Of Lies and Empires

by, Joey B. King

 “I have decided to henceforth say nothing that is not true,” said the student.

“I’ll miss your voice,” replied the Zen master.

I discovered the writings of Jeff Knaebel a few years ago. He was a US citizen who left the country of his birth in the mid-1990s for a life of voluntary self-exile in India. His writings were online articles posted onwww.lewrockwell.com. Knaebel wrote a lot about truth and the nature of truth. He equated finding truth to peeling back the layers of an onion; truth being at the core of layer upon layer of lies. Reading Knaebel got me to thinking about truth and lies in my own life. How old was I when I heard/told my first lie?  What are those lies and how did they affect me? Is it even possible to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Why it is so hard to find the truth? How many of us really want to find the truth?

In Knaebel’s case, his search and his great work ended with him going crazy and self immolating himself.

MK Gandhi said that God is truth, and since no man can know the whole truth, God cannot be completely known. Lies and partial truths are all around us as the Zen masters words point out. Friends, family, and lovers have lied to me. I have lied to them. Empires are built on a series of generational lies.

Lies of Empires are particularly nasty because they almost always rely on violence and propaganda.

One lie of Empire concerns transportation, especially in the area of efficiency.

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote about a neighboring farmer who urged him to get a horse to save time on his trips to Boston. Thoreau correctly calculated that he saved time and money by walking from Walden to Boston. The farmer spent half his workweek paying for upkeep on the horse. Thoreau spent about six hours a week walking to Boston. The same economics occurs today with a car. I just never learned to calculate it properly until I was 40. The horse owned the farmer, in the same way as my car owns me.

Just like every small-town, 15-year-old American male, I could not wait to turn 16 so I could drive a car. When I got my first car, I had to pay for the maintenance, gas, and insurance too. My parents thought owning a car developed a sense of responsibility; instead, it encouraged wage slavery and addiction. I am a gas addict.

Speaking from an evolutionary standpoint, humans travel — in harmony with nature — at a speed of about 3.5 miles an hour (around 15 miles per day). Bicycles boost that to 10 to 15 mph (100 miles a day). Human-powered transportation consumes about 2000-3000 calories daily. Cars can never approach that efficiency!

War costs are imbedded in non-human-powered transportation. In Iraq alone, thousands of people were killed. The pump price of oil does not include that. Big oil has the American military to insure the oil keeps flowing. So military costs are socialized and the profits are privatized.

A specific lie of the Empire that affected me personally occurred in 1979 when I was 17. Iranian students took over the US Embassy in Tehran. Mark Bowden, the author of Guests of The Ayatollah, makes the case that it was wrong for the students to overtake the embassy. My mom and I agreed.

Even though it is wrong to attack an embassy, what my mom and I did not know in 1979 was important. We had no clue the US violated “neutral” territory first and lied to us and everybody else in the United States.

In 1953, the Brits were afraid the Iranians were about to nationalize the oil industry. CIA agents Kermit Roosevelt Jr. and Norman Schwarzkopf Sr. orchestrated the first illegal coup in CIA history from the US embassy in Tehran. They installed the Shah. The Iranian people knew the coup was planned from the US Embassy; Americans did not. You can draw a direct line from the CIA’s overthrow to Khomeini’s 1979 Islamic revolution. Events like this are called “blowback” in CIA jargon, and they never seem to do a good job planning for it.

When I started college in 1980, my Mom recommended that I join the Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC), because she was worried there would be war with Iran. The Selective Service System was reinstituted as a response to the student uprising. As I see it, my Army service was a direct result of 50 years of US government lies related to Iran.

Has capitalism ever existed without exploitation? I don’t think so. Today, American capitalism is kept afloat on the backs of Asian and Latin American wage-slaves using raw materials from those regions and from Africa. Chris Hedges calls these places capitalist “sacrifice zones.” MK Gandhi said, “There is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” The actions of addicts and capitalists are similar in at least one respect; neither can get enough. Capitalists don’t mind killing their customers if they can get new customers to replace them.

Several books and articles came out in 2011 on the subject of happiness. One fact was common to these works: There is no measurable increase in happiness in the USA above $40,000 annual income. Every major religion has said that material wealth does not make you happy. It could be argued that the monetary system itself is the biggest lie of Empire.

The economist and author John Kenneth Galbraith said, “The study of money, above all other fields of economics, is one in which complexity is used to disguise or evade truth, not to reveal it.” Henry David Thoreau said, “Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.”

My search for the truth about money led me to the following four places:

First, there’s the book “The Man who Quit Money.” It’s about Daniel Suelo who has lived without money in Moab, Utah since 2000. He’s what you call a renunciate. Their lives are worth studying.

Second is the website www.moneyasdebt.net. It totally opened my eyes.

Third, there’s the radio program, Unwelcome Guests.

Fourth, try out the web archives of an independent radio program called Against the Grain (March 7thedition) and listen to an interview with David Hawkes.

Here is an excerpt:

“…I think Enlightenment certainly sees itself as sweeping away superstition and replacing it all with rationality… (However) It may be that what seems to be the disappearance of magic from the (western) world … is actually the result of the complete triumph of magic. It may be that there is nothing but magic in the world anymore. And the reason why we don’t see it is because we have no vantage point outside it from which we might view it.”

Another big lie of Empire is: “The US is a peaceful nation.” People don’t like to think of themselves as war-mongers. That is why Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech was so controversial.

I once heard an interview with Joe Kline who was pitching a book of his. He said, “We’ve had 60 years of peace and prosperity.” I almost fell out of my chair. Has any country had more conflicts than the US since 1945? The US cannot call itself a peaceful nation. Yet, few within the Empire itself see it as violent. This is a triumph of propaganda.

Sadly, I have contributed through my military service and my taxes to the war machine of the United States. I served the Empire for three years as an army paratrooper on foreign shores. I trained in Panama, Germany, Italy, and Turkey. For that, I’m sorry. I was young and unaware of how my service was part of a violent Empire. I was fortunate to have never served a day in combat.

The first step to end the Empire non-violently is for its citizens to recognize the lies that hold the Empire together and shed the light of truth. We can see some evidence of change on the horizon. The Occupy movement proved that there is an awareness that the Empire is built on lies and violence. The Republican strategist Frank Lunz, was interviewed and said he feared the “One Percent” slogan the Occupy movement had coined. No one seems to have a plan for Occupy Part II. But it will come, and we have no idea what shape it will take. The costs of maintaining the violence and the propaganda systems will become too great for the system to bear. Every other Empire has faded, and ours will soon fade as well.

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