The new colonialism: what America has done to the world Trump is doing to America


My friend, let’s call him ‘Bill’, read my last couple of columns and asked me if I was feeling angry. Well, no. I’m actually feeling very grateful. I’m in good health. I have a wonderful family that I love and loves me. Our kids are doing well. We have good neighbours. We live in one of the most beautiful places on the continent, with tides at our doorstep and surrounded by peaceful forest.

What I write about doesn’t make me angry. It makes me feel helpless. Like this bit that crossed my newsfeed this afternoon: “World on track to lose two-thirds of its wildlife by 2020.” That’s two years away. Now how are we supposed to react to that? Especially considering that the measure of loss only dates back to 1970.

There was another post in blocky white and yellow type on a black background. “According to Trump: A black guy who shoplifts should be locked up in a Chinese prison for ten years, a black guy who sits during the anthem should be fired, a white guy who rapes a 14-year-old should be in the US Senate.”

I scrolled down. The title: “Video of migrants sold in apparent slave auction in Libya provokes outrage worldwide.” My immediate response was, thanks Hillary and Barack. Toppling Gaddafi easily qualifies as one of the stupidest moves the US and Europe have made in this new century. In case you missed it, Gaddafi transformed Libya into the most progressive state in Africa. It had its own banking system, free education, equality for women, housing support for young families, cheap domestic oil, good roads and infrastructure. Today, the place is a destabilized mess with human slavery rings on the loose, and massive outflows of immigrants pouring across the Mediterranean. Why? Because Gaddafi did not toe the American corporate party line. He was just too independent.

There must be something about Americans and American culture that propagates this total disregard for people in other countries. I can remember listening a nice American kid years ago. “I want to be a sniper when I grow up,” he said. A sniper?

Things may be changing. Teen Vogue—Condé Nast’s online sibling of Vogue—just published an excellent piece on colonialism. The piece opens with this: “Colonialism is defined as ‘control by one power over a dependent area or people’.” It concludes with, “As the world’s top 1% continue to hoard the majority of the earth’s resources, and the unending quest for profit trumps the needs of the majority of people, it becomes clear that colonialism is not just a relic of the past.” But the story fails to even hint at America’s recent military actions in the Middle East. Conveniently, no dots are connected for inquiring Teen readers.

America has laid waste to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. It has assisted in the destruction of Yemen and Gaza. We see pictures of the resulting horror, not too much about the actual causes. Or the millions killed and displaced. Back home, the money spent on US wars since 2002 would be enough to eradicate poverty in America, with enough left over to give everyone a free college education and free health care.

Most Americans have never paid much attention to what goes on beyond their borders. But now Americans are beginning to feel the same government-and-corporate-inflicted pain at home. Congress has been working overtime to kill Obama’s mediocre private health care plan; to gut social security for the poor; to hand over access to the internet to media giants; to give the top 1% an enormous new tax break; to hand over even more money to the military; to extend the powers of the surveillance state; to shut down protest and dissent; to further militarize the police; to privatize schools and prisons for profit. Trump and Congress are turning America into a colony ruled by a tiny billionaire class. But Trump is just the visible face of the social wrecking machine that has been running amok since Ronald Reagan.

How does that affect Canada? Our neighbour’s behaviour colours ours. The more we watch them the more we normalize their culture. In response, we become complacent, arrogant and sloppy with our thinking and policy-making. Like continuing to dig up and export more fossil fuels than ever. And patronizing First Nations people while doing very little to change the crisis on the ground.

No, I’m not angry. Maybe I should be—we all should be. Mostly I’m concerned about how much and how quickly we’re losing everything we know and love.

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