Re: Ever Since Jeremy Bradley

From: Douglas Brooker (
Date: Thu 01 May 2003 - 18:41:01 GMT

  • Next message: "Re: Ever Since Jeremy Bradley"

    Keith Henson wrote:

    > Dees wrote
    > >Hokay. I would just like to point out that the US had to play dirty pool
    > >with friendly dictators in order to effectively contend with the Soviet bloc
    > >in the world arena, where they were doing the same thing in spades.
    > To point this discussion back to memes, particularly *religious memes* what
    > went on between the Soviet bloc and the rest of the world was really a
    > religious war--against communism. I think it will eventually be recognized
    > that communism was in competition for the religious meme receptor site in
    > human mental "space" and that the wars were a continuation of a very long
    > series of religious wars.
    > Of course, the root cause for such wars is economic, falling wealth per
    > capita. It is interesting that for all the build up, the US and the
    > Soviets never directly fought a war. The Chechen war since the soviet bloc
    > broke up is likely due to relatively high birth rates there which
    > translates into falling wealth per capita, but I have not researched the
    > numbers yet, and am not sure where to start.
    > >Once their totalitarian hegemony crumbled, that unfortunate necessity
    > >was removed, and our post-Soviet interventions have been mainly
    > >about toppling despots and providing needed humanitarian aid.
    > >Virtuous interventions (or attempts at them in the third case, or urging
    > >and support for them in the last one) since then: Bosnia, Kosovo,
    > >Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Panama, East Timor. Also notice that
    > >the majority of these were in assistance to, and not in oppression of,
    > >Muslims.
    > I think we would have let Afghanistan starve (which they were on the verge
    > of doing) if they had not been the base for the 9/11 attack.
    > In the "good old days" attacking a stronger tribe was better than starving
    > because some of your tribe's women (carrying the tribe's genes) would
    > usually be incorporated into the stronger tribe if they killed all the
    > males. I suspect (on evolutionary psychology grounds) that decisions made
    > by modern "tribal leaders" like Ben Ladin are biased by accent
    > psychological traits that lead them to attack the very powerful, something
    > close to assisted suicide.
    > It actually works out for the average person in a "tribe" like Afghanistan
    > to attack the US and get fed.

    It is unclear how far arguments can get that are based so much on metaphor. My own view is to tune out when these kinds of generalisms are raised. They seem guaranteed to let one slip into mindless Usenet-type assertions:

    “religious” war – but the subject was economics

    “war” but there was no direct combat between the principal protagonists.

    Each side had different views about who the protagonists were and what the “war” was about.

    It would be helpful to start differentiating characteristics and types of religious memes, war memes, and other types.

    Is there a different academic cultural and tolerance for this kind of language between US – UK – EC? Some theoretical rigour might be in order. One can of course say that the “winner writes the history” but talking this way immediately positions oneself and seems to be departure from the function of academics at least as I understand it. Is the purpose of this to come up with a good apology for what one side is doing, (and why the other side is wrong) or is it to be empirically accurate, (if such a thing is possible).

    But here are some thoughts, admittedly rambling, but maybe will show some ways to talk about highly contentious things in a non-contentious way: (it helps if you unpack yourself from the society in which you grew up)

    Keep in mind that in the Western world the response to the Soviet and Chinese systems was to imitate them with their [“our”] own forms of social programmes – unemployment insurance, public pensions, public health care, either universal or means tested. (The “West” then was scared as it is “scared” today, or more neutrally it is "responding to a perceived threat"). The “communist” side on the other hand did not generally introduce “free markets” reforms in fear of
    “western” inroads being made on their system until fairly late in the struggle. The reasons for this could probably be described from many points of view.

    Curiously, today, the “loser” in the war might be seen to have been proven correct to the extent that having been “victorious” in its battle against
    “communism” – in the “west” what were once the necessary social incentives to keep their own populations content, are being withdrawn or are threatened. And who are the winners going to be? The recent US proposed tax cut gives some indication. This point can serve as an axis for the US-EU debate. What the Europeans know is that if they try to retrench to American levels of social programmes there will be riots in the street. Political consciousness in the US seems to be less evolved at a mass level and more easily identifies with patriotism-related concepts. Many reasons for this, for sure.

    Another line of investigation concerns how, during the height of the introduction of social welfare measures across the west from say the 1930s to the 1960s, those who were ‘right’ wing and ought to have been against these measures were swept along in the prevailing fear of the other side’s social and economic system. They never disappeared completely, but were caught up in the “threat” of communism – which, whatever one may think of the reality, promised things to ordinary people – health care, education, that Western countries mimicked.

    We ought to keep in mind that just as the right-wingers were a latent force during the period when social programmes were being introduced back then, today the left wingers remain a latent force while the programmes are being dismantled. They have not disappeared completely. How far the right will be able to take “western societies” back to the 19th Century levels of social spending is an open question. Plot these things on a graph and there is a point when the pendulum will shift.

    I don’t know how you can avoid talking in terms of elite groups versus popular groups (on both sides) and an asymmetrical relation between economic interest and popular support on at least one side. (There were not millions of people in the west, for example demonstrating for war – why is this?) Look at where the money goes and who benefits one hand, and look at the popular rhetoric, on the other hand. Compare, country by country. Find contradictions. Take yourself out of the equation – if you can.

    In terms of the present day, there is an economic and social dimension to Islam as well as religious. It is not just a religion, it is a social system as well. The concept of the individual is Islam is different than in the US, and the US concepts of the individual are different than say, in Canada, or France.

    A good study might be to compare the “communist” “capitalist” struggle up to 1989 with that of the emerging “Islamic” and …( - what is the proper term here –
    “capitalist” “Christian” "western" ???? – to chose the wrong word is to misunderstand the situation, misunderstand Islamic values, and to misunderstand one's own society and the competing tensions within it) [fill in the word] forces. This is not simply a battle between Islam and the West - a significant number of westerners have no grudge or are positive towards Islam, just as there is a significant pro-Western dimension in the Islamic world. Many people who are anti-communists and are anti-terrorist find that both communism and Islamic views nonetheless have worthwhile things to say about the relationship between the individual and the collective that provides alternative for the run-amok individualism that is the prevailing ideology is some western countries.

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