December 29, 2018

Populist Imperialism

"The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted."--D.H. Lawrence

"An Indian who is as bad as the white men could not live in our nation; he would be put to death and eaten up by the wolves."
--Sauk leader Black Hawk (1832)

The following is from Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States:

"Reconciling empire and liberty--based on the violent taking of Indigenous lands--into a usable myth allowed for the emergence of an enduring populist imperialism. Wars of conquest and ethnic cleansing could be sold to 'the people'--indeed could be fought for by the young men of those very people--by promising to expand economic opportunity, democracy, and freedom for all....

"It's not that Andrew Jackson had a 'dark side,' as his apologists rationalize and which all human beings have, but rather that Jackson was the the Dark Knight in the formation of the United States as a colonialist, imperialist democracy, a dynamic formation that continues to constitute the core of US patriotism. The most revered presidents--Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, both Roosevelts, Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, Obama--have each advanced populist imperialism while gradually increasing inclusion of other groups beyond the core of descendants of old settlers into the ruling mythology. All the presidents after Jackson march in his footsteps. Consciously or not, they refer back to him on what is acceptable, how to reconcile democracy and genocide and characterize it as freedom for the people."

A few observations:

1. Note the reference to "inclusion of other groups...into the ruling mythology." This is what constitutes progressive politics and political correctness in the US. Populist imperialism, the ruling mythology (and integrally tied to the American Dream), never gets criticized or even recognized in this process. MLK, however, was not fooled. Just prior to his assassination, he began to have doubts about his life mission, namely getting black people to have an equal share of the economic and social pie. But what if the whole pie was rotten, was a lie? Who wants a larger share of a rotten pie? (He also began to make connections between foreign and domestic policy. Uh-oh.)

2. None of the presidents cited above questioned the ruling mythology, and it's a fair bet that all of them believed it. (JFK, for example, was very much a Cold Warrior, and "Camelot" was hardly a critique of populist imperialism.) How much more so, then, the typical American zhlob walking down the street? Could any of them, progressives included, stand outside of the American mythology, as did D.H. Lawrence and Black Hawk and MLK toward the end of his life? Progressives, for example, don't want a different type of nation; they just want a better version of the same nation. Bandaids for cancer, in effect.

3. Who are the true dissenters from this vision, then? Hard to say. Maybe, a few Native American tribes, along with 167 Wafers? I'm just guessing here, but I can't imagine that the total number of Americans who see through the b.s. amounts to more than 10,000 people. The remainder--on the order of 327 million--are enveloped in a mythological fog from which they will never escape (the Matrix, if you will).

4. The fog seems to get denser with each passing year. 2019 should be one of the foggiest on record.

5. Which is to say that the zhlobs cannot be stopped; if you think they can, you are a damn fool. (They are an elemental force, like the Amazon.) They march on blindly, into the future, overwhelming everything in their path, both at home and abroad; and the more the American Dream and populist imperialism fails them, the more patriotic they become (this has been documented statistically). And so to all reading this, whether zhlob or anti-zhlob, I say:

Happy New Year!