This description is not only a shoe that fits the feet of the Spaniards who took possession of the islands in the Caribbean, and it not only fits the feet of all Europeans who engaged in imperial behavior by conquering land and people for their king or themselves, it fits the behavior of today's Western nations.
For example, think about one of the most often used defenses for American Capitalism. We are told that it has brought about the greatest wealth in the history of the world. And what is implied by such a declaration is that the argument is over and there is no need to consider any other factors. Thus, we are not to ask at whose expense did our riches come. We are not told about the interventions that installed proxy governments nor are we told about the trade agreements that have caused farmers from other countries to go out of business while trying to compete with our subsidized agribusinesses. And though we hear about the sweatshop labor that manufactures many of the trinkets which we find so captivating, we become personally disconnected from their plight.
Or we could look at how Americans generally regard the Global Warming debate. For if we took the global warming warnings seriously, then we would have to significantly change our lifestyles. We could no longer let profit and consumption reign as king and queen of our economy. Those with wealth, and this would include many from the Middle Class, would have to scale back their lifestyle and, to prevent those who already live in poverty from doing the same, would have to share with others. In fact, our whole country would have to cut back on consumption and even some production in order to give people from poorer countries a chance to improve their lives.
But such is not the American Dream. For the American Dream consists of accumulating as much wealth for oneself as one can so that one can build their own "fantasy island." On that island, luxuries isolate one from the outside world. For the American Dream is about individual success living for oneself. So accepting the warnings about Global Warming will involve giving up on a significant part of the American Dream. Thus, accepting the Global Warming warnings will result in recognizing the welfare of others and making sacrifices for them rather than living just for ourselves. For it means that we buy less for ourselves and try to ensure that others will have more.
Life is simpler when one only has to worry about oneself. And that same life can seem more inviting when it is about accumulating experiences and riches. So when ugly truths about the exploitation of others and environmental problems start to force their way into our field of vision, we see them as a threat to our own status quo and peace of mind. We view these truths as telling us that the party is over and it is now time to get serious. But the party beckons us to stay. We have many more pleasures to experience, the party tells us. And so what we decide to do comes down whether we are willing to say to ourselves, "enough is enough." We have to choose between getting more and settling for less so others can have more. Thus, this choice of ours determines what we will be willing to believe.
- The Devastation Of The Indies; A Brief Account (1542) by Bartolomé De La Casas, printed in Voices Of A People's History Of The United States, edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove, pg 37
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