Eric Walberg’s Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games
G. S. 
<doctorsci@gmail.com>
initial posting 28 July 2011 - last update 25 August 2011

URL: http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2011-07-28.htm

      Here in Mexico we live under the heel of the US conquerors. Felipe Calderón began his 6-year presidential term on 1 December 2006, 4-and-a-half years ago. He at once announced a “War against the Drug Cartels” — that controlled a major part of the Mexican national economy. The number of deaths in this “War” is generally considered to be more than 40,000, by now of the order of 50,000. It dwarfs the number of direct deaths from military assaults in Afghanistan. As though the deadliness of the empire varies inversely with the distance from the center of power. [1]

      Unlike the United States, in Mexico there is much greater freedom of the press. The kiosks in large cities carry numerous “rebel” publications with “all the ‘news’ that’s unfit to print, as the Zionist-dominated New York Times would label it. If there are many “scandal sheets”, that reflects a truly scandalous society and far less Zionist censorship than is in effect in the U.S. The national weekly news magazine, Processo collects all the evidence one ought to need to convict most of the federal and state officials of committing and/or instigating much of the crime tsunami battering the good people of Mexico. And that’s not just a carelessly-used phrase — they are good people, for the most part.

      Although the U.S. is the major purveyor of torture, terror, ecosphere destruction and hopelessness in today’s world, Americans too, for the most part, are good people. So too is that tiny fraction of Americans whose so-called ethnicity is Jewish. At first sight this might seem to be a contradiction. So many good people and such a bad world social mileau. Now in our 13th year in Mexico, Nancy and I lived most of our lives — her 76 years and my 85 — in the U.S. and western Europe. The evidence we have seen is clear — most people are not by nature evil, driven to hurt other humans.

      This seeming contradiction is not difficult to unravel with a modest effort. First, we note the evidence of our normal peaceful inclinations — the fact that we can travel on public transportation vehicles without fear of being harmed during the normal hours of substantial occupancy. In buses, trains, subways, trams, the usual presence of others — passengers and transit personnel — insures pretty well the safety of individuals from being accosted. That’s why we’re not fearful of riding on such vehicles. It is unlikely that even if an individual was inclined to hurt or rob you, s/he is prevented from acting — constrained not to do so by the likelihood that a number of others would intervene to protect you. We can call this phenomenon “constraint by common decency”.

      A second piece of substantial evidence that attests to our basic decency is the enormous calculated effort that governments and other evil institutions must mount to generate and sustain a climate of widespread fear and terror. The propaganda machinery to invent false “justification” for why we “should be” terrified and want the state to protect us is a well-funded effort carried out by government agencies and by private 'security' companies with government contracts. The funding is of course extorted from us by federal taxes. [2]

      We ought not be too surprised to learn that Harvard University houses, as part of its School of Law, a unit — the Berkman Centre for Internet & Society — with a sizeable staff of deception specialists, that focuses on the technology and practice of the art of preventing honest communication among the citizenry. Since this technology is widely employed, and by no means without social significance, it is of course a legitimate area of study for academia. Study however is never an innocent pursuit, as the anthropology program based in Fort Leavenworth Kansas — ostensibly to study the distribution of indigenous languages in the widely disbursed mountains of Oaxaca State, has shown. [3]


Making a world of happy children

      If we are serious about wanting to make a good world, we need to focus on shaping the social environment so that all children are happy. What is needed for that? Clearly, each child’s needs must be met. That is not very difficult to achieve, because a child’s needs are in fact very simple. They begin with adequate nutrition, and encompass the essentials for physical health and normal bodily development. Just as important is the child’s psychological well-being. The key to development of a healthy, happy outlook on the world can be seen in much of the traditional indigenous culture that endures, though somewhat precariously, in many of the geographically remote mountainous communities of Oaxaca State.

      What are the characteristics of these small indigenous communities? It is difficult — perhaps impossible — for me to avoid romanticizing the potentialities for a truly healthy society in Oaxaca. My desire is so great for humanity to achieve a true civilization that it prejudices my thoughts. Like my faith in anarchism, my thoughts about possible human development are rooted in my desires. It is these desires that make me resonate with the values that permeate so much of Oaxacan society. These values are to such a great extent directly contradictory to the dominant values of “modern American society” that my friends and contacts there are unable to understand “or don’t want to understand” what I am saying. It is as though we are living “on different planets.”

      Instead of abstractions, let me give some concrete examples. People here are seemingly incredibly patient. They are not plagued by the incessant “need to save time.” It’s very common for an automobile to stop and the driver to wave waiting pedestrians to cross. Not always of course, and not on all roadways. It’s different than the behavior in California, where if a driver does not yield to a pedestrian who has stepped off the curb onto the roadway, s/he may be ticketed by a police officer. Here there is no threat of legal action to coerce the driver. Deferring to a pedestrian is entirely voluntary, yet common enough to make it a standard part of the driver/pedestrian interaction. On highways and speedways it’s an etirely different story. And increasingly there are more and more drivers who seem to be “hell bent to get somewhere” and who care not at all about other people. This kind of “I’m No.1” is not atypical of young people driving luxury cars who are incessently propagandized by television and other advertising media to “be modern, be chic, be hot.” So yes, young people here are like young people everywhere — they want to be “with it, up to date.”

      Most young Oaxaqueños do not have automobiles. Even those who attend rather expensive private schools are more likely to have motorbikes or to commute by bus between home and school. I live close to a school called Universidad Vasconcelas, which caters to a well-to-do segment of the Oaxaca City population. In the U.S. we would not consider it to be a university or in the class of elite private secondary schools. I would estimate that the bulk of the students are in the 16-20 age range. Like all teenagers, their primary concern is their sexuality. It’s regarded as perfectly normal to be entirely open about this preoccupation. When I walk on the sidewalk in front of the campus there are always students embracing and kissing one another — the usual greeting — without restriction as to sex. This is a part of the act of touching, flesh to flesh. Throughout Oaxaca the culture is one of touching. Warm, friendly touching, showing a good deal of affection freely exchanged. Not just among students, but among neighbors, people we become acquainted with in the market, shopkeepers, familiar peddlers, and so on. The culture is inclusive rather than exclusive.

      This quality of inclusiveness recognizes no age boundary. Wherever you go in the active parts of the city — the markets, the parks, the festival celebrations — there are innumerable groups of 2, 3, . . . people walking together, in any of which the ages range from infants being carried all the way to elderly people being helped along by members of their party. It seems as though toddlers are bubbling all around, oblivious to any restrictions on their movements. Of course parents or other older relatives keep an eye open for where the little explorers are wandering. And sometimes a little adventurer suddenly loses contact with the other members of the group and is frightened to be “alone”. Invariably nearby adults move to comfort the youngster and find the child’s party. It is as though “the children belong to everyone”, they are part of the community, which indeed they are.

      This sense of “belonging” — of not being alone — is profoundly rooted in the traditional culture. Unlike that false U.S. slogan, “No child left behind” in a culture that destroys its youth, in Oaxaca, the tradition is precisely that “every child belongs.” A walk in the Zócalo, a favorite relaxation area in the city center open to all people, is always rich with a display of tiny children being lovingly cared for by their only slightly older siblings or other relatives. Small children struggling to carry and care for even smaller members of the tribe, and doing it with love and pride. It’s their responsibilty, their work, their contribution to the functioning of their community. It is part of what gives meaning and value to their lives. Of course, from an American gringo’s perspective, the child is “being put to work,” exploited, and not even being paid for it. But from the Oaxacan’s perspective it is being part of the family, of belonging. It is part of the cement that bonds the (often extended) family into a mutually supportive group. In the thirteen years that Nancy and I have lived here, I have never seen one of these children mishandle a smaller child in its care. It really is a culture of love.

      Needless to say, Americans are fundamentally no different than Oaxaqueños. Especially in rural areas, where the pace of life is not so tightly governed by speed and the state, the same human graces are able to flourish, and islands of civility, love and mutual aid can develop, and do. But that is antithetical to the dominant culture that penetrates ever more intrusively the lives and consciousness of young people. All the forces aligned with money interests work incessantly to condition the ideas of young, impressionable people to try to make them conform with the dominant money-oriented culture. It’s akin to a minor miracle that Oaxaca has managed to retain so much of the traditional cultural values in spite of the barrage of corporate and state propaganda. I think that’s in part due to the small size, remoteness and substantial level of self-sufficiency of these communities. I think that Oaxacan campesinas and campesinos cultivate about 80 per cent of the food consumed in the state. This in spite of the continuing efforts of the state and federal governments to make the population increasingly dependent on imported foodstuffs that they must buy, with money that they don’t have. And we should not ignore the terrible nutritional shortcomings of the most impoverished campesinas/os. Children in such families suffer from stunted development — a lifetime burden to them and their communities.

      In the United States it is very common for small children, particularly girls, to entertain themselves for long periods of time by “playing house”. They make believe they are “grown people” and copy the behavior routines they see their adult female family members engaging in. There the gender separation is impressed on children early on. Little boys usually imitate the behavior of adult males in their play. In Oaxaca children of course also imitate the things that adults do, but two important differences are characteristic: activities are far less separated by gender, and the children, though they may regard their activity as play, are contributing their efforts to maintain the family. In the milpa allotted to the family for cultivating its crops, boys and girls work together removing pebbles from beans or parts of the corn infested with fungus, etc. Whereas American youngsters would think of such activity as work, to their Oaxacan counterparts it is simply part of life.

      An important consequence of the fact that from a very early age the child’s contribution to the family is essential is the development of a sense of self — the child thinks of itself (and is) a responsible family member. Thus one sees even quite young children speaking with adults “as though they are equal”. They expect to have their say, and to have their opinions taken seriously. They are not told, as American children often are, to “be quiet.” Here children are to be heard as well as seen, and they are, vociferously present. To me it was sometimes disconcerting: “Don’t those kids ever shut up?” I would think. The gulf between their culture and that of my childhood is vast. Yet I must admit, in site of occasional irritation, that I’m sure theirs is better in all significant respects. Americans may think that Oaxacan families are terribly permissive; they are, in fact, wonderfully permissive. There is room in the family for everyone. This is, for Nancy and me, of particular concern as we become gradually more and more infirm. We are thankful to live where it is taken for granted that gracious accommodation for the very young children and for the doddering aged prevails.


Making a Palestine of happy children

      The destruction of Palestine should be stopped and the land returned to its indigenous peoples. I presented a fairly brief sketch for doing this without any further bloodshed, torture, theft or suffering of any of the peoples involved, including the would-be Jewish Zionist conquerors. It’s so easy to scoff at the notion of seeking a non-violent, humane resolution, and to declare without further thought, That would be contrary to human nature. So easy and so fatal. One of the things I have learned from the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca is the existence of a “better way” to settle conflicts than British officialdom ever dreamed of. The fact is that human nature is not inevitably cruel and merciless. Children who grow up from infancy in an environment of love and respect, as so many of the indigenous Oaxacan children experience, grow naturally into beautiful, loving adults.

NOTES
[1] Calderon’s “Drug War” casualties. http://latindispatch.com/2011/06/03/mexico-debates-drug-war-death-toll-figure-amid-government-silence/

[2] Marketing terror and the supposed need for government protection against “terrorists”. Jillian C. York <jilliancyork@gmail.com> is “the Director of
International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She writes regularly about free expression, politics, and the Internet, with particular focus on the Arab world. She is on the Board of Directors of Global Voices Online, and writes for Al Jazeera English, and the Guardian’s Comment is Free. Views expressed on her blog belong to Jillian alone and do not represent her employers, past or present”. In fact, Jillian has always been, so far as I know, fiercely independent. Although she defends the “right to anonymity” of authors whose full disclosure would place them at risk, she herself writes with her identity fully evident.

      A writer, blogger, and activist, she was for some years in Boston, at Harvard Law School's Berkman Centre for Internet & Society. Her specialty is the use of technology in the ongoing struggle between supporters and opponents of internet censorship. I believe Jillian is among the most important of the opponent camp. She wrote, in http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/7458-hacker-power.html, “Recent cyberattacks by WikiLeaks supporters targeted at companies like Visa and Mastercard have brought distributed denial of service (DDoS) - an attack in which multiple systems flood the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system in an attempt to make it unavailable - into the public consciousness, stirring up a debate as to whether or not DDoS is an acceptable tactic for civil disobedience.”

      In a lengthy article Jillian co-authored with colleagues at the Harvard Berkman Center, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/2010_DDoS_Attacks_Human_Rights_and_Media.pdf, they report their study, “Distributed Denial of Service Attacks Against Independent Media and Human Rights Sites”. This attests to the importance that governments give to what they regard as their need for censorship in the promotion of ignorance among their populations.

      Aside from being a tireless, highly skilled worker, Jillian’s stance tends heavily towards being cooperative rather than confrontational. She writes as though the corporate and government officials to whom she addresses her appeals are reasonable and well-intentioned folks. She tries to be constructive, avoiding an abrasive style in her direct communications with them. This, I’m sure, is a tactical decision on her part, well chosen because it enables her to be seen as a calm, reasonable, non-aggressive idealist. But clearly her heart and soul are with the victims of the global capitalist system, as she forthrightly states — pulling no punches. On her blog, which is at http://jilliancyork.com/, Jillian posted on 22 May 2011, a Civil Society Statement to the e-G8 and G8. It’s at http://jilliancyork.
com/civil-society-statement-to-the-e-g8-and-g8/
, a short, laying-it-on-the-line argument/appeal.

[3] Anthropology in the service of U.S. imperialism. “The Bowman Project. The Demarest Factor: The Ethics of U.S. Department of Defense Funding for Academic Research in Mexico”, article by Simon Sedillo, March 25th, 2009, at
http://ce399fascism.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/the-us-militarys-mapping-of-mexicos-indigenous-communities/. Simon’s site: www.elenemigocomun.net.
      See anthropologist David H. Price’s “Weaponizing Anthropology”, Social Science in Service of the Militarized State, AK Press, 2011.

[4] Sketch for a humane transformation of the entire world, beginning with resolution of the Palestine/Israel conflict.
http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/10252-palestinian-israeli-conflict.html http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2010-11-13.htm


George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an ex-physics prof, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.
All comments and criticisms are welcome.  <doctorsci@gmail.com>

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Initial posting of this page: 28 July 2011.
Last update: 25 August 2011