Each sluggish turn of the world has such disinherited
to whom belongs neither what’s been nor what’s coming next.
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Seventh Duino Elegy
Let’s begin at the beginning, the real beginning.
Imagine a desk-top globe. Give it a spin and stop at Western Europe. In the 16th century Western Europeans saw big money in the discovery that the world is not flat. Europeans, mostly Spanish and Portuguese — or, as we say today, “Hispanic whites” — invaded Central and South America; small armies subdued that vast territory with amazing swiftness by virtue of gunpowder and contagious diseases. Their object was exploitation and enslavement, as encouraged, blessed and excused by their religion, the Catholicism of the Inquisition. Thus the word “Latin” became affixed to the word “America.” Tyrannic, autocratic government became the norm; the few, and those who served the few, benefited greatly, and everyone else was either violently oppressed or left to fend for themselves under weak, inefficient administrations — a weakness encouraged and exploited by their ever-growing neighbor to the North.
Back to our desk-top globe. Northern Europeans also understood the possibilities of a round world. Holland (or, if you prefer, The Netherlands), Belgium, France, England and Denmark-Norway (they used to be the same polity until the Napoleonic wars, you can look it up), pretty much did to Africa what Spain and Portugal did to Latin America, with pretty much the same result, while England got most of India (but pointedly could not conquer Afghanistan). England, Holland and France divvied up Eastern Asia, again for exploitation rather than settlement.
So visualize, on your globe, fair-skinned Christian people spreading from Western Europe all over the world! Outgunning and/or infecting everyone they came in contact with, looting treasures, exploiting resources, and denying their new “subjects” any rights whatsoever. The name for this is kind of hackneyed and taken for granted: “colonialism.” Which means: The European world stealing everything in sight and God help any “natives” who said them nay.
North America was a different story. “Non-Hispanic whites,” in the jargon of our day, mostly English and Dutch, came to steal, yes, but also to stay. They didn’t like their Europe; they wanted out; they came to the East Coast of North America to occupy whatever land and settle. Especially in the northern colonies, they did not enslave the indigenous, nor make much pretense of religious conversion; killing was their preferred method, and/or driving the indigenous westward.
Please notice: There was zero moral justification for what Europeans did to the rest of the world. It was might-makes-right and nothing but. Nothing but.
Me, I’m overjoyed. Since I am unthinkable without America — unthinkable without Manhattan’s museums, the Hopi mesas, the Texas Panhandle, and West Hollywood L.A. — I have no choice but to acknowledge my good fortune and sing with Rita Moreno, I like to be in America/ Okay by me in America! Just why don’t you get those kids out of those fucking cages and back with their parents so I don’t have to see the word “America” and throw up.
Resuming our tale: American colonists learned to fight in forests from the tribes they’d defeated, and that’s how they fought the British and Britain’s Hessian mercenaries. They won! Yay. But the lily-white English, Dutch, and French soon learned, in the 19th century, that there weren’t enough of themselves. Pioneers and explorers told of great forests, vast mountain ranges, incredible farmland, and, yes, silver and gold — 3,000 miles of it, to the Pacific seas. The possibility of a mighty nation, bigger than all of Europe, but … there weren’t enough of them. Somebody had to do the dirty work and create a land for the U.S. WASP elites to own.
(Of course, we weren’t about to share North America with Mexico, so we picked a little war, 1846-1848, and, of course, we won. Yay again! Our Transcendentalists protested very politely, but Henry David Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience in response, causing lots of liberations down the road. Yay for real.)
Back to our tale: New waves of not-quite-white, non-WASP immigration were welcomed. Peoples who were looked down upon, but more or less fair-skinned: German, Irish, Italian, Sicilian, Greek, Ukrainian, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, they came and came. Swedes and Norwegians came, to farm on flatlands they did not understand. Slavs of all kinds. Basques. Armenians, after the Turkish genocide — every kind of Christian, Jews on the run, and smatterings (in those days) of other beliefs. No one came here because their homelands were fun. They came because their homelands sucked for them.
You’re proud of your Italian heritage, your Irish, your German, your Polish, etc., cultural heritages? Your people came here because those cultures screwed them up the wazoo and would have screwed their children too unless they got outa Dodge.
Except, of course, the Africans. They came at gunpoint. And guns have been pointed their way ever since.
First: It is difficult to imagine, difficult to conceive, and difficult to credit how chaotic and disruptive and utterly deranging (how FUBAR, Fucked-Up-Beyond-All-Recognition) were, and are, the long-range consequences of colonialism and post-colonialism in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Built-in instability and built-in dependence facilitate exploitation to this day.
Second: From circa 1950 to about 1990, 6% of the world’s population (that’s us, the U.S.A) consumed roughly 60% of the world’s resources. Some experts say 80%; some put it as low as a still-massive 40%. Let’s say 60%. That was America being “great” (the brutal flim-flam of nominally legal economic rape), but we all just whistled on, happily dominant. And that, thank the gods of justice, is done. Forever. Because of ....
Third: A vibrant though unstable “developing world” is a far greater source of profits than a stagnant, festering “Third World.” Once American and European corporations learnt that, they went global while China developed faster than the U.S. ever had. U.S. inventions like computers and smartphones equalized disparate localities everywhere until now, when . . . the world doesn’t need us anymore. Corporations are non-national, so what we invent goes everywhere the day we market it. The world’s economy no longer depends on the U.S. consumer; thanks to globalism, there are markets everywhere for everything. Employment world-wide, by world-wide corporations, has created those markets. We’re not needed. And we’re not liked. And we’re in for it, one way or another. Like it says in The Book: One generation passeth away and another generation ariseth.
But that’s not all the tale I came to tell. Also, this:
Remember that desk-top globe and all those white filaments spreading out from Europe and then also from the U.S.A., taking root all over a darker-skinned world. And remember the ongoing and present after-effects of colonialism, stirred in with our energy demands and our international armaments industry (you need to read European journalists to learn about that) — all that jazz has made for an increasingly destabilized Latin America, Africa and Middle East. So lots of people in those countries are leaving, not because they want to, but because Hell ain’t no place to raise the kids. And when you’re living in Hell, well, Purgatory doesn’t look so bad.
The world that Europe and the United States once conquered has, in many places, become unsustainably unbearable for millions, and they are journeying to the source of their troubles: Europe and the United States. Because, except for Time itself, nothing in History moves in just one direction. Euro-America spread over the world. Now the world is inexorably spreading over Euro-America. It’s being called “migration” and “immigration” — inadequate words that miss the tectonic import of this historical passage that is as unstoppable as the tides.
Did you read June 24th’s New York Times? Did you see Charles M. Blow’s piece, “White Extinction Anxiety”? He quotes a recent Brookings Institution report:
“For the first time since the Census Bureau has released these annual statistics, they show an absolute decline in the nation’s white non-Hispanic population — accelerating a phenomenon that was not projected to occur until the next decade. . . . The new numbers show that for the first time there are more children [in the U.S.] who are minorities than who are white, at every age from zero to nine. [Excuse me, Brookings, but “zero” is not an age. Still, I get ya.] This means we are on the cusp of seeing the first [American] minority white generation, born in 2007 and later.”
Don’t you see? It’s already happened.
Those so-called “white nationalists” on the march last summer chanting “You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!” (and they’re planning another march in D.C. next month) . . . those fanatical people at this president’s rallies chanting “Build the wall!” . . . the Republicans who back anything this president does . . . what they all fear has already happened.
Build your fucking wall, it can’t change anything.
They can’t stop the waves of unwhiteness, because it’s already happened. It doesn’t matter what you think about it. The generation of 2007 comes of voting age in 2025. Just seven years away! Every year thereafter they’ll be joined by more “minority” voters until pale’ish skinned Euro-American voters are a minority among minorities. Nobody knows what that will look like. I’m just one of the white people dying off — I won’t live to see Euro-Americans when they’re one minority among several, but I’m excited about that America. Because what’s always kept America not “great” but exciting, inventive, dangerous, beautiful, and with more vitality than anywhere, are influxes of new consciousnesses dealing with unheard-of situations; like, for instance, the brown, the white, the black, the yellow, and the mixed, having to deal with each other in terms of more or less numerical equality. It’ll be their job to figure out what to do with an America that has forsaken its pretenses of moral purpose and totters as we speak.
[The Rilke lines at the outset of this piece are from The Duino Elegies, translated by C.F. MacIntyre – for my money, by far the best Rilke translator.]
Michael Ventura © 2018. All rights reserved.
Michael Ventura is a writer who lives in the mountains of Northern California.
Join the Conversation, click here to Comment