I want to feel bad, but…
John Perkins would be an excellent (insert random nationality or ethnicity) mother. He knows exactly how to make you feel bad when really you shouldn’t feel bad at all, especially for him. Perkins’s constant reiteration that he deplores what he has done as an EHM to many countries and millions of their poor, only diminishes the pathos he seeks to extract from the reader.
Perkins methodically describes his experiences as an EHM through several decades, effectively and interestingly exposing the global hegemonic powers’ system for implementing modern colonialism under the guise of “good business.” The main purpose of his narrative, aside from exposing the EHM system, seems to be a self-release of guilt. Write a book about the bad things you did, and it’s like it never happened at all.
While the American public should certainly find this an interesting read I’m skeptical on whether or not the information would have an impact on their lives, aside from Tea Partiers celebrating American imperialism while condemning the conspiracy of government. At the end of the book, Perkins writes a chapter entitled “What You Can Do,” stating “We have arrived at the end of this book, and also at the beginning. You are probably wondering where to go next, what you can do to stop the corporatocracy and to end this insane and self-destructive march to global empire” [that I helped create]. The question isn’t what you can do, but rather, what you are actually willing to do. The spy mystique/conspiracy theory air about the book is compelling because it affirms suspicions, through exciting and exotic stories, but the picture of a hopeless world overrun by plutocrats and power hungry CEOs does not serve the author’s purpose; this is not enough to motivate the public to give up their comfortable lives for the sake of relieving the misfortune of those thousands of miles away.
The book reads like the historical storybook of colonialism, and Perkins uses its simplicity as a reflection of the sort-of innocent naïveté that caused him to happen upon the career. This framework certainly does its job because, in a way, the book is straightforward and child-like that it makes it almost hard to believe the autobiographicness of the story and much easier to sympathize with Perkins. He also weaves in non-historical, very personal, accounts of how his experiences as an EHM effective. He mentions his inability to sleep, his fabricated justifications of his lifestyle, but most prominent was his “vision of Christ” story. The signals of divine intervention and darkness signify Perkin’s sense of loss and supposed lack of choice. I think he also uses it (not to say it didn’t happen, I don’t know) as a way to prove to the reader that he was so confused about his work that even Jesus affirmed his worries and fears. He also says “[I] wondered what I was doing here, why the coincidences of my life had taken me along this path…” (58). He doesn’t often invoke words that would imply any sort of conscious choice or definitive decision to work as an EHM, which is also important in understanding part of the book’s purpose as a personal act of contrition.