Thursday, August 16, 2012

August 16: the absence of good and evil

I'm actually writing this on the night of August 15 because I had an interesting note from a reader. (You can check it at the end of the column for August 15.) He says  he doesn't like western imperialism, but might it not be better for Syria than rule by Assad? Now, that goes right to the heart of understanding political and economic affairs because the use of the word better means there must be a good and a bad, one on each side of better.

We are taught from childhood to see all behaviour as good or bad. I guess the first words I remember are, "No, Graeme. Bad boy." or, more rarely, "That's a good boy." But good and bad only sometimes have anything to do with decision making in the world of politics or of corporations. Usually, they are irrelevant.

The more common motive for political and corporate behaviour is like that of the lion who jumps on an animal, and eats it. The lion is being neither good nor bad. He's just hungry.

When Britain conquered an empire, it was praised, even in the churches, as being good for bringing blessing to the heathens. But British governments didn't build an empire to scatter blessings - however good that might have been. They did it to satisfy the hunger of the lions of British capitalism.

When the US invaded Iraq and killed over a million people, it had nothing to do with 9/11 or with Saddam being a bad man. It had to do with the hungry lions of the oil industry.

When shale gas companies explore New Brunswick, it has nothing to do with being good for the province. And when they cause damage, even death, they aren't being bad. They just don't give a damn about those things. They are hungry lions.

Understanding that is fundamental to understanding political and corporate behaviour. It's hard to remember it because we are raised to see only good and bad; and we miss that terrible other motive, self-interest, the human equivalent of a lion's unreasoning hunger.

In the same context, it's important no to waste time being pro or anti any nation. Most people in nations all over the world have no control over what there governments do. Most people are kept in complete ignorance of what their leaders are doing and why.

Decisions in the US, for example, are made by business and political leaders. The major function of the news media is to spread propaganda to support what the leaders do, and to keep people in ignorance of what is going on. The Moncton Times and Transcipt exemplifies this well.

Remembering that, let's consider whether Syria might be better off under western imperialism.

Congo was under western imperialism for 75 years. Nobody can even guess how many millions were murdered, tortured, mutilated, starved and enslaved in that time. Earlier, all of black Africa had suffered under western imperialism as 60 million died just in transit to the horrors of slavery in the US.

Lincoln freed the slaves. But that had nothing to do with being good. He didn't give a damn about them. The war to "free the slaves" was really to satisfy the hungers of rising industrial lions in the North. The slaves were just the propaganda cover that every war needs.

US imperialism has ruled Haiti for the best part of a century. That has created excellent profits for American and European factory and land owners, but left Haitians the poorest and most miserable people in the western world.

US imperialism overthrew the elected government of Guatemala, and installed a dictator. Then it systematically slaughtered a quarter million native peoples. Most news media didn't even report it.

Western imperialism supported Chiang-Kai Shek against Mao in China. Chiang, a Christian, was a puppet of the world's biggest drug dealer, and the killer of so many millions of Chinese that his score may rival that of even Mao.

But a Canadian government would never do that? We've done it. Often. In the Boer War, to our own native peoples, to Vietnam (where our "observers" acted as spies for the US army), to Libya. We did it to satisfy the hunger of our corporate lions. And we're going to do it again, soon.

Yes, Assad is a bad man.

But if  you are ever in the tropical wilds, and get sick and feel faint - it really won't matter much to you whether the first hungry creature to come along is a lion or a tiger or a python.

No. Western imperialism would not be better for Syria.

Over the years, many countries - Spain, France, Britain, and now the US - have assumed the right to tell other nations how to run their affairs. They have all turned out to be just hungry lions.

I was raised to see things in terms of good and bad. But there is little use in arguing with a Harper or an Obama or even an Alward on those terms. Their masters are corporate bosses. And corporate bosses are forever hungry lions.

If there's something particularly interesting in the August 16 Moncton Times, I might add to this.

(It's next morning. The Tand T is so trivial and vapid - except for Alec Bruce and Jody Dallaire, it's not worth commenting on. Or reading.)


  1. You list some of the bad things that Western imperialism has done and then say, "Western imperialism would not be better for Syria." without any comparisons, good or bad, with what Assad imperialism has done. Per capita, I believe Assad is worse.

    I view democracy as a continuum from complete totalitarianism to complete democracy. I would never claim we in Canada have achieved complete democracy or that we are even close to it. If the rebels win I believe Syria will move further down the road to democracy, even if they are still subject to Western imperialism and that is worth fighting for (certainly many Syrians believe that).

  2. Are you for real? Do you know what imperialism means? If so, how has Assad been an imperialist?
    I listed tens of millions of deaths as a result of western imperialism, several million of them in the last 40 years?

    per capita, Assad is worse? Do you have the faintest idea what you are talking about?

    And if you think the rebels want democracy, you should tip off Obama. The major part of them are Jihadist. Do you know what a Jihadist is?
    democracy cannot be a continuum from complete totalitarianism. That sentence makes no sense at all.

    Western imperialism, like any other imperialism, does not permit democracy Democracy means rule by the people. Imperialism means rule by imperial authorities.
    No imperialism of any sort has ever encouraged democracy.
    Many Syrians believe they are fighting for democracy? Where did you get that information? Better tell the news media, because they don't know.
    Your words look impressive. but you have no idea what most of them mean.
    I have no idea what you mean when you say "Per Capita, I believe Assad is worse." nor do you offer any figures to support it.
    I gave you slaughter numbers. They are on record. You gave nothing, and then had the nerve to accuse me of not giving figures.

    1. Do you believe that the people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are worse off then they where before?

      Are Canadians worse off then Iranians?

  3. The case of Tunisia had little to do with the western powers. (I've been to Tunisia. It was fairly well off before. I'm glad they're rid of the dictator - but it's too early to look for much change.) Libya is far worse off than it was. So are Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. So is congo which has been plundered and starved by the west for over a century. So is Haiti and Guatemala.
    Iranians were far worse off when the west destroyed Iranian democracy and imposed a murdering, thieving dictator. They are far better off now than they were then.
    I don't see the point of your question about Canadians. Very few people in this world are better off than Canadians. But Canadians are not victims of imperialism. You might, however, want to put that question to a native Canadian.