I’ve been thinking back on my youth recently, to the 60s, and to how convinced we were back then that there was such a thing as progress, to how sure we were that by the time we were old, the world would have changed. I was an American, and I had been raised on perpetual progress in all areas – technology, human rights, quality of life – and was sure that the world would be a more peaceful and prosperous place by now.
But now as I watch the news on television I see that sabers are again rattling, that the Russians are being warned by the US State department that the consequences will be severe if they attempt to keep Crimea in their sphere of influence. The TV news doesn’t mention the fact that the crisis in Crimea – that is, in Ukraine – was directly caused by the US and its NATO allies through their fomenting of the overthrow of the Yanukovich government.
Why? The supposed reason is that Yanukovich in Ukraine and Putin in Russia are despotic leaders and that the real majority of the people – not the “elites” whom these near-dictators serve – aspire to true democracy. The kind of democracy that exists in the US and France and the UK, for example. The real reason is that Washington and NATO have a master plan for continually extending their influence throughout the globe and that that master plan involves breaking up what was once the USSR into a number of smaller states that can be brought into the NATO fold and their resources channeled into the coffers of the elites in the NATO countries. This is of course in direct contradiction with the promises made at the time of the breakup of the former USSR and the de facto dissolution of the Warsaw pact – that NATO would not expand into the territory formerly covered by the Pact.
Back in the 60s, and for decades before then, the US and its allies were engaged in the same kind of interference in the affairs of other parts of the world – always on the pretext of “protecting democracy” or “midwifing freedom,” or some similar formulation. Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954 are examples that immediately come to mind. Never was it admitted that the machinations, and when the machinations failed, the direct military interventions, were in fact intended to protect the vital interests – meaning the financial interests – of the USA – meaning the elite that was in power, and is still in power. And, of course, there is another reason for the machinations and the ever-present threat of military action that is always in the background: justifying the existence of the US/NATO military machine and the $1.67 trillion* spent on it annually. Spent… or should we say extracted from the populations of the US and the NATO countries?
As I grow old and face the world of today, where the progress of technology seems to have been accompanied by regression in human rights and quality of life, I can only wonder, watching the news, how my attempts to make sense of my own life and make peace with my own past, natural as old age approaches, can make any sense in such a context. It’s as if the leaders of the world were eternally young and eternally stupid – like the gods of the mythology our culture is founded on. It’s as if we – when I say “we,” I mean we as Americans, as French, as German, or as British, as represented by the leaders we have duly elected through our admittedly imperfect but at least functioning democratic processes – were trying to play at being Immortals by interfering in the lives of ordinary people to satisfy our own infantile need to have our way, our childish greed, never being satisfied with the wealth we have, or our pusillanimous desire to know everything everyone everywhere is thinking and saying. Is our democratic system really such a model for the rest of the world when those we put in power behave in this way? How much longer can we remain human if we continue to allow our leaders to play at being gods?