The Long Shadows of History
EDITORIAL, 15 Sep 2014
#341 | Johan Galtung, 15 Sep 2014 - TRANSCEND Media Service
As Carl Gustav Jung said, and the Chinese before him–the shadows are long and dark. Jumping does not help, they follow us. Thus, the USA is wrong in believing that they can get away with the misdeeds of the past, that people will forget; they are not historians. Moreover, when done by the USA, deeds are not evil, at worst “tragic”, and not only for the victims but also for the perpetrators accused.
Take Ferguson, Mo. and the militarization of the US police. The s-word “slavery” is whispered in the shadows (and shouted in books like Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams, Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom). It was forced labor to put it mildly, with chains and whips. And in the world No. 1 in prisoners, the USA, we find a disproportionate number of blacks for petty crimes on forced labor with chains–sold to employers; prisons even on the stock exchange.
Take the indigenous, the g-word “genocide” is whispered, and the e-word is shouted in G. C. Anderson Ethnic Cleansing and the Indian.
Shadows take shape in the collective memory, the conscious part. In the deep culture: “one day they will come and do to us what we did to them”; making the fear of a major revolt self-fulfilling.
The darkest shadows are inside the collective subconscious. The feeling of being on the wrong side of history, not only losing wars and an empire, has come to many, even if not yet to that bipartisan Congress. Despair, apathy, suicide; individually or as mass murder. A feeling of sliding downhill in the country used to always outdo itself. The leadership tries to find somebody outside to blame, revives Russia from the Cold War, ever more Muslims from the war on Islam declared by NATO in 1992 as the successor to the Cold War–all the time against the shadows whispering, watch yourself USA, these calamities are basically of your own making. You may jump at others, execute them–but the shadow follows you faithfully, growing darker.
How does one process dark shadows?
By confronting them. Submitting the USA to International Truth Commissions on the conquest of America from 1607 to1620, and on the slavery; White against Red, and White against Black, could help.
Commissions on above 240 interventions abroad so far, starting with Jefferson, would be tremendous. Denials bring the USA nowhere, but there is room for explanation, for why, in light of the values at the time. Korea, Vietnam, the Muslim world, Iran, Palestine, Somalia, Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and ISIS to mention a few, would be quite something as the present produces shadows for the future. A “strategy” without understanding what produced the violence is empty. And, while “destroying ISIS,” new movements will emerge; how many?
Make no mistake, there is no way in which the world will forget the past; surviving, even if repressed, as deep culture, collective nightmares. And politically as efforts to spy on the whole world.
The 3C, Confession-Contrition-Compensation? Would help, would also help to heal the martyred, tortured US soul; there is such a thing. It would do good to both sides, all sides, and cost little, except psychologically, to climb down from exceptionalism to the moral abyss of confrontation with past and present. But then the shiny side, gaining a moral high ground being capable of distancing itself from the misdeeds of the past, not being forced to do so by being beaten.
Imagine a “shadows around the world, unite!” movement. The Red and the Black of the USA, invoking their ancestors; the millions touched directly by the more recent US wars and coups in Latin America, Africa, the Koreans, Vietnamese, countless Muslims in Asia–imagine a Coalition of the Unwilling to Take It Any Longer; joined by a couple of million spied upon, read, listened to. Stop it or else–or else what? Violence? No–not even from the half of humanity that this year will be members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, SCO.
Worse. “USA, you like issuing pariah certificates to countries; down and out. Our certificate to you says irrelevance–we find it impossible to cooperate with you. Your track record is too dark. We sense your finger-, foot-, body- and soul-print in the bad turn of the financial economy, terrorism state and non-state, the US-Israel take on Palestine and on Muslim states such as Libya, Iraq-Syria, Pakistan–Afghanistan, and in Korea, China, Japan, Africa and Latin America. You always too quickly resort to violence, no good at deeper causes. We cannot force you to change, you have to will that yourself. But we can take the ball out of your court and play it ourselves. Many of us have already started, many more will follow.”
Does the USA really have to submit to all those international commissions to get off the hook, to dozens of Bishop Tutus, who actually goes further in his famous: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor: If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality?”
No, not by submission but by inviting them, pro-actively. A good start would be international commissions on Eastern Ukraine and on the downing of the Malaysian flights MH17 and MH370. Make no mistake, refusal to accept international commissions-tribunals, for instance over the role of Afghanistan in 9/11 2001, is self-incriminating.
Dark shadows from history are not a US monopoly. Colonialism, and not only Western, pervasive and persistent, was slow to die, and there are still some residues. But the USA stands out today, and has done so for a long time. Look at the list of problems mentioned above, starting with the finance economy, and think the USA away, as irrelevant: it helps identifying solutions for all of them. Leadership should be collective, like BRICS; leadership should never be one country, or one person.
USA, change! Or else.
Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.
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