As the Country Falls Apart, It's Time for Our Revolution
The following is an excerpt from Ted Rall's new book, The Anti-American Manifesto(Seven Stories, 2010).
You can feel it. Or maybe you can't.
It doesn't matter whether you feel it or not. It's happening. The story of the United States of America as we know it -- not merely as the world's dominant superpower, but as a discrete political, economic, and geographic entity -- is drawing to a close due to a convergence of emerging economic, environmental, and political crises.
Nothing lasts forever, empires least of all. And this one, which only began to expand in earnest circa the year 1900, doesn't feel like it has the staying power of ancient Rome.
Not at all.
But we're not here to talk about the vague possibility of collapse at some point in the future. We are here -- in this book and within this historical moment -- because the collapse feels as though it is currently in progress.
We are here because the U.S. is going to end soon. There's going to be an intense, violent, probably haphazard struggle for control. It's going to come down to us versus them. The question is: What are you going to do about it?
Us: Hard-working, underpaid, put upon, thoughtful, freedom-loving, disenfranchised, ordinary people
Them: Reactionary, stupid, overpaid, greedy, shortsighted, exploitative, power-mad, abusive politicians and corporate executives
In 2008, like the people of the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, we put our hopes into a young new leader. He is the kind of fresh-faced reformer who just might have been able to do some good had he been put into power decades ago. "Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job," read the headline in the satirical weekly newspaper the Onion after Barack Obama won. He has failed. It is by design that internal reformers like Mikhail Gorbachev and
Obama inevitably come too late to actually accomplish anything. Even if a leader like Obama were inclined to push for the sweeping reforms that might save American late-stage capitalism from itself, as did Franklin D. Roosevelt -- and there is no evidence that the thought has crossed Obama's mind -- his fellow powerbrokers, fixated on quarterly profit statements and personal position, would never allow it.
The media talks a lot about reform. But it's too late for nips and tucks. Reform can only fix a system if the system is viable and open to change. Neither is true about the United States of America.
A veneer of normalcy slapped -- sloppily slapped -- on top of a stinking pile of obviously out-of-control unsustainability can no longer disguise the ugly truth: The United States of America is finished. Shopkeepers still take our dollars, foreigners still fear our bombs, but watching the crazy federal deficits, the wildly expanding international military presence, the putrid joke that is our healthcare/education/employment system, and a natural world in free fall (mainly due to the crap pumped into the air and water by the people and corporations of the United States) makes the debate over whether Democrats are better than Republicans feel surreal.
Government exists to serve economic power. In the U.S. and globally, economic power is concentrated in business, namely the large corporations whose profits account for more than ten percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Corporations can't operate without the government. They are codependent, yet independent of and barely responsive to the nation. A nation goes on with or without its government, with or without the big businesses we take for granted.We are not the government that serves those companies. They are parasites, vampires, hideous monsters that underpay and overcharge us and get fat on the spread. Who are we then?
We are their victims. We are weak and pathetic. But only by choice.
We can wait for the system to collapse of its own accord, for the rage of the downtrodden and dispossessed to build, for chaos of some sort to expose and destroy it. But implosion might take a long time. And when it happens, we may find ourselves even more powerless than we are now. They -- the hardcore, racist, undereducated, fundamentalist Christian, anti-civil liberties Right -- are preparing to step into the breach, to seize power. They can't wait to unleash their venomous hatred on the city-dwelling commie hipster fags they despise. They are armed. They recognize that the system is doomed. They've seen this coming. They're organized and willing to merge their disparate brands of conservatism under a common
leadership. Most importantly, they get it. They don't need to be convinced that everything is in play. They're putting it in play.
Christian fundamentalists, the millennial end-of-the-worlders obsessed with the Left Behind series about the End Times, neo-Nazi racists, rural black-helicopter Michigan Militia types cut from the same inbred cloth as Timothy McVeigh, allied with "mainstream" gun nuts and right-wing Republicans, have been planning, preparing, and praying for the destruction of the "Godless," "secular" United States for decades. In the past, they formed groups like the John Birch Society and the Aryan Nations. Now the hard Right has a postmodern, decentralized non-organization organization called the Tea Party.
Right-wing organizational names change, but they amount to the same thing: the reactionary sociopolitical force -- the sole force -- poised to fill the vacuum when collapse occurs. The scenario outlined by Margaret Atwood's prescient novel The Handmaid's Tale -- rednecks in the trenches, hard military men running things, minorities and liberals taken away and massacred, setting the stage for an even more extreme form of laissez-faire corporate capitalism than we're suffering under today -- is a fair guess of how a post-U.S. scenario will play out unless we prepare to turn it in another direction.
Although the U.S. has fascist tendencies, it is unlikely that an ascendant American right would embrace fascism in its classic form. But a post-collapse reactionary government would likely have some attributes of fascism. Robert Paxton, who was my history professor at Columbia and is widely regarded as the nation's leading expert on the field, wrote the book on the subject ( The Anatomy of Fascism ). As Professor Paxton told me in 1991, the United States is the nation that is the most likely to go fascist, the one that has the most of the necessary ingredients -- including distrust of parliamentary democracy, extreme militarism, and a highly industrialized society -- required for a true fascist state. As things stand, there will be no one to prevent this nightmare.
So this book is a call to arms. And an appeal to self-preservation to those who know we can do better.
If Not Now, When?
A war is coming. At stake: our lives, the planet, freedom, living. The government, the corporations, and the extreme right are prepared to coalesce into an Axis of Evil. Are you going to fight back? Will you do whatever it takes, including taking up arms?
History does not really repeat itself. No two historical moments are ever the same. The circumstances that govern a given street corner in Pittsburgh at 8:00 p.m. on December 9, 2011, will never recur.
Yet the motivations and needs of human beings remain constant. There are always parallels with the past, lessons to be learned, bits and pieces that will apply to present and future circumstances. There are even a few eternal truths.
Thinking about the present situation, the historical analogy that best seems to fit the current crisis is the collapse -- to be exact, the period shortly before the collapse -- of the Soviet Union. The parallels are instructive and scary: