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Year 501

The Conquest Continues

By Noam Chomsky

Chapter Nine

The Burden of Responsibility

1. Irrational Disdain

2. Laboratory Animals

3. Indian Removal and the Vile Maxim

4. "The American Psyche"


1. Irrational Disdain

As the US proceeded to "assume, out of self-interest, responsibility for the welfare of the world capitalist system" after World War II, it also extended the "experiments in pragmatism" that it had been conducting in its narrower domains to "accelerate the process of national growth and save much waste" (Gerald Haines, Ulysses Weatherby). One striking feature of the "scientific methods of development" designed for our wards is what Hans Schmidt calls the "irrational disdain for the agricultural experience of local peasants." This was the source of "a series of disastrous failures" as US experts attempted to apply "the latest developments in scientific agriculture" to their Haitian testing area -- as always, sincerely believing that they were doing good while (by the sheerest accident) benefiting US corporations. A 1929 study found that "Haitian peasants were growing cotton more successfully than American plantations which employed the latest scientific methods," Schmidt observes. The chief US agricultural expert reported to the State Department that US ventures "had failed because promoters had been unwilling to study the techniques employed by local people who had, through generations of practical experience, developed locally viable methods," which enabled the natives to raise cotton more successfully than the plantations that were "scientifically cultivated."1

The story continued after the government was handed over to Haitian overseers. In 1941, the Haitian-American Company for Agricultural Development (SHADA) was set up as an aid project under the guidance of US agronomists, who dismissed the advice and protests of Haitian experts with the usual contempt. With millions of dollars of US government credits, SHADA undertook to raise sisal and rubber, needed at the time for war purposes. The project acquired 5 percent of Haiti's finest agricultural lands, expelling 40,000 peasant families, who, if lucky, might be rehired as day laborers. After four years of production, the project harvested a laughable five tons of rubber. It was then abandoned, in part because the market was gone. Some peasants returned to their former lands, but were unable to resume cultivation because the land had been ruined by the SHADA project. Many could not even find their own fields after trees, hills and bushes had been bulldozed away.

"Haitian objections to U.S. aid projects sound paranoid," Amy Wilentz remarks after reviewing this not untypical instance.2 Sometimes, however, there really is a man with an ax chasing the fellow with the irksome complaint.

In 1978, US experts became concerned that swine fever in the Dominican Republic might threaten the US pig industry. The US initiated a $23 million extermination and restocking program aimed at replacing all of the 1.3 million pigs in Haiti, which were among the peasants' most important possessions, even considered a "bank account" in case of need. Though some Haitian pigs had been found to be infected, few had died, possibly because of their remarkable disease-resistance, some veterinary experts felt. Peasants were skeptical, speculating that the affair had been staged so that "Americans could make money selling their pigs." The program was initiated in 1982, well after traces of disease had disappeared. Two years later, there were no pigs in Haiti.

Peasants regarded this as "the very last thing left in the possible punishments that have afflicted us." A Haitian economist described the enterprise as "the worst calamity to ever befall the peasant," even apart from the $600 million value of the destroyed livestock: "The real loss to the peasant is incalculable... [The peasant economy] is reeling from the impact of being without pigs. A whole way of life has been destroyed in this survival economy." School registration dropped 40-50 percent and sales of merchandise plummeted, as the marginal economy collapsed. A USAID-OAS program then sent pigs from Iowa -- for many peasants, confirming their suspicions. These were, however, to be made available only to peasants who could show that they had the capital necessary to feed the new arrivals and to house them according to specifications. Unlike the native Haitian pigs, the Iowa replacements often succumbed to disease, and could survive only on expensive feed, at a cost that ran up to $250 a year, a huge sum for impoverished peasants. One predictable result was new fortunes for the Duvalier clique and their successors who gained control of the feed market. A Church-based Haitian development program that had sought to deal with the problems abandoned the effort as "a waste of time." "These pigs will never become acclimated to Haiti... Next they'll ask us to install a generator and air conditioning."3

Other experiments have often turned out the same way. In his study of another long-time "testing area," Liberia, anthropologist Gordon Thomasson found the same "irrational disdain" for native intellectual achievement, and the same severe costs -- for the locals. Over the centuries, the Kpelle had developed hundreds of varieties of rice that were matched precisely to microenvironments in particular ecosystems; dozens of different seeds might be planted in a small field, with very high yields. US agronomists advised capital-intensive "green revolution" techniques using petrochemical inputs which, apart from being far too costly for a poor country, bring lower yields and loss of the traditional knowledge and the wide variety of seeds that have been bred, selected, diversified, and maintained over centuries. Thomasson estimates that agricultural productivity will be cut by as much as 50 percent if the rich genetic pool of rice varieties, "the product of centuries of self-conscious breeding and selection," is lost and replaced by foreign inputs: "many areas of rural Liberia will for all intents and purposes cease to exist, and so will many of Liberia's indigenous cultures."

The disdain of the experts was heightened by the fact that this is "women's knowledge," transmitted by older women to young girls who spent much time acquiring the skills and lore. The same attitudes extend more broadly. Max Allen, curator of one of the world's leading textile museums, observes that "In most Northern-hemisphere traditional societies, the most impressive man-made artifacts are not made by men at all, but by women," namely textile products, which "are certainly artistic," though not regarded as "art" by Western tradition. They are assigned to the category of crafts, not art. The fact that the artistic traditions extending over thousands of years are "women's work," may contribute to these dubious interpretations, Allen suggests.4

The "suspicious" will not fail to observe that, however ruinous to Liberia, the "scientific methods of development" offer many benefits to the western corporate sector, perhaps well beyond the usual beneficiaries, agribusiness and petrochemicals. As the variety of crops is reduced, and disease and blight become an increasing threat, genetic engineering may have to come to the rescue with artificially designed crops, offering the rising biotech industries alluring prospects for growth and profit.

Following standard doctrine, US experts advised Liberia to convert farmland to plantation cash crops (which, incidentally, also happens to benefit US corporations). The resulting shortfalls led USAID to push the development of paddy rice in swamps, ignoring a World Health Organization effort to keep people out of these regions because of extreme health hazards.

The Kpelle had also developed sophisticated metallurgical technology, enabling them to produce highly efficient tools. In this case, Thomasson writes, their achievements were "killed by colonialism and monopoly capitalism, not because the product it produced was in any way inferior or overpriced in the marketplace," but by means of subsidies to coastal merchants and other market distortions designed by the economic experts and imposed by the US-controlled governments, "eventually destroying the economy, currency, and indigenous industry." Again, there were beneficiaries: multinational mining concessions, foreign producers who supplied the importers, and banks outside Liberia to which they ship their profits.5

Chalk up another victory for "free market" values.

Some might consider it unfair to take Liberia and Haiti as illustrations. As Wilson's Secretary of State Robert Lansing explained:

The experience of Liberia and Haiti show that the African race are devoid of any capacity for political organization and lack genius for government. Unquestionably there is an inherent tendency to revert to savagery and to cast aside the shackles of civilization which are irksome to their physical nature. Of course, there are many exceptions to this racial weakness, but it is true of the mass, as we know from experience in this country. It is that which makes the negro problem practically unsolvable.6

Perhaps it is this racial weakness that accounts for the results of the experiments in Liberia and Haiti -- which are duplicated throughout the subject domains.

These regular features of the 500-year conquest will have growing significance in the years ahead as the ecological consequences of unsustainable capital-intensive agriculture reach a scale that cannot be neglected even by the rich. At that point, they will enter the agenda, like the ozone layer, which became "important" when it seemed likely to endanger rich white folk. Meanwhile, the experiments will continue in the testing areas.

2. Laboratory Animals

The concept "testing area" merits particular notice. Similarly, "American strategists have described the civil war in El Salvador as the `ideal testing ground' for implementing low-intensity conflict doctrine" (a.k.a. international terrorism), a DOD-sponsored RAND Corporation report on the experiment concludes. In earlier days, Vietnam was described as "a going laboratory where we see subversive insurgency...being applied in all its forms" (Maxwell Taylor), providing opportunities for "experiments with population and resource control methods" and "nation building." The Marine occupation of Haiti was described in similar terms, as we have seen. The technical posturing appears to sustain the self-image, at least.7

One finds no intimation that the experimental subjects might have the right to sign consent forms, or even to know what is happening to them. On the contrary, they scarcely have the rights of laboratory animals. We will determine what is best for them, as we always have; another hallmark of the 500 years.

The wise among us just know, for example, that maximizing consumption is a core human value: "If we weren't influencing the world" in this direction, "it would be someone else because what we are seeing everywhere is an expression of the basic human desire to consume," Boston University professor of management Lawrence Wortzel explains. US entrepreneurs are fortunate indeed to be so in tune with human nature. True, slow learners sometimes have to be helped to understand their true nature. The advertising industry devotes billions of dollars to stimulating this self-awareness, and in the early days of the industrial revolution, it was no small problem to bring independent farmers to realize that they wished to be tools of production so as to be able to gratify their "basic human desire to consume." The very "visible hand" of government has also helped. As radio was becoming a major medium, the Federal Radio Commission "equated capitalist broadcasting with `general public service' broadcasting" since it would provide whatever "the market desired," Robert McChesney writes, while attempts by labor, other popular sectors, or educational programming were deemed "propaganda." It was therefore necessary "to favor the capitalist broadcasters" with access to channels and other assistance.8

Apart from the regular bombardment of the senses through advertising and media portrayal of life-as-it-should-be-lived, corporate-government initiatives are undertaken on an enormous scale to shape consumer tastes. One dramatic example is the "Los Angelizing" of the US economy, a huge state-corporate campaign to direct consumer preferences to "suburban sprawl and individualized transport -- as opposed to clustered suburbanization compatible with a mix of rail, bus, and motor car transport," Richard Du Boff observes in his economic history of the United States, a policy that involved "massive destruction of central city capital stock" and "relocating rather than augmenting the supply of housing, commercial structures, and public infrastructure." The role of the federal government was to provide funds for "complete motorization and the crippling of surface mass transit"; this was the major thrust of the Federal Highway Acts of 1944, 1956, and 1968, implementing a strategy designed by GM chairman Alfred Sloan. Huge sums were spent on interstate highways without interference, as Congress surrendered control to the Bureau of Public Roads; about 1 percent of the sum was devoted to rail transit. The Federal Highway Administration estimated total expenditures at $80 billion by 1981, with another $40 billion planned for the next decade. State and local governments managed the process on the scene.

The private sector operated in parallel: "Between 1936 and 1950, National City Lines, a holding company sponsored and funded by GM, Firestone, and Standard Oil of California, bought out more than 100 electric surface-traction systems in 45 cities (including New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Tulsa, and Los Angeles) to be dismantled and replaced with GM buses... In 1949 GM and its partners were convicted in U.S.district court in Chicago of criminal conspiracy in this matter and fined $5,000." By the mid-1960s, one out of six business enterprises was directly dependent on the motor vehicle industry. The federal spending helped keep the economy afloat. Eisenhower's fears of "another Depression setting in after the Korean War" were allayed, a US Transportation Department official reported. A congressional architect of the highway program, John Blatnik of Minnesota, observed that "It put a nice solid floor across the whole economy in times of recession." These government programs supplemented the huge subsidy to high technology industry through the military system, which provided the primary stimulus and support needed to sustain the moribund system of private enterprise that had collapsed in the 1930s.9

The general impact on culture and society was immense, apart from the economy itself. Democratic decision-making played little role in this massive project of redesigning the contemporary world, and only in marginal respects was it a reflection of consumer choice. Consumers made choices no doubt, as voters do, within a narrowly determined framework of options designed by those who own the society and manage it with their own interests in mind. The real world bears little resemblance to the dreamy fantasies now fashionable about History converging to an ideal of liberal democracy that is the ultimate realization of Freedom.

The primitive people to whose needs we minister also commonly lack self-awareness, and need a little help to discover what they really want. The efforts of the Jesuits who sought to raise their Amerindian charges from "their natural condition of rudeness and barbarism...were first, and very wisely, directed to the creation of wants -- the springs of human activity," in which these creatures were so sorely lacking, Hegel learnedly explained. A century later, the US proconsul in Haiti, Financial Adviser Arthur Millspaugh, observed that "the peasants, living lives which to us seem indolent and shiftless, are enviably carefree and contented; but, if they are to be citizens of an independent self-governing nation, they must acquire, or at least a larger number of them must acquire, a new set of wants" -- which the advertising industry will be happy to stimulate, and US exporters will generously fulfill.10

Abolition of slavery raised in a sharp form the problem of creating wants, a problem that was addressed over a much longer period as peasants were driven to wage labor in the early stages of industrialization. Given the suddenness of the transition in the case of abolition, the problem had to be faced squarely, and with self-awareness. Thomas Holt has an interesting study of the case of Jamaica, where after a slave revolt, the British rulers abolished slavery in 1834. The problem was to ensure that the plantation system would be maintained without essential change. Officials understood that freedmen must be prevented from relapsing "into barbarous indolence." "Should things be left to their natural course," Colonial Secretary Lord Glenelg observed, "labour would not be attracted to the cultivation of exportable produce," meaning sugar. He therefore urged a variety of government measures to prevent freed slaves from acquiring the ample fertile lands then available, liberal doctrine notwithstanding. Another colonial official recognized that more is needed: the creation of "artificial wants," which "become in time real wants." As abolition was being prepared, a British Parliamentarian observed (1833) that "To make them labour, and give them a taste for luxuries and comforts, they must be gradually taught to desire those objects which could be attained by human labour. There was a regular progress from the possession of necessaries to the desire of luxuries; and what once were luxuries, gradually be necessaries. This was the sort of progress the negroes had to go through, and this was the sort of education to which they ought to be subject in their period of probation" after emancipation. Otherwise, "they would hardly have any inducement to labour," a high-ranking colonial official, Governor Charles Metcalfe, later observed (1840). By such means, another official noted, it would be possible to attain the desired end: "to change a slavish multitude into an orderly and happy peasantry," performing essentially the same tasks as under slavery, while the "slave driving oligarchy" becomes "a natural upper class."11

The same problem was faced by the United Fruit Company (UFCO) in its Central American plantations. Under conditions of free labor, workers had to be prevented somehow from retreating to a self-sustaining economy, no simple matter. People chose to work "only when forced to and that was not often, for the land would give them what little they needed," an UFCO historian wrote in 1929. To overcome the problem, UFCO sought to instill consumer values, recognizing that "The desire for something that has to be cultivated." The company was able to "arouse desires by advertising and salesmanship," the same historian wrote approvingly; this had "its effect in awakening desires, ...the same effect as in the United States," where, as industry knew well, "desires" had to be artificially stimulated and shaped. The newly-awakened desires -- for silk stockings instead of cotton, expensive Stetson hats and "a flashy silk shirt while their feet were bare," and so on -- could then be satisfied at UFCO stores. The device was "repeatedly abused" by the company, its official historian concedes, as goods were sold "at outrageous prices to the workers -- all too frequently on credit," driving them on "a straight road to peonage."12

The problems had been addressed on a different scale in opening China to the West. Again, it was not easy. A British mission was admitted to Beijing in 1793, offering samples of virtually everything Britain could produce. It was "the most elaborate and expensive diplomatic initiative ever undertaken by a British government," John Keay writes in his history of the East India Company, which held its monopoly on trade with China until well into the 19th century. The Emperor graciously accepted the offerings as "Tribute from the Kingdom of England," commending the "respectful spirit of submission" of the British emissary. There would be no trade however: "Our celestial empire possesses all things in prolific abundance," the Emperor informed him, though "I do not forget the lonely remoteness of your island, cut off from the world by intervening wastes of sea." European merchants made inroads in the south, but were blocked elsewhere by imperial power.

One commodity for which Britain did find a market was Bengali opium. By the early 19th century, the East India Company's revenues from opium sales to China were second only to land revenue, "showing profits high enough both to stifle any moral scruples felt by the British and to negate the prohibitions frequently invoked by the Chinese," Keay writes. A few years later China sought to halt the flow, now truly offending British moral scruples. Pleading the virtues of free trade, Britain forced China to open its doors to lethal narcotics, exploiting the great superiority in violence that so revived the spirits of British jingoists during the 1991 Gulf War. "It took the construction and despatch of an ironclad steamship, the Nemesis, to reduce the Central Kingdom to reason," military historian Geoffrey Parker comments sardonically: the guns of the Nemesis "managed to destroy, in just one day in February 1841, nine war-junks, five forts, two military stations and a shore battery in the Pearl River," and China was soon able to enjoy the benefits of liberal internationalism. The US sought to match the privileges that Britain gained, also pleading high principle. China's refusal to accept opium from Britain's Indian colony was denounced by John Quincy Adams as a violation of the Christian principle of "love thy neighbor" and "an enormous outrage upon the rights of human nature, and upon the first principles of the rights of nations," while missionaries lauded the "great design of Providence to make the wickedness of men subserve his purposes of mercy toward China, in breaking through her wall of exclusion, and bringing the empire into more immediate contact with western and christian nations."

In such ways, Britain succeeded in creating new wants in China, much as the US does today as it compels Asian countries, on pain of severe trade sanctions, to admit US-grown lethal narcotics that kill perhaps 50 to 100 times as many people a year as all hard drugs combined in the United States, and to advertise to open new markets, particularly women and children.13

3. Indian Removal and the Vile Maxim

The problem of driving an awareness of their true wants into the heads of "rude barbarians" also beset the US government in the course of its program of Indian removal and annexation. The most striking instance, perhaps, arose in the 1880s, as Washington prepared to rescind the solemn treaties recognizing ownership of Eastern Oklahoma by the Five Civilized Tribes. The Indian Territory had been granted to these nations in perpetuity after they had been brutally expelled from their traditional homes under an 1835 "treaty" that several Indian leaders were forced to accept, recognizing that "they are strong and we are weak"; "We were all opposed to selling our country east," the signers wrote to Congress, condemning the US government for "making us outcasts and outlaws in our own land, plunging us at the same time into an abyss of moral degradation which was hurling our people to swift destruction." For the English settlers, peace treaties had a special meaning, explained by the Council of State in Virginia in the 17th century: when the Indians "grow secure uppon the treatie, we shall have the better Advantage both to surprise them, & cutt downe theire Corne." The concept survives to the present.

The 1835 treaty replaced earlier ones, going back to 1785, when the newly liberated colonies forced a treaty on the Cherokees (who had, not surprisingly, supported the British in the revolutionary war), taking lands held by the Cherokees under earlier treaties while stating that Congress "want none of your lands, nor anything else which belongs to you." This was a "humane and generous act of the United States," the US representative declared. In 1790, George Washington assured the Cherokees that "In future you cannot be defrauded of your lands": the new government "will protect you in all your just rights...The United States will be true and faithful to their engagements." President Jefferson added that "I sincerely wish you may succeed in your laudable endeavors to save the remnant of your nation by adopting industrious occupations, and a government of regular law. In this you may always rely on the counsel and assistance of the United States." In the years that followed, settlers encroached on Indian territory and new treaties were dictated, imposing further cessions of land. In what remained, a successful agricultural society was established, with textile manufacture from 1800, schools, printing presses, and a well-functioning government that was much admired by outsiders. A report submitted to the War Department in 1825 gave a "glowing description of the Cherokee country and nation at the time," Helen Jackson writes in her exceptional (in many ways) 19th century history of Indian removal, quoting extensive passages of praise for the advanced civilization that the Cherokees had developed and the "republican principles" on which it was based. Meanwhile, the leading thinkers of Europe lectured on the strange lack of "psychic power" that caused the Indians to "vanish" and "expire as soon as Spirit approached" with the European presence.

However impressive, progress was being made by the wrong people, who once again stood in the way of the advance of "progress" in the Politically Correct sense of the term. Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830 was followed by the imposed treaty of 1835, in which the signers relinquished all claims of the Civilized Nations to their lands east of the Mississippi. Jackson was deeply moved by his generosity in "having done my duty to my red children"; "if any failure of my good intention arises, it will be attributable to their want of duty to themselves, not to me." He was not only granting "these children of the forest" an opportunity "to better their condition in an unknown land" as "our forefathers" did, but even paying "the expense of his removal," an act of "friendly feeling" that "thousands of our own people would gladly embrace" if only it were extended to them.

Three years later, 17,000 Cherokees were driven at bayonet point to Oklahoma by the US Army "over a route so marked with new-dug graves that it was ever afterwards known as the Trail of Tears" (Thurman Wilkins); perhaps half survived "the generous and enlightened policy" of the US government, as the operation was described by the Secretary of War, with the routine self-acclaim for unspeakable atrocities.

Reviewing the remarkable achievements of the Cherokee nation before and after, and the treatment accorded them, Helen Jackson writes that "In the whole history of our Government's dealing with the Indian tribes, there is no record so black as the record of perfidy to this nation. There will come a time in the remote future when, to the student of American history, it will seem well-nigh incredible" -- a judgment with which it is hard to quarrel, though the future is still remote.14

In 1870, the Department of the Interior recognized that "the Cherokees, and the other civilized Indian nations [of the Oklahoma territory] no less, hold lands in perpetuity by titles defined by the supreme law of the land," a "permanent home" granted "under the most solemn guarantee of the United States," to "remain theirs forever -- a home that shall never in all future time be embarrassed by having extended around it the lines or placed over it the jurisdiction of a Territory or State," or be disturbed in any other way. Six years later, the Department declared that affairs in the Indian Territory are "complicated and embarrassing, and the question is directly raised whether an extensive section of the country is to be allowed to remain for an indefinite period practically an uncultivated waste, or whether the Government shall determine to reduce the size of the reservation." The Department had previously described the "uncultivated waste" as a miracle of progress, with successful production by people living in considerable comfort, a level of education "equal to that furnished by an ordinary college in the States," flourishing industry and commerce, an effective constitutional government, a high level of literacy, and a state of "civilization and enlightenment" comparable to anything known: "What required five hundred years for the Britons to accomplish in this direction they have accomplished in one hundred years," the Department declared in wonder.15

Jackson ends her account in 1880 with a question: "Will the United States Government determine `to reduce the size of the reservation'?" It was soon to be answered, in just the way she anticipated. Again, the advanced civilization of the Indians stood in the way of civilization, properly conceived.

What followed is described by Angie Debo in her classic study And Still the Waters Run. In the independent Indian Territory, land was held collectively and life was contented and prosperous. The Federal Indian Office opposed communal land tenure by ideological dogma, as well as for its practical effect: preventing takeover by white intruders. In 1883, a group of self-styled philanthropists and humanitarians began to meet to consider problems of the Indians. Their third meeting was addressed by Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts, considered a "distinguished Indian theorist," who had just concluded a visit of inspection to the Indian Territory. Like earlier observers, he described what he found in glowing terms: "There was not a pauper in that nation, and the nation did not owe a dollar. It built its own capitol, in which we had this examination, and it built its schools and its hospitals." No family lacked a home.

Dawes then recommended that the society be dissolved, because of a fatal flaw, of which the benighted natives were unaware:

Yet the defect of the system was apparent. They have got as far as they can go, because they own their land in common. It is Henry George's system, and under that there is no enterprise to make your home any better than that of your neighbors. There is no selfishness, which is the bottom of civilization. Till this people will consent to give up their lands, and divide them among their citizens so that each can own the land he cultivates, they will not make much more progress.

In brief, though superficially civilized and advanced, the people remained culturally deprived, unable to recognize their "basic human drive to consume" and to best their neighbors, ignorant of the "vile maxim of the masters."

Dawes's proposal to bring enlightenment to the savages was approved by the Eastern humanitarians, and soon implemented. He introduced legislation that barred communal landholding and headed the Commission that oversaw the dispossession of the Indians that inevitably ensued. Their lands and property were looted, and they were scattered to remote urban areas where they suffered appalling poverty and destitution.

Such is the way with experiments; they don't always succeed. In fact, the regular experiments conducted in our various "testing areas" typically do succeed quite well, as this one did, for those who design and execute them, Adam Smith's architects of policy -- honorable men, always guided by the most benevolent intentions, which, fortuitously, happen to coincide with their own interests. If the experiments do not succeed for the indigenous people of North America -- or Brazilians, or Haitians, or Guatemalans, or Africans, or Bengalis, or welfare mothers, or others who stand in the way of the rich men who rule -- we may seek the reasons in their genes, "defects," and inadequacies. Or we may muse on the ironies of history.

One can readily understand the appeal to postwar intellectuals of the work of Reinhold Niebuhr, "the theologian of the establishment," the guru of the Kennedy intellectuals, George Kennan, and many others. How comforting it must be to ponder the "paradox of grace" that was his key idea: the inescapable "taint of sin on all historical achievements," the need to make "conscious choices of evil for the sake of good" -- soothing doctrines for those preparing to "face the responsibilities of power," or in plain English, to set forth on a life of crime.16

4. "The American Psyche"

The state-corporate nexus has always devoted substantial efforts and resources to ensure that the rascal multitude recognize their wants and needs, never an easy task, from the days when independent farmers had to be turned into wage earners and consumers. Many of them remained mired in darkest ignorance and superstitious belief, sometimes even heeding the words of such scoundrels as Uriah Stephens, a founder and the first grandmaster workman of the Knights of Labor, who outlined labor's task in 1871 as "The complete emancipation of the wealth producers from the thralldom and loss of wage slavery," a conception that can be traced to the leading principles of classical liberalism. Many took the conditions of "free labor" to be "a system of slavery as absolute if not as degrading as that which lately prevailed in the South," as a New York Times reporter described the new era in which "manufacturing capitalists" are the masters.17

Even today, after a century of intense and dedicated efforts by cultural managers, the general population often fail to perceive their inner wants. The debate over health care provides some useful illustrations. A case in point is a major article in the Boston Globe by Thomas Palmer, well to the liberal side of the spectrum. Palmer opens by reporting that almost 70 percent of Americans prefer a Canadian-style health-care system -- a surprising figure, given that this retrograde socialism is regularly denounced as un-American. But the general public is just wrong, for two reasons, Palmer explains.

The first reason is technical: it was clarified by President Bush, who "emphasized the importance of avoiding the problems of bureaucratized, universal-care systems like Canada's." Mr. Bush, New York Times cor­respondent Robert Pear reports, "accuses the Democratic nominee of favoring a state-run system that would have Soviet-like elements," a "back door national health insurance" in the words of Presidential adviser Gail Wilensky. This is "a charge that Mr. Clinton and other Democrats deny," Pears adds with proper journalistic objectivity, keeping the balance between the charges of crypto-Communism and the angry denials. It is a matter of logic that Commie-style systems of the kind that exist throughout the industrial world apart from the United States (and South Africa) are inefficient. Accordingly, the fact that the highly bureaucratized private sector system in the US is vastly more inefficient is simply irrelevant. It is, for example, of no relevance that Blue Cross of Massachusetts employs 6680 people, more than are employed in all of Canada's health programs, which insure 10 times as many people; or that the share of the health dollar for administrative costs is over twice as high in the US as in Canada. Logic cannot be confuted by mere fact, by Hegel's "negative, worthless existence."

More interesting is the second reason, which is "spiritual," Palmer continues. There is a "difference in outlook" north and south of the border, "theoretical differences that students of the two nations see in the psyches of the average American and Canadian." The studies of these penetrating scholars show that the Canadian system would cause "the kind of rationing of health care that Americans would never accept... The US system rations by price; if you can afford it, it's there. Canadians ration their health care by providing the same care for everyone and simply making those seeking elective or less urgent procedures wait."

Plainly, that would not accord with "American-style impatience," one "student of the two nations" explains. Imagine, he says, that "no matter how poor you are, you will sit in a hospital bed and receive care as the richest in your community. No matter what contacts you have and no matter how rich you are, you can get no better than that." Americans would never accept that, we learn from this expert (incidentally, the president of a health-care consulting firm). Further insights into the American psyche are given by the deputy director of a trade group of commercial health insurers.18

The 70 percent of Americans who don't understand their own psyches are not sampled. That is not unreasonable, after all. They are not students of the American psyche, and it has long been common understanding that they need instruction in self-awareness.


1 Schmidt, US Occupation, 16, 181.

2 Wilentz, Rainy Season, 271-2.

3 Farmer, AIDS, 37ff.

4 Allen, Birth Symbol.

5 Thomasson, Cultural Survival Quarterly, Summer 1991.

6 Cited by Schmidt, US Occupation, 62-3.

7 Schwarz, American Counterinsurgency Doctrine. FRS, 246; APNM, ch. 1.

8 David Holstrom, CSM, April 30, 1992. McChesney, Labor.

9 Du Boff, Accumulation, 101-3.

10 Hegel, Philosophy, 82. Schmidt, US Occupation, 158.

11 Holt, Problem, 45, 71ff., 54f.

12 A. Chomsky, Plantation Society.

13 De Schweinitz, Rise and Fall, 165; Keay, Honorable Company, 435f., 454f. M.N. Pearson, Parker, in Tracy, Merchant Empires. DD, ch. 4; ch. 2.4, above.

14 Jackson, Century. Wilkins, Cherokee Tragedy, 3, 4, 287. Peace treaty, Stannard, American Holocaust, 106. Andrew Jackson, Rogin, Fathers, 215f. On estimates of the toll, see Lenore Stiffarm with Phil Lane, "The Demography of Native North America," in Jaimes, State.

15 Jackson, Century.

16 For details, see my "Divine License to Kill," discussing works by and on Niebuhr, published in large part in Grand Street, Winter 1987.

17 Krause, Battle, 82-3.

18 Palmer, BG, Feb. 9; Pear, NYT, Aug. 12, 1992. Data from Nancy Watzman, Multinational Monitor, May 1992.

1. The Great Work of Subjugation and Conquest ] 2. The Contours of World Order ] 4. Democracy and the Market ] 3. North-South/East-West ] 5. Human Rights: The Pragmatic Criterion ] 6. A "Ripe Fruit" ] 7. World Orders Old and New: Latin America ] 8. The Tragedy of Haiti ] [ 9. The Burden of Responsibility ] 10. Murdering History ] 11. The Third World at Home ]

 ] Table of Contents ] PART I : Old Wine, New Bottles ] PART II : High Principles ] PART III : Persistent Themes ] Part IV : Memories ] Bibliography ] Glossary ]


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