Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt: Introduction
Joe Sacco and I set out two years ago to take a look at the sacrifice zones, those areas in the country that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement. We wanted to show in words and drawings what life looks life when the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit. We wanted to look at what the ideology of unfettered capitalism means for families, communities, workers and the ecosystem.
The rise of corporatism began with the industrial revolution, westward expansion, and the genocide carried out in the name of progress and Western civilization against Native Americans. It does not denote simply an economic system but an ideology, a way of looking and dealing with each other and the world around us. This ideology embraces the belief that societies and culture can be regenerated through violence. It glorifies profit and wealth. This is why we went to Pine Ridge, South Dakota. It was there that the disease of empire and American exceptionalism took root. The belief that we have a divine right to resources, land, and power, and a right to displace and kill others to obtain personal and national wealth, has left in its wake a trail of ravaged landscapes and incalculable human suffering, not only in Pine Ridge but across the country and the planet. What was done to Native Americans was the template. It would be done to people in the Philippines, Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and it is now finally being done to us. This tyranny and exploitation have become our own.
The ruthless hunt for profit creates a world where everything and everyone is expandable. Nothing is sacred. It has blighted inner cities, turned the majestic Appalachian Mountains into a blaster moonscape of poisoned water, soil, and air. It has forced workers into a downward spiral of falling wages and mounting debt until laborers in agricultural fields and sweatshops work in conditions that replicate slavery. It has impoverished our working class and ravaged the middle class. And it has enriched a tiny global elite that has no loyalty to the nation-state. These corporations, if we use the language of patriotism, are traitors.
The belief that human beings and human societies should be ruled by the demands of the marketplace is utopian folly. There is nothing in human history or human nature that supports the idea that sacrificing everything before the free market leads to social good. And yet we have permitted this utopian belief system to dermic how we structure our economy, labor, education, culture, and our relations foreign nations, as well as how we treat the ecosystem on which we depend for life.
All the airy promises of unfettered capitalism are starkly contradicted in the pockets of despair we visited. The hollow protestations of the courtiers in the media, the government, and the universities, who still chant the official mantra of free markets, have little substance when they are set agains reality. Corporate capitalism will, quite literally, kill us, as it has killed Native Americans, African Americans trapped in our internet colonies in the inner cities, those left behind in the devastated coalfields, and those who live as serfs in our nation’s produce fields.
The game, however, is up. The clock is ticking toward internal and external collapse. Even our corporate overlords no longer believe the words they utter. They rely instead on the security and surveillance state of control. The rumble of dissent that rises from the Occupy movements terrifies them. It creates a new narrative. It exposes their exploitation and cruelty. And it shatters the absurdity of their belief system.
This book, from its inception, was called Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. But when we began, the revolt was conjecture. The corporate state knows only one word: more. We expected a beleaguered population to push back, but we did not know when the revolt would come or what it would look like. We found pockets of resistance, courageous men and women who stood up before the gargantuan forces before them in Pine Ridge; in Camden, New Jersey; in souther West Virginia; and in the nation’s agricultural fields. But the nationwide revolt was absent. It arose on september 17, 2011, in Zuccotti Park in New York City, as we were in the final months of the book. This revolt rooted our conclusion in the real rather than the speculative. It permitted us to finish with a look at a rebellion that was as concrete as the destruction that led to it. And it permitted us to end our work with the capacity for hope.