Became a Way of Life...
All that I will say is
that when I look around, it explains, a little, what I see.
America is the most cruel nation among its peers - even among most poor countries today. It is something like a new Rome.
The combination of these pathologies happens nowhere else - not a single place - in the world. Not even Pakistan, Costa Rica, or Rwanda.
Hence, the world is
aghast daily at the depths of American cruelty - yet somehow, they
Nor do I mean America is "the most cruel
society in the world". Can we really ever judge that? But it is
uniquely cruel - a kind of special example - in weird, needless, and
Scandinavians are the happiest, longest-lived, and most prosperous people in the world because they do not punish one another constantly - but lift one another up.
But Americans do not
believe this reality. The underlying sentiment that unites America's
manifold problems is a myth of cruelty.
That something more
primary, fundamental, and unique happened.
Waves upon waves of them washed up on its shores.
These emigrants all tended to share a common trait.
They were at the very bottom, the lowest rung, of social and economic hierarchies in their own countries. All of them...
That has changed a little
recently - but America was founded by and for the despised,
loathed, hated. People referred to as trash, nobodies, serfs,
exiles, outcasts - who were never given an ounce of respect,
dignity, or even belonging, in their societies of origin.
We did not see nobles and landed gentry emigrate to America. British Lords and German Counts and Italians Barons. We saw German peasant, Irish villagers, Swedish farmers, the dwellers of Italian slums.
People from the very
lowest of hierarchies elsewhere, the oppressed and the subjugated,
came to this Promised Land.
It was the next waves of settlers, too.
...and so on.
That much is historical
fact. Do you see the pattern forming yet...?
They were punched down too - and began punching down - to bitterly establish themselves in this hierarchy, as high up as they could. Then another wave - Irish.
Punched, punching down.
All desperately vying for relative dominance among the rest.
In Europe, Asia, South America, hierarchies were long established - and broken only by revolution.
America was the only
nation where this constant reconstruction of hierarchy happened to
such a degree, over and over again. Hence, the establishment of
cruelty as a way of life - how else but to establish one's self
above the next wave of migrants?
But to be above requires someone else to be below. And so there was a constant battle for relative position within a growing hierarchy - hence, dominance, competition, conquest soon became the prized cultural values, norms, and institutional goals.
Cruelty as a way of life
But greater hierarchies require greater cruelty to climb up, too.
And the irony is that all
this is what the despised came to America to escape.
Today's servant wants to be tomorrow's
master. Today's peasant wants to be tomorrow's landlord. Today's
victim aspires to be tomorrow's oppressor.)
People were learning to "punch down", as we might put it today. Americans were being taught to take out their anger, rage, and fear on those less powerful than them - usually, the most obvious and immediate ones they could find.
An Irish mutt bastard
moved into the neighborhood? Get them. No Chinamen allowed. Those
Italians? We've got to move them out of our city. Intern those
People who had been hated
and outcast had status and belonging at last - but only by punching
down the next wave. So no mechanisms ever really developed to allow
the Promised Land to be shared wisely, well, or reasonably. Might
But they were not very successful - because they were fighting a history of cruelty that they did not really understand: one that went to the heart of what it means to be American itself.
So they never really said:
How sad. How funny...
Americans came to a Promised Land - but they could not escape themselves. Each new wave, trying to rise above the next, built a world even more cruel than the old one.
Punching down, down,
We are punching all the way down to our little five years olds.
Life expectancy falling? Can't have healthcare - let them self-medicate with opioids. We are punching down to the poorest. Education cost a fortune? Too bad, take out debt. We are punching down to our young people. I could give you endless examples.
But perhaps you get the
point by now.
An attitude of cruelty was born. And so today cruelty is the point of its institutions, the purpose of its norms, and the linchpin of its perverse idea of virtue, that by punishing people, we can better them. It is all that Americans expect from each other - and give to each other.
That is the terrible
burden of a Promised Land that history's despised warred
among one another for domination of.
But without lifting one
another up, a society cannot grow in quantity or quality of life.
This, too, is what happened to Soviet Russia.
Like all myths, that one - was a lie that revealed the truth:
A Promised Land is like a Garden of Eden...
But who can live in the Garden peacefully but angels? Human beings, flawed, indelicate things, are only meant to be cast out - they are ever in conflict, in tension, hungry and ravenous.
And that is never truer
than for their most despised - who need to be healed most, or else
will ravage their Gardens worst.
The name of this war is cruelty. But the end of this war is not victory, but collapse. I don't say any of this to blame, shame, or judge.
But only so that,
perhaps, this history of violence can at last be reckoned with...