Can we really do anything?
As a critic of the United States I am always asked what productively we can
do to change the world. Many assume I am calling for utopia, or that I can
only criticize and offer no solutions. The argument that we can do nothing
makes it very easy to justify apathy and laziness. But in reality if we all
did nothing the world would be a lot worse than it already is. The following
exchange that I had online illustrates the point:
Paul: What always rubbed me wrong with Greg is that he provides no practical remedies. He also ignores the good things that our bad government does. You absolutely cannot have good without bad. There is no such thing as heaven on earth. For ever oppressed person, there is someone benefiting from that. Is Greg's utopian world is where everybody is equal in everything because that will never happen.
Greg: Good questions, I will answer them. First off, I'm not going to
hold you to the argument that if we cannot turn the world into utopia then
we might as well support the system as it is. Our country has been
misbehaving very badly for a long time. I am going to show you exactly
what can be, is, and has been done about it. But you have to bear with
some background, some history, and some perspective, in order to see what
I'm talking about.
Let me focus on one example, but the story is hardly unique. There are a
handful of countries in Central America (Nicaragua, Guatamala, El
Salvador) where the US has basically maintained a high level of military
control in order to steal all the valuable resources and to keep the
people from advancing their societies the way we have in the first world,
by taking control of our own resources. Huge corporations, such as The
American Fruit Company, owned all the viable land in Guatamala, much of it
unused, the people were all reduced to squatters and virtual slave labor
for the farms. Living under total dictatorship (usually a handpicked
puppet of the US). Same story in El Salvador and Nicaragua. The marines
invaded Nicaragua *seven* times in US history, you don't learn about that
in school. Why did they do it? Have you heard of General Smedley Butler?
He's one of the most honored and decorated marines of all time, but when
he retired he came clean on all of this stuff, read this blockquote:
What follows is an excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933 by General
Smedley Butler, USMC. General Butler was one of the few Americans to be
twice awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
"War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something
that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside
group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very
few at the expense of the masses. . . .
okay, this is greg speaking again. So, this went on forever, and recall
that in 1979/80 there was a succesful revolution against our military
dictatorship, and a new populist goverment took over, the Sandinistas.
The US planned to retaliate immediately, just as they had 7 times before,
to go in with the marines and mop up the place. They are not shy to kill
half a million civilians and always all the intellectuals, this is what
our country has been doing for booty. This is why we are so rich, you do
not get everybody's stuff by being nice.
"There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is
blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men"
to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big
"It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison.
Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in
active military service as a member of this country's most agile military
force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second
Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my
time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and
for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.
"I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it.
Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of
my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended
animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with
everyone in the military service.
"I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests
in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City
Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen
Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of
racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international
banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name
before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar
interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went
its way unmolested.
"During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a
swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone
a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three
districts. I operated on three continents.
So Reagan, when he took office, declared that he was going to invade
Nicaragua and do just that, mop up the place (he released this intention
in a document called "the white papers"). There was an immediate and
fierce outcry by the activists in this country who made congress feel
enough pressure to keep this from happening (something impossible before
the vietnam war, so the country has definitely changed since then). So
Reagan was forced underground. He got money from congress but not troops,
so he funded a proxy army called Contras.
But public resistance continued, there was a great outcry about what was
going on - e.g. continual torture and terrorism by the contras, this was a
terrorist war where they would roll into a town, choose a couple people at
random, torture them in the square and leave them hanging from a tree.
This is how you get a population under control, you terrorize the hell out
of them and they'll do anything you want, including vote for whoever you
tell them to when the next election comes up. We literally made these
people vote with guns to their heads in their own country's elections.
Well, the public outrage over the contras forced congress to cut off all
funding, Reagan had almost lost the war. 20 years earlier, before the
vietnam war, they would have just sent in the marines and cleaned it up in
a matter of weeks, probably killing hundreds of thousands of people. If
you recall, this is why Reagan started selling weapons to Iran, to get
money to pay for the Contras. The contras were also smuggling cocaine
into the US to get money and obviously blind eyes were turned left and
right because they were doing "god's work," i.e. cleaning up Nicaragua for
Meanwhile the sandinistas instituted health and literacy campaigns and
they saw a period of social enlightement never before reached in that
oppressed country. Over 10 years Reagan's contras killed 60,000 people.
The world court condemned it as an illegal act of agression and terrorism,
and fined the US 60 million dollars, something the US refused to pay.
(Did you ever read *that* in the newspaper?)
So reaching my point, I am saying is that a relatively small group of
people managed to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and
are continuing to work in these countries to help make them better place.
You cannot get there by supporting our government, our goverment is the
absolute enemy of the people. (because it's big business that runs buys
the goverment, corporate lobbying is everything in politics. and
corporations will do absolutely anything for money if they can get away
with it, there is no boundary on the acts that can be done out of greed).
So grass roots organizing, solidarity groups of americans going down to
watch towns to make sure there are no killings (the death squads don't
like to do their work when there are witnesses). Etc... My PhD advisor
used to go to El Salvador as an observer. Sometimes these people get
killed, you might remember the El Salvador death squads killed four nuns
in the early 80's. Of course they killed over 100,000 native civilians as
well, but that wasn't news. And the El Salvador death squads *are us*,
they are trained here (at fort Benning in Georgia) and paid for by our tax
dollars. They kill nuns and priests. This is news, but you never hear
it. This is a relatively free country, and if people know what's going on
it becomes much harder for the perpetrators to get away with it. That's
why information is key, that's why every single person more who knows
about it is a thorn in the side of the real evil doers. That's why I tell
people when I can. Also I give money to the organizations that go to
these places and do this work. Here is a letter from one of them:
I wish it was just people dying of starvation because of weather somewhere
on the other side of the planet. In that case I could say it's not my
problem. But when my government is actively killing millions of people in
cold blood with my tax money, and I can see myself being quite well off in
this country because of the murder and torture of others, I cannot look
away anymore. If I believed it was truly hopeless, like I might of if I
lived in nazi germany under total fascism, then I might give up, but in
this country we can stop it and mitigate it from happening, if everybody
thought as you do (no offence), the world would actually be a much worse
place, you have to thank the activists and so-called "radicals".
So this small example shows how people with the right sensibilities save
the lives of and give hope to a lot of people. Can you say you have saved
100,000 people? If we cannot make the world perfect, yet we can save
100,000 people's lives, have we not achieved something really important
and great anyway? Certainly there is hope of deposing the corporocracy
that rules the planet with the most fascist morals the planet has probably
ever seen. We have layers and layers and layers of deception that we hide
under to deny it all, but for anyone who scratches the surface, the whole
picture is there to see, information is freely available. You can go and
very easily verify everything I've written here on the web in a couple
hours. I hope you will do that.