Our way of life is the problem. By Mickey Z.
When Barack Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, he clearly and firmly announced to the planet: “We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.” Let’s just say the Pope of Hope is working mighty hard to keep his promise.
With that in mind, since Rosa Luxemburg believes the first revolutionary act is to call things by their true names, well…get ready for some revolting: “Our way of life” is based on violence, expansion, consumption, domination, and predatory capitalism.
Our way of life means 1 in 31 American adults is in prison, on parole, or on probation, yet we live in land of the free. It means the US military—the planet’s worst polluter and recipient of 54% of US tax dollars—can carpet bomb civilians from 15,000 feet in the name of “humanitarianism,” but somehow we dwell in the home of the brave.Our way of life means homelessness. It means sweatshops. It means “illegal” is a noun and “union” is an insult. It means nearly 200 animal and plant species go extinct…every single day. Our way of life means there aren’t any cod in Cape Cod, and soon no ice at the North Pole. It means strip malls; it means strip mining.
Our way of life means a New Hampshire license plates read: “Live free or die.” It also means New Hampshire license plates are manufactured by prisoners. Our way of life means Mumia abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier remain in prison, while war criminals like Madeleine Albright and Dick Cheney walk free. Speaking of war criminals, our way of life also means President Obama can take time out from waging two wars to accept a Nobel Peace Prize.
Our way of life teaches us what to accept as “normal” and, as a result, normal means every 46 seconds, a woman is raped in America. It means depleted uranium and landmines. Normal means gay bashing and racial profiling; veal crates and vivisection; clear cutting and ocean trawling.Normal will have you taking off your shoes at the airport, getting shot at by trigger-happy cops, but never having to walk more than two blocks to find the nearest Starbuck’s. (Did I say walk? I meant drive, of course. Walking…how Third World of me.)
Every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic? Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man is paid? The meat and dairy industries slaughter 9 billion animals each year and are responsible for 51% of human-created greenhouse gases? All normal. All part of our vaunted way of life—the same way of life that has removed 80% of the world’s forests and over 90% of the large fish in the ocean and will not stop until they’re all gone.
Make no mistake about it, our beloved way of life was built on a nearly exterminated indigenous population, an African slave trade, and all those killed in places like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Southeast Asia, Central America,Middle East, etc. etc. It was created on stolen land, using stolen oil.
Our way of life is built on terror and it is maintained by terror—the terror of cops, prisons, military, and the psychological terror of propaganda.
The first step to end terrorism remains this simple: Stop practicing it yourself. Many Americans automatically defend their country’s rampant illegalities because they perceive these actions as falling under the seductive justification of “defending our way of life.” The US constitutes roughly 5% of the earth’s population but consumes more than 25% of the earth’s resources. Maybe “our way of life” makes us the real terrorists.
Besides, if our way of life is so sacred, so ideal, so worthy of being defended by any means necessary, why do we need so many homeless shelters, alcohol and drug rehab centers, rape crisis hotlines, battered women’s shelters, and suicide hotlines? Why does a sexual assault occur every two minutes? If America is the world’s shining light, why are its citizens left with no choice but to organize in a desperate attempt to protect human, environmental, civil, and animal rights?
If America is the zenith of human social order, why does our vaunted way of life provoke terror as a tactic and an emotion? With the point of no return fading in the rear view mirror (or at least obscured by an SUV), the time is long overdue for all of us to recognize the real enemy is that which inspires terror. The real enemy just might be what we see as normal.
The precarious state of things on Planet Earth is not some preordained theology or an unstoppable force of nature. We’re in this mess thanks to human decisions. If different decisions had been made in the past, different outcomes would’ve likely occurred. If different decisions are made and different actions are taken—starting right now—perhaps different outcomes can still transpire. I say we find out…