Friday, March 17, 2017

It's Not Even Past: Episode 2 - Beginning

As I said at the beginning of the last podcast, if I was being harder on the Left than I'm being on the Right, it's because I assume that it's mostly people of the Left who will listen to this podcast, as they do to podcasts generally. Educated people in our day and age generally tilt to varying degrees of Left, and the problems of the Right in American life are so unbelievably obvious and present and fecund that they need no enumeration from me. Dominance by the American Right is a simple fact of modern American life, now more than ever, and the nearly the only questions about it are under the rubric of how to defeat it. And to defeat it we have to talk a little bit about imperialism. 

Unless you feel that a person's quality of life is of truly equal importance to a person's right to life, it is very difficult to say that imperialism is a crime quite on the same level as Nazism and Communism. Imperialism is the oldest of all political crimes, the most difficult and dangerous to eradicate by far, and one crime in which every person in the modern world has to one extent or another been complicit.

And if you feel strongly that a person's quality of life matters as much as his or her right to life, then I'd ask you to seriously prioritize in a world where a person's mere right to stay alive is still so often questioned. Quality of life is surprisingly difficult to define without context, but whether or not a person dies of natural causes is generally a question whose answers are binary. But even if you disagree with that any of what I've said so far, this is, after all, my show, so for the moment let's take it as a given that the a person's right to life is more important than a person's quality thereof for the simple reason that a right to life is the obvious first step in achieving quality of life.

If a person's right to life is the most important of all factors, then the single greatest justification for lancing the boil that is imperialism until full drainage is that even with all its attendant evils, is not the inequalities of imperialism within themselves, but the near-apocalyptic events which such wealth inequalities almost inevitably seem to foretell. And in that sense, yes, imperialism is absolutely an infected limb that requires amputation. But the problem is that theft and exploitation and plunder of one civilization to the detriment of another - which as Modern China's current plunder of Africa proves, and just seventy years ago, Imperial Japan's plunder of Manchuria - is not merely a Western problem, and perhaps less an exclusively Western problem than in more than a hundred years.

Imperialism, both in its causes and its results, is so complex that the vast majority of marginal attempts that history has yet made to eradicate it have resulted in their own attendant disasters. Not only were Communists who attracted so may followers over two centuries with their championship of anti-Imperial struggles, more prolific artists of death than Hitler - albeit both over two decades more and much greater square mileage, but so by and large were second rank left-wing dictators of the quote-unquote Third World who so often perpetrated their bloody deeds in the name of fighting against imperialism - left wing dictators who were still quite a bit more bloody in their statistics than their right-wing nationalist counterparts.

And I realize how controversial that statement still is, and perhaps especially is today, but to take a few obviously selective examples: no amount of Mussolini blood in Italy's occupation of Ethiopia could spill a tenth of the blood spilled by the anti-Imperial Mengistu, no amount of French and American greed or incompetence or delusion could unleash on Cambodia what the anti-Imperial Pol Pot did. No amount of Chinese nationalism could spill blood with the joyful alacrity of Mao - no one ever has and hopefully no one again ever will. Right wing dictatorship is often not quite as bloody, and perhaps for the simple reason that the innate predisposition of right-wing pathology with its veneration for institutions and tradition is a predisposition to authoritarianism and violent law enforcement.  Dictatorship does not do as much to upset the natural right-wing order of things because conservatives already respond with veneration to authority. On the other hand, the Left, with its pathological predisposition toward upending tradition and institutions, has a natural predisposition to chaos and terror. Generally speaking, a right-wing dictatorship tries to uphold the law by the most extreme of measures, while a left-wing dictatorship, as happened most obviously under Mao and Stalin, and perhaps even to a small extent under Hitler's National Socialism - remember that Hitler was still as much a socialist as a nationalist and conservatism is different than illiberalism - will always break the law, change the law, subvert the law, to make even and perhaps especially their most loyal citizens live under the profoundest terror. The best way to do it is to kill their neighbors, kill their friends, kill their families, and finally kill them. And furthermore, when one hears about Steve Bannon's veneration for the American working class, your tentacles for detecting a national socialist philosophy should immediately go off.

Again, as we said at the beginning of the last podcast. One of Art's great secrets is its societal tremors, Art is a societal seizmograph. The relevance of this will, hopefully, make sense in a few minutes. With obvious exceptions of course, a secure era always seems to be dominated by secure Art in which the rules are clearly defined. The vast majority of the 18th century, with its intricate and unbreakable monarchical hierarchies, was the archetype of a society in which art was created with extremely distinct rules so as to not upset the precarious balance of an incredibly intricate societal structure. All official European and American buildings seemed to be designed with the kind of columns one finds in Ancient Greece or Rome, with heights determined by mathematical ratios found in nature so as to provide the most harmonious possible surroundings. Nearly all pictorial art was designed by schematic before the schematic was painted over. All music ends in the same key in which it begins, and the phrase-lengths are inevitably kept in multiples of four. The poetry was almost inevitably kept in strictest possible couplet form. The expectations of what art was supposed to be were ironclad. But as anyone who grew up in the suburbs can tell you, predictability can at times feel like a kind of prison, and when the prison walls come down, the chaos is that much more explosive because nobody remembers what chaos feels like.

By 1789, France, the kingdom well-known for having the most intricate of all Europe's monarchical hierarchies, was beset by a revolution. First came a financial crisis, then collapse, then the rise of the Jacobins and the guillotine, then the execution of a few hundred noblemen, then the rise of Robespierre who executed most of the other Jacobins and eventually was himself executed for having been responsible for the execution of 20,000 Frenchmen, then came the ten year French Revolutionary War which killed somewhere between 300,000 and 1.1 million French, and then came Napoleon to unite France under his dictatorship and who decided he needed to put the rest of Europe under an Empire united under his rule, and somewhere between 3.5 and 6 million died for the cause of his ambition to conquer the world. When there is too much order, the ensuing chaos become all the worse. It was an avalanche of death that claimed ever more lives for twenty-six years before it finally stopped.

War did not rage throughout the supposedly civilized part of the world for another hundred years, when it broke out again in 1914, it took thirty-one years to stop, and in the meantime, if we go by the estimates of R. J. Rummel, probably the best known scholar of state murder who has an easily accessible website if you can stomach such a thing, we lost somewhere between 17 and 18 million to World War One, somewhere between 20 to 50 million in the Spanish Influenza which broke out because of the unsanitariness of the battlefields, an estimated seven million who starved to death in various countries during the Great Depression, another estimated 5 to 9 million deaths due to the Russian Civil War of the early 1920s which broke out after the collapse of the Czar, and the four million deaths for which Lenin was directly responsible after he consolidated power, and the 5 million killed by Imperial Japan, the 20 million dead in the Chinese Civil War of the 30s and 40s, for which the Communist party led by Mao in the few years before he assumed power was responsible for 4 million deaths alone, the four million Chinese Deaths for which Chiang-Kai Shek's right-wing nationalist government was responsible, the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by Turkish generals which killed roughly 1.8 million if one counts a few hundred thousand non-Armenians also murdered, and the nearly million people killed by the allegedly great Ataturk who is still revered by American neoconservatives as the model of an incorruptible secularizing dictator, the well over a million killed in quote-unquote minor European dictatorships, another roughly 20 million killed in various ways by Hitler's Nazis for which we needn't elaborate, and the probable upward of 50 million people killed by Stalin's various orders and policies alone. It is macabre at best to list these totals and then add all of them up, but let's just say that the wars of the early twentieth century killed so far over a hundred million people that it's probably closer to two-hundred million. One then adds up the stupefying death tolls of the Cold War and the quote unquote Third World upon whom it was mostly perpetrated, the roughly twelve million Soviets for which dictators after Stalin were responsible, the 2 million dead in the killing fields of Pol-Pot's Cambodia, the roughly 1.7 million killed by North Korea, another 1.7 million killed in the Vietnam War and its aftermath, the 1.5 million dead in the Polish Civil War which killed my great-aunt after surviving the Holocaust, the 1.5 million killed by the various Pakistani military dictatorships, the 1.1 million killed in Yugoslavia, yes, the 6 million dead from United States actions in the Cold War. And worst of all, the roughly seventy-seven million killed in Mao's China, for which no truly reliable total is possible, and some estimates go up to a hundred twenty million people. While estimates are obviously unreliable, evidence would seem to point to that five hundred years of traditional Western mercantile Imperialism with all its attendant mass murders cannot equal the total number of deaths engendered by thirty-one years of advanced warfare, let alone the seventy five years of it from the outbreak of World War One until the collapse of the Berlin Wall. In fact, for five hundred years of Western Imperialism to reach anything even resembling the equivalent death tolls of the twentieth century one would have to not only accept the very highest estimates - such as putting the total Native Americans killed rather than felled by disease at 120 million people higher than than the 15 million that is generally supposed, but also include the casualties of Islamic Imperialism.

Even the single greatest death toll of vaguely recorded modern Imperialism which admittedly boosts arguments of moral equivalence significantly, the mass famines of Indians in the British Empire, and killed what's generally regarded to be somewhere between 12 million and 29 million people, have to be considered in the context that these were acts of starvation. Acts of starvation which the great tyrants of the 20th century were in no way beneath, but still, when compared to the mass murders of Auschwitz, The Great Terror, and the Red Guards, pale in comparison. Furthermore, as the British developed technologies to mitigate the worst of famines, the famines decreased. These were clearly grisly matters of unspeakable contempt and incompetence and horror, but it was not premeditated murder and even the most contemptible of British officers issued orders to give the subjects just enough wages to keep them alive. Some would consider this all the worse, and there's certainly merit to that argument: because it shows that people of color did not even factor into the decision making of imperial rulers who plundered a century of wheat crop from a land they ruled for the joy of ruling, and shows that they were willing to tolerate the long, drawn out suffering of those who were clearly destined to die when a bullet to the head might have been more merciful. And yet, I would also ask you to particularly consider one Emperor of the Mughal dynasty, which controlled the vast majority of the Indian subcontinent for the three hundred years before British dominance. Auranguzeb, ruling for forty nine years between 1658 to 1707, was considered to rule somewhere in the area of a hundred to a hundred fifty million people. He brought the Mughal Empire to its largest dominance, 3.2 million square miles, which held for fifty years after his death. He required from his subjects a yearly tribute of nearly 3 billion rupees, which was roughly 38 million pounds in 1700, which means roughly 10 billion pounds in today's money, which means he commanded a yearly tribute of 12.5 billion dollars, much of which was collected from penniless peasants.

In Auranguzeb's lifetime, 4.6 million were said to have been killed from war. One has to imagine that with the unreliable records kept in the 1600s all over the world, the total may be much, much higher. When one considers that in 1900, the population total of India was 280 million, it would seem that the British Empire's crime is roughly on par with the most expansionist of the subcontinent's own leaders when there was no meddling from the West, and with far less premeditation. Whether from the East or West, Man is a tyrannical animal, given to imaginative flights of crushing fellow humans as though the rulers are children learning they have power of life and death over insects.

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