Tuesday, November 15, 2011
The Great American Hero
America lives in the heart of every man everywhere who wishes to find a region where he will be free to work out his destiny as he chooses. --Woodrow Wilson
Our understanding of history shapes our perception of the present, and informs our actions in the moment. This post, for example, is given additional flesh by the eviction of Occupiers from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan last night by forces directed by 4.0 × 10-8 percenter Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest guys in the USA, and probably in accord with Federal direction. Zuccotti Park is a "Privately Owned Public Space," (POPS), and that odd status has no doubt been notable in current discourse. Across the USA and elsewhere, including here in Colorado Springs, governments at various levels have utilized no-camping ordinances and public park hours to harass Occupiers, often to such extremes as to soundly demonstrate some of the protesters' most salient points. So what is the history of "property," and how does it pertain to the Occupy movement?
We citizens of the USA are virtually without foundation where historical discussion is concerned, unless we educate ourselves beyond the standard drivel so ineptly foisted in our direction by teachers bound by our disastrously faltering public indoctrination system, mislabeled "education." We learn a sanitized version of our own history, and the European history from which ours so largely derives, focused on patriotic and Euro-centric hero-worship rather than on the genuine and controversial currents that have effected societal changes at various junctures in world history. We often become enraged when these inane presumptions are questioned, as i have personally witnessed when service veterans have come unglued when protesters suggested the former ought not to have been engaged in foreign adventurism for resources, or when Occupiers have come near to blows over rights or privileges the foundations for which they often demonstrate but scanty comprehension.
The story of Christopher Columbus and his noble and brave explorations of a frightening unknown quantity for the lofty purpose of betterment of the human condition, followed immediately by even more noble American colonists' successful efforts to throw off the shackles of monarchical tyranny culminating in the sacrosanct US Constitution is ingrained in our collective psyche like a Freudian complex. The quote from the nearly deified US President Woodrow Wilson at the top of this page is meant to illustrate this phenomenon. Wilson said some things that seemed to spring from a font of humanity, but he was demonstrably a heinous racist and an elitist, encouraging reestablishment of the KKK, turning US finances over to the Federal Reserve, propagating celebrated treaties he subsequently ignored, and intrepidly belittling any expressor of opinion contrary to his own, among other public sins. Columbus filled his own journals with tales of religiously inspired avarice as he gleefully reported his intent and the execution of his plan to conquer the lands and subjugate the peoples he encountered. The US Constitution, while serving to codify some dignified and egalitarian principles, was still seen by some as an instrument of avarice in its formative days, as has proven to be the case with Adam Smith's doctrines when handed over to naturally avaricious men. Even the highest-minded of US founders--St. Jefferson springs to apperception--firmly established racist, misogynistic doctrine and elitism by excluding all but white, male land owners from the earliest US political process. Those Founders also knew themselves to be limited and allowed the mechanisms for change to exist within the document.
The land owners so favored by the Founders above had been granted holdings either by monarchical fiat, or by purchase from those granted such holdings. Subsequent years were full of similarly motivated action, when "pioneers," once again ennobled by our propagandist history strode across North America claiming everything in sight by perfectly legal Homestead acts and the like, and killing or subjugating anyone not European, male, and white, assuaging their consciences with the absurd "moral" doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Many US citizens, usually white and of European descent, have blithely sloughed off Native American claims to the land here as anachronistic, habituating themselves to the notion that a couple of generations represent a lengthy historical stretch. "Indians," many of whom don't experience the epoch between, say, the gleeful rape and resettlement of their great-grandmothers and today as very lengthy at all, advocate for the removal of white Europe from "their" lands. This may not be anachronistic after all, but it has indeed become impractical, and it is no more nobly motivated than the insistence that Americans, or anyone else, scarf up resources, such as but not limited to land, to which no human being enjoys a more legitimate claim than any other.
The uproar in Zuccotti Park last night is based on laws that derive from the notion of public versus private property. The Banks we Occupiers have been railing against hold the threat of eviction from private property over struggling homeowners via the specious doctrines of land ownership in this and other countries. The spats in Colorado Springs over tents, where they belong, and who belongs in them derive from the same set of doctrines, which i hereby proclaim to be bogus, in my opinion. The bad habit of human beings to either grovel or dominate is yet another matter.
One can follow the tendency to dominate and conquer, along with the development of Divinely appointed land control in western culture at least as far back as the dubitable stories of Hebrew escapades in the Levant, supposedly ordered by a loving god to kill, pillage, and rape in order to spread their doctrine of light. Ahem.
While the recalcitrant problems of aggression and slithery competitive spirits, as well as our quickness to condemn one another's mere habits lead us deeper and deeper into an environmental cul de sac, we continue to pursue failed doctrine. The USA has, in apparently actual fact, presented the world with a still viable political framework within which to effect the sort of massive changes necessary for everyone involved, and it may well be our saving grace, if we acknowledge and rectify its initial errors and subsequent abuses. Lots of thinking will be necessary. It's awfully difficult to conclude that genuine unfettered Anarchism is likely to produce a civil society. Laws are not intrinsically bad unless they're bad laws. Few really believe Libertarian suggestions that unregulated exploitation of natural resources can lead to anything but irredeemable destruction akin to the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or the impending collapse of our fisheries.
Did you notice how comfortable my use of the term "our" felt, applied to a natural resource in that last sentence?
Capitalism and the American Constitution are founded on private property ownership. Some things belong intrinsically to individuals and groups. Marxism denies any right to private property at all and kills innovation, in the argument of McCarthy's legacy. Marx and Lenin were motivated by historical factors as well, even if their doctrines were no more effective at legislating kindness than ours have been. Most of us will agree that our bodies ought naturally belong to ourselves--the person whose consciousness centers in that particular body--and yet many of our laws belie that acceptance even now that we've abolished open slavery. We've built a gigantic and Byzantine body of law here in the US, and in countries all over the world, based on principles of subjugation and rapine that are in actual fact now fully anachronistic, using justifications that are utterly mythological. The conquering of neighboring lands and their parceling for sale for personal enrichment, using armies fed a long and patriotic line of shyte about motives is simply not sustainable any longer. We can continue to fight over detritus after we, (by which i mean everyone and not just Europeans or Americans), collapse the entire playing field, or we can recognize our errors and take on the extraordinarily difficult prospect of admitting fault and rectifying our relationships with one another both here in the US, and everywhere else. Some things belong to everyone.
This post is largely about bad history, and partly about the failure of both Capitalism and Communism. I'll be putting it up lacking a certain amount of flesh in order to have it in place. The natural aggression inherent in confronting some of the subject matter contained requires some additional referencing, which i'll add later. The characterization of both systems as failures could be entirely specious if i were unprepared to offer alternatives. This is not the case, and i'll be addressing the whole kit and caboodle, whatever that means, at greater length in the future. The best suggestion i've come across thus far is from Henry George, and i hope you'll investigate. But even if you don't i hope you'll give this the thought it warrants. My ideas are unlikely to be the best out there. Look around, though. The one's we're working with now are bullshit.
More links are forthcoming, but the take on history expressed here is largely indebted to Howard Zinn's "Peoples' History of the United States," and James E. Lowen's critique of history as taught in public schools, "Lies My Teacher Told Me."