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. . . .
"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 Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.
"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.
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.
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 big business.
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.