Notes On The News
by Gwydion M Williams
- Think Globally, Dump Costs On Foreigners
- Hong Kong – the Wrong Sort of Mind Control
- Hong Kong in a Remade World
Think Globally, Dump Costs On Foreigners
The Direct Democracy that Hong Kong Chinese demand, put an ignorant right-wing ranter in charge of Brazil.
Just one of many, obviously. But Western journalists are very slow to learn from failure.
Manage ‘not to see’, because they dare not offend the extremely rich and greedy men who own newspapers and other media.
Mr Bolsonaro is disapproved off. Western journalists can bad-mouth him without risk to their careers. And he certainly merits it:
“The record number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has coincided with a sharp drop in fines for environmental violations, BBC analysis has found.
“Official data from Brazil’s environment agency shows fines from January to 23 August dropped almost a third compared with the same period last year.
“At the same time, the number of fires burning in Brazil has increased by 84%.
“It is not known how many of these fires have been set deliberately, but critics have accused President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration of ‘green lighting’ the destruction of the rainforest through a culture of impunity.”[A]
Fires often set by poor people hoping to get rich in a competitive global economy. Being entrepreneurial. Doing just what the Nice Liberal Centre urges and defends when it suits them.
Why shouldn’t the rich world pay the full price for Brazil not clearing its huge forests? Subsidise them for not doing what all of the rich countries did during their rise?
The G7 did offer aid for the current fires – a grand total of £18 million.[B] What national government would be influenced by as small a sum as that?.
Why not give further subsidies for rare species that rich and comfortable people want to see saved in foreign countries? A yearly bonus of as little as £1000 for every live chimp might work wonders.
An individual billionaire could do this – there are a huge surplus of such people, most doing nothing useful. But conventional thinking has a solid grip on their minds, outside of the little area of business from which they get their billions.
Rich people want poor countries to bear most of the burden. Will not ‘put your money where your mouth is’.
From the 1980s, maturing Baby Boomers decided that taxes were wicked. State machines almost certain to commit evil. Saw the only answer as the world fixing itself spontaneously.
Only an idealistic minority actually worked hard for ‘bottom-up’ solutions. Most donate small sums, but only small.
‘Dogmatic Bottomism’ worked nicely to expand personal freedom. But let a rampaging Overclass grab money and power in the public sphere. Let them steal from the poor.
For the noble purpose of giving everyone a good life, ‘Dogmatic Bottomism’ failed decisively.
Real societies need a lot of Top-Down control, to get good outcomes for an increasingly free-thinking global population.
Hong Kong – the Wrong Sort of Mind Control
A secure system can tolerate the quietly disloyal.
A radical system cannot. Successful radicals always opt for harsh methods.
A secure system has an established pattern of Mind Control. One so solid that few think of it as Mind Control.
For those who do notice, the natural response is to say ‘No Mind Control’.
But that assumes that the acceptable portions of the Mind Control you grew up with are not Mind Control. Most people believe that, whatever else they disagree about.
People believe there is a lost basic – ‘born free, and everywhere in chains’. But no two of them will entirely agree what this Authentic Human Nature really is.
As I see it, we would not have functional minds had we not grown up with some form of Mind Control.
The most we can hope for is for independent-minded people to understand what is happening. To try for Mind Control of a more benevolent sort.
The Hong Kong protestors are gripped by Western forms of Mind Control. Except I doubt they have the inhibitions necessary for a tolerant Western system to work.
For all of the bitterness over Brexit, no one in Britain is beating up policemen for doing their job. Alternative visions exist. While in Hong Kong, I see nothing beyond a dislike of what exists.
A dislike borrowed from the fading but still formidable power of the New Right.
The New Right are very clever at working the system. But badly mistaken in their beliefs about how the system actually works.
The New Right imagined itself as a direct heir of a nice world that existed before 1914, and was inexplicably wrecked by Militarism. Then plagued by Fascism and Leninism.
But European governments had been spreading popular militarism from the 1870s. A nicely readable version is Rudyard Kipling’s Stalky & Co. Most of it written before 1900, and with a European war expected.
Leading up to 1914, much of the British ruling class feared Germany’s increasing economic strength. Wanted them broken. But Britain had a small army, and Germany a very large one. France and Russia were needed, despite past rivalries.
France wanted Alsace-Loraine, even though the population mostly felt German.
Russia wanted Constantinople. Britain secretly let Russia know that this was now acceptable,[C] and by 1915 had committed themselves to securing it.[D] Britain also wanted what became Kuwait and Iraq, sources of the oil that the Royal Navy was dependant on. So the Ottoman Empire was dragged into a war it would sooner have avoided.
The spark was Serbia’s claim to Bosnia. And a Serb terrorist assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who wanted to make all Slavs into equal citizens.
The official British line was once ‘gallant little Serbia’. But in the 1990s, the idea of any part of Bosnia joining Serbia was officially classified as Evil. Attention was switched to the German march through Belgium, which only happened because Russia went to war to defend Serbia. Because Germany was caught between France and Russia and might easily be crushed.
During the long 1914 crisis that ended in war, Germany asked how Britain would feel about a march through Belgium. They got a hazy reply, but one which suggested it was not a problem. But when Germany actually did it, Britain’s rulers called it a gigantic crime.
Most British historians see this as an inexplicable accident. To me, it is very explicable. The rulers of the British Empire laid a trap to fool both Germany and their own public.
But if that were the plan, it all went wrong. Germany, which had invested heavily in science and technical education, proved unexpectedly tough. Tsarist Russia collapsed. Lenin created the first modern-minded government that was implacably hostile to the European Empires that then dominated the globe.
Empires that were also racist. Positions of power were mostly White Only. China was bullied by all the foreign powers.
Britain’s main base for bullying China was Shanghai the hub of a string of concessions on the Yangtze River. Foreign warships sailed freely on the Yangtze until 1949, when the Royal Navy was mauled in the Amethyst Incident. A second base, puzzlingly forgotten by most Westerners, was Tianjin. Third and least was Hong Kong, the oldest and central to the opium trade. A link that still applies, though it is found polite not to mention this.
Shanghai was also a centre of radicalism. The Communist Party was officially born there, and for a long time was based there. Hong Kong was a useful refuge, but little more.
Mao in 1949 took over Tianjin and Shanghai. Hong Kong was British territory, but could have been wrecked just by sealing the border. Britain also had no intention of fighting, should Mao’s armies just move in. India later did this with the Portuguese enclave of Goa. They scored an easy victory: 22 dead as against 30 for Portugal’s fading Empire.[E]
Mao however found Hong Kong convenient as a link to the wider world. Allowed its massive flowering in the 1950s to 1980s. Useful for trade when the USA refused to accept Beijing as a legitimate government, which applied until the early 1970s.
Hong Kong in a Remade World
Between the two World Wars, many people felt that the Old Order had self-destructed. The brief boom in the 1920s raised hope. But with the Great Slump, it seemed truly doomed.
It really was doomed in its original form – the rich dominating public opinion and demanding their own wishes come first. But by a fluke – it was not what he had campaigned on – Franklin Roosevelt saved the system by borrowing ideas common among socialists. Did this in the face of intense opposition. And most of the opposition would also have been content to see Hitler take over Europe.
The New Right ‘wisdom’ is that the New Deal was an error. That borrowings from socialism must be purged. And have come closed to wrecking the system for a second time. But the Old Order was not entirely brought back. State spending as a share of the economy remains high. Likewise taxes: though the rich are helped to evade them.
The West weakened state controls. Let things drift from the 1980s. And now faces shipwreck.
Back in 1917, the Bolsheviks sought a much more radical transformation. A new and insecure system cannot be tolerant of the quietly disloyal. Nor of those who think themselves loyal, but keep pushing different and incompatible ideas. It has to get repressive, or else fail.
India was run by the Congress Party for its first few decades. It was maybe not repressive enough. With certainty, their nice moderate ideas were slow to transform, and co-existed with ancient superstitions. Power has now decisively shifted to intolerant Hindu Nationalism that is also at home with new technology.
The Soviet Union by the 1950s had shifted the world a long way towards its own values. It had created a successful new system of Mind Control, with most Soviet citizens content. Things might then have evolved to a global corporatist united world – but both Russians and US citizens wanted their own version to dominate.
The Soviets also trapped themselves in an irrationality, when Khrushchev suddenly declared that Stalin had been criminal for successfully carrying through Lenin’s project. Seemed not to understand that Stalin’s methods were necessary to massively transform the minds of those the Bolsheviks ruled as a militant egalitarian minority.
No such error was made in China after Mao. Deng decided that radicalism in Mind Control had gone quite far enough. A new generation born since 1949 had been given the outlook of factory workers. This worked imperfectly for agriculture, where factory methods are not the optimum – but the population had also doubled since 1949. Regardless, Deng shifted to individual management of small farms, while keeping the land itself as public property that was merely leased. And he allowed foreign firms to employ larger numbers of these near-ideal factory workers. Allowed also a vast crop of new private industries to grow up employing them.
All of this was tolerable, because the standard of living rose faster than it had under Mao. Not that it had been bad under Mao. Contrary to what most Western experts imply – but will never actually say – the economy had been successful under Mao.[F] Slower than the Japan and the East Asian Tigers, but faster than Britain or the USA. Matching average world growth, despite US hostility.
Deng thought that Hong Kong could be neatly slotted into this system. It was his idea for Hong Kong to have for the first time a regional government elected by Chinese.
The Tories under Chris Patten chose to make trouble. Let people think they could have a regional government at odds with the centre. That could act like it was independent.
Independence is last thing Hong Kong needs. It flourishes as a small Westernised enclave within the wider Chinese economy. Average incomes are five times the Chinese norm.
Hong Kong’s population should also note that no one else in the world actually wants most of them. Britain when abandoning it made sure that only a few talented individuals got the option to live in Britain. The rest of the world is no more generous.
If it had been up to me, all of them would have had a right to move to Britain after 1997. But of course it is not up to me. And no one with actual power would consider it.
Despite this, Hong Kong now demands even more privilege. Hopes to revive the notion of China as a whole copying the current Western system. A system visibly in crisis, but none of them seem to notice.
What about Singapore? Singapore had independence imposed on it. It was thrown out of the Malaysian Union when its ruling party threatened to spread its politics to the entire Union. But Malays felt that trade and business was properly left for Chinese. Most Malaysian Chinese are docile under Malay dominance. A city with too many Chinese to safely control was separated out.
Hong Kong is Chinese amidst Chinese. It is also not vital to the gigantic Chinese economy.
Beijing could just hold tight and let it wreck and exhaust itself. In their place, I would see this as the least bad solution.
“In his second term, India’s prime minister is showing his statist side”.[G]
That’s a complaint from The Economist, which has not yet lost hope of India copying every last folly and failure of the West.
India may find a Japanese solution – traditional culture upheld, with business strong but under social control. Special protection for many small businesses.
Sadly, the tolerant semi-socialist India that was once possible is lost. But had failed well before the rise of Mr Modi.
Kashmir – Muddle Ended?
No Indian Prime Minister could abandon the chunk of majority-Muslim Kashmir that Nehru secured when India was partitioned.
Nehru was a Kashmiri Brahmin: he would not let his home become foreign. Nor would his daughter Indira – who just happened to marry a man who shared the famous Gandhi surname with India’s other main founder.
Nor could they drop Nehru’s claim to the traditionally Chinese territory of the Aksai Chin, supposedly attached to a region called Ladakh. Or not unless Mr Modi decides to get really bold, and trades it for China dropping its claim to ‘South Tibet’, now the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Ladakh was lumped with Kashmir in British India, which continued after independence. But it too had ancient links to Tibet. Its population is 46% Muslim, 40% Tibetan Buddhists and 12% Hindus.[H] China might have claimed it, had Imperial China not given it away by treaty. Beijing has always respected such deals.
Modi has now made Ladakh a province in its own right. And removed the special status of the rest of Jammu and Kashmir.
What else should he do? Given a free vote, Ladakh and majority-Hindu Jammu would probably stay with India. Kashmir would join Pakistan. But no Westerner suggests this. They just protest at what is.
Winners and Losers
“The super-rich have made Britain into a nation of losers…
“Thirty thousand men in late middle-age living the high life with the capital at their feet – and there, stuck way below on terra firma are their 66 million fellow Britons, tearing lumps out of each other.
“Congratulations: you’ve just pictured the central problem stalking the UK today. Not Brexit. Not the breakdown in civil debate. Not the dark money contaminating Westminster. These are urgent and vitally important, but there is one big factor that forms a large part of the backdrop to all of them. It can be summed up by that gulf between a mid-sized football stadium of super-rich men in their 50s, and the rest of us spread out across our suburbs, our towns, our unpretty stretches of urban sprawl.
“That football stadium represents the top 0.1% of earners in the UK. To join their ranks, numbering just 31,000, you’d need a taxable income of at least £650,000 a year – £12,500 per week. In less than a fortnight, you would easily pull in more than the average Briton makes as taxable income over a whole year.”[I]
Brexit and Elections
As at late August, Brexit remains uncertain. An election might happen.
Or might not. It all depends on dithering centrists
Many are defectors from Tory or Labour. Their political careers may end with the next election.
An election this year, or perhaps no sooner than 2022.
One example – former Tory Sarah Wollaston joined the Liberal Democrats. They came 3rd in her seat with 13% in 2017. 5th with 10% in 2015. Did better in 2010, but still lost. [J]
I’ll be interested to see how she votes when Parliament returns.
[She did vote according to her stated principles. And is candidate for her current seat, as a Liberal Democrat.]
But the Brecon and Radnor by-election makes a Vote of No Confidence more likely. Likewise a vote to forbid a No-Deal Brexit.
The Brexit Party ensured Johnson’s majority became one rather than three. Their vote was bigger than the margin of Tory defeat. I’ve blogged details.[K]
[Johnson got a majority for his deal. But as is explained in the November 2019 Editorial, An Unpredictable Election, it seemed likely the majority would then tinker and prevent a successful deal.]
Johnson robbing Parliament of time to block Brexit is not illegal. It is dirty, playing to the dithering centre that repeatedly failed to find a majority for any decisive outcome.
He now stands with those who want Brexit regardless of the damage it may do to ordinary people. A decisive block of MPs could stop him, but seems unlikely.
MPs are not ordinary people. Far too many are rich and privileged. Many of the dithering centre would sooner be defeated over Brexit than lose their seats.
Neglecting Other People’s Children
“The work of raising children, once seen as socially necessary labor benefiting the common good, is an isolated endeavor for all but the most well-off parents. Parents are entirely on their own when it comes to their offspring’s well-being. Many have had to prioritize physical safety and adult supervision over healthy emotional and social development.”[L]
And why? Most Baby Boomers hated the tax-and-spend policies that had allowed them to blossom into new individualism.
The new culture encourages the average individual to hope for much more than the average individual is ever likely to get.
To keep thinking that the answer is just to try harder.
Seven of Nine for One
For Star Trek fans: 2020 will see a new series starring a retired Captain Picard.
Joined by three other characters from The Next Generation. And one from Star Trek: Voyager; the very popular cyberlady ‘Seven of Nine’.
But apparently they appear for just one episode in the first season.[M] (Hopefully not the only season.)
Previous Newsnotes are at the Labour Affairs website, http://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/. Also https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/. I blog every month or so at https://www.quora.com/q/pwgwxusqvnzzrlzm/stats. I tweet at @GwydionMW.