I went to church today for the first time in 9 weeks. Since I am recovering from a prostatectomy because of cancer, I told a friend that I have been spending the summer eating and learning how to go to the bathroom. But my ordeal has provided a couple of important illustrations that should give all of us reasons to step back and reconsider our country's direction lest we unknowingly leap to our demise.
The first illustration to watch is the relationship between cancer and empire. I have yet to figure out whether cancer is a metaphor for empire or if empire is a metaphor for cancer. Regardless, what starts out as a local uncontrolled growth and dominance leads to an uncontrolled spreading throughout its host and finishes by becoming so big and dominating, it kills what gave it life, its host.Of course, once the host dies, the cancer is doomed.
Those who either have or have had cancer have a real and personal understanding of how it threatens life. What is inconsistent here is how, with our knowledge of cancer, we Americans, who live in an empire, do not react to thelocal dominance that corporations have andthe out of control growth and domination of their country's empire built to protect and expand the interests of those same corporations. Sooner or later, our empire will grow so large that its host cannot accommodate it and thus it becomes destructive of everything it touches, including itself. We see our empire's self-destruction in the strain of the overhead that our empire puts on our own economy. We also see the strain in the threats of violence, even violence with WMDs, that our empire has drawn from the world. Surely the similarities between cancer and empire should provide some deeply disturbing and ominous signs to all of us. However, there is another metaphor to consider.
When undergoing major abdominal surgery, choosing the right anesthesia is essential; and I was given a choice. One of the things that went right, besides my surgeon's skill in adapting the surgery to uncontrolled bleeding, was my choice of anesthesia. Because of it, I suffered no post surgical pain issues. So if people were to ask me what is the most powerful anesthesia I know of, I would reply with one word: prosperity. Now of course, I didn't rely on prosperity to keep me pain free during and after my surgery. But prosperity provides a more powerful and longer relief than the 48 hour epidural I received. And it does that for multiple patients at the same time.
The difference between the two anesthesias of epidurals and prosperity is that my epidural spared me from feeling my own pain, prosperity prevents us from feeling the pain of others. Whether it is the pain of Palestinians who suffer under a brutal Israeli occupation, the pain of Afghanistan and Pakistan civilians who are killed by the warring factions of the Taliban with Al-Qaeda and NATO troops, or the pain that exists here at home by those who have either lost or never had the opportunity to gain meaningful jobs and thus live in poverty with all that that entails, our own prosperity shields us from all of that pain so much that we have completed what was once begun by the drug-crazed generation of the 60's,; we've dropped out. The only difference between these two dropout generations is in the social acceptability of the medicines used.
Why prosperity anesthetizes us from the very real pain that other experience is that prosperity allows us to first experience and then leads us to seek comfort. And once a person is at rest in comfort, we see the most powerful laws of inertia which ever existed jump into effect. Our prosperity allows us to live in the bubble that entertainment provides. Our prosperity allows us to move to less troublesome neighborhoods. And our prosperity allows us to live on islands that we call our homes. We see that prosperity provides a powerful defense mechanism to the problems of the world: mobility. And that mobility can either be subjectively or objectively employed.
But what is very disturbing about this latter metaphor is that for us to address the problems that many in the world demand that we tackle, we must, to some degree, feel the pain of others. But in order to feel that pain, the anesthesia, our prosperity, must wear off. So here, the scenario presented to us is that we must first lose our prosperity before we can know what those in pain are living through--and they are demanding that we become acquainted with their pain.
So we have a choice. We can wake up to see what we can do our future that is written on the wall. That future consists of one of drastic loss for many of the haves. Here, one must take these two medical metaphors quite seriously. The first being that empire becomes so destructive that it eventually becomes terminal. The second being that if we don't voluntarily seek to know the pain of those who are suffering, we will unwillingly come to understand their travails after we have lost much of what made life enjoyable to us.
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