During the time he’s broadcast on YouTube, Jamarl Thomas of the Progressive Soapbox has consistently advanced a way of looking at the world that’s a helpful tool for understanding what the U.S. is trying to engineer in Venezuela with its economic sanctions and its ham-fisted recognition of a new self-declared president who’s never campaigned for that office or had a single vote cast for him.
Reminiscent of eco-anthropological author Daniel Quinn, this way of seeing is also indicative of Jamarl’s avowed love for science fiction (in the best possible way). When attempting to analyze the gyrations of politics in our most unstable world, he often asserts that the clearest way to get a sense of things is to pretend you’re sitting on the moon looking down at what’s happening on Earth. In a sense, this is his attempt to look at humanity, the planet and time itself as a totality, from a cosmic vantage point, and not merely as an American who sees events from solely the standpoint of rooting for “Team U.S.A.” It’s also an attempt to gain enough distance from events and human civilizations to be able to view them more analytically.
In relation to what’s going on with the U.S. and Venezuela, when I do this myself, two truths come into broad relief:
- First truth. The United States is an empire and has been a global empire since the end of World War II. It’s one of many empires that have existed in human history and, regardless of modern technology and techniques in weapons, transportation, finance and communication, its behavior and motives are similar to all empires that have preceded it.
Actor Richard Dreyfuss, playing the character of marine biologist Hooper in the famous 1975 horror film Jaws, inadvertently describes the nature of empire metaphorically when he extemporizes on the nature of sharks:
“What we’re dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks. That’s all”.
When taken out of the world of metaphor and back to actual empires and how they behave, the reasons are consistent. When empires go beyond their borders to exercise power through violence, sabotage or economic warfare, their motives have always been:
- To seize another country/region’s resources. (Venezuela, incidentally, has the biggest oil reserves on Earth, nationalized not privatized, and not denominated in U.S. dollars)
In their #DecipherYou video series, an extensive exploration of the documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, journalists Suzie Dawson and Elizabeth Lea Vos get at this issue:
- To gain wealth and power
- To exercise control over human destiny (which is all hegemony really is at its core)
That’s it. That is an empire’s nature. Few people who live inside an empire want to admit this about their own country. They want to find exceptions and exoneration, such as an imminent or current threat to the nation. But we must be ruthless with ourselves. The mainland of the United States hasn’t been attacked by another country since the war of 1812. That’s more than 200 years ago. What about 9/11? An act of preventable terrorism, whether or not you believe the official story. The Japanese attack on Peal Harbor in 1941? Nowhere near the U.S. mainland and Roosevelt goaded them into it to get a reluctant U.S. population to support entering WWII. No, sir. The impulses that make an empire do what it does are always the same.
2. Second truth. When viewed from the moon, across all of human history and across every small and large civilization on Earth you’ll find widespread incompetence, corruption and mistreatment of populations by those in power. In a country like Venezuela, historically an oligarchy heavily driven by class and racial hierarchy, suffused in rampant poverty, crime, naked greed and exploitation, you see all of the things you might expect—idiocy, graft, murder, repression, cruelty, and so on. This behavior can even flow from a government that’s genuinely trying to empower the population. Even within well-meaning governments it’s inescapable because human civilization has not yet evolved beyond these tendencies. Venezuela is a continuation of this sick circus. Click To Tweet
In a wealthy country like the U.S., you merely have a prettied up version of the above, with a higher standard of living and better education for the general population. Graft is rampant across the economy and the government. Corporations and wealthy elites use their money to buy the political system and install incompetent but subservient representatives. It’s legal. It’s normalized. Everyone wears suits and speaks in measured tones, so it looks respectable.
Bloody murder is common enough, but less visible institutional murder, through purposeful racial segregation and impoverishment, denial of healthcare, homelessness, police violence and incarceration, ensures all the death is a little less personal, a little less easy to pin down. When things can’t be manipulated through legalized graft, leaders get killed (the 60s) and elections get rigged more overtly (2016). Propaganda is a premium resource, ubiquitous and sophisticated, which helps keep the population disempowered, misdirected and distracted—and the corruption hidden. At its core, though, the same corruption that exists in a poor nation prevails in the rich one.
What this means is that if you hang up a map of the world and throw a dart at it, you will hit a nation that is corrupt and where those in power mistreat the general population. Additionally, this means that justifications for any empire’s power moves beyond its natural borders based on the corruption and evil of the targeted nation is a dodge, a red herring.
It’s terribly, terribly simple. Those in power in our empire want valuable resources that don’t belong to them, they want to make big money with those resources and they want to exercise control over the destiny of other nations for as long as humanly possible, if not in perpetuity.
MAKE LITTLE SHARKS
All the rest is noise and bullshit.