This week in the garden, I got to thinking about countries declaring various segments of the population or other countries as enemies. Knowing that history is not only written by the victors, but by the first one to go public with such comments, I decided to dig a little deeper.
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It’s probably safe to assume that to declare oneself to “have enemies,” not only sounds self-important, but dramatic, and even delusional. Yet, citizens of countries all over the world fall for it every day. They have done so throughout human history. They do so not only amongst peers of their community, but for faceless government as well.
Patriotism vs Nationalism
There is a fine line between nationalism (loyalty to nation) and patriotism (love of country). They both hint at total allegiance. All too often, however, people who claim to be patriots interpret this as blind allegiance, defending their choice of leader and often horrifying policies without question. I don’t think that’s what patriotism is.
Patriotism keeps a door open for citizens to nudge the government in the direction it sees fit for public good. Nationalism, on the other hand, agrees to do anything whoever is in power tells them to do. Nationalism makes enemies. Patriotism tries to get along.
In the US, figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Mother Jones and Emma Goldman are good examples of enemies of the state. Their crimes? Promoting values such as peace, equity, and unity.
Oh yeah! I forgot about half the population that declined participation in a health experiment. They were vilified too. It was something about informed consent, established scientific principles, blah, blah, blah.
Similar to James Loewen, during his career as an historian, Howard Zinn looked past American folklore and its mythical exceptionalism, which hold it back from living up to its promises of liberty and justice for all. A good 2015 documentary describes some of the revelations Zinn’s works brought to light.
Those who wanted peace were systematically considered “enemies of the state”. Instead, we are told to revere tycoons such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and John D. Rockefeller and be grateful to their “philanthropy”, something they used to their own benefit… and I don’t just mean public relations.
My dear friends, you, the nouveau riche, you’ve acquired your fortunes with the blood, sweat and tears of the poor. Yet you would prefer not to pay taxes? In addition, you want to be loved? No problem. Setting up a foundation, my wealthy friends, will allow you to conserve your wealth, exempt you from taxes and allow you to present yourselves as benefactors of humanity.Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie’s associate and patron of the arts
Indeed, the only thing the average person knows about Frick today is a museum that bears his name. They don’t know that on the night of July 5, 1892 in Homestead, Pennsylvania, Frick’s company militia opened fire on unionized labor strikers with machine guns, killing 16 people including a child, living up to his words,
I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.Henry Clay Frick, @sshole
These robber barons, as they are more appropriately called, had a warped sense of what is right and good for humanity. Many of them could be considered eugenicists believing in their divine right to lord their will over others.
In an era where corporate greed goes unchecked, with today’s robber barons wielding this kind of power over life itself, it’s baffling that those who could benefit from a leveled playing field still side with guys who see them as mere stepping stones. They still hold onto concepts like trickle-down economics and free-market capitalism, which screws them out of work, when their jobs go overseas. Andrew Carnegie even said as much,
Wealth when concentrated in the hands of a few serves much more to the likes of progress than when it is dissipated into salaries destined to feed the masses.Andrew Carnegie, Steel Magnate and certified scumbag
In 1913, when miners at Ludlow attempted to organize for better working conditions and pay, John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s company militia shot and killed their union representative. The event that followed, the Ludlow Massacre, was characterized not only by Rockefeller’s hired thugs shooting at striking workers, but the National Guard (the guys we keep asking the government for more of to keep them out) burning down the strikers’ camp, but gunning them down on the Governor’s orders killing men, women and children.
The New York Times, in turn, demanded President Wilson to send in the US Army. Thus begins 14-months of violence ending up in 66 more dead and many more injured. But before Ludlow and the many other revolts against corporations across the country were over, World War I broke out.
It’s been historically true that when the government has been in trouble, it has used military action, intervention elsewhere as as way to try to solve the domestic crisis, the economic crisis and this has happened at other times in American history and especially if there is a great opposition that threatens the establishment. One way of dealing with the opposition is by dealing with the opposition is by going to war and when you hav a war atmosphere, you’re. in a position to suppress the opposition. That’s what happened in the first World War.Howard Zinn, WWII fighter pilot turned historian
It is better to sell shovels to prospectors than to dig for gold oneself.
Having dominated the local markets, WWI came just in time for the US to achieve global dominance. Woodrow Wilson had already pledged $2B in aid to the allies, but that came at a price and a huge boon to industry.
The war enabled us to quintuple our profits. We got rich by providing cotton, wool, meat, steel, artillery shells, wheat, leather, shoes, machine guns, horses and automobiles. Anything we could sell, you bought. You paid with gold, with paper currency, with bonds and with loans. So you must win the war at all costs in order to pay us all back. Then the money we have made by these sales will be lent to you again to rebuild your cities and factories. But we will only profit if you win. That is why we want you to win rapidly.Influential twat banker quoted in the French paper, les Annales, March 25, 1917
Despite the mass media campaign to promote the righteousness of US involvement, recruitment of soldiers was poor, so a draft was imposed on young men of the right age to lose their lives on the battlefields of Europe.
President Wilson also set up the Committee on Public Information. As part of its efforts to favorably promote the war, its head, a man named George Creel created The Four-Minute Men — 75,000 volunteers — to make what he claimed totaled some 7.5 million short speeches touting the goodness of the “war to end all wars” in public venues such as churches, lodges and movie theaters. They were, in effect, the social media of yesteryear.
When conscientious objectors spoke out, the Espionage Act was established to criminalize rational thought and discussing inconvenient facts. Fear and the skillful manipulation of emotions, Creel and others responsible for the propaganda machine realized, was the most effective way to manufacture consent and the will of the people. This tactic was later used by Goebbels in the lead up to WWII.
Immediately after the war, however, this tactic was used to drive what today is called, ‘consumerism’ or as I like to call it ‘the marketing of bullsh*t nobody needs’. Corporations win again.
So who are enemies of the state and why do countries seem to need them? Enemies, as we have seen, are those who toil without adequate pay in exchange for services rendered, but dare to ask for living wages. They are the people who want to live peaceful lives with better opportunities for their children. They are people who recognize a need for self-sufficiency and farming the land to stave off starvation and being exposed to the elements. They are people who advocate community and self-governance. They want freedom as given by God, not one that is issued by government for “good behavior” and can be revoked at any time.
In short, enemies want the government to live up to the promises of the nation’s Constitution — to serve its constituents, not the other way around.
You can watch the documentary Howard Zinn: A People’s History of the United States – Part 1: Bread and Roses here or see if you can get it for free using the Kanopy app, available through your library.
Of course, you can also listen to Zinn’s book while gardening or read it!