Ahh, the heady days of the early internet after the government sold it off. A future of unheralded peace and prosperity due to the democratization of knowledge and ease of commerce. Well then, looking at some of the results. Millions of people obsessively looking at fake news and pictures of each other doing stupid things while ignoring everything around them. Millions looking at the ubiquitous porn. Whole communities that believe the moon landings were faked, or they were abused as part of an alien conspiracy and they can now use telepathy and remote viewing, or that vaccinations kill people. The efficiency of commerce now includes virtual slave labor for millions in southern China, while over-worked Americans toil in warehouses at breakneck pace to ensure some slack-jawed yokel in Tuscaloosa can get a talking fish and some fake penis enlargement pills to be delivered by yet more overworked and underpaid shipping company workers while actual stores shutter. Oh, and the spreading of democracy, where, under the greatest private and public surveillance yet, we have elected an openly racist and vindictive failed casino builder and television host who now wishes to appoint a neo-confederate, authoritarian lunatic to the post of Attorney General. My tattooed, ear-ringed friend said this in 1989 as he watched my brother experiment with sending a stick figure image across a 2500 baud modem on a 12mhz desktop.."Yup...and when things get faster, they'll send smut over it." That statement understood human nature better than all the techno-utopians. The tools are only as good as the talking monkeys operating the things, and there are a lot of really dumbass talking monkeys.
Monday, September 05, 2016
“The problem with Americans is they have no culture” Barry F ca. 1988
I don’t know why my friend said this. I can’t remember the discussion or the context, much less the day. But I do remember him saying those very profound words. He is perhaps the most American person I know. Originally from Indiana, his family moved around as his father sought jobs, much like the rest of the U.S. and World population. He is a Navy veteran, and wears this proudly. He is also much decorated with tattoos, and until age struck him with joint problems, was also an artist, a skin illustrator, description courtesy of Rod Steiger. Decades before personal decorations entered mainstream culture, he had multiple piercings both seen and unseen (Yes, that body part) and tattoos everywhere. He enjoys his Harley, cheeseburgers and coffee. Despite his long hair and anti-social appearance, he was also perhaps the most normal behaving of my cohort, which at the time, in our twenties, consisted of ex-junkies trying to learn how to put on our pants. His house was at least clean and livable.
His observation is profound because it is very true. And, because it is true, it has allowed a culture to be implanted.
My title is from the movie Blade Runner, and is part of a conversation between two replicants, the genetically engineered biological slave subjects of the movie. They are part the emotionally important cache of memories for one of the characters that are either implanted within or generated by the replicants as they live their brief, engineered four-year lifespan.
In a way, many Americans are much like them. Most of us are not the descendants of Massachusetts Bay and its associated Boston Brahmans, but instead are the children of great crashing waves of desperate, landless, hungry peasants symbolic of famine driven diasporas left on the beaches as the waves recede. Our ancestors landed, dusted off the sand, and were too busy working and enjoying the idea they could actually own land and eat too worry. We do not know who the hell we are and how we got here, and our ancestors never had the time to remember and tell us, as they were too busy working. Here, they at least had a chance. They were not so hungry they had to chew on leather mitts, as my grandfather once described. The problem is with no ties to the land, implanted cultural memes of patriotism and no historical context, American’s can be sold any story. Chopping down Cherry trees, not telling lies, Cherokee Princesses, the belief that no one was here or god intends us to rule or evil communists or shining city on the hill, we can be told anything because we have no history. Or, at least one that is truly told.
It is erased. The Indigenous inhabitants didn’t exist or were primitive savages digging in the ground for roots, rather than the people who had complex societies who died from biological bad luck in the evolutionary viral sweepstakes. They were not the people who built Cahokia, designed the Serpent Mound, mined copper on the Keewenaw and traded it for shells from the Gulf of Mexico and somehow brought them to the Grand Mound on the Rainy River. They were, and are, the disappeared Injun of the “Trails End.”
As colonists with the ancestry of desperate peasants, we don’t have much to emotionally base our lives on. You see this when people investigate their genealogy. It is inevitably some Royalty from the Merovingian's or Tudor’s, rather than indentured servants named John. The same is true, for people feeling loss or guilt over how they got here, so they invent things such as the apocryphal Cherokee Princess who confessed on the deathbed to Indian heritage. Much laughed at, it should really be pitied. The tellers are often emotionally desperate people trying to belong to something in a world that has forced their ancestors to move every generation for 150 years. Everyone needs a home, and we will invent one if needed.
Thus the myths.
As Noam Chomsky one clarified, you never hear of someone in Italy being called “ Anti-Italian” during a political discussion. Terms like that, such as “Anti-American”, are used only in places where all cultural life is subsumed to the Nation State, as in Totalitarian states. This is a relatively new development. Culturally, this has endured in the U.S. since the propaganda project to politically move us into World War One, but up until Word War Two, people still questioned involvement in other countries, despite the constant invasion of danger zones such as Nicaragua and Mexico. Eagles, the word “Freedom”, and the Military are just part of the precious photos we use, much like the replicants. They are our false memories, our implants, creating a cultural memory to justify our existence.The methods and symbols used are still the same, and Edward Bernays would be very proud.
God forbid someone mention genocide.
In North Dakota, Local Dakota Natives and supporters are protesting a pipeline being built through both North and South Dakota. Ignoring the hideous irony of both states being named by colonial settlers after people they forcibly removed from the east following a mass hanging, I will allow myself to continue using the names. As the protest has grown with calls for support from the outside, the protest has not disappeared, as is likely government officials hoped for.
This Minnesota Public Radio headline reflects the Orwellian language of our colonial culture and modern capitalism: “Dakota Access Pipeline Protests in North Dakota turn violent.” Local officials complained that protesters violated public land; private “security companies” used attack dogs and pepper spray on the supposed invaders. The empty stupidity and arrogance of any Government official standing west of the Missouri River south of Bismarck and complaining of Natives “violating private land” should be met with derision and a public dunking. Any soul familiar with the history of the Fort Laramie Treaty would know this, but colonial cultures, especially one as arrogant as the immigrants to the United States, must erase history in order to justify their very presence. Genocide and land theft don’t match with flag waving and the “shining city on the hill.” The Dakotas are its very essence.
A true complaint and history of violence might include how colonial settlement was built on the violence of extraction for profit, beginning with the fur trade, the buffalo slaughter, the Forts, the Indian Agents, the forced settlement of the Dakota from Minnesota to what are now the Dakotas, the Black Hills gold rush, the mines, the Dawes Act, the importation of colonists via public subsidy of the railroads, the Homestead Act, the damming of the Missouri, the coal mines and now of course, the oil extraction. None of these are mentioned, and of course if they are, the immediate response is to “Why do you bring up the past...all you do is complain!” That is the heart and soul of any colonial culture built on exploitation for profit…deliberate erasure of history.
The true history of violence links settlers very presence with exploitation. The workers, now best represented by oil boomers, pipeline workers and imported mercenaries renamed “security firms”, are merely well trained and indoctrinated servants of their corporate masters and their state enforcers. Most of them are merely desperate to make a living in Post-Reagan America, which is really America at its core, built on fraud, boom, bust and resource extraction. The Bakken is just a pile of Buffalo bones heaped across the horizon disguised in moving metal. Afterall, America is real estate speculation started by European royalty until the locals wanted their cut. As modern workers on the industrial frontier, the corporations are able to buy their allegiance as their profits are beyond avarice. Meth and Heroin have replaced alcohol for use in quieting the soul. And like much of the U.S. population, indoctrinated on flags, empty myths and psychological desperation to justify their own actions, the response to anyone interfering with their right to rev a truck is rage.
The mercenaries, who at this point should probably include most government officials who complain of the protestors, are servants of power and privilege. Most are amoral, self-serving psychopaths, the ordinary bureaucrats as in Hannah Arendt’s description of Adolf Eichmann. It is fitting the local sheriff has a German name, for his actions do imitate the Afrikaners, another colonial culture built on its own myths and a cultural history of nothing. Underneath their definitions and actions are the ignorance and myths of our history, a history of land exploitation, of soil, of the fish and animals, of the Natives and of the immigrant colonists. The error lies in the colonist descendants, orphans of history and capitalism, their history erased much like the forced Native boarding school victims, not knowing just how they got here in both time and place. Someone has been telling them to wave the flag and forget who they are, and off they have gone for three generations. Their anger is desperation to keep up with the great debt cycle their masters impose on them, but without history they have no words. You cannot speak up if you don’t know the language. And that is what makes us human.
What frightens the government and the corporations is the Natives are restless, and now some of the Sepoys agree with them. They are terrified of Lucknow happening here, not in violence, but in political resistance. The security “companies” are the paid mercenaries of the exploitive state. They are the cavalry with different emblems. It may no longer be legal to kill us en masse, but they can enslave us or pay us, and still make a tidy profit.