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War of the flea
Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2001

( Bukka Rennie ) What a world! What could the perpetrators of last Tuesday's dastardly, devastating horror of the levelling of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, symbolic seats of American capitalism and military might, really hope to gain?

They hope that America will eternally be true to its history and its national psyche. They hope that America, just as was the case in the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, will bomb the Arab regions into smithereens, confiscate the properties of Arab-Americans and imprison them in concentration camps, that the American news media with all their famous anchor-personnel will work their people's emotions to the hilt and whip up a frenzy given their penchant for melodrama, that American people will vent their spleen on their Arab-American neighbours, beating them up and, with the help of the police force, kill Arab-Americans in the street, etc.

The strategy of the powerless against the powerful is always about crawling into the bowels and hair of the powerful to create and foster internal animosity and strife, to expose the powerful-stupid bully with the big stick who paints all and sundry with a broad brush and who, in so doing, creates greater multitudes of victims and more harm to his own interests. It is all about utilising time and space to gain will and build resolve. It is the war of the flea.

Only time will tell if America once again will prove to be true to its past. So far, there is not much coming from American leadership to suggest that they have woken up. They seem hell bent on continuing to police the world, to beat everyone into shape and to "get rid of the low-down dirty dogs". They still seem not to understand who and what they are up against.

The pet labels of "terrorists" and "cowardly-criminals" against "freedom", etc can no longer fit the bill. Such labels are merely escapist mechanisms geared to prevent people, all of us, from facing up to the responsibility of asking the real questions: who are these people and why have they concluded that only such ultimate, desperate acts done in the name of their God can get the world to pay heed to their realities and human condition?

Only human beings, precisely because of our sense of reason and intelligence that connects past, present and future, can plan and commit such acts. Animals possess no such capacity.

If you take the view that all the alleged enemies of America are "non-people", infinitely evil, without any "truths" of their own, and if the people in the Arab regions were to do likewise, seeing all US citizens as ungodly "ugly Americans", then the whole world will never progress beyond this point.

We need at this time, particularly after Tuesday's debacle, to recognise and pay homage to each other, even to the "fleas" and the "mole-crickets" of the earth. They are people too!

Globalisation means exactly that. No one must be excluded and marginalised. No longer is anyone innocent, we are all responsible for each other and the sustainability of each other's human presence. Everybody has to be empowered to function.

There can no longer be any one group or any one nation policing the whole world for the sake only of its particular and specific political-economic interests. That will no longer be tolerated. There can no longer be "power" without "morality".

The late James Baldwin, probably the author with the most insightful analyses of the American psyche, said the following in his treatise titled "No Name in the Street":

"...In the under-developed nations... the most dedicated of the natives are driven mad or inactive or underground by frustration; while the misery of the hapless, voiceless millions is increased and not only that: their reaction to their misery is described to the world as criminal...

"Moreover as habits of thought reinforce and sustain the habits of power, it is not even remotely possible for the excluded to become included, for this inclusion means, precisely, the end of the status-quo.

"For power truly to feel itself menaced, it must somehow sense itself in the presence of another power or, more accurately, an energy which it has not known how to define and therefore does not really know how to control...

"For a very long time, for example, America prospered; ...this prosperity cost millions of people their lives... (America) cannot, or dare not, assess or imagine the price paid by their victims, or subjects, for (America's) way of life, and so they cannot afford to know why the victims are revolting. They (the Americans) are forced, then, to the conclusion that the victims the barbarians are revolting against all established civilised values...

"This is a formula for a nation's or a kingdom's decline, for no kingdom can maintain itself by force alone. Force does not work the ways its advocates seem to think it does. It does not, for example, reveal to the victim the strength of his adversary. On the contrary, it reveals the weakness, even the panic of his adversary, and this revelation invests the victim with patience.

"Furthermore, it is ultimately fatal to create too many victims... and as the honour roll of victims expands, so does their will become inexorable; they resolve that these dead, their brethren, will not have died in vain... (and) they realise, having endured everything, that they can endure everything..."

That was written back in 1969-1970. Baldwin is quite correct. What America faces today is not a "power" but an "energy", a morality that emerges out of decades of victimhood, a morality that emanates from the hopelessness of a particular human condition that have made certain people faceless and invisible, existing even today, in some instances as in Palestine, in caves and refugee tents, and who are quite conscious that their invisibility is their greatest strength, and that since they eke out existence out of nothing, can endure anything.

Will the big and the powerful-stupid ever learn? When General Giap told America that if they invaded Vietnam they will have to fight everyone from age nine to 99, McNamara, reputed to be of quite high IQ, laughed and suggested that no one running around all day in pajamas could defeat the greatest military power in the history of the world.
It is said that America dropped more bombs in Vietnam than the total dropped in both world wars and they were still defeated. American soldiers in Vietnam never saw who they were fighting until the evacuation of Saigon.

The logic of the typical powerful-stupid had been that if the Viet-Cong were hiding behind "trees" then they will remove the "trees". "Agent Orange" was the defoliant employed and the its carcinogenic effect is still today reeking havoc on veterans of that war.

We all must learn and learn fast, no matter how much our sensibilities are offended, the big-stick, broad brush powerful-stupid response is always counter-productive. Forget all the nonsense propaganda about people wanting to take away "America's freedom" and "destroy the civilised world", nothing could be further from the reality. America represents a benchmark in humanity's long march, and the point is that no one wants to be left out.

Gandhi was prophetic when he spoke words to the effect that: "The significance of nations should be measured not by their power and control over others but by their kindness and willingness to co-operate for mutual development."

That bigness of spirit is what is now essential, if not, we all may fly off the handle, engaging in prolonged, never-ending warfare, wondering, after each smooth, effective strike on either side, about whose God is more God. Then it's back to the stone-age days of crusades and infidels.

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