Chapter 3: War for a Small Planet
These book reviews are a way for me to think through what we know of the changes we expect in our climate, and how to respond to them. In particular, I’m focused on actions we can take now to support our future efforts towards a society run on progressive, secular humanist values. I’m new to book reviews, so let me know if you have questions or suggestions. If you want to read along with me, the book is Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, by Christian Parenti
General impression: This chapter concludes the introductory segment of the book, so it’s no surprise that it is solidly focused on the patterns of the last couple centuries that have laid the ground for the crises still to come. Its most chilling lesson for me, though, is how similar the goals and symptoms of counterinsurgency (COIN) are to the current state of both law enforcement and of tribalism in the United States.
All this really is, is an extension of the ancient tactic of “divide and conquer”. COIN takes it out of the battlefield, and employs it at every level of daily life, encouraging prejudices, feelings of aggrievement, worry about access to necessities, and so on. The question is what we do in response to that looming threat, and how, in the future, we can avoid the mistakes of the present and the past.
Soundtrack: ¡No Mas!, John McCutcheon
What can we do in response to this chapter? At risk of sounding like a broken record, study the history of the past couple hundred years, particularly from the point of view of the people at the receiving end of America’s “Greatness”. Many people have pointed out, over the last couple decades, how many Cold War-era figures are still shaping U.S. policy and politics. Oliver North’s recent reappearance in the public view stands as a grim monument to this trend, but it should also serve as a reminder that we’re not just saddled with the criminals of that era, but also the damage they did. Just as decades of U.S. meddling in Iran brought us the current crisis there, the refugees that the conservative movement is so eager to brutalize at our southern border are there, in part, because of U.S. meddling in South and Central America, and the instability we have cultivated there.
It is vital that we not only learn what happened, but also what justifications were made to support injustice and atrocities during that time. As was done during the Civil Rights Movement, people will claim that working for justice is a luxury that cannot be afforded during times of crisis. For those with unjust power and privilege, it will never be the right time for them give that up, and we will not be able to face any challenges as a united species for as long as we are defending injustice in the name of that unity.
Now on to the review!