Cleaning up the rotten remnants
of El Imperio Britænico — 2
G. S.  <georgeisalzman@yahoo.com>
initial posting 03 Oct 2010 - last update 11 Oct 2010

URL: http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2010-10-03.htm
[This is a revised version of the 2010-09-08 posting]

      The entry “British Empire” in the venerable Encyclopædia Britannica [1] begins:
      BRITISH EMPIRE, the name now loosely given to the whole aggregate of territory, the inhabitants of which, under various forms of government, ultimately look to the British crown as the supreme head. The term “empire” is in this connexion obviously used rather for convenience than in any sense equivalent to that of the older or despotic empires of history.

      The land surface of the earth is estimated to extend over about 52,500,000 square miles. Of this area the British empire occupies nearly one-quarter, extending over an area of about 12,000,000 square miles. By far the greater portion lies within the temperate zones, and is suitable for white settlement. The notable exceptions are the southern half of India and Burma; East, West and Central Africa; the West Indian colonies; the northern portion of Australia; New Guinea, British Borneo and that portion of North America which extends into Arctic regions. The area of the territory of the empire is divided almost equally between the southern and the northern hemispheres, the great divisions of Australasia and South Africa covering between them in the southern hemisphere 5,308,506 square miles, while the United Kingdom, Canada and India, including the native states, cover between them in the northern hemisphere 5,271,375 square miles. The alternation of the seasons is thus complete, one-half of the empire enjoying summer, while one-half is in winter. The division of territory between the eastern and western hemispheres is less equal, Canada occupying alone in the western hemisphere 3,653,046 square miles, while Australasia, South Africa, India and the United Kingdom occupy together in the eastern hemisphere 6,925,975 square miles. As a matter of fact, however, the eastern portions of Australasia border so nearly upon the western hemisphere that the distribution of day and night throughout the empire is, like the alternations of the seasons, almost complete, one-half enjoying daylight, while the other half is in darkness. These alternations of time and of seasons, combined with the variety of soils and climates, are calculated to have an increasingly important effect upon the material and industrial, as well as upon the social and political developments of the empire. This will become evident in considering the industrial productions of the different divisions, and the harvest seasons which permit the summer produce of one portion of the empire to supply the winter requirements of its other markets, and conversely.

      The empire contains or is bounded by some of the highest mountains, the greatest lakes, and the most important rivers of the world. Its climates may be said to include all the known climates of the world; its soils are no less various . . . [and so on]


      So begins a bit — just under 3/10 of the first page — of a nine-page celebration of the greatness of the British Empire. There’s also a full-page map, a Mercator projection, on heavier, slightly glossy paper, titled: Map of the World showing The British Empire. All arranged, I would say, with exemplary modesty, in as much as this nation-state-empire was one of the most cruel and destructive creations of the human species.

The festering remnants of the British Empire
at the birth of the Age of Information

      This is the historic moment in human development to make a clean break with the past. Like a giant flash of lightning that transforms the blackness of night into momentary daylight, the explosion of commuication technology and its globe-wide adoption is the light illuminating our possible future. But unlike a lightning flash in the dark, the light of uncensored open global communication is here to stay. We honest and decent human beings, and we are the vast majority of our species, will see to that. Iceland and Sweden are in the forefront. Of course Great Britain, Israel and the U.S.— to say nothing of China and most other totalitarian nation-states — are trying their damnest to prevent uncensored communication. The U.S., Britain and Israel want, above all, to keep the profit system in its current form, which guarantees their successful theft of most of the world’s wealth — the rest of us be damned. Before becoming specific, let me reiterate my ideological stance on a major focal point of the contemporary stage of the struggle.

      My view of the situation in the “Greater Middle East”, which includes far more than the inadequately-named “Israel/Palestine conflict”, hinges on the joint U.S.-Israeli (British-assisted) colonial imperial campaign to eradicate Palestine.

      The entire project to take the land of Palestine for a Jewish state was illegitimate from the start. This project is at the core of Zionism. Being “nice” to the Palestinians, as I’m certain many good and decent (but misguided) Jewish people favor, simply is not a cure for the cancer of conquest. The same for all conquests — of the Americas by Europeans and so on. The northern European/American project to retake the Ottoman Empire needs to be scrapped, completely given up. Jewish would-be conquerors of Palestine should be peacefully forced to leave and be assisted to live elsewhere, as discussed below. Conquest is ALWAYS wrong, immoral, unethical and must be rejected. Great Britain was, throughout its imperial dominance, a leading curse of humanity, whose criminal history leaves a terrible legacy. Our task ought to be to clean it up as soon as possible. And of course the other European powers should leave Africa, probably the most despoiled population group in the world. What world-class monsters we so-called Whites have been, imposing “our” anti-civilization on the world.

Heralding the dawn of The Global Information Age

      With the advent of instant unmediated open communication via the global internet available to millions of ordinary people, immediate unprecedented massive world-wide protests took place during this decade. People screamed, on three notable occasions, “We don’t want war! We don’t want murder! We want peace!” This happened —
1. First, at the U.S. attack on Iraq (March 20, 2003). Massive protest demonstrations, extending to every continent, were held, involving of the order of 12 million people.
2. Second, at the U.S.-backed murderous Israeli attack on Gaza (27 Dec 2008), world-wide protests involving millions of people erupted.
3. Third, at the U.S.-backed Israeli massacre of civilians in the premeditated attack on the humanitarian aid ship in international waters bringing relief supplies to Gaza (31 May 2010), again global outrage was expressed by millions, condemning the murders.
      Never before has there been almost instantaneous global awareness of major social-political events. We are living in an age absolutely without precedent. The three events above serve as markers for this abrupt change. For the first time in human history, and three times in just over seven years, almost the total world population with access to news stood instantly united in its abhorrence at the actions of a nation-state.

      Those instant global revulsions at the actions of mass murderers (who still hold an armory of lethal weaponry) marks the start of the true “information age”, and with it the birth of growing global consciousness that the still-dominant system is unspeakably, brutally destructive and that we, the billions of ordinary people, in order to gain control of our own lives, will have to totally change the way societies are structured.

      The first essential we must achieve is the universal recognition of and abidance with the unquestioned right of each person to live with dignity and an unchallenged sense of his or her own autonomy as a free and equal human being. Individual people, each and every one of us, are the basis on which a true civilization must rest. Even the youngest of children needs to be respected as a full, though not yet mature, person. It is probably the most important contribution we adults can make to shaping a humane social order — loving and respecting the very young who are entering their formative years. It is these years of early childhood during which their cultural values are largely shaped. They must learn from us — from our day-to-day behavior — that we are creatures of love, devoid of personal hatreds. They will act towards other people as they see us act. This daily, unremitting “lesson of love” will not be easy for us to provide, because we ourselves, most of us, have grown up and absorbed personal hatreds of all varieties. So we will need to struggle with ourselves.

Recognition of the world’s indigneous peoples

      In addition to struggling against our own personal hatreds we will have to overcome the contemptuous disrespect for cultures ethnically different from our own, disrespect that is quite common. It would not be unreasonable to say that each of us is indigenous, meaning that each of us has grown up and been shaped by a particular culture, by being born into and raised in a specific ethnic group. But the widely used term, indigenous, is most often reserved, and I will subsequently use it that way, for peoples and cultures that are outside the dominant mainstream Western groups.


“We don’t want war! We don’t want murder! We want peace!”
Elder Indigenous woman in march for World Peace in San
Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico, February 2010, Global Jus-
tice Ecology Project (GJEP). Photo: Orin Langelle

We, with our self-designated “modern, Western, advanced, technologically sophisticated” cultures, are numerically a small minority of the world’s peoples. Because of the globe-shaking power that technology has led to — primarily through the ability to manipulate energy — and the widespread contempt for misnamed “underdeveloped cultures” we self-appointed elite “Westernized people” wield grossly disproportionate control of the global social order. The concept that we oh-so-clever people can manipulate, literally engineer, the natural world has taken hold of the thinking of so-called sophisticated thinkers in the “developed world”. If you think that’s an overstatement, consider one example of such “engineering”.

      A recent article about synthetic self-replicating bacteria begins, “Craig Venter wants to program life the way we program computers, and today he announced a momentous win: the first synthetic self-replicating bacterium. The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) used the four types of chemicals that make up DNA [deoxyribo nucleic acid], and complex assembly methods utilizing yeast cells, to ‘program’ the 1.08 million base pairs that make up the genome for the bacteria cell. As described in the journal Science, . . .” [2]

      There is no pure, invariably good technology. In and of itself technology is almost invariably neutral. The question always is whether a specific use of a particular technology is being employed for good or bad purposes. And this depends, in each case, on its social role. A telling example of the “danger” of even apparently beneficial technology is that of the basic technology on which the age of information depends. Our hope to liberate ourselves, to replace the current global barbarism with a true civilization rests, I have been arguing, on instant widely available uncensored global communication. But even this technology, in current society, has harmful results, as shown by an article in the book, The Plight of the Palestinians: A long history of destruction.[3]

      In the article, “Bleaching the Atrocities of Genocide”, Kim Petersen, one of the contributing authors, points to the killing of 4 million Congolese. He says, “One writer pointed the finger at Western corporations’ lust for the DRC’s [Democratic Republic of the Congo’s] ‘black gold’ of coltan, used to make tantalum capacitors for cell phones and other high-tech electronics, as driving the genocide. Foreign traders sell the coltan to just three companies: The United States’ Cabot Inc., Germany’s HC Starc, and China’s Nigncxia. Only these firms are capable of refining coltan into the desired tantalum powder. The tantalum powder is sold to Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Sony and other manufaturers. News of the millions killed in the DRC, however, has been largely propagandized or marginaized in the corporate media.” Petersen provides a reference to published material.

      The internet is rich with disclosures of globe-wide thefts from, and mass murders of indigenous peoples as they and their cultures are being displaced and/or outright eliminated to provide immediate profits for capitalists and the global infrastructure of capitalism. In few words, without complications: Everywhere and always, it’s the greedy rich seizing the wealth of the poor.

Palestinians, the indigenous peoples of Palestine

      It is beyond question that the largely Arab population living both in the geographical area of Palestine and in the diaspora into which many of them were forced by Israel are the true indigenous peoples of Palestine — they and their immediate descendents. It is also beyond question that the deliberate forceful expulsion of the non-Jewish population has been, from the start of the occupation, the basic source of conflict and pain to the indigenous Arabs. Justice is beyond reach. Many people have been killed or are irrecoverably injured. All that is conceivable at this time is to attempt to bring an end to the ongoing harm. I think this will require that the Zionists accept the dissolution of the State of Israel. Most of them — surely just about all of them — will respond in anger and defiance, maintaining that Israel is their nation, rightfully, and refusing to give it up.

      We must anticipate that the Zionist invaders will try by every means available to them to thwart the almost universal popular demand that they abandon the conquest and relocate to other parts of the world. Not only the rabid settlers and the religion-crazed murderous rabbis who condone the killing of Gentiles — the “hard-line” invaders — will assume an intransigent position. Many of the so-called “liberal, progressive, humane Jewish people” will rationalize the presence of the Zionist invaders on the condition that they allow the Palestinian Arabs to also enjoy full lives in a supposedly single, binational democratic nation-state. Thus I think we should expect almost total rejection by the Jewish Israelis of the idea that the state of Israel be terminated. Of course they will all feel the pain of losing their intended new lives in a cultural mileau unique to their ethnicity. [4]

      Although I personally feel hatred for many individuals — people such as Henry Kissinger, Alan Dershowitz, Ariel Sharon, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Benjamin Netanyahu, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, for example, as well as numerous other persons, and I’m sure we all have our personal hatreds, these should not be permitted to come into play in attempting to resolve the conflict. There must be no acts of vengeance. Only by forgoing the transient satisfaction of vengeance can we rationally hope to mend the world. In practical terms we must abandon punishment. Thus the people leaving Israel under these conditions should be helped in various ways — financially and possibly with direct material aid — to emigrate to locations where they will not be forcefully displacing other people and where they will be welcomed by their new neighbors. Not lavish but adequate help, and certainly not with greater consideration and assistance than is made available to the indigenous Palestinians who were forced to leave and/or suffered other grevious losses.

Restorative justice, not retributive justice

      The idea that healing is preferable to punishment is not recent. In his book, Communality and Autonomy our good friend Jaime Martínez Luna, a Zapotec man who lives in the Northern Sierra of Oaxca, writes on Autonomy and self-determination, [5]

      “Perhaps at no moment of our history have the indigenous peoples been at such a historic juncture, in which the analysis of our self-determination was the most certain window to guarantee our survival as peoples, as society. Self-determination has been an eternal dream of our communities. Some, because of geography, and also organizational structure, have succeeded in maintaining a certain margin of this self-determination, which has always resulted in a tense relation with the nation-state. The large majority of indigenous communities have endured subjugation: territorial and physical extermination, and even worse, cultural genocide.

      “We think this is a very important moment to describe and thereby, from the practice, to understand what is or was our self-determination, as well as to sketch the self-determination that we desire, the self-determination to which we aspire...”

      Jaime here gives voice to the universal human desire each of us knows: to be able to determine the course of our own lives. [Bill Templer suggests examining current work on the age old struggle of indigenous peoples to exist as nation-states continue trying to exterminate them. [6] ] Obviously the freedom we want, and ought to have as our birthright, is subject to the constraints of the natural world. We might wish, for example, that we could fly like birds or bats, but to do so with only our metabolic energy is a mere fantasy. Aside from childish dreams of superhuman powers (fed energetically by the corporate-controlled media), we can reasonably aspire to live in a world where we are not subject to arbitrary acts of force and coercion by other people. Basic among our rights as autonomous beings should be our decision as to where we live. Because the territory of the earth is finite, and some of it is not habitable, our freedom to choose where to live should be subject to the conditions that we not displace another person from his/her abode and that we are welcome to move into that community by the people who already live in that local neighborhood.

History — guide to extinction

      I know that my efforts in writing are focussing mainly on English-literate readers, and on only a handful of that group. History has been questionably “generous”, indeed lopsidedly so, in leading that particular group to control and benefit materially from a disproportionate share of the bounty of the world’s wealth. At the same time, that privilege came, unavoidably, from the simultaneous deprivation of most of the world’s peoples — overwhelmingly indigenous peoples — of the possibility of satisfactory lives. We are now, so to speak, at the end of the line. The earth is finite, and the drive for more and more material wealth by the already very wealthy is a major force, perhaps the major force, driving towards imminent ecological collapse.

      I was drawn into these considerations initially by my rage at the utter brutality of the Israeli conquest of the Palestinians. Probably it is because of my Jewish ethnicity that I was much more acutely aware of that particular unconscionable barbarity than of other horrific mass murders, even those with many more victims. That circumstance, together with my inability to assimilate large quantities of information and my deep distrust of the corporate and government dominated media resulted in my concentration on the Middle East arena. Certainly it was not a deliberate focus motivated, as I’m sure is the case with many rabid Jew haters, by a desire to avenge any wrongs that I believed had been inflicted on me by Jews. Even though I am not a rocket scientist I knew that Zionist Jews and other supporters of the State of Israel would impugn my motives with the easy challenge, “Why are you singling out the Jews?” In the past, so far as I know, the invariable rule was, “To the victor belongs the spoils”. Why?, they will ask — they and many others who are not particularly concerned with a handful of Jews and a handful of Palestinians (in a world of billions of suffering humans) — Why am I saying we must turn history around?

      My response is straightforward: the historical process, if not radically changed, will continue leading us to possible extinction, and if not to total obliteration, to a global social order of almost unimaginable horrors. With the abyss yawning before us, we must reverse direction. And although the Jewish state should be the first to go, in fact all nation-states should be dissolved. The very concept of a nation-state should be understood for what it is: an affront to the autonomy and dignity of the humans who it claims are “its citizens” living on territory that is “its domain of sovereignty”. Our goal, those of us who are aware of the threats to continuation of a viable biosphere, is to think and act as energeticlly and forcefully as we can, to prevent that catastrophe. Life is ours to hold on to.

Back to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict

      To many people, immersed as all of us have been in cultures of conflict, cruelty and coercion, the idea of solving the Zionist-Palestinian conflict in a win-win mode, without violence to anyone, as I believe is possible, will be dismissed as utopian dreaming, not to be given a moment’s consideration. But the truth is, as more and more people are coming to realize, that the alternative, continuing in the current mode, would be fatal to billions (if not all) of us. In truth it isn't a matter of singling out “The Jews” but of coming suddenly to the realization that human society cannot continue along the same lethal path. Israel, like almost every nation-state, is a detestable centralized power structure rife with corruption, deceit and murder, impervious to morality and common decency. Control of the world by nation-states, primary tools of global capitalism, should be ended. They, along with all the institutions of capitalism, should be recognized as destructive of human well-being, and done away with. Thus, it’s not just Israel. Israel should be simply the first to go in the needed transformation of global human society.

      What would this mean for the current Jewish inhabitants of Palestinian territory? In particular, those who are not in the group of intentional colonial invaders and presumably would not be forced to leave. Like every human being, they deserve the autonomy of deciding where they wish to live, provided that in choosing a locale they not force the displacement of a current inhabitant and that they are welcome by the current inhabitants of that local neighborhood. Obviously there are Jewish people who will both want to remain where they are and who the Palestinians will be glad to have as part of their commuities. Broadly speaking, the realignment should be aimed at cementing friendships, avoiding the idea of punishment or revenge, and constructing true communal relationships in each local neighborhood. [7]

Conclusion: We should make of life a celebration

      The birth of the “information age” became possible because of the explosion of information technology, and the very human desire to understand reality. Thus, in spite of the undeniably tragic times through which humanity is living, I believe the emergence of the true “information age” is the counter development that will make it possible not only for our species to survive but to finally evolve into a truly civilized society. That is my hope and the source of my optimism for the future. If we can pull it off, it will be due to the young people, who want to live.


NOTES
[1] The British Empire. One hundred years ago, in 1910, the venerable “last authentic edition” of the famous Encyclopædia Britannica appeared, produced by, as the copyright statement informs us, The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge. Control of this major English-language encyclopedia then was bought by the Sears-Roebuck corporation in the U.S., which transformed it into a more “suitable” commercial product.
    From the first edition that appeared in three volumes in 1768-1771, it had grown over the centuries into the twenty-nine volumes of the eleventh edition, published in 1910-1911.

[2] Engineering life. The article, “Venter Creates First Synthetic Self-Replicating Bacteria from Scratch” is at http://singularityhub.com/2010/05/20/venter-creates-first-synthetic-self-replicating-bacteria-from-scratch/. The original research article was published in the 2 July 2010 issue of Science, at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/329/5987/52.

[3] The Plight of the Palestinians. Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martin’s Press, Edited by William A. Cook, 2010. p.215.

[4] Jewish Israelis vs. dissolution of the nation-state of Israel. After expressing my anticipation of the attitude of Jewish Israelis on this issue above, I read a confirmatory statement by Uri Avnery, a die-hard prominent Israeli devotee of the so-called “Two-state Solution”. His article, dated 9 October 2003 (just seven years ago) argues against the “One-state Solution” In it Avnery speaks of “the following reasonable assumptions”:
If there is one thing on which 99 Percent of Israelis are united, it is the will to live in a state with a solid Jewish mjority, whose language and culture are Hebrew.
This is deeply embedded in the collective Israeli consciousness, partly as a reaction to the persecution of the Jews, the Holocaust, and anti-Semitism in countries where Jews were a minority. Of course, all other peoples want the same, too.
To the vast majority of Israelis, the idea of a binational state, which means the elimination of the State of Israel, represents the loss of all they have achieved in the country since the first settlers came in 1882. (emphasis added by G.S.)

[5] Jaime Martínez Luna on Communality and Autonomy. The complete article is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Commu/1.htm. His e-mail is Jaime Martínez Luna    <tioyim@yahoo.com.mx>

[6] Bill Templer wrote on Sat, 9 Oct 2010 01:01:22 +0300
1. Let me suggest you add somewhere, maybe after paragraph on/quote from Jaime: In thinking about doing away with the State and indigenous peoples now and throughout human history who have struggled to live autonomously and in dignity beyond its clutches, take a look at James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia at http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300152289. His Weapons of the Weak and Domination and the Arts of Resistance are also relevant to anti-state libertarian socialist thinking, as is his book Seeing Like a State. A key lecture by Jim at Cornell in Feb 2010 is at: http://www.cornell.edu/video/index.cfm?VideoID=625. Jim looks at the history of many peoples in struggle against the State as such. We can all learn a lot from their ‘non-history’ (as defined by the State) and their long fight for autonomy.
2. Some will think you dwell too much on Israel as a super example of what’s wrong with states period. You’re right but maybe doing away with China, India, is a more powerful idea. Or Mexico, naturalmente.
3. You don’t say much about the concrete pathway forward and how. Walking the actual walk.

[7] Israeli Jews who remain in Palestine. I know from my contacts during recent years that there are a fair number of Jewish people, currently Israelis, who will probably want to continue living in Palestine after the dissolution of Israel. Among them is a woman who tried to save the life of a young Palestinian girl in need of a kidney transplant, the daughter of a family with whom she was very friendly. I remember sending a modest contribution to help pay for the operation to the Jewish woman’s son, then living in California, who passed it on to his mother. And I shouldn’t fail to mention my friend, Israel Shamir. But in fact there are plenty of others, some working in Bedouin encampments and active in other solidarity work with their Palestinian brothers and sisters.


George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an Emeritus Prof of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.


All comments and criticisms are welcome.  <georgeisalzman@yahoo.com>

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Initial posting of this page: 3 October 2010.
Last update: 11 October 2010