Korea Remembers

Is it worth mentioning that for the North Koreans, the US’s “forgotten war” is still very much remembered? Names like LeMay and Otto P. Weyland very much etched into the collective consciousness? The worst excesses of the Vietnam War were practised on that poor, beleaguered people, leaving 18 of their 20 cities completely levelled and a million of their compatriots dead.

And how, when it is recalled, is the conflict referred to?

Then there’s there’s this extract, from a much more sombre Lt Col Anthony Herbert – a genuine American hero:

 

 

Tories: Terrorist Sympathisers

 

For neither Man nor Angel can discern/ Hypocrisie, the only evil that walks/ Invisible

John Milton

 

While our current health secretory, and Freudian slip triggerer, Jeremy Hunt was President of the Oxford Conservatives, terrorist affiliate Adolfo Calero was wined and dined by the society. Calero provided financial and political support to the Contras, that Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary force known for, among many such outrages, ethnic cleansing, rape campaigns and torture. But this didn’t matter, for the great bulk of Oxford University Tory contingent (for there was dissent), he was an honoured guest.

It must take some gall to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of sympathising with terrorists, knowing that such colourful characters as Calero can claim to once sharing a bill. But this is, as recent events have only confirmed, what the Tories are: brazen Terrorist Sympathisers.

A little has been made of how the Conservative Party’s new partner, the DUP, has been associated with armed thugs.As George Dangerfield has shown, the Tories were aligned with Orange terror from the beginning. The DUP’s forebears were, surprisingly, not as pro-Union as all that. They disliked London, resented oversight from the old country (note how Churchill hounded away from a “northern” podium). However they hated Irish independence and republicanism and Catholics more, and that they shared with the Tories. And so, with astonishing cynicism, the Conservatives took the opportunity to undermine – the tepid, but nonetheless real – Liberal progress toward “home rule” or independence. Aligning themselves with, and lending legitimacy to, militant Protestantism (it was only with this Blue-Orange alliance that talk of separating the Six Counties came about). This went from the out and out shows of solidarity in the form of the Black and Tans, to the covert Thatcherite support for rightist paramilitaries during the Troubles.

It was with Thatcher that the Conservatives wore their terroristic sympathies with pride. Suharto (“we are best of friends”), Pinochet (who she described as a champion of democracy), South Africa’s government (by undermining the boycott campaign) and Saddam were all given Downing Street’s approval, and more importantly: access to the world’s “best” manufacturers, those based in the UK.

The Iron Lady fully supported terrorists which had entire state apparatuses behind them. Suhurto, an oddly overlooked monster of the 20th century, used British-made arms – and naval escort – to carry out a murder campaign that brings to mind recent events in the Philippines, though immeasurably worse. Up to a million people were murdered by the Indonesian secret police and army (the Killing Fields is a must watch for those interested in finding out more). East Timor, as well as “internal suppression”, was practically wiped off the map in a genocidal campaign that implicates Australia and the US too.

In comparison, Jeremy Corbyn declared that, for Irish peace talks to be successful, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army had to play a part. If you consider that shocking, then prepare yourself: despite outward fulminations, Thatcher’s government were doing just that, carrying out secret talks with the IRA. If advocacy equals sympathy and damnation, then what’s this?

Today the Saudis use British arms to lay waste to Yemen’s infrastructure and citizenry. Hospitals are being rocketed, aid withheld, and NGOs and the UN are trying to alleviate the effects of a terrible – but entirely predictable – famine. This is what happens when the world’s most sophisticated weaponry is used against one of its poorest nations. Theresa May holds the receipts.

Labour and Corbyn supporters as “terrorist sympathisers” is one of the Conservatives’ most returned to talking points (often when the formers suggest there might be a relation between our foreign policy and how we’re perceived globally). The riposte ought to go, “I refuse to be lectured to by people like you”.

 

Yellow Hitler

Vicarious redemption, as all observers of Christianity know, will set dangerous precedents. The President of the Phillipines, Mr Duterte, has said, following calling martial law told police and military forces,

If you go down, I go down. But for this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible, just do your job I will take care of the rest

He went on to “joke” that, if any of his goons go on to rape three women, “it’s on him”. Contrary to what you might think, I am cautious about pulling the Hitler Card, the Internet’s most common (and tiresome) reflex. Duterte is not the raving ideologue the other was, and neither is he quite so dangerous (if only because the Phillipines shares little of what made Germany so powerful). But he is the same in one striking, and frightening, way. In what psychologists call “agentic shift”, he offers the psychopaths and brutes of society a moral free pass: unleash your id and expect no repercussions. Responsibility lies elsewhere, in the lofty heights of state power.

Stanley Milgram set out to understand, in a series of fascinating experiments, how the “ordinary” men and women of the Nazi murder machine were able to do what they did. Using American volunteers – putting to quiet any jingoistic nonsense about the uniqueness of the German psyche – he found that a overwhelming majority would, as far as they knew, execute a stranger by electronic shock if an authority figure gave them the okay. (The “victims” were of course actors, but participants genuinely believed they fatally zapping a fellow creature for incorrectly answering general knowledge questions.) A man in a tie and white lab coat – a “social better” – with a commanding voice and reassuring platitudes, was all it took to turn Joe Everyman into a killer.

Duterte’s “law and order” campaign is so dangerous because, like the terrors of the recent past, it exploits two key areas of human failing: the urge to offload responsibility, and the propensity to mistake status for greatness.

Most Influential Moment of the 18th Century

Throughout history there are moments of great importance. Events which shake the world and change it forever. This is were we come in. Each of us will choose one event per century, starting with the 18th, and explore their significance. Why the 18th? Cause Paddy doesn’t know shit about what happened prior to the French Revolution, nor is he interested.

But in all seriousness, the 18th century is the golden age of Enlightenment – a wonderful and turbulent time – and there’s plenty to talk about.

There is a rule to the discussion we are about to undertake: We will chose singular events. So bids like the “French Revolution” or the “First World War” do not count, since they are more a series of events. Any event within them is fair play, though.
So, without further ado.

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The 18th century

 

Pole – The invention of the steam engine

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Okay, this is where I cheat a little. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment for the invention of a steam engine. A task made even more difficult when we take into consideration the invention of a primitive steam turbine by Hero of Alexandria in the 1st century A.D. However, it is accepted that the first stream powered machine was used to pump water out of mines in 1698. But the first proper steam engine was designed by 1705. This new tool truly kicked off an age of rapid industrialization and urbanization. Shaking up the social and political order like no other invention before it. This moment marks the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Even though it has its roots in the 17th century.

Paddy – The American Declaration of Independence

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The American Declaration of Independence had the immediate, simultaneous effect of damning one continent and freeing another. That is not to say it was, as one might expect, the New World getting one over on the Old, quite the reverse. The invention of those United States, born more from ink than blood, meant the death of America.

The British authorities, for all their faults, prevented European colonists from encroaching too far into the plethora of Native American nations that were splashed across Turtle Island. But it is a result of great “American” heroes like Washington that we talk of upper New York state rather than the Iroquois Nation (although, technically, the British still recognise such a nation’s existence), and because of Jackson we have South Carolina instead of Cherokeeland and Mississippi rather than Choctawia (just imagine all the bother we could’ve saved if such states remained copper-skinned?). And it is only with the disappearance of such places – and people – that the USA stands as our single world power.

All that said, it wasn’t all bad. As I alluded to and will expand upon, the US liberated a people in 1776, and that’s nothing to sniff at. The the destitute of Europe in their bedraggled and diseased millions at that point had a new hope, a new home.

Pole – Yes, the formation of the US is a big one, but I think there is a more important document associated with it: the Constitution. Also, back then the US did not have the same impact on the rest of  the world as it had following the Second World War.

The steam engine however, did not just change the system – it lead to the formation of a new one. The newly powered factories and railways caused the emergence of a new elite. An elite whose position was not based on aristocratic titles and chronicled bloodlines proving that one’s great, great, great, great grandmother was fucked by royalty. They gained their position because of capital.Image result for bourgeoisie

The middle class rose, giving birth to the class system we are familiar with today. This trend crossed national borders: it was not confined to England, where the first steam engine was built. It offered us an unprecedented step away from feudalism, into the industrial society of today. It wasn’t the only one by any means, but there were none of such importance preceding it.

Paddy: You credit the steam engine with a lot. Not only did it crush the gentry, it apparently uplifted that squatty and industrious class – the bourgeoisie – to take its place.

The steam engine had a negligible impact on the 18th century. It could be argued that it was only after that epoch had had its day and when the engine had been transplanted to the New World that it received the conditions – and scope – it required to bring about some of what you credit it with.

Yes, in the great expanse of the Great Plains and in America’s deserts and mountain regions, the steam engine did indeed usher in its own kind of revolution, in land acquisition, transportation and communication. But that was a different time. And of course, it was dependent entirely on the nation we call the United States – a joining of words Thomas Paine, that moral and popular force behind the Declaration, gave us.

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The tempered radicalism of the American Revolution opened the way for a system where Law is sovereign – a considerable change to the old British modus operandi where a king (or queen) stood atop and somewhat apart, dictating to all. It is in such a society based on law that science and commerce thrives, while moribund despotisms fester. Recall how it is the congenial air of America that Europe’s greatest innovators have found, and find still, liberation (and those all important government grants). From Paine himself, with his modest bridge building, to Joseph Priestley (chased out Tory mobs) and Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, as well as a good number of thosr scientists which gave physics its relativist and quantum transformations.

(There’s also the other side to all this: without the “removal”/genocide of the American Indians, and the subsequent slave system that was installed, the Industrial Revolution would’ve lacked the enormous quantity of cotton on which it depended. While doing this it also functioned as the world’s most pluralistic society, and one of its most literate. The States are, as you have said, the land of contradiction.)

The Industrial Revolution didn’t have a single cause as you seem to suggest. There were a variety of “sparks”, and many of those, I hope you can see, occurred because the United States existed. Without the Declaration we wouldn’t have had which, and, to your first point, nor the Constitution.

 

Pole: “U.S.A.! U.S.A! U.S.A.!” is what I’m getting from your argument. Yes yes, America is great. However, you yourself admitted that it was thanks to the steam engine that Washington’s folk were able to built up their economy and expand westward. Without the rail system and steam powered modes of transportation the Wild West would be just that: Wild. So it was not the engine that became great because of the States.

Also, you’re talking about the 19th century America, which over that era has become a major player on the international and global arena. 18th century States were still a toddler as far as nations go. The reason the revolution succeeded and the States were able hold on to its independence afterwards is because the European powers had bigger problems than an upstart nation. The glory days of the Spanish Empire were gone. The French were having their own crisis with the bourgeoisie (not to mention that without aid from them the colonists were likely to loose). And the British were far more interested in India and China at the time.

I believe thinking that the Industrial Revolution wouldn’t have happened if the United States didn’t exist is wrong.  The Revolution had its start in Europe, Britain and the Netherlands to be more specific. Those countries were becoming less reliant on the peasant economy based on agriculture which was the foundation of the feudal system. The rising of their textile industry is where the industrialisation begun. I admit that the US played a major role in the later development, when the Industrial revolution was in full swing. But most of the innovations done there had their roots in Europe. Electricity was discovered by good old Benny Franklin, but it was the work of Micheal Faraday (an Englishman) that led us to the creation of the electric motor, light bulb and so on. Henry Ford borrowed the assembly line from the Brits and adopted it for his car manufacturing. Which would also be impossible without the steam engine. As far cotton production goes, do you really believe that the existence of the States would have had such a great impact? The difference would be that the ships transporting the cotton and other materials from the New to the Old world would be flying the Union Jack instead of stars and stripes.

Lastly, I believe that if the United States did not exist, all those inventions, discoveries and developments you mentioned would have happened regardless. It would just be at different places and by different people. Or perhaps at the same place and same people, they would just say biscuit instead of cookie.

 

Paddy: I did not say the Industrial Revolution wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the US. All I did was highlight its importance as a producer of material wealth and its role as a harbor for greatness.

You, again, remind us of how comparatively insignificant (geopolitically) the States has been for most of its life. This ignores what was the point of these discussions: we are to pick a single event that “shake[s] the world and change[s] it forever”. What meets that definition if not the germinal moment of superpowerdom?

The US is enormously important today, has been for decades, and from its earliest days played a constructive role in world affairs – the Industrial Revolution included. Where, if you’ll allow me, is steam today?

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I haven’t even explored how the signing of the Declaration meant the death notice of hundreds of nations – Native American nations whose names are immortalized in the names of everything from attack helicopters to golf courses. That was a monumental moment – the rejection of the European acceptance of Indian dominance in the Americas – and is not paid anywhere near the attention it deserves.

 

Pole: Yes the steam has gone away. But I think you cannot deny that the greatness of the United States was dependant on it. It was the industry powered by steam that allowed the States to grow into what it is today (as well as its relative isolation from other powers, and two world wars which eliminated its competition).

 

Conclusion.

We probably could on. But I fell like we would just be repeating ourselves, and this thing is already too long.

I think it would be fair to say that the problem with arguing about those events is that they are so closely intertwined and co-dependent. The industrialisation of society and economy as well as the current capitalist system had their root in the steam engine. However they would have looked much different if the States were not there, or was not independent. Let us know what you think.

 

It Wouldn’t Do

The British press permeates with a culture that was summed up by Orwell in the phrase “it wouldn’t do to say”. There are certain things considered so important that it simply wouldn’t do to share them with the hoi polli. These are things like “is the state monitoring my internet use?”, “what powers is my government ceding to corporations and others?” and “who is the state killing in my name?”

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To take the last of those, and the most important: rather a lot. There’s Menwith Hill in north England, a joint US-UK venture, where spies spy on us all to keep us safe from ourselves. (Anyone else notice how these special relationship projects always seem to end up on our side of the pond?) A component of this, we learned only through Snowden, is supporting America’s drone program. Brits at Medwith employ satellites to monitor Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen seeking alleged Islamic reactionaries for Obama – and now Trump – to snuff. The fact that this campaign is itself, according to international law, terroristic (the official definition is in fact porous and vague), doesn’t seem to interest our newspaper editors or political representatives (Labour’s Fabian Hamilton being a notable exception).

Whistleblowers have revealed the whole endeavour has something like a 10% success rate. And the effect isn’t minor: people in those countries daren’t turn up to wedding celebrations, fearing that festivities will be brought to an abrupt end by Amatex sent down from the heavens. Here’s a story of gross incompetence and criminality that embroils our government, and it just passed the mainstream media by. (Is it any wonder that a great many British people look at the swaths of refugees from the Levant and beyond in disbelief?)


And then there’s the arms trade, also protected by the culture of omission that props up the Establishment. It’s a subject so full of pitfalls and contrived cynicism that it itself could be classified as a minefield. But perhaps it’s mentioning that our government is currently breaking its own rules in arming Saudi Arabia as it tears through the towns and citizenry of Yemen? And that same ruling class on the Gulf has been providing ideological and material aid to Islamic State?


(Boris Johnson, 
in a rare moment of sincerity last year, referred to the House of Saud’s less laudable foreign policies, before Theresa May donned a muzzle.)

 
The Crocodile That Croaks

 

I once knew someone who had served in Rhodesia. His commando unit waged war against the black nationalists – what the government, again, regarded as terrorists. By his own admission, this simply meant adult males. The nature of the country being what it is, targeted strikes were risky. The response? They were ordered to poison village wells.

They waited and watched, and it was always the same: the children fell to cramps and sickness, and then their mothers did. By the time father and husband (the “terrorist’s”) had figured out they were in the midst of battle, their sons and daughters – far too young to understand the difference between Rhodesia and Zimbabwe – had expelled their internal organs.


Due to “national security” he couldn’t publish an account of what he did.

The real reason is it may go some way to doing what Wilfred Owen’s poetry did so well: stripping its readers of their patriotic assumptions. Making blimps question that least responsible of all the classes – the governing class. It becomes difficult to maintain the narrative that Empire exists in order to propagate good values and even better manners when confronted with the bloodied actualities. Reality can be stubborn sometimes.

How many other cases have been denied their time in the courts of law and public opinion because of this shady excuse? Here’s three that I personally would like to know more about yet cannot: just how complicit was MI5 in the murder of an elderly CND activist in, of all years, 1984; what story was Daniel Morgan about to break before the Met painted a south London car park with his cortex; and why do ousted security service employees like Gareth Williams have a tendency of meeting grizzly, and pornographic, ends?


Everyone in the Westminster bubble knows about these stories, and that goes for some leading journalists too. So why aren’t the hard questions being asked and keep being asked until we get satisfactory answers? Has there been an official order of silence? Do civil servants or spooks pay journalists unexpected calls in the night, and put the fear of State into them?


Back to Orwell,

Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics.

No, totalitarianism has never been in the British character. The most successful and well-placed just know, for whatever reason, there’s some things it wouldn’t do to think about.

The 21st Century: Cosmopolitan or Tribal

Are Brexit and Trumpism a Sign of Things to Come?

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Earth’s tribes

Paddy: Whenever he found found himself at a loss of words, Marx once told Engels, he would say of the topic at hand, “vell, y’shee, it’sh dialectical”. It was if this contribution would be enough to elicit enough thoughtful nods that no one would notice as he shambled back up to the bar, and away from the arduous task of drunken philosophizing. (And it is, I’ve tried.)

It’s worth being honest: the issue of contemporary cosmopolitanism and tribalism is tricky, with pitfalls and contradiction peppering the path to insight. And yeah, it is dialectical. There is a trend that Whigs, Marxists, liberals, neoconservatives and reactionaries have all recognised (although not universally celebrated): the passage of time brings with it a gradual liberalising of society and a disintegration of its borders.

The diameter of Peter Singer’s moral circle began life a titchy thing but each successive epoch has made it fatter (just like the Westerner’s waist line). As material realities advanced, producing new technologies and broader outlooks, ethical considerations were dragged from the local to universal. So the story goes: the biological “rule of thumb” that ensures we care for our kin (see Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene), was made to apply to one’s province by markets and fetes, to one’s nation by the printing press and through a postal service, and to – we hope – one’s species with the advent of global communication.

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Singer’s Moral Circle

And so, dialectically, our institutions came to reflect this moral progression. National inclusiveness gave us the welfare state, continental inclusiveness the European Union, species awareness the United Nations (and, less gloriously, racial inclusiveness produced projects like the “Anglosphere”, the African Union and Arab League).

But, even with all this, there has been a reaction which looks, well, primal. Those who rather do without Them of a different god, flag or melanin count, thank you very much. We see this in the anti-establishment movements currently consuming North American and European politics – Le Pen, Trump, Putin, UKIP, the Golden Dawn – fueled by the racialist and religious. Those people for whom every inclusive and internationalist evolution has been a misstep, and not the inevitable consequence of material gain.

And, if you’ve been paying attention, you’d be forgiven for agreeing. Our future, all of ours, looks to be rather more in their control.

 

Pole: Just for those who might not exactly understand what tribalism is:

…a tendency to sustain divisions and identities of a pre-national, tribal and ethnic groups that are based on the phenomenon of the ‘genetic’ loyalty, which facilitates ‘tribal survival’

(Potulski, J. 2009)

It is undeniable that tribalism is still a feature of life, Homo Sapiens evolved from pack animals and our emotions follow. We instinctively turn to our family and closest neighbours – our “shrewdness” – for support (a group of apes is called a shrewdness, Google it). And it is this primal impulse which causes us to act sympathetically and altruistically back: to be, in a word, social. When seeking friends, it attracts us to the familiar and away from the different, the Other. So tuned is this, that the smallest similarity can be enough to create a connection, while the smallest difference may antagonise.

[Paddy: there has been research that suggests out-groups can actually elicit disgust in people, in much the same way an invasive pathogen might. See Harris and Fiske (2011)]

So surely, if such behaviour is “natural”, why don’t we all behave like chimpanzees in a troop? Because our species has one thing that no other Earthly creature has: Reason. Thanks to this capacity, we no longer live in perpetually warring tribes. We can put our differences to one side and apply our energies elsewhere… well, in a way.

Tribes may have just transmuted into what we call nations, races, social classes and political parties. Just look at the recent events in the US and the UK. Trump, an obvious idiot, was still able to get the Republican hierarchy behind him. Even Ted Cruz, who was booed during the convention for not openly pledging fealty to the new tribal leader, eventually toed the line. Their gut told them that it is better to follow “one of us”, even if he’s heading off the cliff’s edge.

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Following the Brexit vote to “take our country back”, there were a number of xenophobic attacks. In Essex, a man was pummelled to death by a group of teenagers for speaking Polish. Two others were beaten less than 12 hours later, following a vigil for murdered man. In another attack that same day, a father and son were beaten unconscious by strangers in London. These victims were guilty being the wrong ethnicity.

To be more precise: we no longer live in isolated, self-sufficient groups. We have created a global society, interconnected socially, economically and politically. The results of presidential elections in the US affect the world. The collapse of Greek economy causes powerful ripples in the grand pool of the EU. Somewhere in England a Pole and an Irishman can form a friendship. Again, all possible because of Reason. But our tribal inheritance is ever present.

 

Paddy: Another dialectic: reason and passion.

Reason allows – no, demands – one thing and our instinct is to rebel right back, grasping for the familiar and insular. (As Hume knew – and endorsed due to his Toryism – reason is the slave of the passions.)

It’s trite, but rational action in a internationalist context is our species’ only hope: an effectual United Nations the only prevention to species suicide. (If you know a way in which a single nation can solve the issues of global warming and nuclear catastrophe, please let me know in the comments.) But Freud’s narcissism of small differences, as you explained, precludes just that. Shrewdness, for reasons separate from reason, has attached itself to the nation-state in the 21st century. Perhaps George Bernard Shaw’s observations made in the 20th can help:

A healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man of his bones. But if you break a nation’s nationality, it will think of nothing else but having it set [again]. A healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man is of his bones.

He was speaking in particular of Eire, where the threat to national unit was clear and present: it had a flag, a uniform, armed men in the streets. The reaction to British rule is easy to understand: home and away literally had their own team colours. International capital can be just as destructive and ubiquitous – imposing a division of labour that turns man into beast and debtor into slave – but, like so much economic hocus pocus, the guiding hand remains hidden. Fraud and cheap tricks are given a sense of levity by the Veil, and a newspeak diverts. Too big to fail, misselling, economic recovery, balancing the books, reducing the deficit… It’s almost enough to make you forget that we’re living through an era of unprecedented class war.

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US wealth distribution

But, as far-right figureheads know, race and nation are easier to discern than market forces.

Remember that fleeting sub-vocalisation you had upon seeing Mr Patel in his brand new BMW? Do you recall the momentary shame you felt as you went to stow it away? Well, so say Le Pen and Farage, there’s no need for that. Trust your instincts – that niggly little voice was right all along – the shiftless immigrant is to blame for all your inadequacies. So too, you were right to hate that public sector worker for thinking she was entitled to a decent pension and maternity pay, and to fear Johnny-Bloody-Foreigner’s funny foreign ways.

The nation has become a safe haven from those chaotic global forces which rather carry on acting upon unseen. From Nairn,

Nationalism can in [a] sense be pictured as like the old Roman god, Janus, who stood above gateways with one face looking forward and one backwards. Thus does nationalism stand over the passage to modernity, for human society. As human kind is forced through its strait doorway, it must look desperately back into the past, to gather strength wherever it can be found for the ordeal of ‘development’

And it is no coincidence that, as well as honouring the flag (be it Southern Cross or Union), Trump’s supporters also harbour authoritarian fantasies. Dictators, for all their faults, offer consistency; and willing subjects, for all their charms, refuse to see what the sacrifice of the self means for self-preservation.

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Berlin, 1945

European history teaches us that subjugation campaigns against minorities are seldom a contained affair. They’re often dress rehearsals for something far bolder: Spain’s crusaders banished the Jews after it had cleared out the Moors, and then the Inquisition was born; Russian tsars would have their generals “pacify” the steppe before bringing them home to quell urban dissenters; and as the last Reich folded, Hitler damned his “undeserving” German brothers and sisters. Time after time, once the machinery of state had been adapted to cannibalization, and all of Them had been spent, the mob found that all they called for came calling on them.

 

 

(Edit: Is it ironical or just farcical that the first significant movement that proclaimed universal virtue and all men brothers – the French Revolution – also gave birth to the modern nation state?)

 

 

Machine Men with Machine Hearts

The original quote is from Charlie Chaplin's The Last Dictator. The mechanistic and ubiquitous nature of Capital
The original quote is from Charlie Chaplin’s The Last Dictator. The mechanistic and ubiquitous nature of Capital

Thoughts on Patriotism Today: Pole’s Perspective.

I come from a very different background than Paddy. What kind of national/patriotic celebrations do you have in Britain? There’s the Jubilee and the Remembrance Day. One honours the sacrifice of British men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty. The other, an old woman’s ability to stay alive.

Back in my homeland, things are quite different. Patriotism is an integral part of Polishness. We suckle it from our mother’s tit. Learning to remember and honour the history, sacrifices and achievements of Poles, who came before is as important as learning your ABC’s. There are three major events in Polish history, which are celebrated the most in modern Poland. Firstly, 11th November, The Independence Day. That one’s quite self-explanatory. Secondly, 3rd of May, when we celebrate our first constitution. The last, desperate effort, to save the homeland from expansionist ambitions of our imperial neighbours at the end of the 18th century (BTW we were second in the world after the US and first in Europe to do so). Thirdly, the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, its beginning and tragic end.

You can see a theme emerging there. All those events are linked with the fight for independence. Since I was a little kid, I either watched or took part in many school performances designed to honour and teach us about that fight. I always loathed having to stand in front of the whole school and recite a patriotic poem.

Look how awkward those kids look. I used to be one of them.

But you know what, I consider myself a patriot. Yes, I am proud of being Polish and I love my country. In my own special way. I’ve watched many historical drama and documentary movies and TV shows. Did you know that Paddy wishes he was alive during the Spanish Civil War, so he could join the volunteer brigade and fight fascism? Well, part of me wishes I was alive during the Warsaw Uprising, or any other uprising (and we had many) so I could take part in that. My heart actually swells when I hear the same patriotic poems and songs I found boring as a kid. I feel proud when I hear or remind myself about Poles winning awards. I loved to learn about our military victories, and I still kinda brag about them all when I talk with Paddy.

Unfortunately, as many things, even that has been hijacked by some assholes who decided to use it for their political or other gains. In short, the right-wingers (especially from the current ruling party) love to accuse anyone who doesn’t agree with them of being un-patriotic and sometimes going as far as calling them traitors. Even worse, the Independence Day has been turned into a battleground. The day when all Poles ought to enjoy the parades and celebrate has become an excuse for the nationalists to organize mass fights and riots against the enemies of the homeland. You know, the liberals, the left-wingers and pretty much anyone who happens to cross their path. They are nothing more than thugs and vandals, with not so subtle neo-Nazi undertones. The ideals of liberty have been tainted with racism, xenophobia and homophobia. Even the veterans who survived both WW2 and the Warsaw Uprising, so eagerly put on the pedestal by the nationalists, have condemned their behaviour.

The face of Polish ‘patriots’.

This is one of the reasons why I agree with Paddy on that issue. Patriotism is an outdated concept and a dangerous one. It now serves to antagonize people and turn them against foreigners and outsiders. It justifies and encourages violence towards not only ‘external threats’ but also those these cunts consider ‘internal traitors’.

Fortunately, for every skinhead who uses patriotic slogans as an excuse to punch someone in the face, there are a few people who don’t. Unfortunately, the skinheads tend to shout the loudest and be given the most attention by the media. The silent minority is failing us.

So many things divide us as people. Race, gender, religion, sexuality. The list goes on. If patriotism means loving your country by hating everyone who doesn’t fit your narrow and ignorant world view, then kill it. I say this, a patriot.

Pole.

 

Beyond Reason: Where Neo-Conservatives Are Born

Irving Kristol pointed out that Lionel Trilling believed, “the liberal state of mind is reformist and humanitarian; a state of mind whose basis is snobbery, self-satisfaction, unimaginativeness. . . . The liberal flatters himself upon his intentions, ‘and prefers not to know that the good will generate its own problems, that the love of humanity has its own vices and the love of truth its own insensibilities.’ [Italics mine]

Honesty from a leading Neoconservative

The Neoconservative Journey – Hoover Institute

 

Contrary to the title, this debate had nothing to do with Western values. Those on stage (and political) right succeeded in twisting the debate parameters into a battle between all which is good – the burden of which they took on – versus all that’s bad. Defending Enlightenment values against the depravity of cultural relativism, of which radical Islam – with all the chauvinism, hanging, stoning and sadism that goes along with it – is the greatest benefactor. A disingenuous tactic, but a shift that the audience accepted.

It’s disingenuous because:

  1. Tolerance, liberty and civil protections are not Western values, they’re human values. See the United Nations’ Charter
  2. When, can it be said, did the West honestly export these values?

There’s something about the jingoism of the middle-class that niggles at me more than the common, tad more raucous kind. It takes work: the liberal-interventionists/neo-conservatives (this political labeling could do with a bit of a clean-up) of the Baby Boomer generation have to first suppress the knowledge of 1 and 2. (A mental prerequisite that the rank and ranker of the EDL need not bother themselves with.) Pretend they never attended those rallies against British complicity in Indochina’s incineration, the formation of Latin American death squads and African apartheid, before they embark the Patriot bus.

 

Over Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pinot

Did I just conflate a metropolitan state of mind with that gutter impulse? You must forgive me. No, the militant middle-class is not merely nationalistic, it constitutes a broad bulwark against barbaric hoards the world over. This war, championed by armchair generals Middle England over, recognises no borders.

With the way these neo-libs and neo-cons and neo-atheists proudly state their alignment with “Civilisation” against the savages, you’d think they hooked this herring all by themselves. But in fact it’s the oldest lie in the book, holding back even the God myth in consequential misery.

Doctors Without Borders Hospital, Kunduz. Bombed by US Airforce

While lambasting cultural relativists they themselves commit the logical sin of cultural determinism. Believing that religious texts (which in the next breath they claim the sheep fuckers can’t read) modify the brain, replacing empathy with a fetish for suicide-murder, and reasoned deliberation with screeching Ackbars.

If they do wrong, well what do you expect? That’s what they are. If we do it (a word employed by both sides in the debate linked above and difficult to abandon) those for the motion would plea good, enlightened intentions. “Oh, we blew up your school, sending little arms and little legs up to the Heavens? Well, rest assured, we like Galileo.”

This is almost certainly against the point but this sort of thing,  but this profaning of that most profaning of projects – the Enlightenment – bothers me. The brilliance of Hume, Paine, Humboldt and the first scientists worthy of the name, is lessened, muddied, in the speeches of them, Kipling’s heirs. (It pains me to compare this sorry lot to the author of the Jungle Book and Recessional, the old reactionary at least had some panache – and compassion.)

 

Iraq – Laboratory of Neo-Cons

 

When their parallel Universe merges:

The Iraqi leader seen as a grave threat in 1963 was Abdel Karim Kassem, a general who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. Washington’s role in the coup went unreported at the time and has been little noted since. America’s anti-Kassem intrigue has been widely substantiated, however, in disclosures by the Senate Committee on Intelligence and in the work of journalists and historians like David Wise, an authority on the C.I.A.

From 1958 to 1960, despite Kassem’s harsh repression, the Eisenhower administration abided him as a counter to Washington’s Arab nemesis of the era, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, much as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush would aid Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s against the common foe of Iran.

But by 1961, the Kassem regime had grown more assertive. Seeking new arms rivaling Israel’s arsenal, threatening Western oil interests, resuming his country’s old quarrel with Kuwait, talking openly of challenging the dominance of America in the Middle East. All steps Saddam Hussein was to repeat in some form. Kassem was regarded by Washington as a dangerous leader who must be removed.

According to Western scholars, as well as Iraqi refugees and a British human rights organization, the 1963 coup [against Kassem] was accompanied by a bloodbath. Using lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the C.I.A., the Baathists systematically murdered untold numbers of Iraq’s educated elite. Killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. No one knows the exact toll, but accounts agree that the victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures.

The United States also sent arms to the new regime, weapons later used against the same Kurdish insurgents the United States had backed against Kassem and then abandoned. Soon, Western corporations like Mobil, Bechtel and British Petroleum were doing business with Baghdad. For American firms, this was their first major involvement in Iraq.

But it wasn’t long before there was infighting among Iraq’s new rulers. In 1968, after yet another coup, the Baathist general Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr seized control, bringing to the threshold of power his kinsman, Saddam Hussein. Again, this coup, amid more factional violence, came with C.I.A. backing. Serving on the staff of the National Security Council under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the late 1960’s, I often heard C.I.A. officers including Archibald Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and a ranking C.I.A. official for the Near East and Africa at the time, speak openly about their close relations with the Iraqi Baathists.

Roger Morris of the NYT

I remind readers of the neo-conservative’s long and fraught love affair with the harsher side of Ba’athism not to exonerate Saddam nor his gang. Only to say that the Arab appears to have a better recall of “our” recent misdeeds in Mesopotamia than we allow ourselves. How could anyone blame them for shooting a skeptical eye westward – toward a people so blinded by the glow emitted by long-gone epochs? (A gaze which the Arab has been trained to steer clear of Islam.)

And this is the crux. We, “the West”, can certainly talk the talk when needed. We point to the examples of Thomas Paine, of Bertrand Russell and George Orwell – great men all – while, during the very same exertion, pissing on their legacy. Civilian slaughter, torture and mass deception are the evils they fought against when they raised the pool of Western thought. But, we’re told by Nick Cohen, Douglas Murray, Christopher Hitchens and David Aaronovitch, these are temporary hiccups, required in the short-term so that we may maintain our lofty principles to History’s terminus. They may not be philosophers but, don’t be fooled, these men know that principles can’t take a day – or decade – off. They’re either held aloft persistently and consistently, a la Lady Liberty’s torch, or not at all.

So what are they really for?

Paddy

If We Can’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump

And the Crimes of Hillary Clinton

[Edit 13th November: I called the election results back in May. For some reason I don’t feel good saying, “I told you so”.]

The Democratic Establishment has chosen suicide over evolution. In their absurd bid to get the She-Clinton elected they’ve denied their base its wish, and their party a future. In throwing forth the most Establishment candidate in this, a time of unusually high cynicism, they have given Trump the White House. The Overton window is spinning all the way to the Right, and the shards are about to pepper our faces.

But why? In the same way Nixon was desperate to prevent good governance abroad (Chile to Cambodia), the DNC did their darnest to disallow a progressive president at home. Bernie Sanders was undermined in a way that brought to mind Henry A. Wallace’s mistreatment in 1944. This was done even though it was the Old Man – only him – who possessed a clear lead over Trump (recent polls have put the latter and Hillary at almost equal footing).

What the Democratic elite and their sympathisers are willfully blind to is this: the current system – labelled “oligarchical” by Princeton political scientists – can not be saved. No amount of polish or steady steerage. Not even by, good grief, Clixon and the return of Kissinger. To borrow from the banner: capitalism isn’t in crisis, it is crisis.

(After-all, as Alexander Cockburn wrote, in ’08 it was the mega-rich who were reaching for Das Kapital as the left flailed. Those in the know know its over, as they move onto the marrow.)

And if the Left aren’t the ones to oversee the transition from late capitalism to goodness-knows-what, the Right will be. As Stewart Hall and Ralph Miliband once warned Old Labour, if leftists are not willing to become radical when History demands it, their enemies will inevitably set the next consensus. Britain got Thatcher.

The only thing we appear to learn from history is that no one learns anything from history. American liberals, shirking imagination as they do, have made exactly the same mistake, this time with Clinton II. Believing that open corruption (in the form of cash-for-favours with Earth’s dodgiest dictators), obvious opportunism (marriage is between and man and a woman until it isn’t) and outright lying (about her “life-threatening” entry into Bosnia) are all fine, worth fighting for even. It’s just what we deserve.

Hillary is no longer subject to a FBI investigation, but there are – if the US has any conception of justice left – some areas that could still open her up to legalistic challenges.

And, of course, there’s always the court of public opinion should the traditional channels fail. With every drip from the email leak, we are finding more depths to which she will sink. How fitting would it be for the name that made itself privatizing Arkansas state would meet its downfall as a result of making the public private during its time as Secretary of State.

1. Her shady dealings with aforementioned international crooks, brutes and murderers – Mark Rich to Nazarbayev to Mubarak – in a process subverting extremely lax caps on campaign contributions. In other words, she is using a “charitable organisation” as a front while blood money is funneled to her vanity project.

Please take a look at Todd S. Purdum’s excellent investigation into the Clinton Corp. corruption here.

2. Using her position in the State Department to remind all of Central and South America just who is boss. Not since Reagan have we seen the USA so committed to de-weeding its self-declared backyard: Hillary helped undermine the democratic government of Honduras and add legitimacy to the military thugs who stole power through a phony election. She pressured reluctant neighbouring states to toe this line and join in the “normalization of relations” process. In plainer language: accepting that might equals right. (I imagine dear Eric Blair would spew he could.)

3. Her money laundering in channeling DNC funds (money for the party and not an individual) toward her campaign. Note: this is also anti-democratic, seeing as it’s left Bernie Sanders at a serious disadvantage… should anyone care about that sort of thing anymore.

4. Her on-going and strident support for a Saudi elite which, from what little we can discern, played a pivotal role in 9/11. Turns out the aiding state actor wasn’t Iraq after-all! Congress, in acknowledgement of this, have recently approved a bill that will allow its victims to sue the Gulf monarchy.

[Update: We’re seeing the initial rumblings of this.]

4. is potentially most destructive for Clinton Corp. Not even the center-left could allow themselves to stand for that. Promising mass-surveillance and promoting mass-murderers may be A-ok, but surely not that.

(The “Democratic” Party leadership’s back-up plan is to replace an indited Clinton with the Joe Biden Bot 3000. This is about equal amounts insulting, stupid and laughable. See TYT.)

When Trump’s militia are patrolling the streets and the opportunity for progressive politics has been lost to another generation, maybe then the Democrats will finally realise that a pathological pursuit of compromise just ain’t good enough. For all the good it’ll do.

 

Paddy