FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Drones and Slavery

by PETER LINEBAUGH

DroneAdventures.org is a Swiss “non-profit” organization that in April 2013 sent two representatives to Haiti to work with a couple “non-profits” called Open Street Map and International Organization for Migration.  For six days with three drones and several lap-top computers these “drone adventurers” mapped:

1) shanty towns in Port au Prince to count the number of tents as a first step in making a census and organizing “infrastructure,”

2) river beds to simulate water flow for future flood control, and

3) the University of Limonade “to help promote the school for the next generation of youth in Haiti.”

These drone promoters also made a cheerful video with a happy sound track, pretty pictures of the blue sky, and scores of children running after these pied pipers launching their falcon-like drones as if the children too could fly as easily out of the man-made disasters of life.

“Have you ever wondered how important it is to have detailed and up-to-date maps of a territory?” the drone promoters ask. Not only do we know they are important, we know enough to view them with suspicion.  Historically, cartography developed in Europe for military, commercial, and exploitive purposes. “There is a continuous need for up-to-date imagery for aid distribution, reconstruction, disaster mitigation … the list goes on.”  Indeed the list does go on, directly to enclosing and to bombing.   These things are not for our own good, though every effort is made to start out that way.

The map depends on the bird’s-eye view, or the perspective from above.  This viewpoint gave not only amusement but the illusion of omniscience which heretofore in European history had been reserved exclusively to the European divinities.  The bird’s-eye view also inspired the Romantic movement of Europe.  The viewpoint keeps us gaping upwards into the sky, and ignoring everything around us.  The viewpoint initiates the class analysis and profound vision of Volney’s Ruins (1792) and Shelley’s Queen Mab (1812)

We have seen something like this before, with the origin of the bird’s-eye view.  Consider the great French philosopher, Condorcet, or consider the brilliant American bourgeois, Benjamin Franklin.  They both welcomed the first hot-air balloons on 11 September 1783 (oh, date of terror and dread!) which made the stopthiefviewpoint possible.  They noted the combination of present amusement and potential power of the balloon.  A decade later the balloons were manned for military observation in the French wars against Austria.  They are the ancestors of the dirigible, the airplane, (the bomber and the fighter), the rocket, and now the drone. The ‘bird’s-eye view,’ and the aerial machines it makes possible, led directly to Guernica and Hiroshima.

Horace Walpole, the English novelist wrote in 1783 as the first balloon ominously ascended over the countryside, “the wicked wit of man always studies to apply the results of talents to enslaving, destroying, or cheating his fellow creatures.”  We could not express the essential contradiction better:  technology and slavery went hand in hand.

Within a year in Haiti the first balloons went up on the Gallifet plantations at Acul and the Plaine du Nord.   Here eight hundred slaves producing riches for Europe were managed by Odelucq, the man responsible for the balloon launch, indeed the first flight in America.  What did the slaves think? Did they stare up into the blue sky with wide eyes and gaping mouths?  Moreau, the contemporary scholar, provides the answer, “black spectators did not allow themselves to cry out over the insatiable passion of man to submit nature to his power.”  “The wicked wit of man” belonged to the European bourgeoisie not the black spectators.  “How can we make a lot of sugar when we work only sixteen hours [a day]?” asked Odelucq.  Only by consuming men and animals, he answered himself.

The men and women would not be consumed so easily.  They taught the children not to run after false gods or to Europeans preaching technological salvation.  The spiritual, military, and social leaders of the slaves appealed to African sky-gods who answered with thunder and lightening on the historic night of 23 August 1791 in the Bois de Caïman, thus initiating the first successful slave revolt in the history of the world.  It began on the same plantations which had been Odelucq’s proving grounds. The sky above Le Cap turned dark with the smoke of burning plantations.  Odelucq was among the first of the oppressors to pay with his life.  Surveillance was answered by sousveillance!

The drones which today indiscriminately kill men, women and children in Pakistan and Yemen appeared first in the history of the technology as children’s toys, not weapons.  Beware, the cunning eye of the master class is on you!

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. His books included: The London Hanged,(with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic and Magna Carta Manifesto. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is Stop Thief! The Commons, Enclosures and Resistance.  He can be reached at:plineba@yahoo.com

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. His books included: The London Hanged,(with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic and Magna Carta Manifesto. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is Stop Thief! The Commons, Enclosures and Resistance.  He can be reached at:plineba@yahoo.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 30, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Can the Impossible Happen in Britain?
W. T. Whitney
Why Does the United States Beat Up On Capitalist Russia?
Patrick Cockburn
We Can’t Let Britain to Become a Vast ISIS Recruiting Station
Michael J. Sainato
Leaks and Militarized Policing: Water Protectors are Proven Right
Ted Rall
What Do the Democrats Want? No One Knows
David J. Lobina
The Israel-Palestine Conflict and Political Activism
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again, Mainstream Media Does Pharma’s Bidding
David L. Glotzer
Social Security: Clearing Up the Financial Nonsense
Edward Hunt
If They are Wrong the Planet Dies
Lawrence Wittner
How Business “Partnerships” Flopped at America’s Largest University
Guillermo R. Gil
Poems Must Never be White
Martin Billheimer
Strategies of Rose and Thorn in Portland
Tony Christini
What isn’t Said: Bernie Sanders in 2020
Chandra Muzaffar
Fasting for Palestinian Justice and Dignity
Clancy Sigal
Even Grammar Bleeds
May 29, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
No Laughing Matter: The Manchester Bomber is the Spawn of Hillary and Barack’s Excellent Libyan Adventure
Vijay Prashad
The Afghan Toll
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post’s Renewed Attack on Whistlblowers
Robert Fisk
We Must Look to the Past, Not ISIS, for the True Nature of Islam
Dean Baker
A Tax on Wall Street Trading is the Best Solution to Income Inequality
Lawrence Davidson
Reality and Its Enemies
Harry Hobbs
Australia’s Time to Recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Sovereignty
Ray McGovern
Will Europe Finally Rethink NATO’s Costs?
Cesar Chelala
Poetry to the Rescue of America’s Soul
Andrew Stewart
Xi, Trump and Geopolitics
Binoy Kampmark
The Merry Life of Dragnet Surveillance
Stephen Martin
The Silent Apartheid: Militarizing Architecture & Infrastructure
Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail