Letter to America | The Nation


Letter to America

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Still, Jack, certain things need to be said and repeated. I realize it is difficult for you to know what's happening in the world, since your entertainment media have by now totally blurred the distinctions between information and propaganda, and banal psychological and commercial manipulation must be the least effective way of disseminating understanding. You need to know that your country has made the world a much more dangerous place for the rest of us. International treaties to limit the destruction of our shared natural environment, to stop the manufacture of maiming personnel mines, to outlaw torture, to bring war criminals to international justice, to do something about the murderous and growing gulf between rich and poor, to guarantee natural food for the humble of the earth, to allow for local economic solutions to specific conditions of injustice, for that matter to permit local products to have access to American markets, to mobilize the world against hunger, have all been gutted by the USA.Your government is blackmailing every single miserable and corrupt mother's son in power in the world to do things your way. It has forced itself on the rest of us in its support and abetment of corrupt and tyrannical regimes. It has lost all ethical credibility in its one-sided and unequivocal support of the Israeli government campaign that must ultimately lead to the ethnocide of the Palestinians. And in this it has promoted--sponsored?--the bringing about of a deleterious international climate, since state terrorism can now be carried out with arrogance, disdain and impunity. As far as the Arab nations are concerned, America, giving unquestioned legitimacy to despotic regimes, refusing any recognition of home-grown alternative democratic forces, favored the emergence of a bearded opposition who in time must become radicalized and fanaticized to the point where they can be exterminated as vermin. And the oilfields will be safe.

About the Author

Breyten Breytenbach
Breyten Breytenbach is a renowned South African writer whose opposition to apartheid resulted in his being convicted of...

I'm too harsh. I'm cutting corners. I'm pontificating. But my friend, if you were to look around the world you would see that America is largely perceived as a rogue state.

Can there be a turn-back? Have things gone too far, beyond a point of possible return? Can it be that some of the core and founding assumptions (it is said) of your culture are ultimately dangerous to the survival of the world? I'm referring to your propensity for patriotism (to me it's an attitude, not a value), to the fervent belief in a capitalist free-market system with the concomitant conviction that progress is infinite, that one can eternally remake and invent the self, that it is more important to be self-made than to collectively husband the planet's diminishing resources, that the instant gratification of the desire for goods is the substance of the right to happiness, that the world and life and all its manifestations can be apprehended and described in terms of good and evil, finally that you can flare for a while in samsara, the world of illusions (and desperately make it last with artificial means and California hocus-pocus before taking all your prostheses to heaven).

If this is so, what then? With whom? You see, the most detestable effect is that so many of us have to drink this poison, to look at you as a threat, to live with the knowledge of cultural and economic and military danger in our veins, and to be obliged to either submit or resist.

I don't want to pass the buck. Don't imagine it is necessarily any better elsewhere. We, in this elsewhere, have to look for our own solutions. Europe is pusillanimous, carefully though hypocritically hostile and closed to foreigners, particularly those from the South; the EU is by now little more than a convenience for its citizens and politically and culturally much less than the contents of any of its constituent parts.

And Africa? As a part-time South African (the other parts are French and Spanish and Senegalese and New Yorker), I've always wondered whether Thabo Mbeki would be America's thin globalizing wedge (at the time of Clinton and Gore it certainly seemed so) or whether he was ultimately going to be the leader who can strategically lead Africa against America. But the question is hypothetical. Thabo Mbeki is no alternative to the world economic system squeezing the poor for the sustainable enrichment of the rich; as in countries like Indonesia and your own (see the role of the oil companies), he too has opted for crony capitalism. Africa's leading establishments are rotten to the core. Mbeki is no different. His elocution is more suave and his prancing more Western, that's all.

What do we do, then? As we move into the chronicle of a war foretold (against Iraq), it is going to be difficult to stay cool. Certainly, we must continue fighting globalization as it exists now, reject the article of faith that postulates a limitless and lawless progress and expansion of greed, subvert the acceptance of might is right, spike the murderous folly of One God. And do so cautiously and patiently, counting our steps. It is going to be a long dance.

Let us find and respect one another.

Your friend,

Breyten Breytenbach

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