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Can (Mostly White) Haves Annihilate (Mostly Non-White) Have-Nots Without Serious Consequence?

By       Message David Weiner       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   17 comments

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"-Inequality doesn't appear to soften at all. Not locally and not globally. Rather it grows and deepens. In consequence, the probability of massive class conflict seems inescapable. Who will likely win a war of Haves versus Have-Nots? Can Haves easily annihilate "inconvenient" Have-Nots, as they did in the past? Is supporting oligarchy, therefore, a reasonable tactic of survival for some? White-skinned right-wingers think so. What about white-skinned left-wingers?

Ideologically, U.S. progressives oppose policy makers' inhumanity. Does their moral sense include enough courage to risk the latters' wrath? Does it outweigh awareness that left-wingers can be safe-if-white so long as their discord stays within certain boundaries? As benefactors of victimized others, rather than victims themselves, will they stay the course?

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Flipping the coin, what if growing evidence reveals that Haves can no longer crush Have-Nots without suffering devastating blowback? What if the next war's likeliest outcome is a world in chaos? Not the world depicted in 1984 or Brave New World or The Hunger Games, but in The Road Warrior and The Road? Would rational fear of such an outcome strengthen left-wing activism? Are people more likely to risk body and soul when both are at risk? Might right-wingers, so aware, reconsider their commitment to oligarchy?

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This issue was raised at a Historians Against the War (HAW) conference in Austin, Texas, in 2006. Keynote speaker Howard Zinn passionately described the moral imperatives confronting U.S. citizens in light of the Bush administration's reckless foreign policy. "We must rise up and put an end to regime outrages," he implored. "We must acknowledge that these outrages have been occurring for much longer than the last six years... We must finally become the nation our ideology says we are."

During the discussion period, the question arose whether U.S. citizens' failure to rise to this challenge implied more than the destruction of innocent people. If we-the-people simply continued to watch reality television and shop at malls while our bullies beat up the have-nots of the world and muscled aside our own allies when they objected, would we hardly notice the consequences? Or might we all experience the effects of effective reaction such as Chalmers Johnson described in his highly regarded analysis Blowback (2000), and Noam Chomsky warned of in Hegemony or Survival (2003). Were we to understand that citizen action was a moral necessity, but not necessarily a physical one?

"-"-Many felt that the United States possessed overwhelming military power. Without public constraint of it the nation's leaders would wreak havoc upon others at will, and the public must shoulder full moral blame for this travesty. Many also agreed that the question of possibly serious blowback effects was hardly a fringe hypothesis. If presented to the public it might motivate more citizens to support the HAW position than a plea only to their humanitarianism.

Evidence mentioned in support of focusing the issue were (1) a 2001 New York Times article described U.S. vulnerability to terrorist attacks employing lethal biologicals such as anthrax, plague, botulinum, Q fever, eastern equine encephalitis, yellow fever, and Marburg virus. (2) The Hart-Rudman Senate Foreign Relations Committee Task Force on Homeland Security report of October 25, 2002, which had described the nation's great and probably un-reducible vulnerability to small nuclear devices of various kinds smuggled into the country for similar kinds of attacks. (3) The New York Times lead editorial of February 20, 2005, which found it striking "how much has not changed in the three and a half years since nearly 3,000 people were killed on American soil. The nation's chemical plants are still a horrific accident waiting to happen. Nuclear material that could be made into a 'dirty bomb' or even a nuclear device, and set off in an American city remains too accessible to terrorists. Critical tasks, from inspecting shipping containers to upgrading defenses against biological weapons, are being done poorly or not at all." (4) A February, 2006 Scientific American article, just a month prior to the conference, titled "Thwarting Nuclear Terrorism," which reinforced the NY Times report. It described how High-Energy Uranium (HEU) was abundant and readily available to terrorist organizations that might wish to make use of it.

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At one point a panelist cited data indicating that about half the U.S. public seemed to support the war at least passively. Another participant felt certain that whether U.S. policy makers could successfully dominate and obliterate others was an important, rarely stated question on the lips of most citizens, issues of ethics and morality aside. Few at the conference disagreed with this proposition but many felt that given the Bush administration's efforts to characterize its victims as evil and dangerous, and the public's susceptibility to such misdirection and propaganda, it was advisable not to focus this issue now.

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David Weiner received his doctorate in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1964 and subsequently taught at SUNY/Buffalo and The University of Houston, where he received a Teaching Award. He currently teaches community college (more...)
 

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