Mike Bown is the “most traveled man in the world”. He has written an essay called “Skins of Ill-Shaped Fishes”, where he discusses how his travel across the globe has exposed him to a very wide spectrum of human life and have taught him in detail about the history and current reality of human society. In this episode, Ladan reads this essay and shares his opinion on it.
Top three takeaways:
- It is a fallacy to assume that if everyone were to have had equal enfranchisement from the dawn of history, that humanity would be better off. In fact, the way out of societal stagnation is industrialization, which is dependent on the unequal system of capitalism. Had everyone had equal rights from the birth of civilization, we may have actually been less scientifically advanced than we currently are.
- Just as with the earlier industrial revolution, now that we are in the midst of a new revolution, the IT revolution, the unique facets of revolutionary capitalism are again under attack. Fascist and colonialist ideologies are resurging and reviving during this time when capitalist principles are under fire.
- Globalism is essentially colonialism 2.0. A lot of the problems that caused the first wave of colonialism to fail have been fixed, and colonialism is effectively being rebranded as globalism. In this sense, it is being referred to as a de-colonialism effort, with the belief that “diversity is our strength” widely spreading and influencing this new rise.
An essay I recently finished:
skins of ill-shaped fishes
We are rag dolls made out of many ages and skins, changelings who have slept in wood nests, and hissed in the uncouth guise of waddling amphibians. We have played such roles for infinitely longer ages than we have been human. Our identity is a dream. We are process, not reality. Loren Eiseley
Satisfying an interest in the process and experience of reality, and over thirty years of continuous backpacking, I’ve explored our planet’s varied and fascinating life-ways. The first 23 years of travel served to take a friendly look around every country. The last 7 years has necessarily been return visits to regions, landscapes and tribes already familiar from earlier trips. Heraclitus claimed that no man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. In this sense, nations and tribes are akin to Heraclitus’s rivers - especially in our era of revolutionary transformation.
Village and regional Feudalism gives way, painfully, to a somewhat bewildering mix of economic and political systems: cronyism, socialism, communism, fascism, market capitalism, democracy, and related doctrines not so honestly named but functionally equivalent. My wandering has exposed me to a broad spectrum of human reality, from living in leaf huts with spear-and-net hunting pigmies in the Congo rain forest and Yakuti reindeer herders in the Russian arctic; to drinking sake and enjoying gooey octopus balls with Tokyo tech specialists. Many of these niches of human development fall into categories recognized by socio-economic experts, such as nascent artisanal mining communities. Others support cultures beneath their notice, such as squatters in the liminal spaces of decaying mega cities, surviving by drug dealing and scavenging. This has induced in me a taste for the quirkiness of raw reality as opposed to euphemism, politically expedient obfuscations and outright lies.
The saying goes, liars should have good memories. But, on a global scale, those who make the decisions and disproportionately benefit from the resulting doctrines can’t manage to keep their stories straight, over oceans and deserts, tundra and forests, fraught by dissension, suspicion and war. Comparative history and immersive experience unveil and embarrass these locally well-crafted fables and just-so-stories.
Hunter gatherers were stable for hundreds of millennia and largely egalitarian, so had scant need to come up with new doctrines every generation. And Feudalism was likewise fairly stable for millennia despite spiraling inequality, so baffling doctrines had time to settle in to work their magic. Nowadays, however, revolutions and the doctrines that justify them are ubiquitous; a process and a dream of a swifter sort, sprinting, mind-driven, ahead of our biology toward Progress with a capital P, seemingly as sure-footed as the apocryphal fish crawling out of the Devonian ocean to stride and lord it over the land.
Locally-crafted fables inveigle themselves just as insideously in Western minds, such that educated readers might wonder what there is left to observe in person on earth, and why bother. Isn’t it the case that the populace is better informed than ever and the arc of history bends toward justice? We’ve established, surely, that underdeveloped countries want to develop. So advisors and NGOs show up to assist. Sadly, progress is slow because of Western military adventures, and plundering of nature’s resources by devious multi-nationals who were complicit in colonialism that caused the poverty in the first place. Meanwhile aren’t desperate poor people thus apt to flee to the West for their own safety, although often blocked by the unenlightened politics of heartless deplorables?
Marvin Harris, an eminent anthropologist and author, argued that political and social doctrines are most often crafted in subtle support of elite’s prerogatives over those of the bulk of humanity. “Doctrines that prevent people from understanding the causes of their social existence have great social value.” And in opposition to these elitist doctrines he asserts, “We must regard the expansion of scientific objectivity into the domain of lifestyle riddles as a moral imperative. It’s the only thing that’s never been tried.”(1)
Makes me wonder; certainly easier said than done – revolutions in lifestyle and their explanations are neither straight nor tidy as jaunty diagrams of fish sprouting legs and sprinting up the smooth sand. In illustration and as a matter of fact, consider that ultimate chapter of the history of fish. Much of our initial assumptions need to be flipped over and re-examined after study by experts in the field. For instance, “It looks like hunting like a crocodile was the gateway drug to terrestriality,” neuroscientist Malcolm MacIver said. “Just as data comes before action, coming up on land was likely about how the huge gain in visual performance from poking eyes above the water to see an unexploited source of prey gradually selected for limbs.”(2)
Furthermore, a reactionary clad of lung-sporting fish already half-way terrestrial turned tail and slithered back to the open seas. They repurposed a lung as a swim bladder, and their descendants became the spectacularly successful 28 000 species of bony fishes. Even the primordial land lubber fish had its quirks. As it was the ancestor of all terrestrial vertebrates those quirks were bequeathed to us. For instance, a strange twisted optic nerve, where right-eye and left-eye serving nerves crisscross in front of the brain to connect to the opposite hemisphere – a relic from when this ancestor dabbled in a torque-eyed flounder-ish existence only to abandon the lifestyle. Their eyes ended up ratcheting all the way around instead of simply rewinding to their previous level stare. Revolutions are no simple marches into the daylight, and are usually positively aswirl with staggering countercurrents, eddies and riptides.
Without the shadow of a doubt, this latest industrial revolution is astoundingly powerful: mankind and his domesticated animals have overrun the planet, overpowered all beasts, and even harried the fish of the sea. If we consider anything chicken-sized or bigger, then our planet is now home to 300 million tons of humans, a further 700 million tons of our domesticated animals, and less than a hundred million tons of wild animals. We have taken over the earth. (3)
Non-western people struggle to understand what is happening to their world, and Westerners tender self-serving or even less helpful answers. Modern doctrines are unnatural and hard to grok, in a way that simple feudal farming with digging sticks and plows was not.
Anyway, what is the magic potion of development? What strange elixir takes a nation into the blessed future, or casts it back poisoned with weird visions, seeking solace in ancestral lifestyles?
There have been two world-shaking revolutions among the smaller changes and revolts so far in human history. First was when hunter gathering gave ground to farmers’ superior numbers, belligerence, and penchant for harbouring contact diseases. Even here the transition was convoluted and uneven. But hunter gathers lost out and only waves of livestock herders held their own or conquered these farmers, cyclically being absorbed as a ruling class into a mixed farming sedentary economy. Their big men became chiefs and then lords, kings, occasionally emperors. Human relations adopted the characteristics known as feudalism.
No scholar planned feudalism. Like other economic doctrines it arose organically, before being codified by any scholars, mostly driven by cultural evolution. It’s simply the characteristic type of stable hierarchy that arises when civilization passes the population density that allows chieftains. Of this we can be confident because feudal forms were generated planet wide. Even when agricultural civilizations developed in relative isolation, such as the Papuan highlands and Mesoamerica, they were feudal.
Feudalism is characterized by a kinship-based hierarchical command and control economy. A common feature is largesse: an expectation of open-handed redistribution by the chief, enacting a primitive version of “from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs.” In practice much of the rhetoric about open-handed giving and redistribution was mere boasting, and these gifts served first to ensure the loyalty of military specialists who formed the bulk of the chief’s trusted subordinates.
Important additional features in Europe and elsewhere were a caste system whereby families know their place, sumptuary laws so that people look and dress according to their caste, and a safe place for non-military specialists who are none-the-less exulted, as courtiers. These refined fellows had been schooled in exquisite heraldry, deliberately both difficult to put to memory and indispensable. This ensured that lower orders were kept in their place by their social betters. Such rentier-pandering courtiers were adept with feudalism’s manifold titles, privileges, and prerogatives, thus efficiently sorting and deciding intersecting, and potentially conflicting, claims to power and the ear of the lord.
This worked well for some thousands of years. It’s a low to no economic growth strategy. But it’s predictable and most importantly, stable for the rulers and the elites who serve them, such as knights, a word originally meaning lowly servant, and of course the courtiers who loll about bespangling the palace. Many people on our planet, especially villagers, are still on this feudal stage or just beginning to climb up into the industrial revolutionary beachhead.
Sometimes expats and tourists can’t internalize this zero-sum personal-relationship-based feudal mindset. When such a western luminary is giving economic advice to a feudal fellow, about what price can be allegedly obtained for selling the local handicrafts in the West, for example, I always look for the fallen face of the villager when he inevitable overhears the same tourist giving that economic speech, verbatim, to his neighbor.
In Afghanistan I had many conversations with outwardly modern educated Afghans, who lamented the low yields of the family farms they are responsible for. Yet they can’t improve productivity because of the expectation that the surrounding families are entitled to wage-work or sharecrop on their lands. And by age-old tradition, this entitlement is as real as modern workers’ expectation of social services. Job-snatching machinery would create a problem for fulfilling this obligation, which is characteristically feudal and upon which the landholder’s local reputation is based.
In nearby Tajikistan, I met several Canadian chicken farmers who claimed to be doing development work. At first I was perplexed: would-be developers end up stepping on toes. The toes are attached to formidable people. Development advisors are inadvertently pushing for the termination of détentes between feudal families whose warlord ancestors obtained peace only by painstakingly divvying the available trade and other opportunities.
Good works don’t scale and development is a nasty business with obvious winners and losers. If you are not afraid for your life you are not doing it. In fact it pretty much has to be done by brutal conquerors or locals, given human tendencies to resent outsiders. The mystery of these “bold” developers was not resolved until they told me they were helping the largest and most successful chicken farmers in Tajikistan to be more productive. Aligning oneself with the interests of the established power-brokers is a tried and true method for a foreign advisor to meddle and escape with his life.
If it’s so onerous to develop, then how did the British accomplish it? There were no NGOs in Tudor England setting the stage for an economic miracle, thank goodness. While the agricultural revolution took place in a dozen or so initial epicentres and spread from there, the industrial revolution emerged on the British Isles and somewhat more tentatively in adjacent regions of Western Europe.
In A Space Odyssey, a classic film by Stanley Kubrick, an orchestral soundtrack played and a symbolic black obelisk would rise from the ground whenever human ancestors took a decisive step toward civilization. For example, when an ape-man grasps a bone to use as a club, the first use of a tool, this obelisk rises with much fanfare. Upon the advent of out first great revolution, the agricultural, we can imagine a black obelisk of Stanley Kubrick’s film rising at a symbolic scene illustrating the decision to cultivate a field of grain and guard it from rivals.
But for the second, industrial, the situation is convoluted. We could have had this revolution anytime in the last five thousand years but had to wait until a few centuries ago to finally reach the tally of obligatory “obelisks.” Ironically, no metaphorical black obelisk springs up from mankind learning how to carve black obelisks, or else the ancient Egyptians would have been the masters of all creation.
The study of Britain’s Industrial revolution, unlike the agricultural revolution, has benefitted from access to written history. The initial conditions and their evolution are documented in books and figures. Some of the prerequisites are reasonably commonplace: a preponderance of elites with libertarian leanings, satisfied by something like a Magna Carta, and the relative independence of rainfall-agricultural based yeomen as opposed to certain rice farmers dependent on centralized irrigation. Perhaps irrigation-based civilizations were fated to be stuck in collectivist feudal forms. Other prerequisites were geological features, such as access to iron ore and coal, and natural defence, here exemplified by the English channel, since accumulating surpluses attract predators (the industrial revolution should have started in Holland except that the Spanish couldn’t resist the temptation to seize a growing pile of loot.) Others of these prerequisites have been the show-stoppers when lacking elsewhere for five thousand years or more of pre-capitalist civilizations: rule of law; fractional reserve banking; a ban on slavery; a strange belief seldom supported by pre industrial history that the future will be better than the past; a penchant for science; and a peculiar tendency to favor the interests of ship owners over the interests of the rest of the economy. Ideally, the would-be capitalist civilization should spring from a nation of shop keepers, since the merchant class is the first beneficiary.
These are well studied by historians of the industrial revolution and I’ll walk through a few of them, because it’s remarkable just how eccentric they are. First, an illustration.
The astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted: “Imagine how much more advanced society would be today if women, who comprise half the world’s brain power, were socially and intellectually enfranchised from the beginning of civilization.” He’s a highly intelligent scientist and educator, but not necessarily so well read on economic history. Underpinning his question is an assumption akin to the “ladder of progress” fallacy in evolution; for it doesn’t necessarily follow that we’d be better off.
Civilization tends to get trapped in hydraulic despotisms or other sorts of feudalism. From historical records, it’s clear that these forms of stagnation can last five thousand years or more. The way forth from this stagnation is industrialization, which happened only once on an eccentric island with many cultural idiosyncrasies. Among them, a personality trait of libertarianism was needed to kick start the process, or so it seems from the written accounts.
Libertarianism is an odd world view, popular among some men but very few women. The reasons for this discrepancy may be rooted in the collective nature of child rearing or a woman’s smaller maximum number of children, but no matter. Suffice it to say that libertarianism is unpopular with the average woman. If women had had full influence and power from the dawn of civilization, it’s highly probable that aficionados of libertarianism would never have been able to muster the political power to help kick-start capitalism, which is, after all, a very strange, counter intuitive, and often cruel system. It could be that a history re-imagined with equal female power would be stuck in despotism or other feudal structure, with no industrialization. While there would be less climate change there would also be less science and technology. This and many other necessary prerequisites for proto-capitalism would be absent from the idealized past envisioned by Dr. Tyson as a social justice friendly royal road to progress.
For example, most scholars who specialize in the industrial revolution assert that primogeniture (the idea of the eldest son receiving the bulk of the inheritance) was also an initiating critical factor. Disinherited sons had to be provided for somehow and often ended up being trained to enter the clergy and legal professions. At the core of primogeniture was a gross and somewhat cruel inequality. Younger sons had to suffer their disinheritance since it was the law of the land. But, with this in mind, these same disinherited sons were likely to be sticklers for that law when interpreting whether the elder son had properly sired an heir to take over the estate, and thus whether a younger brother might inherit instead of his nephew. This absolutism regarding the law later proved necessary for a capitalist-friendly evaluation of the wisdom in allowing, or not, innovative disruptions of an industry.
What if some inventor, probably himself a younger son and so not an heir, finds some way to obtain funds to ascend into the upper classes through a productivity-magnifying invention. Should this be allowed to proceed? Wise and humane magistrates realize that productivity increases cause riots and starvation among thousands of cottage workers as their livelihoods are destroyed. This is the destruction in creative destruction. Anyone in the feudal past would answer, “good god, no,” and righteously stymie disruption. But British lawyers and clerics often held that the rule of law was more sacred than the peace of the realm and the lives of mere men. Primogeniture was needed to initiate this oddity, leading later also to patent laws through the same peculiar legalism. Without this nascent legalism, capitalism can’t be born.
Britain also needed fractional reserve banking, an innovation based not only on the social evil of usury, but also on tolerating greater social instability. The trade-off is the hope to gain investment leverage that persists as long as people have faith that the future will be wealthier than the past and setbacks are temporary.(A striking departure for feudal societies that were accustomed to seeing the future as a fall into sin and whose poets sang of the past as a lost golden age.)
Slavery needed to be outlawed in order for the revolution to flourish. This is not because it was exploitation of workers (exploitation was practically mandatory) but because it was an abuse of the government’s vital blanket promise to enforce contract law. A slave contract is an example of merchants gaming the system by privatising the profit of a contract while socializing the extravagant costs and social damages incurred in enforcing that contract.
Similarly, a fragmented Europe with weak national governments was needed to allow the rise of a blue water navy and transoceanic shipping. These ships, with their tiny cargo holds and steep operating costs, were only profitable when hired out to engage in abuse of contract law and social evils such as slaves, tobacco, coffee, tea, opium, sugar and rum. So practically everything in those cargo holds was harmful drugs – especially sugar before dentistry – or else social evils or positional goods like precious metal and hard woods, that only displace domestic producers of the same and thus damage and weaken the realm.
China was too unified and wise for this: her rulers avoided the hundreds of years of national loss financed by sin to the detriment of the homeland. Too clever by half. These were, counter intuitively, necessary sacrifices to allow the nascent shipping industry to mature into something both positive for the nation and immensely transformative.
So we see that the black obelisks rise at peculiar times: for the tribal chieftain whose degree disinherits all but his first born son, for the ruler who denies women a political voice, for the erstwhile emperor who fails to unify Europe, for rulers who initially ignore the shipping of slaves but disallow slavery in their own lands. The audience would be confused by the booming of the orchestral ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ upon such erratic, trivial and appalling incidents. The reasons for the rise of civilization are supposed to be common sense, or widely thought to be. However, they are not, rather they are as weird and brutal as the WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) people they spawned.
Industrial nations overpowered feudal nations, often using the tactics of Wellington, which harkened back to the tactics of Alexander the Great (4) whereby it was only necessary to attack and route the armed elites, after which the bulk of the opposition would flee or otherwise be co-opted. Political entities outside of Europe tended to be empires or despotisms ruled by despised elites. Colonizing forces found them pushovers. Britain didn’t have to defeat a Grande Armee of India supported by its hundreds of millions of people, as a matter of fact, that would be militarily hopeless. All they needed to do was brush aside the despised Mughal despots that ruled over the Indians and then usurp their position, the way hookworms will drive away tapeworms from the prized upper tracks of a parasitized peasant’s intestine.
External resistance to the Industrial revolution failed, since European colonialists were practically unstoppable even before the revolution. Once they were kitted out with all that industrial war gear, they swept the world. But what about internal resistance? Surely thousands of years of feudal thinking and mindsets can’t immediately go belly-up without a struggle for the soul of the West? Especially when the feudal-minded colonial effort benefitted so handily from industry-derived weapons and organization. Can we believe that no one would occupy the control booth of that old feudal machine and attempt to kick start a proven doctrine with some new tricks, borrowing from the best of the upstart capitalists when necessary?
History shows that the neo-feudal counter revolution began almost immediately, in several strains matched to the trifurcated form of European feudalism itself. These forms of neo feudalism necessarily discarded certain traits considered primitive in feudalism in order to compete with capitalism, including kin-based hierarchy, and added others, such as a primary role for science. The ‘feudal’ name was seen as a drag, too, and tossed, which helped to obscure the sociological sleight of hand.
It’s a funny thing because the right-wing is normally all for hierarchies and the left-wing is for upending and reforming them.(5) But here the left got baffled by their own bullshit and most of them didn’t realize that they were, in opposing the radical program that had evolved into an established capitalist hierarchy, failing to imagine something very new. Their ostensibly radical doctrines were merely a mutant version of the oppressive feudalism that radicals of the previous century had justly struggled to overthrow. They presented the spectacle of chasing their own tails.
Real progress is obfuscated and mythologized not only by the blatantly dominant elites, as Marvin Harris supposed, but also by those elites who claim to stand for progress and change, the plucky underdog, while being actually another species of grasping elite. What would we see if we pulled back the curtains of both fake conservative Wizard of Oz and the fake progressives, the tail-chasing scions of older systems of domination, who hide behind a different shade of curtain but whose machinations are no less self-serving?
In fact there were three main channels of neo feudal reactionary forces in Europe society. These had roots in the three flavours of European feudalism: first estate composed of the clergy, second estate composed of the nobility, and the third estate being the commoners, whose most powerful members were guild members and merchants.
Neo feudal versions of the first estate, as corrupted as church hierarchy itself had become, were Marxism, socialism, communism. Of the second estate, the doctrines and prerogatives of the former warrior rulers were reborn now dubbed colonialism and fascism.
And of the third estate, the commoners, it’s more complicated because the main support for capitalism came from their midst. Nonetheless, anarchism appealed to some of the peasantry, monarchism or populism for others. While the guild members were happy to carry on with feudal guilds rebranded as professions, the merchants benefited from and were so besotted with capitalism that most eschewed any reactionary neo feudal forms altogether, with only a few plumping for fascism.
The odd man out, the king, embodied in practice the feudal idea of the ruler who maintains his power against any faction of nobles by promising commoners protection from rapacious clergy and nobility, while in reality being of the nobility and largely self-serving. The neo-monarchist of modern times is the populist. Anarchism, derived from the feudal mindset of those peasants who reject hierarchy, is a neo feudalism that has least use for a king - since they reject the existence of a caste of nobles from which the king might promise protection.
The greatest barrier to giving economic advice concerning capitalism to developing nations is that it’s hard for the rulers and power brokers to stomach the fact that capitalism turns nearly all power over to the merchants. Merchants are typically looked down upon by feudal elites. In some regions merchants consist of a separate caste or tribe, often despised or resented. Turning over the lion’s share of power to them is often politically unpopular, or impossible. The fact that it would be for the good of the nation is not a sufficiently compelling argument in most cases.
The second estate (nobles) squirmed out from beneath the social and economic pressure of the rising, industrial revolution-empowered, merchant class to focus on acquiring more serfs overseas. These serfs were to be in lieu of those they lost when their homeland’s serfs became workers. Historically this manifested as the expansion of haciendas, territorial conquest, and similar efforts we call colonialism. The first estate, the clerics, either aligned with whatever conservative powers were convenient and allowed themselves to diminish in influence or morphed into Marxism, styled after its otherworldly intellectual father whom Camus called “the prophet of justice without mercy who lies, by mistake, in the unbeliever’s plot at Highgate Cemetery.”
Under capitalism, the merchants swept all before them, outperforming all flavours of neo feudalism, particularly communism, for reasons succinctly put by Yuval Harari. “Capitalism did not defeat communism because capitalism was more ethical, because individual liberties are sacred or because God was angry with the heathen communists. Rather, capitalism won the Cold War because distributed data processing works better than centralized data processing, at least in periods of accelerated technological change.” And necessarily also for this triumph, of course, the free world was in later days shielded under the protection of atomic bombs. The free world needed the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, since without nukes a centralized command economy on a military build-up can wrong foot a capitalist democracy by forcing it to exist in a perpetual state of war.
Having competed shoulder to shoulder with capitalism, the oldest neo feudal doctrine, colonialism, ended up a failure. Critical flaws included one that eroded consent of the natives to be ruled: racism. This flaw was induced in the Europeans conscripted to enforce colonial rule, and the rebounding of this evil back into Europe was devastating. Fascist parties drew their early support and street fighters from colonial troops returned from brutalizing natives on far shores, including Hitler’s brown shirts, Franco’s Army of Africa and also the squadristri of Mussolini. Envy among European powers from comparing larger and smaller colonial empire sizes was also an exacerbating factor. Colonialism, sickened by the First World War, had its fate sealed by the next. The Second World War also saw the temporary defeat of fascism, and ascendency of socialism, while the Cold War saw the defeat of socialism.
And now, as the industrial revolution matures and morphs into a third revolution, the IT revolution, the peculiar and idiosyncratic features of revolutionary capitalism are once again under attack. The new millennium is a time of fascist revival, with the rise of the Chinese fascist superpower. If fascism lost the Second World War it more than made up for this by winning the battle for the hearts and minds after socialism lost the Cold War, with fascism forms of neo feudalism replacing socialist forms of neo feudalism in Russia and China. (6)
Moreover, this is happening in an era when the capitalist system is buckling under the pressure of its own success, and a refreshed species of colonialism is rising to compete with resurgent fascism, its close ideological kin. Powerful merchants who have ascended to the status of oligarchs have often discovered a dislike for the capitalist democracy aspect of the industrial revolution. These super rich, upon winning the capitalist game, observe with frustration that rent-seeking and cronyism are activities that have to be kept in the shadows. Moreover, playing by the rules of capitalism, even if that built their initial fortunes, will no longer suffice since their spoiled heirs often seem to be on a trajectory to revert to working stiffs in four or five generations.
Cronyism helps cement the powerful in positions of power, but the electorate frowns on it. Do nightmares of peasants with pitch forks might trouble their dreams? So lately the oligarchs and the managerial class who serve them seem to be willing to make peace in a collusive effort toward a colonialism 2.0 with many of the problems fixed that doomed the colonialism 1.0 iteration.
Imagine you wanted to recreate colonialism, but were all too aware that colonialism 1.0 collapsed and failed in the end. How would a neo colonialist proceed? Short answer: Globalism.
Globalism is an attempt to implement colonialism 2.0, with the weaknesses of the original colonial project repaired and its power grab stronger than ever. Wisely, practitioners are avoiding even the symbolic weakness of calling this project by its true name of colonialism, instead calling it a de colonialism effort, thus standing reason on its head. In place of ‘divide and conquer,’ the modern version of the old imperial motto is rendered into new speak as “diversity is our strength.”
The pre-existing strong anti-colonialist language in the charter of the United Nations is rendered impotent, since the natives of western countries can and must be denied the status accorded to natives elsewhere on the globe through legal sleight of hand and social convention.
U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
Article 8 1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture. 2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for: (a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
Why are Europeans not considered to be indigenous to Europe, and a global version of Star Trek’s Prime Directive(7) not serve as the guiding force instead of this mass migration and reverse colonialism branded as de-colonialism?: because as always the name of the game is power.
Minerals are no longer so valuable; even all that Arab oil is not worth enough to bring the entire Arab economy much above that of Spain, a middling modern power. The old colonialism 1.0 based on resource extraction and land conquest is now a weak strategy. The new resource that elites lust over is Human Resources. And mass migration is the attempt to sequester and dominate these resources.
Unlike colonialism 1.0, the scions of this new iteration are cognizant of the fact that teeming peasants in deserts and wasteland are practically worthless; they are a liability to care for, and an insurgent threat to any imperialist forces. Far better to harvest these region’s Human Resources and leave the worthless land and equally worthless people, as deemed by multinationals, to fend for themselves.
A brain drain and a drain of the healthy and brave and energetic, those with vision, is the better colonialism. And rather than fund foreign legions, the new human resources are so near that they are under thumb of the national police and army who keep order in the new immigrant additions to western cities. Unlike in old colonialism, the new citizens are assimilated voluntarily.
That this endangers our planet’s wondrous diversity by making modern cities into melting pots of nearly identical globalists is not important to the elites, and also, any downsides of assimilation are seldom felt by them in their gated communities. That imported third world people are grateful and over tolerant of inequality is a bonus, as it staves off worker agitation and claims for higher wages. Immigrants make for compliant workers.
The quality of the immigrants who have the energy or health or family resources to make these treks is very high. They might seem like peasants to many WEIRD westerners but back in their villages they are the movers and shakers and go-getters.
Under Globalism the West strip mines the best or plausibly most grateful and compliant of the world’s people. This serves to enrich our elites who own businesses and want to exploit them, consequences for national workers’ wages and denuded poor countries be damned.
Globalism has been one of the only things the Republicans and Democrats had been able to agree on until Trump came along, and something west European parties could agree before the rise of European populism has them on the defensive. As a reaction, recently, populist politicians try to project the image of outsiders. This stance helps to court the vote of resentful workers, as it implies they act against the best interests of many of their fellow plutocrats and their colonialism 2.0 project. And the worry among elites is that any such populist rhetoric might become empowered, and upset their collective global new world order.
The elites and plutocrats who rule America and Europe and everywhere else have a vested interest in, and much to gain from, this colonialism 2.0 project. Early benefits include decades of immense wealth sequestering by the stockholders of multi-national corporations. Useful side benefits include stagnant wages for workers in the West. These profits are internalized. An externalized social cost is the evil of increased desperation in any resulting failed states of the undeveloping world. Globalism persists in spite of this and other costs.
These immigrants are not at fault for being pawns in this effort. They are as deserving or more so than Western people. I have spent months hanging around in various migrant camps in Africa, such as Agadez, Jordan, and Benghazi, and elsewhere, chatting with economic migrants and can attest that they are the cream of the crop of their hometowns.
Of course, there are bandits and extremists and bigots mixed in, but the proportion of criminals is less than normal for citizens of their natal lands. What the West does, strip mining of Human Resources, is truly repugnant, but, the West can’t go cold turkey: we are too dependent on brain-draining and body-snatching from other nations now.
The end game is to cement elite control over the economy, as a new class of lords. What to make of all this, morally speaking? It’s hard to know, and depends on a comprehension of good and evil in politics, which is a deep problem. New immigrants are certainly happy to assimilate under the policing and social pressure of a western country, and we don’t see the devastation wrought in their homelands by their collective absence. Out of sight, out of mind. Furthermore, the West does need at least some of these immigrants, or else there would be a terrible reckoning when politicians have to admit that the economy has been run like a ponzi scheme. An endless added growth of the taxpayer population is already factored into growth assumptions. In turn these assumptions ‘justify’ the handouts of unfunded entitlements used by rulers to bribe the electorate.
Suspicion of the moral posturing of the parties and the partisans comes easily, and seems conspiratorial. But these colonialism 2.0 efforts are not a conspiracy, like a fake moon landing but with billions instead of hundreds of thousands of technicians and planners expected to shun loose lips. Rather, while it’s true that individual humans can be smart, the mob is stupid and at the same time cunning, like a slime mold. Much of politics consists of the brainless yet seemingly clever collective action of crowds and factions.
The globalization proponent’s self interest sub consciously feels right to him, and then after the fact, he concocts moral arguments in order to heighten his politically useful indignation at those who oppose this mass immigration policy. This is psychologically typical. Any intelligence possessed by members of homo-politicus is used in service of their unconsciously self-serving natures.
This is the human condition.
There are some potential pitfalls to bringing back this globalism version of colonialism, and globalization proponents intuit this. Firstly, it’s clear that racism hampered the original colonial project, so it’s unsurprising that there is a concerted effort to stamp it out now. Being able to work graciously with coworkers of any race is absolutely vital for success in a globalized economy. But just as with computer coding, where elite whites jumped on board and dominated a new powerful sector of the economy, this new business-code of expunging racism is the province of whites from certain elite families or those who expect to be elites, revolving around university culture. Other races seem to be corralled into a supporting role. They can serve in tutoring their would-be lords in this vital code of avoiding racial offence, but are not otherwise encouraged to learn the habits themselves, being held to lower standards. A telling oddity, considering that racism is equally spread among the tribes of earth.
Second, there exists another tell: a certain glee among the globalists for the suffering of rural whites, whose continued failure is a feature of the new system, not a bug. I saw the same dynamic played out in South Africa post-apartheid, where the ruling class whites threw the working class whites under the bus to maximize their own families’ preservation of power, rather than come to some more balanced accommodation. South African whites justly and necessarily had to give up much of their power. And it seems that if a similar situation comes to pass in America and Western Europe, the suffering of rural whites will serve nicely as cover for a continuing elite power grab by the upper and managerial class whites. Their end game will be enjoying the heights of what will likely become a neo feudal and thus increasingly zero sum economy, with important sectors staked out by rentiers and insiders, while hiding their cronyism and monopolistic market positions. This will be accomplished behind a fake woke doctrine which stresses largesse toward the techno peasantry of the 21st century.
Evidence of the confluence and evolution of neo feudalist doctrines are visible also in the subconsciously stealthy reintroduction by young globalists of sumptuary laws (cultural appropriation) and a caste system (identity politics) with the accompanying heraldry skill (‘social justice warrior’ extreme sensitivity to appropriate conduct and titles) intended to cement the power of a new courtier class. So we are approaching tumultuous times. With no guarantees for the elites holding their position in a zero sum feudal world, many wily elites are adapting, intuitively, often unconsciously, and fast, to claim the bulk of the prize.
They need: globalization, mass immigration, a race-focussed inequality discussion rather than a class-focussed one, as many minorities as possible crammed into positions of management as quickly as can be. Above all they need to appear as woke as is feasible, while sacrificing the status of the white working class to counter-balance their excessive wealth. This is their best bet to carry over all their wealth and power into the next economic era. So far their intuitive collective strategy is very successful and almost no one has called it out for being as selfish as other competing widespread doctrines such as patrician conservatism.
If these machinations are so self serving, perhaps then, evil, why am I personally indifferent to them? I favor a middle path of satisfying a compromise between those who want nationalism and nativism and those who plump for this neo colonialism.
The thing is, in politics, something is evil when history proves that it was wrong. People immersed in their zeitgeist have a hard time knowing. If you call for supreme sacrifice and violent shake up, you are not necessarily wrong. The USA civil war is an example. However, national and international socialism both also made the case that you need to break some eggs to make an omelette.
Socialism and Nazism are both evil because they are mistaken. If International Socialism really did outperform capitalism then it would be good, not evil. If Germans really were the master race, such that they are far smarter, morally blameless and competent than other races, then National Socialism would be good according to the surviving mob. To be strenuously violently wrong on a huge scale is to be evil, even if there is not an evil thought in your head.
Philosophers and writers and poets are prone to be notoriously evil by this definition, with a perverse instinct to support vile systems like fascism and Marxism. I trace the origin of this peevish contrarianism to the all too human foible of shame from humiliation. For centuries medieval cognoscenti fooled everyone and particularly themselves that they tendered the best possible economic advice to maintain the wealth of nation and ruler. Their lofty social positions were based on this boast of broad-based utility. This broader claim is perhaps best symbolized in the project by which they might winkle out god’s mysterious ways and symbols to construct a philosopher’s stone turning base metal into gold. This mysterious power was but one among myriad other sorts of promises, material and ethical, that amounted to dross. And then, lo and behold, capitalism arose as a mutation, on a backward misty island, not notable for culture. And yet this was Atlantis arisen for real, spreading powerful spells that put any philosopher’s stone to shame with its élan to transform our material world. Worse, Adam Smith, capitalism’s closest thing to an intellectual, was not the inventor and originator of this system; he was merely a clever observer of this mutant social form.
If only Adam Smith had been from a cultured tradition beholden to the ancient universities, a great Schoolman. And happier still if he had invented capitalism from philosophical first principles, such that they could claim that the academy had came through in the end as the Queen of Sciences, a scholar half French and half German and half Greek for good measure, with a beard as long as Marx and the poster boy looks of Che Guevara. Because then our world might have avoided the hundred million deaths from the first estate’s preferred style of reactionary neo-feudalism, communism, at least, and perhaps the second estate’s colonialism and fascist re-brandings to boot.
So, is the neo feudalist colonial effort evil or good? Hard to say. You’d need a crystal ball to know. Their doctrine, while self serving, reactionary, and cruel to the groups they intend to scapegoat for the greater good of elite lifestyle stability, might succeed. At the very least it is not obviously evil as the Nazi doctrine, where one would hope that only the morally deficient could fail to see that the German “race” was not especially masterful.
Consider this quote from Williams S. Borroughs: "We have a new type of rule now. Not one-man rule, or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decision. They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of past. There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers. The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident. Inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push."
I’d fault his thinking only insofar as he is excessively optimistic about the level of care and thought manifesting in high politics. Because Williams S. Borroughs’ technocrat advisors are best envisioned as factions of gibbering slime mould. These figurative technocrats cannot even suggest certain complex orders of operations of metaphorical levers and dials with any precision since they work through political compromise and committee. Their suggested moves are like the fumbling of clumsy pseudo pods. It’s not realistic to expect them to furnish useful recommendations to the frightened commander, any more than a novel written by committee could plumb the truths of the human soul. The race now is in between the elites and their servants trying to establish a neo feudal colonial order with themselves firmly in command and the villains being, as before, the villains, village peasants or deplorables in New Speak, desperately seeking a populist monarch to shield them from the deprivations of their social betters. In late medieval times, the king consolidated his power by acting as a champion of the lower classes against the depredations of the noble class. In the same sense, the lower classes have seen the depredations of the managerial class become so bad that they want a king Trump to protect them or a Nigel Farage style populist.
So here we are: this populist uprising is emerging in response to a confluence of globalist currents. In the West, two main vigorous roots of neo feudalism, socialism and neo colonialist globalism, (reformed precursor to fascism as opposed to the old school fascism of modern Russia and China) have become intertwined of late. This was likely anyhow since this collusion is driven by the technocrats and other managerial classes making common cause with the rent-seeking oligarchs. It’s simply the expression of an “if you can’t beat em, join em” attitude.
Orwell had some thoughts on the tendency of the managerial class to reach for power when opportunities present, brushing aside moral qualms when expedient: On the Managerial class(8) It was only after the Soviet régime became unmistakably totalitarian that English intellectuals, in large numbers, began to show an interest in it. Burnham, although the English russophile intelligentsia would repudiate him, is really voicing their secret wish: the wish to destroy the old, equalitarian version of Socialism and usher in a hierarchical society where the intellectual can at last get his hands on the whip.
Also in the running are the deplorables trying to throw a wrench into the machine that oppresses them and to insist on that promised union, more potent than any trade union, the nation. Their parents and grandparents bought into this pact, with dues of blood and souls in many wars. They want to redeem the promise of care from the nation they fought and died for, honoured in full. Perhaps they hope leaders like Trump will serve up job security much like a national union boss with a strong border to ensure a closed shop. A brand new factor in the race is the third revolution, the I.T. revolution, threatening to upend the board. This is sufficiently frightening that neo feudal inclined elites like Bill Gates are moved to suggest taxes on robots to slow their roll. At least until the colonialism 2.0 project can defeat its opponents and preserve elite power past what would otherwise be its natural lifespan. “Each of us insists on being innocent at all costs, even if he has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself.” Albert Camus Intellectuals are hapless in their self appointed roles as the brains of political and economic developments. There is nothing new except capitalism under the sun since the Neolithic. Capitalism itself was a mutant strain of civilization, where the economy is treated like a sacred game, and evolved rather than being thought up by scholars. Its an ugly ducking that grows into a powerful hissing ugly swan, incapable of being loved, only admired for its power to transform. Capitalism could never be concocted or imagined by scholars because it is anti-intuitive and anti-human, denying powerful facets of human nature while grotesquely distorting others. Nobody in their right mind could invent it particularly if they considered themselves wise. Always, the tail wags the dog in these matters. Our supposed radical thinkers really amount to conservatives if they laud the centuries-old doctrines of capitalism., or else if they favour socialism or globalism, they are ultra conservative, since these are reactionary neo feudal forms. Our future will likely be at the whim of technological and scientific advances, driving further social evolution that will come as a surprise to intellectuals. Intellectuals are really nearsighted historians. They notice, illuminate, and furnish commentary on powerful social forces largely beyond their comprehension. This applies especially to those who imagine themselves as activists. And this leaves our civilization with the left as right and the right as left, where up is down and down is up - the face of humanity as contorted and floundering as any ill-shaped fish. And the process of history so far remains a mindless evolution, just one damn thing after another, until we suffer the rise of artificial intelligence, militarized robots, and the prospect of a true golden age or no new dawn for man.