Finding Freedom

On recognizing American imperialism within ourselves and our loss of freedom.

Rare photograph of Roosevelt in a wheelchair, with Ruthie Bie and Fala (1941). Rare photograph of Roosevelt in a wheelchair, with Ruthie Bie and Fala (1941).

Freedom

Freedom in the U.S. and inner freedom are not separate endeavors for us Americans. If we go deep enough into one and we will eventually find ourselves immersed in the other as well.

The ultimate destination is freedom from lies and social control, recognizing lies and social control.

Yes, we’re talking about freedom in 2021. And, we have got to go back all the way to 1945 to find it —freedom— in the year that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. Be warned, finding freedom is not for the faint of heart.

President Roosevelt did more than any other modern president to consolidate a strong understanding of freedom by compressing our Constitutional rights down to the four essential ones —freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Plainly said, FDR recognized the imperialism and took it on. If we update the definition of empire for the 21st century, we see the battle never ended:

Imperialism is the process of social organization characterized by: centralized political power over large, ever-expanding territories and populations; grossly unequal distribution of wealth; unrestrained exploitation of natural resources and people; and ideological enforcement and justification.

This definition of imperialism enables us to recognize how the alleged “end of colonialism” following WWII did not mark the end of imperialist social practices, nor the end of colonialism.

Instead, an updated definition helps us recognize how imperialism has reinvented itself after WWII by legitimizing a “world system” of nation-states, multilateral organizations, and transnational corporations.

Cloaked in corporate speak of “democracy,” this system is rooted in systems of socio-economic exploitation and subjugation that facilitate the cornering of political power and material resources.

This system is rooted in social control, which is a function of imperialism, not an aspect of a healthy democracy. The key element of social control is the strategy of distraction that is to divert public attention from important issues and changes decided by political and economic elites, through the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information, says Noam Chomsky.

1945

Since 1945, the U.S. has been run as an empire. As such, all of the pretense of democracy we can muster is not going to fix the racism and violence that have gone hand in hand in our country’s wicked drive toward global dominance if we don’t start with the honest fact that the U.S. is an empire.

Imperialism is the political divide in America.

At least since the end of WWII, the U.S. has been operating as an empire with octopus-like economic tentacles spread around the world, defended by the world’s largest military and governed by an executive who is more emperor than president.

How did this happen?

Here is the part that is no less than a revelation when you are able recognize it. In 1945, the year that the Third Reich fell, Neoconservatism became the manifestation of that American imperialism. In fact, the Neoconservative magazine Commentary was founded that year by the American Jewish Committee and developed into the leading postwar journal of Jewish affairs.

Since 1945, a small group of Neoconservatives has had an influence on American politics that far outweighs their numbers. This means that the American Empire is not American, just as the Soviet Empire was not Russian. And the American Empire is powered by a foreign politburo like the USSR had been. 

In 1986 Gore Vidal published an essay in The Nation called “The Empire Lovers Strike Back,” about the relationship of American Jewish Neoconservatives to the state of Israel. Decades later we recognize the depth and breath of the relationship as one deniably about empire.

Neoconservatism is in the business of racism and violence, just as the Soviet politburo was, to keep order in the empire. Whereas the domestic agenda of an empire is maintaining order, not promoting the general welfare of citizens, as was the structure of the USSR and also why it fell.

The scale of this predicament cannot be understood without recognizing both the legacy of the Soviet Empire and the birth of a nation, Israel. After all, the set piece of the American Empire is the state of Israel.

America has been run as an empire since 1945 and Israel is its crown jewel.

The esteemed Palestinian scholar Edward W. Said wrote that “American Orientalism” is unique because it is seen almost entirely thru the prism of Israel. 

Israel is dependent on the U.S. in almost every respect. The U.S. pays Israel a yearly tribute. It gives Israel state of the art military equipment. Its veto protects Israel from UN Security Council censure. The U.S. is in charge, not Israel.

You can draw a straight line across the world from the racism in Israel to the racism in America. That is American imperialism and it is powered by corporations.

I would like to point out that the Israel Lobby isn’t even registered as a proper foreign lobby in America. It has refused FARA for decades. The Israel Lobby is unregistered in the U.S. and doesn’t comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, U.S. regulated policy on foreign influence.

The undeniable fact is that U.S. imperialism and Israeli settler colonialism have worked in tandem in order to produce both Israeli nationalist and U.S. imperialist outcomes. Thus, the only reasonable conclusion one can draw is that Israel is a set piece or a carefully organized and practiced player in the American Empire.

I have effectively made my case. This case absolutely confirms that we Americans are really no longer citizens of a republic but subjects of an empire. This, then, becomes our hill to die on.

As such, we need to go back to FDR’s “Four Freedoms” —freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. In the decades after WWII, American imperialism (which is not American) in the form of the so-called “free market” went into full gear and snuffed them out.

Freedom of the Press: The first job of an empire is to keep its subjects stupid or at least entertained and therefore distracted. Thus, the American media or “fake news” as it is rightly called is now fully run by the state, so there is no freedom of speech. In the 19th century this was called “yellow journalism” which presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers and push public opinion towards war and imperialist expansion. State media —film, TV, radio, podcasts, videos, social media— are now controlled and heavily subsidized by the imperialist establishment in Washington, DC. Taxpayers are literally paying for lies and smear campaigns.

Freedom of Religion: Every empire must have a state religion. Thus, the state has infiltrated the religions both at home and abroad as political tools, going as far as to promote racism and hatred for gays, and turned the peaceful religions on each other. The so-called “intelligence community” has infiltrated Christianity so much so that family members believe whites are superior to blacks and straights to gays because “it says so in the Bible.” The whole premise of Christianity is that no one is excluded or marginalized.

Freedom from Want: An empire requires a poor majority and a rich minority. The striking economic (and political) inequality and income disparities in the U.S. are now the highest they have been since the Gilded Age, so there’s no freedom from want. In America today, the top one percent own more than the bottom 90 percent. The richest 85 people have as much wealth as the bottom half of the country.

Freedom from Fear: To keep imperial subjects stupid or focused on the crudest of concerns, empires keep them hating specific people both domestically and globally. It’s about hatred, fear, conflict and division. The U.S. Government’s imperialist policies on forever wars have made freedom from fear impossible. Of course, Hollywood and the news media see to it that the fear is spread far and wide. Some call this reflexive control, causing us to voluntarily make choices most advantageous to the imperialist establishment, by shaping our perceptions involuntarily.

The loss of these freedoms means that the imperialists have been steadily undoing the social safety net that Franklin Delano Roosevelt created. I am old enough to know about the benefits of pensions, unions, paid comprehensive health insurance, regular wage increases, working one job full-time and low city/state college tuition rates. I am also old enough to remember when we had a free press, when religion was not a political act, when there was a middle class, and when the media didn’t encourage fear and hatred.

We are all liars

Everybody lies. That’s the problem with coming to terms with U.S. imperialism if you’re American. You have first got to dig deep down and be honest with yourself before you can examine the recent history of U.S. imperialism and the propaganda used to justify it to the American people.

Propaganda is meant for war and America has not been at war for decades. Since 1945 to be exact. However, the U.S. has been run as an empire since that year. This means propaganda is a imperialist function of the state and a significant portion of Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

Recognize that imperialism has been the most powerful force in world history. Evidence of the existence of empires dates back to the dawn of written history in Egypt and in Mesopotamia.

Recognize that Britain was the first country to industrialize, which then created an enormous empire throughout the world. American imperialism is primarily its creation.

The similarities between modern American imperialism and the old British kind are now too glaring to be ignored. Partly this arises from the fact that so much of the former is taking place in parts of the world where the British imperial imprint can still be seen.

Recognize that imperialism was reborn in the West with the emergence of modern nation-state. Imperialists changed their grounds and strategies, but the ultimate objective remained the same. Rule and exploit the natives with their multifaceted dominance—technological, economic and military.

Rather than being directly colonized by the imperial power, weaker countries have been granted the trapperings of sovereignty, while western finance capital retains control of the lion’s share of their profitable resources.

Capitalism is widely understood as having developed through several stages — three, to be precise: first, merchant capitalism, then competitive or industrial capitalism, and finally, finance capitalism.

The historical and processual nature of the development of capitalism must be stressed, with all the transitions, all the intermediate forms, which constitute such a process. The first and last of these stages are the occasions of the founding of modern empires.

Merchant capitalism gave rise, most importantly, to settler colonies in South Africa and America: the Cape Colony, and the United States. The imperialism of finance capitalism repartitioned the colonial world among the capitalist "great powers" at the close of the 19th century.

Imperialism is widely understood to be the final stage in the development of capitalism. It is a stage characterized by financial institutions' domination of industrial enterprise. Imperialism is characterized by military “interventions” and forever wars.

This is where the U.S. has been sitting since 1945. inasmuch as imperialism is a state of mind, fuelled by the arrogance of superiority whereby the dominant politico-economic interests of one nation expropriate for their own enrichment the land, labor, raw materials and markets of another.

In the years since WWII the term “empire” went out of fashion. But the imperialism remained in the state of our minds.

Finding freedom in America and inner freedom within ourselves are not separate endeavors. Freedom from lies requires a really honest and deep inspection.

Empires rely on the fact that their subjects are kept stupid or preoccupied to the point of near unconsciousness to state affairs. This means for the subjects that finding freedom means recognizing their own lies. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear are all deep seated lies.

Once we recognize the imperialism, we can find freedom, discarding the deep seated imperial lies and avoiding social control. We are headed there.

The overwhelming majority of Americans use their time to try to cope with the necessities that life brings on them and other crucial problems that afflict their closest relatives. They believe the U.S. is a democracy, and we’ve got freedom and liberty, and must pay our taxes.

However, Donald Trump disrupted this illusion and now a majority of Americans are no longer buying the imperialist lies.

The path that led to the impeachment (both) of Donald Trump passed through some unspoken and widely shared assumptions about American imperial power as it is formally and informally exercised through many different channels, normally unbeknownst to Americans. But this time it did not go unnoticed by many Americans. 

Americans are recognizing the imperialist lies and social control in real time. Both impeachments are about American imperialism and President Trump’s unwillingness to cave to the imperial establishment.

Once Americans fully digest that the U.S. has been run as an empire since 1945, the mass media becomes an open book. Americans can read the warning labels their minds create in response to the state propaganda as it presents itself. That’s a healthy start!

Perhaps, then, Americans will also recognize in real time that imperialism is the enemy of freedom and the champion of death, destruction, and deception. And make the final connection—finding freedom. 

Le Club est l'espace de libre expression des abonnés de Mediapart. Ses contenus n'engagent pas la rédaction.