Speaks truth to future power

I’m only on page 18 and historian Alfred McCoy has me excited inside a nonfiction tome as if I’m reading a fiction epic:

Born of war and conquest, empires are unstable, even volatile forms of governance that often exhibit contradict attributes — they are constant yet changing, idealistic but barbaric, and powerful yet fragile.… When a ruling political party retreats from rationality into delusional politics, that nation forfeits both its claim to and capacity for global leadership.

Alfred W. McCoy. To Govern the Globe: World Orders & Catastrophic Change. Haymarket Books. 2021. page 18.

The writing synthesizes disparate stimuli and phenomena that I’ve witnessed and bundled them in ways that better explain for me what’s happening. How what is occurring right now is not unique, as I’ve know it isn’t. McCoy is unsparing in his analysis and descriptions of the arrogance and corruption that constitute delusion. This is most refreshing when the common self-congratulatory statements tend to be “how America’s greatest days are ahead.” We know they are not.

The sooner the people decouple their sense of self from their nationality and the nationalist tendencies in state building, the clearer we will be about meaning, vitality, and who’s decline this is.

Some maxims:

“the concept of geopolitics has proved more useful for those who prefer to analyze empires rather than build them.” (24)

geopolitics is essentially a method for the management of empire through the use of geography (air, land, and sea) to maximize military and economic advantage. (19)

an exploration of world orders requires an understanding of the term “empire,” which has carried an ideological taint that long barred its serious study in the United States. (15)

lacking the boundaries of a nation-state or the powerful, visible presence of an empire, world orders might seem intangible or even imagined. (15)

world orders are much more deeply rooted, resilient global systems created by a convergence of economic, ideological and geopolitical forces…. Lacking the sovereignty of nations and the raw power of empires, world orders are essentially broad agreements about relations among nation-states and their people’s, lending them an amorphous, even elusive quality. (9)

Bone tooth wrong

60 years after being assassinated, the final bone of Patrice Lumumba is supposed to leave Belgium to be carried back to Congo by his children this month. There’s no mention of a second tooth and a bit of one finger that the same Belgian, former military, one time assassin, may have kept in his home for decades.

But rather than simply being allowed to collect the remains, the family and others in the diaspora campaigned for an official handover ceremony.

https://www.politico.eu/article/lumumba-tooth-belgium-unfinished-reckoning-colonial-past/

A public ceremony between two sets of public figures, many of whom are stooges or thugs. So one set of thugs handing some things over to a set of stooges, of a different nationality. But, the public speakers (of all nationalities) will have noted that you don’t speak bluntly about the aggressions of the government you’re ceremonializing with.

I’m cynical about any such ceremony. I suppose a public spectacle is necessary though I don’t know that it’s better than a private exchange. But, the public visage will largely be performative more than symbolic done for the cameras, not for the civics.

Reparations (as summarized by M4BL here) consists of five parts = acknowledgment of harm + compensation + restitution + rehabilitation + cessation with guarantees of not repeating.

The Belgian government does not seem to offer any compensation nor restitution nor rehabilitation. Maybe part of the public ceremony could be some verbal statements of never doing such heinous acts in foreign policy nor domestically.

But, it will be lackluster whatever does happen. And with that, I will feel disappointed by the arrogance of the former colonizers who still inherit the excesses of their grandfathers.

On forgiveness

Ridiculous. Infuriating. Asinine. Callous. Those are some of the feelings as I read an op-ed by Michael Eric Dyson spinning Desmond Tutu’s death and legacy as an alternative to the current calls for racial justice and the reckoning of the genocide across US history and the colonization of North America by European immigrants [https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/28/opinion/desmond-tutu-america-justice.html].

I want to jump to and, who is the audience for this editorial? Because why M.E. Dyson writes is preposterous.

I find the processing of whiteness — white guilt about white supremacy and whitewashing to pretend that the record is not as sordid as it is — that passes as civics and domestic politics within this nation state to be depleting and by that I mean exhausting and energy-sapping and life-taking to meet callousness with compassion, to forgive when they willfully forget and perpetuate and perpetrate new lies.

I am not a close student of Desmond Tutu’s public speeches and statements, leadership and political moves and public stances. I’ve done some reading about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the end of apartheid but we are far from being in a place where white America will tell their truths.

I want to ridicule Dyson by pointing out the absurdity of being a tenured professor at Vanderbilt University writing about the merits of making it work out. I find it difficult to read because this is more naive than Democratic legislators trying to negotiate with Republican peers who do not accept women and people of color as equals.

I once believed a myth that Black people in the United States could save the rest of the citizenry. But I don’t but much faith in such savior roles or racial dogma at this juncture in my life. I want to judge my younger self for harboring such foolish naïveté, as I did about all the shovel-ready-projects that were supposed to lubricate the stimulus package in 2009. But all that grandiose policy amounted to little of what was promised. It was futile for the president and members of Congress to promise about an 21st century energy grid or rapid transit trains spanning from Florida to the Northeast to California when they could not guarantee governing majorities for years on end. Instead, they made multi-year promises when they rose to committee chairs then were sidelined into minority party status by November 2010.

There’s something similarly amiss when Black Lives Matter is being conflated with cancel culture and then blamed for the inhospitable and dysfunctional and violent state of affairs between races in the United States.

Dyson doesn’t say “turn the other cheek” but he suggests that the well of indigenous and Black redemption of reckless white Americans is a renewable resource. To highlight the forgiveness of family members of the Charleston 9 is unfortunate, if not perverse. To have to hold and accommodate a man who pretended to be coming for prayer group is a tremendous and horrendous burden. Maybe redemption and forgiveness can be infinite but at this stage in my life, they do not feel sufficient for the illness and ailments that plague this society.

Maybe the timeless aspect of the oppressed’s forgiveness is that we are all humans and ultimately, there will/must be some balancing amongst the humans but it is hard to feel that when most of what I see is ignorance and defiance among people who have been accustomed to others suffering being coupled with their indulgence. Even as they learn of their impact, they don’t want to rein their excesses in. They want to continue to be violent and genocidal in their supremacist belief systems.

What’s the point of taking the moral ground when the ground is being seized and taken or plundered? Rather than prescribe maybe he could acknowledge the anguish and disgust that people of color feel. The pain that more whites acknowledge and empathize with and can acknowledge rather than argue or avoid. But there’s no reconciliation without going through the agony and saddling the burden of that leadership on people of color and other oppressed majorities is not how we rectify the brokenness of the powerful.

The American way

pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/12/18/us/airstrikes-pentagon-records-civilian-deaths.html

This from staff within the Pentagon. Where senior officials did their damnedest to prevent these observations and documentation from being seen and known.

Military. Corporations. Schools. Government social programs. Consultants on COVID relief over the last two years, some of who are retired military brass.

Plutocrats plundering for the sake of their own enrichment. A timeless series of acts of collusion and nepotism and corruption. Some people want to perpetuate beliefs of American exceptionalism but this conduct is no different than hundreds of other nation states and regimes.

Blowback: haunts the future

From the 2000 book Blowback: the costs and consequences of American Empire (published by Metropolitan Books) by Chalmers Johnson, who was in the Navy, stationed in Japan, researched China, then did intelligence work or informant with and for federal agencies.

“There is a logic to empire that differs from the logic of a nation, and acts committed in service to an empire but never acknowledged as such have a tendency to haunt the future.” (pg 8)

“The United States, however, is the world’s most prominent target for blowback, being the world’s lone imperial power, the primary source of the sort of secret and semi secret operations that shore up repressive regimes, and by far the largest seller of weapons generally.” (pg 11)

Staying this after acknowledging how Russia, Japan, and Israel had received blowback in the 1990s, none of which compared with the magnitude of energy and animosity directed at the US.

“Blowback itself can lead to more blowback, in a spiral of destructive behavior. A good illustration of this lies in the government’s reaction to the August 7, 1998, bombings of American embassy buildings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. (pg 10)

Juicing War

But it is easier not to mistreat prisoners if you no longer capture them.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/03/opinion/us-war-afghanistan.html

Samuel Moyn says a lot in that piece about the lies, deceit abd immoral of US warmongering. What I would add:

But it is harder not to war when you’ve juiced it with $700B annually.

Abyss

Some humans want to bring abysmal into the abyss.

Driving along highways, I see different colors and textures on the surface of the water. Some days, the stature of the ocean looks more pronounced or elevated from my line of sight as I move along familiar paths, which may simply be an optical illusion or may be something far more abstract seeing that it is beyond my ability to comprehend it.

I read of chemosynthesis giving life rather than the familiar photosynthesis and I read of the 50 paths to bioluminescence and I read of the luciferins (compounds) and luciferases (enzymes) tiny drops of confirmation that there so much underneath the abyss.

The creatures of the deep have been putting on the world’s greatest light show for tens of millions of years. Widder thinks that if people could witness this spectacle—or even just be made aware of it—they’d pay a lot more attention to life at the bottom of the seas and the many hazards that threaten it.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/06/21/the-deep-sea-is-filled-with-treasure-but-it-comes-at-a-price

We humans can choose this: “Meanwhile, she writes, “we are managing to destroy the ocean before we even know what’s in it.””

Or, we can choose this: “Some of the seas’ most extraordinary animals live around hydrothermal vents—the oceanic equivalents of hot springs. Through cracks in the seafloor, water comes in contact with the earth’s magma; the process leaves it superheated and loaded with dissolved minerals. (At some vents, the water reaches a temperature of more than seven hundred degrees.) As the water rises and cools, the minerals precipitate out to form crenellated, castlelike structures.”