Reason for a New Age

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    What you will expect to see here are discussions of politics and tangentially economics. This blog will do its best to present a rational look at the world of today, how the modern world came into place, and the issues that are currently being discussed in the public realm.
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Pinochet, Putin, and the Bushes

Posted by publius2point0 on 2012/09/09

On a set of forums that I frequent, one of the posters who had spent several years living abroad in Africa and China made the following comment on her experience of Africa:

It is true that in the past Africa was not that different than the rest of the world- The average person scratched out a living on a farm, birthed and buried a pile of kids, and paid tributes to the local warlord/chief/lord/whatever. A smaller portion of people lived in crowded disease-ridden cities where they engaged in trade and light manufacturing. The elites had lots of shiny stuff and occasionally put on a war. After a certain point the big evangelical religions began to overpower and get mixed up with local beliefs. People were really into believing in witches. 

You seem to forget that even individual European countries have not been unified that long. Not long ago places like Germany and Italy were just loose alliances of local warlords. We call the “Ibo” a tribe, and we call the “Catalonians” something else, but it boils down to the same thing. Feudalism ruled- and Africa had pretty much the exact same feudal system. Huge areas- like much of what is now Russia- remained sparsely populated and poorly explored because the climate sucked…kind of like a lot of Africa. Perhaps these moments of development were not perfectly lined up across the continents, but if you brought a Russian serf from 1400 and had him trade place with an African serf from 1400, I don’t think it’d be that big of a downgrade in standard of living.

I do not believe that without colonialism Africa would have developed exactly the same as Europe and have never said that. Africa has some massive climate challenges that would make that nearly impossible. Europe developed technology that probably would not have developed in Africa for a number of reasons. 

I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Africa degraded into a uniquely wretched state. For the average person, things didn’t really go downhill as much as they just didn’t move forward. For most of history famine, ignorance and disease was the norm. Life, historically, is tough. It just never stopped being tough in much of Africa. Many places are in a bit of a middle-ages time warp. 

I gravitate towards the middle ages because that is what it felt like to me. Living in Cameroon felt oddly familiar, and it took me a bit to realize that it was because it felt like a fairly tale. I was friends with the baker, the tailor and the brewer. I knew bored princes that would pose as commoners for a bit of fun, and princess who hated being locked up in seclusion. People worried about witches and poisoned wells. The rich guy down the street got all his money from an enchanted parrot who guarded a magic ring. It was right out of the pages of Grimm’s. 

Anyway, where colonialism and the Cold War come in is that they took the already difficult situation of this level of development and gave it bigger guns and higher stakes. What would normally be a family feud could become a genocide. The greedy kings suddenly got oil and diamonds to plunder.

The original President Bush was, for about a year, the director of the CIA with the task being to reorganize and restructure the agency. While there is a general dearth of information on his actions other than this, one can presume that reviewing the effects of the CIA’s attempts at nation-making in the Americas, and elsewhere, through the 60s and 70s as a response to the Red Threat.

I make that assumption due to the unexpected and unforeseen conclusion of the Gulf War, where President Bush decided to leave a genocidal narcissist who hated the United States in his position as the ruler of a nation of about 18 million people. Why do that?

The hard truth, learned by our nation during the 70s and 80s, is that in a nation ruled by tyrants, kicking out the tyrant and instituting a modern government merely results in a new tyrant who has to point guns every few years to get himself re-elected. Between each tyrant is a period of chaos and death. When a new one comes into power, his first job is to slaughter all of his political enemies and everyone related to them. If it was a clash between different races or sects, then genocide becomes part of it.

To explain this, let’s take for example a dog. If you get a young puppy and are cruel to it, training it to attack and kill all other dogs and people who come near it until it is an adult, then you’ve created what is and will almost certainly always be a risky creature. The only solution is to put it down. While we like to think that humans are different from this, because we can learn new things and reason, in reality only a small percentage of people are disciplined enough to make such a change, if any at all.

If I’m a peasant farmer and the local warlord dies, leaving a power vacuum, and some white guy from another continent tells me that I can become the new warlord if I convince enough people to vote for me, my thought isn’t, “I’d love to serve my fellow farmers and make their world a better place.” It’s, “Wow, I can have ten wives and not be hungry any more!” He has no understanding of a world outside that which he knows. He doesn’t view the position of warlord – under whatever title the Americans might call it – anything other than the position which he has always known it. He doesn’t have the benefit of an outside viewpoint or any knowledge of how to get it there.

More importantly, even if you look at dictators who did have a foreign education in the US, the UK, France, or elsewhere, you’ll notice that they don’t behave much differently from anyone else who is able to take over the old dictator’s job. Simply put, he’d die if he was any less harsh or ruthless than his predecessor.

Everything about wielding power comes down to respect. If you can’t get the respect of any of the people who are under you, then you’re not going to accomplish a thing. If their vision of what it takes to be respectable is to be a fierce, scary murderer, then going about talking about saving the rain forest and being “the servant of the people” is just going to leave you as a worthless lame duck who’s filling a position of power and luxury that someone else would be quite happy to take from you.

There is a reason that Putin is, for all intents and purposes, a mafia boss running a nation and that’s because for the last 80 years, it has taken that sort of person to run the nation. If he didn’t, he would be ousted, either by his people for being useless, or by someone else who is willing to be the psychopath that it takes to get the job done.

Now, none of this means that a nation can’t be transformed into a modern nation with a republican form of government and a free market. But in order for it to  happen in anything less than some form of natural evolution, at least one or two generations will have to pass, with a concerted effort on the part of the leadership to remove corruption, hire only idealist pansies in any government or professional positions, all while teaching modern philosophies of human rights and the free market to toddlers. No outsider could ever impose such a level of reform except through complete ownership and direct control of every level of government, the economy, and the educational system.

Subsequently, the only two places to succeed (that I can think of) are Chile, under Pinochet, and Japan during the Meiji reconstruction.

And you’ll note that Pinochet was by all accounts an evil, domineering tyrant. He tortured and killed all political enemies, real or imagined. Had he not been, though, it is likely that he never would have been able to accomplish what he did and created a nation capable of joining the modern world.

The point of the opening quote about Africa – besides being generally educational – is that the big gulf between the US and Africa, South America, or the Middle East isn’t to do with the structure of government or economic freedoms, it’s to do with world views. Sticking a gun in Lancelot’s hand doesn’t make him a modern man, it makes him a feudal knight with a gun. He’s going to go out riding, shooting people to death who don’t tell him where to find the Holy Grail because that’s what his Lord told him to do. He’s not going to rise up and start fighting for peasants. Why in the world would he ever do that?

And subsequently, this is where the younger Bush showed himself to be one of the larger idiots in the history of man. I could forgive any other American for not realizing what it means to stick your nose into the political realities of a backwards nation, but the son of a man whose career dealt almost exclusively with that issue to not have learned a thing about it is astounding.

If the younger Bush had rode in, individually hunted down and assassinated each member of the Taliban plus Saddam Hussein, fine. But if you decide to occupy a nation, with the intent of restructuring its government and way of life, then you are effectively stating your desire to be or elect a tyrannical dictator with full force to commit murder at will, suppress freedom of speech, and go on without popular support for the next 20 to 40 years. If you can’t, politically, financially, or morally commit to such an action, then you will be a failure.

In closing, though I am mildly doubtful that Putin reads my blog, I’ll just make a note that while he can feel satisfied about having his picture posted on every wall in Russia today, if he wants to be remembered in History, then he is going to need to start down the same path as Pinochet and rebuilding the world view of his government and people. Otherwise, he is just one more dictator in the bucket.


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