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How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?

Activists, journalists and academics in the US usually talk about organizing, protesting, educating and so on in a cogent manner.  I’m all for that, of course.  But as soon as the topic shifts overseas to Libya, Syria or Ukraine, places the US government has been badmouthing, some shift their inclination to backing moderate death squads, or going along with a “humanitarian intervention”, which of course involves a bombing campaign with civilian deaths and destruction.

When they are trying to fix their own communities, country, or perhaps other western nations, those are clearly not the options to be considered. But as soon as the topic steps outside of the gated communities of the empire, some can’t help thinking that a tiny bit of “strategic support” for armed extremists here and there might help, or a little bit of drone bombings here and there might be necessary.  If that sort of activism is an effective method to bring about positive social change, why aren’t we talking about arming Trump supporters to fight American exceptionalism? Or, destabilizing the Obama regime by arming the KKK?

In fact, the United States of America has been engaging in violent colonial wars, tortures, assassinations, mass incarceration, detentions without due process, police killings and, last but not the least, devastating structural violence and commodification of everything including health, education, housing and human rights.  In terms of weapons of mass destruction, no other country has as many as the US.  And its willingness to use them has been demonstrated to be top-notch as well.  According to the logic of those who tolerate the US government backing violent extremism to overthrow or paralyze undesirable governments and draw them into a quagmire of violence, the US itself must be the primary target for such a strategy.  Are they ready to subject themselves and their family members to armed extremists who are against butcher Obama, or butcher Clinton?

OK I was been sarcastic.  I was sarcastic because, to me, these so called efforts for “democracy” are so clearly not the efforts to bring about peace and happiness for the people in the area.  These are efforts to subvert people’s interests and to help build a hierarchy of power and money, which serve the powerful few at the top.

For those readers who are not familiar with such US policies against other countries, I suggest reading about Ronald Reagan’s support for Mujahideen fighters, which had destroyed the Soviet backed secular, socialist Afghanistan, turning it into the land of Taliban led by Osama bin Ladin.  Or, Reagan’s support for Nicaraguan death squads, which destroyed the leftist Nicaraguan government.  Or, stories about the School of the Americas, which trained deathsquads and dictators in many Latin American nations in order to bring about “democracy” under the Western capital in the region.  Such policies of destabilizing regime change and neo-colonizing by the US government have been taking place in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and rest of the places where people have been attempting to resist Western domination.  For the rich country with a huge military might, building an environment ruled by violence and money is one way to ensure it’s survival.  Of course, such a trajectory completely disregards any standards for humanistic principles.

In fact similar policies have been already implemented by the US government domestically for sometime. The FBI has been entrapping activists to act as “terrorists” to sell “war on terror”.  There is evidence indicating that the US elected officials have been encouraging growth of right wing extremism (1).  One can also see enormous flooding of military equipment into the hands of law enforcers and police killings against minority communities as a destabilizing force to restructure those communities for the corporate interests.  Such a trajectory normalizes exploitation and subjugation by sheer violence against the segment of the population, which in turn reinforces the invisible caste order evolved from the tragic history of Slavery and the settler colonialism of American Indians.  Such a mechanism of structural violence to extract wealth and resources from the people seamlessly merges with the US colonial foreign policies.

Those who advocate violent foreign policies might not desire the violent internal conflict some countries are subjected to for the US, but that is where the destructive power of capitalistic pursuits of money and violence seem to find its expression for its survival.  As wise people have already warned us, chickens do keep coming home to roost (2)(3).

But this logic is so hard to digest for some people.  Those good people who are enraged by a reactionary voice “not all the cops are bad, there are good cops too” can seem to go along with “not all the terrorists are bad, there are good moderate deathsquads too”.  The tendency, I believe, has a lot to do with colonial mentality which resides in both colonizers and colonized.

Colonizers and Colonized

In order to dig deeper into the predicament of our time, we must firmly understand the basic mechanism of colonialism.

Why was colonialism so effective? How could seemingly cultured people with compassion, kindness and generosity among themselves dismiss the atrocious notion of savage exploitation, wholesale murders and blatant thieveries by their authority as normal and acceptable?

The main reason had to do with the fact that it was not possible to question the righteous colonial savagery without questioning the foundation of the governing body:  the authority to accumulate power and wealth to construct a hierarchy to keep the power and wealth with the expense of its subjects.

The hierarchy divides people and it forces them to compete for their positions in it.  This simple mechanism, as well as its sheer violence, unjust laws, religious indoctrination, nationalism and so on to herd people in the structure of the feudal order, have protected the ruling body at the top as well as the structural integrity of the wasting hierarchy.  In our contemporary society, global media, academic institutions, multinational corporate giants, international financial institutions and networks of federal agencies construct a hierarchy of ideologies and ideas as well.  The people are systematically indoctrinated to stay within the ideas of Western capitalist hegemony. Those with the wrong kinds of ideas can be systematically marginalized and encouraged to reside in the lower economic class or in the prison system.

I believe the core of our struggle for humanity still centers around defying this order of hierarchy.

Getting back to colonialism, it places another hierarchy, comprised of “others” in a different location, below the original hierarchy. The lower hierarchy is separated from the hierarchy above geographically, culturally, religiously and so on. The differences between the two are actively used to promote inferiority and otherness of the lower hierarchy by the established institutions. This ethnocentric attitude is expressed as Orientalism (4) toward the lower hierarchy, which in turn, protects the people of the upper hierarchy from feeling bad about the arrangement.

The crucial condition for a stable colonizing derives from a collusion of the ruling body of the upper hierarchy (colonizers) and the ruling body of the lower hierarchy (colonized). The deal is that the rulers of the lower hierarchy benefit from the colonization process themselves, however, it must also maintain the steeper hierarchy which produces extra profits for the upper hierarchy, therefore, they tend to be harsher rulers than the rulers of the upper hierarchy.  And of course, the people of the lower hierarchy are subjected to lower living standards than the people of the upper hierarchy creating myriads of sociological and psychological issues which might not be prevalent in the upper hierarchy.  The atrocities inflicted by the rulers of the lower hierarchy against their own people and their victimhood as a whole justifies the irrational authority of the colonial rule and it also perpetuates the Orientalist myth of the savage people in the lower hierarchy, who, according to the people of the upper hierarchy, may require an imperial assistance.  But of course, it is obvious that the root of the atrocious scheme and its beneficiaries reside in the upper hierarchy.

I believe, today, unfortunately, many global “partnerships” are still based on such a structure. They might not exactly follow the model above but they contain many elements of such unfair relationships.

So what happens if the colonized people decide to rebel against the colonizers?  What happens if a country which has been colonized for generations decides to shift its course?

The colonizers must kick-start the protective mechanism by encouraging the colonized people to rebel against their immediate ruler, and, the people of the upper hierarchy are encouraged to blame the rulers of the lower hierarchy for its savage rule against the revolting people.  Violent resistance against the rulers of the lower hierarchy is encouraged.  The rebel fighters are called “freedom fighters” or “revolutionaries” and they are supported militarily and strategically to prolong the state of destabilization.  Any violent reactions by the rulers of the lower hierarchy are portrayed as fascist violence against its people, reinforcing the whole colonial structure and its cycle.

I believe that is the underlining dynamic we observe in many conflicts today.  That is why it is so crucial to do away with the colonial structure of imperialism in order to truly solve conflicts globally as well as domestically.  We must not succumbed to the imperial call for violence, which continues to provide justifications for its inhumane order.

Failed empire

Last month, I was chatting with an Iraqi taxi driver in Berlin. My 12 year old son and I took a cab from the museum for contemporary art to our hotel. I couldn’t help but ask the cab driver why he ended up in Berlin. He said it was something to do with the availability of the visa. He stressed that he had to leave because he didn’t like Islam. He said Muslims were killing each other.

I felt very slightly sad because he sounded like he had to say that to prove that he wasn’t a “terrorist”. I told him that it was the US that supported Saddam when it was convenient. Then, the US flipped, changing its policy, as doing so became more convenient. I asked him, Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, same old story, no?

Then he said something unexpected. He said it was a “people’s revolution”. “We stood against Saddam”.  He was referring to the first gulf war in 1991. He went on to describe how it didn’t go as people wished, and it brought about the devastating trade embargo, more war, ISIS and so on.  His voice was passionate.  I felt the anger and frustration against war and imperialism that I also feel myself in his voice.

As we were arriving at the destination, he told me that he just got German citizenship. He sounded proud and happy. I congratulated him as we shook our hands.

It was good for him. But what about his country? What about his friends and family members back home?

People call Iraq a failed state.  That, of course is an Orientalist perspective. It’s the empire that’s failing catastrophically at the expense of its subjects.

Notes.

(1). The Jewish community center shootings: White-washing white terrorism:  http://greenshadowcabinet.us/statements/jewish-community-center-shootings-white-washing-white-terrorism

(2). MALCOLM X: CHICKENS COMING HOME TO ROOST:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzuOOshpddM

(3). Jeremiah Wright: America’s Chickens Are Coming Home To Roost:

(4).  Edward Said On Orientalism:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVC8EYd_Z_g

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Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony. In 1998 Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He lives and works in New York.

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