Quarantine Diaries – Day 10
March 24th, 2020
It’s day ten and we’re now into double-digits. Hopefully these diaries will become unnecessary before I have to add another zero. Who knows if I have a hundred or so of these things in me, but what I’m absolutely sure about is that I’d rather keep writing than doing nothing during this lockdown—the creativity will be there; I’m just not sure about my ability to tolerate home.
Today presented another necessity to go out and buy food. My brother decided to stay in and follow his online classes, so I went alone. Last time, the line to the big supermarket was too long; however, I decided to give it another try this afternoon. To my surprise, things were relatively calm—only two people in front of me.
It only took ten minutes just to enter the store—ah, the quick, efficient service of the western world. No more waiting for hours just to buy a loaf of bread in Soviet Ukraine—just ten minutes of patience will allow you to exploit all the benefits that the free world has to offer; after all, we’re not like these barbarians who’ve just acquainted themselves with capitalism.
Just look at them receiving the appetizer to the eventual shock therapy that Russia would have to endure as a result of the USSR’s collapse, which forced Moscow’s transition to capitalism (about one year after McDonald’s served the hors d’oeuvres to free enterprise, so to say); the transitional phase ended up becoming quite profitable for many in the US, including many luminaries from Harvard.
According to Institutional Investor, a New York City based global financial research magazine founded in 1967, “Harvard botched a historic opportunity. The failure to reform Russia’s legal system, one of the aid program’s chief goals, left a vacuum that has yet to be filled and impedes the country’s ability to confront economic and financial challenges today.” To no one’s surprise, Harvard aggressively defended its work in Russia, and why wouldn’t they? So many people associated with the university profited from the crisis that Russia was undergoing at the time.
It’s perhaps relevant here to step back and really put the situation into perspective: Russia was enduring shock therapy to make the transition from communism to capitalism—an entirely foreign paradigm of economic existence awaited 140 million people. Let’s flip the scenario, however: What if the Soviets had witnessed the collapse of the US and Washington was forced to make the transition from capitalism to communism? We would never have heard the end of it. Why is Russia always blamed for everything even when the the US is fucking things up in Russia?
And what about Russia’s influence on US elections four years ago? Well, it turns out that the US actually interfered with Russia’s elections in 1996. Quickly realizing the value of Yeltsin as a good team player (more correctly a puppet they could control as they pleased), Clinton didn’t miss a beat, telling Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott: “I want this guy to win so bad it hurts.” Of course, it helped that this guy—Yeltsin—was a raging alcoholic (while staying at the White House, he once tried to hail a cab in his underpants because he wanted a pizza) and would prove to be a disaster for his country; however, that wasn’t really a problem for the US because antics like that are exactly what they wanted—to make Russia the laughing stock of the world.
Now, Putin is in power—we don’t like him because he’s authoritarian and hard to control; however, the real reason we hate him is because he can’t be used as a puppet—the authoritarian part doesn’t bother us a bit. Indeed, Yeltsin was just as corrupt when he accepted that ten billion dollar loan from Clinton, which he fraudulently misused and distributed to his inner circle—the IMF, of course, turned a blind eye to everything.
Yeltsin’s actions aren’t so different from what Putin might do, but we’ve always liked leaders we can control, hence our support for capitalist dictators like Muboto Sese Seko and our complete willingness to overthrow democratic governments like those of Salvador Allende. Time called the former an “archetypal dictator” and he enjoyed US support while Allende was a democratically elected president who died in a coup supported by the CIA. In the interest of time, I won’t discuss Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, but his story is no different than Allende’s.
I’m rambling again—I know. What’s the point? What’s the point? The point is development and I’m taking a course on the topic, along with human rights. I’m a supporter of human rights but I don’t believe that human rights are in any way connected to development.
Vinay Lal, a respected UCLA scholar whom I quoted in a separate article, had this to say about the topic in one of his articles: “More people have been killed in the name of ‘development’ this century than have been killed by all genocides put together.” Indeed, progress and the “civilizing mission” have done their share of work; just one example of this progress is described by The Guardian as the “hidden holocaust” of King Leopold II’s colonial efforts in the Congo; that’s at least ten million people right there. I won’t bore you with the British in India, the Spanish in the Americas, and the Dutch in the East Indies. Indeed, no one cares about history anyways, especially when the pages have blood on them.
Indeed, the way Marx’s ideas sound very good on paper but were, and continue to be, almost impossible to implement in real life, so the lofty ideals outlined in Truman’s Inaugural Address, for example, have brought atrocities and crimes of their own; they won’t stop anytime soon either.
To maintain its superiority, the US must interfere in every affair and overthrow anyone or anything which doesn’t serve its interest—whether it’s dictatorships or democracies alike. “Freedom comes at a heavy price,” said every US president from George Washington to Donald Trump, and those who didn’t say it certainly behaved that way.
The truth is that the discourse of development turns history into a strictly temporal concept, almost a mechanical process; it strips the discipline of any humanity and morality, at least from the perspective of those on the receiving end of this so-called “development.” This approach leaves the recipient with nothing but time to quickly meet the goals that have been imposed on them.
In that sense, underdeveloped nations are thus charged with the duty to acquire the “traits” of developed ones—whether they like it or not. Native peoples are always living out someone else’s history under development. In the past, for example, the colonized were forced to adopt the dress and religion of white people; today, the “underdeveloped” are forced to adopt the spending habits of whites. No, colonialism isn’t over—its new name is development.
To draw a parallel: Developed nations are like wonderful parents who tell their children—the underdeveloped nations—that they can only become doctors or lawyers. Just look at Haiti; it was once the richest colony in the New World, and perhaps even the world.
In 1801 it became the first country in the New World to abolish slavery. According to Newsweek, however, “Haiti’s fortunes ebbed when the 20th century brought three decades of American occupation, multiple corrupt regimes, natural disasters, environmental devastation, and the scourge of HIV.” Yes, it’s not all the Yanks’ fault, but for some reason, the phrase “American occupation” always seems to produce a domino-effect of troubles for any country they occupy.
Like communism, capitalism and the “development” associated with it likewise are only feasible on paper. Yes, the discourse itself is quite capable of including others in a democratic way (the way communism promised to liberate workers but has yet to do so); however, both philosophies ultimately bring realities to the ground which are quite different from the ones they presented on paper; thus, neither policy is really free because it still “imposes” its philosophy on the “natives” and then destroys its populace; in the case of communism it becomes authoritarian while capitalism ends up ravaging society through massive inequalities and exploitation.
The best way, perhaps, to summarize the absurdity of capitalism is with the following picture. Take a look at these bikes on sale—in a grocery store. Is anyone really going to buy them?
I don’t know. They seem to be good ones but last time I checked, we’re in a quarantine; we’re supposed to stay at home. It’s not really the time for riding bikes; however, the (free) market doesn’t seem to disagree. The (free) market is hungry for profit; it wants to eat as well. Get yourself a bike, signore e signora! To hell with the quarantine. Be free and ride!
All the way from quarantined Italy: I may seem crazy now, but in a month everyone here will be no different.
Until next time.
About David Garyan
David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with a full collection, (DISS)INFORMATION, with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.