It took millennia for the political structures created principally by men to acknowledge the equal prerogatives of women, in some areas of the globe at least. Yet even here, in the enlightened West, the biological residue of an attachment of greater privilege to those who possess the primordial organ of power and pleasure—I mean the phallus, of course—remains so strong that women’s wages and opportunities continue to lag.
And for those lesser creatures of the Earth, man and mankind have taken it upon themselves to plot and chart and subjugate, so much so that now, in the delirium of hegemony, many such creatures and species are being driven to extinction at a rate hitherto attributable only to catastrophic natural events.
So one might say that, from the perspective of the Earth, or Gaia, man’s dominion has indeed been a catastrophe—a catastrophe unique, proving our utter exceptionalism more profoundly than any creed.
Is it so virtuous to be exceptional by dint of power? Every measure of what we call civilisation has in fact been an advance against the primeval or tribal law of power. From Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence, the attempt to prevent the excesses of the powerful against the natural rights of the individual, to mitigate the tremendous advantages of wealth and privilege and the violence they may organise to protect themselves—this attempt has marked one of the noblest endeavours of our kind, however imperfect the outcomes have been.
And yet . . .
Here we are in an age where a few handfuls of billionaires possess more material wealth than a population of billions of less fortunate individuals; an age in which the self-appointed champions—until recently, at least—of the rule of law at home have run roughshod over the remaining world.
I grew up during the shining lie of Vietnam and lived a few short blocks from one of the naval hospitals to which the wounded and wrecked conscripts sent to a tropical country thousands of miles away returned: amputees, paraplegics, addicts, young kids stupefied by senseless murder and grief. But in the gaudy selfishness of youth—and thankfully I was too young for the draft—I never heard their cries, their screams: just the silence of a massive citadel, which all seemed so benign and uninteresting. Eventually I would wake up to the horrors of that infernal and illegal war and understand the looming weight of the hospital complex I had so often jogged around heedlessly. And thanks to Pablo Neruda I would also begin to see the horrifying underbelly of the beast of empire wearing democracy’s clothes as it ripped apart Chile in 1973, just one such enterprise among many.
Then of course came other pearls on the string: the decimation of Yugoslavia, the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, the ongoing visitation of war and misery upon millions, which seems to have no end, and the West’s complicit support for Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinians.
Now however, possibly because such warfare isn’t quite enough, Russia is in the crosshairs. I could never have imagined the irony of attacking a sitting president full of flaws for the one decent thing he might be capable of: peace with a country that, in the past 20 years, has tended its own flock and not sought to conquer and annihilate other national entities. And to those who shout “Crimea” I retort: read about what really happened first.
The Left has been up in arms about transgender rights and the rights of immigrants, legal or illegal—and yes, immigration policies are everywhere and there are laws about immigration for every country, by the way—but absolutely blind to the war machine. We might recall that Athens, the birthplace of (limited) democracy, was a ruthless empire in the Peloponnesian War: privilege at home, horror abroad.
Are they lifting a finger for the stricken Yemenis who are being ravaged by Saudi Arabia, perhaps the world’s most oppressive government with respect to the rights of women and individuals, but the greatest customer of US arms? Are they ‘up in arms’ about the provocations of NATO along the border of the country that lost 27 million people beating back Fascism in WW II? Are they marching against Guantanamo or the Assassination Programme that allows a small group of people act as judge, jury and executioner against anyone they decide to go after anywhere in the world? Are they organising rallies against a financial system that enriches the already filthy rich at the expense of a class that has, at least, aspirations to do some real work?
The battles they like to think they are fighting for—for women and minorities—are really all about the very same and grander war against Power. It is yet another rich irony of our age that this same Left, so much a champion of liberty, are now as ravenous as the right in unleashing the dogs of war.
Then again, maybe they’ve been phonies all along. It sure smells like it.
Dr. Garcia is an American-born writer and physician who now resides in New Zealand.