The only thing new about the current financier-led push for colonialism is that its the First World they are colonizing. Although famous for her dissection of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt also analyzed 19th century Imperialism/Colonialism. Here is what she wrote:
Here, in backwards regions without industries and political organization, where violence was given more latitude than in any Western country, the so-called laws of capitalism were actually allowed to create realities. The bourgeoisie's empty desire to have money beget money as men beget men had remained an ugly dream so long as money had to go the long way of investment in production; not money had begotten money, but men had made things and money. The secret of the new happy fulfillment was precisely that economic laws no longer stood in the way of the greed of the owning classes. Money could finally beget money because power, with complete disregard for all laws - economic as well as ethical - could appropriate wealth....Only the unlimited accumulation of power could bring about the unlimited accumulation of capital.
- Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 2: Imperialism"
Below the fold is another of my historical analogies - this time about the Scramble for Africa.
The quote above the fold is, surreally, on display in Greece this very day:
Mr. Papandreou said, urging a yes to reforms. And this extraordinary admission: "The financial system," he said, "is stronger than the will of the people."
Imperialism was not originally the policy of governments, but rather the policy of financiers like Cecil Rhodes and rich industrialists like Joe Chamberlain (Neville's father). Rhodes pushed the limits of legal on a continent where the law was barely a fiction. Rhodes owned the South African press and a good deal of the London press. So he got his side of the story told. Sound familiar?
At first, European expeditions were too weak to challenge African rulers. It was safer to use blank treaty forms, explained away by an empire-minded missionary, than to use live ammunition. But paper imperialism soon proved inadequate. When effective occupation became necessary to establish a good title, conflict became inevitable. The African rulers best equipped to resist were understandably those who depended on violence themselves...Soon the Maxim gun...became the symbol of the age in Africa...Most of the battles were cruelly one-sided (but not for the British against the Boers, or for the Italians against the Abyssinians).
- Thomas Packenham, "The Scramble for Africa"
The imperialists relied on the infamous "blank treaty form", by which some native ruler would agree to the "protection" of this or that European government. Said protection rapidly devolved into outright takeover, followed by colonial exploitation with a heavily racist tinge. (Can you say Benton Harbor, MI?)
As for the government of the country, (King Mwanga) had signed away control of his own revenues ("The revenues of the country shall be collected and the customs and taxes shall be assessed by a Committee or Board of Finance"). No longer did he command his own army ("The King, assisted by the (British East Africa) Company, shall form a standing army, which the officers of the Company will endeavour to organize and drill like a native regiment in India"). Nor could he decide his own policy (The Resident's consent "shall be obtained...in all grave and serious matters connected with the state").
No wonder Mwanga had desperately tried to avoid signing away these rights..."The English have come", said Mwanga acidly, "They have built a fort, they eat my land, and yet they have given me nothing at all."
- T. Pakenham, "The Scramble for Africa"
What is happening today in Michigan, Wisconsin, NJ, Maine, Greece, and Ireland is colonialism. It is the appropriation of wealth by power. It is economic war against people defenseless against the latest hi-tech: computerized financial fraud and looting, aided by the open complicity of a captive Federal justice and regulatory system that prosecutes small fry and lets the big fish go on devouring the country.
The fight for Europe’s future is being waged in Athens and other Greek cities to resist financial demands that are the 21st century’s version of an outright military attack...
The bankers are trying to get a windfall by using the debt hammer to achieve what warfare did in times past. They are demanding privatization of public assets (on credit, with tax deductibility for interest so as to leave more cash flow to pay the bankers). This transfer of land, public utilities and interest as financial booty and tribute to creditor economies is what makes financial austerity like war in its effect.
- Michael Hudson "Whither Greece? Without a National Referendum Iceland-Style, EU Dictates Cannot be Binding"
In the U.S., the deliberate "cowardice" (read complicity) of the DLC/Third Way wing of the Democratic Party over the last twenty years has allowed the entrenchment of a pro-corporate, pro-theocrat Federal Judiciary. The pinnacle of this judiciary, the SCOTUS, has green-lighted corporate dictatorship with the Citizens United ruling. And they have let people know how that is going to play out with the dismissal of class action suits against Wal-Mart and AT&T. The U.S. is now playing by corporate rules under corporate judges , who run the gamut from anti-democratic (Scalia) to totally corrupt (Thomas). These rules are "monitored" by a corporate press which manufactures outrage and public opinion on corporate demand.
Meanwhile, Obama has done absolutely nothing about the crooked voting machines; and now his is doing nothing about the GOP voter disenfranchisement campaigns. Bully pulpit? He only uses it to repeat the fraudulent "our country is like one big household" lie of the intellectually bankrupt neoliberal economists, whose home is the same University of Chicago that staffed Obama's campaign.
With that level of Federal "get out of jail free"-ness, corporations and billionaires are free to loot the states one at a time, as if they were individual African tribes. The result has been the Koch Brothers/ALEC rape of Wisconsin, Michigan, NJ, Minnesota, Ohio, Maine, and Florida. (Florida seems to have deserved it, electing a convicted felon who robbed the government of billions of dollars.) These people do not care one whit about citizens or democracy or the law. They are here for the loot, the same as Cecil Rhodes. The failure of the national democrats has allowed individual states to sign the "blank treaty form" of GOP governorships with these looters; and the results have been as spectacularly bad for the natives as any Scramble-era treaty was for African natives.
And, yet, the Democratic leadership, and Obama in particular, goes on this laughable campaign of bipartisanship when 19 separate polls show that 75%+ majorities want taxes on the rich raised, want the Pentagon downsized and the wars wound down, want Wall St. to be prosecuted, and want Social Security and Medicare to be left alone.
Anyone who cannot see that US citizens, short of direct action, are now powerless in front of corporate ownership of all the money and both political parties is a blind fool. There have been demonstrations in Wisconsin for months, and Walker is still busy selling off the state and making more power grabs under the cover of rabid judge Prosser. The national Democrats have done squat. Obama reneged on his promise to stand with unions. Given this record, the leadership of the Democratic Party is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
The loan scam being played on the states and on Greece and Ireland is also of 19th century vintage:
The terms for building the Suez Canal...fell little short of exploitation...This money could only come from international loans, floated at ruinous rates of interest, and a ruinous sinking fund...This was not simply due to extravagance...(the) new public works...were often surprisingly well designed and operated...The economy...was perfectly sound...most of this reckless borrowing had simply been spent paying foreigners the exorbitant interest on earlier loans...
In 1875, Ismael could only keep the wolf from the door by selling to the British government his last big asset, his four million pound holding in the Suez Canal shares. Next year the wolf was back at the door, and he was technically bankrupt. He defaulted on the interest on the foreign loans.
- Thomas Packenham, "The Scramble for Africa"
The British used usorious loans to steal the Suez Canal right out from under the Egyptians. This is exactly what is going on in Greece and in the privatization bonanza on offer to corporations in Michigan and Wisconsin. Its all about money. Nobody asks how the money was obtained. We are governed by money. We are slaves to money. It is the stuff of science fiction:
The economy's out of control. Money just doesn't need human beings anymore. Most of us only get in the way...People lived before money was invented. Money's not a law of nature. Money's a medium. You can live without money, if you replace it with the right kind of computation.
- Bruce Sterling, "Distraction"
Where is this all heading in an era where first world societies are totally dependent upon supplies of oil and credit? It is heading towards punishments that destroy entire segments of society (i.e., the former middle class), just like in Africa under the most violent of the colonizers:
When German brutality in South West Africa provoked a revolt by the Hereros, the German general, Lothar von Trotha, issued a Vernichtungsbefehl ('extermination order') against the whole tribe, women and children included. About 20,000 of them were driven away from the wells to die in the Omaheke desert....When the census was taken in 1911,...less than a quarter of the original number of Herero (15,000 out of 80,000) were found to have survived the war.
- The Scramble for Africa
Today, we don't literally let people die of thirst. We simply create a jobs and credit desert (by corporations sitting on $2 TRILLION of cash and banks refusing to make small business loans). Then, like in the Irish Potato Famine, we blame the unemployed victims as lazy, or coddled, or unwilling to work for a sub-living wage. No doubt about it, the worst of colonialism is back in new garb, with new tools, but running the same old grab control, loot, and repress game they always did.
The Boers hated and feared the financiers more than the other foreigners. They somehow understood that the financier was a key figure in the combination of superfluous wealth and superfluous men, that it was his function to turn the essentially transitory gold hunt into a much broader and more permanent business....it was quite obvious that (the war with the British) had been prompted by foreign investors who demanded the government's protection of their tremendous profits in foreign countries as a matter of course - as though armies engaged in a war against foreign peoples were nothng but native police forces involved in a fight with native criminals.
As in the Colonial Era, the democratic institutions of government and the military/police complex have been co-opted by the rich to serve themselves. The rich are, more than ever, chasing after superfluous wealth. They already own the world. And, with the rise of mercenary armies, and the effective privatization of the US military as an arm of corporate (especially, oil company) dominance, the most desperate and/or the most sociopathic of "superfluous men" are coming to control the instruments of violence.
So, is there a way out of this mess? Perhaps for a few, determined states who have not been totally overtaken by propaganda, theocracy, and bribery. The answer is right there in my first below-the-fold quote:
The African rulers best equipped to resist were understandably those who depended on violence themselves...Soon the Maxim gun...became the symbol of the age in Africa...Most of the battles were cruelly one-sided (but not for the British against the Boers, or for the Italians against the Abyssinians).
The tribes (including the Boers, who behaved in a tribal manner) who survived the colonial onslaught had modern guns. To survive 21st century colonialism, we need the modern equivalent: our own banks and our own media.
Our media is up and running, although heavily outgunned and under constant threat of censorship (by cable or internet operators), ruinous lawsuits (the infamous Righthaven), and propaganda assault (like Fox News vs Media Matters).
The banking angle is much more important and much more neglected. We need community banks who will lend to small businesses. We need operations like Credo Mobile that capture basic infrastructure fees that would otherwise feed corporate lobbying. We need operations like Credo's parent, Working Assets, the socially-conscious investment fund.
Finally, we need political actions that directly attack our financial overlords. We need organized campaigns to get people to disinvest in the most blatantly vile and corrupt banks - because the corrupt court system is NOT going to stop the continuing assault on middle class property.
In this era, dollars have become bullets and bombs. We are not going to win this fight unless we take it to the people who make nothing but money and trouble.
FOOTNOTE: This diary updates the increasingly dire situation that I described two years ago in America's 30-year journey into the Homeland of Darkness.