FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Collateral Savages

by LINH DINH

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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail