Published on Eric Walberg.com, by Eric Walberg, May 10, 2011.
To young people today, the world as a global village appears as a given, a ready-made order, as if human evolution all along was logically moving towards our high-tech, market-driven society, dominated by the wealthy United States. To bring the world to order, the US must bear the burden of oversize defense spending, capture terrorists, eliminate dictators, and warn ungrateful nations like China and Russia to adjust their policies so as not to hinder the US in its altruistic mission civilatrice.
The reality is something else entirely, the only truth in the above characterization being the overwhelming military dominance of the US in the world today. The US itself is the source of much of the world’s terrorism, its 1.6 million troops in over a thousand bases around the world the most egregious terrorists, leaving the Osama bin Ladens in the shade, and other lesser critics of US policies worried about their job prospects.
My own realization of the true nature of the world order began with my journey to England to study economics at Cambridge University in September 1973. I decided to take the luxury SS France ocean liner which offered a student rate of a few hundred dollars (and unlimited luggage), where I met American students on Marshall and Rhodes scholarships (I had the less prestigious Mackenzie King scholarship), and used my wiles to enjoy the perks of first class. The ship was a microcosm of society, a benign one. The world was my oyster and I wanted to share my joy with everyone.
But I was in for a shock. Cambridge was also a microcosm of society, but a very different one. My friends at Cambridge included many Latin Americans, and the tragic events of that September 11—the US-orchestrated coup against Salvador Allende in Chile—were what I was to cut my political teeth on. The look of despair on the face of a Chilean friend, suddenly a refugee whose friends and family were now in peril, was etched in my memory. That began my path of study and activism, and drove home to me the essence of the world political and economic system. Imperialism was not an abstraction, but a devastating force that destroyed good, idealistic people, whole peoples. Enemies of imperialism must be reconsidered, in the first place, the Soviet Union, which until then I had accepted as a dangerous and evil force in the world.
I immediately began studying Russian and was determined to experience Soviet reality from the inside. The “Soviet threat” was the pretext for Nixon’s undermining the Chilean revolution. It was the pretext for the blockade of Cuba. It was the pretext for the horrors the US was inflicting on the Vietnamese. Was it really the evil empire which I had been indoctrinated into fearing and loathing my entire life? I had to find out for myself.
Looking back on this turning point in my life, I can only marvel at the few slight breathing spaces in the Cold War that allowed people to reject the capitalist paradigm, to realize who the real enemy is. As opposed to Thatcher’s TINA (There Is No Alternative) —There Was An Alternative (TWAA)! Fear of this ‘enemy’ quickly evaporated among intelligent mainstream people in the West during the periods of detente (1941–48, 1963–68, 1973–79). These brief respites were tactical retreats in the long-term fight by imperialism, biding its time … //
… I am fortunate to have lived my life on both sides of the “Iron Curtain” and now in the heart of the supposed enemy today—the Islamic world. This has given me the opportunity to experience alternative realities, to step back from my western heritage and see more clearly how the western world confronts and plays with other countries and cultures. There are many such journeys of discovering by people coming of age politically. I hope my reflections provide readers the opportunity to step back from their frame of reference, and help them understand the games we are forced to play. (full long text).