“No Savage Should Inherit the Land” (A People’s History…Ch. 5)

Wait, you mean people build worlds to protect what they already know and have? What if we all do this in our minds first and then project that onto the screen that is reality and confuse our film with what’s real? What’s real if not our film?

Not sure why I’m speaking collectively. We are each our own projectionist and projector. Who decides, though, what strip goes into the projector? Hopefully I do, right? Although I’m not sure how I can claim that I alone create the content of what I see out there in the world. No projectionist decides what films to show, unless he owns the theater somehow. He’s just a mindless worker, putting on whatever gets sent to him. He’s no solemn solipsist, just a guy trying to get by.

What in God’s name are you talking about? Isn’t this supposed to be a retread of Chapter 5 of this “Infinite Winter” book?

Sorry. I was typing that to waste time before a Skype interview. I had this blank post sitting on the screen and started ruminating.

Ruminating as in re-digesting information, like cows and other ruminates do in their crazy stomachs?

We’re not talking about I Contain Multitudes in this post.

Oh, right, because you know what we’re talking about in this post. Get on with it, fool.

Chapter 5, “A Kind of Revolution,” besmirches the good name of the American Revolution, I do declare! Or it throws necessary shade on American mythology, which is straight hegemonic horseshit. When we speak of “America” fighting “Britain,” we mean “the ruling elite” on either side. There is no collective beyond the will of the already empowered. And so when we speak of American Revolution, we ought to say American Substitution. They just replaced the British starters with a bunch of scrubs (not that the British deserved their playing time).

Ruling elites seem to have learned through the generations – consciously or not – that war makes them more secure against internal trouble.

Ah, 1984. History or prophecy?

…desperation led to the recruiting of the less respectable whites.

America! America! God shed his grace on thee!

No new social class came to power through the door of the American revolution. The men who engineered the revolt were largely members of the colonial ruling class.

And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!

…the rich must, in their own interest, either control the government directly or control the laws by which the government operates.

2017: the consolidation of power, a businessman-politician. Philosopher-king? Ha!

In monarchy, the crime of treason may admit of being pardoned or lightly punished, but the man who dares rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death.

How about a slow death, Sam Adams? For that, why not turn you into a beer that subdues the masses, either keeping possible rebellion at bay through making you their salvation, or (and either way works) facilitating their surrender to a disease and eventual death? In any event, you become a national idol, a liberating libation!

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing…it is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government…God forbid that we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion…The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Thomas Jefferson, you sly dog. Modern medicine mostly masks symptoms though, so rebellion always falls short; it is fundamentally short-sighted. It doesn’t attack the disease; it doesn’t even know that there might be underlying causes to the problems we identify and rebel against. Rebellion is a promise of stagnation. Revolution? Well, in America’s case, that only made the disease easier to spread.

But is it the aim of government simply to maintain order, as a referee, between two equally matched fighters? Or is it that government has some special interest in maintaining a certain kind of order, a certain distribution of power and wealth, a distribution in which government officials are not neutral referees but participants? In that case, the disorder they might worry about is the disorder of popular rebellion against those monopolizing the society’s wealth.

Go on…

When economic interest is seen behind the political clauses of the Constitution, then the document becomes not simply the work of wise men trying to establish a decent and orderly society, but the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privileges, while giving just enough rights and liberties to enough of the people to ensure popular support.

But no, not our great country!

Let me drop this lame tone. I worry about my reading of this book because all it’s doing is fleshing out my biases with greater detail. I’ve long doubted American everything, and this only deepens my skepticism and resentment. I choose a different path: love. I will continue to learn about “America” from as many angles as possible, wishing to understand it and all of us more fully, but to let myself succumb to negative emotion or simple cynicism is inadequate. Unethical even. It gets me nowhere but lodged more firmly in my dull psyche. It enables minimal action, optimizing instead static frustration. I might be moved, but that doesn’t mean I’m moving.

So while our forefathers enabled “the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law – all made palatable by the fanfare of patriotism and unity,” I cannot give in to petty rebellion or misguided revolution. I choose the possibility of transformation. Evolution. Its slow crawl is a greater promise of enduring change than the messy revolutions we continue to turn to, thinking they’ll somehow turn out differently. We are a species marked historically by our insanity.

(And I don’t mean the “temporary errors and delusions” which necessitated a “well-constructed Senate.” That was just people seeing social order for what it was: a deliberately designed ladder that could rarely be ascended.)

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