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zhao
30-10-2011, 11:19 AM
did you all see this article? - Let's end the myths of Britain's imperial past (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/oct/19/end-myths-britains-imperial-past?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038)

i hope the Dissensus response will not be like the one to Black Athena: "everyone knows this already", ("everyone" must meaning blogger friends because there is only too much evidence in the real world to the contrary), like the first commenter on the article:


"Where on earth is this cosy consensus that the British Empire was a good thing? Please, Richard, point to some examples of textbooks currently used in schools and recent television programmes that enforce an uncomplicated belief in the greatness of the Empire.

I thought we were at least at post-post-revisionist history of this by now? Or did this article fall through from 1950 when the assumption of imperial superiority was fairly widespread?

it seems to me that taking pride in colonialist history is something for sure a TAD more popular and mainstream in England compared to Germany (not sure about Belgium or France or Spain or Portugal), with ignorance levels of its own violent history rivaling the United States. and one can see this clearly judging only by the comments, a fair portion of which are along the lines of "Colonialism was both good AND bad", "It was natural/Inevitable", "Other empires were worse", or a number of things like:


"What a load of whining leftie twaddle.

The world was, of course, a very different place a century or two ago. Applying current perspectives to almost anything from that age may result in the feeble-minded reaching for the human rights act and saying how nasty it all was. No shit, sherlock! The alternatives may not have been any less palatable, free or peaceful.

Proper history remains largely untaught in my children's schools - replaced by this kind of guilt-ridden thematic nonsense."

how exactly would you characterize contemporary Britain's relationship to something like the 30 million Indian deaths due to starvation because of British self serving agricultural policies? or similar things in Ireland? or these kinds of control and repressive mechanisms in general, largely invented by the English?

while the world still largely goes on endlessly about the Evil Germans, England seems to have gotten off much more easily. (comparisons are largely meaningless and futile, but just for perspective, of course the Nazis killed 6 million jews).

have you all read this?

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/511wb6SPUUL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Late-Victorian-Holocausts-Famines-Making/dp/1859847390

Mr. Tea
11-11-2011, 01:26 PM
Hmm, it's difficult to say. I'm sure there are both crusty old conservatives and a younger generation of unpleasant nationalists (EDL etc.) who get misty-eyed and nostalgic about the Empire. It's pretty much de rigeur for left-wing or liberal white Brits to feel a good deal of guilt about the whole thing. Not sure how non-whites living here feel about it to be honest, and I'm sure there isn't a consensus non-white post-colonial attitude. I mean, India/Pakistan/Bangladesh/Sri Lanka were obviously under the imperial heel for a long time, but the people there weren't slaves (in the strict sense) and they weren't brought there from another continent, as the ancestors of black West Indians were, as well as black Americans of course.

You're right that as far as 20th-century history goes, Britain makes much of having been on the side of Good against Nazi Germany, which did basically the Worst Thing Ever. But remember that the death toll of WWII went far beyond the Jews killed in the Holocaust (whose total toll was not six but eleven million). A total figure of 50 million is the usual estimate for the whole war. Then there's Japanese attrocities, which I know you're well aware of, and various Soviet abominations, which went on for a lot longer than those of the Nazis - by some estimates, Ukranian victims of the Holomodor outnumber Jewish victims of the Shoah, yet that unimaginable crime goes largely unnoticed in Western historiography.

Also, don't confuse England with Britain. Many of the most important figures in the UK's imperial history were Scottish, Irish or Welsh.

Interesting thread though, only just seen it.

droid
11-11-2011, 02:05 PM
You're right that as far as 20th-century history goes, Britain makes much of having been on the side of Good against Nazi Germany, who did basically the Worst Thing Ever.


Mark Curtis estimates that approximately ten million deaths throughout the world since 1945 have been caused by the United Kingdom’s foreign policy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Curtis_(British_author)

craner
11-11-2011, 02:53 PM
Oh aye, and how did he calculate that exactly?

droid
11-11-2011, 03:05 PM
Oh aye, and how did he calculate that exactly?

Nice reflex.

Direct and indirect deaths through examination of declassified state documents and various other sources afaik.

How would you calculate it?

craner
11-11-2011, 03:07 PM
Direct and indirect deaths through examination of declassified state documents and various other sources afaik.

Eh?

craner
11-11-2011, 03:09 PM
What I mean is, I presume he has a break down of this carnage? As in, this many died because of British action in the Falklands, this many died because of British action in the first Gulf War, and so on.

droid
11-11-2011, 03:22 PM
What I mean is, I presume he has a break down of this carnage? As in, this many died because of British action in the Falklands, this many died because of British action in the first Gulf War, and so on.

Sorry. Yes he does. In web of deceit and unpeople I think. Its been a while.

http://markcurtis.info/

Mr. Tea
11-11-2011, 04:29 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Curtis_(British_author)

Well I was talking more about Britain's self-image (as per thread title) rather than historic reality.

droid
11-11-2011, 04:52 PM
Well I was talking more about Britain's self-image (as per thread title) rather than historic reality.

Yeah, of course, but that self-image seems to be predicated on ignorance or obscured by nationalism and PR. The problem is that Britain (like the US) has never been defeated and forced to face up to its past in the same way that other states have.

http://covers.openlibrary.org/b/id/139264-L.jpg

Mr. Tea
11-11-2011, 04:56 PM
The problem is that Britain (like the US) has never been defeated and forced to face up to its past in the same way that other states have.


Hmm, that's a good point. OTOH, Japan suffered a huge defeat in living memory and while there have been some public apologies from Japanese PMs (Emporers too? not sure), there's nothing like the 'remorse industry' that Germany's had for the last 60+ years.

At least, that's my (admittedly scanty) understanding of it. Anyone here know much about post-war Japan?

droid
11-11-2011, 05:07 PM
Hmm, that's a good point. OTOH, Japan suffered a huge defeat in living memory and while there have been some public apologies from Japanese PMs (Emporers too? not sure), there's nothing like the 'remorse industry' that Germany's had for the last 60+ years.

At least, that's my (admittedly scanty) understanding of it. Anyone here know much about post-war Japan?

The Japanese have been resolutely pacifistic for decades. There are internal pressures and extreme nationalists of course, but they've resisted many opportunities to militarise despite the genuine threat of North Korean, Russian and Chinese aggression and expansion in the region.

Whether things will stay that way in the future as the US position in SE asia deteriorates is another question.

pattycakes
11-11-2011, 05:46 PM
in the 3rd part of adam curtis' series the living dead (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Living_Dead_(television_documentary_series)) you can get quite an insightful look into the minds of thatcher and churchill and how they filtered out the naughty bits of britain's history to spread the image that you're talking about. highly recommended.

Mr. Tea
11-11-2011, 06:25 PM
The Japanese have been resolutely pacifistic for decades. There are internal pressures and extreme nationalists of course, but they've resisted many opportunities to militarise despite the genuine threat of North Korean, Russian and Chinese aggression and expansion in the region.

Whether things will stay that way in the future as the US position in SE asia deteriorates is another question.

Sure, I'm not contesting any of that - I'm talking specifically about formal apologies and reparations to victims of attrocities committed before and during WWII which, by any measure, fall far short of those made by Germany. In Germany only a small minority of card-carrying neo-Nazis is anything but contrite about the war and the camps (at least, in public...), and it's illegal to display the swastika or other Nazi symbolism even in a history textbook. But apologies by Japanese leaders have provoked widespread nationalist backlashes of the kind unthinkable in Germany. They've even had highschool textbooks that downplay various attrocities. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_Society_for_History_Textbook_Reform)

Edit: doesn't surprise me in the least that British conservatives have done much the same thing. Think things were a bit different by the time I was at high school, though.

droid
11-11-2011, 07:30 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_war_apology_statements_issued_by_Japan

Mr. Tea
11-11-2011, 07:39 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_war_apology_statements_issued_by_Japan

Yes, well done, I was just looking at that page myself. You seem to be quite keen to defend Japan for some reason. It's pretty common knowledge that culpability for war crimes there has not entered the popular consciousness to the extent that it has in Germany. I'd be interested to hear zhao's take on this, if he comes back to this thread.

But what is this all about, anyway? As zhao said, comparisons are largley futile. The point of the thread is not to establish, once and for all, the official Worst Country Ever. If anything, the case of the Japanese text books provides an interesting point of comparison with what pattycakes says about textbooks in Britain, doesn't it?

droid
11-11-2011, 07:43 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_war_apology_statements_issued_by_Japan
http://www.google.ie/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=8&ved=0CFAQFjAH&url=http%3A%2F%2Fboards.straightdope.com%2Fsdmb%2F showthread.php%3Ft%3D270313&ei=Jnq9Ts_OKITRhAfNranHBA&usg=AFQjCNEr4IQ7_VMtZVTrGdwpbQb2joBMMg&sig2=XsqF5hKNUDtXBF130ODVNQ

droid
11-11-2011, 10:43 PM
Yes, well done, I was just looking at that page myself. You seem to be quite keen to defend Japan for some reason. It's pretty common knowledge that culpability for war crimes there has not entered the popular consciousness to the extent that it has in Germany. I'd be interested to hear zhao's take on this, if he comes back to this thread.

Er... are you drunk?

You asked this:


At least, that's my (admittedly scanty) understanding of it. Anyone here know much about post-war Japan?

I answered. You then said this:


I'm talking specifically about formal apologies and reparations to victims of attrocities committed before and during WWII which, by any measure, fall far short of those made by Germany.

And I provided some links detailing their apologies and the attitude in the education system, which you also brought up.

You then say:


You seem to be quite keen to defend Japan for some reason. It's pretty common knowledge that culpability for war crimes there has not entered the popular consciousness to the extent that it has in Germany.

So, in the space of a few posts, your 'scanty knowledge' has become 'common knowledge', and answering your questions has become a 'defence of japan'.:slanted:

The fact is its 'common knowledge' that Japan is the only nation in the world to outlaw war, and despite the horrible crimes they perpetrated in WWII, one of the most unique features about japanese society in the postwar period is its commitment to pacifism.

That is not a defense of Japan. Its simply a fact.


But what is this all about, anyway? As zhao said, comparisons are largley futile. The point of the thread is not to establish, once and for all, the official Worst Country Ever. If anything, the case of the Japanese text books provides an interesting point of comparison with what pattycakes says about textbooks in Britain, doesn't it?

What is it all about? Answering your questions perhaps? Sorry about that.

I cant claim familiarity with japanese textbooks - neither can you. The second link I posted above contains comments from someone who went to school in Japan, and he says that war crimes were minimised or glossed over... please show me a British textbook that calls Cromwell and the subsequent pacifications in Ireland 'genocide', or describes the resettlement and detention camps in Kenya and Malaya, or goes into detailed description of the acts of the 'Army of Retribution' during the Sepoy rebellion.

craner
12-11-2011, 12:48 AM
You mean you haven't read the Heinemann Schools History Project (http://www.amazon.co.uk/English-1640-49-Seminar-Studies-History/dp/0582353920/ref=pd_cp_b_1)?

Mr. Tea
12-11-2011, 01:23 AM
Droid, what I meant was I'd read some things here and there, enough to form an impression, but not enough to write a detailed essay on the subject. I hope that's not an inherent contradiction. Also I'm not denying that textbooks in British schools have presented, or still present, a biased account.

And has Japan been pacifist since WWII out of an abiding commitment to global human rights, or because it found out at first hand what happens when you piss off Uncle Sam?

droid
12-11-2011, 01:56 PM
Droid, what I meant was I'd read some things here and there, enough to form an impression, but not enough to write a detailed essay on the subject. I hope that's not an inherent contradiction. Also I'm not denying that textbooks in British schools have presented, or still present, a biased account.

And has Japan been pacifist since WWII out of an abiding commitment to global human rights, or because it found out at first hand what happens when you piss off Uncle Sam?

Whats all this about anyway? Why are you so obsessed with demonising Japan?

Mr. Tea
12-11-2011, 02:38 PM
Whats all this about anyway? Why are you so obsessed with demonising Japan?

Droid, FFS. Would you accuse someone of "demonising" Germany by talking about Nazi war crimes? OK, so I get that you're mirroring my comment about your "defence" of Japan, which I'll admit was a bit flippant. But even so, I think Japanese denial about the country's recent past, despite their defeat in WWII, provides an interesting counterpoint to your argument that Britain's historiographical whitewash is connected with our not having been invaded or occupied in modern times.

droid
12-11-2011, 02:54 PM
Droid, FFS. Would you accuse someone of "demonising" Germany by talking about Nazi war crimes? OK, so I get that you're mirroring my comment about your "defence" of Japan, which I'll admit was a bit flippant.

Yes, its a ludicrous thing to say. Thats what I was highlighting


But even so, I think Japanese denial about the country's recent past, despite their defeat in WWII, provides an interesting counterpoint to your argument that Britain's historiographical whitewash is connected with our not having been invaded or occupied in modern times.

I dont think you've established that this is the case at all, and I also think you've basically acknowledged your lack of knowledge.

Maybe there is a widespread denial of the acts of WWW2 in Japan. I cant say with certainty either way. My impression is that there is a general sense of shame regarding their involvement in the war even if some details have been whitewashed. There is certainly a deep commitment to pacifism, so the practical result is a nation state that is almost unique in history in completely renouncing war.

Now compare that attitude to Britain. The very idea that Britain has committed multiple acts of near genocide (the Indian famines of 1770, 1876-78 and 1943, the Irish famine) over the last 250 years would be laughable and offensive to most British people... in fact, the idea of the 'benevolent empire' has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years (http://www.salon.com/2003/04/17/ferguson_2/). Unpleasant acts in history havent just been minimised in Britain, they simply didn't happen or are retroactively justified.

Mr. Tea
12-11-2011, 04:18 PM
Well I've heard of most of those things - certainly the Irish famine, the Amritsar Massacre...at school we studied British colonialism in North America, Australia and New Zealand pretty extensively, along with the consequences for native people, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade, obviously. And I only did history up to GCSE (this would be the mid-90s in an ordinary state comp). OTOH that doesn't mean that people older me were taught the same things in their history lessons, and I can well believe there still is widespread denial. If Cameron's rhetoric is anything to go by, I guess it would be optimistic to expect this to change much in the near future.

But yeah, at least as far as my own education went, I don't remember the British Empire being painted as anthying to be particularly proud of.

Liverpool has an entire slavery museum. I've been there. It doesn't pull any punches.

luka
12-11-2011, 11:22 PM
please show me a British textbook that calls Cromwell and the subsequent pacifications in Ireland 'genocide'

when oliver helped you with this you ignored him. my a-level coursework was on cromwells massacres in ireland. i got the best mark in the class. (i still failed though.)
i know a lot of japanese people. ive been to japan. a lot of my cousins have lived there. did you know until very recently japanese people with korean heritige had to carry spcial identity cards? or talk to a chinese person about japans attitud to its history if you like. i would, boradly spaking agree with zhaos charactrisation of britain although why he thinks it should be him redressing historical wrongs im not sure.....
its disengenuouos of droid to streess teas obvious ignorance when h is the one quoting from wikipedia for fucks sake. its a pub argument, dont get on your high horse.

luka
12-11-2011, 11:41 PM
actually droid, i think that comese across as overly agressive on my part and i would like to apologise. i think you do recognise that it is a pub dbate and you ar observing pub debate rules. it is acceptable even obligatory to accuse your interlocutor of ignorance in a pub debate regardless of thee state of your own knowledge. i think i was a bit strong there and im sorry. your point about japans pacificsm is important. i agree with it, they been very well bhaved and i love the place dearly.

droid
13-11-2011, 01:27 AM
when oliver helped you with this you ignored him. my a-level coursework was on cromwells massacres in ireland. i got the best mark in the class. (i still failed though.)

Sure, but what about the post-Cromwell period? The widespread ethnic cleansing, massacres and enslavement - 'to hell or connaught'? Im genuinely interested, and to be fair, although Cromwell is demonised, there is a general reticence here with regard to this part of irish history - possibly because of Republican Nationalist co-option.


i know a lot of japanese people. ive been to japan. a lot of my cousins have lived there. did you know until very recently japanese people with korean heritige had to carry spcial identity cards? or talk to a chinese person about japans attitud to its history if you like.

Yes, I did know that. Also their appalling treatment of the Ainu and general xenophobia. The question was not in regard to racism though.


i would, boradly spaking agree with zhaos charactrisation of britain although why he thinks it should be him redressing historical wrongs im not sure.....
its disengenuouos of droid to streess teas obvious ignorance when h is the one quoting from wikipedia for fucks sake. its a pub argument, dont get on your high horse.

I can only speak of my perception of Britain's self-image through how Britain portrays itself in media and culture, which Ive been subjected to my entire life - Eccentric, civilised, slightly superior, nationalistic, mildly apologetic yet also proud it's history and relatively 'benevolent' empire.

Obviously most of the British people I know are generally a bit more clued in.

I also dont keep a list of Japanese apologies in my head, or claimed any special authority, I simply posted the link as Tea was apparently too lazy to google! :p

pattycakes
13-11-2011, 05:30 AM
watch the intro to this (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-314906531328011893)

Mr. Tea
13-11-2011, 11:24 AM
(actually droid, I found those links before you posted them, I just didn't want to be all like "hey, it says on Wikipedia..." - think luka might be onto something about the pub-like nature of this debate)

droid
13-11-2011, 02:20 PM
(actually droid, I found those links before you posted them, I just didn't want to be all like "hey, it says on Wikipedia..."

Uh huh. That single link that was simply a list of formal apologies with almost no attached editorial content, which I posted when you specifically asked for information on 'formal apologies'? I was really bringing the tone down there...


- think luka might be onto something about the pub-like nature of this debate)

Sure. Well done. All credit where its due.

mrfaucet
13-11-2011, 06:12 PM
Going back to the original post, surely Niall Ferguson deserves a mention. Has anyone ever bothered to read any of his books? Can't say that I have, but I did watch an interview with him on the Wall Street Journal website that was shockingly bad. I'm yet to hear or read anything from him that is insightful about China, which could be a bit of a problem given that it's become something of an obsession for him.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n21/pankaj-mishra/watch-this-man

Benny B
13-11-2011, 06:38 PM
Going back to the original post, surely Niall Ferguson deserves a mention. Has anyone ever bothered to read any of his books? Can't say that I have, but I did watch an interview with him on the Wall Street Journal website that was shockingly bad. I'm yet to hear or read anything from him that is insightful about China, which could be a bit of a problem given that it's become something of an obsession for him.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n21/pankaj-mishra/watch-this-man

I read empire without knowing anything about the guy, it really pissed me off actually. then I found out who he was on wikipedia. i don't think I would have read it if I'd known.

droid
13-11-2011, 07:40 PM
Going back to the original post, surely Niall Ferguson deserves a mention. Has anyone ever bothered to read any of his books? Can't say that I have, but I did watch an interview with him on the Wall Street Journal website that was shockingly bad. I'm yet to hear or read anything from him that is insightful about China, which could be a bit of a problem given that it's become something of an obsession for him.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n21/pankaj-mishra/watch-this-man

Linked to him briefly up thread. He's kind of an exhibit A for the prosecution.

Mercilessly ripped to shreds by (of all people) Johann Hari here:

http://johannhari.com/2006/06/12/there-can-be-no-excuse-for-empire/

The subsequent correspondence in the pages of the Independent are worth a read too. Briefly redeemed Hari in my eyes after his Iraq & Chomsky debacles

Slothrop
13-11-2011, 07:47 PM
Going back to the original post, surely Niall Ferguson deserves a mention.
"A mention" isn't what I'd say he deserves...

There's alread a thread on Dissensus called "the odious Niall Ferguson", I think.

Slothrop
13-11-2011, 09:05 PM
i hope the Dissensus response will not be like the one to Black Athena: "everyone knows this already", ("everyone" must meaning blogger friends because there is only too much evidence in the real world to the contrary)

how exactly would you characterize contemporary Britain's relationship to something like the 30 million Indian deaths due to starvation because of British self serving agricultural policies? or similar things in Ireland? or these kinds of control and repressive mechanisms in general, largely invented by the English?

I like the way that you don't even get around to asking the question before telling people not to bother answering if they don't agree with your preconceived idea of what their answer should be. Good research methodology there.

Seriously, though, I'm probably biased by the fact that most of my mates are fairly educated left-liberal types, but my impression is that a lot of people are in general aware that a lot of very bad things happened in the name of the British Empire (and of european colonialism generally), that they aren't hyper-aware of the specifics except in a few cases - so most people will know about the horrors of the slave trade but not necessarily about the Siege of Drogheda (this doesn't bother me that much in general, although Drogheda is perhaps a bad example) and that they think that all this stuff ended about the beginning of the twentieth century and we've been pretty groovy since then (which does bother me, a lot).

Edit: Or to put it another way, I think a lot of the British view of our colonial past could be summed up as "that was quite bad, isn't it good that we don't do anything like that any more."

Mr. Tea
13-11-2011, 10:30 PM
Yeah, that thread got a bit ridiculous - at one point zhao was more or less telling those of us from the UK what we had and hadn't been taught in GCSE History. :slanted:

The thing about a complete list of horrors committed by imperial Britain (or probably any European country with an overseas empire, or the countries founded by European settlers in the New World) is that it would be far too long for any normal person to memorise...

http://www.explosm.net/db/files/Comics/Kris/month.png

I think possibly more people than you might think are aware of recent and current 'crypto-imperialist' goings-on, though - I mean, look at the scale of the protests against the Iraq war, for instance. OK, so obviously the protesters were outnumbered by non-protesters, but there were probably a lot of people who were against the war but couldn't physically attend the protests for whatever reason.

But again, as with WWII, it's easy to make an emotionally appealing pro-war case because of the apparently "absolute evil" of the enemy.

luka
13-11-2011, 11:13 PM
craner was so taken with fergusons 'empire' he read it twice. i think its on the what are you reading thread, he says he's rereading empire which blew my mind.... reading it is one thing but re-reading?

gumdrops
14-11-2011, 09:41 AM
niall ferguson should just be a daily mail columnist. doesnt deserve as much credit as he gets.

craner
14-11-2011, 09:43 AM
It's a good book! The idea that it's simply an apologia for Empire is...wrong. I would suggest you haven't actually read the book with any attention whatsoever. There's a lot of narrow-minded, blinkered, knee-jerk prejudice on this forum, I find.

zhao
14-11-2011, 10:15 AM
i would, boradly spaking agree with zhaos charactrisation of britain although why he thinks it should be him redressing historical wrongs im not sure.....

well if talking about subjects which interest me happen to amount to "redressing historical wrongs" then so be it.

edit: and it's not just about "redressing history" is it? i'm talking about the very contemporary phenomenon of a large part of the British population feeling pride with regard to their imperialist past. large enough for BBC to give someone like Fergusson a 4 part mini series to spread his bullshit.

been enjoying the conversations and reading most of the linked articles, even though i have neither too much time or things to add at the moment.


There's a lot of narrow-minded, blinkered, knee-jerk prejudice on this forum, I find.

at times i might agree with this, but from the exact opposite side of the room.

luka
14-11-2011, 10:23 AM
Asian Ancestors Had Sex with Mysterious Human Cousins

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 10:32 AM
Asian Ancestors Had Sex with Mysterious Human Cousins

How many letters? And have you got any of them already?

zhao
14-11-2011, 11:17 AM
Asian Ancestors Had Sex with Mysterious Human Cousins

so you saw that i read this article (http://news.yahoo.com/asian-ancestors-had-sex-mysterious-human-cousins-191012819.html?fb_action_ids=10150396518079844&fb_action_types=news.reads&fb_source=other_multiline&code=AQBMDNa4kI5PADHRLE0xAVp4vJBeL7i0bF96tFqRwaZd7 LznpkQ-rgNC7biB9BdjKGzNTDYmWD9OGrIvIwFi8uufFp8btGlxC6qLEW cTbMcg4LmOBpqJ-JYkeDZcMBUYtFePn_8zp_jnCs-o3Ulz-sfF5BBNERSMHTQrvG0jtjO0HCXSoYTlRVbc_cVPj03xM4g#_=_ ) on facebook, but i don't understand why you felt it necessary to bring it up here, since it is entirely unrelated to this thread.

luka
14-11-2011, 11:56 AM
yeah but its a funny headline and this conversation is going nowhere cos no one really disagrees with your initial assertion, or ta last not to the extent that they can be bothered getting indignant about it so i thought it might be time for a digression, thats all.

zhao
14-11-2011, 12:11 PM
thanks for the digression, Luka. what can we expect next? lol-cats? how about some funny gifs just for the hell of it. and i'll remember to return the favor next time you start a thread.

are disagreements necessary for a good conversation? like i said i've enjoyed the banter between tea and droid, various small contributions by others, and also the articles which got linked.

as far as disagreements go, i would like to hear Craner's take on the Empire book, why he thinks it is good, and how he feels about the general outlook of "yes there were blunders and problems, but british imperialism was mostly a good thing, for keeping a lid on "ethnic tensions" in the colonies (which erupted as soon as we left), and for bringing trade and Western Civilization to various primitive armpits of the world"

gumdrops
14-11-2011, 12:26 PM
to backtrack a bit, i dont like niall ferguson cos he might not present a defence of empire exactly, but its still a 'yes some things went wrong but mostly what came out of it was good and positive' and so on. its the argument you hear that ok it wasnt nice, but it was necessary, sort of like ppl like cameron and blair who basically say its nothing to be ashamed of (fwiw, imo, some good things did come out of empire actually, but a lot didnt). most people i find are somewhat defensive about it, as though admitting it was wrong is somehow too much to bear, and then they have this sort of arrogance/defensiveness about it. the other defence is that 'well it was just a different time, you cant impose todays morals and politics on something that happened over a 100 years ago'. funny how no one says that about nazis in germany.

baboon2004
14-11-2011, 12:36 PM
Haven't read all the thread, but the point about Britain not having been defeated in the recent past is an important one. It has such a tunnel vision view of itself.

More broadly than Britain, what I find a headache is the way that the West seeks to pay unofficial reparations for Empire through 'development', while denying that these are in a way (vastly insubstantial) reparations for theft, murder, plunder etc etc of the rest of the world, and also that it is charging interest on some of these reparations (IMF loans etc), thus making them not even reparations.

It's fucked up beyond measure - as gumdrops says, seemingly we can forget bad things if they happened before the Nazis. Which is, of course, why Nazism was incredibly convenient, PR wise, for Britain.

gumdrops
14-11-2011, 12:51 PM
i dont know how colonial histories are regarded/dealt with in other european countries but im guessing its the same in spain/france/portugal etc as in britain. the west might be good at hailing BRIC countries as a threat but i dont see any sign of its self image crumbling any time soon. in fact, the rise of those countries will only make europe and the US' self image even more pronounced, ppl will feel the need to assert their pride/history etc even more. esp when theres more immigration.

craner
14-11-2011, 01:04 PM
It's fucked up beyond measure - as gumdrops says, seemingly we can forget bad things if they happened before the Nazis. Which is, of course, why Nazism was incredibly convenient, PR wise, for Britain.

This is a ludicrous statement! Glib beyond belief! I'm 34 and took history at A-level, and I have never been force-fed Empire PR. In fact, I was carefully and constantly tutored in the crimes and defects of the British Empire, and I went to a school called Christ College, so my education wasn't even comprehensive. I think pride about about WW2 is not exactly the same thing.

As for Ferguson, I find his editorials and TV appearences to be a different thing to his books, same with Andrew Roberts; Empire and Masters & Commanders are both exemplary works of writing and research.

As for an apology to the Irish, David Cameron did that last year, in parliament, did he not?

droid
14-11-2011, 01:11 PM
As for an apology to the Irish, David Cameron did that last year, in parliament, did he not?

Oh dear.

He apologised for the events of Bloody Sunday, not the deaths of 2 million and the displacement of another two million in the pseudo-genocidal Irish famine. I guess to a student of Empire like yourself there's little difference.

craner
14-11-2011, 01:24 PM
I know that Droid, I was showing a bit of cheek.

baboon2004
14-11-2011, 01:54 PM
This is a ludicrous statement! Glib beyond belief! I'm 34 and took history at A-level, and I have never been force-fed Empire PR. In fact, I was carefully and constantly tutored in the crimes and defects of the British Empire, and I went to a school called Christ College, so my education wasn't even comprehensive. I think pride about about WW2 is not exactly the same thing.


Genuinely perplexed as to why you think it's ludicrous. Or glib? :slanted: Of course the prevalence in people's minds since 1945 of the evils of Nazism has allowed British people generally to feel smug about their own history - it's in popular culture everywhere, and the general perception of the populace is what we're talking about, no?

Having taken history at A level sets you apart from most people, for a start. i took it at GCSE, the level that (presumably) most people took it to, and was duly educated about the terrible things the Nazis and Stalin had done, with nary a mention of the British empire. Or of the Spanish Civil War and the British government's sick refusal to officially fight the fascists, for that matter.

i wasn't saying that I was forcefed empire PR at all, rather that it was barely mentioned, whereas I was forcefed about the evils of other European nations.

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 02:04 PM
Thing is, discussion of "Britain's self-image" needs to take into account that Britain, like any country, or like most countries that aren't North Korea, is not a monolithic entity. Clearly people who went to school in the 90s or the last decade were not force-fed imperialist propaganda, even if they weren't given a detailed breakdown of every single massacre, famine or deportation - quite possibly the same cannot be said of people who were educated in the 50s or 60s. And the view of the establishment is not the same thing as the view(s) of the public, which vary from radical anti-imperialism to outright nationalism.

baboon2004
14-11-2011, 02:15 PM
This is true. And it's the difficulty in any discussion about national opinion. But to crudely generalise, I'd say British people are far less aware of the past horrors committed 'in their name' than are citizens of some other European countries. Of course there is a large minority which is familiar with these things.

i think what I found shocking was that I left (in the scheme of things, a good) school with huge gaps in my history knowledge, among which was the age of (blatant) empire.

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 02:15 PM
Or of the Spanish Civil War and the British government's sick refusal to officially fight the fascists

or, indeed, the leftist militias that also murdered tens of thousands.

Britain in the 30s was severely economically depressed and towards the end of the decade was starting to consider its own security in the face of German re-armament and militarism. Who knows what might have happened if the armed forces had been already involved in a foreign war in 1939?

baboon2004
14-11-2011, 02:22 PM
or, indeed, the leftist militias that also murdered tens of thousands.

Britain in the 30s was severely economically depressed and towards the end of the decade was starting to consider its own security in the face of German re-armament and militarism. Who knows what might have happened if the armed forces had been already involved in a foreign war in 1939?

Sure, that's a fair point. But the fact that the Nazis were explicitly providing air power to Franco casts Britain's later 'anti-Nazi' struggle in a bit of a ridiculous light. As you say, to do with national security, and very little to do with ideology - I know that's the story of world politics through the ages, but it's remarkable how fictions about moral actions refuse to die.

There's a great chapter in the 'What If?' book about what would have happened had Lord Halifax become PM instead of Churchill, and how close this was to happening (if I'm not completely misremembering). Fading memory means the details are sadly hazy in my mind, but I recall it being fascinating.

Dunno about your question. Possibly Hitler would have been given more pause for thought, had he seen a genuine reaction against fascism. Maybe he was emboldened by Franco's success/ the lack of action by other nations? No idea.

baboon2004
14-11-2011, 02:31 PM
As an aside, this anecdote re Halifax is pretty funny:

"In November 1937 Halifax went to Germany at the invitation of Hermann Göring on the pretext of a hunting exhibition........On meeting the Führer, Halifax almost created an incident by nearly handing his coat to Hitler, believing him to be a footman: "As I looked out of the car window, on eye level, I saw in the middle of this swept path a pair of black trousered legs, finishing up in silk socks and pumps. I assumed this was a footman who had come down to help me out of the car and up the steps, and was proceeding in leisurely fashion to get myself out of the car when I heard Von Neurath or somebody throwing a hoarse whisper at my ear of ‘Der Fuhrer, de Fuhrer’; and it then dawned upon me that the legs were not the legs of a footman, but of Hitler" "

craner
14-11-2011, 02:32 PM
Ok, but the Nazi obssession in GCSE curriculums is questioned all the time, by conservative critics (the people trying to put Empire back into the curriculum) more than liberal; actually liberals are usually fairly happy with GCSE history, which is an astonishing position to take if ever there was one, as it is obviously a disasterous waste of time.

When I was doing GCSEs in the mid-90s, the British Empire certainly was part of the curriculum and did not glorify or endorse it in the slightest. In fact, Roberts and Niall largely write in response to the opposite senario, a perceived left-liberal cultural assault on British history that takes place precisely at school level.

My GCSE course put a heavy premium on "bias" and "propaganda" and knwoing how to spot it, who uses it and why; we learnt more about that than any actual history, from what I remember.

In my lifetime, the mainstream mood has not been smugness about Empire, it's been a glorification of deteating tyranny and reverance for the fallen of two World Wars; whatever you think of that (and it's more extreme now than, say, 10 or 15 years ago), it's a different thing.

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 02:39 PM
As you say, to do with national security, and very little to do with ideology

Well Chamberlain helped hand Hitler a large chunk of Czechoslovakia just a year before the war broke out in an attempt to get Britain out of the firing line, that's no secret!

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 03:35 PM
But to crudely generalise, I'd say British people are far less aware of the past horrors committed 'in their name' than are citizens of some other European countries.

This is an interesting assertion. Are you basing it on people from other European countries you've met? In which case how do you know it's not the same selection bias (i.e. liberal-leftwing types are unlikely to voluntarily hang out with raving nationalists) that applies in the UK?

I ask because, whatever prejudices people might harbour in private, I think it's fair to say there's a lot more open racism displayed in certain other European countries than in the UK. And that's the west European countries that had overseas empires, never mind eastern Europe.

In Holland here festivities are getting underway for St. Nicholas's day on 5th December. I've already seen several people walking around the town centre dressed up as his little darky helper, Zwarte Piet:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a7/Zwartepiet.png/220px-Zwartepiet.png

Can you imagine someone walking around a British city like that in this day and age?!

droid
14-11-2011, 03:46 PM
In Holland here festivities are getting underway for St. Nicholas's day on 5th December. I've already seen several people walking around the town centre dressed up as his little darky helper, Zwarte Piet:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a7/Zwartepiet.png/220px-Zwartepiet.png

Can you imagine someone walking around a British city like that in this day and age?!

Can you imagine a bunch of Germans (outside the extreme right) setting up 'the best Jewish jokes are about ovens' group on facebook in the 'just for fun' category?

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=224820440896&v=info

Slothrop
14-11-2011, 03:58 PM
Can you imagine a bunch of Germans (outside the extreme right) setting up 'the best Jewish jokes are about ovens' group on facebook in the 'just for fun' category?

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=224820440896&v=info
That's pretty sickening. Although given that we've also had at least one very notable British public schoolboy actually dressing up as a Nazi for a fancy dress party, it perhaps needs to be seen in the context of the fact that some teenagers are utter twats.

And do you believe that Nazi actions during the holocaust and British actions during the Potato Famine ought to have the same weight in their respective national consciousnesses?

droid
14-11-2011, 04:17 PM
And do you believe that Nazi actions during the holocaust and British actions during the Potato Famine ought to have the same weight in their respective national consciousnesses?

The question of whether or not the Potato famine was genocide is controversial even in Ireland I admit. For years I would have leant to the other side, but when you take into account the tens of millions of dead in the Indian famines, American revolutionary prisoners starved to death, and the fact that the policies seen in the Irish famine were repeated on numerous occasions previously, I think a strong case can be made against Britain that it repeatedly and consciously practiced ethnic cleansing through famine and starvation, with a death toll as high as possibly 50 million from the 1770's onwards. Stalin and Mao are condemned outright for the same crimes.

I stop short of describing it as genocide myself, because that implies deliberate intent, rather Britain created situations in which natural food shortages became famines, continued to export food at gunpoint and consciously stymied attempts to aid the victims. (http://www.schillerinstitute.org/economy/nbw/pot_famine95.html)

Lets say a man takes over anothers house. Locks the family in the basement, steals all their food and possessions and pours petrol all over the walls and floors. Then, when the inevitable happens, fans the flames and refuses to allow any water near the blaze whilst most of the original inhabitants burn to death. Is that murder or manslaughter?

A caveat - the holocaust is seen as a condemnation of German society as a whole due to its complicity and support of the Nazis => all of German society should share the guilt. Whilst that assertion has been questioned, I wouldn't argue that British society at the time could even have had the same awareness that the Germans could have had in regard to the Holocaust.

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 04:19 PM
Can you imagine a bunch of Germans (outside the extreme right) setting up 'the best Jewish jokes are about ovens' group on facebook in the 'just for fun' category?

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=224820440896&v=info

Droid, are you interested in actual debate here or just out to prove that Britain is objectively worse than any other country?

And I've already talked about German postwar contrition so I'm not even arguing the toss about whether Germans (outsidetheextremeright) would set up a page like that.

droid
14-11-2011, 04:26 PM
Droid, are you interested in actual debate here or just out to prove that Britain is objectively worse than any other country?


Tea, are you interested in actual debate here, or are you just out to prove that Britain is no worse than other countries?

There's a real whiff of irrational defensiveness in many of your posts on this thread, including some very bizarre accusations. Im just waiting on you to accuse me of 'anti-britishness'.

HMGovt
14-11-2011, 04:30 PM
At my school, we had a history teacher nicknamed 'Hitler'. He was very stern. Rumour has it he was jilted and turned to the darkside. Anyway, our year had a sponsored bed push around Castle Donington race circuit for some reason, possibly Comic Relief. Someone suggested the Third Reich as a theme, as our form master was the aforementioned Hitler, and this came to be a reality - a bed on wheels decorated with swastikas, portraits of Hitler, etc. It was disturbing - history does not relate what the parents, governors, other schoolmasters thought of this spectacle. I cannot recall if it was manned by my fellow students dressed up as Hitlerjugend or not. I just turned up in fancy dress as a quack doctor with a jar of giblets in order to put some distance between me and the Nazi bed. This was in 1987, so not too dim or distant to be even remotely acceptable.

hucks
14-11-2011, 04:42 PM
I think a lot of the stuff Droid is saying re famines is pretty far from common knowledge in the UK. We've just about accepted there was a potato famine. Christ, I'm not even sure that most people in the uk see famines as anything other than natural disasters.

As an aside, I'm visiting a Russian frie in New York right now. He took me to see a monument that accuses the Red Army of massacring Polish civilians in 1939. He was very annoyed at the lack of gratitude it showed. And he hates everythin about the soviet union but is still very defensive of its history viz foreign policy. As are a lot of British people, evidently.

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 04:49 PM
This isn't debate at all, it's just an endless round of "What about...?".

With practically every point I've tried to raise with regard to any other country in either the past or the present, you've just tried to trump it with something apparently proving that Britain is even worse. For the record, no, I don't think Britain's empire was qualitatively worse than the other big empires or totalitarian regimes (taking into account Nazi Germany, Japan, the USSR, Maoist (and modern-day) China, Cambodia...) - it just lasted longer and was greater in size. And even that's debatable when you take into account the history of China. Note that I'm saying it was necessarily any better, either. To reiterate zhao's point in the first post, comparing one holocaust to another is largely pointless.

You don't have to keep banging on about the terrible things that happened because no-one here is denying any of them.

Lichen
14-11-2011, 04:57 PM
http://www.flickr.com/photos/daisylumley/4304318558/

Slothrop
14-11-2011, 05:02 PM
http://www.flickr.com/photos/daisylumley/4304318558/

There may be other examples where this isn't true, but I think the sort of 'blackface' used in that sort of folk tradition has more in common with ritual masks or clown facepaint than with, say, minstrel shows. As far as I know, it's a sort of self-transformation by altering your appearance rather than taking on the character of an ethnic other.

That's getting distinctly off topic, though.

droid
14-11-2011, 05:04 PM
This isn't debate at all, it's just an endless round of "What about...?".

With practically every point I've tried to raise with regard to any other country in either the past or the present, you've just tried to trump it with something apparently proving that Britain is even worse..

Er.. no I havent. The fact that you see it this way is quite revealing.


For the record, no, I don't think Britain's empire was qualitatively worse than the other big empires or totalitarian regimes (taking into account Nazi Germany, Japan, the USSR, Maoist (and modern-day) China, Cambodia...) - it just lasted longer and was greater in size. And even that's debatable when you take into account the history of China. Note that I'm saying it was necessarily any better, either.

Ok, so it lasted longer and was greater in size... so whats the logical corollary of that - that it killed more pople and caused more harm perhaps? Theres also the fact that it continued well into the 20th century and employed modern, industrial methods of control and coercion.

Im not saying that there is something uniquely evil about Britain. Im certainly not saying that the British people are particularly exceptional in terms of culpability, but there is something exceptional about the scale, duration and efficacy of British colonialism.


You don't have to keep banging on about the terrible things that happened because no-one here is denying any of them.

So you already knew and would agree that Britain was responsible for 50million+ deaths over the last 250 years, used famine as a weapon of pseudo-genocide on multiple occasions and is responsible for the deaths of 10 million people since WW2?

Sorry. How terribly impolite of me to bring it up.

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 05:08 PM
Pretty sure Zwarte Piet is specifically meant to be an African. Red lips, Afro wig...

baboon2004
14-11-2011, 05:14 PM
When I was doing GCSEs in the mid-90s, the British Empire certainly was part of the curriculum and did not glorify or endorse it in the slightest. In fact, Roberts and Niall largely write in response to the opposite senario, a perceived left-liberal cultural assault on British history that takes place precisely at school level.

My GCSE course put a heavy premium on "bias" and "propaganda" and knwoing how to spot it, who uses it and why; we learnt more about that than any actual history, from what I remember.

In my lifetime, the mainstream mood has not been smugness about Empire, it's been a glorification of deteating tyranny and reverance for the fallen of two World Wars; whatever you think of that (and it's more extreme now than, say, 10 or 15 years ago), it's a different thing.

OK, probably shows the disparity between curricula (?) for different exam boards in that case. And your GCSE board sounds a lot better than mine! I'm sure Niall Ferguson is responding to exactly the perceived scenario you assert, but I have to say that the 'we gave them railways' school of thought has been fairly strong among people I've known, when they even knew empire existed. The way some people I talked to saw the suggestion of reparations for empire when it came up as a major issue (I remember it in 2001, I think) was incredibly revealing, I thought at the time - it brought out some ugly attitudes (which is also an interesting facet of the Tory government, as shifting political conditions allow people to say things that they may have thought twice about otherwise).

So again, it's not really smugness about empire that I've noticed, more a complete lack of knowledge about it one way or the other.

baboon2004
14-11-2011, 05:18 PM
This is an interesting assertion. Are you basing it on people from other European countries you've met? In which case how do you know it's not the same selection bias (i.e. liberal-leftwing types are unlikely to voluntarily hang out with raving nationalists) that applies in the UK?

I ask because, whatever prejudices people might harbour in private, I think it's fair to say there's a lot more open racism displayed in certain other European countries than in the UK. And that's the west European countries that had overseas empires, never mind eastern Europe.

Can you imagine someone walking around a British city like that in this day and age?!

True, I'd agree that racism is officially (as in what it's supposed 'polite' to do) more frowned on in Britain than in Spain or France, or indeed the Netherlands from your experience. But (i) I think Britain is a past master at outward pretence, and there's a lot of very ugly racism in this country (and it's getting noticeably worse, i.m.e.) which lots of people tend to turn a blind eye to, and (ii) I think this is a different question, though obviously related in some way (and this linkage is a tricky one, i think), from the one about the crimes of empire. I've found French/German/Portuguese etc people tend to know a lot more about such crimes, but it's true that my sample size is relatively low to be going on anything than my personal experiences.

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 06:38 PM
So you already knew and would agree that Britain was responsible for 50million+ deaths over the last 250 years, used famine as a weapon of pseudo-genocide on multiple occasions and is responsible for the deaths of 10 million people since WW2?

Dunno if I could have quoted figures for you but yes, I was broadly aware of these things.

droid
14-11-2011, 07:03 PM
Dunno if I could have quoted figures for you but yes, I was broadly aware of these things.

But you dont think the fact that the death toll from British imperialism in the modern age far surpasses that of any other nation, worse than Stalin or Mao, far worse than the Nazis - is exceptional?

craner
14-11-2011, 07:04 PM
This isn't debate at all, it's just an endless round of "What about...?".


That's a bit unfair, I tried to start a debate about GCSE history curriculums!

craner
14-11-2011, 07:05 PM
But you dont think the fact that the death toll from British imperialism in the modern age far surpasses that of any other nation, worse than Stalin or Mao, far worse than the Nazis - is exceptional?


What the fuck?? Are you going on about this again? I let you off last time, this time I won't -- post the figures, matey.

vimothy
14-11-2011, 07:08 PM
This thread eh. Just like the old days.

From what I recall of my own childhood experience, to the extent that we were taught anything about Britain, the period was treated as ghastly and shameful. Certainly there was never even the remotest hint of glorification of empire.

The history teachers at my school were cigarette smoking Marxists with outrageous mustaches and 70s rocker mullets. I took this to be the norm. Did I grow up in a parallel universe, or what?

And in fact, scorn for the past is a key plank in whatever you call the dominant ideology of the age. Certainly, there is nothing radical about denigrating Britain's imperial past.

I mean, it's not like it's some great accident that Chatham House types (them again!) are writing this stuff. Liberalism: we didn't find it in the jungles of Borneo...

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 07:25 PM
But you dont think the fact that the death toll from British imperialism in the modern age far surpasses that of any other nation, worse than Stalin or Mao, far worse than the Nazis - is exceptional?

Huh? You've quoted 50 million over the course of 250 years. I've heard figures in excess of that for both the USSR and Maoist China, over 70 million for Mao even, over the course of a few decades. The standard figure quoted for WWII is 60 million, over the course of six years. What do you suppose the Third Reich's death toll might have been if it had lasted 250 years, let alone 1,000? To say nothing of WWI.

And we're back to the genocide pissing contest...

Edit: no, I don't think you're anti-British, otherwise you wouldn't post on a forum used mainly by Brits. We met once, remember? I have a distinct memory of you not personally accusing me of war crimes. You just seem very resistant to any comparison between the British empire and any country or regime with a comparably murky past, almost as if Britain really was 'uniquely terrible', although you've denied this.

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 07:27 PM
That's a bit unfair, I tried to start a debate about GCSE history curriculums!

Sure, I was talking about my volley with droid.

droid
14-11-2011, 07:43 PM
What the fuck?? Are you going on about this again? I let you off last time, this time I won't -- post the figures, matey.

lol. You really think Im going to go up to the attic and actually transcribe pages from a book for you? Do your own research. I thought you knew all this anyway, having had an empire bashing historical education.

Generally, ignoring scores of minor conflicts, and are straight death tolls and not a calculation of surplus deaths:

Zulu wars - 30,000+
Boer war - 75,000
Burma - 10,000
Australia - 240,000 - 600,000
Indian famines between 1876 and 1901 - as high as 29 million (Davis)
Bengal famine of 1943 - 2 to 4 million
Irish famine - at least 1.5 million + 500,000 deaths during emigration (Mokyr)
Post war period - 10 million direct and indirect (Curtis)

droid
14-11-2011, 07:51 PM
Huh? You've quoted 50 million over the course of 250 years. I've heard figures in excess of that, approaching 100 million even, for both Stalin and Mao, over the course of a few decades.

No you havent. You may have heard the combined figure of 100 million for Stalin and Mao. That comes from the discredited 'black book of communism'. Even 2 of its authors dispute that figure and put it at about 60-70 million. Stalin's death toll is generally estimated to be around 20 million these days. Mao's is about 30-40 million, both sets of figures ( the majority in Mao's case) include famines.


The standard figure quoted for WWII is 60 million, over the course of six years.

60 million killed in the course of warfare. Im specifically talking about genocide and colonialism. The widely accepted figure for the Nazis is 9 million. Unless you count German, Italians and Japanese killed by the allies as 'victims of the nazis'?


And we're back to the genocide pissing contest...

All of these figures are incomprehensibly high and rank amongst the worst crimes in history, but only one set are being disputed here, only one set is 'unexceptional'.

Why is that?

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 08:18 PM
A great many authors other than the guys who wrote that book have produced estimates far in excess of the figures you've just given: http://necrometrics.com/20c5m.htm.

As far as the Holocaust goes, most sources I've seen state 11 million. That's just deaths in the camps and doesn't take into account the many millions of Soviet civilians and POWs (not active servicemen) killed.

And if we're talking about combat deaths, I think it's fair to lay most of the blame for horrendously destructive wars at the door of the regimes that started those wars, don't you?

From that website:


HITLER TOTAL:

Courtois: 25,000,000
Rummel: 20,946,000 democides
Heidenrich, How to Prevent Genocide: 17,000,000
Brzezinski: 17,000,000
Urlanis: 15-16,000,000 (11-12M civilians + 3.9M POWs)
MEDIAN: ca. 15.5M
Our Times: 13,000,000 (6M Jews + 7M others)
Compton's: 12,000,000
Grenville: 10,000,000, including 2M children.

NOTE: These numbers only include outright murders, but keep in mind that some 28M civilians and 14M soldiers died in the European War. That's 42,000,000 deaths which can probably be blamed on Hitler to one extent or another.

most of which happened over the course of less than five years.


All of these figures are incomprehensibly high and rank amongst the worst crimes in history, but only one set are being disputed here

Whut? I just quoted some figures and you're disputing them too!

droid
14-11-2011, 08:41 PM
A great many authors other than the guys who wrote that book have produced estimates far in excess of the figures you've just given: http://necrometrics.com/20c5m.htm.

Uh huh. Show me where it says 200million for Stalin and Mao combined.

Stalin's death toll has been estimated as anywhere between 9 million & 72 million. A rough consensus based on recent research is about 20 million.

Its less clear in the case of China. I've seen estimates from 12 million to 60 million. Credible estimates seem to be between 30-40 million.


As far as Holocaust goes, most sources I've seen state 11 million. That's just deaths in the camps and doesn't take into account the many millions of Soviet civilians and POWs (not active servicemen) killed.

Where did you get these figures? Total estimates including Russian and eastern european civilian deaths (4 million), Russian POWs (2 million) and the Holocaust are about 14 million afaik.


And if we're talking about combat deaths, I think it's fair to lay most of the blame for horrendously destructive wars at the door of the regimes that started those wars, don't you?

Not necessarily. I dont think the Japanese are necessarily to blame for the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for example, or the Germans are responsible for Dresden. Culpable perhaps.

Regardless, the vast majority of the figures Ive quoted did not take place in conflict situations, or in the case of the Boer war, they include large amounts of concentration camp victims.



Whut? I just some figures and you're disputing them too!

lol. Ok. Good point. Well lets just say that the exceptional 'evil' of these regimes is not widely disputed.

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 08:54 PM
Blame, culpability...not to defend those events per se, but nontheless they wouldn't have happened without those respective countries having been aggressors in the first place.

Dunno where you got the idea I'd said 200 million for the USSR and China, I said some estimates put each state at over 50 million.

droid
14-11-2011, 09:07 PM
Blame, culpability...not to defend those events per se, but nontheless they wouldn't have happened without those respective countries having been aggressors in the first place.

Dunno where you got the idea I'd said 200 million for the USSR and China, I said some estimates put each state at over 50 million.

Because, prior to your edit you said 100 million each. Maybe it was a typo?

But yes, I am making an argument for British exceptionalism. The British were the best colonialists. They subjugated the most people, made the most profit from slavery, had the largest and longest lasting empire in centuries, had the most devious policies of coercion and control... you guys were the best! ;)


Edit: no, I don't think you're anti-British, otherwise you wouldn't post on a forum used mainly by Brits. We met once, remember? I have a distinct memory of you not personally accusing me of war crimes.

I may not have said those things to your face, but I was thinking them! No, seriously. Some of my best friends are British.

grizzleb
14-11-2011, 09:10 PM
People get blacked up for the annual Lewes bonfire night celebrations iirc. There's an effigy of the pope burned, too.

Mr. Tea
14-11-2011, 10:20 PM
I said I'd heard figures that "approach 100m" for China - I think some estimates on that website say something like 75m. Has to be an overestimate but the very fact that estimates disagree by tens of millions gives some idea of the sheer scale, whatever it was.

But your hilarious joke about Britain being the "best" at imperialism is kind of what I was getting at earlier - it was global in extent and lasted for centuries - compare that to the carnage some regimes wreaked in a much shorter time and, in a couple of cases, in a single (though admittedly huge) country.

gumdrops
14-11-2011, 10:38 PM
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n21/pankaj-mishra/watch-this-man
great piece by pankaj mishra.
a choice quote he uses from ferguson -

‘Let me come clean,’ he wrote in the New York Times Magazine in April 2003, a few weeks after the shock-and-awe campaign began in Iraq, ‘I am a fully paid-up member of the neoimperialist gang.’

crackerjack
15-11-2011, 12:21 AM
People get blacked up for the annual Lewes bonfire night celebrations iirc. There's an effigy of the pope burned, too.

I was brought up there and don't remember seeing that ever. Haven't been since early 90s but doubt it's changed for the worst. Obviously the pope still gets a blasting though.

luka
15-11-2011, 05:25 AM
when i did history a-level i was the only white boy in the class. the teacher was white too, a young blonde girl. most othr students were bengali and one of thm was a famous nutcase with a lot of legnds attached to his name, mostly acts of extreme violence. he got into a debate with th teacher about hitler. he claimed hitler had done a deal with the arabs, some kind of treaty betwen jew haters and he respected the muslim world and had no wish to attack it. he was a great man he said. i think he even stood up during his oration, to add weight to his words. she was a bit dumbfounded.

slowtrain
15-11-2011, 07:23 AM
when i did history a-level i was the only white boy in the class. the teacher was white too, a young blonde girl. most othr students were bengali and one of thm was a famous nutcase with a lot of legnds attached to his name, mostly acts of extreme violence. he got into a debate with th teacher about hitler. he claimed hitler had done a deal with the arabs, some kind of treaty betwen jew haters and he respected the muslim world and had no wish to attack it. he was a great man he said. i think he even stood up during his oration, to add weight to his words. she was a bit dumbfounded.

i had a vague of sense of deja vu reading that.

weird.

zhao
15-11-2011, 07:24 AM
yes the exceptionalism wrt britain is what i was getting at.


This isn't debate at all, it's just an endless round of "What about...?".

What about the gold statue of King Leopold clutching african children to his bosom up in that museum in Belgium?

http://timesonline.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451586c69e2014e8aa56ffd970d-320wi


'celebrating' the Belgian 'achievment' against the African 'savages'. Pride of place went to the statues in the front hall, large gilded personifications of kindly Belgium bringing peace, IMG_2832 prosperity and civilisation to the grateful Congolese (as you see at the top of this post, in the statue of the look-alike Leopold clutching the African kids to his breast, and on the right with Mother Belgium doing much the same) -- but the early nineteenth century display of colonial memorabilia told a similar story.

Slothrop
15-11-2011, 09:48 AM
I've had weird experiences with that sort of stuff in Malta - beautiful baroque church interiors with amazing renaissance art treasures and every now and then you find a statue including some classical goddess with her foot on the head of a chained Moor... although in that case it's quite a lot older, so it's easier to skip over it as being just a historical thing. Also the Mediterranean in the middle ages had a rather different power dynamic from colonial Africa in the late 19th century...

Malta is kind of weird generally, though - it's still a very Catholic country, and despite the fact that there's (presumably) some very interesting medieval islamic history and archaeology there, you'd think from looking at the museums that the whole place was created from nothing five minutes before the Knights of St John took over...

Sorry, massive digression.

craner
15-11-2011, 10:00 AM
Let me come clean,’ he wrote in the New York Times Magazine in April 2003, a few weeks after the shock-and-awe campaign began in Iraq, ‘I am a fully paid-up member of the neoimperialist gang.’

Yeah, well he took to slagging off the Iraq war pretty quickly, if he was ever fully for it; he probably was slightly for it, like Kissinger was slightly for it; that is, in a weasly, opportunistic way, when it was going well, when it was profitable. He is an opportunist and a Kissinger fan -- I get the sense that a large part of the neoimperialist schtick, which is much more prevalent and vulgar in Colossus (a shit book) than in Empire (a very good book, and I feel like the only person here who's actually bothered to read it fully), is to do with marketing, distilling a saleable angle. He's a showbiz academic, like Kissinger was a showbiz wonk. When he's being a sensible historian he's as good as anyone, but when he's being a TV celeb, he is glib and reprehensible, if not quite as actively evil as his mate Henry.

droid
15-11-2011, 10:19 AM
Blame, culpability...not to defend those events per se, but nontheless they wouldn't have happened without those respective countries having been aggressors in the first place.


This is an interesting road to go down. It would place responsibility for Palestinian suicide bombs, and Hamas and Hezbollah rockets at the feet of Israel for instance.

I prefer to assume that states are responsible for their own actions. The US knew exactly what it was doing when it firebombed Tokyo, the British made precise calculations with regard to the consequences of their bombing campaigns.

You then also have to consider debates regarding the causes of wars... defenders of Japan who say that the American war embargo was an effective declaration of war on Japan. The treaty of Versailles...

And as a general moral principle. If you punch me in the face I am not then absolved of responsibility when I stab you 30 times and burn down your house just because you were the agressor.

IdleRich
15-11-2011, 10:22 AM
"although in that case it's quite a lot older, so it's easier to skip over it as being just a historical thing."
Isn't this an important point that hasn't really been mentioned? People feel equally separated from an atrocity if it's far distant in time as they do if its perpetrators are far distant in space.

droid
15-11-2011, 10:28 AM
I said I'd heard figures that "approach 100m" for China - I think some estimates on that website say something like 75m. Has to be an overestimate but the very fact that estimates disagree by tens of millions gives some idea of the sheer scale, whatever it was.

But your hilarious joke about Britain being the "best" at imperialism is kind of what I was getting at earlier - it was global in extent and lasted for centuries - compare that to the carnage some regimes wreaked in a much shorter time and, in a couple of cases, in a single (though admittedly huge) country.

So 200,000 a year for 250 years is better than a million a year in 20 years? Stalin would have killed everybody in Russia had he lived for another 30 years? The Chinese would have continued to kill millions through forced collectivsiation even after all agriculture in China had been collectivised?

Yes. I was being deliberately inflammatory, and the point is a bit OT but related.

Certain regimes, states and political systems have been demonised in our history, not necessarily because they were objectively 'worst' or because they killed more people, but because they have been subject to sustained propaganda campaigns. 'Our' crimes are minimised and justified, and explained away as being 'too complex' to come to such a basic moral conclusion regarding their nature.

Slothrop
15-11-2011, 10:43 AM
Post war period - 10 million direct and indirect (Curtis)
I'd be interested to see a breakdown of this and know what it means by "direct and indirect". As far as I'm concerned this is by far the most troubling figure, since it's most likely to be a feature of ongoing policy...

droid
15-11-2011, 10:45 AM
I'd be interested to see a breakdown of this and know what it means by "direct and indirect". As far as I'm concerned this is by far the most troubling figure, since it's most likely to be a feature of ongoing policy...

OK, since its you asking and not Craner, Ill try and dig it out. He's well worth a read btw. Quite a serious historian.

EDIT - Extract here: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:qHpdABMat0sJ:www.coldtype.net/Assets.07/Essays/0307.Unpeople.pdf+&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShKP99ieP8jhCrUJEGPSBi-WPWlcbByKc-qsISQDSHhyC-26KIhqiavHSL5GIZ2MuCLYOhxslAvDjb0pCbCLAIRLFXDO9ali SrzsUBxQFNTRCNRbslUEUJsPUvP5mSjtwufUYjd&sig=AHIEtbQ1bQp7mo-BqdN7a8H6P_oZhb6kcQ&pli=1

craner
15-11-2011, 10:51 AM
Ha ha, charming! That also stikes me as the only figure in Droid's list likely to be total bollocks, but I didn't want to mention it.

baboon2004
15-11-2011, 12:06 PM
To take a slight detour - does anyone think that the reaction to the Falklands War would be different now from in 1982. Obv Maggie took full advantage of the situation to turn the popularity of her premiership around (and possibly change the course of British history to a significant degree?), but the extent to which it worked suggested absurd levels of jingoism/return to empire mentality had been stirred up among the British population (gagging for a fight, as it is otherwise known).

Would this be able to happen in 2011? I'm totally ambivalent, wanted to know everyone's thoughts.

craner
15-11-2011, 01:09 PM
It's hard to say, I would say. There's a large and mainstream distrust of military strategy, political foreign policy, armed adventures and even defence -- and this is not just a liberal middle class majority sentiment, but a conservative one too. On the other hand, as I said earlier, I can't recall a moment in my lifetime when "the armed forces" have been more sentimentalised. It's not a glorification exactly, like the old Sun "OUR BOYS" thing of '82, but a horrible sort of maudlin idealisation -- 'help for heroes', widows' stories, singing soldiers, amputees running marathons, and all of that. It's an almost an anti-war idealisation of soldiers, like Lorraine Kelly reciting Wilfred Owen.

baboon2004
15-11-2011, 01:13 PM
Worrying thing to me is that the Tories don't even seem to be in a weak enough position need a foreign policy adventure to resuscitate their popularity, as Labour is such a weak opponent (barely an opponent at all, in fact).

Mr. Tea
15-11-2011, 01:16 PM
This is an interesting road to go down. It would place responsibility for Palestinian suicide bombs, and Hamas and Hezbollah rockets at the feet of Israel for instance.

Well yeah, a large part of the responsibility has to lie with the agressor. Surely you'd agree that Hamas and Hezb don't attack Israel purely out of irrational, unprovoked antisemitism?


I prefer to assume that states are responsible for their own actions. The US knew exactly what it was doing when it firebombed Tokyo, the British made precise calculations with regard to the consequences of their bombing campaigns.

I should imagine the Allied commanders didn't firebomb cities and then react with surprise when many thousands of people died. It's not really practical to wage a polite, humanitarian campaign when you're up against an aggressor pursuing a policy of total war.


You then also have to consider debates regarding the causes of wars... defenders of Japan who say that the American war embargo was an effective declaration of war on Japan. The treaty of Versailles...

Not sure why you're bringing this up. Do you consider yourself a "defender of Japan"? You said I was being ridiculous when I suggested this earlier. There are still people who consider themselves "defenders of Germany" who think national socialism was a perfectly justified response to the country's "betrayal" by Jews and Bolsheviks. Does that mean we have to consider these viewpoints as reasonable historical arguments?


And as a general moral principle. If you punch me in the face I am not then absolved of responsibility when I stab you 30 times and burn down your house just because you were the agressor.

Are you saying Britain overreacted to the Nazi threat? Ah, OK, it really was Blighty's fault after all. Glad we've cleared that up.

baboon2004
15-11-2011, 01:22 PM
To me everything reeks of class war (obv in a complex way)...the fiction of 'nations' is the greatest PR coup of all. Who was sent to die in all these wars? Mostly those too poor to get out of it. Realpolitik all day.

droid
15-11-2011, 01:26 PM
Well yeah, a large part of the responsibility has to lie with the agressor. Surely you'd agree that Hamas and Hezb don't attack Israel purely out of irrational, unprovoked antisemitism?

Dear god. Palestinians have a choice of when and who they target. If they choose to target pizzerias and shopping malls, Israel is not 'responsible' for killing those civilians.

You can argue that the situation has been created by Israel etc... but the Palestinians still have agency and choices. Sure, the aggressor has culpability, but total responsibility for ALL deaths?


Not sure why you're bringing this up. Do you consider yourself a "defender of Japan"? You said I was being ridiculous earlier when I suggested this earlier. There are still people who consider themselves "defenders of Germany" who think national socialism was a perfectly justified response to the country's "betrayal" by Jews and Bolsheviks. Does that mean we have to consider these viewpoints as reasonable historical arguments?

You were being ridiculous - and lazy. We're discussing WWII and agression. There is an argument that the US effectively declared war by curtailing Japan's colonialist adventures through their oil embargo. I dont agree as I dont think that Japan's colonial claims were morally or legally valid to begin with, but many countries have started wars for less.


Are you saying Britain overreacted to the Nazi threat? Ah, OK, it really was Blighty's fault after all. Glad we've cleared that up.

Ok, this is quite pathetic, and a low point for you.

Do you understand the term:

General moral principle?

As in not specifically related to any one situation?

craner
15-11-2011, 01:33 PM
Mostly those too poor to get out of it. Realpolitik all day.


The army, navy and air force are decent career options, as it happens.

vimothy
15-11-2011, 01:38 PM
List of holocausts, both early and late, and not all of 'em Victorian neither:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_famines

craner
15-11-2011, 01:42 PM
That's a very ignorant view of the Forces, actually. Having a paid army is not "realpolitik"; nor is the army stuffed full of people too poor and thick to do anything else. This is the kind of opinion I had as a 14-year old being forced into CCF at school. Are you really going into international development with half-formed attitudes like these?

Mr. Tea
15-11-2011, 01:44 PM
Do you understand the term:

General moral principle?

As in not specifically related to any one situation?

Yes, thank you, I'm not stupid. I also understand the principle of analogy. You were talking about, amongst other things, British bombardment of German cities in WWII. You then brought up the image of someone reacting to being punched in the face with murder and arson. Which would seem to suggest:

German aggression = punch in the face
British response = murder and arson

...right? And if that's not what you meant, what the hell did you mean?

craner
15-11-2011, 01:56 PM
I am now waiting for somebody to post statistics to prove that I am wrong and the army is full of people too poor and thick to do anything else.

vimothy
15-11-2011, 02:00 PM
Well, I would have thought that any subpopulation selected on the basis of qualifications is going to have a higher expected level of qualification than the population from which it's drawn.

baboon2004
15-11-2011, 02:04 PM
That's a very ignorant view of the Forces, actually. Having a paid army is not "realpolitik"; nor is the army stuffed full of people too poor and thick to do anything else. This is the kind of opinion I had as a 14-year old being forced into CCF at school. Are you really going into international development with half-formed attitudes like these?

:rolleyes:yep, ad hominem attacks is where it's at on this thread.

I briefly thought I'd got the terminology wrong, but just checked and realpolitik still seems to refer to "politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic or ethical premises." So...

A paid national army is in the pay of the state, and therefore acts according to its bidding (as the police do internally, regardless of their own political views). Since realpolitik dictates that most of what the state bases its decisions on is power-economic rather than ideological, then the army will be upholding these values, rather than vague notions about 'democracy' or 'national defence'. No?

As I understand it, veterans of Iraq joining up with OSX expressed exactly the opinion that they were there to clear the way for big business, rather than anything more ideological, but then, obviously they have 14-year-old opinions too. I'll find the article(s) for you later, if you like.

No, of course the army is not only full of poorer sections of society, hence the qualifier 'mostly'. And I never said people in the army were 'thick' (which leads me to suspect you have personal investment in this, which is usually the reason one comments on what what one wants to have been said, rather than was actually said - we've all done it). But is it untrue that many join up because the army offers other benefits (good salary, paying one's way through university), and better job prospects? I'm reading a book that touches on this point right now, in fact. Feel free to dispute this point, but denying that this is a moot point is just foolish.

If you have personal interests in this (eg one of your family is in the army), just declare them rather than being personally insulting, please. It's mystifying and boring more than anything else.

vimothy
15-11-2011, 02:04 PM
BTW, according to Wikipedia's partial list of Holocausts,

"Between 108 BC and 1911 AD there were no fewer than 1,828 major famines in China, or one nearly every year in one or another province."

1,828!

Surely, we can say that we have finally found the Adversary, and he wasn't living round here.

baboon2004
15-11-2011, 02:07 PM
"There is a perception that the Army recruits most of its soldiers from the least privileged socio-economic groups. MoD argues that there is little evidence to substantiate that view; but this is, at least in part, because currently MoD does not collect data on recruits' socio-economic background.[72] "

From http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmdfence/63/6306.htm , was in 2005, so may have changed since.

So truth seems to be: there is no easily obtainable evidence, and it is a moot point as to the socio-economic make-up of the armed forces.

Next sentence: "However, MoD did provide us with the results of a survey relating to Army recruits from the Cardiff area between 1998 and 2000. That study found that the majority of recruits came from a 'broken home' or 'deprived background' and had left school with no qualifications."

Ta-da! Seems that I am going into international development (I'm not, as it happens) with three-quarterly formed opinions!

vimothy
15-11-2011, 02:11 PM
That doesn't prove much unless you can relate the sample in the survey to the population that you are trying make inferences about.

droid
15-11-2011, 02:14 PM
Yes, thank you, I'm not stupid. I also understand the principle of analogy. You were talking about, amongst other things, British bombardment of German cities in WWII. You then brought up the image of someone reacting to being punched in the face with murder and arson. Which would seem to suggest:

German aggression = punch in the face
British response = murder and arson

...right? And if that's not what you meant, what the hell did you mean?

I know for a fact that youre not stupid, yet you seem to be coming to some very strange conclusions in this thread.

I meant exactly what I said:


And as a general moral principle. If you punch me in the face I am not then absolved of responsibility when I stab you 30 times and burn down your house just because you were the agressor.

Thats it. There is a general moral principle which states that being the victim of an attack does not absolve one's responsibility of retaliatory actions. It is also enshrined in law in most countries.

Heres a helpful key:

General = Not specific

Principle = A law or rule that has to be, or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed

If you want to infer that elucidating a general principle means that I was in fact doing the exact opposite and commenting on a specific case, thats up to you.

craner
15-11-2011, 02:15 PM
I wasn't being personally insulting. I think your career trajectory is admirable, which is why I was rather surprised to see you sounding like such a buffoon. "Class war", for Goodness sake.

As far as I understand it, realpolitik is a style of politics that can be pursued by a state with a national, paid army; having a national paid army doesn't necessarily mean that it is pursuing a foreign policy of realpolitik. States can wage ideological wars with paid (or shall we say, professional) armies.

bob effect
15-11-2011, 02:22 PM
Certain regimes, states and political systems have been demonised in our history, not necessarily because they were objectively 'worst' or because they killed more people, but because they have been subject to sustained propaganda campaigns. 'Our' crimes are minimised and justified, and explained away as being 'too complex' to come to such a basic moral conclusion regarding their nature.

Eight pages to say history is written by the victors.

craner
15-11-2011, 02:38 PM
There was a nice bit of symmetry between my post and Droid's there, ha. I never understand why people whimper about "ad hominem attacks" -- it's a pretty common currency, and who cares anyway, unless the attacks are true, then I can understand why they would hurt. I get it all the time on this forum, doesn't do me any harm -- are you Welsh or what?

baboon2004
15-11-2011, 02:40 PM
I wasn't being personally insulting. I think your career trajectory is admirable, which is why I was rather surprised to see you sounding like such a buffoon. "Class war", for Goodness sake.

As far as I understand it, realpolitik is a style of politics that can be pursued by a state with a national, paid army; having a national paid army doesn't necessarily mean that it is pursuing a foreign policy of realpolitik. States can wage ideological wars with paid (or shall we say, professional) armies.

Well, if that's buffoonish to you, so be it. What precisely is wrong with talking about class war? Pray tell. It's a far more useful terminology than accepting the genuine buffoonery about 'wars between nations', that are in fact wars between elites, which benefit, oh, elites, and disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. I don't see what's wrong with the term - of course it's not perfect, but it' nearer the truth than many terms that are bandied about with seeming impunity. Class war is being waged in this country at the moment by the Tory party, or hadn't you noticed? In general, the circumstances of your birth dictate the extent to which their policies will fuck you over, and social mobility is being eroded even further (student costs etc etc). You can coin a new terminology if you like, to take account of the fact that class connotes something a bit different to what it did 30 years ago, but it's not that different.

As to realpolitik: This is true up to a point, but I was simply making the point that national armies are largely aimed at defending economic/realpolitik-type interests, which benefit the few rather than the many (eg Iraq, mainly benefitting multinationals). But then I was making the false assumption that those ideological reasons would be moral in themselves, which is fair point.

PS A lot of 'international development' is clearly not benefitting the people it claims it is at all, so you're being too generous to the discipline there. eg the discrediting of microcredit. Hence my vacillating about whether to get into it. Anyway, whole other (very long) discussion.

baboon2004
15-11-2011, 02:46 PM
There was a nice bit of symmetry between my post and Droid's there, ha. I never understand why people whimper about "ad hominem attacks" -- it's a pretty common currency, and who cares anyway, unless the attacks are true, then I can understand why they would hurt. I get it all the time on this forum, doesn't do me any harm -- are you Welsh or what?

Guilty of that, obv.

Er, because it obscures the argument and isn't really necessary in debates like this? Anyway, no harm done.

craner
15-11-2011, 03:00 PM
Well, if you want to wax about class conflict as a factor in society, that's one thing; the phrase "class war" has a whole other (or extra) set of connotations, and you know it. You were striking a radical pose, and it didn't suit you: it looked buffoonish, and I thought you ought to be picked up on it.

craner
15-11-2011, 03:05 PM
I wouldn't worry about it, though. The amount of shit I'm going to get when Luke wakes up and reads this thread will warm your toes.

baboon2004
15-11-2011, 06:00 PM
Well, if you want to wax about class conflict as a factor in society, that's one thing; the phrase "class war" has a whole other (or extra) set of connotations, and you know it. You were striking a radical pose, and it didn't suit you: it looked buffoonish, and I thought you ought to be picked up on it.

!

Um... I have (almost) no clue what you're talking about. I was talking about the army being (historically, and it seems, more recently, from that report a quick Google picked out) predatory upon people with few options, and that most people dying on the combat field are form the less well-off sections of society, doing the fighting for the benefit of the more well-off. Prisons are healthily stocked with veterans, and homelessness among ex-army people is disproportionate. It's hardly radical to think that's fucked up, given the rhetoric of national prestige around the army, whatever one might mean by that term 'radical'!

I used the phrase 'class war' rather than 'class conflict' to emphasise the sheer brutality of the economic squeeze put on less well-off people (also, we were talking about war in the first place, weren't we? it's hardly a word I've just introduced for 'radical' effect!), which I don't think 'conflict' brings out, and not to make any point about being 'radical', whatever that woolliest of terms means to each of us. What other connotations are we talking about? The fact that it's associated with particular anarchist groups? So what - other people can still use a useful phrase (useful for the reason outlined above)! Bizarre to be told what poses you can strike by a stranger, too, even though I wasn't!

Quite frankly, you came across as someone who has a personal investment in this topic that you won't declare (particularly in your assertion as to how the forces is a good career. I mean, wtf?). Maybe this is not the case, but if not your behaviour is a bit bizarre.

Emigre
15-11-2011, 06:06 PM
A Scottish friend of Zhao's chiming in...

Britain’s imperial atrocities were not necessarily more horrific than those of other imperial powers; they were simply on a larger scale, due to the larger size of empire. However, in terms of facing up to post-imperial reality, a comparison with Germany is highly instructive.

Germany’s sudden defeat in 1945 forced a genuine national cultural reassessment; Britain’s (and France’s, and Belgium’s) slow post-imperial decline did not. While Germany used the postwar discussion of their crimes to try to forge a new society, Britain treated the drip-drip revelations of their own atrocities as one would treat the news that a favourite uncle is a serial rapist: something to be briefly acknowledged at most, then quickly swept under the carpet.

At its most constructive, the progressive British response has been to half-heartedly define post-imperial values as being about tolerance and inclusion. However, the problem with tolerance and inclusion is that they are secondary virtues which presuppose a dominant cultural identity doing the tolerating and including. Sadly, we don’t actually have much more of a collective cultural identity than “we defeated Hitler once; mmmmyeah the empire was kinda bad; have you seen my new kitchen?”

There’s a vacuum here, which will inevitably be filled by the likes of...

Niall (fucking) Ferguson: to be fair to him, something far more dangerous than this twat could have stepped into the gap. The sole justification for Ferguson’s repackaged imperialist apologetics, and its inevitable re-emergence, is the continuing absence of a constructive alternative. for me, the main problem with Ferguson is that his list of the West’s “killer apps” (ugh) fails to include gunboat imperialism itself as a key "app" which contributed heavily to the West's rise. This of course brings us full circle, and will inevitably lead to the conclusion that it’s complicated but actually my new kitchen really is very awesome indeed.

Since the bulk of our contemporary ersatz shopping-as-identity culture is borrowed wholesale from America, I assume what is required for a genuine post-1945 British identity to emerge is for America to go down the shitter first.

vimothy
15-11-2011, 07:09 PM
But that's circular. Other civilizations conquered the world, and yet, other civilizations did not produce the industrial revolution.


At its most constructive, the progressive British response has been to half-heartedly define post-imperial values as being about tolerance and inclusion

I find this to be a very interesting line of thought, though.

On the one hand, these values are merely the expression of the dominant cultural/ideological mode of the day: progressive-idealism, or democratic-liberalism, or whatever you want to call it.

In the contemporary era, they're not uniquely British. They're shared by basically all members of the global middle class and ruling elite.

On the other hand, they were chief planks in the ideology of the uber-British Whigs and Nonconformists. This tradition has been transmitted via America to the whole world by virtue of the fact that America won all of its battles in the 20th Century--in particular, WWII and the Cold War--and the fact that these traditions define the politics and philosophy of the American elite. That is, in the 20th century, Quakerism conquered the world.

Now, there are some philosophical problems with modern liberalism. I think you correctly identify one of them in that, as secondary virtues, tolerance and inclusiveness are of course noble things, but when elevated to the status of absolutes, they produce this yawning chasm of meaninglessness and nihilism that is the modern world.

In the modern way of thinking, the satisfaction of individual desires is the highest possible good. The job of the state is to remove impediments to their satisfaction, that ever more people might satisfy ever more of their individual and equally valid desires ever more efficiently. Discovering social structures that permit or amplify this is the role of social science. The process of social change in the furtherance of the liberal vision is known as "progress".

But the liberal politics of hyper-rationalism spells death for the traditional societies and communities that host it. It is no accident that all modern cultures are converging into one undifferentiated mass of grey formless goo: nothing but shopping, fucking and computer games. Such an endstate is encoded onto the very DNA of liberalism: atomisation is our inheritance.

Emigre
15-11-2011, 08:21 PM
@vimothy, I largely agree with you, except for a few specific points:


Other civilizations conquered the world, and yet, other civilizations did not produce the industrial revolution.

True, but Ferguson seems to apply the term "civilisation" to all the Western powers who engaged in imperialism, not just Britain.


On the one hand, these values are ... shared by basically all members of the global middle class and ruling elite.

Not really. Outside the West, a lot of the world's elites are still organised along lines of tribe/caste/religion/etc, and consequently much of the emerging global middle classes tend to be drawn disproportionately from the same groups. It's not absolute, for sure, but the dividing lines are certainly visible, especially where resources are limited.


the expression of the dominant cultural/ideological mode of the day: progressive-idealism, or democratic-liberalism ... these traditions define the politics and philosophy of the American elite. That is, in the 20th century, Quakerism conquered the world.

Hmm. I was always under the impression that the rise of progressive-idealism/democratic-liberalism in 20th Century America was more linked to the emergence of a Jewish-American intelligentsia, who were more aware than most of the consequences of the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction. The Quaker theory is plausible, but I find the influence of e.g. Freud's "Civilisation and its Discontents" on 20th century American thought to be more pertinent.

*

Otherwise, I agree with you. And we're all pretty much fucked.

vimothy
15-11-2011, 09:42 PM
Well, it seems to me that American Jews (like other immigrant groups) mostly integrated to the dominant mode of the day, and as they ascended to positions of power, they acquired the ideology of the powerful, namely, progressive idealism.

There's a cute quote in a book by Auguste Laugel, a European traveller to the US. Describing the Civil War, an American explains, "it is the conquest of America, by Massachusetts."

As you go back into America's past, you see that the philosophy of Massachusetts is continuous. There are no break points. What Harvard believes in 2011 is directly descended from what Harvard believed in 1911, which is directly descended from what Harvard believed in 1811, and so on. Less of the God stuff, perhaps. But I don't see what the emergence of Jewish intelligentsia adds to this picture; the trajectory of thought amongst America's elite is unchanged.

zhao
16-11-2011, 08:39 AM
Other civilizations conquered the world, and yet, other civilizations did not produce the industrial revolution.

what do you mean by this? as an example of something "good" which came out of empire? i find it a bit hard to believe that you would say something like this, but if so:

1. highly debatable if industrial revolution was "good" for mankind, if the jury has not yet returned with a conclusive, wholly negative ruling.

2. the technological advancements of and after the renaissance can not be only attributed to Europeans and their "killer apps" (barf) -- the contributions of Muslim mathematicians, which have been said to rival or even surpass those of Europeans like Newton, and others have been erased from history books.

3. and the exactly relationship of imperialism and the industrial revolution is not so simple is it? not just a case of one making the other possible, and a bit more complex, no?

Mr. Tea
16-11-2011, 08:55 AM
Sadly, we don’t actually have much more of a collective cultural identity than “we defeated Hitler once; mmmmyeah the empire was kinda bad; have you seen my new kitchen?”

Great post, and I agree with most of it, but I think this sentence is maybe a little unfair. There's more to Britain's identity than being a former colonial power that was once very good at war, isn't there? Though I'll admit society does seem quite fractured, especially now, but is that necessarily an unalloyed evil?

To put it another way, consider countries that have a very strong "collective cultural identity". In these cases, I should think such an identity is often imposed from on high by a totalitarian government (China, for example) or, when it arises more spontaneously, tends to have rather a suspect nationalist (be it linguistic, racial, religious...) element to it.

I suppose it's a lot different for a country that's emerged as a independent polity in the relatively recent past than it is for a country like Britain that was the occupier/coloniser.

vimothy
16-11-2011, 10:40 AM
what do you mean by this? as an example of something "good" which came out of empire? i find it a bit hard to believe that you would say something like this, but if so:

1. highly debatable if industrial revolution was "good" for mankind, if the jury has not yet returned with a conclusive, wholly negative ruling.

2. the technological advancements of and after the renaissance can not be only attributed to Europeans and their "killer apps" (barf) -- the contributions of Muslim mathematicians, which have been said to rival or even surpass those of Europeans like Newton, and others have been erased from history books.

3. and the exactly relationship of imperialism and the industrial revolution is not so simple is it? not just a case of one making the other possible, and a bit more complex, no?

I simply meant that, if you want to explain how it is that the West came the dominate the scene and conquered the whole world, then "by conquering the whole world" is not something that takes you too far in the right direction.

As to whether the industrial revolution was a good thing, I did not mean to suggest that it wasn't. There are some upsides, right? Personally, I prefer being alive to being dead, and suspect that the industrial revolution goes some way towards making this happen. That said, there is obviously a strong link between the industrial revolution and the cultural mode of the day, ultra-liberal progressive-idealism or "super-protestantism (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,801396,00.html)" , which draws authority and validity from its seeming consistency with science and technological progress.

Finally, re the contribution of non-Western cultures to science and progress, this strikes me as a case of having ones cake and eating it. On the one hand, no good has come from technological progress. On the other hand, Islamic civilisation should get some of the credit for it. On the one hand, no good can come from empire. On the other hand, Islamic empires have made great contributions to civilisation.

* EDIT: Free link: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,801396,00.html

Emigre
16-11-2011, 10:47 AM
@vimothy,


"Less of the God stuff, perhaps. But ... the trajectory of thought amongst America's elite is unchanged.

I’ll give you that. But, like the typical Scot (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Blo1pyOBsXY), I’d argue that the birth of America was primarily a byproduct of the Scottish Enlightenment, as encapsulated by Tom Paine’s “Common Sense” (said concept being widely known at the time as “the Scottish Philosophy”).

I’m genuinely interested in finding out more about the Quaker element - any tips for a book on this? I’ve always wondered how America still kept coming up with original ideas in the interregnum between Scots-American philosophy and Jewish-American philosophy, this could be the answer [/sorta troll/]. Srsly tho, book tips plzthx?



"identity is often imposed from on high by a totalitarian government ... or, when it arises more spontaneously, tends to have rather a suspect nationalist (be it linguistic, racial, religious...) element to it."


I agree, but I’d go further, with the following broad sweeping statement: genuine collective national identity is a couple of hundred years old at best, and has very little credible long-term history anywhere. In Britain’s dissolution of it, we are kinda leading the world again, I guess. But to where, I dunno.

vimothy
16-11-2011, 11:30 AM
When I wrote "Quaker", it was just a glib synonym for the whole spectrum of liberal British religious thought, inclusive of Welsh and English Nonconformists and of course your Scottish Presbyterians. There are lots of books that cover this--one that springs immediately to mind is "The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism" by George McKenna. If I get chance later today, I'll dig a load more up.

craner
16-11-2011, 11:42 AM
"The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism" by George McKenna

Good grief, your reading list is even sicker than mine, Vim.

Slothrop
16-11-2011, 12:49 PM
It's worth pointing out that the Puritan commitment to religious freedom basically extended to their freedom from the CofE, though - it didn't take long for them to start executing people for being Quakers in Massachussets Bay, something from which they had to be prevented by Charles II...

Mr. Tea
16-11-2011, 12:54 PM
What thread was it a while back where there was a lot of chinwag about the role religious tolerance played (or didn't play) in the foundation of the US? The 'No future for the GOP' thread, maybe? Was quite interesting, anyway.

Emigre
16-11-2011, 01:58 PM
"The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism" by George McKenna.

Thanks, that's exactly what I need to read.

I’m aware I hold a somewhat simplified and biased view of American history, which places immigrant groups with previous experience of holding dual conceptions of nationhood (primarily Scots and Jews) as the grownups with most of the good ideas, while stereotyping most other historically significant white immigrant groups as being hollering fundamentalist Christian yahoos. On reflection, that's probably kinda racist. :D I’m buying that book.

vimothy
16-11-2011, 01:58 PM
Ha! I doubt that, Oliver.

Anyway, this:


the Puritan commitment to religious freedom basically extended to their freedom from the CofE, though - it didn't take long for them to start executing people for being Quakers in Massachusetts Bay, something from which they had to be prevented by Charles II...

Is worthy of note.

There are lots of paradoxes associated with progressive-idealism--in fact paradox is one of the defining characteristics of its dominant phase.

For example, equal freedom for all is the goal and ideal of modern liberalism--and yet its method in practice is the ever-expanding "managerial state", with attendant audit culture, abolition of politics and rule by an omnipresent enlightened elite.

To take another example, classical liberalism demanded strict limits to the power of the state, property rights, the sovereignty of private life and the elevation of bourgeois morality. Modern liberalism reverses all of those demands, and instead views a life of individually-determined hedonism as the fundamental right to be guaranteed by the power of the state.

Or, modern liberalism claims to be all about tolerance, but in reality it is no more tolerant than any other ruling ideology--you don't climb to the summit of the mountain of bones without adding a bit to it yourself. To question liberalism is to question reason itself--since liberalism proceeds from reason--and is thus inherently unreasonable, which is a Bad Thing by definition. Dissent, then, is impossible.

And so on...

Mr. Tea
16-11-2011, 02:29 PM
For example, equal freedom for all is the goal and ideal of modern liberalism

You might baulk at this, but I think there's an argument to be made that "modern liberalism" is more about economic freedom than any other aspect of liberty and, when taken to an extreme, that it tends to lead to less personal liberty for most people, not more.

Though I agree about the inherent paradoxes and contradictions of liberalism. For another example, to what extent should a tolerant society tolerate people whose views are intolerant? (I'm reminded of The Onion's superb 'ACLU defends neo-Nazis' right to burn down ACLU headquarters'. :D) MY girlfriend's reading Murder in Amsterdam at the moment, serendipitously enough, might borrow that when she's finished (you read it? seems like it might be your sort of thing).

Personally I think we should round up all the illiberal people in dawn raids and then intern them in big camps...

vimothy
16-11-2011, 03:01 PM
The paradoxes of tolerance are interesting, aren't they?

I think I would agree with you, to an extent.

The basic issue is that in the modern way of thinking all people must be free to pursue their individual aims as best they see fit. But in reality, of course many aims are mutually incompatible. The solution is ultimately to have aims provided, or at least sanctioned, by the state. And so it turns out that you are free to do whatever you want, as long as it is totally meaningless--like going shopping.

In the long-run, all intolerant subsets of liberal society will either become liberal voluntarily or will be made to become liberal, thus resolving the problem.

Distinct cultures will have to go, because distinct cultures necessarily exclude outsiders and restrict the ability of insiders to autonomously and optimally select between equally valid preferences.

"Society" then becomes nothing more than a simple aggregate of individuals making consumption choices in a rationally administered system--the utopia of modern economics and social science.

Anyway, since everyone is the same, and since all preferences are equally valid under liberalism, it follows that the conversion of the whole world to the liberal way of thinking is just a matter of time (and, occasionally, force of American arms).

Mr. Tea
16-11-2011, 03:31 PM
In the long-run, all intolerant subsets of liberal society will either become liberal voluntarily or will be made to become liberal, thus resolving the problem.

Not sure I'm convinced by this. Is the disappearance of the Christian hard right in the USA on the cards any time soon? Or of Islamist elements or ultra-xenophobic parties in the UK? Events over the last decade or so would tend to suggest the opposite, wouldn't they?

vimothy
16-11-2011, 04:07 PM
I didn't mean to suggest that those things will actually happen--only that this is the universalist ideal.

In reality, I don't think that a society where everything that transcends the individual consumption unit has been eradicated can exist for a long period of time. Instead these paradoxes will become exacerbated, the gap between reality and the ideal will widen unstably, and society will gradually be pulled apart.

Mr. Tea
16-11-2011, 10:49 PM
Backtracking a bit, but I remembered writing something about Nazi Germany and Victorian Britain in the 'Radical Fantasy' thread:



Nazism [...] a unique mix of a half-invented nostalgic folk mythology coupled to a relentless enthusiasm for 'progress': technology, industry and science (or pseudoscience, in the case of their racial ideology). In fact putting it like that, national-socialist Germany starts to look like a distillation or natural conclusion of Victorian Britain, minus the Christianity, and with emphasis more on a kind of racial collectivism as opposed to the Victorian ideal of capitalist individualism.

...just in case anyone still thinks I'm trying to paint imperial Britain as fundamentally better or more moral than Nazi Germany, except inasmuch that Germany during the war was doing much the same things Britain had been doing for a long time much more quickly, efficiently and mechanically.

baboon2004
17-11-2011, 02:08 PM
The basic issue is that in the modern way of thinking all people must be free to pursue their individual aims as best they see fit. But in reality, of course many aims are mutually incompatible. The solution is ultimately to have aims provided, or at least sanctioned, by the state. And so it turns out that you are free to do whatever you want, as long as it is totally meaningless--like going shopping.


Free to do anything unless it conflicts with the aims of the ruling class, however that might be constructed at the time. The law has become more honed towards curbing group freedoms (that are/could become political) than individual freedoms (which are always being appealed to, see Bloomberg invoking the First Amendment for the billionth time earlier this week), over the past decades.

vimothy
17-11-2011, 03:00 PM
But the ruling class is the class that rules, isn't it, so there seems to be tautology there.

For me, the important thing is that liberalism claims to be the value system of scientific-neutrality that maximises individual utility, so that to support liberalism is simply to advance your own interests, whereas in fact this is a claim that hides a more prosaic and familiar reality.

To expand on your point, modern liberal society has a ruling class, and where this ruling class clashes with an illiberal populace, it is not too difficult to predict the outcome in advance. The ruling class is the ruling class still--society of hyper-rationalism or no.

And of course group rights are inconsistent with this tendency. Just for starters, they are irrational in the following sense: groups have no meaning in and of themselves, because liberalism doesn't recognise anything that transcends the individual desiring unit; and since liberalism optimises the satisfaction of individual desire, it is not possible to do better as groups in the terms that actually matter. It follows that group rights are an unnecessary anachronism.

Group identities also by their nature violate liberal principles of tolerance and inclusiveness and are basically racist, or at least one step removed from racism.

The consequence of all of this it that is both necessary and desirable to take any form of politics off the table, so that technocrats can rationally administer the most efficient outcome that maximises the social welfare function, free from any zero-sum political unpleasantness.

IdleRich
17-11-2011, 03:55 PM
I'm not sure that everyone would recognise that definition of liberalism that you're using - or accept that it has to be taken to its pseudological conclusion.

vimothy
17-11-2011, 04:12 PM
I'm not attached to the word "liberalism" per se. Whatever you want to call it, just replace it with that.

Mr. Tea
17-11-2011, 04:26 PM
Sounds more like libertarianism to me. 'Liberalism' as it's more usually used is generally taken to include a tendency towards trying to make society more equal, which implies treating people who belong to different groups in different ways, since society (and life in general) is unequal to start with. So someone with a serious long-term illness might have some money spent on them for the medicine they need, whereas a healthy person doesn't because they don't need it. Or a drive to get more women or people from ethnic minorities into Parliament in recognition that its makeup doesn't reflect the demographics of the country very well. Or whatever it might be.

Just saying 'liberalism' = 'treating everyone the same and letting everyone maximise their own happines' might work in the context of highly abstract game-theoretic arguments about economics and society, but I don't think it's what most people mean (whether they consider themselves liberals or not) when they use the term. For the American Right, it's pretty much a convenient shorthand for 'God-hating, family-hating, wealth-hating, pinko tree-hugger', isn't it?

IdleRich
17-11-2011, 04:44 PM
Maybe the word is both too vague and too loaded to be much use in most circumstances now.

vimothy
17-11-2011, 04:46 PM
'Liberalism' as it's more usually used is generally taken to include a tendency towards trying to make society more equal, which of course implies treating people who belong to different groups differently, since society (and life in general) is unequal to start with.

That's basically how I define liberalism--or "universalism", "super-protestantism", "progressive-idealism", or whatever term you prefer to describe the dominant ideology of the day.

Libertarianism is a fringe interest that shares common roots with liberalism/progressive-idealism, and, to the extent that it is taken seriously by the mainstream, common values.

It's certainly true that in practice different groups are treated differently. This is one of a battery of paradoxes derived from the fact that human society is not perfectly rational and never will be. As I wrote earlier, the ideal of equal freedom for all, taken to its logical conclusion, implies contemporary social structure and not anarcho-capitalism. Progressive-idealism is a peremptory and comprehensive system of norms and interventions--whereas of course most people associate freedom with the removal of restrictions.

vimothy
17-11-2011, 04:51 PM
Or to put it more bluntly, what I mean by "liberalism", "progressive-idealism", "universalism", etc, is the ideological framework common to (most) contemporary liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and so on.

baboon2004
17-11-2011, 06:17 PM
But the ruling class is the class that rules, isn't it, so there seems to be tautology there.
.........

To expand on your point, modern liberal society has a ruling class, and where this ruling class clashes with an illiberal populace, it is not too difficult to predict the outcome in advance. The ruling class is the ruling class still--society of hyper-rationalism or no.

And of course group rights are inconsistent with this tendency. Just for starters, they are irrational in the following sense: groups have no meaning in and of themselves, because liberalism doesn't recognise anything that transcends the individual desiring unit; and since liberalism optimises the satisfaction of individual desire, it is not possible to do better as groups in the terms that actually matter. It follows that group rights are an unnecessary anachronism.

Group identities also by their nature violate liberal principles of tolerance and inclusiveness and are basically racist, or at least one step removed from racism.

The consequence of all of this it that is both necessary and desirable to take any form of politics off the table, so that technocrats can rationally administer the most efficient outcome that maximises the social welfare function, free from any zero-sum political unpleasantness.

Well, yes true, but the point being that no ruling class has ever welcomed interference in its goals, and so the idea of representative democracy as offering the kind of freedoms that its proponents allege, is kinda crazy to begin with. Virtually no-one in history has voluntarily given away their power. Which is fucked up, but well, is that the way human beings are, or have constructed themselves (open question)?

Agree with what you're saying, but i see it that liberalism is favoured as an ideology not per se, but rather because it allows the class in power to diffuse any threat to it more easily - ie by concentrating on presenting individual freedoms as the be-all and end-all, it 'tricks' much of the population into not questioning certain nexuses (?) of power, and not creating organised opposition to them (and when such opposition does arise, then it is brutally suppressed, often disproptionately to the actual threat it poses).

So liberalism (or whatever we're calling it now) is a means to an end, and not an end in itself.As with the allegedly free market, in the sense that when the actual free market doesn't do what its proponents really want (give them as much power/money as possible), they simply ignore it, as with bank bailouts etc etc, and massively intervene.

Obviously this is a very simplified version of how things work!

vimothy
17-11-2011, 09:42 PM
[In Western civilization] there is nothing on which one can fall back. As distinguished from a Greek civilization or Egyptian civilization, there is no archaism, for instance, possible in the Western civilization because Western civilization has no archaic period. There is no such thing in Western civilization as, for instance, the late Egyptian period, in which one can fall back on the sculpture and art forms of the third millennium B.C. And you cannot fall back on the Vikings; they are just too remote from any developed civilization.

Thus, from the early beginnings to the present, there is no internal coherence in Western civilization. But when you have an acculturation process of this kind, the deculturation process, with the resultant disorder, is considerably more dangerous than periods of disorder in other civilizations that have connections with an original mythical order...

Therefore the phenomenon of alienation, which, for instance, as you will see, we find amply present around 2000 B.C. in the Egyptian great crisis, has a particular acuteness in Western civilization in our time; it becomes a radical alienation, because there is nothing on which one can fall back. If certain cultural concepts are destroyed, you have to go about trying to recapture them somehow.

That is one of the problems of the twentieth century. That is the reason why so many people today, since we don't have a myth of our own in our civilization, will now go back into archeology, into comparative religion, into comparative literature and similar subject matter, because that is the place where they can recapture the substance that in our acculturated, and now decultured, civilization is getting lost.

That is why people all of a sudden become Zen Buddhists. You have to become a Zen Buddhist because there is nothing comparable in Western civilization to which you can fall back, if a dogmatism has run out, as the Christian has in the Age of Enlightenment.

Therefore, in this sense, beginning with the nineteenth century, we have a peculiar development of historical constructions in which all previous history is thrown out. A sort of original beginning is made, always in the present, with the present state of consciousness, be it in the Hegelian, or the Comtean, or the Marxian system, or any of the other ideological systems of the nineteenth century — a sort of apocalyptic construction by which all past history is thrown out as more or less irrelevant, or having its relevance only as leading up to its present point, the modern point in which we all have to live. Living on a point, throwing out all past history, that is perhaps the characteristic of the modern apocalyptic mood.

- Eric Voegelin, "The Drama of Humanity".

IdleRich
17-11-2011, 10:58 PM
A lot of interesting assertions there but does he have any arguments for them?

vimothy
18-11-2011, 10:57 AM
You should read the rest of the essay and find out!


i see it that liberalism is favoured as an ideology not per se, but rather because it allows the class in power to diffuse any threat to it more easily - ie by concentrating on presenting individual freedoms as the be-all and end-all, it 'tricks' much of the population into not questioning certain nexuses (?) of power, and not creating organised opposition to them (and when such opposition does arise, then it is brutally suppressed, often disproptionately to the actual threat it poses).

While it’s true that some of our culture and social structure can be explained by bad faith expressions of class interests, I think it's a mistake to view people as being insincere in general. Liberals are liberals because they believe in it, and they believe in it because it is believable. Equality, tolerance, inclusiveness—aren’t these good things? I certainly think so.

No one wakes up in the morning and decides to orchestrate evil. Even bogeymen-type characters like Dick Cheney proceed on the basis that they are doing good. The psychic costs of doing otherwise are simply too great to bear.

You are right to note that it is unlikely that elites would ever voluntarily give up power, but I don’t know that there is anything wrong with this in and of itself. The social order has always been organised around hierarchies. Instead, it’s the particular form that this order takes that has the most profound implications for us as people who want to live as humans in a human society.

IdleRich
18-11-2011, 11:29 AM
"No one wakes up in the morning and decides to orchestrate evil. Even bogeymen-type characters like Dick Cheney proceed on the basis that they are doing good. The psychic costs of doing otherwise are simply too great to bear."
A slight digression but this is something I often wonder about. I don't believe that Dick Cheney is evil, although he appears to be less concerned about other people than you would hope someone to be, but some actions do just seem totally without justification. I suspect that some can just embrace what, for want of a better word, you would have to call evil. Either that or have a split personality of some kind which allows the person not to bear the psychic costs of their actions.


"You should read the rest of the essay and find out!"
Do you have a link?

vimothy
18-11-2011, 11:36 AM
I could post one but I don't want to cause any copyright-related problems.

There's a scribd link half-way down the page here that contains it:

http://www.google.co.uk/search?gcx=w&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=drama+of+humanity#hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZZXFTt7cKYeE8gOfsKj4Cg&ved=0CBgQvwUoAQ&q=drama+of+humanity+voegelin&spell=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=24c6bf80abfb1585&biw=1366&bih=600

Mr. Tea
18-11-2011, 11:50 AM
As with the allegedly free market, in the sense that when the actual free market doesn't do what its proponents really want (give them as much power/money as possible), they simply ignore it, as with bank bailouts etc etc, and massively intervene.


This is crucial, I think. People blame capitalism for the current global recession and the way it's being (mis)handled - with justification, of course - but the system we have isn't even 'proper' capitalism, is it? I mean, a truly laissez-faire capitalist government would have said to the stricken banks, "You've made your bed, now you've got to sleep in it". Instead we have "socialism for bankers, the free market for everyone else", as some people have put it.

baboon2004
18-11-2011, 12:22 PM
This is crucial, I think. People blame capitalism for the current global recession and the way it's being (mis)handled - with justification, of course - but the system we have isn't even 'proper' capitalism, is it? I mean, a truly laissez-faire capitalist government would have said to the stricken banks, "You've made your bed, now you've got to sleep in it". Instead we have "socialism for bankers, the free market for everyone else", as some people have put it.

very neat way of putting it, that, will be using it! David Harvey (who I think should be taught in schools, personally, thought here's an obvious reason why he's not) couched it that governments were in fact being partially Keynesian, though my knowledge of 'who said what' in economics is not good enough to comment on that.

http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/06/some-big-things-ha-joon-chang-doesn%E2%80%99t-tell-you-about-capitalism/ this looks like very interesting reading - haven't had chance to read it all yet.

baboon2004
18-11-2011, 12:48 PM
While it’s true that some of our culture and social structure can be explained by bad faith expressions of class interests, I think it's a mistake to view people as being insincere in general. Liberals are liberals because they believe in it, and they believe in it because it is believable. Equality, tolerance, inclusiveness—aren’t these good things? I certainly think so.

No one wakes up in the morning and decides to orchestrate evil. Even bogeymen-type characters like Dick Cheney proceed on the basis that they are doing good. The psychic costs of doing otherwise are simply too great to bear.

You are right to note that it is unlikely that elites would ever voluntarily give up power, but I don’t know that there is anything wrong with this in and of itself. The social order has always been organised around hierarchies. Instead, it’s the particular form that this order takes that has the most profound implications for us as people who want to live as humans in a human society.

This is super-interesting territory, where politics meets personal psychology.

I agree that 'evil' is too easy a word to bandy about. I think Dick Cheney is, rather, probably insane, as are many politicians, and many involved in big business.

Wrt big business, this is not too much of a surprise, as many capitalist systems encourage what I think could best be described as an addiction to making money. Whereas other addicts (obviously the similarity of some recent forms of finance to gambling can come up here) are, for good reason, understood to be acting in a way that is out of control, those addicted to making money have laws twisted in their favour (trickle-down bullshit etc etc), and often end up at the top of our society. This state of mind typically results in one privileging making even more money (when one could never even spend the amount one has) above damaging the lives of other human beings, is to my mind a sick one, and totally divorced from any vision of what human beings are and could achieve. It's addict behaviour, and it ruins a hell of a lot of lives. (The interesting thing is super-rich people who go more to the left as they attain that status)

Returning to liberalism, the issue of sincerity as regards one's beliefs is incredibly difficult in itself. What does sincerity mean, when most people simply block out evidence to the contrary, that might force them to examine their opinions/lifestyles more closely. Everyone does this to greater or lesser extent out of concerns for ego, integrity etc, but how much more would someone like Cheney do it; to renege on any of his views would be political suicide, for one thing? Never underestimate how much people lie to themselves about how they are 'honest', 'moral', 'generous' etc etc, whereas they stopped collecting actual evidence on this a long time back, so it just assumes the form of a mantra to keep the 'bad thoughts' away.

Equality, tolerance, inclusiveness in themselves are beautiful things, but surely very far from what most of those who would describe themselves as liberals actually do in practice (whatever the rhetoric)? Certainly equality of opportunity (to me the most important type of equality) is only ever paid lip service; tolerance and inclusiveness are only adhered to when it suits (and the initial attainment of many societal inclusivenesses (?) have involved pitched battles with the authorities).

viktorvaughn
18-11-2011, 02:46 PM
This is crucial, I think. People blame capitalism for the current global recession and the way it's being (mis)handled - with justification, of course - but the system we have isn't even 'proper' capitalism, is it? I mean, a truly laissez-faire capitalist government would have said to the stricken banks, "You've made your bed, now you've got to sleep in it". Instead we have "socialism for bankers, the free market for everyone else", as some people have put it.

Bit off topic but has anyone done a thoughtpiece type article on what would have happened had the govt done nothing and the banks failed. I genuinely have no idea what that model would look like knowing not much about economics but would be interested.

baboon2004
18-11-2011, 02:48 PM
well, there was a run on Northern Rock, so probably similar things up and down the country -the issue with fractional reserve banking. Most people would 'lose' their money, lose in inverted commas because it wasn't there int he first place, it was invested (often badly/incredibly riskily).

A situation exacerbated by the eradication of walls between retail and investment banking, which is one of the craziest things ever.

I don't know enough about it, but in a fractional reserve system where the public every salary-time gives money to the banks for free (and most current accounts give zero interest or near as dammit), people are beholden to them, hence where the 'too big to fail' idea comes from. And if laws governing the banks are inadequate to curb their excesses/gambling on risky investments, then your money (if in a bank) is only safe insofar as you are constantly running the risk of paying money through taxes to bail them out. If they're not bailed out, where's your money?

So if government is in the pockets of the banks in any way, the public are screwed.

I think this is (roughly) right, but far from sure.

vimothy
18-11-2011, 03:27 PM
During the Great Depression, there were widespread bank failures in the US, as banks were run on and collapsed. A natural consequence of bank failures is the collapse of the supply of money, a natural consequence of which is deflation and probably depression. Though of course opinions differ as to exactly what it was that caused the downturn to be so persistent.

In any case it was generally believed to have been disastrous enough for the economy to motivate the US govt to create the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation--the FDIC--via the Glass-Steagall Act in '33.

The UK govt also guarantees deposit accounts--and, it turns out, a whole lot more besides--so the run on NR didn't reflect any real risk of loss of consumer savings.

Instead, in the current financial crisis, runs didn't happen on the govt insured, retail-side, but in wholesale, uninsured and unregulated markets like the all important tri-party repo market, which is a kind of deposit account equivalent for the financial system.

After the failure of Lehman Bros., as these markets were run on, systemically important credit markets started to shut down. For example, if you watched HBO's film of Sorkin's Too Big To Fail, you might have noticed a scene in which, following Lehman's collapse, the CEO of General Electric is on the phone to Hank Paulson, complaining that they can no longer find buyers for their commercial paper. In other words, even the biggest corporations in the world were unable to access the credit needed to fund their day-to-day operations.

The unfortunate upshot is, it really did seem as though these guys were too big to fail. Given the systemic effects of one failure, the collapse of the entire sector looks like it could have resulted in apocalyptic levels of destruction.

vimothy
19-11-2011, 05:14 PM
I agree that 'evil' is too easy a word to bandy about. I think Dick Cheney is, rather, probably insane, as are many politicians, and many involved in big business....

As with hierarchies, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with “big business” or making money per se. Rather, it’s that the market and govt bureaucracy shouldn’t dominate society to the extent that they do. Britain had its own unique culture, the expression of a unique community (or intersection of a family of communities), once upon a time. What happened to it? Well, it got razed to the ground and concreted over, to make way for Tescos, dance music, internet porn, and everything else that is now familiar.

It's true that businesses are complicit in the hollowing out of our culture, but then so are a lot of other people: intellectuals, technocrats, politicians, and so on, all the way down the chain to the lowliest individuals.

Of course in some sense I must believe, as you do, that people lie to themselves about the condition of society. Otherwise its continued existence doesn’t make sense, except in terms of some evil and nefarious plot—and I think that is too easy an explanation to be wholly true.

In Soviet Russia, you were taught to be a Communist. In Liberal England, you are taught to be a Liberal. Modern man, as we all know, gives birth to himself—or at least pretends to—so this should not be a surprise. And who can say, probably in Soviet Russia I would be a dedicated Party member, just like everyone else.

Most people are not philosophers or revolutionaries, and shouldn't be expected to act as such. They don’t want to be engaged in some eternal struggle for the Ownership of the Means of Production, or Grand Luminous City at the End of the Dark Historical Tunnel. They want to live in a world that is greater than they are, to have a place within it where they can raise a family in peace, and to be able to establish a meaningful relationship between the two.

Measured against the unrealistic and inhuman demands of modern hyper-liberalism, it goes without saying that they are failures and hypocrites—just as they were failures and hypocrites in Communist Russia and failures and hypocrites in Fascist Italy. The problem here is not with the people, but with the unrealistic demands that are placed upon them. People are not like that; life is not like that. If you drain meaning from all social institutions, so that everything can occupy the same sphere equally, the result is not utopia, but a kind of post-human nihilistic limbo.

I often think of this passage from de Tocqueville’s The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution:


Every public passion was thus wrapped up in philosophy; political life was violently driven back into literature, and writers, taking in hand the direction of opinion, found themselves for a moment taking the place that party leaders usually hold in free countries… Above the real society… there was slowly built an imaginary society in which everything seemed simple and coordinated, uniform, equitable, and in accord with reason. Gradually, the imagination of the crowd deserted the former to concentrate on the latter. One lost interest in what was, in order to think about what could be, and finally one lived mentally in the ideal city the writers had built.

History rhymes, as Mark Twain observed. Unfortunately its song is not always a pleasant one...

Mr. Tea
20-11-2011, 04:07 PM
Vim, I think your posts in this thread are very lucid and well-argued, and I kind of agree to a large extent with what you're saying, but...all this the-end-times-are-upon-us stuff, the whole eschatological forboding - we've been here countless times before, haven't we? I mean, there's that famous passage in Socrates where he basically goes "Tsk, kids today, eh? I don't know..."; there's a well-known treatise from mediaeval Japan in which someone bemoanes the comprehensive inferiority of the current generation of young 'uns to their fathers' generation - it's kind of a universal tendency to see things this way, and it's by no means limted to the Right, either (though probably more common among conservative people generally, by definition).

Then again, societies do sometimes collapse or go into serious decline, that's undeniable. A Roman proconsul in a western province in 300 AD who thought to himself "Things are going tits-up and no mistake" would ultimately have been proved right, even if the final collapse took another century or more.

Another thing that's a bit disturbing is the question of what (if anythin) can be done about all this. The responses to the development of "decadent" societies seem to follow a few well-trodden paths, viz. getting everyone back into the church/mosque/temple in a big way (uh, not so keen on that one myself), abolishing class and private ownership so we can all live together as one big happy family (an admirable idea in principle, doesn't exactly have an unblemished record in historical fact though) or re-awakening the true Urkultur of the Volk (enough said). To put it very bluntly, is there an alternative to your atomised, po-mo pseudo-utopia where the only good is pleasurable consumption, other than theocracy, totalitarian socialism or fascism?

Interesting, too, that the breakdown of culture, tradition, public religion (or Christianity, at least), well-defined class boundaries, family ties and all other things that conservatives have traditionally stood for has been accelerated by Tory policies, and New Labour's more Tory-ish policies, over the last 30+ years. Wasn't Thatcher hugely unpopular with the Tory old guard, not just out of petty prejudice against her sex but because they knew her policies would have just these effects, despite all her rhetoric about tradition and history? I mean a huge part of her support came not just from the obvious public-schooled classes who'd voted Tory for generations but also a generation of young working-class people who made good in the '80s boom and didn't give two shits for tradition because the tradition they'd come from was one of growing up in a small house in a grotty area and doing poorly-paid jobs or being unemplyed...

vimothy
20-11-2011, 08:05 PM
I kind of agree to a large extent with what you're saying, but...all this the-end-times-are-upon-us stuff, the whole eschatological forboding - we've been here countless times before, haven't we?

Ha! I suppose that I’m naturally drawn to the gloomy and portentous—it adds a kind of cheap aesthetic weight to the argument. But short cuts make for long delays, as any wizzid would tell ya, so probably it’s something I should wean myself out of.

On the one hand, I hope that I’m saying something more than merely “kids today don’t know they’re born”—perhaps that kids today are born into something, but they don’t realise that it’s there; or perhaps that kids today are not born into something, but they don’t realise that it’s absent, because they don’t realise that it ever existed.

On the other hand, however, I do believe that the current generation is inferior to its antecedents. Technology has improved; men have declined. In fact, I think that one measure of the success of a culture is the quality of the people it produces, so that you can observe this decline in real time in the ongoing collapse of our intellectual and cultural life. Perhaps someone could design a smartphone app, or something.

In any case, it’s fair to note as you do that people have been saying that society is going down the tubes for a while now. And you even pre-empt me by adding the important caveat that this doesn’t mean ipso facto that the people who say this are always wrong. One of the problems with this line of thought, though, is that the standards used when making this judgement are not stable, and have got progressively more unstable in recent years. It’s like trying to gauge the speed of an object coming towards you when you’re standing on a train. You need to somehow factor into your calculations the trajectory of the train itself.

I’m certain that if you were able to go back in time to the year 1911, and show people in Britain the state of their country one hundred years hence, very few of them would be enthusiastic about it. In fact, I can’t imagine that they would be anything other than horrified and appalled at the nightmare vision of the future placed before them. It is impossible to overstate the gap in values between now and then. So I think that it’s fair to say that if two people were arguing about the prospects for progress in 1911, and you could show them exactly how the century would turn out, the argument would be settled in favour of the pessimist in short order. Carried out on a significant scale, the experiment would completely bury progressive-idealism as a going concern.

As to “what is to be done”—well, I’m sure I wouldn’t know. I do have some thoughts on theocracy, totalitarian socialism and fascism, though.

One way to define modernity is an age in which man is no longer understood to partake in some kind of higher order . Since he does not possess a transcendent nature, man is instead strictly limited to history, or biology, or something similar.

Totalitarian ideologies all share in the modernist conception of man. If there is no power higher than the individual, there is no greater good than the satisfaction of individual desire. But in order to give society structure, there has to be some way to resolve the problem of conflicting desires. Totalitarianism takes the arbitrary desiring principle, puts it on a pedestal and demands that society bends its knee before it. The power that enables the collective to subsume all individual desires beneath its own becomes the principle about which society is ordered; power becomes not simply a means to an end but an end as such.

Quite apart from the sterility of all of the actually existing totalitarian societies, it’s clear from the above that totalitarianism can’t in principle solve the deeper problems facing mankind any better than liberalism can. So the choice between the two is indeed a depressing one, if that is what we are faced with.

On the subject of theocracy, it is possible to view all the modernist ideologies as secular religions. (See, for a highly readable argument in this vein, Michael Burleigh’s Earthly Powers). Liberalism is a kind of secular, state religion. It has its own taboos, rituals, saints, myths and so on. When you write that the idea of resurrecting religion doesn’t appeal I get the feel that what you mean is that you don’t like the idea of spending your Sunday morning in a church. Which is fair enough—neither do I. But I think that something similar to religion or the religious worldview is necessary to balance out the more extreme tendencies of modernism in general and liberalism in particular. It doesn’t have to be explicitly theistic, though—e.g., Confuciusism, Buddhism, etc. And I don’t think it’s obvious that we end up in vastly different place give that we already have a kind of para-state religion anyway.

*This principle in and of itself is not new. Writing in the 3rd Century AD, Plotinus (http://classics.mit.edu/Plotinus/enneads.5.fifth.html) criticised a similar tendency:


What can it be that has brought the souls to forget the father, God, and, though members of the Divine and entirely of that world, to ignore at once themselves and It?

The evil that has overtaken them has its source in self-will, in the entry into the sphere of process, and in the primal differentiation with the desire for self-ownership. They conceived a pleasure in this freedom and largely indulged their own motion; thus they were hurried down the wrong path, and in the end, drifting further and further, they came to lose even the thought of their origin in the Divine. A child wrenched young from home and brought up during many years at a distance will fail in knowledge of its father and of itself: the souls, in the same way, no longer discern either the divinity or their own nature; ignorance of their rank brings self-depreciation; they misplace their respect, honouring everything more than themselves; all their awe and admiration is for the alien, and, clinging to this, they have broken apart, as far as a soul may, and they make light of what they have deserted; their regard for the mundane and their disregard of themselves bring about their utter ignoring of the divine.

Admiring pursuit of the external is a confession of inferiority; and nothing thus holding itself inferior to things that rise and perish, nothing counting itself less honourable and less enduring than all else it admires could ever form any notion of either the nature or the power of God.

lanugo
21-11-2011, 02:03 AM
Excellent post, Vimothy.

I especially liked the bit where you muse about the precise nature of the bereavement that has befallen contemporary culture and how most people are (blissfully?) unaware of the fact that they have been deprived of something fundamentally important.

Reminded me of Baudrillard's metaphor of the "agony of the real", denoting the - somewhat mysterious - breakdown of 'reality' itself in the wake of (interrelated) processes such as rapid technologisation, hyper-acceleration of capitalist transactions and violently assimilative globalisation.

What, in my opinion, attests most strikingly to the accuracy of this diagnosis is the inevitably farcical character of every and all of today's proceedings, be it art, politics or personal life, wherein one can't help but see lacklustre, increasingly grotesque and almost necrophilic-seeming impersonations of a dead past.

I'd like to note one thing regarding your remarks on the possibility that modernist ideologies might be viewed as secular remodellings of religious belief systems. I take this to mean that new world views, despite the conviction of their proponents that they have created something entirely new, actually preserve and retain essential functions and concepts of previous paradigms thought to be overcome. Western liberal democracies, apart from possibly incorporating 'theocratic' elements, as you have already pointed out, also seem to be to made up of certain totalitarian and fascist components. For one, the drive for eventual planetary hegemony, characteristic of totalitarian ideologies, is also a basic feature of the expansion of Western consumerism. In conjunction with the interventionist US-NATO military bloc, this ideology has already come much closer to achieving this objective than any of the past 'totalitarian' regimes - a 'globalised' goverment structure under Western auspices could even be understood to be the first fully realised form of 'totalitarianism' in the true sense of the word. In addition, Western mass media is a more powerful propagandistic instrument than, say, Goebbels could ever have dreamed of. Far from being the "Fourth Estate", i.e. a democratic institution set up to to watch over and regulate the government, the media overwhelmingly serves to disseminate and imprint the current ideological catch phrases on people's minds ("democracy", "human rights", "freedom") which are then used for the justification of wars of aggression (see Libya).

The Posthumanist movement with its crypto-eugenicist agenda is another potentially unrecognised fascist inheritance of the enlightened West.


But I think that something similar to religion or the religious worldview is necessary to balance out the more extreme tendencies of modernism in general and liberalism in particular. It doesn’t have to be explicitly theistic, though—e.g., Confuciusism, Buddhism, etc. And I don’t think it’s obvious that we end up in vastly different place give that we already have a kind of para-state religion anyway.

Interesting. Your wording kind of suggests that you consider this 'spiritual renewal' to be called for from a pragmatic point of view in order to orient the disaffected public and its potentially destructive excesses toward a certain desired state of societal equilibrium. As if some kind of elite could reverse the effects of modernism by administering the people a surrogate system of values. Wouldn't that be the bleakest outgrowth of modernism of all?

And if, as you say, what has been lost is not necessarily the bond between man and divinity - then what exactly is it that has been lost?

luka
21-11-2011, 02:19 AM
haha, this thread is amzing... vimothy with his spectator-lite musings and languo with his david icke shtick in harmonious and very touching agreement!
i reckon if the bloke from 1911 was a gaylord he'd be encouraged by the progress society has made. if he was very poor he may well b impressd to. if it iwas not a bloke but a lass, again, may wll be keen. if he was a feature writere for the spectator he may well as you assert, be horrified.

lanugo
21-11-2011, 02:30 AM
haha, this thread is amzing... vimothy with his spectator-lite musings and languo with his david icke shtick in harmonious and very touching agreement!
i reckon if the bloke from 1911 was a gaylord he'd be encouraged by the progress society has made. if he was very poor he may well b impressd to. if it iwas not a bloke but a lass, again, may wll be keen. if he was a feature writere for the spectator he may well as you assert, be horrified.

Yeah, Marcel Proust would have a blast at Christopher Street Day.

Now why don't you piss off and post a poem on some facebook wall?

vimothy
21-11-2011, 02:38 AM
vimothy with his spectator-lite musings

Hahaha--I was getting worried there!

Spectator-lite though--ouch.

luka
21-11-2011, 05:27 AM
Now why don't you piss off and post a poem on some facebook wall?

o! lanuguo, your eyes are like the night
as lustrous and sinful
your perfume is like that of Arabia
it follows at your heels like a black cat
O! languo your mind hath truly seen past the seven veils
what shall become of you?

Mr. Tea
21-11-2011, 07:47 AM
o! lanuguo, your eyes are like the night
as lustrous and sinful
your perfume is like that of Arabia
it follows at your heels like a black cat
O! languo your mind hath truly seen past the seven veils
what shall become of you?

Times like this I wish Dissensus was one of those forums where you can give people 'rep'.

Seven veils indeed, hahaha.

IdleRich
21-11-2011, 11:43 AM
"i reckon if the bloke from 1911 was a gaylord he'd be encouraged by the progress society has made. if he was very poor he may well b impressd to. if it iwas not a bloke but a lass, again, may wll be keen. if he was a feature writere for the spectator he may well as you assert, be horrified."
There's a lot of truth in that isn't there?


"I’m certain that if you were able to go back in time to the year 1911, and show people in Britain the state of their country one hundred years hence, very few of them would be enthusiastic about it. In fact, I can’t imagine that they would be anything other than horrified and appalled at the nightmare vision of the future placed before them."
Depends what you showed them I reckon. Hard to encapsulate the state of the country and some bits have got better just as some have got worse. And a lot of the horror would be due to the change in views of morality which might be some of the things that you actually like.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2011, 12:09 PM
Western liberal democracies, apart from possibly incorporating 'theocratic' elements, as you have already pointed out, also seem to be to made up of certain totalitarian and fascist components. For one, the drive for eventual planetary hegemony, characteristic of totalitarian ideologies, is also a basic feature of the expansion of Western consumerism. In conjunction with the interventionist US-NATO military bloc, this ideology has already come much closer to achieving this objective than any of the past 'totalitarian' regimes - a 'globalised' goverment structure under Western auspices could even be understood to be the first fully realised form of 'totalitarianism' in the true sense of the word. In addition, Western mass media is a more powerful propagandistic instrument than, say, Goebbels could ever have dreamed of.

If only the Nazis had won WWII, how much more free we'd all be! National Socialism had its faults, of course, but it was so much more honest, so much more vital than the lacklustre, decadent, degenerate, one might in fact say Jew-infested liberal-secular-capitalist democracies we have today.

You really are a prize prat.

vimothy
21-11-2011, 12:56 PM
There's a lot of truth in that isn't there?

Well, obviously I disagree, which is why I wrote all that stuff above it.

Of course, everyone is supposed realise that all their aims are one with modern super-Protestantism, and their needs are best met by it, so that to support it is really to advance one’s own interests. Consequently, anyone would prefer to live in a situation where it was more advanced than less. I mean, it’s just self-evident, right? We discussed this earlier in the thread. Everyone is on a trajectory of gradual and inevitable convergence towards the ideal, and any short-term discrepancies in values or preferences are exactly that and will settle down into nothing in the long-run.

Partly, the ability of people to make this sort of claim in a historical context rests on the deliberate confusion of technological and social progress. I’m sure that if you asked anyone—“hey there, would you like to have a higher standard of living?”—they’d probably say yes. I know how I’d answer.

If there was no technological growth, then what would a poor person say? What would anyone say? If there was technological growth, but different social change, which would they prefer?

The second thing that this rests on is taking marginal gains to some particular person or subgroup, but ignoring the whole effect. Sure, a “gaylord”, or a woman, or a poor person, might prefer to have the individual gains that they made in a straight offer, but would they take them in exchange for the total change in society over the last hundred years? I’m pretty sure that the answer for most people would be “no”. That’s simply a matter of judgement. And yes, a lot of this rests on the differences in morality and values between now and then. What else would it rest on?

And note that it doesn’t really matter whether you agree with them in this, if you’re looking at the idea that society is going down the tubes in a dispassionate way. In the past, pessimistic people said it was. If they could be brought into the present, do you think they would they feel refuted, or vindicated?

And I haven't even mentioned all of the industrialised death and other unfortunate wrinkles that the 20th century threw up while we were creating that Ideal City...

craner
21-11-2011, 01:15 PM
I don't think anybody at The Spectator is writing as well as Vimothy these days.

baboon2004
21-11-2011, 01:18 PM
What's the question again? ;)

One area I'd say in which minimal progress has been made since 1911 is in people's ability to make themselves happy, or to 'deal with their shit'. I'm always impressed by how radical psychotherapeutic and some sociological texts from at least the 1940s still are (and probably from before).

IdleRich
21-11-2011, 02:00 PM
"Well, obviously I disagree, which is why I wrote all that stuff above it."
But presumably you see some improvements as well as backwards steps? I'd say that a story about how everything has got worse is no more convincing than the myth of progress


"The second thing that this rests on is taking marginal gains to some particular person or subgroup, but ignoring the whole effect. Sure, a “gaylord”, or a woman, or a poor person, might prefer to have the individual gains that they made in a straight offer, but would they take them in exchange for the total change in society over the last hundred years? I’m pretty sure that the answer for most people would be “no”. That’s simply a matter of judgement. And yes, a lot of this rests on the differences in morality and values between now and then. What else would it rest on?"
By judgment you just mean gut feeling though right? Which is fair enough, there is no metric for actually knowing that I can imagine. Not convinced though, if I'd been someone whose sexuality was criminalised and then it wasn't then it would take some pretty bad stuff happening elsewhere to make me think that society was moving in the wrong direction.
The second bit though, you misunderstand me. I'm saying that if you could transport a lot of people from 1911 to 2011 then probably a lot of the things they would list as detrimental changes would be "Woman are allowed to vote" "Hardly anyone goes to church on Sunday" "There are lots of black people and we're not allowed to treat them as sub-human". In other words, the things they might not like are often gonna be things I (and probably you) do like.
I mean, what you seem to be saying is "People from 1911 wouldn't like 2011 and so I'm right in talking about anti-progress" but the things that people from 1911 would hate aren't the same things as you are decrying now and so I'm not sure the argument is valid.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2011, 02:10 PM
I was about to say something similar - people in 1911 had their own prejudices, just like people in all societies in all ages have their prejudices, and if society in 2011 doesn't comform to those prejudices that hardly proves that society is going "backwards".

Rather than asking "What would people from a century ago think about today's society?", perhaps a better question would be "Would most people from today willingly step through a time warp to 1911?". I think the vast majority would not.

vimothy
21-11-2011, 02:21 PM
Sure--and equally, you could say exactly the same thing about people today.


Rather than asking "What would people from a century ago think about today's society?", perhaps a better question would be "Would most people from today willingly step through a time warp to 1911?". I think the vast majority would not.

But if the first experiment fails, so too must this.

An interesting thought experiment is, what if we'd had all of social change, and none of the technological change, or all of the technological change and none of the social change?

It seems to me that the answer is not obvious. Again, a gut feeling and not a logical derivation. Of course this isn't a real choice and you don't have to pick one or the other, buit it's worth bearing in mind when you think about what has been lost on the road to where we are now. I mean, what about the Ballardian null space of Tescos and motoway service stations. Progress, or just change?

Mr. Tea
21-11-2011, 02:44 PM
Well let's avoid going so far down the relativity path that we end up saying that no society is any better or worse to live in than any other. OK, so most people on the whole do no have an explicitly 'spiritual' dimension in their lives any more, and that is not without potentially negative consequences, granted. You have to weigh that up against the fact that we no longer criminalise a large part of the population based on their sexual orientation and that married women are no longer considered the property of their husbands.

But leaving aside things like this which will inevitably involve value judgements, I think we can say it is an objective improvement that life expectancy is far greater than it was just a few generations back, that serious infectious diseases are far less common, people generally have enough food to eat, infant mortality is a fraction of what it once was and even people with serious long-term illnesses and disabilities can lead something approaching a normal life. There's no way you can regard any of these improvements as being contingent on ephemeral social values, I think.

And yes, obviously motorway service stations are grim and soulless, but people don't actually live inside them, do they? There's still plenty of mystery and poetry and humour in the world, you just have to know where to look for it - or, perhaps, know how to make yourself open to these things when they present themselves. I think I talked a lot about this in response to zhao's "the lack of the 'mysterious'" thread a couple of years back.

You can even find numinous mystery in that most humdrum of environments, the British suburbs (http://www.entrances2hell.co.uk/)...

IdleRich
21-11-2011, 02:47 PM
"But if the first experiment fails, so too must this."
Yes, I'd agree, although I think I would give slightly more weight to the second person as the direction of history means that a 2011er has more information about 1911 than vice versa.


"I mean, what about the Ballardian null space of Tescos and motoway service stations. Progress, or just change?"
Our response to these right now is conflicted, we claim to hate them and not want them to be built but we all use them when they are.

vimothy
21-11-2011, 03:49 PM
You have to weigh that up against the fact that we no longer criminalise a large part of the population based on their sexual orientation and that married women are no longer considered the property of their husbands.

When you say criminalised, you just mean that it was illegal, right? Roughly how many people were actually imprisoned for being homosexuals? And were married women really considered property of their husbands?


But leaving aside things like this which will inevitably involve value judgements, I think we can say it is an objective improvement that life expectancy is far greater than it was just a few generations back, that serious infectious diseases are far less common, people generally have enough food to eat, infant mortality is a fraction of what it once was and even people with serious long-term illnesses and disabilities can lead something approaching a normal life. There's no way you can regard any of these improvements as being contingent on ephemeral social values, I think.

Exactly, so we need to remove the confounding variable from the analysis, as it were.


And yes, obviously motorway service stations are grim and soulless, but people don't actually live inside them, do they? There's still plenty of mystery and poetry and humour in the world, you just have to know where to look for it - or, perhaps, know how to make yourself open to these things when they present themselves. I think I talked a lot about this in response to zhao's "the lack of the 'mysterious'" thread a couple of years back.

Well, I'm being a little bit ironic there. There was another thread on here recently where people were complaining about Tescos and what had happened to the character of Britain's towns. In fact, I thought it was you. Anyway, all good liberals know that supermarkets are evil and organic wholefood stores are good and true. I was just trying to work outwards from some kind of common ground.

vimothy
21-11-2011, 03:52 PM
Anyway, it's not that people lack a "spiritual dimension"--which is not a very interesting claim. It's that people lack, essentially, eveything, except material satisfaction of their wants.

baboon2004
21-11-2011, 04:44 PM
When you say criminalised, you just mean that it was illegal, right? Roughly how many people were actually imprisoned for being homosexuals?

"A history of homosexuality in Europe: Berlin, London, Paris, 1919-1939" says an average of 702 per year in England in the inter-war years.

But more to the point is the huge changes that making something illegal effect in people's lives. Naturally most people became extremely good at hiding their sexuality, thus avoiding the possibility of arrest.

And the legalisation of homosexuality will inevitably mean that hate crimes will also come to be recognised (though not immediately).

As to married women, I'm not sure, but obviously there were notable women willing to die in that very period to claim their rights. Plus I'm sure pay differentials were a lot more pronounced than now, for example (though still now very much in existence).

I think there's zero argument against the fact that life has become considerably better on an individual level for members of groups historically persecuted.

But that seems to me not to be the crux of the argument here - isn't the question whether something, albeit difficult to define, has been lost in putative modernisation?

baboon2004
21-11-2011, 04:48 PM
Anyway, it's not that people lack a "spiritual dimension"--which is not a very interesting claim. It's that people lack, essentially, everything, except material satisfaction of their wants.

What exactly do you mean, that they lack everything else? I certainly believe that some aspects within people have not progressed significantly, but I would argue that they never existed fully, and that what has been surprising in modernisation has not been a decline in people's self-knowledge etc etc, but rather that there has been no appreciable change at all, while society has gone through seemingly radical changes (though obviously the former means that the latter are not quite as radical changes as they appear).

Connected to this, what i think now is becoming ever more glaring is that this human 'project' has no-one at the steering wheel. Exterior progress is everywhere, interior progress nowhere.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2011, 04:49 PM
When you say criminalised, you just mean that it was illegal, right? Roughly how many people were actually imprisoned for being homosexuals?

Fuck knows. Oscar Wilde is the most famous example, there must have been plenty of gay guys who got sent to prison for it (ha, as if that's going to straighten them out!) who weren't famous writers, or famous for anything. And gayness was considered a psychiatric disorder well into the 20th century, I mean look what happened to Alan Turing, jesus...


And were married women really considered property of their husbands?

Come on, now you're just being facetious. Is there really any point in questioning the assertion that huge improvements have been made with regards to equality between men and women, between straight people and gay people, and so on?


Well, I'm being a little bit ironic there. There was another thread on here recently where people were complaining about Tescos and what had happened to the character of Britain's towns. In fact, I thought it was you. Anyway, all good liberals know that supermarkets are evil and organic wholefood stores are good and true. I was just trying to work outwards from some kind of common ground.

Well I don't think Tesco is an unalloyed good for society, to put it mildly. But I think the prevalence of their stores throughout the country is probably more a symptom (of this vile, grey whatever-it-is) than a cause.

Your comment about organic wholefood stores sounds like a jab at the popular caricature of the "liberal" as a Guardian-reading Islingtonite who probably fits into the upper-middle income bracket, goes to yoga classes and thinks he's down with the kids because he smoked weed at uni and sometimes listens to Burial. Or something like that - right? I don't shop in Whole Foods or Planet Organic because I'm not a rich idiot - I often shop in Tesco because it's hard to avoid shopping in Tesco, and they do at least usually have most of the things I want - for fruit and veg I'd much rather go to a small shop with price tags hand-scrawled on bits of cardboard and dirt on the floor, staffed by people who don't speak much English, not because of any of these things makes me a better person or an impeccable liberal but because they're much cheaper than supermarkets, let alone Whole Foods.

Anyway, this thread isn't meant to be about my shopping habits, sorry. I'd certainly agree that homogenisation of towns leads to a general cultural impoverishment. I'm not sure what to do about - looking abroad at other developed countries that have managed to avoid this fate, or where the malaise is at least less advanced, would be a start, I guess.

Edit: baboon, I think the income difference between men and women is rather overplayed. These days it's illegal to pay your staff different wages for doing the same job, so the income disparity comes from the fact that far more women than men work part-time, and secondarily that women are much more likely than men to take a career break of several years when they have kids. I'm sure there's room for improvement in this area but the bare fact that median income is higher for men than for women is not, as it's sometimes made out to be, evidence of a grand conspiracy to pay women less than men.

baboon2004
21-11-2011, 05:02 PM
Well to be honest, I don't know. Where I've worked, women's pay has been on equal footing with men, but then I have worked in pretty OK places.

In retrospect I'm not sure why I picked on unequal pay per se. Maybe i read something recently, but as yous ay, it is technically illegal. More the issue I should have focussed on is that women have to work harder to get that same job in the first place, especially in the upper tiers of management, and endure a lot of sexist shit. And maternity can become an excuse for treating women badly etc - again, not worked in these places, but the evidence seems manifold

Edit: to continue the shopping theme, as discussed in another thread, Britain seems particularly bad for homogenisation in this regard, particualrly outside 3 or 4 major cities.

IdleRich
21-11-2011, 05:06 PM
"When you say criminalised, you just mean that it was illegal, right? Roughly how many people were actually imprisoned for being homosexuals?"
Presmably a lot fewer than those who were fined, or lived their life in fear of being caught and stigmatised or those that just lied to themselves and got unhappily married. I know this is a digression but that seems a strange question.


"Anyway, all good liberals know that supermarkets are evil and organic wholefood stores are good and true."
Of course but what I meant is, everyone complains about them and yet uses them. If people are capable of that double-think (kinda) then how much more will they be able to say "life was better before supermarkets and the car existed" while driving down to Waitrose? It's not that they're lying exactly, or even mistaken, it's just that I take their words with a pinch of salt.

hucks
21-11-2011, 05:08 PM
Your comment about organic wholefood stores sounds like a jab at the popular caricature of the "liberal" as a Guardian-reading Islingtonite who probably fits into the upper-middle income bracket, goes to yoga classes and thinks he's down with the kids because he smoked weed at uni and sometimes listens to Burial.

Actually I live in Hackney.

IdleRich
21-11-2011, 05:11 PM
That post (my last one) was actually a bit pointless cos by the time I remembered to press submit Tea and Baboon had already said the first bit.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2011, 05:18 PM
Yeah, it's not really a matter of working in an "OK place" or not, because whether we're talking about a nice right-on public-sector body or Evil Corporate Cunts plc., it's illegal to pay men and women who are doing the same job different salaries, end of story.

I think probably the one employment sector were there still is serious active discrimination is in the upper eschelons of the City, where obviously the whole place still runs along the lines of old-boy networks in a way that has largely disappeared in other areas. Differences in salaries or bonuses here are going to have a dramatic effect on the average (mean) figures because the amounts involved are so stupendous, even though the number of people affected is actually pretty small. So if a hedge fund awards bonuses of 2m quid to its male employees but only a piffling 1m to its female employees, even though they've been equally productive over the FY, that has a big impact on the 'average' male and female earnings in the country, although it's neither here nor there for the vast majority of men and women who earn nothing like that in the first place. Probably a good example of a situation in which it's more useful to talk about the median rather than the mean.

Edit: another, oddly enough, is academia, particularly with regard to maternity. Apparently women academics on maternity leave are still expected to produce papers at the same rate while nursing their baby! Can't imagine it's too much fun to be frantically typing away with one hand while clutching a sprog to your tit with the other, alternately checking references and cleaning up sick. Ridiculous.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2011, 05:19 PM
Actually I live in Hackney.

Get back to the kitchen, you don't want to oversteam your tofu. :p

baboon2004
21-11-2011, 05:27 PM
reading further around some of the points being raised, i'm smacked in the face as to how fucking radical in their actions the suffragettes were.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2011, 06:18 PM
Reckon the St. Paul's protesters would have more success if one of them threw themselves under a galloping horse ridden by a major establishment figure?

baboon2004
22-11-2011, 10:09 AM
Yes, probably.

I reckon they'd have even more of a chance if more of the British population gave a shit about anything important.

Mr. Tea
22-11-2011, 11:13 AM
That makes me :( but I guess you're right. You only have to look at the crap that passes for 'news' that 90% of people read...

baboon2004
23-11-2011, 11:52 AM
it would only take a slight bit of effort from a lot of people to really put pressure on this government, is the sad thing, and yet loads of people don't do anything.

If everyone who'd ever complained about anything the Tories are attacking (which is basically every aspect of fairness and equality of opportunity in Britain) just did a little bit, then I think the government could eventually be brought down/at least forced to reverse some of its more horrifying policies. If there could be a million people out on the streets of London alone on November 30th, as there were (obv figures vary) for the Iraq protest, then....who knows?

IdleRich
23-11-2011, 12:42 PM
Problem is that the impression I get from looking at various comments boards is that there are as many people complaining about the complainers as there are people complaining in the first place. With a lot of these people I don't even get the impression that they support the status quo so much as they like being snide about others who are different from them but it amounts to the same thing.

baboon2004
23-11-2011, 12:44 PM
true. but the irony of course is that many of those people have just as much to lose (financially and otherwise), but are too ignorant and in thrall to authority to realise it. They'd rather be snide against others than act in their own best interests, and that is deeply self-hating and sad.

in fact, those people annoy me more than cameron does. one thing you can't allege is that he is acting against his own interests.

IdleRich
23-11-2011, 12:50 PM
I was actually gonna end that last post with something about turkeys voting for Christmas but I didn't bother.
This has been more apparent in American over the last few years with blue collar voters being more likely to vote for an apparent blue collar candidate (Bush) over one from the perceived liberal elite even though his policies are directly against their best interests. I guess part of me has to admire the principled resistance that even the very poor seemingly have to raising taxes for the super rich - it's certainly far from opportunism.

Mr. Tea
23-11-2011, 01:19 PM
It's nuts, isn't it? Obviously the very wealthy in both the US and UK will vote for the (more) right-wing party, it's straightforward self-interest. People who earn very little or live on benefits are going to vote the opposite way, again out of self-interest. But what's bizarre is the huge number of people in the middle who've been hoodwinked into thinking the Reps/Tories are acting in their best interests, when there's abundant evidence to the contrary. The way GWB was marketed to the electorate as a "regular guy" as opposed to a hereditary multi-millionaire must rank as one of the great PR coups of all time - at least we were spared the spectacle of Cameron putting on a mockney accent and strutting around in a flat cap...

And even if a right-wing party introduces some tax credit or other that applies to your income bracket and makes you marginally better off by a few quid each month, is that really worth it if their other policies lead to, say, a big rise in unemployment in your neighbourhood and consequently a rise in crime and antisocial behaviour? The way inflation's going, any small increase in your disposable income from a minor tax break is going to be neutralised in a couple of years anyway.

IdleRich
23-11-2011, 02:05 PM
Well some see inflation as an indirect tax.

baboon2004
23-11-2011, 02:17 PM
And that's before we even get into the reasoning that empathy for others (rather than pure self-interest) is one of the finer qualities of the human race, and also arguably a very natural one that has been suppressed, rather than it being a 'difficult' quality.

craner
23-11-2011, 02:29 PM
But conservatives don't argue that, they simply locate its source elsewhere, i.e. the family and community, rather than state and masses.

baboon2004
23-11-2011, 02:37 PM
i guess this is true, but their logic is fantastically flawed, as (i) caring for/understanding one's own family is not stretching empathy very far, and may arguably be entirely separate from empathy (dont' know what science has to say about this, though? May look it up); and (ii) they're intent on destroying in community (which at least Thatcher was honest about; this new generation have jettisoned even that honesty).

craner
23-11-2011, 02:42 PM
But Thatcherism in its rampant form (i.e. "they're intent on destroying [...] community") is not really conservative and only one (insurgent) tendency in the Tories. The Q is, how strong and influential is the Thatcherite tendency in the Tory party, and therefore theCoalition balance of power? What you characterise is actually an English Tea Party tendency on the Tory back benches, which does exist and is quite self-confident and vocal.

Mr. Tea
23-11-2011, 02:46 PM
And that's before we even get into the reasoning that empathy for others (rather than pure self-interest) is one of the finer qualities of the human race, and also arguably a very natural one that has been suppressed, rather than it being a 'difficult' quality.

Of course. But in the spirit of Adam Curtis, even if we assume voters are all soulless Nashian automata with no motive for doing anything except their own self-interest, it's obvious to anyone who actually thinks about the impact of government policies more than a few months down the line that a policy that's good for some group that doesn't include you might indirectly benefit you too.

For instance, if you're a middle-aged Dail Mail-reading dick you might not be too bothered, in the first instance, about the scrapping of the EMA; I mean, there's a recession on don't you know and we're all in this together, in my day we didn't expect to get paid to go to school, blah blah blah. But would you rather the 16-20 year-olds in your area actually had something they had to get up for and that kept them busy during the day, and that might (MIGHT) help them get a job eventually, or would you rather they were hanging around the streets at all hours, bored out of their minds and hacked off at their paltry prospects? Even assuming you don't personally give a shit about their prospects, it's clearly in YOUR interest as well as theirs for them to be in some sort of education or training.

IdleRich
23-11-2011, 02:59 PM
"And that's before we even get into the reasoning that empathy for others (rather than pure self-interest) is one of the finer qualities of the human race, and also arguably a very natural one that has been suppressed, rather than it being a 'difficult' quality."
But I was talking about poorer people who constantly vote (indirectly) for tax cuts for the rich - I don't know what is going on there, it's definitely not self-interest. It's got to be either
a) Empathy for the super-rich
b) Lack of understanding of what they're voting for
c) That they don't care about economics as much as they care for family values, anti-abortion or something else
d) A mixture of the above.

craner
23-11-2011, 03:08 PM
I should imagine that option C is quite a big possibility.

baboon2004
23-11-2011, 03:09 PM
sure, totally. i was just saying that looking at all the vulnerable people's lives the coalition policies have already wrecked (and we haven't even got to a winter with fuel subsidies slashed for pensioners yet), should inspire empathy and rage in anyone with t he capacity to feel. So whatever the relation of the policies to their own lives, people should also feel simple empathy for those more vulnerable than themselves. Where that quality becomes eroded en masse, is where people start to be dehumanised and the real shit begins.

regarding the a/b/c/d, i'd say there is also a healthy dose of (as someone said above, can't remember who) luxuriating in the snide dismissal of people who are bothering to stand up to the coalition in whatever way, to bolster their own (damaged) self-esteem. And that this need to criticise, and also to enjoy the supposed safety of belonging to some kind of majority attacking a vulnerable group , is stronger than any rational assessment of what is going on. Cos then you don't need to question anything, or think about painful realities, until it's too late.

craner
23-11-2011, 03:16 PM
I do think that some of you are prone to underestimating the fact that there are other reasons for voting conservative than economics, sadism and sadomasochism.

baboon2004
23-11-2011, 03:25 PM
theoretically yes, but i think most of those reasons are bound up with fear/self-loathing of some kind or other. because, as we know from history, most people won't react whatever happens in their society, no matter how appalling the abuse that is going on. and i think that is not because they are wretched amoral people, but because they are eventually ruled by fear.

and the best way not to look at your own fear, or to acknowledge your moral failings, is to attack others and to project these failings onto them; hence the absurdly overly-moral tone of a lot of conservative attacks upon the vulnerable.

we live in societies where people are systematically taught to be afraid (of losing one's home, one's job, of saying what you really believe because of fear of being ostracised, of the physical threat of the state in explicitly political situations, and finally of confronting the often difficult feelings/fears/self-judgments that exist inside one's own head) and I think that his needs to be acknowledged in any analysis of why people act as they do (especially when such actions appear inhumane and/or self-defeating).

craner
23-11-2011, 03:44 PM
Well of course fear has to be aknowledged in people's actions and judgements, but as an explanation of why people vote and think in a different way than you do, I suggest it falls short.

Mr. Tea
23-11-2011, 04:07 PM
Not that it worked at the time, but:

http://www.collativelearning.com/PICS%20FOR%20WEBSITE/new%20labour%20new%20fascism/new_labour_new_danger_1.gif

craner
23-11-2011, 04:38 PM
That image was sensationally ahead-of-its-time when you consider the BLIAR placards that began to appear from 2003 onwards.

Mr. Tea
23-11-2011, 04:44 PM
I AM TORY PLAN B omg wtf lol

vimothy
23-11-2011, 07:32 PM
Unfortunately, I’m a bit too short of time to participate in this thread properly. It’s a nice coda to our earlier discussion, though.

One thing that I think it shows is that although liberalism makes a big deal about having eliminated prejudice, this isn’t really the case. Not only in the sense that older prejudices are still here, but also in that liberalism adds some of its own—against conservatives, against the past: anybody who isn’t already a liberal, basically.

That’s because it’s almost impossible for people not to form some common ideas about the world as such, and so, despite its protests, liberalism privileges particular values just like all the other belief systems.

What’s different about liberalism is that if it’s not rational, it has to go. This gives it a claim to objectivity, but also a kind of inhuman, cyborg quality.

This is well demonstrated by the discussion here. Looked at rationally, people in the middle of society should vote left or liberal and not conservative, because their interests are better served by the liberal-left. And since rationality is the highest standard of knowledge, this is a definitive judgement—i.e., it’s not wishy-washy subjective knowledge, it’s a fact; the kind of thing academics can sign-off against. All of which makes the behaviour of the people in the middle seem bizarre and inexplicable. Don’t they get it? They must be stupid or vindictive or something.

But the desirability of rationalism and rule by experts is itself a subjective judgement: it can’t be gotten from logic or verified by controlled experiment. Even though, rationally speaking, people may be better off under liberalism according to some metric; they may still prefer to live in a more traditional society, with shared values and norms.

Consider Luka’s “gaylords”. In the past, homosexuality was a criminal offence (though if baboon’s figures are correct then the actual number of people who went to jail is not large). But the fact that homosexuality was criminalised is not the whole story of society’s views of homosexuality. Because in the past, there was a common view about morality, and homosexuality was thought to lie outside it. There was a collective opinion about the wrongness of homosexuality.

From the perspective of modern liberalism, this collective opinion looks arbitrary, judgemental and unnecessary—which, of course, it is. So, we did away with it, or tried to. Lots of other things looked arbitrary, judgemental and unnecessary, so we did away with them too. Now everyone can say for themselves what’s right and wrong, and no one’s individual preferences are any better than anyone else’s.

But it just so happens that shared values, norms, understandings, affiliations, ideas about right and wrong, the good and the true, are what makes people a community, and not just an aggregate of consumption units sharing only a commitment to self-definition and a post-code. So we ended up abolishing our society altogether, because it didn’t make rational sense. Woops. On the other hand, who would complain? Only a Nazi or a Daily Mail reader or something, and we can ignore them. Plus, we’ve got all this nice shit and we can do whatever we want with it, so we must be winning.

vimothy
23-11-2011, 07:39 PM
Also, if you're going to ask, "why does middle America vote Republican?", you should ask, "why do coastal rich vote Democrat?"

craner
23-11-2011, 08:08 PM
Thanks Vim, you are much more patient and articulate than me, that's a precise diagnosis.

craner
23-11-2011, 08:31 PM
People do vote conservative for non-economic reasons. After all, one of the supreme conservative texts is Burke's polemic against the French revolution, which was about tradition and order. The Tories are a class-based interest group within the Parliamentary system, but they are also associated with conservatism, which isn't necessarily simply class-based (in a strict Marxist sense) but also ties in tradition, values, culture, behaviour, religion, sovereignty and foreign policy. Don't forget that "conservative" was a set of ideas and principles tagged onto the Tory party in the 19th C. It's not inconceivable or sick that the middle and working classes should vote Tory in this broader picture, or that there should, say, be Conservative or Liberal Trade Unionists to oppose Scargill's tactics in defence of their members' interests. Trade Unions, for example, were very skeptical of Labour and its Socialist objectives in the first half of the century.

I think the thing to remember is that Thatcherism is an ideological aberration in Tory history, as New Labour/Blairism is a pragmatic aberration in Labour history.

craner
23-11-2011, 08:39 PM
(Burke was Whig, and defended the American Revolution.)

Mr. Tea
23-11-2011, 08:56 PM
Also, if you're going to ask, "why does middle America vote Republican?", you should ask, "why do coastal rich vote Democrat?"

Because they'd rather give up a little more of their own wealth to pay for public-sector jobs and social security because it decreases their likelihood of being burgled or mugged? Because they actually feel some sense of altruism and are aware that the system that has allowed them to amass wealth exists on the basis of a large pool of poorly-paid labour? White guilt? A desire to live in a country that's not a theocracy? All sorts of reasons.

craner
23-11-2011, 09:29 PM
and (ii) they're intent on destroying in community (which at least Thatcher was honest about; this new generation have jettisoned even that honesty).

Another thing to mention is that this is not accurate, fair or true. Thatcherites didn’t wish to destroy communities; this is not what they meant by "society". They were targeting the State support of constituencies that they believed propped up interest groups within specific communities, for example, South Wales miners, to the detriment of the country and other communities, for example, local entrepreneurs or Midlands shopkeepers. This was half political and half ideological. The policies were disastrous in practice, but they certainly didn’t intend to destroy local communities, whom they believed to be their natural supporters, if only they knew it. But it did, of course. Hence the New Labour corrective. Cameron Conservatives have taken Thatcherism + Blairism and have tried to tweak and reform both tendencies -- essentially, the philosophy behind The Big Society. A doomed attempt to refine and continue the two. In the real world of banking and EU meltdown this has become both irrelevant and extremely important, paradoxically. I am more with Ed Balls than George Osborne on the remedy, but I am no expert. I know nothing about the sums, but I get the social policy implications (legal aid "reform" is quite grotesque, for example) and can easily grasp the politics behind it. There is a clear logic there, which isn't heartless: even within this group of Etonions, it is relentessly middle class.

droid
23-11-2011, 09:40 PM
I do think that some of you are prone to underestimating the fact that there are other reasons for voting conservative than economics, sadism and sadomasochism.

More intelligent people are statistically significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history. Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence, a new study finds. (http://aattp.blogspot.com/2011/05/multiple-scientific-studies-liberals.html)

craner
23-11-2011, 09:48 PM
Droid, of course, is a particularly advanced human specimen, as we can glean from his clear identfication with the Palestinian cause.

Mr. Tea
23-11-2011, 10:00 PM
One thing that I think it shows is that although liberalism makes a big deal about having eliminated prejudice, this isn’t really the case. Not only in the sense that older prejudices are still here, but also in that liberalism adds some of its own—against conservatives, against the past: anybody who isn’t already a liberal, basically.

Well on a purely logical level I don't think it's possible to be favour of literally everyone. It's like Goedelian incompleteness. If you're convinced that all people of whatever ethnic group are fundamentally equal then you can't think that a neo-Nazi has an equally valid ideology to a non-Nazi. It's not just a case of someone you can respectfully disagree with, you are forced to the position that they are fundamentally wrong. Being in equal favour of all demographics and also in favour of people who are highly prejudiced against those demographics isn't a political position, it's apolitical laziness and is not a position to be taken seriously.


What’s different about liberalism is that if it’s not rational, it has to go. This gives it a claim to objectivity, but also a kind of inhuman, cyborg quality.

I'm not sure about this. A key liberal principle is religious tolerance, isn't it? It would be a funny sort of liberal who wasn't in favour of people being allowed to practice whatever they liked as long as they weren't bombing abortion clinics or waging jihad - even if the archetypal liberal is probably an atheist or agnostic hirself. That's without even taking into account the rise of a "pro-faith Left" in recent years, although whether most people in this scene would call themselves liberals or not, I don't know.


This is well demonstrated by the discussion here. Looked at rationally, people in the middle of society should vote left or liberal and not conservative, because their interests are better served by the liberal-left. And since rationality is the highest standard of knowledge, this is a definitive judgement—i.e., it’s not wishy-washy subjective knowledge, it’s a fact; the kind of thing academics can sign-off against. All of which makes the behaviour of the people in the middle seem bizarre and inexplicable. Don’t they get it? They must be stupid or vindictive or something.

Not necessarily - although obviously some of them are, as are people from all social backgrounds. Misinformed and biased by propaganda would be closer to the mark. One thing that cannot be denied is that the vast majority of national newspapers in Britain, both in terms of number of titles and circulations figures, are decidedly to the right of centre.

Not that a left-leaning opinion piece in the Observer is any less a piece of propaganda than a right-leaning opinion piece in the Sunday Times, but if you look at the overall degree of influence on public opinion there is definitely an imbalance.

craner
23-11-2011, 11:03 PM
Is anybody here a fan of George Eliot?

vimothy
24-11-2011, 01:25 AM
Well on a purely logical level I don't think it's possible to be favour of literally everyone. It's like Goedelian incompleteness.

I agree. Liberalism takes equal freedom as its ideal. But there’s an obvious problem with that: What happens when some of these equally valid preferences conflict? Who wins out? There’s no way of resolving this issue with reference to the absolute standard of equal freedom, so what actually happens tends to be arbitrary, conflicted and unsatisfactory.

One option is to look at whose preferences are most aligned with the principles of tolerance, inclusiveness and neutrality. If everyone’s preferences could be characterised in this way, there would be no conflict and everyone would be free to pursue their own desires with maximum efficiency. So it would be good to promote that as a standard of behaviour. Combating all the biased propaganda will be hard, but if people can be exposed to rational argument then obviously reason and progress will prevail in the end.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell who is the tolerant and inclusive, and who the intolerant and exclusive, in any given conflict. But that’s what all these experts are paid to figure out, so given enough time and resources, we will surely resolve these problems too.

luka
24-11-2011, 02:38 AM
craner and vimothy im finding intersting but also disquieting.

luka
24-11-2011, 03:13 AM
i know these two boys are the same age as me and come from broadly similar backgrounds. Oliver i know well, Vimothy i don't know but there are far fewer than 6 degrees of separation. i know they are at least as probably more deferential to the ideology of the age than most of us and i agree that that ideology is liberalism, in Vimothy's far-reaching, all-embracing definition of the term. i know that they are as deracinated and as alienated as any of us. what i dont understand is what they want. i can understand and even share Vimothy's belief that mass immigration has undermined the traditional sense of what it means to be an Englishman. i just don't agree that it has been for the worst and i really don't know what he proposes to do about it. i don't know and cant guess what he would wish for and i don't know what he thinks is politically possible. i think that this is an ongoing dispute between the group and the individual and that where ever the balance is struck, at whatever point society is balanced between the wants and whims of the individual and the requirements of group stability/coherency, there will be discontents. its a balancing act. so I would nod sagely along with a great deal of Vimothy's diagnosis, but would blanch, i suspect, from his plan of treatment. the cure is worse than the disease.

luka
24-11-2011, 03:16 AM
http://www.freewebs.com/littleblackrosecoven/Left%20hand%20path/The%20Qlippoth.JPG

luka
24-11-2011, 03:18 AM
how England sees Herself.

luka
24-11-2011, 03:20 AM
the fact that rown williams and johnathan sacks are both sort of advanced-uber-libereals says a lot for v's line of argument.

slowtrain
24-11-2011, 04:10 AM
http://www.freewebs.com/littleblackrosecoven/Left%20hand%20path/The%20Qlippoth.JPG

This reminds me of this website:

http://lcamtuf.coredump.cx/evilfinder/

Here are the results for 'england'


THE IRREFUTABLE PROOF: ENGLAND IS EVIL

E N G L A N D
69 78 71 76 65 78 68 <- ASCII values
6 6 8 4 2 6 5 <- all digits added
\_/ \_/ \_/ \_/ \_________/
6 6 8 4 4 <- final sum

Therefore, "ENGLAND" actually stands for 66844.

Write the number backwards, subtract 1887 - the year Erwin Schrodinger, cat-killer, was born. The value is now 42979.

Add 1811 to it - the year of first recorded UFO sightings in China and Japan, written backwards. The result is 44790.

Add 4791 to it - the year of Ted Bundy's first killings, written backwards. The result is 49581.

Subtract 1714 - the year Henry Mill patented the typewriter. This gives you 47867.

Flip the number backwards, then divide by 14 - the number of pieces Osiris was torn into in Egyptian mythology. The outcome is 5491.

This number, written backwards, spells 1945 - the year of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

The prosecution rests.

luka
24-11-2011, 04:18 AM
baked bean pizza, that was a good concept. that's the difference between the English and the Italians. your general Italian is hopelessly hidebound by tradition. he won't let go of mamma's apron strings. The English on the other hand, are Innovators. You'd never get an Italian inventing a baked bean pizza and if one of them did the rest would call it sacrilege, they wouldn't even taste it, he'd be burned at the stake for his troubles.
That's why the Italians will never produce a Steven Hawkings, or a Carol Voderman for that matter, very patriarchal society Italy, they'd never let her out the kitchen.

Mr. Tea
24-11-2011, 07:00 AM
"Erwin Schrodinger, cat-killer..."

Whoever came up with that shit is a comic genius whether they want to be or not. :)

routes
24-11-2011, 07:09 AM
lol luka baked beans are horrible, your general Englishman only likes them cos mum gave them to him with fish fingers when he grazed his knee trying to flee the big boys. factor in war-time austerity and second-hand wartime nostalgia... mamma's apron, indeed. beans with everything.

droid
24-11-2011, 08:16 AM
Droid, of course, is a particularly advanced human specimen, as we can glean from his clear identfication with the Palestinian cause.

Thanks for illustrating the point so succinctly Oliver.

Mr. Tea
24-11-2011, 08:53 AM
Baked beans are the veriest ambrosia. Not sure how English they are though, I mean Heinz is an American company isn't it?

But I guess a baked bean pizza is probably a uniquely English creation.

luka
24-11-2011, 08:58 AM
http://www.oddee.com/_media/imgs/contrib/c6045.jpg

baboon2004
24-11-2011, 11:32 AM
Coming back to the earlier point about Thatcher being an aberration in the conservative lineage - perhaps, but it doesn't really matter if the present Tory government (coalition, whatever) is so rabidly in awe of Thatcher and persisting with her project of impoverishing the vulnerable and of destroying any collective organisation that might threaten this project (Cameron's bleatings about the unions this week could have come straight from t he 80s).

Maybe (at least in the US and UK) what it means to be a 'conservative' has shifted permanently, rather than Thatcher being an aberration? The worrying thing is, the voters seem to have gone with it, which kinda inspired what I was saying about lack of empathy and fear, and the connections between the two (certainly many people are dissuaded from becoming politically active 'cos of economic fear; however, there is also a tipping point, where enough people feel they have nothing to lose any more, and it will be interesting to see when this is reached in the UK, if ever....).

IdleRich
24-11-2011, 12:12 PM
"One thing that cannot be denied is that the vast majority of national newspapers in Britain, both in terms of number of titles and circulations figures, are decidedly to the right of centre."
Where is the centre though?

That survey on IQs is kinda interesting, I liked the one that said that athiests actually do better on questions about the bible and the one last week which said that people who watch Fox News as their main news source are significantly less likely to know about the Arab Spring than those who claim to watch no news at all. I like them but I don't know if they mean anything.

Anyway, I'm going to go and eat some beans on toast.

routes
24-11-2011, 12:23 PM
yeah who am i kidding i love beans but i normally only have them with a hangover fryup, did you know they make that sugary, gloopy sauce out of whizzed-up angel wings and dragon blood? they're endangered yknow. weird i didn't know Heinz was American, how come you always hear ex-pat slebs moaning you can only buy them in special imported shops in America?

i like those, IdleRich.

Mr. Tea
24-11-2011, 02:56 PM
I think the beans might be made specially for the British market, or summat like that.

craner
25-11-2011, 01:43 PM
The English on the other hand, are Innovators.

The Walkers Take Away range was a notable high point of post-Imperial British culture.

Mr. Tea
25-11-2011, 01:53 PM
people who watch Fox News as their main news source are significantly less likely to know about the Arab Spring than those who claim to watch no news at all.

This is funny - Fox News as anti-news - it doesn't just misinform people, it actually sucks knowledge of them, neutralises it.