By Jim Miles
I have just watched Michael Moore’s latest Rumble podcast in which he asks the question “What is it about us?” while referencing the Columbine massacre and relating it to the current set of US mass murders. The subtext to the title “What is so different about Americans?” asks “Are we homicidal by nature?”
While there are no truly easy answers and no easy solutions (while they may be obvious, they will be highly contested – violently so) the quick answer reveals more truth: no, not homicidal, but very much genocidal.
I use the term genocidal in its application by the US and its empire against both the people of the world and the world itself, comprising all other living things and the environment required to support that life. It can be narrowed down to two facets for the establishment of the country: first, it was born out of violence; and secondly, it was born out of racism. These two go very well together and have shaped the US into what it is today.
Much of it is the US’ European heritage, a region of the world very familiar with genocide (well before the holocaust) and military violence. Another aspect of that heritage is the racist Doctrine of Discovery as promulgated by the Papal Bull of 1452 and others following. The Christian Doctrine of Discovery essentially relegated all non-Europeans to being savages, primitives, who are to be treated as outside of European/Christian culture and at the very base, treated as slaves, with their environments to be used to enrich the homeland.
Britain was very much a part of this, as its empire had all the aspects already mentioned and used them for its own power and enrichment around the world. Nor is the US unique in being born of British heritage, but its revolutionary birth, its continuing fight over slavery and its still present racism, combined with its ethnocentric view as being a superior people destined to lead and control the world has morphed into what it is today – a militarized culture of violence.
The personal level is created by the rhetoric of the media, the politicians, and the banksters, financiers, and corporate bosses who have ruled throughout the history of the US.
The list of personality traits is significant: rugged individualism; exceptionalism; entitlement; revenge. Another social attribute is the overwhelming rhetoric for freedom, without an associated call for responsibility, only responsible for the self and not the general good of society. What develops from all this social and psychological rhetoric is a greedy, ignorant, self-centered society. Those attributes are generalized throughout society.
…and It’s Societal….
From the start the US has operated in a militarily violent and racist manner, continuing with and bettering its British heritage. Today the government of the US is composed of those who embody the violent and racist heritage of its founding and development.
It is an imperial government, endlessly creating fear of the ‘other’ – be it socialists, communists, jihadists, immigrants, Russian, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Japanese, Nicaraguans, and essentially anyone ‘other’ than the old white guys who wish to retain control of the system.
What is created is a militarized society operating for the benefit of corporate, political, and military elites. There are many aspects of its control – militarized police, financial dominance of the elite, corporate malfeasance towards people and the environment, lack of social structures, a prison-military complex, and the control of the vast majority of media of all kinds.
The lack of social structures has a serious impact on the financial and emotional health of the individual. Access to health care is expensive, limited, or for many non-existent. Education is not highly regarded in the sense that many want the public system abolished and replaced with private schools or equally racist/elitist voucher schools.
In general, US citizens tend to be rather ignorant about not only the world, but about their own country and how it operates, and through the education process and its allied media process produces a greedy self-centered society that puts the blame on the individual rather than on the collective for any problems that may occur.
…and It’s the Empire.
The US has been since its inception an expanding empire using violent and genocidal techniques in attempts to control the world. There is a long history of US endeavors towards empire from the Doctrine of Discovery through Manifest Destiny on to today’s hubristic “exceptionalism” and “indispensability”. All of it is underlain by racism and the use of violence as an initial ‘diplomatic threat’ to be followed by violent war (covert or overt) as the next diplomatic step.
As an empire it is not alone in all this as its companions in violence and racism are either of the same heritage – Canada, Australia, Europe, Israel – or have been co-opted into being significant partners through a combination of threats and financial benefits, the latter accruing to the local domestic powers rather than citizens. But the US stands alone as the greatest purveyor of violence and militarism, and its domestic culture and foreign policy are both born out of the roots of imperial violence and racism.
As always, the solutions are really quite simple as far as ideas are concerned – it is the application of those ideas that will create immense resistance.
From the problems listed above, the solutions should be obvious.
First, create an education system that develops a well-informed and critical-thinking public.
Secondly, as exposed by the current pandemic, a large change needs to be made to the health system so that greed – profit – is not the dynamic supporting the system, but that care for all should be equally accessible and free.
For the working people and the environment, corporations need to be either banned or severely limited with large responsibilities for ‘externalities – pollution, worker’s health, and safety – put into place.
The financial system is near a breaking point, built on debt (largely through the military-industrial complex combined with outsourcing and offshoring of employment) and supported now mostly by money created by the stroke of a computer keyboard without any product being produced, the financialization of markets that enriches the elites and impoverishes the rest. Reform of corporate law and tax law will help create a significantly more equal society and should help finance necessary health, safety, educational, and environmental laws.
“So What is It About Us?”
This is not really an easy question to answer. The attributes of US society discussed above can be found in other countries, but not to the same degree, nor in the same over-riding conglomeration. A nation founded on exceptionalism, racism, and violence over the land and the people will be hard to reconstruct let alone make amendments for.
Ultimately change will occur. It may come conclusively and finally from the barrel of a gun and related military hardware. Or it may occur as the citizens of the US, the “Columbine Generation”, finally outlive ‘we’ the boomers and create a new kind of society.
– Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicles. His interest in this topic stems originally from an environmental perspective, which encompasses the militarization and economic subjugation of the global community and its commodification by corporate governance and by the American government.