As a film historian (among other things), Roberge cannot help noticing a clear convergence between a classic movie, The Birth of a Nation, and the Bush Administration's war against "the axis of evil." In The Birth of a Nation, early movie-goers saw that America had a God-given mission to establish God’s kingdom on the new continent. In Bush's plans for waging war against the axis of evil, television watchers can see that America has a God-given mission to establish God's kingdom – made in the U.S.A – all over the world. That's one meaning of Globalization. "Globalization," writes Roberge, "is a religion of sorts. It calls for belief." A belief, as a Texan might say, in Amurrica.

The Globalization of Terror
and The Terror of Globalization

Gaston Roberge, SJ

The present Globalization led by the United States of America is not a spontaneous phenomenon. It is possible to trace its antecedents. The film The Birth of a Nation (1915), by D.W. Griffith, is a good point to start from.

In his film, Griffith re-wrote history. The birth of the American nation, the film says, did not occur with the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776. It took place one century later, when the two White nations of the USA stopped their civil war and banded together “in the defense of their Aryan right” (inter-title of the film) against the African-Americans. The aim was to contain the rising power of the Blacks and to appropriate the resources of the land. The instrument to achieve that goal was the use of “terror” (inter-title of the film) against the Blacks. Thus, perhaps unwittingly, Griffith’s film celebrates the birth of a fundamentalist and terrorist nation.

The American White public acclaimed the film. Some Protestant Padres praised the film from the pulpit, eulogizing the Ku-Klux Klan, that “invisible empire,” one Padre even calling the Klan a manifestation of “the divine spirit which is above law.” There were some protests against the blatant racism of the film, but rare were those who objected to the film’s glorification of terrorism. Rarer still were those who bemoaned the class struggle which the film portrayed so vividly, showing it to be fuelled by greed and the lust for power more than by racism and by religious bigotry.

In the decades following the release of the film, millions of Americans agreed with Griffiths’ version of American history and with his glorification of terrorism. As for the Ku-Klux Klan, although it had been disbanded by the time the film was released, it was not dead. Some 25,000 ex-Klansmen gathered to celebrate the release of the film. Subsequently, the Klan was revived and by the mid 1920s it had some two million members. By the end of the 1990s though, their number had dwindled to some six thousand.

The Ku-Klux Klan took opportunity of the several revivals of the film to distribute their literature, proclaiming that “Like the Church of Christ Klanism has a special mission” and Jesus is “The Great Klansman.”

However, the phenomenon of the film The Birth of a Nation has its own antecedents, which, too, throw light on present day US fundamentalism. When groups of Puritans abandoned England, which they considered an evil land, to create a “New” England, they believed they had a God-given mission to establish God’s kingdom on the new continent, a kingdom they envisioned according to their understanding of the Bible.

It is difficult not to see in the present so-called “fight against global terrorism” a continuation of the “birth of a nation” at a global level. Here too, attention from the main cause of the conflict is deflected on an aspect of it. In Griffith’s day attention was focused on “racism”; today it is focused on the “terrorism” perpetrated by those who oppose the terror of economic Globalization. Recently, the American public gave its full support to the Bush administration in continuation, it would seem, of their previous approval of Griffith’s view of American history. It is as if the American public was blind to the fact that what is at stake in “the fight against terrorism” is America’s hegemony worldwide and its appropriation of resources, and that the means used to maintain that hegemony is terror pure and simple. The once “invisible empire” is now here for all to marvel at; it is only too ostentatious.

The film shows the Blacks as a lascivious threat to White purity. The “fight against terrorism” now seeks to eliminate an “axis of evil.” In that fight, America has a God-given role to play. That is what the media, largely controlled by America and its acolytes, would want us to believe. For, Globalization is a religion of sorts. It calls for belief.

Yet, ever since November 1999 in Seattle, worldwide civil society, has begun to address a global, fearless, NO, to the powerful economic interests that would govern the world. The message is loud and clear: “we are not terrorized, we do not believe in your Globalization”.

Gaston Roberge, SJ, was born in Montreal in 1935, went through the normal course of studies in the Jesuit Order, and has lived as a missionary in the Province of Calcutta (now called Kolkata) since 1961. He got his MA in theater arts (Film) at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1970. With the support of the late Satyajit Ray he founded a communication center, CHITRABANI, in Kolkata. From 1996 to 1999, he was executive secretary for social communication at the Jesuit Curia in Rome. He has published 12 books – on communication, cinema, human development and spirituality. One book, Communication Cinema Development, received a national award for the best book on film at the 46th National Film Festival of India, 1999. He currently teaches communications at the Jesuit college of Kolkata.