Monday, September 17, 2012

angry people hate empires

Or, empires make people angry, which can lead to hate.

Or hate is not an unnatural reaction to an empire when you are not part of that empire and it's actions make you angry and you feel (or in fact, are) helpless to meaningfully confront the empire.

I'm hearing a lot about how the people in the street in the Mideast are very angry and there's no one thing we  did or other thing we can do to either explain the anger or quell it.

And, of course, we've all been told like children asking about "the bad people" that some people out there just hate us.  Because we're us.  And free and secular and...good.  Because we're modern and they're not.  They're just evildoers.  What are you going to do?  They're going to do evil, since they're, ah, evil-doers, you see, and there's not a lot to be done or said about that.

We're told that they hate freedom.  Hate it.  That damned freedom.

Now, let's be very clear.  There are, in fact, twisted, evil, homicidal people out there.  Some of them claim to worship Allah, some claim to worship Jesus and some are just bad, broken bags of bones lurching around causing chaos and mayhem.  It's a fact that bad, dangerous people hurt and kill other people every day on this fine, fine planet of ours, for reasons only they can articulate or for no damned reason at all.

But usually you can trace a reason for someone's violent reactions.  Ninety times out of a hundred you can look at the whole thing and figure out why the bad thing happened.  It's the old cause and effect routine, you're probably familiar with it, it's used a lot around here.

So, here goes:

The United States of America is an empire.  That's not red propaganda or hyperbole or even a criticism.  That's a  military and political fact.  An empire is very simply defined as a nation or a nation/state that has what used to be called garrisons and are now called military bases outside of its home territory.  And the more you have and the farther spread out they are, the more powerful an empire you are.  Not that controversial or complicated a thing, really.

And empires are not by definition bad or destructive things.  I read once that there was an emperor of ice cream, so that sounds pretty good.  But the nature of a military empire is that it imposes its order, power and culture onto the people in foreign lands.  And if a large part of that culture is democracy and free trade and equal rights for all people, hey, we're all eating ice cream.  But if another large part of that culture is a religion that is seen as historically alien or worse, hostile to the religion of the people in the foreign land where the empire is garrisoned, well, then you start having some problems.

Anyone remember what Bin Laden wanted back when he started killing innocent people, mostly Muslims?  What he stated he wanted, the cruel, rich, pampered, self-infatuated fuck?

He wanted the American military out of his holy lands.  That was it.  He did not want to kill Americans on American soil.

I am in no way, in no way, Jim, defending the guy.  Personally, I'm glad he got shot in the face.  I've got some karmic/Buddhist/Christian weight I'll have to work off for that one, but I'm fine with that.  He ordered and financed the deaths of three thousand people and it went down a mile from where I sleep.

But his anger and hate did not come out of thin air.  His anger and hate came from his frustration at the implacable, immovable empire camped out in his homeland.

But my point is not about Bin Laden.  It's about the millions of young men and women and boys and girls who live outside the walls of our bases, all over the world.  They have no context.  They don't know or care about the Marshall Plan.  A central fact in their lives, from birth, is the armed presence of foreigners in their homeland.  And these foreigners are impossibly richer than everyone they know, these foreigners directly or covertly control their leaders, these foreigners walk around like they own the place.

Do the quick thought experiment and put on their sandals.  You're growing up in Miami and Russians run the town from inside their military base.  You're born in LA and Chinese soldiers are everywhere, pretty much doing what they want.  You're from Montana and German drones regularly blow the shit out of houses and cars along the road.

How  do you like the empire now?  

They're angry at the presence of the empire.  And anger with no outlet and no ability to engage can turn to hate pretty quickly.  Which results in violence.

I don't have an answer to what's going on over there, but please, we have to stop just shaking our heads in mock-confusion and regret at "the angry people who hate us despite all we've done for them."  Most of them just want us to go home.


  1. It's pretty simple, really. We spend more money on our military than the rest of the world combined, and we're the only country to use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. I'd hate us, too. Plus we have some of the most dangerous allies in the world. (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia & Israel - to name but 3)

  2. All true. But, remember, you green bastard, you're in Patriotland here, so it's my job to say that we also give more foreign aid (not just money, but medicine, trained professionals and food as well) than the rest of the world combined.

    Not disagreeing with you, but let's keep the whole messy thing in view.

    Part of the good way forward may be recognizing the positive contribution this country adds to the world and slowly increasing that. And we find the money in the Defense Department. Talk about Orwellian language, right? Defense. Not "offense" or "perpetual war".

    Chris Rock had a great bit about African-Americans' complicated relationship with the U.S. He said it's like the rich uncle who molested you, but then paid for your college.

    It's tricky.