THE BLOG

The Myth of the Empire

What connects the many social movements in the world today? It appears that the Occupy movement is part of a larger wave of global resistance against the status quo manifested in specific local forms. As such, the movement includes not only the Wall Street protesters in New York, but also people in Tahrir Square in Egypt, the Pearl-Round-About in Bahrain, the Green movement in Iran, Kuwait City, the West Bank, and places in London, Greece, Italy, and other ongoing campaigns in over eight hundred cities in world. For the first time in history, the demands of global resisters are not just about local or national interests. Nor are they merely against local or national authorities. Instead, they are systemic demands, which the mainstream media cannot comprehend. But for movement participants, the demands are loud and clear: they are local articulations against the corporatist structure of an American-led world order, which rules in the name of American liberal exceptionalism in particular, and the good of humanity in general, but does not represent either of these.

The constitution of the current American liberal order goes back to World War II, during which the United States institutionalized itself as a state-centric global power. At the time, the American empire's constituencies comprised of an alliance of states referring to itself as "the free world." With the rise of Reaganism and the collapse of the Soviet Union, that empire has gradually died and its state-centric corpse was cremated. On the ashes of the old, a neoliberal empire has evolved. This new empire is a corporate-centric alliance. It is made of, by and for corporate bodies. The corporate constituencies of the empire have effectively colonized the political system of all states, especially that of the United States that leads the whole empire but is itself governed by corporatist rules. Although this new American-led empire does not belong to American people, it promotes itself as an American brand manufactured for everyone's consumption. In the process itself, the United States has become the biggest producer of manufacturing security, liberty, and happiness. But more and more people are realizing the fictitious nature of this corporate-centric globalization and are beginning to resist its authoritarian rules.

Indeed, never in the history of previous empires has there been more authority concentrated in the hands of the few over the many. Increasingly, the few assert their authority over the many via corporate rules outside of political debates. The desire to regain political control over the empire is now emerging as the unifying theme for the people who realize, experience, and thus resist the myth-making power of the empire. For the first time in history, the unarmed people of the world are now challenging the military might of the empire from within, rendering its unrivaled military might useless. In so doing, the people are depriving the empire from the power of manufacturing enemies and selling security in exchange for people's liberty.

Experientially, people are realizing that securitization policies mean giving up the expectation of any privacy rights in all securitized public spaces, ranging from crevasses of one's body, home, and mind. Nowadays, securitization includes the use of technologies of policing and surveillance to produce total submission to the status quo. For example, the framing of keeping the public safe from society's radical elements is used not only by the New York Police Department, but also by the Iranian police. The same framing justifies the use of pepper spray on students, mass arrests of occupiers throughout the world, and the total silence of the corporate media -- in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, as well as the United States. Securitization also means militarization of all political differences against countries resisting the empire. For example, securitization of Iran's nuclear program turns into a call for war, but Israel's possession of nuclear weapons does not. Killing of civilians by Syrian government turns into a call for humanitarian war, but the killings of Yemeni, Kuwaiti, Bahraini, Egyptian, Palestinian, and Saud protesters do not. Securitization of life includes fighting terrorism by manufacturing terror and selling it as a political commodity called the war on terror. For example, while the use of suicide attacks for political purposes is called terrorism, the use of high-tech assassination attacks, otherwise known as drone attacks, has become the ideal tool in the war on terror. Meanwhile, drone attacks have terrorized millions of people, killed more civilians than terrorists, and destroyed any hope for political rather than military solutions to political conflicts. But for the empire, the war on terror is merely another war for manufacturing an idea and then selling it to the public. In this war, assassination attacks are now popular because the people never get a chance to see their brutality, illegality, infectivity, and callousness.

Meanwhile, militarized politics remains normal, and the debate about fighting terrorism focuses on the technologies of rendering terror -- low-tech suicide bombing versus high-tech drone attacks or bombing. Nonetheless, the euphemistic references to precision bombing hides the reality of the blood baths they create. But the empire's myth-making power is rapidly losing out to the experiential reality on the ground. As such, the empire's hegemony is declining, not because of less military might, but because of lower productive capacity for creating the image of securing and protection the people. Egyptians, Wall Street occupiers, and other oppressed people in the world no longer buy into the notion that military or police forces are protecting them. Global resisters are creating their own symbolic connections in response to imperial world system. That is why Osama Mahfouz, an Egyptian activist in Tahrir Square, first visited Wall Street protesters when she traveled to the United States. The links between the two local movements were there for everyone to see. Meanwhile, neither the colonized state of Egypt nor that of the United States has the power or the will to speak on behalf of either Occupy movement. It should therefore not be surprising that the resistance is becoming unified, because it is emerging from the belly of the same global and globalizing beast. In short, both the empire and the resistance to it are global in their scopes. While the empire is commercializing or securitizing all political spaces, protestors are demanding equalization of all political spaces.