During the height and frenzy of the coronavirus pandemic almost two years ago, I published a blog post titled “On Modernity” where I argued that modernity – which encompasses the economic, political, and social system known as ‘colonialism’ – is an attitude and mentality more than anything else. But one should avoid generalizations. Some folks wield such an attitude, and some folks do not. Nevertheless, colonialism and modernity – more than simply being an economic or political system – are actually an attitude and mentality which shape our current reality. Some folks have gone as far as attributing ecological and environmental disasters, in addition to ethnic warfare and extremism, to the attitude and mentality that stems from colonialism and modernity.
When one looks at Afghanistan, for instance, the Taliban were once disparate ‘imams’ confined to villages and the countryside and their role in society was largely confined to leading and overseeing minor religious rituals and rites such as circumcisions, daily prayers at the mosque, burials, and so forth. But with the breakdown of social order resulting from modern phenomena such as colonialism and the Cold War, the Taliban went from being a disparate group of mosque imams to a major political force which is now in charge of their country. Afghanistan is the leading example of how religious and right-wing forces fill the economic, political, and social void left when the actual attitude and mentality of colonialism and modernity manifest to their fullest extent.
Religious and right-wing forces are now active beyond places like Afghanistan and have extended their influence even in places like Europe and the United States. As mentioned before, religiosity and right-wing politics arise largely from a breakdown of social order, and the breakdown of social order results from broader and systemic forces like the extraction and exploitation of people and natural resources on the part of what John Perkins called the “corporatocracy” and thus the ‘high finance’ which backs corporatism and “corporatocracy.” Perkins – in a rather famous book titled “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” – equated his account of the dangers and moral transgressions of corporatism to a “confession” and encouraged others in the corporate world to make their own “confessions.” Perkins wrote:
“Ask yourself these questions. What do I need to confess? How have I deceived myself and others? Where have I deferred? Why have I allowed myself to be sucked into a system that I know is unbalanced? What will I do to make sure our children, and all children everywhere, are able to fulfill the dream of our Founding Fathers, the dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? What course will I take to end the needless starvation, and make sure there is never again a day like September 11? How can I help our children understand that people who live gluttonous, unbalanced lives should be pitied but never, ever emulated, even if those people present themselves, through the media they control, as cultural icons and try to convince us that penthouses and yachts bring happiness? What changes will I commit to making in my attitudes and perceptions? What forums will I use to teach others and to learn more on my own?”
While Perkins admitted that confessing to his experiences as an “economic hitman” who engaged in exploitative colonial and modern practices was “deeply emotional” as well as “painful” and “humiliating,” the confession also led to “a sense of relief” and a feeling that was “ecstatic.” I am also in what is coincidentally a rather unparalleled position of admitting that, indeed, confessing and being frank about one’s experiences in a place like Washington can be therapeutic and can bring immense relief. And while difficult, others should follow suit, lest the global situation either stagnates or deteriorates even further.