Morris Berman is the author of “Why America Failed: The Roots of American Decline,” “Dark Age America: The Final Phase of Empire,” and “The Twilight of American Culture.
Sounds like an interesting trilogy. In the interview, he talks about how the “neo-feudal” culture of the Antebellum South rebelled against the “hustler civilization” and was crushed by Yankee capitalism.
Listen to this:
“The culmination of a hustling, laissez-faire capitalist culture is that everything gets dumbed down, that all significant questions are ignored, and that every human activity is turned into a commodity, and anything goes if it sells. What we have is domination by corporate media, politics via poll-driven sound bites, a foreign policy based on unilateralism and preemptive strikes, a failing newspaper industry, a poorly informed citizenry, the unemployed winding up destitute, weak (or no) mass transit systems, and a health care system that ranks thirty-seventh in the world.”
This sounds like Confederate propaganda from the War Between the States. In Confederate History Month 2012, we will explore how the Confederacy ideologically diverged from the Union and created one of the most enduring strains of anti-Americanism that was adopted by the French.
“And so the alternative culture, though it has always existed on the fringe, and still does even now, has never seriously derailed the steamengine of the hustler civilization nor in fact even slowed it down perceptively. In fact that civilization will always take steps to marginalize it, even destroy it if necessary, a fact that Berman illustrates in a chapter on the antebellum South.
He shows how the South was “the one example we have of an opponent of [the dominant] ideology that had real political teeth,” and blatantly opted for a life premodern (indeed “neofeudal”), agrarian, slow, conservative, and honoring tradition, honor, chivalry, and hospitality more than making a buck or inventing a gadget. This ultimately the increasingly industrial and expansive North could not stand and so began a war to destroy it. “The treatment of the South by the North,” Berman says, “was the template for the way the United States would come to treat any nation it regarded as an enemy: not merely a scorched earth policy, but also a ‘scorched soul’ policy’” that it would use in Hawaii, the Philippines, Cuba, Japan, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else it could achieve it.”
The Deep South has always diverged from the North because it is the northernmost tier of a Caribbean civilization of slave societies that once stretched from South Carolina to Brazil. The founding settlers of South Carolina came from Barbados. Louisiana attracted a lot of refugees from Saint-Domingue.
There was a time before the Union when it was obvious that South Carolina and Georgia had more in common with Jamaica and Barbados than Massachusetts or Connecticut. France, Spain, and Britain took turns controlling the Gulf Coast. East and West Florida never joined the American Revolution.
South Carolina was a hotbed of loyalism which is why Cornwallis invaded the Deep South. Georgia didn’t participate in the First Continental Congress and even rejoined the British Empire during the American Revolution.
There were 26 — not 13 — British colonies in America in 1776. The six colonies in the Caribbean — Jamaica, Barbados, the Leeward Islands, Grenada and Tobago, St. Vincent, and Dominica — were too invested in slavery and too vulnerable to the Royal Navy to join the American Revolution.
By this accident of history, the Deep South ended up in the Yankee Empire instead of at the helm of a more natural federation of slave states in the Caribbean. The division of the slave states of the Caribbean among rival European empires would weaken all of them and lead ultimately to the abolition of slavery in Dixie and the British, Spanish, and French West Indies.
Suppose the Confederacy had won the War Between the States and pursued its own version of “Manifest Destiny” in the Caribbean. It could have created an empire based on racial identity, white supremacy, slavery, and inequality that would have been strong enough to challenge the drift toward liberalism and humanitarianism.
The course of world history would have radically changed.