“Consumer Imperialism” by Charles Potts (Arthur, 2003)

Originally published in Arthur No. 5 (July 2003)

Consumer Imperialism
by Charles Potts


While our attention is distracted by Iraq
Take time to object to some of the other wars
The American empire is fighting concurrently as well, such as
The war in The Philippines, the war in Columbia,
The war in Korea, the war in Afghanistan,
The war in Israel, the war in Pakistan,
The war in Yemen, the war on Terror,
The war on poverty, the war on drugs,
The war on The Bill of Rights,
The war on common sense itself.

The war of America against the world
Can’t be about anything grander than
The president’s pathology and popularity.

Not since King Lear have speakers of English been mislead
By a leader so completely ‘round the bend.
Power is dangerous enough in the hands of ordinary plodders.
In the hands of the crazy and uneducated
The danger expands exponentially.

The last time Congress declared war was 1941.
62 years later the siege mentality still rules.

The 18th century supposition behind the Separation of Powers, ie
Congress shall have the power to declare war;
The president shall be the commander in chief of the armed forces
Presupposed that a declaration of war would precede
Any armed forces to command

Since we devolved to a permanent military
With the president as the commander
We have perpetual war
With Congress towed along like the tail of a kite.

Someday we’ll lift the siege and see
The pitiful men behind the curtains pulling strings.

Consumer Imperialism

In 1946 the Truman Administration cobbled together policy
That will guide America and the United States into a grave:
Stimulate domestic consumption and search for foreign markets.

World War Two propelled Americans across the world
Destroying their distinguished isolation
And Woodrow Wilson’s doctrine of self determination of nations,
Putting Hershey Bars and atom bombs along with GI Joes
Into the world word bank
Along with the great American coinage, OK.

OK can mean anything from yes to you are on your own.
OK, if that’s the way you want it,
OK with me.

It might have been OK if they’d confined domestic consumption to
The simple facts of warm clothes, adequate housing, and nutritious meals,
The need for which food stamp Americans have in common with everybody else.
“One third of the nation is ill fed, ill clothed, ill housed,” FDR declaimed seventy years ago.
It’s still true for radically different reasons one depression later.

In 1946 the American people were hungry to forget
The Great Depression
With its soup lines, dust bowls and railroaded hobos
As the speculated roaring of the twenties simpered out into
The savage thirties whine.

The exact point in the relationship between
Dying early to save the system money and
Working to consume yourself to death efficiently
Hasn’t quite been worked completely out to policy maker’s actuarial satisfaction.

Americans stood 19th century Maytag frugality on its head:
Build it well and make it last,
Darn your socks, grind your wheat, make your own soap,
Do without until you can afford it,
Into a plastic credit card throw away civilization
Destroying the environment on the side as a
Mildly regrettable cost of doing business
Symbolized by the shopping cart in the trough with
Wal-Mart’s predatory criminal labor and retail practices.

In the old days prior to 1946, except for Mexico, Louisiana, Oregon and the Indians,
The United States government had confined its actual imperialism
To the Roosevelt Doctrine’s annual obligatory invasion of Latin America

With a few cruel Hawaiian exceptions such as when their empire of ironic slaughter
Was taken to the limit in Aguinaldo’s Philippines
Led by Teddy Roosevelt’s “secret” admiration of the British Empire

Who goaded American into building a navy
Sufficiently enormous eventually to make the basket catch
Of the British Empire’s bases and other falling stock in the Atlantic Charter.

Post 1946 when imperialism became the way of life
Colonial wars piled up in the history books alongside Syngman Rhee’s Korea,
Hoh Chi Minh’s Viet Nam, Salvadore Allende’s Chile,
And Saddam Hussein’s broken Babylon.

Some of the secret history rarely gets recited in public
Like General Eisenhower’s perpetual overthrow by his CIA Army of
Governments in Guatemala, Iran, Cuba, The Congo, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“It’s about jobs,” George Bush the 1st gesticulated nervously
When asked to rationalize the Gulf War he’d goaded
The allies into reestablishing the British Empire’s toehold on the oily Emirate of Kuwait.

The United States military has been under siege
Real or imagined,
Sometimes both; never neither,
Since the bombing of Pearl Harbor–
Sixty plus years of the war that never stops.

It’s what these southern kleptocrats desire
Under siege like the Confederates
Where they lost the battles and built the shrines
The basis (es) of their military theocracy preys upon.

Semi-Colon half an asshole Powell used to claim with a straight face that
The exit strategy is the most important aspect of Colonial War.
There is no exit from Consumer Imperialism.

Consumer Imperialism, World War 3.1

World War 3.1 was a knife fight at 20,000 feet.
Have your will up to date.

Never lose sight of the fact that the “faith based initiative”
Which took out the twin towers of the World Trade Center
Was carried out by trainees of the CIA once removed
Unleashing a relentless wave of video military fascism.

Win the war on terrorism by training counter terrorists
To terrorize other people in a war on abstract nouns.
Government by sarcasm is an unfit substitute for self rule.
Help wanted: somebody to shovel the horseshit off the information superhighway.
With each side referring to the other side as evil
It makes one wonder if both sides are right.
Evil is that which has power over you.
God doesn’t take sides; that’s what makes God God.
Human beings have no faith in their own story,
So they drag in God as the author of
Their Christian and Moslem shenanigans.

Flying hijacked commercial airliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon
Was a reckless act of freedom
Rather than an attack on it or democracy as claimed by the unelected
President Bush who obtained office by judicial fraud,
Hardly an unimpeachable spokesman for Democracy.

There was no attack on
The Samuel J. Tilden New York Public Library or
The Statue of Liberty.
That would have been an attack on Freedom and Democracy.

The world trade towers were a symbol all right:
A symbol of the Rockefeller brothers’ capacity
To manipulate the public policy of the
New York and New Jersey Port Authorities into
Rescuing some of their down in the mouth real estate
At the lower end of Manhattan.

The attack was on World Trade and Consumer Imperialism.

The design competition will create a monument to the victims.
How about creating a world trade system that is fair to all participants?
Now that would be an enduring monument.

War is now perpetual when it used to be punctuated by peace.
America is a winner’s tragedy; freedom destroyed in a pitiful exercise to save it.

Et Tu Bruté?

There’s nothing left of Caesar except a salad and a haircut.

Caesar, Julius, who
Killed half the able bodied of France
To bring those reluctant frogs
Into a Roman pond

Who bridged the Rhein near Speyer
In ten short days
Without an environmental impact statement
Or German permission.

Comilitones, he intoned,
I have crossed the Rubicon.
Cut the Gordian Knot
As Alexander did.
Cut the umbilical cord
Across his mother’s belly
Up out from down under her narrow birth canal.
This is the way to the Cesarean section.

Not everybody born by the knife
Can grow up to be both
The Queen of Bithnyia
And the Emperor of Rome.

My fellow toddlers it is still
Government by assassination.
We can’t avoid the history of
The Meiji Restoration and Eisenhower’s CIA.
Brutus honey, is that you?

American presidents elected every twenty years since Lincoln
In zero years to match their accomplishments
Have either been assassinated or the attempt was made:
Garfield, McKinley, Harding, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan.
Among these august dead did the living
Have even half a chance?

What if Bush the younger
Brought into office by black robes
In the year of double zeros
Would take a silver bullet
To match the silver spoon
He’s been porking out in
The public lunch box with.

If some Shakespearean character in a play would say:
“Bush should be assassinated
To meet the rhythm test of history,”
She’d be making an observation
Not a threat.

Pity and terror are the Draino of literature
According to Aristotle and Herb Ruhm.
Therefor, making war on terror is an infringement
On poet’s rights.

Bring me the chicken Caesar
Hold the haircut.

Terror is half our stuff.
What’s next,
A war on pity?

The Rocket’s Red Glare

The empire can be managed to a soft landing
Or it can be kicked apart
By the idiots who rule it and their intended victims.

The second half of the war on Iraq
Suggests the American empire will
Fight colonial wars ad infinitum
Until they exhaust themselves.

Knowing this doesn’t knock me out with happiness
But it would save protesters a lot of time
If they can agree it’s the inevitable
Fate of empires
Who imagine they’re immune to history
While merely being ignorant of it.

Categories: Arthur No. 5 (July 2003), Charles Potts, POETRY | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

2 thoughts on ““Consumer Imperialism” by Charles Potts (Arthur, 2003)

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