The basic M.O. (Modus Operandi) coming out of Washington D&C is and always has been Divide&Conquer. From the get-go, land ownership equaled control of the people and there existed a different kind of melting pot than I learned about in school.
“In post-Revolutionary America, relatively few of the nation’s citizens could vote in elections. African-Americans, Native Americans and females were prohibited from voting, which was restricted to white male landowners. Because the majority of citizens – especially those with wealth and political power – were Protestants, the right to vote was also denied Catholics and Jews, regardless of whether or not they owned property.”
And it didn’t stop there:
“The Dawes Act of 1887 (also known as the General Allotment Act or the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887), adopted by Congress in 1887, authorized the President of the United States to survey American Indian tribal land and divide it into allotments for individual Indians.”
The vast expanse (still known to the Original Inhabitants as Turtle Island) was eventually divvied up into States, all United (depending on whom you asked).
This Divide&Conquer approach, with subsidiaries of reservations, allotment, and assimilation -- inflicted on a people who had no concept of individual ownership -- was a forerunner of suburbia, where ownership became the grand little prize. And the brash celebration of what George Carlin called “a place for my stuff” became the hallmark of a consumerist society.
“The Levitt family began and perfected their home construction techniques during World War II with contracts to build housing for the military on the East Coast. Following the war, they began to build subdivisions for returning veterans and their families.
“In 1946 the Levitt company acquired 4,000 acres of potato fields in Hempstead and began to build not just the largest single development by a single builder but what would be the country's largest housing development ever.
“The potato fields located 25 miles east of Manhattan on Long Island was named Levittown, and the Levitts began to build a huge suburb. The new development ultimately consisted of 17,400 homes and 82,000 people. The Levitts perfected the art of mass-producing houses by dividing the construction process into 27 different steps from start to finish.”
While each family may have taken pride in and savored the caretaking of their very own 'god's little acre,' the society as a whole lost touch with the bigger picture aka Mother Earth. The 1950s birthed the onslaught of chemical herbicides and pesticides used agriculturally as well as to keep the hometown grass as green as a cartoon Martian. These 'White Man's reservations' subtly ensnared the populace to a polluting-rat-race-with-personal-benefits mentality.
The industrial 'dividing' process perhaps originated when “the assembly line developed for the Ford Model T began operation on December 1, 1913.”
Interesting to side note that, according to Gore Vidal in his book The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (a collection of essays/speeches from the late 1980s and early '90s), in 1914, “New York replaced London as the world's financial capital. Before 1914, the United States had been a developing country, dependent on outside investment. But with the shift of the money power from Old World to New, what had been a debtor nation became a creditor nation and central motor of the world's economy.”
In 1948 Ford's blueprint was culinarily perfected by McDonald's when, “for the first time, the guiding principles of a factory assembly line were applied to a commercial kitchen.” A related anecdote speaks volumes about what has become known as 'dumbing down.' A. D. Anderson, one of the co-founders of Iowa Beef Packers, has said: “We've tried to take the skill out of every step.” As Eric Schlosser further explains in his book Fast Food Nation, “The new IBP plant was a one-story structure with a disassembly line. Each worker stood in one spot along the line, performing the same simple task over and over again....”
The timeless circle had been replaced with the time-clock line, and the eventual shotgun wedding of cars and fastfood created a societal model still rampant today. (For more on this see my essay “Drive-thru Theofascism.”)
To be fair, there is a naturally efficient process of breaking down big tasks into smaller ones but it is the Industrial-era assembly line, mindless model -- too often abusing workers, dis-connected from nature, and encouraging a fragmented society hell-bent on providing fast, cheap products -- that needs to be re-evaluated.
E-Waste Not Want Not
Fastfood forward to clothing sweatshops, corporate mega-factories, tech and solicitation call-centers, etc. and we get large-scale industrial examples of what Noam Chomsky refers to as the atomization of society. Much of that atomization has morphed into the palms of our hands; user-friendly industrial tech has married our fingers to gadgets (creating a kind of techno-masturbation). On the plus side, more and more people are able to make their own music and videos, publish websites and books, etc., as well as connect with like-minded people worldwide. Yet and still, we run the risk of further societal atomization and disposable gadget addiction.
A 2011 article states: “We estimate that 50-80% of e-waste that gets into recyclers’ hands is exported to developing countries, where it causes great harm.”
One man's trash is another's treasure, though in this case a toxic treasure. According to Wikipedia:
“Guiyu and Shantou region of China is a huge electronic waste processing area. It is often referred to as the “e-waste capital of the world.” The city employs over 150,000 e-waste workers that work through 16-hour days disassembling old computers and recapturing whatever metals and parts they can reuse or sell.” And, “Liquid and atmospheric releases end up in bodies of water, groundwater, soil, and air and therefore in land and sea animals – both domesticated and wild, in crops eaten by both animals and human, and in drinking water.”
The documentary “Manufactured Landscapes” provides a mind-numbing view of both factory life and the ensuing waste-products. Here's a 4 ½ minute clip.
Picking Up the Pieces and Making It Whole Again
The phrase Divide et impera ("divide and rule") is attributed to Philip II of Macedon, 382-336 BC, father of Alexander the Great. Most people know how that young lad fared.
In his recent article “What Piketty Forgot: The Crisis of Capitalism Isn't Just about Inequality” Noel Ortega writes, “Thankfully, the New Economy Movement is seriously considering the four-fold systemic crisis—ecological, economic, social, and political—to identify a just transition to the next system.”
“Ecological” being mentioned is certainly a step in the holistic direction that Native Peoples have espoused and lived for a long time and is perhaps best summed up as (in translation) All My Relations. My simplistic interpretation: treat the grass like your cousin, the water (which nurtures the grass) like your aunt, various critters like your brother and sister, the earth like your mother, and so forth.
The phrase “next system” raises a huge question: how does world infrastructure shift to renewable and sustainable energy systems? According to Tom Weis, president of climatecrisissolutions.com, “We can do 100% renewable energy.” Where to look for inspiration? He says, “The earth shows us how to live sustainably.”
From local farming to credit unions and cooperative banking systems to Venezuela's consejos comunales (communal councils) to craftspeople carrying on age-old traditions to holistic health practitioners, and more, there are many places and peoples from which to also draw inspiration.
The documentary “The Take” shows Argentinian cooperatives reviving abandoned factories in the face of the corporate-state system. Another documentary, “Urban Roots,” portrays how the common folk transform Detroit's abandoned lots and backyards into thriving urban gardens; some of the results are strengthened communities and new small businesses. To paraphrase a line originally from the film “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” later parodied in Mel Brooks' “Blazing Saddles”: “Bosses? We don't need no stinking bosses."
On an even grander scale, Bolivia's Indigenous President Evo Morales gave a talk at the summit of the Group of 77 plus China, meeting in Santa Clara, Bolivia, on June 14, 2014. Among an extensive list of suggestions are these words:
“Vivir Bien Comprehensive Development means providing well-being for everyone, without exclusions. It means respect for the diversity of economies of our societies. It means respect for local knowledges. It means respect for Mother Earth and its biodiversity as a source of nurture for future generations.
“In the past, we were colonized and enslaved. Our stolen labour built empires in the North. Today, with every step we take for our liberation, the empires grow decadent and begin to crumble. However, our liberation is not only the emancipation of the peoples of the South. Our liberation is also for the whole of humanity. We are not fighting to dominate anyone. We are fighting to ensure that no one becomes dominated. Only by concerted efforts can humanity save the source of life and society: Mother Earth. Our planet is under a death threat from the greed of predatory and insane capitalism.”
Decadent&Crumbling is another variation of D&C and certainly reminiscent of the demise of the Roman Empire. So as to break the back of the current globalized D&C system that has literally broken the backs of slaves and countless others (Iraq being one of the most prominent current examples), a concerted effort is needed. Though the tasks at hand may seem daunting, let us use both the gadgets in our hands and the spirits in our bodies to help heal existing hurts and create a truly more kinder and gentler place to live.
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. His newest haiku chapbook is “so many people go hungry.” He also hosts an audio show "Between the Lines: listening to literature online." You can contact him via his literary website.
If you appreciated this article, please consider making a donation to Axis of Logic.
We do not use commercial advertising or corporate funding. We depend solely upon you,
the reader, to continue providing quality news and opinion on world affairs.Donate here