A People’s History: The “Progressive” Version
On the eve of the celebration of the birth of the United States, Oleg Atbashian looks at our history through the competing lenses of progressivism and progress. Refusing to get bogged down in the merits of relativity, he finds freedom where equality fears to tread.
July 3, 2007 - 4:35 pm
Excuse me while I question your patriotism, progressive comrades. The Fourth of July is coming and you will not be celebrating it — not with the same thoughts and emotions as the rest of your countrymen. If you have been undermining this country for most of the year, why should this day be different?
A critical look at history always helps if it is based on objective reality and an understanding that our age, just like any historical age, is only a flight of stairs in an endless stairwell leading us up, away from barbarism, towards civilization. Trying to cut corners will only bring you down.
Another sure thing to bring you down is the multiculturalist idea that “up” and “down” are morally equal. If that were true, nobody would have risen above his surroundings, because going down is easier and more natural. But humans are different from the rest of the physical world in that in a free state we tend to go up. Moving upwards is in our nature. Leave us to our own devices and watch. “Up” is where we go to pursue happiness – in more ways than one. That brings us back to the Fourth of July and the different ways to look at it.
The history that we know does not corroborate anti-American talking points. Could there perhaps be some hidden version of history that we don’t know? An alternative secret history of the world from which the “progressive” activists, journalists, and politicians draw their talking points? Social criticism implies the existence of an alternative. We never hear much about the alternative to American history or, for that matter, a hypothetical world history without the United States.
“Prior to July 4, 1776, not a single person in the world starved, got sick, worked hard for a living, or experienced any pain nor anxiety.”With so many zealots simmering in the anti-American melting pot of “progress,” one might think they had already cooked some shared historical narrative in which anti-Americanism actually makes sense and the entire Leftist agenda doesn’t appear so absurd. What is it?
Most “progressive” critics either don’t think that far, or they don’t have the guts to give their views a full exposure. So let’s do it for them. Let’s connect the dots with logical lines and reconstruct a historical narrative that would validate all the liberal bumper stickers.
*** The Alternative Secret History of the World According to the Liberal Left ***
Prior to July 4, 1776, not a single person in the world starved, got sick, worked hard for a living, or experienced any pain nor anxiety. No one had ever been oppressed or unfairly exploited because the oppressive and unfair American system had not yet been created.
“Habeas Corpus was the law of the land, along with Exit Strategy and Geneva Conventions.”Since the beginning of time employment had been equally guaranteed to anyone who cared to work, along with an equal pay of exactly $1,000 a week regardless of outcome, occupation, or geographical area. All work was equally pleasant and enjoyable. Those who chose not to work also received $1,000 a week in unemployment compensation and union benefits. Other guaranteed rights of the people included the rights to housing and free universal health care, as well as the right to 100% literacy through federally funded public education.
People never heard of war, crime, corruption, slavery, torture, murder, cannibalism, and man-made hurricanes. Peace and harmony reigned supreme because the concepts of greed, selfishness, and private property had not yet been invented by the American corporate interests and maliciously spread around the world as part of the American cultural hegemony.
Each person in that ideal world practiced his or her own peaceful spirituality, worshipping Earth, Nature, and the Sacred Feminine, while honoring the spiritual traditions of everyone else. Benevolent chieftains dispensed benefits to each of their subjects according to their needs, taking care that ethnic and sexual minorities were equally and proportionally represented in all spheres of public life. Habeas Corpus was the law of the land, along with Exit Strategy and Geneva Conventions.
“This Golden Age lasted from about 20,000 BC up until the American Revolution.”
Family planning, effective birth control, and early sex education ensured that every family had exactly 2.2 children per household, which prevented overpopulation and famine. Commerce, travel, and international trade were uncommon; everyone lived and died within not more than a five-mile distance from their birthplace. People didn’t feel the need to migrate, set up colonies, take over other countries, create empires, settle in uninhabited areas, or fight one another over a creek in the desert.
All farming was organic and for subsistence purposes only. The environment was clean due to reliance on alternative fuels and invigorating manual labor. As a result, everybody lived in comfortable, carbon-neutral houses, eating plenty of good food on a regular basis, and driving fuel-efficient automobiles when they weren’t riding their 18-speed urban cruiser bicycles.
This was an amazing achievement of indigenous cultures considering that there had been no division of labor and most people lived on farms. In the free time that remained after toiling the soil and tending to the animals, the indigenous farmers discerned the laws of nature, developed vaccines for deadly illnesses, stretched out the average lifespan prodigiously, and fed the starving in far away places.
This Golden Age lasted from about 20,000 BC up until the American Revolution. After 1776 everything just went downhill.
Immediately upon declaring their Independence, the Americans began the theft of native Indian lands, industries, highways, and communications infrastructure. The Americans used black slave labor to invent things that would give them an unfair edge over other cultures: the cotton gin, bifocals, steam power pumps, self propelled amphibious vehicles, coffee pots, sewing machines, power tools, ether anesthesia, mechanical refrigerators, the cylinder printing press, passenger elevators, burglar alarms, oil well drilling, repeating rifles, pin tumbler locks, roller skates, offset printing, barbed wire, the dental drill, the mimeograph, the telephone, light bulbs, hearing aids, electric fans, the skyscraper, disposable cameras, escalators, the motion picture camera, safety razors, air conditioners, airplanes, assembly lines, frozen foods, radio astronomy, television, the chair lift, nylon, defibrillators, microwave ovens, the atomic bomb, carbon dating, Polaroid cameras, the polio vaccine, integrated circuits, oral contraceptives, lasers, computers, operating systems, optical fiber, calculators, product barcodes, the space shuttle, the artificial heart, the internet, and the graphical user interface.
Once they stole enough wealth and power, the Yankees moved on to exploit the rest of the world, setting up corporations on every street corner in order to oppress and humiliate people of other cultures, races, and religions. “American TV commercials insulted the refined tastes of subsistence farmers so much that they often threw organic eggs…”The corporations launched wars and endemic diseases to create economic need and political chaos from which, like Venus from the sea foam, the greedy bourgeois class was born. With the help of the local bourgeoisie, the Americans overthrew all of the free world’s honest and caring chieftains, replacing them with corrupt democratic regimes in order to steal their oil and destroy local ecosystems.
American preachers and missionaries confiscated all means of birth control from the aboriginal tribes, causing disastrous demographic explosions, followed by famine and more wars. Once the world was subdued and demoralized, Americans lowered indigenous peoples’ salaries to ten cents a day, at the same time forcing them to buy American goods by way of boldfaced advertising.
The American TV commercials insulted the refined tastes of subsistence farmers so much that they often threw organic eggs and vegan burgers at their plasma screens, destroying them, and unwittingly creating a demand for even more TVs. With all the commotion they missed the advance of Global Warming, a clandestine project executed from the secret climate change centers paid for by American imperialists.
This alternative history may never be officially acknowledged, yet it is being implied in news radio and TV programming, film documentaries, Hollywood movies, UN resolutions, comedy shows, and political speeches — including those delivered by Democrats running for President — let alone millions of stickers, placards, T-shirts, and buttons sold at “progressive” junkets.
If I didn’t know the real history and was a little more gullible, as many public school graduates are today, such a narrative might also become a part of my perspective. I might conclude, along with such “progressive” minds as Sean Penn and Ben Affleck, that the United States is a force of evil. I might agree with Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill that the world’s oppressed would be damned fools if they didn’t hate America and yearn for the destruction of this unspeakable beast. As a fair-minded person I might even give them a hand – as Ramsey Clark and Lynn Stewart have done, making the support of America’s enemies their full-time job and a life-long commitment.
I’d probably share a utopian belief that once America as it exists today is eradicated, peace and harmony will be restored worldwide, and people will finally have a chance to live as one happy family without wars, greed, corruption, and evil corporations pursuing their racist agenda of climate change. Minority subsistence farmers will hurl their remote controls into the jungle, and everyone’s pay will go back to $1,000 a week plus union benefits.
I would certainly decide that the Fourth of July should not be celebrated. Why should we honor the greatest setback in the history of world progress? Rather than watch air-polluting fireworks, we must instead grieve with the rest of progressive humanity over the dark day that gave birth to the evil entity that is the United States of America.
*** Q&A ***
But then again, if I were an intellectually honest public school graduate I might read a few books besides %%AMAZON=0060528370 A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present%% by Howard Zinn, an anti-American volume that had impressed Ben Affleck and Matt Damon so much that they featured it in “Good Will Hunting” (“That book will blow your hair back”), and even considered turning it into a TV mini-series starring Winona Ryder.
If I were to read about real history I might find out to my great astonishment that for many thousands of years the world’s wonderful cultures had been at each other’s throat, engrossed in feuds, rape, pillaging, slavery, theft of the neighbors’ resources, torture, murder, treachery, corruption, assassinations, and cannibalism. I’d learn that from the beginning of time, human history was a never-ending string of wars, famines, diseases, exploitation, poor hygiene, high infant mortality, and an average life expectancy of about 30 years. I’d gather that the world was mostly run by either ignorant witch doctors or ruthless tyrants who went to war for personal enjoyment, constructing pyramids out of the skulls of slain enemies.
“Turks conquered cradles of ancient civilizations with turn-key cities and pre-existing infrastructure.”I’d also discover that people had been migrating all the time, moving to other lands and continents, setting up colonies and empires without asking permission from the natives, who often assimilated into one nation with the conquerors. The latest example is the Turkish Ottoman Empire whose conquest of heavily populated countries in Europe and the Middle East was happening simultaneously with the colonization of the sparsely populated Americas by the Europeans.
The Turks had come from far-away lands, stole the entire Asia Minor from the Christian natives, renamed their cities, and settled on their land for good. As the Americans fought a war against slavery, the Ottoman Empire continued to grow and expand its slave trade, bordering simultaneously on Austria, Morocco, Poland, Sudan, and Persia. The number of people killed, enslaved, converted, and driven from their land was much greater in the Ottoman Empire than in the entire Western hemisphere. Where is the outcry and demands of reparations?
If I were an inquisitive public school graduate I’d ask a question: if land theft and slave labor is what had made America so rich, why isn’t Turkey the richest country in the world? As opposed to the bare lands and deserts of the New World, the Turks conquered cradles of ancient civilizations with turn-key cities and pre-existing infrastructure. However, apart from oil deposits, the formerly Ottoman lands remain dirt-poor, with Turkey itself not far away in the lead.
But let’s not single out the Turks. Before them were the Mongols, who made no distinction between the civilians and the army, and whose conquest had lead to the creation of the world’s largest empire ruled by fear and iron discipline. How many millionaires does Mongolia have today? And before that were the Arabs who came as conquerors from the Arabian Peninsula, stole all of North Africa and Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) from the Christian natives, forcibly converted them to Islam, and settled on their land for good. And before them there had been conquests by the Huns, the Chinese, the Celts, the Greeks, the Romans, the Goths, the Persians, the Slavs, and many others who settled on other people’s lands simply because they could.
All cultures practiced slavery in one way or another. It stopped in Europe around the Middle Ages but continued to thrive in Africa, Asia, and in the Middle East. Through the contacts between the Arabs and the Portuguese it was reintroduced to Europe and the Americas. Although the European and American abolitionists eventually brought an end to slavery and slave trade on their territories, it still exists in various ugly forms in other parts of the world.
To get a glimpse of the thousand-year-old dark historical reality, look no further than Sudan where even today Arabs are practicing a racist form of slavery. Black African villages of Darfur are being ransacked, men and women killed and raped, their children taken away as slaves (and also raped repeatedly). Nothing can be done now to change old history, but something can and should be done to change the fate of black slaves today. Only the activists and “community leaders” who usually initiate such actions are so busy fuming over the suffering of black slaves in America seven generations ago that they have no time for the suffering of black slaves in today’s Sudan. Could it be because their real concern has never been the suffering of black slaves – but rather finding an excuse to trash the United States?
Another huge slaving outpost waiting to be freed is, of course, North Korea. Why aren’t there any calls from the “progressive” camp to abolish a form of neo-slavery called socialism? Why did the “progressives” call the USSR a “workers’ paradise” when it was being built by slave labor in concentration camps? If slavery is a certified path to prosperity, why didn’t half a century of suffering and millions of lives wasted in the gulag make the Soviet Union richer — but the new economic freedom did, despite the botched reforms and the ubiquitous government corruption? China had emulated the Soviet slave-labor economy with an even bigger army of political prisoners – and with an equally disastrous outcome. But when the Communist rulers abandoned slave labor in favor of capitalist reforms, the economy started to grow — and so did the standard of living.
If putting an end to slavery and giving people a small amount of freedom can bring forth such sizeable growth within only two decades in Russia and China, how much economic growth and prosperity can be achieved by a nation whose people have had two centuries of full economic and political freedom? “Have all cultures already arrived at the final point in their development?”To find the answer, look at a country that starts with “United” and ends with “States.” And that’s the end of the silly argument about America owing its prosperity to slave labor.
The continent of North America was settled in several waves by Siberian hunters, each wave accompanied by the theft of land and conquest. In what bank is that stolen wealth kept today? The arriving Europeans discovered a collection of half-naked warrior tribes killing one another for land, water, game, wives, and simply as a sport – just like anywhere else in the world thousands of years ago. Only some cultures had grown out of it, others had never risen, yet others had gone over the hill and slid back into barbarism. This begs a question: by what measure do we determine which stage of cultural development is the correct one and deserving of being frozen in time?
The multiculturalist dogma of the equality of all cultures raises even more questions. Have all cultures already arrived at the final point in their development? Is cultural achievement meaningless? Is the history of arts and sciences irrelevant? Is the complexity of social structure inconsequential? Is the respect for human dignity and individual rights an empty sound? Is there no difference between “up” and “down” on the stairwell of human progress? And if you believe all of that, can you still call yourself a “progressive” and maintain a straight face?
History answers negatively to all those questions. World cultures aren’t equal and never have been. Humanity is a living, breathing, and evolving organism that thrives on cultural interaction and development, in which cultures compete for survival — and yes, fight with each other — but also learn from the best.
Today we are witnessing a major fight between two of the world’s cultures, one of which — the Islamic fundamentalists — got stuck at the lower steps of societal evolution and would like to drag the rest of the world down to their level, so that there would be nothing left above their heads to distract true believers from focusing on their toenails and pondering existential issues such as the foot hygiene of airline passengers.
If you listen to the “progressives” and believe that all cultures are equal, you might as well not resist and descend to their level as John Walker Lindh did. “If we want answers we shouldn’t be stopping the pioneers.By the time you discover that the difference between “up” and “down” is not a fancy post-modernist notion, but a reality as essential as the difference between life and death, it may be too late. Not just for you but to those around you as well, within the kill radius of the shrapnel in your explosive belt.
Equating our two cultures is not just unnatural – it’s suicidal. We should consider ourselves lucky that a few generations ago Western nations managed to lift themselves out of the sewer in which humanity lived for thousands of years. These nations have mastered science, arts, medicine, increased life expectancy, and developed a legal system that grants more rights and freedoms to individual citizens than any other culture in history. The advancement is reciprocal: the more freedoms the individuals have, the better off the nation is economically. At the head of this upward movement is the United States, the first nation to put individual freedoms above the government’s interests. Placing the government in the service of the people at an age when the rest of the world viewed the people as mere servants to their governments.
The vertical map of the world’s cultures is never a still picture; they are moving along the entire visible length of the stairwell of progress. The invisible flights of stairs are still ahead of us – a terra incognita. How far up does the stairwell go? Is there an end to it? How soon will humanity get there, and how much has already been covered? If we want answers we shouldn’t be stopping the pioneers. We must celebrate them.
As for the poor bastards still down at the bottom, you may empathize with them all you want. But you may also feel a relief that at least some part of the human race has found the ability to clean up their act and show the way to other nations — and a hope that one day, with the right attitude, the others may also climb out of the sewer.
And that is what the Fourth of July means to this author. Fireworks, barbecues, and department store sales are optional.
Oleg Atbashian – writer and graphic artist from Ukraine, currently lives in New York. Creator of ThePeoplesCube.com, a satirical website where he writes under the name of Red Square.