• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 10 november 2012

'Deskundigen' 27



Uit gesprekken met Geert Mak weet ik dat hij graag in Californie komt, en dan vooral in en rond San Francisco, waarover Mark Twain ooit eens zei dat  men daar ‘het gevaar loopt te bevriezen als men niet flink door stapt.’ Maar ook voor Californie heeft hij een tamelijk eenzijdige belangstelling. Hoewel hij enige tijd in Monterey doorbracht, een toeristenoord en voormalige vissersplaats, 180 kilometer ten zuiden van San Francisco, heeft  Mak nooit de gedichten van Robinson Jeffers gelezen, die volgens de emeritus hoogleraar Albert Gelpi een ‘major presence is in modern letters – always powerful, by turns disturbing and exalting in his narritive drive and lyric intensity.’ In het nabij Monterey gelegen plaatsje Carmel bouwde Jeffers zijn hele werkzame leven lang aan een natuurstenen huis en toren. Op een koele, mistige augustusochtend in 2006 sta ik samen mijn vrouw, zoon en 6 keurige Amerikanen voor zijn aan de Stille Oceaan gelegen ‘Tor House,’ wachtend op een rondleiding. In mijn aantekenboekje lees ik het volgende:

Ik vraag de aanwezigen wat hun mening is over Jeffers’ werk. ‘Zijn gedichten zijn somber en zwaar,’ aldus een oudere dame. En inderdaad, ze stralen niet het onstuitbare kinderlijke en vermoeiende optimisme uit van al die doe-mensen die de VS in hun greep hebben en hun  welhaast hysterische energie gebruiken om rijk te worden en om een imperium in stand te houden. Het onderwerp van gesprek is ineens de governator Arnold Scharzenegger. Hij is pro-Bush zeg ik naar aanleiding van een tv-fragment waarin hij zijn steun betuigt voor Bush. Een vrouw reageert met de opmerking dat ‘Arnold’ niet voor en niet tegen Bush is. ‘Hij zegt wat goed voor hemzelf is.’ Waarom hebben de Californische kiezers op een Oostenrijkse B-filmacteur gestemd? Zijn de mensen hier zo oppervlakkig? ‘Het is propaganda‘en het meeste geld wint,’ zegt een man gelaten. Dat is de Amerikaanse democratie en daarover zijn veel burgers doorgaans eerlijk. Ze draaien er niet omheen, zoals in Nederland. Hier bestaat op een gekke manier veel meer gezond verstand. Opvallend veel Amerikanen oordelen wat ze zien. Toch worden ze ideologisch gemanipuleerd en komen niet in verzet. De elite kent de zwakheden van de gewone mens en via propaganda houden ze de mythes in stand. Na een uur wachten krijgen we te horen dat er niet meer dan zes mensen tegelijk het huis kunnen bezoeken. Als laatsten kunnen wij niet naar binnen. Ik ga in de tuin zitten met The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers en lees onder andere het uit de jaren dertig stammende gedicht:

Theory of Truth...

Why does insanity always twist the great answers? 

Because only 
tormented persons want truth. 

Man is an animal like other animals, wants food and success and women, not truth. Only if the mind 

Tortured by some interior tension has despaired of happiness: 
then it hates its life-cage and seeks further, 

And finds, if it is powerful enough. But instantly the private 
agony that made the search 

Muddles the finding.

Here was a man who was born a bastard, and among the people 

That more than any in the world valued race-purity, chastity, the 
prophetic splendors of the race of David. 

Oh intolerable wound, dimly perceived. Too loving to curse his 
mother, desert-driven, devil-haunted, 

The beautiful young poet found truth in the desert, but found also 
Fantastic solution of hopeless anguish. The carpenter was not his 
father?
Because God was his father, 

Not a man sinning, but the pure holiness and power of God. 
His personal anguish and insane solution 

Have stained an age; nearly two thousand years are one vast poem drunk with the wine of his blood.

De Amerikaanse hoogleraar Engels, James Karman, schrijft naar aanleiding van dit gedicht in een kritische biografie van Jeffers:

Though Christianity has helped give Western civilization its restless, dynamic character, Jeffers believed that it has done far more harm than good. As a way of life, it increases rather than diminishes psychological distgurbance, especially insofar as the bloody image of crucifiction is concerned. It seperates people from the world in which they live by focusing their attention on the world to come. And it catches people in a net of self-concern. Base don a mistaken notion of love and one’s fellowmen, and on a mistaken belief that there is a God who cares for people (enough to appear on earth as one), Christianity deludes its followers into thinking that humans are the reason for and object of creation.

Hoewel Mak in zijn reisboek vermeldt dat in 1940 in Carmel ‘al een bloeiende kunstenaarskolonie’ bestond, de ‘Greenwich Village on the Pacific,’ en regelmatig aandacht besteedt aan de rol van het christendom in de VS negeert hij Robinson Jeffers, ‘a major voice in twentieth-century American poetry, a poetic alternative to the high modernism of Eliot and Pound,’ aldus de Amerikaanse hoogleraar Tim Hunt. En dat terwijl het christendom in de VS vanaf het allereerste begin als koloniaal project politiek is gebruikt in de ideologie van het blanke expansionisme, van de fundamentalistische Pilgrim Fathers tot hun natuurlijke Verlichtingsopvolgers met hun manifest destiny. Op pagina 99 van zijn reisboek schrijft Geert Mak:

‘A city upon a hill,’ preekte John Winthrop over zijn nieuwe land. ‘We zullen zijn als een stad op de heuvel, met de ogen van alle mensen op ons gericht…’ Hier liggen de religieuze wortels van de zogenaamde ‘uitzonderlijkheid’, het ‘exceptionalisme’, de diepe overtuiging dat Amerika een speciaal door God uitverkoren en gezegend land is, dat de Amerikaanse normen en waarden universeel zijn, en dat ieder mens volgens die waarden hoort te denken. Anders lopen ze achter in hun ontwikkeling.

Mak verzuimt hier zijn lezers te vertellen over welke ‘ontwikkeling’ hij het heeft en over welke ‘Amerikaanse normen en waarden’ het hier gaat. Laten daarom de feiten voor zich spreken.

John Winthrop (12 January 1587/8[1] – 26 March 1649) was a wealthy English Puritan lawyer and one of the leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first major settlement in New England after Plymouth Colony. Winthrop led the first large wave of migrants from England in 1630, and served as governor for 12 of the colony's first 20 years of existence. His writings and vision of the colony as a Puritan "city upon a hill" dominated New England colonial development, influencing the government and religion of neighboring colonies.’

Net als andere puriteinse leiders was Winthrop van mening dat indianen geen enkel recht bezaten op het land waar hun families al millennia leefden, in tegenstelling tot de blanke christenen die met geweld elke plaats op aarde in beslag mochten nemen. Omdat de Europese binnendringers hun eigen cultuur en technologie als superieur beschouwden eisten ze het recht op om de indianen te verjagen dan wel te vermoorden, om er in de woorden van Winthrop ‘to raise a Bulworke against the kingdome of the Ante-Christ.’ Tweederde van de indiaanse bevolking (de antichrist) stierf al snel door een pokkenepidemie die door de komst van de Europeanen was veroorzaakt, een teken van God’s  marvelous goodness and providence,’ zo schreef de gouverneur van de Massachusetts Bay Colonie. Het kon immers niet anders dan dat God aan hun kant stond, want, om het door Mak gebruikte citaat af te maken:

if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.

Met de ‘wonderbaarlijke goedheid’ van de christelijke god aan hun kant richtten de troepen van Winthrop een slachting aan onder de Pequot indianen die zich in hun door palisaden omheinde dorp hadden verschanst. De voor het merendeel vrouwen en kinderen die probeerden te ontsnappen werden dood geschoten en de rest verbrandde levend nadat de blanken het dorp in brand hadden gestoken. 

'nearly two thousand years are one vast poem drunk with the wine of his blood.'

Vanaf het Pequot bloedbad tot aan de Filipijnen, Vietnam, Abu Ghraib en Falluja eindigen ‘de Amerikaanse normen en waarden,’ in grootschalige terreur. 'De diepe overtuiging dat Amerika een speciaal door God uitverkoren en gezegend land is' is de voedingsbodem van het verwoestende Amerikaanse superioriteitsgevoel. Of Geert Mak hier op doelt is onwaarschijnlijk aangezien hij hier de feiten verzwijgt. In elk geval is terreur het kenmerk geworden van de Amerikaanse politiek. Nog steeds wordt ‘de ontwikkeling’ van andere volkeren door Washington als argument gebruikt om met maximaal geweld onwillige naties in het gareel te meppen. Mak zwijgt ook over het feit dat het christendom zich dan wel mag zien als de hoogste beschaving in de geschiedenis der mensheid, het tegelijkertijd een feit is dat deze religie 'the most bewildered and self-contradictory, the least integrated,  in some phases the most ignoble civilization’ is ‘that has ever existed,’ aldus de door Mak genegeerde Robinson Jeffers. James Karman:

The modern age, Jeffers believed, represents the final, fullest phase of that civilization, and perhaps its most contemptible. In America, the modern age was created by people who believed they had a manifest destiny to conquer the land. Inspired by passages in the Bible in which God says ‘Be the terror and dread’ of everything that exists, and driven by dreams of greatness, early settlers pushed west. Without hunger, love, need, or mercy, they raped the continent and killed its native peoples. As they cleared fields, ammed rivers, laid roads, and built buildings, they carried civilization wherever they went and allowed it to spread like a fungus throughout the land. Seeing ‘the beautiful places killed like rabbits’ to make cities, Jeffers mourned ‘the hopeless prostration of the earth/Under men’s hands and their minds.’ (‘The Broken Balance’) He was especially concerned about California and his own coast’s future. When Highway I was constructed between Carmel and Big Sur (ten zuiden van Carmel), for instance, he wrote a poem titled ‘The Coast Road’ in which a horseman looks down from above. He shakes his fist at the bridge-builders, trucks, and power-shovels carving up the mountain and then rides on. The poem continues with Jeffers’ own response.

At the far end of those loops of road
Is what will come and destroy it, a rich and vulgar and bewildered civilization dying at the core,
A world that is feverishly preparing new wars, peculiarly vicious ones, and heavier tyrannies, a strangely
Missionary world, road-builder, wind-rider, educator, printer and picture-maker and broad-caster
So eager, like an old drunken whore, pathetically eager to impose the seduction of her fled charms
On all that through ignorance or isolation might have escaped them. I hope the weathered horseman up yonder
Will die before he knows what this eager world will do to his children. More tough-minded men
Can repulse an old whore, or cynically accept her drunken kindnesses for what they are worth,

But the innocent and credulous are soon corrupted.

De argelozen en lichtgelovigen zijn verstrikt geraakt in de zogeheten beschaafde wereld, zo meende Jeffers:

I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all together
      into interdependence; we have built the great cities; now
There is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable
      of free survival, insulated

From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all
      dependent. The circle is closed, and the net
Is being hauled in.

Karman:

All the various ideologies of the age, says Jeffers in ‘The Broken Balance’ such as capitalism, communism, or Christianity, draw people into contact and conflict with each other. ‘Having no center/But in the eyes and mouths that surround them’ and ‘no function but to serve and support/Civilization,’ it is no wonder that people ‘live insanely’desiring ‘with their tongues, progress; with their eyes , pleasure; with their hearts, death.’ And in the twentieth century, death is easily found. World Wars I and II were orgies of destruction and convulsive spasms of cruelty, vividly described by Jeffers in ‘The King of Beasts.’

Wat veroorzaakt toch deze mateloze onvrede van het christendom? De indiaanse politieke- en milieu-activiste Charlotte Black Elk:

Look at the origen legends of the judeo-christian people. You have an origen legend that says that Adam and Eve were banished onto earth and earth is an enemy. And you have native people, and Lakota people in particular, who say the earth is my mother and we all have to live together as a family. Those are very, very opposed viewpoints from one who says: this is my mother and the other who says: this is a place of banishment and you don’t really have to care for it because someday you are going back to paradise when you complete your banishment. And I think those attitudes are what came into play when you had western encroachment and the wars of the 1800s, the whole uprooting of native people.

En nu staan we aan het eind van deze weg. Hoe nu verder? Het zijn de schrijvers, de dichters, de beeldend kunstenaars, de politiek gemarginaliseerden die ons het dichtst bij de waarheid brengen. Zonder hun stem te horen, zonder hun beeldentaal te zien kan men onmogelijk de werkelijkheid beschrijven. En toch probeert Mak dit in zijn zoektocht naar ‘Amerika’ en hij faalt jammerlijk. Zijn reisboek komt niet verder dan het politieke cliché, oftewel de gepropageerde waarheid, de dode taal. Milan Kundera constateert terecht dat ‘the Europe we live in no longer looks for its identity in the mirrors of its philosophy and its arts.’ Alles is verpolitiekt en wie die taal niet spreekt wordt niet gehoord. Reizen zonder John staat vol met politiek. En juist dat is het wezenlijke probleem van het werk van Geert Mak. Hij heeft geen behoefte aan filosofie en kunst. Zijn bouwwerk is gebaseerd op ‘hoop,’ op drijfzand. En dus laat hij Jeffers en al die andere dichters en schrijvers links liggen. Daarover morgen meer.



Noam Chomsky 62


Noam Chomsky: My Visit to Gaza, the World's Largest Open-Air Prison

Friday, 09 November 2012 09:03By Noam Chomsky, Truthout | Op-Ed
Women sit in their makeshift home in the Forgotten Neighborhood in Gaza City, Gaza, September 6, 2012. A United Nations report cites shortages of food, water, electricity, jobs, hospital beds and classrooms amid an exploding population in what is already one of the most densely populated patches of the planet. (Photo: Ed Ou / The New York Times) Women sit in their makeshift home in the Forgotten Neighborhood in Gaza City, Gaza, September 6, 2012. A United Nations report cites shortages of food, water, electricity, jobs, hospital beds and classrooms amid an exploding population in what is already one of the most densely populated patches of the planet. (Photo: Ed Ou / The New York Times)Even a single night in jail is enough to give a taste of what it means to be under the total control of some external force.
And it hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world's largest open-air prison, where some 1.5 million people on a roughly 140-square-mile strip of land are subject to random terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade.
Such cruelty is to ensure that Palestinian hopes for a decent future will be crushed, and that the overwhelming global support for a diplomatic settlement granting basic human rights will be nullified. The Israeli political leadership has dramatically illustrated this commitment in the past few days, warning that they will "go crazy" if Palestinian rights are given even limited recognition by the U.N.
This threat to "go crazy" ("nishtagea") – that is, launch a tough response – is deeply rooted, stretching back to the Labor governments of the 1950s, along with the related "Samson Complex": If crossed, we will bring down the Temple walls around us.
Thirty years ago, Israeli political leaders, including some noted hawks, submitted to Prime Minister Menachem Begin a shocking report on how settlers on the West Bank regularly committed "terrorist acts" against Arabs there, with total impunity.
Disgusted, the prominent military-political analyst Yoram Peri wrote that the Israeli army's task, it seemed, was not to defend the state, but "to demolish the rights of innocent people just because they are Araboushim (a harsh racial epithet) living in territories that God promised to us."
Gazans have been singled out for particularly cruel punishment. Thirty years ago, in his memoir "The Third Way," Raja Shehadeh, a lawyer, described the hopeless task of trying to protect fundamental human rights within a legal system designed to ensure failure, and his personal experience as a Samid, "a steadfast one," who watched his home turned into a prison by brutal occupiers and could do nothing but somehow "endure."
Since then, the situation has become much worse. The Oslo Accords, celebrated with much pomp in 1993, determined that Gaza and the West Bank are a single territorial entity. By that time, the U.S. and Israel had already initiated their program to separate Gaza and the West Bank, so as to block a diplomatic settlement and punish the Araboushim in both territories.
Punishment of Gazans became still more severe in January 2006, when they committed a major crime: They voted the "wrong way" in the first free election in the Arab world, electing Hamas.
Displaying their "yearning for democracy," the U.S. and Israel, backed by the timid European Union, immediately imposed a brutal siege, along with military attacks. The U.S. turned at once to its standard operating procedure when a disobedient population elects the wrong government: Prepare a military coup to restore order.
Gazans committed a still greater crime a year later by blocking the coup attempt, leading to a sharp escalation of the siege and attacks. These culminated in winter 2008-09, with Operation Cast Lead, one of the most cowardly and vicious exercises of military force in recent memory: A defenseless civilian population, trapped, was subjected to relentless attack by one of the world's most advanced military systems, reliant on U.S. arms and protected by U.S. diplomacy.
Of course, there were pretexts – there always are. The usual one, trotted out when needed, is "security": in this case, against homemade rockets from Gaza.
In 2008, a truce was established between Israel and Hamas. Not a single Hamas rocket was fired until Israel broke the truce under cover of the U.S. election on Nov. 4, invading Gaza for no good reason and killing half a dozen Hamas members.
The Israeli government was advised by its highest intelligence officials that the truce could be renewed by easing the criminal blockade and ending military attacks. But the government of Ehud Olmert – himself reputedly a dove – rejected these options, resorting to its huge advantage in violence: Operation Cast Lead.
The internationally respected Gazan human-rights advocate Raji Sourani analyzed the pattern of attack under Cast Lead. The bombing was concentrated in the north, targeting defenseless civilians in the most densely populated areas, with no possible military basis. The goal, Sourani suggests, may have been to drive the intimidated population to the south, near the Egyptian border. But the Samidin stayed put.
A further goal might have been to drive them beyond the border. From the earliest days of the Zionist colonization it was argued that Arabs have no real reason to be in Palestine: They can be just as happy somewhere else, and should leave – politely "transferred," the doves suggested.
This is surely no small concern in Egypt, and perhaps a reason why Egypt doesn't open the border freely to civilians or even to desperately needed supplies.
Sourani and other knowledgeable sources have observed that the discipline of the Samidin conceals a powder keg that might explode at any time, unexpectedly, like the first Intifada in Gaza in 1987, after years of repression.
A necessarily superficial impression after spending several days in Gaza is amazement, not only at Gazans' ability to go on with life but also at the vibrancy and vitality among young people, particularly at the university, where I attended an international conference.
But one can detect signs that the pressure may become too hard to bear. Reports indicate that there is simmering frustration among young people – a recognition that under the U.S.-Israeli occupation the future holds nothing for them.
Gaza has the look of a Third World country, with pockets of wealth surrounded by hideous poverty. It is not, however, undeveloped. Rather it is "de-developed," and very systematically so, to borrow the term from Sara Roy, the leading academic specialist on Gaza.
The Gaza Strip could have become a prosperous Mediterranean region, with rich agriculture and a flourishing fishing industry, marvelous beaches and, as discovered a decade ago, good prospects for extensive natural gas supplies within its territorial waters. By coincidence or not, that's when Israel intensified its naval blockade. The favorable prospects were aborted in 1948, when the Strip had to absorb a flood of Palestinian refugees who fled in terror or were forcefully expelled from what became Israel – in some cases months after the formal cease-fire. Israel's 1967 conquests and their aftermath administered further blows, with terrible crimes continuing to the present day.
The signs are easy to see, even on a brief visit. Sitting in a hotel near the shore, one can hear the machine-gun fire of Israeli gunboats driving fishermen out of Gaza's territorial waters and toward land, forcing them to fish in waters that are heavily polluted because of U.S.-Israeli refusal to allow reconstruction of the sewage and power systems they destroyed.
The Oslo Accords laid plans for two desalination plants, a necessity in this arid region. One, an advanced facility, was built: in Israel. The second one is in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza. The engineer in charge at Khan Yunis explained that this plant was designed so that it can't use seawater, but must rely on underground water, a cheaper process that further degrades the meager aquifer, guaranteeing severe problems in the future.
The water supply is still severely limited. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which cares for refugees but not other Gazans, recently released a report warning that damage to the aquifer may soon become "irreversible," and that without quick remedial action, Gaza may cease to be a "livable place" by 2020.
Israel permits concrete to enter for UNRWA projects, but not for Gazans engaged in the huge reconstruction efforts. The limited heavy equipment mostly lies idle, since Israel does not permit materials for repair.
All this is part of the general program that Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Prime Minister Olmert, described after Palestinians failed to follow orders in the 2006 elections: "The idea," he said, "is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger."
Recently, after several years of effort, the Israeli human rights organization Gisha succeeded in obtaining a court order for the government to release its records detailing plans for the "diet."
Jonathan Cook, a journalist based in Israel, summarizes them: "Health officials provided calculations of the minimum number of calories needed by Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants to avoid malnutrition. Those figures were then translated into truckloads of food Israel was supposed to allow in each day ... an average of only 67 trucks – much less than half of the minimum requirement – entered Gaza daily. This compared to more than 400 trucks before the blockade began."
The result of imposing the diet, Middle East scholar Juan Cole observes, is that "about 10 percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under age 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition. ... In addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers."
Sourani, the human-rights advocate, observes that "what has to be kept in mind is that the occupation and the absolute closure is an ongoing attack on the human dignity of the people in Gaza in particular and all Palestinians generally. It is systematic degradation, humiliation, isolation and fragmentation of the Palestinian people."
This conclusion has been confirmed by many other sources. In The Lancet, a leading medical journal, Rajaie Batniji, a visiting Stanford physician, describes Gaza as "something of a laboratory for observing an absence of dignity," a condition that has "devastating" effects on physical, mental and social well-being.
"The constant surveillance from the sky, collective punishment through blockade and isolation, the intrusion into homes and communications, and restrictions on those trying to travel, or marry, or work make it difficult to live a dignified life in Gaza," Batniji writes. The Araboushim must be taught not to raise their heads.
There were hopes that Mohammed Morsi's new government in Egypt, which is less in thrall to Israel than the western-backed Hosni Mubarak dictatorship was, might open the Rafah Crossing, Gaza's sole access to the outside that is not subject to direct Israeli control. There has been a slight opening, but not much.
The journalist Laila el-Haddad writes that the reopening under Morsi "is simply a return to status quo of years past: Only Palestinians carrying an Israeli-approved Gaza ID card can use Rafah Crossing." This excludes a great many Palestinians, including el-Haddad's own family, where only one spouse has a card.
Furthermore, she continues, "the crossing does not lead to the West Bank, nor does it allow for the passage of goods, which are restricted to the Israeli-controlled crossings and subject to prohibitions on construction materials and export."
The restricted Rafah Crossing doesn't change the fact that "Gaza remains under tight maritime and aerial siege, and continues to be closed off to the Palestinians' cultural, economic and academic capitals in the rest of the (Israeli-occupied territories), in violation of U.S.-Israeli obligations under the Oslo Accords."
The effects are painfully evident. The director of the Khan Yunis hospital, who is also chief of surgery, describes with anger and passion how even medicines are lacking, which leaves doctors helpless and patients in agony.
One young woman reports on her late father's illness. Though he would have been proud that she was the first woman in the refugee camp to gain an advanced degree, she says, he ''passed away after six months of fighting cancer, aged 60 years.
''Israeli occupation denied him a permit to go to Israeli hospitals for treatment. I had to suspend my study, work and life and go to sit next to his bed. We all sat, including my brother the physician and my sister the pharmacist, all powerless and hopeless, watching his suffering. He died during the inhumane blockade of Gaza in summer 2006 with very little access to health service.
"I think feeling powerless and hopeless is the most killing feeling that a human can ever have. It kills the spirit and breaks the heart. You can fight occupation but you cannot fight your feeling of being powerless. You can't even ever dissolve that feeling."
A visitor to Gaza can't help feeling disgust at the obscenity of the occupation, compounded with guilt, because it is within our power to bring the suffering to an end and allow the Samidin to enjoy the lives of peace and dignity that they deserve.

vrijdag 9 november 2012

How Globalism Starves The Poor




http://www.fastcompany.com/1580712/infographic-day-how-global-food-market-starves-poor 

'Deskundigen' 26



De reden dat ik mij de afgelopen twee weken Geert Mak’s zoektocht naar zijn ‘Amerika’ analyseer, is dat zijn opvattingen zo typerend zijn voor de plooibaarheid van de ‘Nederlandse volksaard.’ Geert is de redelijkheid zelve, het vlees geworden poldermodel, de burger die de controverse mijdt. Zijn levenshouding wordt gekenmerkt door ‘burgerlijke gemoedelijkheid,’ die ‘een lichte graad van knoeierij of bevoorrechting van vriendjes zonder protest verdraagt,’ om de grote historicus Johan Huizinga andermaal te citeren. Dat blijkt ook uit de betweterigheid van de kleinburger in dit kleine ‘gidsland.’ Met verbazingwekkende naieviteit en wereldvreemdheid kan de Hollander zich niet voorstellen hoe cynisch het bewustzijn van de ware machthebbers werkt. De Nederlander denkt dat als de rest van de wereld nu maar ons poldermodel overneemt, alle problemen op aarde kunnen worden verholpen. Een kwestie van een beetje geven en nemen, dan komen we er met z’n allen wel uit. Ook al is men half geinformeerd, dan nog weerhoudt dit de Nederlander er niet van om met grote stelligheid gekoesterde cliche’s te verkondigen. Mak’s reisboek weerspiegelt deze mentaliteit.

Op pagina 293 van schrijft Geert Mak:

Volgens de historicus Frederick Jackson Turner was the end of the frontier een omslagpunt in de Amerikaanse geschiedenis. De frontier-ervaring had individualisme en democratie gebracht, en immigranten uit alle delen van Europa hadden gemeenschappelijk lief en leed gedeeld. Nu deze fase voorbij was zou, zo vreesde hij, democratie vervangen worden door privilege en hierarchie, individualisme  door conformisme, etnische harmonie door een toren van Babel. Zijn theorie vond veel weerklank, tot op de dag van vandaag.

Als Mak het werk van Jackson Turner zou hebben gelezen, wat hij volgens zijn literatuurlijst niet heeft gedaan, dan had hij geweten dat zijn weergave van de gedachtewereld van deze vooraanstaande Amerikaanse historicus onjuist is. Ik ga wat dieper op dit onderwerp in omdat het zo doorslaggevend is voor een beter begrip van de drijfveren achter de politiek van de Amerikaanse plutocratie. Het expansionisme van de VS kent namelijk een continuiteit die tot vandaag de dag doorgaat. De Amerikaanse historicus Richard Drinnon over het werk van Turner:

In 1896 he returned to his theme with ‘The Problem of the West’ and repeated that  expansion of the frontier was the key factor in the growth of the American economy and society: ‘For nearly three centuries the dominant fact in American life has been expansion,’ he observed in words Theodore Roosevelt was to adopt as a refrain in the campaign of 1900. Though expansion had been checked at the Pacific coast, Turner wrote, the current call for a vigorous foreign policy, an inter-oceanic canal, and enhanced sea power, ‘and for the extension of American influence to outlying islands and adjoining countries, are indications the movement will continue.’ The historian might have been laying out the course of our own odyssey…  Turner surely anticipated the gist of countless expressions of U.S. foreign policy, from John Hay’s Open Door Notes to and beyond Richard M. Nixon’s 1967 statement on Indochina: ‘Both our interests and our ideals propel us westward across the Pacific.’ […] Turner saw clearly the direction the empire was headed in and even foresaw the inner identities of the New Frontier and the old, long before John F. Kennedy so christened the former.

Kort samengevat: de ‘de frontier-ervaring’ was volgens Turner geenszins 'voorbij,’  zoals Mak stelt, aangezien ‘extension of American influence to outlying islands and adjoining countries… will continue.’ Het is van doorslaggevend belang om de continuiteit te beseffen, en wel omdat ze een verklaring geeft voor zowel het voortdurende expansionisme van de VS als de talloze gewelddadige Amerikaanse interventies overal ter wereld. Het voortdurend gemobiliseerd zijn, ‘de frontier-ervaring’ heeft het mens- en wereldbeeld van allereerst het establishment in de Verenigde Staten gevormd. Het is de kern ervan, waar al het andere logisch uit voortvloeit.

Mak doorziet dit niet en kan daardoor tegenover Vrij Nederland zonder enige terughoudendheid het volgende beweren over president Lyndon Johnson:

De grote tragedie blijft wel dat hij zich heeft laten verstrikken in de Vietnamoorlog.

‘Laten verstrikken?’ Alsof er geen ideologie aan ten grondslag lag, alsof dit bloedbad waarbij meer dan 3.4 miljoen Zuidoost Aziaten gedood werden en nog meer miljoenen gewond of zwaar gehandicapt raakten, een persoonlijke fout is geweest van een of andere president, en niet het logische gevolg was van de expansie-ideologie en de daaruit ontstane domino-theorie en alsof er geen militair industrieel complex bestond, waarvoor eerder al president Eisenhower had gewaarschuwd omdat  

The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government… Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Voor Mak geldt kennelijk ook niet de werkelijkheid van de Koude Oorlog, waarover Noam Chomsky in zijn national bestseller getiteld Deterring Democracy schreef:

For the United States, the Cold War has been a history of world-wide subversion, aggression and state terrorism, with examples too numerous to mention. The domestic counterpart has been the entrenchment of Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex," in essence, a welfare state for the rich with a national security ideology for population control (to borrow some counterinsurgency jargon), following the prescriptions of NSC 68. The major institutional mechanism is a system of state-corporate industrial management to sustain high technology industry, relying on the taxpayer to fund research and development and provide a guaranteed market for waste production, with the private sector taking over when there are profits to be made. This crucial gift to the corporate manager has been the domestic function of the Pentagon system (including NASA and the Department of Energy, which controls nuclear weapons production); benefits extend to the computer industry, electronics generally, and other sectors of the advanced industrial economy.18 In such ways, the Cold War has provided a large part of the underpinnings for the system of public subsidy, private profit, that is proudly called Free Enterprise.

Maar omdat Mak het werk van Chomsky niet gelezen heeft, weet hij dit alles niet. Trouwens, hij heeft ook Robert McNama’s onthullende boek In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam niet gelezen, waarin deze voormalige minister van Defensie In 1995 schreef dat als gevolg van het Vietnam-beleid van

‘de regeringen Kennedy, Johnson en Nixon… verschrikkelijk leed’ was toegebracht aan miljoenen mensen, omdat ‘wij de macht onderschatten van het nationalisme teneinde een volk te motiveren… om te vechten en te sterven voor hun overtuigingen en waarden- en we blijven dat vandaag de dag nog steeds doen in vele delen van de wereld,’ terwijl ‘wij niet het door God gegeven recht hebben om elke natie naar ons eigen beeld te scheppen.’

Geen woord van McNamara in Mak’s reisboek. En ook de volgende informatie over de genadeloosheid van elk imperium ontbreekt:

In the documentary Fog of War, Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara talks about how, as a lieutenant colonel advising Colonel Curtis LeMay during World War II, he helped plan the firebombing of Tokyo. As McNamara’s eyes fill with tears, he talks about the final days of the war: ‘In a single night we burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo — men, women and children.’ The documentary shows the US audience the level of decimation through a comparison of Japanese and US cities. McNamara talks about the event to advocate proportionality in war.

‘Killing 50-90% of the people in 67 Japanese cities and then bombing them with two nuclear bombs is not proportional, in the minds of some people, to the objectives we were trying to achieve.’
But as I see the film, McNamara unintentionally undermines the legitimacy of war crimes jurisprudence as the scene comes to a close.
‘What makes it immoral if you lose but not if you win?’
McNamara never comes to grip with the answer: nothing — war is war. Victors judge right and wrong, decide who is a war criminal, and write the history books (mentioned here and here; or see Marmot on the subject here and here). As horrible as the firebombing was, as horrible as Japan’s war in East Asia was, when it comes to war, the victors must fight total war until surrender. Ceasefires and conditional surrenders frequently perpetuate conflict. That is the result of war between great powers.
Which gets to my problem with war crimes. McNamara admits that ‘[Lemay], and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals.’ But the two never went before court to answer for their actions — they were treated as heros when they returned home victorious. In fact, the threat of war crimes trials could even encourage violence, or a stubborn refusal to surrender, if the leaders know they will be tried, executed, and relegated to perpetual historical infamy if they lose.

Generaal Curtis LeMay, die opklom tot stafchef van de Amerikaanse luchtmacht, vatte de Amerikaanse strategie als volgt samen:

There is no such thing as an innocent civilian.

En over de Vietnamezen zei hij tijdens de Vietnam Oorlog:

We will bomb them back to the Stone Age.

Ik vermeld dit om aan te geven hoe ook een zogenaamde democratie totalitaire doelen kan nastreven en genadeloos kan zijn. Geert Mak’s veronderstelling dat een president de ideologie en koers van een imperium fundamenteel kan veranderen is nonsens. Zijn bewering dat er sprake is van ‘de principiele democratische houding van de Amerikanen’ is in dit verband een vertekening van de werkelijkheid. Telkens weer suggereert Mak dat ‘Amerika’ een functionerende ‘democratie’ is, en dat ‘de Amerikanen… hele optimistische mensen’ zijn en ‘blijven.’ En iedereen die daaraan niet voldoet wordt door hem gediskwalificeerd. Totaan John Steinbeck toe, die volgens Mak een ‘ongegeneerde… doemdenker’ was, 'een oudere man die zichzelf overschreeuwde,' wiens meesterwerk Cannery Row ‘één grote ode aan het doelloze bestaan’ was ‘het leven omwille van het leven – en in die afwijzing van Grootse Levensdoelen een buitengewoon on-Amerikaans, misschien zelfs anti-Amerikaans – boek [was]. Cannery Row als 'afwijzing van Grootse Levensdoelen,'  voor de wanhopig naar 'hoop' zoekende Nederlander Geert Mak, die een ‘geheime liefde’ voor Amerika’  koestert met al ‘die vrije, eigenwijze Amerikanen die ik tijdens dit project tegen het lijf liep, van Teddy Roosevelt tot de mannen van Al’s Diner…’ waarbij tevens de vraag opduikt waar en wanneer Geert president Teddy Roosevelt, die in 1919 stierf,  ‘tegen het lijf’ liep? Een andere ‘misschien zelfs anti-Amerikaanse’ auteur is de Amerikaanse dichter Robinson Jeffers die het volgende schreef:

These tourists have eyes, the hundred watching the dance, white Americans
  hungrily too, with reverence, not laughter;
Pilgrims from civilization, anxiously seeking beauty, religion, poetry;
  pilgrims from the vacuum.
 
People from cities, anxious to be human again. Poor show how they suck
  you empty! The Indians are emptied,
And certainly there was never religion enough, nor beauty nor poetry here
  … to fill Americans.
Robinson Jeffers. New Mexican Mountain. Uit Thurso’s Landing (1930-31)
 

Waarom ik juist deze ‘onbeschaamde doemdenker’ citeer vertel ik de volgende keer.