Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Collateral Savages


It is a recurring theme: civilization committing barbaric acts to feed its refined gluttony. As we found out about American Marines urinating on dead Afghans, there was also a story about Brazilian loggers tying an eight-year-old girl to a tree and burning her to death. She belonged to the Awá, an Amazon tribe of around 300 members, with only 60 still clinging to their hunter-gatherer way of life. To maintain our so-called civilized standards of living, collateral damages are inevitable, and “savages” must be sacrificed.

If they get in the way of civilization’s quest for petroleum, lumber, tin, zinc, copper, whatever, they must be killed wholesale, or one by one, as was accomplished by Chris Kyle, currently touring bookstores to promote his American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. Kyle killed 255 “savages,” his term, and can stand before God with a clear conscience, he told Bill O’Reily, because he was saving American lives. FOX being FOX, the question of why Kyle was in Iraq in the first place was not probed.

With his tunnel vision specialty, teamwork ethics and preoccupation with numbers, Kyle is the quintessential tool in civilization’s machinery. Tasked with long-distance, targeted killing, he performed outstandingly, and is proud of his feats, all carefully
quantified. His 160 Pentagon-confirmed kills wipe out the previous American record of 109, held by Delbert F. Waldron, not to mention the relatively puny 93 of Carlos Hathcock. Kyle’s longest shot was 2,100 yards. Though impressively long, yes, very long, it’s dwarfed by the 2,700 yards recorded by one Horse Craig Harrison, a Brit.

Empire is civilization’s greatest efflorescence and final aim. With empire comes the tallest, biggest and longest of everything. Citizens of empire, down to the lowest cog, bathe themselves daily with numbers as a kind of self-congratulation. Counting themselves hoarse to prove that they are in fact content, they measure their achievement and happiness with Dow and Nasdaq indexes, inches on flat-screen TVs, cars sold, runs and touchdowns scored by sport heroes, and savages killed by even more heroes. A large number denoting anything, even debt, cheers up denizens of an empire since it is proof of their gigantism. Empires compete to see who can piss the longest and furthest, over the most continents.

What a contrast this is to a primitive nomad, who sees properties as a burden, and thus does not care to count hardly anything. The most extreme example of this is another Amazon tribe, the Pirahã, whose language includes no cardinal numbers at all. They simply can’t count, and have no interest in doing so. American scholar Daniel Everett spent an hour each night for eight months trying to teach them numbers in Portuguese, with zero success, “It was just a fun time to eat popcorn and watch me write things on the board.”

Though living on a finite planet, the subjects of empire are indoctrinated into the religion of infinite growth, with anything short of that seen as a major disaster. With their gross appetites, they cannot conceive of a no-growth existence, though that was the economy of man for thousands of years. During the age of fossil fuels, now winding down, this infinite growth formula can appear sane and sustainable, but as oil and gas go scarce, its murderous and suicidal nature will become ever starker, like an innocent girl being burnt at the stake.

Most of the planet must slave and starve, so the anointed few can consume, yet even these lucky buyers must themselves slave, commute long hours and pop  uppers or downers nonstop to afford that Ipod, Ipad and Xbox. Speaking of which, here’s a still relevant insight from Ben Franklin:

“Having few artificial wants, they have abundance of leisure for improvement by conversation. Our laborious manner of life, compared with theirs, they esteem slavish and base; and the learning, on which we value ourselves, they regard as frivolous and useless.”—from his Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America

With social networking, who needs face-to-face conversations? Slaves to bogus needs and virtual thrills, we have become estranged from the real, with our savage instincts, suppressed, flaring up as conceits or pathologies. Often they explode overseas, as the T-shirt says: TRAVEL TO EXOTIC LANDS, MEET INTERESTING PEOPLE THEN KILL THEM.

In an advanced civilization, a nomadic existence, with its hunting pack, can only be approximated in a war, but instead of hunting animals for subsistence, our boys are gunning down people who are merely trying to prevent us from exploiting and humiliating them. With such a dubious reason to kill or be killed, it’s not surprising that many of these soldiers come back home only to kill themselves.

As I write this, the US is encircling, harassing and sabotaging Iran, yet few Americans seem alarmed that for the sake of oil, again, and that increasingly elusive economic growth, their leaders may kill millions and wreck this earth even further, but as their empire convulses and collapses, most Americans will find themselves reduced to the level of those they’ve been annihilating. They will discover that they, too, are just collateral savages.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.


Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Qaddafi
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again
Anthony DiMaggio
Lesser Evil Voting and Prospects for a Progressive Third Party
Ramzy Baroud
The Many ‘Truths’ on Syria: How Our Rivalry Has Destroyed a Country
David Rosen
Was Bill Clinton the Most Sexist President?
Laura Carlsen
Plan Colombia, Permanent War and the No Vote
Aidan O'Brien
Mao: Monster or Model?