Monday, April 7, 2008

The Next 500 Years

Sometimes to project vision into the future, its necessary to look back at the past. Below is another insightful synopsis, by Noam Chomsky, on what it is to be regarded as an unperson, belonging to an unpeople.

"The conquest of the New World set off two vast demographic catastrophes, unparalleled in history: the virtual destruction of the indigenous population of the Western hemisphere, and the devastation of Africa as the slave trade rapidly expanded to serve the needs of the conquerors. The basic patterns persist from 1492 to the current era. It is not at all unlikely that the rulers of the world, meeting in G-7 conferences, have written off large parts of Africa and much of the population of Latin America, superfluous people who have no place in the New World Order, to be joined by many others, in the home societies as well.

Diplomacy has perceived Latin America and Africa in a similar light. Planning documents stress that the role of Latin America is to provide resources, markets, investment opportunities with ample repatriation of capital, and, in general, a favorable climate for business. If that can be achieved with formal elections under conditions that safeguard business interests, well and good. If it requires death squads “to destroy permanently a perceived threat to the existing structure of socioeconomic privilege by eliminating the political participation of the numerical majority...” that’s too bad, but preferable to the alternative of independence (the words are those of Lars Schoultz, the leading U.S. academic specialist on human rights in Latin America, describing the National Security States that had their roots in Kennedy Administration policies).

As for Africa, State Department Policy Planning chief George Kennan, assigning to each part of the South its special function in the New World Order of the post-World War II era, recommended that it be “exploited” for the reconstruction of Europe, adding that the opportunity to exploit Africa should afford the Europeans “that tangible objective for which everyone has been rather unsuccessfully groping...” a badly needed psychological lift, in their difficult postwar straits. Such recommendations are too uncontroversial to elicit comment, or even notice.

The genocidal episodes of the Colombian-Vasco da Gama era are by no means limited to the conquered countries of the South, as is sufficiently attested by the achievements of the leading center of Western civilization 50 years ago. Throughout the era, there have also been regular savage conflicts among the core societies of the North, sometimes spreading far beyond, particularly in this terrible century. It is precisely here that the moral and cultural challenge arises, as we approach the end of the first 500 years."

When once asked what he thought of British civilization, Mahatma Ghandi replied: "I think it will be a very good idea". It epitomises the sardonic humour that those in the developing world have as their defence against the indifference of the industrialized nations. Yet, it also reveals a depth of insight that begs the question: why are we not doing anything about it? As we lament, and lambast, the powers that be - so we too allow them to continue with impunity. As recipients of this dubious attention we need to concede that we contribute greatly to our own situation. Why, for instance, do we continue to pursue development goals that simply lead us further into indebted slavery?

As the next 500 years unfold; we are still beholden to,and enthralled by, the concept of conquest and empire. Surely this is the time to break with the system. What is there to lose? We have been denuded of any resource that has any value, except for our people. Our people is the last, and most valuable, treasure of this continent. Will we allow economic slavery to replace the odious version of the initial conquerors? Once was bad enough, it doesn't bear contemplating again.

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