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Excerpt from The Culture of Make Believe

False Contracts (p. 378)

From chapter "False Contracts"

There are the people of the Third World—the colonies—who are promised better lives if their homelands industrialize, if they enter the world economy. There are indigenous peoples who are promised the same. This morning I read that civilization has just contacted a previously “undiscovered” tribe of indigenous people in Brazil. I wonder what contracts they will be offered, and how long they—the contracts, and the people—will last. I think about the Indians who greeted explorers and settlers with open arms. The Indians who signed treaties. The indentured servants whose terms of enslavement seemed to end only and always in death. And, later, the settlers themselves, who more often than not found themselves defrauded of their money and their lives by corporate spokespeople who told them not to worry about the barrenness of the land they had just bought, that rain would surely follow the plow, or who, to entice peasants from around the world into buying otherwise worthless land, equated, in one example, the climate of Montana to “the mildness of Southern Ohio.” Wave after wave of immigrants arrived in the United States, and wave after wave found themselves despised, exploited, worked to death. The average life span of Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century was six years. The average migrant farmworker in the United States today dies at forty-nine. But wave after wave of immigrants accepted the premises of the American Dream, and so fought other immigrants, who fought them back, fought native poor whites, who fought them back, fought Chinese and free blacks, who often dared not fight them back for fear of raising a fury of a sort only the powerless can feel toward those who have even less power, fought all of these for the opportunity to break their backs enriching those in power.

Those in power, too, have signed contracts just as false, basing their lives on the mistaken belief that power or money or physical comfort equates with safety or security, or “harmony and peace.” Perhaps they live their whole lives so deluded, perhaps they die never knowing what could have been, where they could have gone, who they could have become, had they thrown off the chains they did not know they were wearing, the chains they cannot admit exist, the chains they will kill to keep hidden from their own view. But their ignorance does not belie the truth that humans were not meant to live this way, that one man’s pleasure or profit based on another person’s pain or degradation is pleasure or profit only for those who have objectified not only others but themselves, as well, only for those who have cut not only others but themselves into little pieces.