* Eudaimonia & Co: How Americas Chickens Came Home To Roost.
How Americas Chickens Came Home to Roost
Umair Haque, Medium, 26 Feb 2019
The Story of American Collapse We’re Not Supposed to Tell
As we watch America’s spectacular, gruesome collapse — into a country where the average person lives paycheck to paycheck, can’t afford decent healthcare, will never retire, and so on, a rich nation of poor people, a powerful nation of powerless ones, a ruined empire which became a pariah state, when it wasn’t a laughingstock — the question arises: what the blazes went wrong?
(Note how this question is never asked by pundits, columnists and so on. Don’t they care? Shouldn’t they?)
The answer — or at least one answer — is straightforward, but it’s also something that Americans won’t or can’t hear. America’s chickens came home to roost. The very same kinds of dictators, thugs, tyrants, and mafias America once installed in poor countries now ironically run America, which has become the very same kind of destabilized, poor, powerless country. (Exactly the same kinds — ignorant, vicious fools, kleptocrats and fascists, theocrats and authoritarians, all vying to loot, ruin, plunder, and pillage their very own society.) While that society reacts in just the same impotent horror and shock as the “banana republics” America once destabilized with coups and puppet tyrants.
Do you see the circle closing? What the? Is that karma? Is it divine retribution? Or is there something more to it? What do I mean by “America’s chickens came home to roost?”
If you talk to people in South America, or Latin America, they’ll often tell you something like: “the Americans were on the side of the fascists. The bad guys. The ones who beat and tortured us, just for wanting to be a democracy. Why did they do this to us?” What they mean is that Americans rolled in, destabilized their countries, toppled their democracies, installed puppet dictators — and then, worst of all, turned a blind eye to the horrors that followed. And it did all that for a very specific, totally cynical, utterly selfish reason — that couldn’t be more at odds with the idea of America as some kind of beacon of democracy and justice for the world.
Take the example of Chile. Allende was toppled, and Pinochet installed (that’s him in the pic above), with a little help, so the story goes, from America’s shadows, the CIA and so forth. And then the CIA happily looked the other way when Pinochet began to round up his political opponents — and execute them ruthlessly. In fact, he did that on the very first day: a massacre of about fifty civil servants (if I recall correctly). Then Pinochet’s SS — his death squads — and his Gestapos, his paramilitaries, and so on, turned Chile into an terrorized dictatorship, where dissent could be a lethal crime. Dissent from what?
Why was Allende toppled? Because he wanted Chile to be something like a European style social democracy. Maybe a little more to the left, if you want to split hairs — but hardly the Soviet Union. Yet even this was so alarming to America — that they toppled his regime, installed a dictator, and let the death squads literally rape women, torture kids, and hang innocents.…en masse. What the…? Why on earth did America not just allow this — but make it happen, set it all in motion?
Do you see how deeply at odds this story is with America as the “land of the free and the home of the brave”? And yet it was repeated in country after country. From Nicaragua to Iraq (where, ironcally, Saddam became America’s enemy number one, after he was lifted to power, and did all those same things, rape, torture, murder.) And despite all that, that obvious and striking pattern — this age of invisible war is an ugly part of American history that we’re kept deeply ignorant of. When we’re told about it — I’d bet that most of us simply refuse to accept it. So by all means, go speak to some people from South and Latin America — the story I’ve told you is tragically real. America made war on the world for fifty years — against democracy. But why?
Why was America so threatened that it toppled Chile’s democratically elected President (or those of many other nations)? Did these countries threaten to attack America? To steal its women and take its children? Of course not. How could they? Most of these countries were poor, broken places — like America would later become, but I’ll come to that. America was so alarmed, so threatened, because these countries wanted to practice the tiniest bit of “socialism.” Allende wanted healthcare and education and housing for all. Free milk for kids. Hardly the stuff of Lenin’s wildest dreams, or Stalinist gulags. More like the stuff of French and German social contracts.
But America couldn’t allow even that — or it thought it couldn’t. What would happen to American capitalism, then? You see, if the oil and minerals and whatnot of these countries were being used to feed and house and educate their very own poor — prices would rise for Americans. And heaven forbid industries were nationalized by their own societies, democratically — then American capitalism might have to pay rates decided by those countries, too. So American capitalism couldn’t allow even the tiniest bit of socialism, anywhere — it was a threat to its own profits (but hardly a threat to its survival.)
Hence, this gruesome, foolish, pointless half century where the CIA and whatnot toppled poor democracy after democracy aspiring to become social democracies — to follow the European model, instead of the American one. Where America thwarted global democracy, time and again — in the name of capitalism. American capitalism needed cheap everything. Cheap oil, cheap minerals, cheap rubber, cheap food — cheap labour. And the smallest chink of socialism threatened all that. Quick, call the CIA!! (It’s true that by the 2000s we were so confused we were toppling the very dictators we installed — like Saddam — but that hardly exonerates us, it just makes us clueless.)
That’s the sad story of what we did. Not “we” as individuals — but “we” as a society. We are the ones who let these toppings of democracy happen. We are the ones behind all these Gestapos and SS’s. We are the ones behind coups and fascism and collapse. We fought a war against the world for capitalism — in every single place we could, which wanted to choose a different way, which had every right to do so, and which was probably smarter than us, from this vantage point in history.
Wait — is it any surprise, then, that all that happened right back to us? But why? Is it karma? Nope. It’s just the inevitable result of our very own foolish and fatal logic.
If America wasn’t going to allow the tiniest bit of social democracy to happen in poor, powerless countries — do you think it would let it happen to itself? Why would you infect yourself with the disease you’re trying to cleanse the world of? You wouldn’t, would you.
That is why social democracy could never develop in America. Why America could never progress or mature at all. Every time any hint of social demcoracy threatened to appear — it was chopped away mercilessly, at the roots. The Kennedys were killed by a “lone gunman” (please). Generations of activists and radicals in the 60s and 70s were mysteriously assassinated, disappeared, jailed. Does this sound a little Soviet to you? It should.
Even if you don’t want to believe that part of the story, think about the ideological war waged on Americans — by Americans. Americans were brainwashed to believe that “socialism” and “communism” were the stuff of Marxist-Leninist dystopia — the tiniest amount led straight to gulags, to starvation, to breadlines. Meanwhile, Europe was busy pioneering all kinds of cutting-edge social investments — from high speed trains, to Denmark paying students to educate themselves, to childcare systems for all, to a political union that invested in a joint Europe’s bridges, roads, towns, cities, universities.
Socialism? Sure. Of a different kind. Not Marxist-Leninism: totalitarian, absolutist communism. But a gentle, permissive, helping hand, which lifted every life up, gave it a floor, a bare minimum, a job, a home, healthcare, retirement, childcare.
These were exactly, precisely the same things that Americans were now beginning to be crippled by a lack of. By the 90s, the costs of these very things had begun to explode. By the 2010s, the costs of all these things — healthcare, childcare, retirement — were so stratospheric that no one, really, but society’s wealthiest could afford them. As a result, American life went into free fall. The young turned to opioids. Suicide skyrocketed. Poverty exploded. The middle class imploded. Nobody could make ends meet.
In the rising tide of anger, despair, fear, and rage, what happened was what always happens. A demagogue appeared — just the kind of shameless, power-hungry, violent aspiring tyrant that America had once installed in poor, broken countries. But now it was the poor, broken country. And people desperate for hope — or at least a target for their fury — turned to this demagogue, a surrogate daddy, offering them safety in a time of ruinous uncertainty, of soul-crushing anxiety. He blamed America’s problems on the others: little Mexican children, gays, immigrants, refugees.
But it wasn’t any of those people who had taken the basics of life away from Americans. Who was it? It was America. It was America’s great and fatal mistake. If America had chopped down social democracy at the roots, the minute its fragile shoots broke soil, in every poor and broken country it could have — then how on earth would it allow itself to ever mature and develop into a social democracy? But then how would Americans ever have healthcare, education, retirement, childcare, and so on? And without those things — the inevitable cycle of destabilization and fascism that results from sudden, fresh poverty would always erupt. The future was sealed. America’s fate was already written. Bang! Collapse.
Do you see how sad and strange this story is? How untold it is? And also how predictable it should have been?
You see, Americans were told by capitalism that capitalism would make them all happy, long-lived, rich, and safe. They still haven’t figured out that that was always, to put it bluntly, a lie. If it was true, then why have Americans ended up precisely the opposite — miserable, sick, depressed, poor, and profoundly at the mercy of forces beyond their control? Capitalism never had any interest in making the American prole — the middle class Joe — rich. Why would it? Capitalism was always only interested in making capitalists rich. So today we have a situation where dynasties own enough to pay off the entire country’s student debt or healthcare bills — but they won’t, because they don’t have to, and Americans are still brainwashed enough to believe that somehow, capitalism will give them the very things it charges them insane, eyewatering prices for them while underpaying them to produce.
That brainwashing — we might call it a “false consciousness” — is the inevitable result, though, of a country which declared war on the whole world, to prevent “socialism”, even lightweight, gentle, European style social democracy, from ever taking the smallest root anywhere. When that was the case, how would it ever be allowed on the hallowed ground of American soil? When you’re fighting a war on the world for capitalism — you’re not going to allow anything but capitalism in the promised land.
It’s in that way that America’s chickens came home to roost. Today, America’s ruled by precisely the same kind of junta it once installed in poor countries. A violent, stupid, vain dictator, aspiring to be a king. A mafia of kleptocrats filling their coffers surrounding him, as if they were great economists and businessmen. A gang of fascists and supremacists “advising” him, as if they were philosophers and intellectuals. The very same kind of crooks, fools, thugs, and pimps have risen to power in America as America once happily installed in the rest of the world. That’s not a coincidence — it’s an inevitable outcome.
America’s hardcore conservatives were happy, in the end, doing to America what they’d done elsewhere — turning it into a tinpot dictatorship of a failed state. Rather that than “socialism”! Anything but “socialism”!! We’ll burn our whole society down, if it means the communists don’t get their hands on it!!
That gang of fascists, tyrants, thugs, and pimps is building the very same kinds of institutions that the dictators America installed in poor countries used to oppress them, too. To beat and punish and torture and whip them into control. They’re building just the same concentration camps, Gestapos, SS’s, secret polices, “files”, “records”, and so on. All the institutions of a failed state, of a new dictatorship, are being born in America, too. That’s not a coincidence either. It’s the very same logic at work. “Anything but communism! Socialism? Over my dead body!! I’d rather have fascism!”
And so here we are — getting just that.
What’s the inevitable result of the logic — “we can never allow the tiniest bit of socialism, even European style social democracy, anywhere, period, full stop, even if the alternative is installing fascists and tyrants who create concentration camps and SS’s and Gestapos”? That’s the logic America used for over half a century. The problem is that when it came to America itself, that logic ensured that America could never mature into a social democracy, even if it wanted to, needed to, ached to — it would have to collapse into just the same kind of fascism and tyranny and atrocity it had created elsewhere, when that moment came. That America’s leaders, America’s institutions, America’s intellectuals, would all strike the bargain — better tyranny and fascism than social democracy. Isn’t that — when you take a look at the Senate, the New York Times, CNN, the GOP —more or less exactly what happened?
Today, something like 70% of Americans want, basically, some form of a social democracy. It’s not a coincidence their leaders, neighbours, and colleagues have chosen viciously to give them fascism, tyranny, and concentration camps instead, at that precise moment. It’s perfectly logical. It’s just what they did in the rest of the world, for as long as they could get away with it — how could they do anything else in America, then? They met the idea of letting a democracy choose even minor league forms of socialism — like public healthcare and education — with violence and hatred, everywhere they could, as savagely as they could. Surprise: that’s just that they’re doing to America, too.
America’s chickens came home to roost, my friends. That is the sad, strange, gruesome story of American collapse. The one we still don’t talk — and haven’t learned anything from.