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  • Ana Savković

Charles Potts: Security Always Trumps Liberty/The Deconstruction of Empire

"The 300-400 million Americans in the underclass, convinced by the ruling class to obsess on their security, are so thoroughly anesthetized with drugs, religion, sports, TV, guns, social media, the internet and poverty, not to mention the veils of illusion that hide the secret wars, they prattle on about freedoms they don’t have."

What does the future of America look like, where is the land of the free, home of the brave headed, and how is its uncertain future related to its turbulent past? Are Americans going to get swept away in a tidal wave of economical and social catastrophes, while they give up their freedoms for the mere illusion of security? American writer Charles Potts discusses these burning issues in his new book "The Fifth Convulsion: The Structure of American History"( where he tells the story of the structural history of the United States.

Charles Potts (born August 28, 1943) is an American counter-culture poet, the leading name of the Berkeley poetry scene in 1968, author of numerous books, publisher and editor of many editions. It was Potts who published Charles Bukowski's book "Poems written before jumping out of an 8 story window" in 1968, with his publishing house Litmus Publishing Company.

Potts was raised in Idaho which he left in the mid 60s. He was part of the poetry scene and pacifist movement against the war in Vietnam at the university and in the small town of Berkeley. After he suffered a mental breakdown and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Potts retreated to the state of Utah where, after years of struggle, he managed to get back on his feet with the help of his family. It was in that period that he wrote "Valga Krusa", a memoir of Berkeley in two volumes. In the 1980s, Potts permanently settled in the small town of Walla Walla, Washington, where he founded The Temple bookstore, Tsunami publishing, and The Temple Literary Magazine. Nowadays, Charles has his own ranch where he breeds Appaloosa horses ( You can keep up with Mr. Potts on his web site:

ZiN Daily was lucky enough to meet, interview and host Potts in its literary residency in 2018. You can read more about it here:

"How the South Finally Won the Civil War: And Controls the Political Future of the United States" ( traces the way in which the economic ideas of exploitation, racism and contempt for democracy and the environment, were the basis of the difference between the North and the South that lead to the Civil War. "The Fifth Convulsion" continues on that same note as it describes the similarities and differences between the crucial convulsions: King Philip’s War, The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, World War Two and The Depression, and explains how they are intertwined with the culmination of crises that will be The Fifth Convulsion.

So what will it be in the end, will security trump liberty? Will America survive the inevitable Fifth convulsion? Will the great empire dissolve into chaos? Racial and social injustices, political and financial disasters, pandemic... as Potts himself says, you be the judge.

ZiN Daily presents to you an introductory chapter from "The Fifth Convulsion" which is brimming with Potts's priceless insights into the very fabric of American history and society.

Convulsion: The Structure of American History

Go ahead and rule the world, you nation of finks,

You are a dead hand.

from “Across Space and Time” The Collected Poems of Charles Olson

You have to hand it to an outfit that can steal an entire continent and be broke in 250 years. The United States is headed for oblivion. The Second World War got under way in earnest about 80 years ago. Eighty years earlier the United States was in the middle of the Civil War. Four score and seven years prior, to repurpose Lincoln’s sense of time at Gettysburg, the soon to be framers of the Constitution signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It had been nearly 170 years since the 1620 landing at Plymouth Rock. The colonial period came in two phases of unequal length: from the landing until the King Philip’s War; from that war until independence was declared.

In 2021, four hundred years and four convulsions later, the United States is staggering through its unfinished Fifth Convulsion. There were four horses in this contemporary apocalypse: a political disaster, a climate disaster, a financial disaster, and a coronavirus natural disaster. Then the carnival of disasters was sideswiped by the intermittingly buried four hundred year old plus racial disaster. Americans are showing themselves to be anything but the masters of disaster.

It won’t be lost on any student of history that the fulcrum of the first four convulsions was war: The King Philip’s War; The Revolutionary War; The Civil War; and The Second World War. The last three are closely identified with three great presidents: Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt. The Fifth Convulsion has the potential to be accompanied by an enormous war. It probably will produce a great president. If the soon to be revealed influential president happens to be a fascist who lurches from crisis to spectacle, an authoritarian future will be assured. Trade wars are the harbingers of ballistic wars. War is the attempt to control the economic future by force.

The pattern of a convulsion every 80 years is not an accident of design, it is fundamental to the structure of American history. The recipe for convulsion is conservative rigidity. The conservative rigidity, basic to the ruling class, was written into the Constitution. To point out two of the worst examples, it takes the form of a minority controlled and functionally impossible method of amending the Constitution; an unnecessary bicameral, and consequently hamstrung legislative apparatus. The political structure forced its way onto the historical structure.

Outside the constitutional structure, there was the egregious power grab by Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v Madison, that established the tradition that the Supreme Court should be the final arbiter of what was understood to be law. Such forms and instruction do not appear in the Constitution.

Also, outside the constitutional structure, former senator and vice president John Caldwell Calhoun of South Carolina, famously identified by the historian Richard Hofstadter as “the Marx of the Master Class,” as well as the last American politician to do any original thinking, wrote two main points into his Disquisition on Government. The fulcrum of Calhoun’s thought is that security always trumps liberty and that the capacity to tax divides the population into two classes: the class that benefits and the class that suffers.

The American preoccupation with security is endemic, probably because Americans are congenital thieves. Yale historian Timothy Snyder has identified mythic nationalism or eternity politics as a system/mind set that “places one nation at the center of a cyclical story of victimhood.” The class that benefits from the unequal tax burdens imposed on the population no longer feigns a promise to progress. Now all that these self-identified victims can be promised is protection.

Americans are victimizers, not victims. This unstable psychological projection had its roots in the Pequot War and the King Philip’s War, where the Native Americans were accused of victimizing the colonists. The colonists were victimized by the British Empire leading to the Revolutionary War and the subsequent War of 1812. The pattern is repeated throughout American History. An incomplete list of people and entities that Americans have accused of victimizing them would include: the civilized tribes Andrew Jackson sent on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma; Davy Crockett and Buck Travis et al victimized by Mexicans at The Alamo; The Confederacy victimized by the Union; Texans victimized by the Comanche; Aguinaldo and the Philippine resistance; The imperial Japanese at Pearl Harbor; The Chinese in Korea; The Vietnamese; OPEC; WTO; Al Qaida. Does everybody have it out for the United States? Why?

The Fifth Convulsion: The Structure of American History, will recite the contributions from one phase to the next up to the current phase. It is not a pretty story; it is true story. It will touch from time to time upon the three beat algorithm of empire dissipation. The length of time an empire lasts is determined by: The quality of the leadership; The size of the asset base and how long it takes the leadership to squander it; The focus and determination of the people who want the empire done away with.

The ambush at Tongo Tongo took place on October 4, 2017. Armed external proletariats from the ISGS (Islamic State in the Greater Sahara) attacked US soldiers and Nigerians near the village of Tongo Tongo, Niger on their return to base from a mission. Four Americans, five Nigerians, and 21 ISGS were killed. Two Americans and eight Nigerians were wounded. Their mission had been to gather information on Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of the ISGS, especially his location. The ISGS victimizes the United States. Even the Nigerians were not at home in Niger, it being a small African country immediately to the north of Nigeria.

This ambush and its location were news to nearly all Americans including posture-pedic senators such as Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who, striking a pose while sleeping, said, “We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world, militarily, and what we’re doing.” If Senator Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina, who prides himself on his foreign policy and military acumen, doesn’t know what the U.S. is doing, how is the rest of the population supposed to know?

The Central Intelligence Agency was created on July 26, 1947, when President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act into law. The agency was formally established by Truman in a classified memorandum on October 24, 1952 that revised the National Security Council Intelligence Directive 9 (NSCID). From 1947 forward the U.S. began to operate a foreign policy in secret. Secret not only from the people but also secret from the Senate of the United States. It is a fact that the directors of the NSA and CIA are not subject to approval of the Senate. The NSA and CIA are the signifiers of the empire.

There is a difference between the National Security Act (NSA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) but this isn’t always clear from news reports and general discourse. The secret foreign and military policy is still going strong in 2021, 75 years later.

It is a crooked line from the formation of the CIA and the NSA to Afghanistan. The catastrophe there is underwritten by the American delusion, perpetrated by the Obama Administration during their 5,000 strong marine surge, that a million dollars to outfit a single soldier will be enough to keep the peace. The effectiveness of this million dollar fire power is contradicted weekly if not daily by suicide bombers in the market place of ideas in Kabul and Kandahar. Afghanistan is famous for being the graveyard of empires.

In early 21st century America it is possible to look back at the peaks that mark the apogee of each convulsion. History develops but U.S. history lurches by convulsion, caused in large part by conservative rigidity. The 300-400 million Americans in the underclass, convinced by the ruling class to obsess on their security, are so thoroughly anesthetized with drugs, religion, sports, TV, guns, social media, the internet and poverty, not to mention the veils of illusion that hide the secret wars, they prattle on about freedoms they don’t have.

It has been a long time since the U.S. was a nation, a republic, let alone a democracy. Most of the original colonies were English in origin. The two notable exceptions were South Carolina and Dutch New Amsterdam and New Netherlands. New Amsterdam became New York. The South Carolinians were third generation slave traders from Barbados. For nearly two hundred years, from 1670 until 1865, the business model in Charleston, South Carolina, was to kidnap black people (and Native Americans) and sell them into slavery.

The deconstruction of empire dissipation allows varying weights to its three components. The lion’s share of North America is rich with natural assets: navigable streams, minerals, soil, hydro power, natural gas, petroleum, and the capo de tutto, the width of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. With natural assets on one side, cultural assets dominate. The primary asset of an empire is the support of the people being ruled. Governed is too quaint a verb; clearly in the case of the United States, it deserves to be in the past tense. The rulers of the United States have squandered this good will on the altar of the perpetual war conducted on behalf of the CIA and NSA, and their failure to address the primary needs of the population, widely varied as they are.

The leadership structure impedes good leadership. The complicated and undemocratic method of selecting candidates for high and highest office is subject to the rule of money as well as geographical and political minorities. The United States was founded by the one percenters and has always been a plutocracy. Even wealthy intelligent leadership cannot function properly in a structural straight-jacket. It is not a good idea to crowd source the leadership to a racial, religious, financial, and misogynist minority.

The Egyptian empire and experience went on for a thousand years because it had no focused and determined opposition. The United States is of course opposed by the Russians, the Iranians, and most primarily the Chinese. Way too many of the components of the military-industrial complex which sets the secret foreign and war policy don’t appear to have the slightest idea where or how to effectively apply force. They incorrectly think their primary enemies are radical Islamic fundamentalists.

Radical Islam’s capacity to do major harm to the American empire does not exist. And yet tens of trillions have been squandered trying to corral, round up, neutralize, and exterminate a small handful of external proletariats, creating two replacements for every one that is eliminated. This pathetic merry go round may sufficiently drain the enthusiasm of any significant portion of the population, let alone its capacity to print fiat currency to finance it. When the real debt and the large scale competition from the Chinese overwhelm them, the American population and their miserable leadership may be too broke to effectively resist.

Bing Fa, translated into English as The Art of War, is a 2,500 year old Chinese treatise on flexibility composed by Sun Tzu. Even teaching it in American military academies hasn’t seemed to help much yet. A rigid empire versus a flexible opponent. You can be the judge of how this is going to turn out.


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