Sunday, July 30, 2006

Power-Drunk Chimpanzees

Kurt Vonnegut, writing in 2004:

Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream during the Second World War, when there was no peace.

But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America’s becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.


Doctor Rick said...

Who would you rather were the worlds superpower?

eRobin said...

I would argue that we are not the world's superpower. We're proving that fact every day. China rules the global roost. Not a doubt in my mind and it scares the daylights out of me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Kurt is a friend of the family. That essay was published not only in In These Times, but as a Morning Call op-ed. How's that for mainstream?

A Big Fat Slob said...

Faced with an unanswerable argument, the easiest response is to change the question.

The issue is not who should be the world's superpower.

As the world's superpower, the United States has indeed acted the drunken ape.

Starting with the end of the second World War. In order to prevent our perceived next enemy from sharing in the spoils of Japan, we performed the two of the greatest acts of terrorism the world has ever, or with luck, ever will suffer.

We then followed up that dark decision with a designed effort to prop up a ring of brutal dictators, who oppressed their own citizenry, were enemies of free speech and democracy, who corrupted their nation's economy and stole its wealth, but who had the overweening positive of being anti-communist.

In doing so, we had no small role in creating and advancing the forces which led to, among other things, the installation of Castro in Cuba. Indeed, his right hand in the revolution, Che, held no realnbrief for communism. His personal driving force was anti-Americanism. He saw first hand the terrible impact of American dictatorship during that famous motorcycle trip which changed a middle-class physician into a first-class revolutionary.

But we weren't satisfied with ensuring the virtual enslavement of millions in South America.

We quickly exported our support of dictators and turned our backs on fledgling democratic movements around the globe. It is, in fact, difficult to think of a dictator who did not at one time or another enjoy the largesse of this particular superpower.

Relevant to the current mess we have created and made worse at every turn . . . We supported the Shah, we support Hussein, we supported fundamentalist Islamic regimes, we created Osama bin Laden, and it was our CIA who created the database of mujahadeen fighters (Al Queada means "the database") and put Osama in charge so that he could use them to fight the commies in Afghanistan.

It was this superpower who handed the ingredients for the chemical weapons used against the Kurds to Saddam.

Africa? Haille Sallasse and Richard Nixon were close friends, we propped up the government of South Africa long after the British gave up on their bastard son. Nearly every brutality in Africa for the last 400 years bears some American fingerprints.

In short, our history of the use of power perfectly aligns with the power-drunk chimpanzee imagery. In the process, we have created generations of America-hating people in South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

The current alignment of frat boys and cloud-being deluded ham hands are only the most recent, and the worst, examples of the wretched excesses that the American use of power has wrought.

While I am not entirely with Kurt V. in my pessimism, I am almost there myself. Enough to answer your question that we would be all much better off if there were no superpower.

If we had to deal on equal footing with France and Brazil, the way the France must deal with Germany and Italy, there is a hope that our policies, our use of what power we have, might actually do some lasting good and, even, have the promotion of "good" at its heart.

Instead, we have been the schoolyard bully. It is a role that this incompentent administration seems built to play, to the detriment of all of us.

A Big Fat Slob said...

erobin makes a great point. Our largest creditor nation is China.

China holds almost 300 billion of the US debt, and is snapping up US bondsat a rate of about $8 million a day.

So, of course, we tread on eggs dealing with them. At least THEY aren't another brutal regime that the US is supporting . . . . oh, wait . . .

A Big Fat Slob said...

Bernie, well, in a way, Kurt is a friend of my family as well. He has been one of my college-aged daughter's favorites since she was in junior high . . . .

I recently stumbled across this essay again and thought it worthwhile reminding folks how far we haven't come.