"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Mar 15, 2011

How It Spreads

After almost eight decades spent pillaging the Caribbean and Central American, United Fruit renamed itself, updated its market portfolio and went about its business as usual. Perhaps in glum recognition of its own limits, it also stopped directly knocking off local governments with CIA assistance, preferring to go along with the new international management regime run through the IMF and the World Bank.

During the near century of is hemispheric might and of Western extraction, repression, disruption (done alongside other resource removal firms, such as Anaconda, Occidental, Exxon and the mafia), in general, the region was well and truly broken. In this period, popular reformist governments in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Colombia fell to openly hidden "secret" wars managed from Washington and London. Uprisings, ejercitos, people's movements and revolutionary organizations were cracked open by various national officers trained at the School of Americas, by the CIA and its British analogs and by mercenaries working directly for the American and European extraction firms. Policies and practices first undertaken in the Caribbean and Central America were refined, developed and expanded in South America's more prosperous Southern Cone, with similar results.

Four generations sold into servitude.

Desperate for work, fleeing repression and economic despair in their own countries, thousands and then hundreds of thousands fled north, into the United States proper, where they were demonized as a new yellow plague while being further exploited for their cheap, manageable and disposable labor.

Most of you reading this are already aware of these facts, and familiar with the story. I'm not trying to tell you anything you don't already know.

But it occurs to me to mention that the pillaging and degradation of an entire continent mirrors the same disaster, in kind and dispersal, currently playing out in Japan.

It's a function of capital relations. It's also predictable, because capitalist exchange runs on a forced inequity. Whole regions are subject to legal, judicial, police, martial and extra-juridical assault, this to enforce the colonizations (both market and material) of their social and geological space which allow for resources to be extracted at reduced cost, using local disciplined populations as an unfixed labor pool, with minimum and manageable resistance.

In the same way that United Fruit exported chaos - transforming or obliterating pre-existing social norms - in order to import raw and refined produce, modern energy corporations export violence and control in order to harness the atom, the oil molecule and the cubic foot of natural gas. Nuclear plants are not built without the edifice of the capitalist state. Oil ports are not built and protected without the superstructure of the capitalist military machine. Natural gas and petroleum does not get moved from West Africa to Port Elizabeth without a "global force for good" primed to destroy any lesser challengers and enforce the maritime peace of empire.

Chaos and violence are allowed to spread from the capitols and bourse cities of the US and Europe, from emerging China and rising Brazil. They are not allowed to flow back. When "illegals" cross into Arizona, or third generation "guest worker" Turks ask for rights in Stuttgart, the system's managers, officials, factors and armed enforcers respond. When Marxists seize portions of the Colombian llanos, the weapons, funding and material support flow to contain and kill them. When peasants siphon off oil from sabotaged pipelines in Nigeria, mercenaries get their orders.

There are few obstructions, going outward, and countless coming in.

Power's effects flow out from the center, spread by law, exchange and force outward as chaos, as discipline, as repression, as the peace of tombs and graves. As the marketization of love, loyalty, entertainment, hunger, sex and death.

Until they don't.

Because, eventually, the conceit of empire wears thin, ground down by the friction of its own operation. Inhuman events intervene. And while arrogance in the halls of power is rarely mitigated, or itself dispersed, it eventually must encounter the monsters of its own making. Toxic financial crises. Irradiation of whole regions and nuclear catastrophe. Nakedly viscous calls to hunt human persons are prey animals. Drug wars, and border conflicts. Commercial real estate collapses. Food shortages. Rising oil prices. The tepidly misnamed "climate change." Revolts first along the periphery, followed by reaction, and overreaction. The ultimate failure of a system designed to create and manage chaos, when the chaos begins to consume it.

The developing nuclear disaster in Fukushima province is not a metaphor. It doesn't symbolize anything but itself. And it is awful and horrific on its own terms.

It nonetheless demonstrates fundamentally and radically the ultimate failure of the conceit of capital. United Fruit lost Central and South America, and the CIA failed to prevent a socialist awakening. It may in fact have hastened one. The US is losing control of its oil despot client states. The EU is losing control of its markets, its internal cheap labor zones and its no longer domesticated "guest workers."

But, like the unfolding horror in Japan, these conditions and events force us to concede a vital point, or kill ourselves us by denying it: the effects of our way of life eventually outpace their causes. We may think that it all spreads outward from us. That we keep the chaos of our making at bay, beyond firewalls of law, punishment, exchange, money and faith.

But, it doesn't, and we cannot and won't. Like irradiated steam and caesium 137, the fall out of capital's discontents force us to either admit that we are not gods, and to start to live accordingly, or in ignorance and denial remain complicit in the destruction of peoples, environments, and inevitably, ourselves.

Nuclear power plants built on major faults in earthquake prone zones along tsunami threatened coastlines will eventually be overwhelmed by the failures and faults coded into their operation and management, into the costs of doing business and generating power for profit.

Economies built on degradation, commodification, alienation and the systemic oppression of whole peoples and continents will eventually be overwhelmed by the failures, inequities and faults coded into their operation and management, into the rising costs of just doing business.

Especially as more and more of us become capitalism's discontents.

As we become how it spreads...


Anonymous said...

United Fruit lost Central and South America, and the CIA failed to prevent a socialist awakening. It may in fact have hastened one.

Yep. Though one might say that fruit doesn't run an industrial empire, while oil does, and that's what explains the loss of United Fruit's interests while ...uh... Tenneco's interests continued to prosper.

The interesting point in my mind about UFC is how many low-level Mafia folks are/were involved in produce wholesaling. Nice vector of control, giving a piece of the UFC pie, eh?

The final wheezing gasps, the death rattles, they are good to witness when I look over a long-term view, but when I shift back to here-and-now, they are painful. The panicked thieving of the US Treasury in such a short timeframe is high evidence of their knowledge of the collapse, and their attempt to be vampires and coprophages, maximizing return on the dying corpus and eventual corpse.

Jack Crow said...

Good point about the persistence of oil, Charles.

UFC showed them how to do it, but the oil-state axis is far more vital to "national security" than cheap sugar and bananas.

Anonymous said...

Nuclear power plants built on major faults in earthquake prone zones along tsunami threatened coastlines...

this point is woefully absent in the reportage up to now. of course that's not supposed to really be a criticism as i do understand tact and to inveigh a 'no shit sherlock' does nothing good for the awful, still deteriorating situation.

but, really, look where the goddamned thing is.

Anonymous said...

goddam jack. well-said.

Jack Crow said...


I think the corporate outlets' failure to report the "no shit Sherlock" aspect of the story is deliberate. It's willful refusal to follow the facts. There's probably malice there, too. These are the same people who reported the 2008-2009 financial collapse, in its initial stages, as the fault of blacks and other historically poor people getting loans they couldn't afford because redlining prohibitions weren't loosened. Only after the perpetrators were immunized from consequences and heeled up with TARP funds did the Wall Street blaming start, and then in a muted, whatchagonnadoaboutit fashion.



Anonymous said...

In Nicaragua we see the opposite of Japan's failure. It is not a symbol either. It is a country so poor only Haiti rivals it in this hemisphere. It was only the failure of the banana crop due to environmental disaster, followed by an eartquake and the theft of the aid sent that finally allowed it to break free of the cycle of invasion. (Nobody told Reagan this and he and his henchmen were only interested in Somoza as a conduit for illegal drugs and arms anyway). Now, apart from modest amounts of money from Venezuala and technical support from Cuba, it survives by taking in animal skins from the slaughterhouses in the Americas and killing it's people and degrading it's water and land by turning the skins into leather goods. Two years ago the largest source of export income in the country was remittences sent from illegal workers in Salvador to their families. The Salvadorans get their money from the remittences of illegal workers sent from the US. The only hope I see for the wretched of the earth, is that their lack of resources is such that they will be bypassed by capitals search for growth.

Jack Crow said...

Wow, drip. That was worth reading more than once. Thank you.

BDR said...

drip, bleg please. I two-pint dare you.

My reasons are selfish.

davidly said...

Gold. And the comments too. I would only like to add that bananas and oil are an endangered species. Perhaps one day our bones will pick up where we left off.

Anonymous said...

drip -

it survives by taking in animal skins from the slaughterhouses in the Americas and killing it's people and degrading it's water and land by turning the skins into leather goods.

Remember Jonathan Harr's A Civil Action ? Remember the origin of the history of pollution in Woburn and the source of some of the worst toxins? Tannery operation.