Vol. 34 No. 1 1967 - page 52

America was founded on a genocide, on the unquestioned assump–
tion of the right of white Europeans to exterminate a resident, technolo–
gically backward, colored population in order to take over the continent.
America had not only the most brutal system of slavery in modern
times, but a juridically unique system (compared with other slaveries,
say in Latin America and the British colonies) which did not, in a single
respect, recognize slaves as persons.
As a country (as distinct from a colony), America was created
mainly by the surplus poor of Europe, reinforced by a small group who
were just
tired of Europe (a literary catchword of the
eighteen forties) . Yet even the poorest knew both a "culture," largely
invented by his social betters and administered from above, and a "na–
ture" that had been pacified for centuries. These people arrived in a
country where the indigenous culture was simply the enemy and was in
process of being ruthlessly annihilated, and where nature, too, was the
enemy, a pristine force, unmodified by civilization, that is, by human
wants, which had to be defeated. After America was "won," it was filled
up by new generations of the poor, and built up according to the tawdry
fantasy of the good life that culturally deprived, uprooted people might
have at the beginning of the industrial era. And the country looks it.
Foreigners extol the American "energy," attributing to it both our
unparalleled economic prosperity and the splendid vivacity of our arts
and entertainments. But surely this is energy bad at its source and for
which we pay too high a price, a hypernatural and humanly dispropor–
tionate dynamism that flays everyone's nerves raw. Basically it is the
energy of violence, of free-floating resentment and anxiety unleashed by
chronic cultural dislocations which must be, for the most part, ferociously
sublimated. This energy has mainly been sublimated into crude material–
ism and acquisitiveness. Into hectic philanthropy. Into benighted moral
crusades, the most spectacular of which was Prohibition. Into an awe–
some talent for uglifying countryside and cities. Into the loquacity and
torment of a minority of gadflies: artists, prophets, muckrakers, cranks
and nuts. And into self-punishing neuroses. But the naked violence keeps
breaking through, throwing everything into question.
Needless to say, America is not the only violent, ugly and unhappy
country on this earth. Again, it is a matter of scale. Only three million
Indians lived here when the white man arrived, rifle in hand, for his
fresh start. Today, American hegemony menaces the lives not of three
but of countless millions who, like the Indians, have never even
"The United States of America," much less of its mythical empire, "the
free world." American policy is still powered by the fantasy of Manifest
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