The American Monomyth: A Mug’s Game

Brave pioneers, yearning for the freedom to create a new nation for themselves, set forth across the Atlantic to colonize a howling wilderness inhabited only by primitive savages. With a musket in one hand, an axe in another, a Bible in yet a third, they ventured forth on a pristine continent in search of religious and political freedom. The noble red man, with the exception of a few bloodthirsty hostiles, graciously faded from view to let the new settlers claim the land and build an empire. And while a few slaves were imported from Africa, by and large they were the lucky ones, saved from lives of danger and deprivation, to be educated in the white man’s ways and to be civilized and Christianized so as to be model servants. Onward the settlers surged, claiming new territories, building new communities, creating a great nation dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of wealth -- but for white males only. As it should be. And we’d be enjoying this golden age to this very day if it wasn’t for those Goddamned radicals, the progressives, the unionists who want to steal the livelihoods of hard working real Americans and give it to a bunch of crybaby welfare queens so they can buy Cadillacs and drugs while birthing legions of illegitimate bastards and opening the floodgates to illegal immigrants and terrorists.

put-thy-stuff-by-the-dead-indiansThe problem with this monomyth is that it is not factual, it is not true.

Here and there it brushes up against historical fact, but only to twist and distort that history in service of a lie.

The biggest lie is the ur-lie, the one that makes virulent racism and all its attributes possible today. It’s the idea that America was created whole cloth by noble pioneers, many fleeing an oppressive crown that persecuted them for their religious beliefs.

Those moving west for religious reasons were not the persecuted, they were the persecutors, losers in a vast culture war that ravaged England. Theirs were the heavy hands of authority crushing others; when they lost they fled to the Netherlands, a free and easy going culture that was simply indifferent to their religious beliefs.

As their own co-religionists began drifting away, succumbing to the plentiful guiles of Dutch prosperity, the hardcore believers sought a new refuge.

They found it in the employ of their former enemies, the English landed gentry, absentee landlords who claimed a continent they’d never seen and sought to exploit by sending cheap labor over to strip it of its natural resources as fast as possible.

The pilgrims and subsequent wave of puritans who came to the Americans colonies were expected to start turning a profit for their English lords and masters ASAP: They were allowed a taste of the profits but only enough to “wet their beaks” as the old Mafia phrase goes.

Still, hard work, no?

Not so much, actually. In the century before the landing of the pilgrims, both American continents were ravaged by plagues that wiped out 90%-98% of the population.

Draw up a list of thirty friends and relatives whom you love. Close your eyes and pick three at random.

Imagine all the rest dying.

That’s what happened to the native peoples of the Americas.

The plagues were doubtlessly of European origin, and to be fair to the Europeans were unaware they were the source of the contagion, but in the end they killed more “noble red men” with germs than with guns.

Imagine the world of Mad Max invaded by the alien hordes of Mars Attacks or Independence Day: That’s what the native peoples faced as pilgrims -- and others -- moved in.

Nor did the pilgrims and other early settlers move into a pristine land, the forest primeval. Quite the contrary.

What they found were vast stretches of land already cleared for farming by the now deceased native peoples. The pilgrims and other earth settlers described it as “park-like” and marveled at how smoothly wagons and carriages could move across it.

And despite this, those new settlers nearly died off in the first few years. With rare exceptions, they were not a hardy enough people, and it took a great deal of financial support and raw body reinforcements for them to gain the barest toehold on the continent.

The surviving native peoples were in no position to mount an effective counter to this invasion. They kept falling back, ceding more territory, negotiating more treaties, attempting to regroup.

Where they gave up land, they were expected to give up more.

Where they attempted to co-exist, they were driven out.

Where they attempted to fight, they were relentlessly hunted down and persecuted.

The American monomyth celebrates the heroic struggle of white settlers.

You don’t know the meaning of the word “heroism” until you grasp what the native peoples endured and are still enduring to this day.

Who spread this lie, and why?

Well, to use a catchphrase associated with another notorious criminal enterprise, “follow the money.”

When the Americas were discovered by Europeans[1], the crowned heads of those nations laid claim, sight unseen, to the new world, ignoring the tens of millions of people already living there.

The crowns then granted or sold huge hunks of territory, again sight unseen, to the nobility and landed gentry to exploit for their personal gain.

Meet out old friends, the 1%.

Those absentee landlords then lent money to the actual bona fide colonist to start exploiting the land and extracting the riches in it.

At first everybody was excited over gold and silver, but once the empires of the Aztecs and the Incans were looted there were no easy pickings.

In the lag time before large scale mining could begin, the new colonies turned to agriculture, and here the bounty was rich and readily available: Native tobacco, sugar cane, and the king of them all, cotton.

The image of hard working American farmers shipping corn and wheat and beef back to Europe to feed the starving masses there is a charming one and utterly bogus: Europe enjoyed enormous agricultural resources and didn’t need food; that was grown to feed the colonists.[2]

What Europe wanted, when they couldn’t get gold, were luxury items such as fur pelts, whale oil, sugar, cotton for cloth, and low level narcotics such as tobacco.

Throw in cocoa from South America and you see the basic pattern: Work the poor -- putting them into debt in the process-- to provide luxuries for the rich.[3]

To maximize profits by speedily exploiting the land for luxuries, the 1% needed cheap labor.

They tried enslaving native peoples.

Those brought to Europe typically died swiftly from a barrage of new and unfamiliar to them diseases.

The peasant classes of the now defunct Aztec and Incan empires adopted a “meet the new boss / same as the old boss” attitude and accommodated the conquistadors by serving as peasant farmers and laborers.

In North America, however, the native peoples were hard to hold.

If they didn’t like the local situation, they could just melt back into the forest and move further west.[4]

As noted, those who tried to stay and co-exist by adopting European names accommodating the white man’s ways, suffered relentless persecution by the new settlers, up to and including outright genocide and forcible relocation.

Nor should it be lost that the most virulent anti-native bigots were typically the more recent arrivals, people already buying into the new monomyth and seeking to “carve a nation out of the wilderness” by driving native peoples from their well established and fully operational farms.

The 1% had “recruited” their earliest colonists from England’s debtors prisons. That they died by the boatload is no surprise as they were woefully ill-equipped and under-funded for the task of exploiting America.

The 1% quickly found their cash crops but as European colonists were too fragile to work the plantations, slave were imported from Africa.

“Imported from Africa” sounds so clean, so antiseptic, so benign. The infamous middle passage killed hundreds of thousands if not millions of human beings -- men, women, and children -- who were chained hand and foot, crammed into hard wooden shelves, and forced to wallow in their own piss and shit and sweat and vomit, subsisting off thin gruel and a daily cup full of water until they arrived in the Americas to be brutalized and terrorized and forced to labor at back breaking tasks so that the rich could become even richer.

When we talk about the heroic struggle to build America, Africans and early African-Americans contributed far more than white settlers, no mistake a bout that.

And if latter African-Americans did not contribute as much, it was because they were then systematically barred from further participation in the American “dream” in order to appease white racists.

Appeasing whites became a key function of the new American culture. Though poor whites had been coerced or lured to the Americas with promises of wealth and freedom once they paid off their debts, for the most part they were not up to the task; if they had been, then slavery would never have flourished.

The plantation owners brought in African slaves to replace the whites who failed, but there was no place to send the now superfluous whites.

While far from the only white European ethnic group to come to America, the Scots-Irish need to be considered as a key component to the shaping of this country.

That is not meant as an unreservedly good thing.

The Scots-Irish were lowland Scots – poor yet proud, desperate but defiant – drafted by the English landed gentry to colonize Ireland.

They failed as miserably in Ireland as they would in America, the key difference being Ireland possessed an intact native population that, while dominated economically / militarily / politically by England, nonetheless mounted a continuous and unrelenting resistance to foreign rule, so much so that the actual English footprint on Ireland was reduced to Ulster and the northern counties.

There, as soon to be in American, the problem was unemployed and unemployable Scots (now Scots-Irish since they were neither true Scots not genuine Irish) creating a drain on the society.

Immigration to America was presented as the perfect “let somebody else worry about ‘em” solution and they were shipped off in huge numbers.

We’re gonna condense a lot of history here: The poor Scots-Irish were unwelcome in the New England colonies, they were a thorn in the side of first colonial then state then federal governments, and their bitterness at their mistreatment made them a political powder keg.

To appease them and keep them in line, the 1% promulgated white supremacy (i.e., no matter how bad off you were, hey, “at least you’re not black!”).

In rural areas these poor Scots-Irish were encouraged to run subsistence farms, growing enough to feed themselves and perhaps earn extra for basic necessities with a few small luxuries on the side.

In urban northern areas they were recruited into a growing industrial labor pool, in urban southern areas they were recruited to handle the necessary messy and unpleasant details of the slave trade.

And despite such open humiliation by and for the 1%, those poor whites eagerly marched off to war to preserve a culture in which they bled and died to preserve the 1%’s wealth while all they got was bragging rights on their lack of melanin.

If poor whites wonder why they are looked on with disdain, this is it: Their willing complicity in their own degradation and exploitation, especially at a terrible cost to others.

The huge profits for plantation owners generated by African and African-American field hands was invested in banks and stocks by the southern 1%.

That capital was loaned out to northern businesses for expansion, and those businesses began hiring workers.

The south lacked large scale industry so new methods of appeasing-while-exploiting poor whites were devised.

Homesteading is a prime example. Small farmers were given family size farming tracts under the provision they live there for six years and improve the property.

In the monomyth, this is how the American west was settled: Pioneers setting forth across the prairies in wagon trains, etc., etc., and of course, etc.

In reality, the rate of failure was staggering, with most farmers giving up well short of the six year minimum they were required to endure in order to claim the land permanently.

Most gave up by the third or fourth year and moved to urban areas for employment.

Nonetheless, it succeeded in keeping them docile: While they worked the land, they were too busy to stir things up; if they succeeded against all expectation with their farms then they had enough to live comfortably; if they failed they left well developed property where the lion’s share of the hard work had already been done and could be picked up for a song by better organized and financed industrial farming concerns; and those failures provided desperate cheap labor for the 1%’s mines and factories.

The railroads lured them out, then the railroads foreclosed by proxy on their farms.

Blessed be the name of the railroads.

So that’s where we are this Thanksgiving 2016: The American monomyth has finally reached the end of its run. The people promised the most have been cheated yet again, and yet again they turn to their worst exploiters with the belief that somehow the very people who profited by getting them into this mess will sacrifice their best interest and financial gain for the benefit of the very marks they’ve been cheating.

They resent the “other” America, the parts of the country that through bitter experience or education or just plain ol’ common sense never bought into the monomyth even if they allowed themselves to be inspired by it.

Now we have created a situation where the monomyth must deliver, or must forever fall.

A new national identity needs to be formed, and birthings are always painful and messy processes.

william-cotton-and-so-it-begins-cap

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[1] And they did discover them insofar as they learned of their existence, much the same we discover Disneyland the first time we visit it.

[2] The Irish potato famine was a real thing, but it was the result of Ireland shifting almost exclusively to a single crop -- the potato -- to supply their basic diet, and succumbing to disaster when a blight hit. That they shifted to this crop, imported from the Americas, is a result of English colonialism in Ireland, and if you want a tragic history, try wading through the last millennia of the Emerald Isle.

[3] It should be noted that while Europeans colonized vast stretches of territory in African, Asian, the Malaysian archipelago, and Polynesia, they rarely managed to supplant a native population the way they did in the Americas (Australia and New Zealand being the two main exceptions and for similar reasons: Lack of massive organized resistance to large scale foreign invasions). India is a classic example of typical European colonization: Merchants, backed up by military might, force their way into native markets, eventually dominating or supplanting the local government while leaving the native culture and people largely intact. Japan was one of the few native cultures to stay ahead of the colonists, and though they adopted a number of Western traditions and technologies, they did so on their own terms.

[4] Eventually they ran out of west to move to.

 

 

 

the sweet science

Writing Report November 23, 2016