28 February 2013

Envy and shortsightedness in world politics (a few more speculative dreams)

- from our correspondent at the Augean Stables

(1) Without British naval power envy there would have been no Bolshevik communism in Russia

I'm not going to praise Russian czarist rule, but why did the British have to choose the side of the Muslim Ottoman Empire against Christian Russia? Why not let Russia have the straits? It is at least certain that Russian society would have developed differently if that access to the Mediterranean had been available to the Russian economy.

(2) Without French civilisational envy there would have been no WWI, no WWII and no Holocaust

French envy of Germany is certainly the cause of the 1870 war, which then led to WWI. Russia and France were the only European powers with clear political goals that could only be achieved by a general war. France egged on Russia, knowing very well that Germany would respond by a declaration of war. That declaration of war the French in their childish self-righteousness used after the war to burden Germany with the sole responsibility for the war and to impose Versailles. (Germany could not win a defensive war against Russia and France when her territory was invaded. This had to do with the source of her military capabilities - industry and railroads - which they could not allow to be disrupted by an invasion. This strategic constraint was known at least to military strategist all over Europe and the reason behind the German saying that mobilisation was the equivalent of a declaration of war. And honest as they were, when Russia went from partial to general mobilisation the Germans did what they had said they would do and started their defensive war. I am of course aware of the 'Fischer controversy'. I just find that in Max Weber's writings you can find much more plausible and convincing explanations for these ideological expressions of German imperialism.)

(3) Without French economic envy there would have been no carving up of Africa

French envy of British industrial superiority and trade advantages led them to follow a statist and protectionist colonial policy, to which the British then had to adapt by giving up their preference for indirect rule.

My purpose is not to start an endless discussion of facts. It is to ask whether it makes any sense at all to derive such a general understanding of the multitude of facts by summarising them.

I very much think that it does make sense. Not in the sense of establishing 'true history', but in the sense of working out an interpretation of history that can become useful in a political dialogue aimed at making the right political choices. History isn't only a matter of facts. Historical interpretation is also a matter of politics. And this happens inevitably, so that interpretations that are much worse than the one I'm offering may actually become (or have indeed become) decisive for the making of political choices.

I also would assume that there is a clear connection between envy and shortsightedness. Uncontrolled envy typically attaches itself to the apparent source of envy (which becomes the enemy) and not to the ultimate source (oneself). It is a source of disorder and of war, whereas controlled envy would lead to orderly development in competition with others, by trying to catch up in one's own development instead of preventing others from following theirs.

Shortsightedness for all practical purposes means that the decision is made on the basis of the more immediate goal or motive while the ulterior goal or motive is discarded. Whether the one making the decision is aware of it or not is practically irrelevant.

In politics we must of course distinguish between various actors, and my general interpretations of history were concerned with imaginary actors that are representative of the general mass of people involved. I don't think these imaginary representative actors do exist in reality, or have anything to say in politics, e.g. an ordinary citizen having speculative dreams about politics such as myself. But that's exactly why I find these interpretations interesting, as well as the whole question of how a civil society, i.e. the general mass of people involved, could find a way to represent itself in public discourse, or rather, in public dialogue.

Once you start examining the real actors involved in political decision making, it very quickly becomes clear that what appeared as envy and shortsightedness in the general and representative interpretation is easily explained by a motivation that is entirely different, namely the motivation of the real actors.

That was the central point of Philip Greenspun's article on Israel. And in my own explanation of what is needed to get peace negotiations started for the Israel-islamist conflict, I also clearly said that the whole Palestinian political leadership must be banished. Or better even, hanged. (I'm all in favour of the death penalty for political criminals, because the burden of proof can often be easily met, i.e. the disrespect of the natural law in the obvious cases is so enormous that there can remain no doubt. That is also the meaning of the quote from Democritus: "It is needful to kill the enemy, whether a wild or creeping thing or a human being.")

The general and representative interpretations of history are important because the real actors willfully exploit misrepresentations as a useful fiction behind which they can hide themselves together with their true motives. That was indeed my starting point: these general interpretations of history are a matter of politics, they are the symbolic battleground for representation of the mass of the people involved. 

Or in a few words: the apparent envy and shortsightedness in the general and representative interpretations of history are proof of the political disrespect of the natural law. 

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