The disconnect between the core countries and the peripheral countries is apparent in that whereas the former currently feel like they’re heading for catastrophe, that catastrophe is already reality for the places imperialism has ravaged. Those within the oppressor countries fear that their conditions will one day be the same as the countries they oppress. There’s an alarm that places like America are “becoming like a third world country,” which has the potential to imply that there’s a natural hierarchy to the world which is being disrupted. The imperialist worldview says that Americans are entitled to the benefits of imperialism, and that whatever impacts imperialism has on the poor countries are therefore part of the correct order of things. For the imperial and colonial chauvinist, things are only wrong when imperialism’s violence begins to impact the countries that have traditionally benefited from imperialism. The problem isn’t that injustice exists, but that it’s afflicting the people who are supposed to be immune from injustice.
“The climate justice movement is a movement that says ‘We’re worried about our future,’” the Indian Marxist Vijay Prashad has said. “What future? What future have children on the African continent, in Asia, in Latin America? They don’t have a future; they don’t have a present. They’re not worried about the future, they’re worried about the present. Your slogan is ‘We’re worried about the future’; what future! That’s a middle class, bourgeois, Western slogan. 2.7 billion people can’t eat right now and you’re telling them to reduce consumption! You’ve got to worry about that now.”
Because of this selfish mentality, atrocities like the ones we’ve witnessed this week in occupied Palestine are viewed by those in the oppressor countries with a detached lens. For the supporters of Zionism, the violence that’s being inflicted upon the Palestinian people is not a call to action against the colonial occupier, but an unfortunate product of the immutable global power structure.
If a Palestinian journalist gets killed by the Israeli Defense Force despite having clearly been marked as part of the press, and then Israeli police beat the mourners who are carrying her casket, this is seen as mundane. Of course death and suffering are happening to the Palestinians, there’s a war happening. It doesn’t mean Israel should be blamed. These are the explanations put forth by Zionists like Bill Maher, who portray the situation as a predictably messy conflict between enlightened Israelis who seek to “democratize” the region and locals who are blinded by backwards passions. That Israel violates human rights is seen by Zionists as a trivial detail, irrelevant next to Israel’s mandate for creating a Jewish homeland—which to Zionists means stealing land and setting up an ethno-state.
Such a mentality depends on the absence of a material analysis of the lands which have been colonized, whether those lands are the Arab world or the indigenous tribal territories. The Zionists portray Israel as an indigenous self-determination movement, even though in reality it’s provided a way for Ashkenazi Jews—who hold far less indigenous ties to the land than the dark-skinned local Jews—to settle on indigenous Palestinian land while dark-skinned Jews face discrimination and deportation. These European colonizers try to portray their land theft as some sort of Native reclamation movement by taking on names which reflect the local Hebrew culture, pretending to be indigenous while ironically treating actual indigenous people like garbage.
The descendants of the European settlers in North America do the equivalent, singing about how “this land is your land, this land is my land, this land was made for you and me.” In reality, the colonial oppression and environmental abuses that these settlers facilitate give them less than no credibility in their claim of being the honorable successors to the Natives in managing the land. They aren’t honoring the legacy of the tens of millions of indigenous peoples who died as a consequence of the settling process. They’re profaning it with their inhumane capitalist system, and destroying the land they act like they’re indigenous to.
All of these absurd ideas serve to mask the crushing reality of the colonial dystopia. The colonizers don’t want to face the fact that they’ve created incomprehensible levels of death and suffering for those who’ve been pushed aside to make way for “progress.” This applies both to nations that are external to the imperialist powers, like Palestine, and to the colonized nations that the imperialists imprison within the borders of the core countries themselves. The hundreds of indigenous First Nations that remain deprived of their right to self-determination, as well as the African, Chicano, and Asian diaspora nations, all live under the boot of the settler state. To varying degrees, they live in disproportionate poverty compared to the settlers. Economically reinforced segregation, police brutality, and institutionally enabled vigilante violence all afflict them, making them internal colonies subject to a different version of the imperialist subjugation Washington perpetrates abroad.
Israel’s occupation is the logical conclusion of this, the most extreme manifestation of the type of colonial oppression that modern technology makes possible. The Zionist state has placed Palestinians under a tight system of resource deprivation, control over their day-to-day movements, policing, surveillance, partitioning, censorship, and disinformation designed to dehumanize the targets. Most of the other settler-colonial countries don’t subjugate their underclass to the same extent, but there are infamous examples of parallels between Israel and these other oppressor states. There’s Colombia’s wildly violent white supremacist police state, there’s the anti-indigenous genocide of Brazil under Bolsonaro, there’s fascist India’s genocide against Muslims in order to colonize Kashmir, there’s Australia’s island concentration camp for migrants. The United States, which has built the world’s largest prison system primarily for locking up members of the oppressed nations, is another one of these internationally condemned perpetrators of modern colonialism.
Beyond the spectacular acts of cruelty that these countries are guilty of, the mere presence of neo-colonialism throughout the vast majority of the Global South makes for a dystopia. The deepening poverty that Americans have been experiencing throughout the pandemic has been many times more severe for those within the countries the imperialist powers exploit. More than half a billion people have been pushed into extreme poverty, or pushed further into it, due to the impacts of the pandemic. Global warming is devastating the Global South, where nearly a billion people are getting their daily lives impacted by a heatwave in India and Pakistan, millions in Bangladesh have recently lost their homes to torrential rains, and African countries are experiencing ever-expanding hunger.
U.S. imperialism seeks to worsen these humanitarian crises, whether through neo-colonial exploitation or through attacks against all poor countries which dare assert their autonomy. When Ethiopia has traded with China, Washington has responded by stirring up a devastating civil war and imposing sanctions which exacerbate the country’s famine. It’s these kinds of imperialist destabilization tactics that are primarily to blame for the world’s refugee crisis; around two-thirds of refugees come from Venezuela, Afghanistan, Syria, and Myanmar, all of which have been subject to Washington’s economic warfare, Washington’s proxy warfare, or both. Ukraine’s six million refugees are victims of Washington’s destabilization efforts as well.
“Catastrophic natural events – hurricanes and rising sea levels – capture our imagination, as the Caribbean islands are wracked by wind and flood and as the South Sea islands disappear into the oceans,” Prashad has written. “Water drowns land as capital drowns the dreams of human survival. Data from international agencies show us that formal employment is an impossible dream for millions of our fellows on the planet. There is, however, always a job with the military. Wars continue endlessly. Pitiless futures stand before the young. Their trust in humanity is fragile. There is an international division of humanity. It is as if there is a wall that separates our humanity; those who live in zones of great war and tragedy are separated from those who live with the illusion of peace, in countries that produce the conditions for war but deny that they have a hand in it.”
Because of imperialism, the people in those zones are already living out the dystopia that we fear will come to the rich countries. Survival is their most immediate need, not preserving a decadent society based on exploitation. Ultimately we in the rich countries may face a similarly dire scenario, but the irony is that if we do, it will be because we’ve failed to build a proletarian revolutionary movement which is allied with the Global South. Internationalism is the only way to defeat imperialism. The victories won by the liberation movements in the Global South bring our own liberation movements forward as well. Every gain the Palestinians make will mean the weakening of the U.S. empire, making revolution here more likely. We must build solidarity with their struggle, both because this is in our interests and because their struggle should be supported out of humanitarian necessity.—————————————————————————
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