“He came dancing across the water / Cortez, Cortez / What a killer.” — Neil Young

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force — the Marine Corps.  I served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to a major-general.  And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers.  In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism….

The words of General Smedley D. Butler, quoted in Open Veins of Latin America, by Eduardo Galeano.

http://theragblog.blogspot.ca/2009/06/books-jonah-raskin-eduardo-galeanos.html

Eduardo Galeano

The mighty war machine: a tool for wealth accumulation.  As it has been since armies plundered and pillaged their way across the known world.

The real problem isn’t that they behave as they do, carelessly playing war with human life so that they may become richer and more powerful.  Nor is it the fairy tale of heroism and bravery that is packaged as truth and sold to the people in true colour HD.  The problem is that we the people believe it.

General Butler was, in his time, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.  He goes on…

Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for National City Bank to collect revenues in….I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912.  I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916.  I helped make Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903.

The ability of the ruling class to control the public opinion is remarkable.  In spite of unleashing a century of aggression and subterfuge  against the poor and indigenous places of the world, the great armies of the West continue to be celebrated as fundamentally noble and virtuous carriers of the Standard of Democracy.

If the popular narrative history of our culture is little more than an out-dated propaganda piece, projected onto a smoke-stained wall, what is it worth?  Reading Open Veins of Latin America – Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, I’ve been stuck by how much we know about things that don’t matter.

In fourteen-hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  School taught me that his ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, and that after Columbus, many explorers came to begin the European settlement of Canada.

But in school, they didn’t teach me about the genocide of the Americas.  And I didn’t learn anything about the human cost of gold and silver trades, or the starvation that accompanied the changing fortunes of the sugar, cotton, chocolate, and coffee industries.  Popular movies don’t often portray the American military as generally despicable, frequently engaged in acts of highly questionable justification – or morality.

So … the ruling class has been exploiting for hundreds of years.  Lot’s of people have suffered, many throughout their entire lives.  Many have died terrible deaths, their families left to struggle without them.  But … the people of the West had an industrial revolution, experienced widely improved standards of living, and enjoyed tremendous ingenuity and innovation.  Decisions, decisions.

Certainly, nothing can be done about the past.  Yet, here we are …

“Oh, the jealousy – the greed – is the unraveling.  It’s the unraveling and it undoes all the joy that could be.”  — Joni Mitchell

Peace and love.

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