"…I knew that I could never
again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the
ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor
of violence in the world: my own Government, I can not
Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
Harvest of Empire is a gripping documentary that reveals the political
and social roots
that have driven millions to migrate from Latin America to the United
Watch full length on Google
play or Amazon
"The enormity of the
Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each
worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch
brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown
oligarchs; they've cornered the market on Republican politics and
are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House.
Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers
today's GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million
during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million
to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. So far in this cycle,
Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican
efforts to take back the Senate." --Tim Dickinson, 092414
"In 1950, after over
fifty years of military occupation and colonial rule, the Nationalist
Party of Puerto Rico staged an unsuccessful armed insurrection against
the United States. Violence swept through the island: assassins
were sent to kill President Harry Truman, gunfights roared in eight
towns, police stations and post offices were burned down. In order
to suppress this uprising, the US Army deployed thousands of troops
and bombarded two towns, marking the first time in history that
the US government bombed its own citizens." --Nelson Denis, author of War Against
All Puerto Ricans: Revolution
and Terror in America’s Colony
"Every empire...tells itself and
the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission
is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate." --Edward Said (Los Angeles Times, July
By Arundhati Roy
Porto Alegre, Brazil
January 27, 2003
I've been asked to speak about "How
to confront Empire?" It's a huge question, and I have no
When we speak of confronting "Empire,"
we need to identify what "Empire" means. Does it mean
the U.S. Government (and its European satellites), the World Bank,
the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization,
and multinational corporations? Or is it something more than that?
In many countries, Empire has sprouted
other subsidiary heads, some dangerous byproducts -- nationalism,
religious bigotry, fascism and, of course terrorism. All these
march arm in arm with the project of corporate globalization.
Let me illustrate what I mean. India -
the world's biggest democracy - is currently at the forefront
of the corporate globalization project. Its "market"
of one billion people is being prized open by the WTO. Corporatization
and Privatization are being welcomed by the Government and the
It is not a coinidence that the Prime Minister,
the Home Minister, the Disinvestment Minister - the men who signed
the deal with Enron in India, the men who are selling the country's
infrastructure to corporate multinationals, the men who want to
privatize water, electricity, oil, coal, steel, health, education
and telecommunication - are all members or admirers of the RSS.
The RSS is a right wing, ultra-nationalist Hindu guild which has
openly admired Hitler and his methods.
The dismantling of democracy is proceeding
with the speed and efficiency of a Structural Adjustment Program.
While the project of corporate globalization rips through people's
lives in India, massive privatization, and labor "reforms"
are pushing people off their land and out of their jobs. Hundreds
of impoverished farmers are committing suicide by consuming pesticide.
Reports of starvation deaths are coming in from all over the country.
While the elite journeys to its imaginary
destination somewhere near the top of the world, the dispossessed
are spiraling downwards into crime and chaos. This climate of
frustration and national disillusionment is the perfect breeding
ground, history tells us, for fascism.
The two arms of the Indian Government have
evolved the perfect pincer action. While one arm is busy selling
India off in chunks, the other, to divert attention, is orchestrating
a howling, baying chorus of Hindu nationalism and religious fascism.
It is conducting nuclear tests, rewriting history books, burning
churches, and demolishing mosques. Censorship, surveillance, the
suspension of civil liberties and human rights, the definition
of who is an Indian citizen and who is not, particularly with
regard to religious minorities, is becoming common practice now.
Last March, in the state of Gujarat, two
thousand Muslims were butchered in a State-sponsored pogrom. Muslim
women were specially targeted. They were stripped, and gang-raped,
before being burned alive. Arsonists burned and looted shops,
homes, textiles mills, and mosques.
More than a hundred and fifty thousand
Muslims have been driven from their homes. The economic base of
the Muslim community has been devastated.
While Gujarat burned, the Indian Prime
Minister was on MTV promoting his new poems. In January this year,
the Government that orchestrated the killing was voted back into
office with a comfortable majority. Nobody has been punished for
the genocide. Narendra Modi, architect of the pogrom, proud member
of the RSS, has embarked on his second term as the Chief Minister
of Gujarat. If he were Saddam Hussein, of course each atrocity
would have been on CNN. But since he's not -- and since the Indian
"market" is open to global investors -- the massacre
is not even an embarrassing inconvenience.
There are more than one hundred million
Muslims in India. A time bomb is ticking in our ancient land.
All this to say that it is a myth that the free market breaks
down national barriers. The free market does not threaten national
sovereignty, it undermines democracy.
As the disparity between the rich and the
poor grows, the fight to corner resources is intensifying. To
push through their "sweetheart deals," to corporatize
the crops we grow, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and
the dreams we dream, corporate globalization needs an international
confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments in
poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the
mutinies. Corporate Globalization - or shall we call it by its
name? Imperialism - needs a press that pretends to be free. It
needs courts that pretend to dispense justice.
Meanwhile, the countries of the North harden
their borders and stockpile weapons of mass destruction. After
all they have to make sure that it's only money, goods, patents
and services that are globalized. Not the free movement of people.
Not a respect for human rights. Not international treaties on
racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons or greenhouse
gas emissions or climate change, or -- god forbid -- justice.
So this -- all this -- is "empire."
This loyal confederation, this obscene accumulation of power,
this greatly increased distance between those who make the decisions
and those who have to suffer them. Our fight, our goal, our vision
of Another World must be to eliminate that distance.
So how do we resist "Empire"?
The good news is that we're not doing too
badly. There have been major victories. Here in Latin America
you have had so many - in Bolivia, you have Cochabamba. In Peru,
there was the uprising in Arequipa, in Venezuela, President Hugo
Chavez is holding on, despite the U.S. government's best efforts.
And the world's gaze is on the people of Argentina, who are trying
to refashion a country from the ashes of the havoc wrought by
In India the movement against corporate
globalization is gathering momentum and is poised to become the
only real political force to counter religious fascism. As for
corporate globalization's glittering ambassadors -- Enron, Bechtel,
WorldCom, Arthur Anderson -- where were they last year, and where
are they now?
And of course here in Brazil we must ask
who was the president last year, and who is it now?
Still, many of us have dark moments of
hopelessness and despair. We know that under the spreading canopy
of the War Against Terrorism, the men in suits are hard at work.
While bombs rain down on us, and cruise
missiles skid across the skies, we know that contracts are being
signed, patents are being registered, oil pipelines are being
laid, natural resources are being plundered, water is being privatized,
and George Bush is planning to go to war against Iraq.
If we look at this conflict as a straightforward
eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation between "Empire"
and those of us who are resisting it, it might seem that we are
But there is another way of looking at
it. We, all of us gathered here, have, each in our own way, laid
siege to "Empire."
We may not have stopped it in its tracks
- yet - but we have stripped it down. We have made it drop its
mask. We have forced it into the open. It now stands before
us on the world's stage in all it's brutish, iniquitous nakedness.
Empire may well go to war, but it's out
in the open now - too ugly to behold its own reflection. Too ugly
even to rally its own people. It won't be long before the majority
of American people become our allies.
Only a few days ago in Washington, a quarter
of a million people marched against the war on Iraq. Each month,
the protest is gathering momentum.
Before September 11th 2001 America had
a secret history. Secret especially from its own people. But now
America's secrets are history, and its history is public knowledge.
It's street talk.
Today, we know that every argument that
is being used to escalate the war against Iraq is a lie. The most
ludicrous of them being the U.S. Government's deep commitment
to bring democracy to Iraq.
Killing people to save them from dictatorship
or ideological corruption is, of course, an old U.S. government
sport. Here in Latin America, you know that better than most.
Nobody doubts that Saddam Hussein is a
ruthless dictator, a murderer (whose worst excesses were supported
by the governments of the United States and Great Britain). There's
no doubt that Iraqis would be better off without him.
But, then, the whole world would be better
off without a certain Mr. Bush. In fact, he is far more dangerous
than Saddam Hussein.
So, should we bomb Bush out of the White
House? It's more than clear that Bush is determined to go to war
against Iraq, regardless of the facts - and regardless of international
In its recruitment drive for allies, The
United States is prepared to invent facts.
The charade with weapons inspectors is
the U.S. government's offensive, insulting concession to some
twisted form of international etiquette. It's like leaving the
"doggie door" open for last minute "allies"
or maybe the United Nations to crawl through.
But for all intents and purposes, the New
War against Iraq has begun.
What can we do?
We can hone our memory, we can learn from
We can continue to build public opinion
until it becomes a deafening roar.
We can turn the war on Iraq into a fishbowl
of the U.S. government's excesses.
We can expose George Bush and Tony Blair
- and their allies - for the cowardly baby killers, water poisoners,
and pusillanimous long-distance bombers that they are.
We can re-invent civil disobedience in
a million different ways. In other words, we can come up with
a million ways of becoming a collective pain in the ass.
When George Bush says "you're either
with us, or you are with the terrorists" we can say "No
thank you." We can let him know that the people of the world
do not need to choose between a Malevolent Mickey Mouse and the
Our strategy should be not only to confront
empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame
it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness,
our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness - and our ability
to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones
we're being brainwashed to believe.
The corporate revolution will collapse
if we refuse to buy what they are selling - their ideas, their
version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of
Remember this: We be many and they be few.
They need us more than we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she
is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
HISTORY TEACHES THREE pretty clear messages. One is that all empires
die. Second, empires take a long time to die. Finally, the citizens
of the empire rarely recognize the warning signs for what they are.
The necessity for change is immutable. Empires by their natures
do not change very well. They have had positive feedback for not
changing -- usually it's called "standing by our principles"
-- for years, even centuries.
Empires think they have beaten the rule of change. They haven't.
Empires think size will protect them. It won't. Empires think military
might will protect them. It won't. Empires think charismatic leaders
will protect them. They won't. Nothing will. The old makes way for
The American empire is beginning to die. We will not see its death,
nor will our grandchildren, but it is dying. Its leaders, sensing
trouble, are fetishizing the "old ways," the ways that
brought us power in a different world, a world in which America
was young and the other empires were fading.
They have made denial a national creed. They have made arrogance
a national stance. "We do not need the others because we are
America," they say. A dying empire is like a dying dinosaur;
the only question is how much damage the huge tail will do as it
I have some examples. Our foreign policy is governed by our need
for oil, and yet we have no effective formal programs to reduce
our need for oil. Instead, we purchase large vehicles that use gasoline
with staggering inefficiency. We do it because we can, because God
is on our side, and something will happen because something always
Dick Cheney is the prophet of this mind-set. Conservation is a
hobby; use whatever you want; go to sleep, little citizens, your
oil-based politicians will protect you.
WE ARE GRADUALLY killing the earth that gives us succor. We are
poisoning the air and the water. We are cutting down the forests
that give us life; we are killing the creatures of the ocean that
feed us or feed the things we eat and use; we are ignoring the benefits
Because something will happen. Because God is on our side. Because
the scientists are wrong -- indeed, it is important to our whole
way of life to marginalize science. Hey, they said we'd all be dead
by the year 2000, and here we are. Fools.
We know more about the human body than we ever have. We understand
more about nutrition than we ever have. We are a child-centered
culture; we worship our little darlings and protect them from all
harm. Except that childhood obesity is on the rise. Type 2 diabetes
strikes children as young as 10. Only the very rich and very poor
We know more about the brain than we ever have. We use that knowledge
to persuade children to eat food that will make their lives more
difficult and place a greater burden on our medical system. This
practice exists outside the morality that we are so very proud of.
Inside the morality is discouraging the use of condoms that can
stop the spread of disease that also kills children. Death, where
is thy sting? We are Americans.
WE ARE PROUD of our fine economic system, and yet our government
routinely fails to punish profiteers and cheaters. We are proud
of our Constitution, yet our government seeks to suspend parts of
it when we enter an armed conflict. We are proud of our military,
yet we spend billions on politically mandated weapons systems of
Maybe this is the way empires die. Maybe they weaken themselves
The structure is so rotten that any young and enthusiastic foe
can push it over. I dunno. Heck, I've got mine; why should I care?
This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a fine
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