The Cult of Imperialism: Confronting a Recruiter
by Alex Sheremet
No matter the nature of any given power structure,
resistance to the status quo - whatever it may be - will
exist without question. The most one can hope for is
the establishment of a system that will naturally
limit dissent by creating conditions that are
favorable to not only the majority, but also to the
human collective in its entirety. However, under an arrangement
that is, in essence, undemocratic, parasitic and
subservient to a
fortunate minority, dissent will be visible
only to the extent that the power structure is able to
artificially suppress it.
To deceive such a large mass of individuals into accepting their adverse position requires methodical inculcation by the hands of the institutions that degrade their minds, attack their well-being, play on their externally-induced insecurities, and, finally, force them into a culture of desperation. Fortunately, most do not reach this ultimate stage of desperation, instead approaching and sometimes indulging in the aforementioned psychological insecurities. Those that are fed the conservative party line believe their relative "freedom," their "independence," and their vast "opportunities" make up for whatever stress they are suffering because, after all, the popular mantra continues to insist on the same lie to the point of forcing it to become a cliché-the insistence that America is not only beyond criticism, but also the final stronghold of genuine liberty is a trite proclamation, without substance, not only because it is repeated far too often, but also because it is simply untrue.
Those that believe this mantra with a passion become the patriots - superstitious, emotionally attached to irrelevant abstractions such as a "nation," committed to false ideals of America's interpretation of liberty and equality, and, of course, soldiers for the imperial army, willing to lose their limbs, willing to defend a piece of cloth with stripes marked red and white to represent blood under the disguise of purity, willing to defend some fabric whose fifty stars represent the fifty states whose existence were solely dependent upon the genocide of millions of natives years ago, whose existence is now dependent upon the labor or millions of wage slaves domestically and millions of poverty-afflicted workers kept in perpetual slavery in Africa, Asia and South America, whose children are mining diamonds to make an American bride happy, whose children are losing their hands in gold mines to appease someone else's lust for worthless jewelry, whose men and women are being suffocated in factories that catch fire on a regular basis.
Those that accept the mantra of "liberty" are the patriots that inadvertently support such hypocrisy, too ignorant to understand what they are doing, blinded, without any protest, by the American Dream which, in essence, will never be theirs, and will be kept out of the hands of billions around the world simply for a select few to be able to live such a lavish lifestyle based on opportunism, cut-throat competition, and egotistical insecurities. Those that benefit from such activities are the patriots; they have plenty to be thankful for, and they have much to gain from war and from others' misery.
Amidst the cheering crowds, amidst the jingoists and the loyalists, the adherents to the status quo and the apologists for imperialism, there are those that have been pushed into the background by the prejudiced forces of mixed-market economics. They live in their own culture of poverty, away from the eyes of those that are considered a more profitable investment; they are the "undesirables." They are, on occasion, bothered and brutalized by police patrol cars, but the poor blacks, whites and Puerto Ricans are usually left alone. Their misery is, more or less, not shared by anyone other than those that have been born in the vicinity of the decadent community. But whenever the cut-throat economics force a new turn and whenever any given "servant of the people" decides that capitalism has found a new "host" whose blood can be sucked, the patriots, obeying their "superiors," acting according to the authoritarian relationship they find themselves in, without thinking, proceed towards the despondent and impoverished neighborhoods fully uniformed as military recruiters. The honorable duty is thus being carried out - as ordered.
Sometimes, they are driving in a Hummer, playing stereotypical hip-hop music, with video game consoles and flat-screen television sets, attracting groups of poor desperate whites, blacks and Hispanics. The situation that develops is interesting. The military recruiter attempts to analyze the child that approaches him. Obviously, this recruiter must have a very low opinion of the black male - it is, after all, specifically the black male he is after. "Patriotism" is not enough. Feeding off of racial stereotypes of culture, aesthetics and tradition is invoked. Looking the teenager up and down, he most likely sees nothing more than a future drug dealer, a petty gangster, some kind of street bum, etcetera. If the recruiter would have thought any differently, he would have never approached this boy specifically; he would have never resorted to cheap emulation of hip-hop culture in an attempt to win the favor of this child, and, hopefully, a future member of the rapidly-expanding cult of imperialism.
This is the reality of the situation: the system this teenager finds himself in was forced on him at birth, wrestling opportunity, wrestling, out of his own hands, the prospects for a future and the control over his own destiny, replacing it with an economically-stagnant neighborhood, a crime-infested street corner, possibly a parent addicted to narcotics, and all the other elements that are the sine qua non of anti-social behavior. The recruiter, obviously, understands this and approaches the child, and, to paraphrase what he says, it comes out like this: "We have destroyed every opportunity that was once yours, allowed your mother to fall to crack, created the desire and the ambition that took the lives of your friends, dropped narcotics into your neighborhood, and, like thieves, stole your future. Your only prospects now are to exchange your principles for some profit."
It is possible that such a description may sound like an exaggeration to some, but once the entire structure, the entire arrangement is analyzed, it looks more and more like reality. Nothing supports this claim more than observing the development on your own, especially if it is unfolding in a high school.
I had the opportunity to heatedly interrogate a local cult recruiter a couple of weeks ago. My school, unfortunately, has no policy regarding their entry; they go back and forth as they please, damning the hallways, the library, among other places, with their presence. Usually, I am simply impolite to them, but on this specific occasion I was feeling particularly high-spirited and, after a failed attempt to get them out of my school, also a bit frustrated. I was sitting in the library and a recruiter entered through the doors. I started to raise my voice and was the first individual this man decided to target. I, admittedly, do not look like the stereotypical "intelligent person" involved in politics; my jeans and t-shirts are a few sizes too large for me, my ears are pierced, my head is shaved and I look very much on the "tough" and "rugged" side, a bit unpleasant and mean-spirited. Those certainly are not my actual character traits but, based on image and first impressions, others' prejudices become quite palpable.
I might have looked desperate, like a prospective victim, or simply something else, but I was approached either way. The first sentences the recruiter threw at me were slurred, pronounced with a thick accent, laced with curse words, all without confidence. A disgusting person; shouldn't this American "role model" at least speak properly without resorting to profanity to get his point across? Is that his actual personality, or was he merely attempting to cater to my street appearance?
That, now, is simply irrelevant. I began with some heavy, difficult questions-I specifically mentioned American support of dictators, involvement with the international drug trade, domestic colonialism, international imperialism, and etcetera, and asked him for a justification. Of course, I never received one. I asked him whether any of this was taught and he answered, "I don't know anything about it." After a few more minutes of chatter, I asked him, "Why do you recruit at this school?" His answer was brutal with no attempt on his part at covering up his intentions: "Because the kids at this school are stupid." Thus, here is the problem: a school is in a position where it enrolls children from desperate and poor neighborhoods, and the recruiters show up to simply exploit, not solve, the problem. It is certainly to their benefit.
At this point, I refused to hold back; I ripped his reasoning to pieces, demanded a stop to his hypocrisy, his dishonesty, and, most of all, demanded him to think for himself. The majority of the students in the library were looking at us, and I continued: "You have a fascist mentality!" A mere smile, a reddening of the face, and a move towards another student. For ten minutes he attempted to sign this other teenager up, and, despite his protests, he continued to harass him, pleading, "Just sign your name here, give us your phone number, and we'll contact you; if you don't want us to keep contacting you, simply say so, and we'll stop." A lie, no doubt, and the other student refused to fall for it. After witnessing the exchange between me and the cult recruiter, how could he possibly want to disrespect himself to the point of signing away his principles?
The opportunism is intolerable. The American Empire has effectively constructed a system that hopes to ensure fresh blood for its constant imperial expansions and clearing of international markets for the purpose of maintaining its own economic and political hegemony at the expense of those uninvolved with these disgusting operations. The instructors at the school are of no help as they are, more or less, bourgeois liberals. And what is a "liberal," if not an individual that is in opposition to the "temporary" conservatism, in opposition to a number of political candidates, in opposition to the "new" policies of the "new" administration-but is never in opposition to the entire structure, not radical enough to denounce patriotism, capitalism, and the American Empire?
A liberal deals with politics, not the abolition of politics. That is, in essence, a fundamental problem that cannot be reconciled with the aims of the international free-thinking, radical thought, and socialist movements, movements that focus on progress not only in terms of material conditions but also in terms of the revolution of the mind-both individual and the mass consciousness. Individuals that are against this revolution of human culture and social interaction cannot understand the threat of nation-state hegemony, both domestically and abroad, and cannot understand the threat of the military recruiters attempting to inflict irreparable damage to naïve children with no prospects, no hopes, no dreams nor "wishful thinking" for the future.
It must be emphasized that the future is simply unwritten; these hopes will not reach fruition on their own due to some obscure "natural" laws of social interaction and economics. These things must be actively pursued, worked on, and, most importantly, fought for with no apologies, no covering-up of intentions, and no surrender out of a perception of "difficulty."
After all, the most meaningful changes come about only through constant self-sacrifice.
Alex Sheremet,17, is a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York. Sheremet's activism includes casual and occasional performance of progressive and political spoken-word poetry, involvement with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, an internship with the Democratic Socialists of America, an internship with the Global Youth Action Network, and involvement in the Peer Mediation Program for peaceful conflict resolution, among other things. He can receive feedback at: email@example.com.