By Lee Camp, LeeCamp.net, April 19, 2023
This is excerpted from Lee Camp’s book Dangerous Ideas. To read the entire amazing book of stuff this great, become a subscribing member at LeeCamp.net.
Something every American takes for granted has made our current geopolitical crises much worse. That thing sits ingrained in our minds since the time we could barely take two steps without a face full of carpet. But before I get to that, let’s set the scene.
I don’t have to tell you that things are bad. Our economy is based almost completely on everyone buying things they don’t need at prices they can’t afford, our natural environment is 70% plastic now, most “love making” has been replaced with sending an eggplant emoji on your phone, and perhaps scariest of all — professional wrestling is still a thing.
(Although there’s also something reassuring about the fact that even in these stark times, sweaty angry hugging men persist. I like to think that when the cockroaches reign supreme, when weeds grow up through the remnants of the roads and playgrounds and shopping malls and hot stone massage parlors, when the final humans living in underground bunkers are dressed in gas-mask chic (mainly grays and blacks but still sporting a hint of color in the glasses rims or the neck tattoos or the homemade battle ax sheaths), and when the economy is based on Gross Domestic Protein Pellets — the only remaining food source — even then, the professional bulky men will continue to perform stunning aerial traumatic brain injuries for the joy and excitement of whoever’s left. This would presuppose no one informed said men the TV cameras had been cannibalized for parts 10 years prior.)
Point is – things are bad right now. And they’re made much worse by a certain taboo topic mainstream media anchors would sooner eat their own neck ties than discuss.
Our problems have all been exacerbated by toxic nationalism, including the pandemic we just went through. Because – and I know this is mind-blowing – no virus cares if you put up a fence or you speak a different language or you’re an immigrant from somewhere else or you got circumcised in a ceremony with a shaman and some bagpipes and a bucket of ripe mangoes.
The virus doesn’t care.
Yet again we’re letting our human delusions dictate our response to a physical world completely unaware of and unyielding to such fairy tales. Acting like nationalism matters when facing a killer disease is like trying to combat a phalanx of sword-wielding samurais with nothing but nostalgia as your only weapon.
When COVID-19 was first talked about in the U.S., our government and media used it as a chance to disseminate anti- China rhetoric, widely known as the fuel for racism. Our nation’s best propaganda outlet, The New York Times (I mean that with all disrespect), put it this way – “To Tame Coronavirus, Mao-Style Social Control Blankets China.”
Oh, social control? They mean like — “Everyone stay six feet away from everyone else. No one go to a restaurant or bar or visit your grandparents or wave hi to an old person on a bus. Don’t travel anywhere. Thou shalt not interact with thy fellow human nor covet thy neighbor’s ass.” You mean like that kind of social control? You mean the restrictions we had right here in the United States?
I’m sorry, fearless Times writers, but racism is not your best bet against a raging disease. Very few “-isms” stop ultramicroscopic metabolically inert infectious agents. I myself have tried using buddhism, sadomasochism, feudalism, autoerotic asphyxiationism, and antidisestablishmentarianism. They’ve all let me down. (Although the feudalism did show some promise against a slight case of rickets I had as a child.)
Our xenophobic ruling elite cannot dare say the truth – China actually succeeded in slowing down the virus, buying America valuable extra time before it spread to our shores. Even The New York Times eventually admitted “China Bought the West Time. The West Squandered It.”
This is one of the Times’ patented come-to-Jesus moments when they suddenly pull a 180, tires squealing, and realize the truth that most people understood weeks, if not months, if not years, before. They’ve performed this same maneuver with WMDs in Iraq, the harms of climate change, the lack of harms of marijuana, police brutality, sexual harassment in the workplace, whether women must ride horses “side saddle,” and whether The Matrix is any good.
It’s basically like they’re saying, “Yeah, sorry about all that racist shit we printed a month ago. We’ve completely changed our ways… until a week from now when we’ll go back to pushing for white supremacist wars in which the American military excitedly blows up Arab people.”
I think the point I’m trying to make is that talking about how one country is better or worse or weaker or whatever in the midst of our current global problems is like if a herd of angry rhinos were stampeding toward you and you just kept yelling that you have on nicer shoes than the guy next to you.
Rhinos. Don’t. Care.
Right now – this moment – is a horrible and also crucial time. It’s showing us not just the incredibly ridiculous flaws in capitalism, but it’s also demonstrating our shared humanity. We must join together, fight for a better future, and shed our toxic nationalism. But our sociopathic leaders won’t dare do that.
MintPress News along with other outlets reported that in the middle of the pandemic America actually cranked up the heat on its hybrid war against Venezuela. Reporter Leonardo Flores wrote, “US sanctions on Venezuela have already forced the country to spend three times as much for testing kits as non-sanctioned countries.” On top of that, the Justice Department put a $15 million bounty on President Nicolás Maduro’s head.
Iran has also suffered tremendously because of our sanctions on them. During the peak of the pandemic, Google pulled Iran’s official app meant to help their people deal with COVID-19. Basically, our government officials and the tech company execs (lying sticky and prone in bed with them) want to make sure as many people die from COVID-19 as possible – in Iran and Venezuela and North Korea and any other countries we don’t like because those countries refuse to freely cough up their oil or lithium or rare earth metals or independence.
But I can’t stress this enough: Viruses, and climate crisis, and environmental collapse and ocean acidification – none of them care where the fuck you’re from!
Here’s something you won’t hear on your mainstream outlets and all your corporate assholets. Here’s something that’s forbidden: Maybe, just maybe, the pandemic and the droughts and the forest fires and the floods show us it’s time to evolve past the idea of nations.
(I’ll give you a moment while your mind reels at the thought crime this author has committed. …Then, if you’re brave enough, please read on.)
We act like nations are a given – as if there’s no other way to organize our species, no other way to behave except to have your flag’s colors tattooed across your nipples and your national anthem burned into your soft mushy brain matter. But in fact, nations have not always been the way we humans have divided ourselves. The idea of nations isn’t even particularly old.
When we think of ideas or manners of behaving that have withstood the test of time so much so they seem to be common sense, we think of actions and beliefs that are thousands of years old. That list includes walking on two legs, carrying your infant around, having sex, defending yourself, building shelter, cooking food, and yanking excess hair off your body (mainly out of the nostrils) in order to score the previously mentioned sex. All of these things have been done by our species for eons.
But dividing ourselves into nations most certainly has not. Nation states didn’t strongly exist until the late 18th century. John Breuilly of the London School of Economics says, “Far from timeless, the nation-state is a recent phenomenon… Before the late 18th century, there were no real nation-states… neither passports nor borders as we know them existed.”
And even as nations began developing, they weren’t that important to a lot of people. He continues, “Many eastern European immigrants arriving in the US in the 19th century could say what village they came from, but not what country: it didn’t matter to them. …Ancient empires are coloured on modern maps as if they had firm borders, but they didn’t.”
Africa’s nations were only invented in 1885 by a bunch of rich white guys at the Berlin Conference. The national borders sliced right through over 1,000 cultures and regions, tearing friendly peoples apart and grouping together others that didn’t get along.
So only a little over 200 years ago human categorization changed and nations became the hot new thing. “In 1800 almost nobody in France thought of themselves as French. By 1900 they all did.”
An idea that took hold 200 years ago has come to rule all of our minds, like a parasite. We can’t imagine being separated, delineated, or categorized in other ways even as we acknowledge that internally we’re very fractured. Republicans despise Democrats. White Sox lovers hate Yankees fans. Those who get their fried chicken from KFC think those who like Chick-fil-A might as well be rubbing their tongues with week-old bull scat.
In some cases separating us differently than by nation would make a lot of sense. Rich people are far more likely to survive a virus than poor people. Wealthy people the world over are more likely to have access to testing, treatment, good doctors, ventilators, etc. Poor people all over the planet are more likely to try to “tough it out” at home because they don’t have a doctor or can’t afford one. What if we decided there were no nations but instead the working people of the world were one group and the corporate owners of the world were another group. If humans were divvied up that way instead, the working people of China would be able to help the working people of Italy or America and vice versa without nationalistic propaganda. (Of course this raises other problems such as that the corporate owners would certainly hoard all the medicines and ventilators since they are generally sociopaths.)
But we are subliminally told by our mainstream media never to side with the people of another nation. They say first and foremost care about America. Yet in reality, if we free our minds beyond the mental prison of toxic nationalism, do any of us have anything against a shoe salesman in China or a garbage man in Cuba? I seriously doubt it. You’re not at war with that shoe salesman. You don’t have any reason to hate him or even wish him ill will. So truthfully the extremely rich of the world are at war with each other while 99% of the various populations are along for the ride – some knowingly and some blissfully unaware.
Keep in mind – our world is evolving. And that can be a good thing. The authors of the book “The Universe Next Door” from NewScientist state, “Most hierarchical systems tend to become top-heavy, expensive and incapable of responding to change.” Our current United States fits all of these characteristics and then some. The American empire is exceedingly top heavy, expensive, and incapable of responding to change. Much like a massive battleship or Chris Christie, the American empire takes an overwhelmingly long time to change course even slightly. The current inertia is just too great.
When you end up with a top-heavy, expensive hierarchy that can’t adapt, it creates a lot of tension. Back to NewScientist – “The resulting tension may be released through partial collapse. … Collapse, say some, is the creative destruction that allows new structures to emerge.”
Well, I have news for you. We are definitely in the middle of a partial collapse. The number one hobby of your average American is stocking their survival garden. During this partial collapse, new structures could emerge if we break out of our antiquated thought prisons. Right now is not about nations or fences or political parties. It’s about you, and me, and our neighbors, friends, and shared humanity.