With economic and military force, in the last decades the United States has attained sole superpower status in the world. The legacy of the US empire carries a dark history: genocide of natives, slavery of blacks and criminalizing immigrants from the South. None can deny that much of American hegemony and economic might is built on the exploitation and suffering of millions. Narratives of glorious victories and rhetoric of ‘exporting democracy’ have repeatedly erased the trails of tears and justified the scars of the oppressed. The rewriting of history by the beneficiaries of Empire have rendered many poor and people of color voiceless and invisible. Beneath this official aversion of history, the oppression and exploitation continues.
The economic injustice and militarization of today is more of an export variety and has evolved with sophisticated technology. Drone attacks and insidious digital surveillance are rarely discussed in the corporate media. The general public became disconnected or oblivious to what is happening in their name.
The year 2010 was a turning point. The slow-motion financial collapse into debauchery of the global economic system was entering an advanced stage. About the same time, whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks brought the brutality of illegal wars and arrogance of US foreign policy out into the open for all to see. For a moment, the buried stream of history arose and intersected with the present.The raw footage of WikiLeak’s Collateral Murder showed airstrikes by a United States Army gunship attacking journalists and a family in New Baghdad. It revealed the truth hiding behind the euphemism of Collateral Damage. The cynical naming of the ‘Apache’ helicopter helps trigger a lost memory of the genocide of American natives long ago. Native American activist Winona LaDuke once spoke of how it is common military-speak when you leave a base in a foreign country to say that you are heading ‘out into Indian Country’. It is like we are continuing these crimes against humanity from the past.
The legacy of 18th and 19th century colonization has lingered to haunt our post-modern global society. This dark shadow was carried over into the military-industrial age of the 20th century with its outward thrusting brutality. French poet and author, Aimé Césaire (2000) in Discourse on Colonialism wrote how colonization brutalize and decivilize the colonizer himself;
… colonization … dehumanizes even the most civilized man; that colonial activity, colonial enterprise, colonial conquest, which is based on contempt for the native and justified by that contempt, inevitably tends to change him who undertakes it; that the colonizer, who in order to ease his conscience gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself into an animal.1
The real scenes of modern war on the ground stand as a mirror. Reflected in the graphic WikiLeaks video, we see ourselves, the actual barbarians degraded in an effort to ‘civilize’ others. These untold histories repeat themselves like suffocating stories, dying to be remembered. Voices that had been locked between the lines in the history books now start to speak.
In a sense, leaking sensitive and classified documents is the act of intervening in the writing of history itself, a process that historically has been controlled by those in power, by the ‘winners’ of wars. Leaking secrets can for a time disrupt the official lies and reveal the continuous thread of an untold story of disenfranchisement. “’Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’” wrote George Orwell in 1984. In a sense, WikiLeaks reset the sands of time. They put our world inside a transparent hourglass for all to see. When stories that were frozen in the past are released, our collective memory starts to flow.
WikiLeaks’s courage in bringing truth to light shattered the lens of the corporate media’s supposed dispassionate objectivity. More and more people are finding that they are no longer passive spectators of history. History is happening and we can engage in charting its course if we care to.
With the persecution of Julian Assange and Bradley Manning and the dismantling of human rights with bills like the NDAA, people are stepping forward to defend the Freedom of Speech and fight against this unprecedented erosion of our rights. Christine Assange noted on Twitter: “Many current #Wikileaks activists had no prior activist history, but became politicized thru the persecution of Julian Assange.”
In 2011 and 2012, Anonymous and Occupy, along with a wave of resistance movements and revolutions brought activism to a new level of global impact. The radical activation of people who had remained uninvolved till then is a testimony to our awakening from an insulated and manufactured reality that has historically prevented us from rooting ourselves in the solid ground of history. On Nov 16, 2011, in the wake of Occupy, writer and activist Arundhati Roy spoke at Washington Square in New York: “Few of us dreamed that we would see you, the people of the United States on our side, trying to do this in the heart of Empire. I don’t know how to communicate the enormity of what this means.”
The American middle class is waking up to the current global banking fraud and the largest transfer of wealth in human history and is now experiencing the true nature of this machine-like ‘austerity’ system, an equal opportunity exploiter of all people. The Occupy movement was a response to this systemic usury where a 1% elite sucks the life-blood from 99% of humanity.
Chris Hedges recently visited world-renowned political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal and got his view on these events: “Abu-Jamal sees hope in the Occupy movement, largely because white middle-class youths are beginning to experience the cruelty of capitalism and state repression that has long been visited on the poor.”
The time has finally come for white middle class Americans to wake up to the pain and struggles of those who have historically been excluded and exploited in a world that has been defined by the Western notion of progress.
The shooting of Trayvon Martin reminded us that the expression ‘walking while black’ stands even now. Yet, this targeting has spread like a cancer throughout the body politic. Statistics show that the US is the world’s largest prison state that locks up the poor and racial minorities at disproportionate rates on trumped up charges. Targeting people of Arab descent is the latest line of official dehumanization. AP recently exposed how the New York Police with the CIA spies on Muslims, Middle Eastern students, institutions and mosques in the US without any suspicion of wrongdoing.
What caused the oppression in America visited on black people? Was their crime just being black, without doing anything but having ancestors taken against their will into slavery? The prejudice of society associated with the color of skin still dehumanizes and criminalizes millions.
On a global stage, Julian Assange has been persecuted with character assassination. The viability of WikiLeaks is threatened with financial blockade. This is the kind of reality that colored people have experienced for hundreds of years. Yet, what was Assange’s crime in the eyes of those in power that made him such an enemy and target of demonization? It is the fact that he openly challenged the power of the military-corporate-banking complex. With these leaked documents, WikiLeaks helped expose the illegitimacy of governments worldwide. Assange and others’ experiences have shown that whites are no longer immune from political retaliation. Obama has prosecuted more whistle-blowers than all other presidents combined and has taken the unprecedented step to openly assassinate people in other countries.
Bradley Manning, a white US citizen has now been incarcerated for more than 940 days. Political activist Jeremy Hammond has been held without bail or trial for over 300 days and is facing life terms for WikiLeaks and hacked Stratfor emails. Barrett Brown, self-described former spokesman for Anonymous was indicted with 12 charges. Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg was placed into solitary confinement in Sweden for three months without charge. These and other cases of internet activists being jailed are all examples that being white no longer affords immunity.
In fact, the machine of this pervasive corporate empire increasingly sees no color. The FBI raided peaceful activists with the pretext and label of anarchist, a term now treated by the US government as virtually synonymous with terrorist. Recently, documents came out showing the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have treated occupiers as potential ‘terrorists’ and are closely monitoring their activities.
Martin Niemöller, a paster who opposed Nazi Regime once famously said:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
History repeats itself. First they came for Blacks. We didn’t speak out because we were not Black. Then they came for immigrants, and we didn’t speak out because we were not Mexican. Now with the collapse of the debt-based ponzi scheme and the loss of civil liberties with the NDAA, no person can claim exemption from this blatant abuse and degradation. Immunity of class, religion or white privilege is no longer a given. Everything is in place for the machine to march.
In the documentary, Crisis of Civilization, Nateez Mosaddeg Ahmed spoke of this growing systematic violence: “Terrorism has become integral to the way the system works and this justifies the state’s militarization of foreign policy and… also the state’s increasing draconian treatment of it’s own citizens.”
What has incarnated into the artificial entity of corporations are walking corpses stripped of their basic humanity through addiction to power; mechanized cyborgs that are incapable of empathy or any feeling for others. These callous corporate machines see no color. They debauch and dehumanize with cold rationale. They perpetuate violence as a means of division, fear and control. Drones will soon not need to distinguish brown, white, nation or creed, as anyone identified or associated as an enemy or ‘terrorist’ can become a target.
The persecution of Assange and treatment of Bradley Manning has shown the world that this system of violence is that of a machine that registers no inherent value for humanity. It reveals that along with inferiority of blacks, white privilege too in the final analysis has been just another false construct, a myth made up to divide humanity.
Chris Hedges carried the voice of truth from that prison in Pennsylvania: “We must recover our past. We must connect ourselves to the revolutionaries, radicals and prophets who fought injustice before us. We must defy the historical amnesia the corporate state seeks to cement into our consciousness.”
These are the words of Mumia, a man that knows as much as anyone about the manipulation of truth behind this facade of democracy.
The sands in the hourglass are moving again. Our untold history is leaking. The world inside the transparent glass opens the eyes of the world to a true story of our imperfect yet beautiful selves. We have an opportunity to remember the often untold story of our deeper communion and of our common struggles. We can now share the pain and injustice that comes with confronting the real enemy; a system that derives its power from our fears and hopelessness. The extractive interlocking government and financial systems are moving beyond the tipping point. We are awakening to our greater potential and this is just what the machine is afraid of.
On 21 December 2012, the Zapatistas were back. Thousands with covered faces began marching in silence into the cities of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, Comitan, and Altamirano. They quietly occupied the central squares. From the depth of the jungle, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos delivered the message: “Did you hear? It is the sound of their world collapsing. It is that of ours rising anew…”
Marcos reminded us of a folktale that inspired the Zapatista rebellion against the Mexican Government:
“The Story of the Sword” is an ancient parable that demonstrates how the indigenous peoples of Mexico will finally defeat the European invader. The tree, for instance, tried to fight the sword, but was defeated. The stone likewise tried to fight the sword, but was defeated. But not the water. It follows its own road, it wraps itself around the sword and, without doing anything, it arrives at the river that will carry it to the great water where the greatest of gods cure themselves of thirst, those gods that birthed the world, the first ones.
The sword of this violent system cannot be fought with might alone. Our resistance must move like water deeper into the roots. As the old states crumble inside the hourglass, a new world arises. Each person’s remembering connects us to the larger current of history. It is in the solidarity found in our shared past that our future lies. We begin again.
- Césaire, A. (2000). Discourse on colonialism (J. Pinkham, Trans.). New York: Monthly Review Press. (Original work published 1955), p. 41 [↩]