World War 3, Muhammad Ali, Earl Sweatshirt and Capitalisms Shortcomings
So world war 3 is trending on Twitter and it’s only the 3rd day of the decade, this ones gonna be weird. In these turbulent times I find it best to look back through history and see how our grandparents and ancestors dealt with similar situations, that brought me to the 60's. For some reason my mind is always thinking about that decade. There’s so many reasons like the art, the counterculture movement, the rapid advancement technologically and socially, but ultimately it’s because of the interesting characters that occupied the Earth at the same time. It was a perfect storm of things from the beginning of television and globalization to a shift in social consciousness and sociopolitical uprisings. People were socially conscious and opinionated throughout the world in all walks of life.
Due to the introduction of LSD and psychedelics to the mainstream, new schools of thought were born that had people protesting war, consumerism and injustice in droves. Millions of youth took a stand against the oppression of the elite. The most dynamic of those youth was Muhammad Ali. Throughout my whole life I’ve been fascinated by Muhammad Ali. His story resonated with me in many ways. As a black Muslim kid with the name Allo Mohammed, I felt connected to him and felt like I had a stake in his successes throughout his life. I remember being 7 years old and watching old interviews of him on YouTube. His energy captivated me. He was the master of "rhyming prediction and derision," as biographer David Remnick would later write. He was already "the greatest" as he called himself, not just for his skills in the ring, but for talking shit and doing it in a verse. He was like a wrestler but this was real. His wins weren't faked and you could see his work out regimens, his speed, strength and agility. He started his career off by winning an Olympic gold medal for the United States in Rome when he was just 18 and four years later, against all odds, he defeated Sonny Liston to win his first title as world champion. In that moment he said the infamous line “I shook up the world” as he pointed at all the media outlets that doubted him.
The heavyweight championship in boxing was the most prestigious title in all of sports and it was held by this loud mouth black kid in the 60's. This guy was my real life superhero. My dad told me that he met him at the American University in Washington back in the 70's and my dad spoke about him with the same reverence I had for him. This guy was my superheroes superhero. My obsession continued throughout my teenage years and it seemed like the more I found out about this man, the more my admiration for him grew.
Muhammad Ali’s biggest battles were outside of the ring. Only 10 years removed from World War 2, America decided to wage war against Vietnam to prevent the spread of communism. The war lasted 20 years and claimed over 4 million lives. “I am not allowed to work in America and I’m not allowed to leave America,” Muhammad Ali said in February 1968, at the start of his first full year of exile from boxing. “I’m just about broke.” By 1968, 19,560 Americans had died in the Vietnam War and another 16,502 would die that year alone. It was the year the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army mounted the Tet Offensive, which was a campaign that helped persuade the American public that the war wasn't going as well as the generals and politicians had led them to believe.
The previous April, Ali had said the war was against his faith as a Muslim and declared himself a conscientious objector of the war. Ali refused induction into the U.S. Army, famously saying, “And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.” His refusal led to Ali’s arrest and eventual conviction. He stayed out of prison while his case was appealed. His license to box was suspended in New York the same day, and his title stripped. Soon after, Ali was unable to obtain a boxing license in the U.S. for the next three years. Married a year with his first child on the way, Ali was desperate so his manager tried to arrange a bout in Arizona on an Indian reservation, outside the jurisdiction of state boxing commissions that wouldn’t let him fight. But the local tribe rejected the proposal, saying it would defile the memory of Indian veterans who’d fought for their country.
The war was escalating at the same time the counterculture was forming and the voices denouncing the war began getting louder. Just a few weeks before Ali said no to his draft board, Martin Luther King Jr. had also denounced the war. He quoted Ali in support of his position: "As "Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all black and brown and poor victims of the same system of oppression." Ali was already one of America's greatest heavyweights ever, but this cemented him as a revolutionary figure outside of just boxing. His remarks and actions were even more controversial than the former Cassius Clay’s conversion to Islam in 1964. The sight of a man, especially a black man, who not only refused to serve, but did so eloquently, enraged the sporting, media, and political establishments. Ali instantly became the icon that we know him as today. This was an era where fighters used to let their managers do the talking, and even now you’ll be hard pressed to find a more charismatic public speaker than Muhammad Ali. Ali would go on speaking tours throughout the country and he would hold his own in intellectual debates against college students with a far better formal education than him and maintain, defend and uphold his integrity.
Muhammad Ali passed away in 2016 but his story is more relevant now than ever because here we are again at the cusp of yet another American war. Iran has vowed to take revenge for a US drone strike that killed its most powerful general. The 62-year-old general died when his car was targeted by a drone in Baghdad, as local allies were driving him from the airport. “General Suleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” said the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” The Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, ordered three days of mourning and declared that the US would face “severe revenge” for the killing of Qassem Suleimani, who ran Tehran’s military operations in Iraq and Syria. Allegations have been raised about the legality of the assassination under international law. A total of 10 people died, Iranian state television reported. Pompeo claimed on CNN that the targeted killing prevented Suleimani from carrying out an “imminent” attacks on Americans in the region. He provided no evidence to back up his statement. “I can’t talk too much about the nature of the threats. But the American people should know that the president’s decision to remove Qassem Suleimani from the battlefield saved American lives,” he said. And of course this led to the Internet memeing World War 3.
Now I don’t know if this is gonna lead to a Third World War but I do know that as a person born in 1998, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this movie. America attacking a brown country isn’t necessarily news. I remember being a kid and seeing the beginnings of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and various drone strikes on Syria and much more. This is a movie we’ve seen time and time again of America attacking poor brown people and then victimizing itself while spreading fear propaganda. We’ll have people here in North America afraid of Iran’s retaliation as if that's ever been a problem. As if privileged Americans have ever experienced the fallout of war. The war in Afghanistan has been going on since 2002 but nobody in Missouri would know it.