Showing posts with label imperialism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label imperialism. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Whodunnit?

Within a couple hours, news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings had become repetitive and predictable. Every uniform or badge was a "hero"; endless drivel about "pulling together"; bravado about American fortitude; "how did you feel when..." questions; platitudes from politicians trying to assume a mock-Churchillian pose; and all the rest of it.

Let's assume, until something definite is known, that the perpetrator was a Middle Eastern terrorist. There is something good that could come out of this bombing, if we could just channel our shock and disgust in the right way, that is, sieze the moment to ask questions that normally never get asked. The most draconian dictatorship could not impose tighter censorship than we impose on ourselves, voluntarily it would seem.


Rather than lay out these questions in a point-by-point, policy-wonk style, I choose a concrete representation of all those questions. Let the questions arise indirectly when millions of Americans watch a remarkable movie about the French-Algerian War of the 1950s and 1960s. It's called the "Battle of Algiers", was made in Italy in the mid-1960s, and was partly funded by the Algerian government, just a couple years after their war of independence succeeded.

Even Bible-believing, Israel-worshiping, soon-to-be-Raptured Republicans could watch this movie and have completely different sympathies than if this were a Hollywood movie about God's Country (America) and the evil AAArabs. Even they would ask, "What the heck was France doing in somebody else's country?" Somebody might answer that Algeria was legally a part of France at the time. But what is so sacred about "law", when it's whatever 51% of a body of French politicians say it is.

And why were the French, self-professed champions of a Grand Civilization, torturing their prisoners? (The movie doesn't show it, but torture took place on both sides.) Torture -- now that's something God-fearing Americans would never tolerate!

An American viewer of this movie might feel enmity towards the very idea of the French Empire or any other empire of decadent old Europe. Most Americans are (justly) proud of having kicked the British Empire out of half of North America.

The American viewer might even sympathize with the Algerian freedom-fighter, patriot?, terrorist?, when he was captured and paraded out in front of the French press for questions. One of them asked him, "Isn't it cowardly to put bombs in women's baskets, and leave them in crowded buildings?" He answered by comparing Algerian methods to the military advantages of the French Empire: "You give us your planes and tanks. We will gladly give you our baskets."

The American viewer of the movie might catch himself wondering what the difference is between Algerian terrorism and the normal military operations of the French Empire. Numerically the legitimate governments of the world kill far more (innocent) people than the hit-or-miss methods of amateurish, low-budget terrorists.

It fascinates me to even imagine millions of Americans watching this movie. It would highlight the strange inconsistency of most Americans being anti-imperialist (or anti-colonial) as long as the bully is any country other than America. But as for our own un-American Empire that followed upon World War II, most Americans will just passively accept its necessity, legitimacy, and permanence. Then there is a terrorist act that kills Americans and we just can't understand why somebody would do such a thing.

On a lighter note: the movie has a soundtrack half-composed by Ennio Morricone.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When Your Opponent Learns Something

Either political party is playing a whole new game when its opponent actually learns from its mistakes and reforms itself.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

American Gladiators

I was trying to extract some sympathy from my neighbor about jury duty, or rather, why I should be excused from it. I complied with the court order to fill out my questionnaire honestly and completely. But the court order does not prohibit one from also being candid as well as honest, since candidness is just the particular form of honesty in which you offer more information than they perhaps wanted to hear.

For instance, when they ask whether I would consider evidence legitimate if it came from a convict who is bargaining with the State, I said in no uncertain terms that I consider such evidence dubious and probably contaminated.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Opposite Shores of the Mediterranean

Just think of all the chaos in North Africa. It used to be a part of the Roman Empire. It was the home of St. Augustine, essentially the founder of medieval Christendom. Perhaps il Mar Mediterraneo is not as wide as we think.

Libyan jets have defected to the island of Malta, just a short flight away. That is one of the places I would love to travel to; what a fascinating history they have had. Peruse the article in Wikipedia on that chain of islands and you will be reminded of how close ancient Carthage was to Sicily, Italy, and Europe. What if Hannibal had finally beaten Rome? Would the Christian/Islam split even exist today?

By the way there is an excellent movie, starring Anthony Quinn, called Lion of the Desert. It was the story of Omar Mukhtar, the Libyan hero who fought Italian imperialists before and after Mussolini.

These days, they say that there are more (active and used) mosques in Europe than cathedrals or churches. The numbers of Muslims in Europe is astonishing. I have never thought much about it except to think that Europeans are more foolish in permitting an Islamic invasion than Americans are in permitting a Mexican one.

But I wonder if the political earthquake happening in North Africa and the Middle East is actually a partial result of millions of Muslims moving part time or full time to Europe, and being "infected" with ideas. Then they write home or return home after their work permit expires, and infect the old country with European ideas of democracy and secularism. If this has actually happened, I wonder if anyone expected it to be the outcome of the Islamic invasion of Europe.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Western Myths, Arab Heroes

This weekend the violence has increased against protesters in Middle Eastern countries. On the internet we can watch American "allies" murder their own people. Is it starting to sink in, with Americans in particular, what a sham these Arab protesters are making of our own self-flattering mythology?

The Arab protesters have no weapons. They are just waving flags or sometimes throwing rocks. Throwing rocks. The goons and mercenaries firing back at them have all the high-tech gadgets, shields, helmets, and organization. The Arab protesters might have a metal bucket on their head, if they are lucky.

When the Americans had their own successful war of secession from the United Kingdom, most Americans had muskets that were basically the same as what King George's troops had. We lacked the pretty red coats. But the technological mismatch wasn't that great.

The French no doubt look back at their Revolution as full of heroes, at least initially. What did it take to start a revolution back then: barricade the streets by turning over some carts, and then grabbing a few brickbats and clubs?

These Arabs are vastly braver than the mythologized heroes of Western countries ever were. But comfortable, spoiled, middle-class, college-educated pundits in the West think they have a right to pass judgment on Arab protests.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Nation of Non-Wussies

The punditry and politicians in Western democracies are offering advice to Egyptians, as fast as they can type or talk. It is sheer presumptuousness. 

They offer noble-sounding platitudes about "orderly change" and "stability" and "dialogue." Who do they think the Egyptians are rebelling against: high-minded English of the Victorian Age? You don't get rid of a dictator by gradual reforms.

The fact that Western advice takes the form of meaningless platitudes shows that Western pundits and politicians are in denial -- no pun intended -- about the kind of government we have been sending billions of dollars to, over the last thirty years. It also covers their own crimes.
 
Listen to their sanctimonious advice about keeping demonstrations peaceful. Did America use a non-violent approach to throwing off oppression in 1776? What country did?

What gives Westerners the right to pass judgment on the Arabs' revolution? The only merit that Westerners can claim is choosing better ancestors. Six generations ago Americans had balls of steel. Since then, our system of government is nothing more than momentum. Americans of our day are so soft, so comfort and safety-oriented, that they couldn't make the smallest sacrifice for any cause, let alone walk in front of a tank or a line of heavily-armed goons, paid for by "freedom and democracy-loving" American taxpayers.

Considering all the cruel bullying and meddling that America has been guilty of since World War II, many people around the world must think that the American people are inherently cruel. Not so. In fact the average American is completely ignorant of, and uninterested in, the rest of the world. We are content with our lullaby of American exceptionalism. 

So we delegate foreign policy to geeks who are supposed to know about boring stuff like that. It's hard to decide whether our foreign policy Elites or our banking Elites take the prize for corruption and incompetence.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Echo of Gdansk?

The Iron Curtain was lifted about 20 years ago. If you are old enough to remember it at all, do you remember how unexpected, sudden, and easy it seemed? It didn't seem real. Why hadn't the possibility of Communism suddenly unraveling been predicted by the Media, presidential candidates, foreign policy experts, or learned professors?

Things are happening fast in the greater Middle East these days. Is it crazy to expect something really big to happen, despite the rather modest events so far? Remember how the protests in the Gdansk Poland shipyard started off modestly around 1981?

I don't think anyone should get carried away and expect Islamic countries in that part of the world to suddenly become "normal." People in the West might start reading wildly hopeful reports about no-more-torture, democracy, women's rights, legalized wine in restaurants, and scientifically-designed playgrounds for children, but recall that most revolutions end up under the thumb of some faction or megalomaniac who is lurking in the wings at the beginning of the revolution. There are few powerful institutions in repressive dictatorships -- other than the Army or Islamists -- who can move into the power vacuum in the aftermath of a revolution.

When the Berlin Wall came down about 20 years ago, the most frightened group in America was the military-industrial complex. (They needn't have worried.) Ironically they should have been feeling triumphant and taking a bow.  Today the nation of Israel has the most to fear from real democracy breaking out in the Islamic greater Middle East. Also, pickup truck and RV drivers should expect more resource nationalism there.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

North Africa

The world seems to have been caught by surprise by the revolution in Tunisia. For Netflix customers it was an excellent time to rewatch the movie, Battle of Algiers, made in the mid-1960s in Italy and Algiers. It is a remarkable movie that seems so timely today. Of course anything is an improvement over the American media's treatment of the "War on Terror."

It's been a long time since I gave any thought to North Africa. It hasn't exactly been insignificant throughout history: the Desert Fox in World War II, the Moors invading Spain in the Middle Ages, Carthage destroying Italian small farmers and then finally the Roman Republic in classical times.

Now we watch to see how pervasive revolution in Arab countries becomes. Israel must be the most nervous country about all this. It would be prefer to be surrounded by American client states. America likes to pretend it's pushing democracy in the Mideast, but real democracy would produce Islamic governments that were unfriendly to American oil companies and to Israel.