"There is a central myth that the series apparently perpetuates. Here's how a favorable review in a right-wing publication put it: 'The entire series...offers a fairly balanced but often gruesome and graphic recounting of many long years of involvement in the Southeast Asian conflict.'I'm reminded of a passage I wrote almost 12 years ago, in which I described the cornerstone of the West's self-glorifying mythology. Tragically, this mythology remains unaltered today, even at the edges. It appears to be indestructible and immovable; only a huge upheaval (nuclear war, other man-made and/or natural large-scale disasters, the collapse of financial systems) will dislodge it. Although this passage references the attacks on 9/11, I emphasize that this Western self-mythology long predated that day. One of the most tragic results of 9/11 is that the West's profoundly distorted view of itself, a view which mandates repeated acts of murder and destruction on a world-historical scale, as it simultaneously cleanses the West of all guilt and bestows it with nobility for the carnage it unleashes, was given new vitality. Whenever the ruling class worries that the mythological view might be weakening, they will scurry to find a new disaster to prop up this crucial element of their control. If a disaster does not offer itself in a timely manner, they will create one. The ruling class is in love with death. I wrote:
"In other words, the U.S. wasn't creating trouble, but rather trying, out of the goodness of our hearts, to be helpful in a 'Southeast Asian conflict.' A specific variation on this theme is that the U.S. was helping the underdog in a 'civil war' thousands of miles away. Never mind that the U.S. essentially created the alleged civil conflict in the first place.
"This storyline reproduces a theme of U.S. history that goes back to beginning of settler colonialism and the investment in chattel slavery. At the core of the white way of seeing the world is that white people are the victims of barbarian savages who resent our 'freedom' and our 'civilization.' More recently, the 'inferior savages' are communists, although the white communists are perceived and treated differently than those of color."
"The West has the answer to successful human life. Since it does, and because certain elements in the rest of the world have now chosen to attack us on our own ground (and never mind that we have invaded and ruled over vast portions of the rest of the world since time immemorial), we must enlighten those benighted portions of the globe in our defense. Our chosen method of enlightenment is brute military force, to be deployed even against countries that did not threaten us. The lack of a genuine threat is no argument against spreading our version of 'civilization,' for our mission is grounded not only in self-defense: it is also a moral mission. Our success and our 'peace' directly correlates to our virtue. Those countries and those civilizations that do not enjoy the same success and peace are without virtue.
"In the most extreme (and, one could argue, most consistent) version of this tale, non-Western parts of the world are less than human -- and they are subhuman by choice. They are immoral, and sometimes even evil. Since we represent the good and they represent the evil, we are surely entitled to improve them, by invasion and bombing if necessary. If they do not threaten us today, they might at some indeterminate time in the future. And while we might kill many innocent civilians in our campaign of civilization, those who survive will be infinitely better off than they would have been otherwise. Besides, how 'innocent' can any of them be -- since they are members of inferior, less than fully human civilizations, and since they are so by choice?"In the context of "the white gaze" and the West's self-mythologizing, there is another passage in Joyce's article that I found especially striking.
(To be continued.)
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).