Are there some cows in this world that, in some way form or shape, can freely roam the earth? Wandering about from one scenic grazing land to another, enjoying the graze? Without a single trace of any fear of a human individual or group, who may decide it is their God-given right to brand those cows, line them up and subject them to any one of a range of extremely cruel, demeaning and, ultimately, enslaving acts?
In a world that may have existed long before we succeeded in forcing ourselves on all and every species on earth, free cows must have surely roamed the earth. We can imagine and assume such a rosy, distant past to have existed.
But, even a self-evident truth such as a past time, in some circles, may be considered a very loaded proposition; and indeed it may be. For all I know for certain, we cannot be sure of anything. It is very possible that we humans actually created cows. And that is why cows have always been slaves to us, except where they have been decreed free; for example, in India.
Those two cases (a possibly-real-possibly-fictional past time, and an actual current place, India) notwithstanding, all cows are slaves. The differences among individual cows in various locations on earth merely reflect the inner workings of the worldwide, for profit meat industry.
Different schools of ‘social science’, just as different sub-departments within business schools, as well as assorted other not-so-reflective academic departments, have attempted to ‘explain’ to a detailed degree all the differentiations within the industry; entire oceans of discourse have been launched regarding the degrees of freedom cows actually enjoy. The public has been well initiated in the language to be adopted when conceptualizing cows. Some scientists may even have announced amazing discoveries regarding the fundamental differences between ‘branded cows’ and ‘not-yet-branded’ ones.
The differentiations matter only to those in the business of making money from cow-related industrial activities, but matter not to the cows. No matter how we differentiate the subject matter, we cannot get away from the fact that there exist no free cows; merely not-yet-dead ones.
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As humans, we like to classify things. We can, for example, find different uses of cattle. In a textbook I use to teach a class on academic writing (in an English as a second language context), in the section covering the rhetorical form ‘classification’, there is an article entitled, Uses of Cattle (shockingly, there are none entitled, Uses of Your Grandmother). The article, very matter-of-factly lists the following uses: milking (the most humane interaction we have with cows), skinning (not nice) and butchering for body parts (speaks for itself).
For understandable reasons, both pedagogical and rhetorical, the textbook article did not care to list yet another, very unique human interaction with cows: the practice of burning cows alive. Of course, the topic would not fit the theme of ‘uses of cows’; nor would it fit under ‘classification’. It would fit better in the chapter on ’causes and effects’ perhaps.
In any case, there are always reasons given for such behavior as burning cows alive. For example, we would be told that such is necessary to fight the spread of a strange disease. Has there ever been a comprehensive study investigating connections between the spread of this strange disease on the one hand, and, on the other, the human’s system of ‘processing cattle’? Mad Cow Disease, I believe, spreads as a result of the presence of cow parts (particularly, the spine, I think) in the feed that farmers give to the cows to get them to grow bigger while they are alive.
So, we have taken very peaceful, vegetarian, nay, vegan mammals, kept them in constant terror and in atrociously polluted, overcrowded conditions, and fed them their own dead! And when as a result of this sadistic treatment they get sick, instead of finding some cure for this disease that we have given them, what is our solution? We burn thousands and thousands of them alive.
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Some social scientists may conclude: as goes the inter-species relations so do the intra-species relations.
Colonization, at its core, is about the shrinking of the pool of free men and women. Free, that is, from the ravages of powerful bullies eyeing our goods.
The military campaign, which, in one form or another, always becomes necessary to wield is merely one phase of the overall process of integrating free people into a system that the ruling classes of metropole regions of the capitalist world system have already set up.
It is usually the military phase that gets most of the attention of the professional talking head classes of the metropole areas. Most usually downplayed and kept out of focus (and if mentioned, only in a superficial framework) is the economic factor, which is most definitely presented as if utterly bereft of any acquaintance with, and completely independent of, the military-politico battles. And to a degree it is, but only to that very degree. As they used to say, in the final analysis, without the bullies and the organized legal gangs (to write and enforce the laws that set the table) the ‘economic’ can not be independent of the ‘political’, in fact it may not be; at all.
That is why, for us, it has always been a ‘political economy’.
Legal restructuring of nothing short of the entire constitution of an invaded land, as happened in Iraq, with direct as well as indirect economic gains almost solely to the benefit of the invading parties’ corporations and interests is the real thing an invading party is after.
Why, to ask a naive question, was it necessary to change the entire legal system of Iraq, almost immediately after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s government? What did the change of Iraqi laws regulating business ownership and taxation structures, for example, have to do with the need to remove a mad dictator who was bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction?
Clearly it were not Saddam’s WMD that needed to be removed, but the property laws which needed to be replaced with a set that sat more generously with a handful of western-dominated cartels zeroing in on some Iraqi piece of action.
The loot has already been removed. All that remains is the ‘stabilization’ plan.
Not all stabilities need to be as stable as the next one, though. Some, in fact, in order to be stable for some, have to remain very unstable for others. For a very long time.
The case of Iraq: Take the loot, then smash up the joint so bad as to make sure they’ll never be able to take back what you took. And when the loot is that big, you best have the resources to cover your tracks afterwards. It seems the invaders think they have the resources and are going to take the cake, too.
Except, of course, for the resistance. The resistance knows what is at stake: a very long era of enslaved existence, or a chance to set off on a freer road; freer than the past as well as freer than the present.
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One thing is very clear: people are still fighting back. Everywhere. In all corners of the world, there are people fighting back. This mess cannot pretend to be the holiest and most perfect thing that god ever created. There are no more pretenses. There is resistance on one side, and, on the other side, there are only denials and self-delusions. Lucky for those who resist, denial and self-delusion are repressive means of surviving only the short-term; not capable of fueling anybody for long-term survival.
There is always the necessary revolution. The possibility will always remain. Revolution does not need to be bloody. Revolution does not have to be violent. It can be defensive all the way, and still win. It can laugh all the way. It does not have to be ‘led’ by a ‘party’. But, it does need to be led. More importantly, it must lead.
No matter what shape it takes, a revolution is necessary if we are going to live in anything other than, at best, some kind of chaos managed ad hoc, or, worse, constantly ill-managed barbarity.
Except for a few places on this earth, we know that free cows do not exist. We can safely state that late-modern capital’s insatiable thirst for more realms to plunder has brought us to a point where we may soon have fewer free humans than there are free cows. That, however, is yet to be seen.
REZA FIYOUZAT can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org