Global Trauma and Sustainability: Systems of power, control, individual and group culpability


There is a particular expression of the American corpus that has produced an effect that has broad and potentially combustible ramifications for the near-future of the nation. Many people have spoken for and against it over the entire history of the nation. People have marched for and against it, have died because of it, have left and come to the country in disgust by and for it. It was written into the constitution, was scientifically justified by generations of researchers, was endorsed by the elite and accepted as the natural order of things by the majority of the population.  It is considered to be the damning curse and also the great promise of this country by different populations.

It is an expression that has existed across the world in its most virulent aspects most particularly in the modern era, but in different forms and fashions throughout recorded history. It has resulted in the most extensive diffusion of different populations from disparate parts of the world to other regions; has contributed to the highest rate of cultural synthesis in world history and the creation of a world-wide sociological trending toward unification of diverse peoples. It is the foundation upon which the modern world is built. It is an expression of a natural tendency towards evolution based upon a fundamental dynamism shared by every level of biological interactivity on the planet and probably beyond.

Charles Darwin’s seminal text, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life,  was published in 1859. It represents the triumphant ascension of the supremacist paradigm to the zenith of scientific and cultural science – in the forms of social darwinism and biological determinism – relegating the majority of the world’s melanated people to the status of sub-human. They were – and by many, still are – considered to be remnants of the earliest phases of human evolution and this was the common belief held by both educated and uneducated in the West during those decades of pseudo-scientific declarative renunciation of the rest of the human family.  But this was not the beginning of what we now call racism.

The formal beginning of racism as we currently understand it was in the mid to late 1600s in the colonies of the Americas. It was at this point that the concept of “Whiteness” was formulated as a strategy to divide and conquer. Prior to that time period, no Europeans referred to themselves and other Europeans as a white race. There existed many ethnic prejudices that were expressed as national differences. The populations of core nations such as Great Britain, Germany and France, were often considered of a higher and more racially pure status than those of periphery counties like Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece. Centuries passed with the European nations at each others throats, slaughtering each other in wars of commerce and aggression, with no agglutinating paradigmatic construct like “Whiteness” to bind them as one cohesive cohort.

Also, in the Americas, slavery had not yet been formalized as a race-based institution.  African and European Indentured Servants shared status, working off indebtedness on plantations and in households and businesses, after which point they obtained their freedom. As an oppressed population that shared common cause against the depredations of the Elite, it was collectively decided by those upper classes that certain incentives would be offered to those who were of European heritage. So the formerly indentured servants were offered jobs as slave drivers, as free labor, as overseers. They were placed on the slave patrols, were given legal status, were offered monetary pittances and free land in exchange for maintaining the system of supremacy that served the needs of the Elite to maintain their hegemony and control over the means of production.

This strategy of co-optation was successful beyond their wildest dreams. It resulted in a continuously perpetuating system of institutional, economic and cultural domination that has remained in place unto this day. The grand deception that the Elite were able to accomplish – by appealing by way of economic necessity to the lower-class European masses – was that they diverted attention away from the reality that they were still being oppressed and controlled. Instead of fomenting mass rebellion against the Elite by waging war against them with those black and red peoples that shared their lowly economic status, they chose instead to accept the tenets of white supremacy and to reinforce the social order by dominating other races by any means necessary up to and including mass murder and genocide.

The psychological ramifications of this institutionalization of supremacy has been devastating to the descendants of the oppressed and the oppressors alike. Over the centuries since this time period, white and black and every shade of human diversity in between has suffered deep and intense psychological trauma in relation to the inhuman requirements of maintaining a system of deep inequality and injustice.

In relation to the oppressor population, the need of the individual and the group to justify and rationalize their perceptive ascendancy mandates a psychological break with reality. There arises the necessity of denying the evidence of your own perception, a steeling and quelling of the emotions when witnessing the abject brutality of slavery, the Black Codes and Jim Crow, successive iterations of white supremacist domination leading up to the modern era of institutionalized and sublimated expression of racial preference and multiculturalism.  Among the descendants of both Elite and common Americans whose ancestors lived during those times, we see legacies of dysfunction and emotional paucity, of physical abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse passed down through the generations.  The psychological and emotional trauma of participating in group domination plagues many individuals who have participated in such throughout their life-spans. The regret, the guilt, the sheer pain of enduring multi-generational lifestyles of constant and implied brutality and inhumanity, of maintaining thought processes, habits and traditions that deny the Other their basic humanity have resulted in a deadening of emotive capacity, have desensitized generations and have informed our current American popular culture which continues to glorify brutality and inhumanity.

For the oppressed population, centuries of directed genocide and dominance by individuals, groups and societal institutions results in a form of multi-generational post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), which is typified by generalized feelings of anger, despair, depression, moodiness and, also, breaks from reality.  The intensity and brutality of living under a system of constant psychological and physical degradation and dominance produces generations of people constricted in possibility and potential by the limitations placed upon them by the system.  Personal and group development then is also limited to activities that do not impinge upon the controller apparatus. Historically, economic and political power and success were denied to members of oppressed minority groups, as was the ability to fully control their own destinies.  The evolution of the controller system of white domination allowed for moderated expressions of excellence in the arts, sports and culture. Certain individuals, well aware of their place within the system, were allowed a certain modicum of economic and political success as well.  But for the vast majority of those members within those racial and ethnic groups deemed Other by the system, the simmering anger and experience of continual injustice made them unfit for inclusion within the system. And for these denizens of the lowest castes, the desperate and destitute, the process of deliberate and race-based criminalization and the institutionalization of the nationwide prison industrial complex following the Civil War limited their freedom of expression and movement in ways quite similar to the era of overt racialized slavery, with results that are all too evident today.

All of these tensions co-exist simultaneously within the American corpus as it has evolved into the modern era.  According to modern geneticists, trauma experienced by ancestral lines can be passed down through the genetic code to succeeding generations.  The implications of this revelation are that present generations of Americans – many of whose ancestors have lived upon this continent for hundreds of years – continue to express the ongoing horrors of previous centuries of oppression and domination.  For those populations whose ancestors arrived later, adapting to the cultural and institutional mores of American society and adopting the attitudes and mentalities implicit therein has resulted in a similar if less intensive experience of ongoing genetic trauma that continues to plague individuals and collectives in this country.

With the onset of the Civil Rights Era in America in the 1960s and the simultaneous uprising of oppressed colonial nations around the world, a shift occurred in the overt expression of the supremacy system. Decolonization and remote economic domination continued the old patterns of exploitation, but the rhetorical tool of Universalism was employed in order to pacify the global polity, then in revolt against European hegemony and the concept of ethnic superiority. In the succeeding decades, there have been continuing efforts to diversify media, business, education and residential neighborhoods in America and across the Western world.  These efforts at mediating the historically-programmed thought processes and behavioral patterns of the system were then shifted from the lower expression of outright brutality and oppression to more subtle forms of control. And yet, the original patterns of thought and behavior remain, roiling just beneath the surface of normative expression.

Trauma exists within every racial and ethnic group in the United States. Living under the auspices of an institutional command and control system that dehumanizes and promotes division and separation and that also requires a group-based oppression of out-groups perpetuates what has become a nigh subliminal form of depersonalized racism wherein certain stereotypical traits of said out-groups held in common serve to continue the historical oppression of earlier decades and centuries. And even within the context of increasing availability of knowledge and the world-wide dissemination of computer technology and the internet, the topic at the heart of division world-wide remains foundational to the problems we face today.

Global issues of sustainability, of equity, of consumption all have at their heart the same issues of fear, groupthink, abject compliance, greed, convenience and power-mongering that forms the very core of the global white supremacy system. That caused so many thousands of previously indentured European servants to make the choice to collaborate with their overlords in the continuing domination and suppression of blacks and reds and, later, yellows and browns to various extents.  It is these same issues of fear, groupthink, abject compliance, greed, convenience and power-mongering that express themselves today in corporations, business, social groups and neighborhoods as those still bound in thought and action to the system – and its perceived benefits and elevated status – continue to attempt to uphold it even as its structure crumbles and dissolves beneath the combined weight of an increasingly diverse global consciousness and the repercussions of centuries of built-up backlog of failed economic and political strategies whose final refutation by the global polity is nigh.

Breaks from reality. Barely sublimated anger. Depression.  Bipolar swings, arising, seemingly, from nowhere. Populations heavily sedated both medicinally and recreationally. Violent and shallow, unwilling to look within, because what they find there is too dark and damning to behold in the light. These conditions plague modern humanity all across the world for disparate surface reasons, but possessing the same underlying and fundamental significations related to a primary divorce from nature. The separation of humanity into the pyramidal form of race-based command and control fosters and facilitates this division to the detriment of the entire species and the world. But, despite the sheer, overwhelming preponderance of these seemingly insurmountable problems and, amidst the pervasive mundanity of these unquestionably negative externalities and internalities, people continue to come together. Continue to find love across class, ethnic, national and racial lines. The world continues to diversify. Continues to evolve.

And the global shift in consciousness marches on. More and more previously subservient descendants of those invested in the supremacy system are awakening from the illusory dream of dominance and control, realizing that they and their ancestors were tricked, bamboozled, led astray, to quote the words of a famous revolutionary.

And yet, we currently cohabitate a time in space of extraordinary potentiality. A choice-point, wherein those who support the continuing natural evolution of the human family must take a stand against those who seek to perpetuate the system of inequality and domination.

A choice must be made. A choice that will decide the future of humanity on this planet. Whether or not we will follow the path the Elite have set out for us by continuing down the path of inevitable destruction, or choose the path that nature has set out for us, becoming a more perfect union of races and ethnicities, co-existing in respect and harmony with each other and the world.

It is an individual choice that will inform and guide the collective choice. Determining where we each stand in relation to this choice reveals our own orientations and priorities. Will America and the world explode in violent confrontation as a result of these encompassing stressors? Or, will we transcend the past by making different choices? Making the decision to reconcile our genetic lines by actively and consciously guiding our expression toward the greatest good of the whole releases the sublimated detritus accumulated across centuries of embedded trauma.

Free will remains paramount. The gift and bequeathment of consciousness that no one and nothing can gainsay.

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4 Comments

  1. Great article, Son….You write like an historian in this article…. Of course, there is hardly any difference between the historian and the geographer, except for the natural science in geography, since they are both in Social Sciences…Keep up the great work!!!!!!! Love you all……….

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