In Why Can’t People Feed Themselves?, Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins reveal that the majority of cultures have been disrupted and regressed by imperialistic colonialism, resulting in retarded agroeconomy and a scarcity of foodstuffs.
Handfuls of cultures have created abundance and material wealth through exploitation of agriculture, but it was often at the expense of colonies whose resources were vampirized by giant, imperial, blue-blooded squids. It isn’t the attitude or the culture’s mentality that is preventing them from agrarian stability- it was the purposeful exploitation of the indigenous peoples under the yoke of colonial overlords.
Mitt Romney’s recently leaked and clandestinely filmed video where he riffs on the differences between Israeli and Palestinian cultures exemplifies this jingoistic fallacy, as he reconciles the diminished status of Palestine to their poor work-ethic and second-class culture, while ignoring the crippling dominion and hegemony of Israel over Palestinian infrastructure and livelihood. This laissez faire exceptionalism is the textbook attitude of far-right neo-fascist Americans. Noam Chomsky elaborates this oppression in his very recent article My Visit to Gaza, the World’s Largest Open-Air Prison.
Not only did colonialism destroy the extant mechanisms of native agriculture, it systematically froze any attempt towards it that didn’t directly bolster the coffers of the Empire. The authors are quick to draw distinctions between ‘conspiracy’ and the rampant avarice of the moneyed, royal, and mercantile castes.
I would argue that if imperial strategies and tactics of the past are any indication, both money (via colonially grown goods) and destabilizing the indigenous were key aims. This is reminiscent of Middle Eastern destabilization that serves to facilitate access to oil and minerals, while also landing us geography vital to America’s one-world imperial campaign against China. It should be noted that the rival Abrahamic faith of the middle-eastern peoples is also a concern of the mostly-Christian conservative right.
The tools of this systematic oppression and agrarian parasitism were simple. Resources, both natural and of human capital, were applied to cash crops that did little to nothing for the subsistence of the indigenous. Instead of ‘mixed crops’ and fallowing, the most expensive crops at the least shipping weight were grown and whisked out of the territory to be sold in insular marketplaces. Staple foodstuffs such as rice and yams were replaced with cocoa and peanuts, sugar and coffee. This was de facto starvation and de jure theft.
While some might argue that the British-funded public works enabled more agricultural production, it did little to help the local peoples as the cash crops didn’t feed them. Exacerbating this blood-letting was the direct takeover of land and forced labor to operate large-scale plantations.
In Africa people toiled for British exports ‘literally under threat of guns and whips’. Taxation was the primary tool of motivation / force. Taxes on cattle, land, houses, and the population itself forced them to work for plantations, the only issuers of the local coinage, of which the taxed were required to be paid in. There were multitudes of tactics used to force or incentivize locals to labor against their base interests, most revolving around subsistence, violence, and taxes.
What can we learn from this? Can we extrapolate upon this revelation to reevaluate the lower-caste peoples in America, and how our actions (chattel slavery comes to mind) have stratified our society along racial lines? Should this alter our foreign policy? At the very least this should teach us to search out the causality of the phenomena we criticize while lounging in our continental McMansions.
As someone once told me: “You are not your situation.”
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Everett Tucker is the creator and editor of Mystic Politics. He is condescending, overconfident, under-educated, and extremely interested in exploring religiopolitical overlap, the psychology of belief, and the conspiratorial tropes & memes- real or otherwise- of popular culture. Signup for email updates to be notified of future Cultural Anthropology hack work.
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