, the king of France ceded all of chief Pontiac’s country (Michigan, Illinois, etc.) to the king of England ‒ without even informong Pontiac! Such outrageous deeds throughout history have created a tragic dichotomy between Settlers and Indigenous Peoples that is next to impossible to remedy. Euro-American ranchers and other families who have lived many generations in the “New World” now claim that they have inhabited the land long enough to be considered “indigenous” as well. Using the same logic, art treasures plundered by the nazis from Jewish families during World War II which are now in museums or private collections can be considered legitimate possessions of the new owners because sufficient time has passed since the original theft. The true meaning of “indigenous” escapes contemporary colonizers, including myself. As part of the colonial apparatus in place in North America, I simply cannot have a solid grasp of the reality of being “indigenous”. This dichotomy between Settlers and Indigenous Peoples cannot be effaced by time, just as the dichotomy between the German nazis and the Jews cannot be effaced by time.
The words ARBEIT MACHT FREI are welded in wrought iron over the entrance to Auschwitz, a relic stolen in 2009 by order of a Swedish neo-nazi. The “B” in ARBEIT was welded upside down, a subtle and witty protest left by an unknown Jewish slave, as if saying, “Yes, I am being executed by slave labor, but my faint sabotage will guild my misery for future ages to see.” Today “my people” shake their heads over such evil heralded by this apparently innocent motto. And yet, ARBEIT MACHT FREI is not only the impossible motto of the Third Reich, it is the impossible motto of all civilizations throughout time, the motto of contemporary 21st-century global Empire: work, work, work good slaves, and one day you will be free.
And so we work and work and work up to our old age when we are obliged to see that the promise of freedom was a cynical lie made by modern democratic tyrants who go by prettier names. (Don’t forget skeptical reader that the original democratic tyrants of ancient Athens unanimously voted to put their sage and holy man – Socrates – to death.) Contemporary Empire decrees that nothing and no one is exempt from participation in the system, not humans, animals, plants, rivers, oceans and not even air. The most wild and ferocious animals in Africa must live within the confines of “preserves”, vast areas of forests are cut down and primordial geological features are blown to pieces – routinely for the sake of profit. (In a single lifetime, an area of forests in eastern North America larger than all of Europe was cut down by early 19th century settlers.) Skies, rivers and oceans are increasingly polluted by the Empire, which sees itself as the self-appointed “steward” of these devastated domains – their “protector”.
Society, culture, media, travel and thought are rigorously controlled in order to preserve the “peace” of the Empire, regardless of the extreme brutality and violence frequently used to this end. Ultimately, contemporary Empire aims to control every aspect of human life and organizations. The millions of under-paid or unpaid laborers upon whose shoulders the prosperity of the Empire rests – as was the case in Europe and America during the Industrial Revolution – are coerced to continue into their misery yet one more day, for, as the saying goes, ARBEIT MACHT FREI.
The irony has become so grotesque that “my people” in their cant goodness – the same goodness killing indigenous people in Afghanistan today (“collateral damage”) – can forever remain who and what they are. They need not look at themselves critically. They can continue seeing themselves as kind benefactors confronting those who are not participants in their system: we allow you the privilege of becoming one of us, god-fearing democratic philanthropists who spread goodness and democracy at home and abroad. But should you not heed our call for mandatory participation in our life-style, there will be Hell to pay.
Events that are set in motion by Crime will be forever marked by Crime
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