From Return of Kings.
Monday, December 09, 2013
|The Greek General Pyrrhus, who won victory after victory against Rome. "Pyrrhic victories."|
The secret to most success is simple: just don’t give up until you are winning. If you never give up, you never lose.
Of course, it is not quite as simple as that in practice: sometimes you have to cut your losses before you bankrupt yourself. But many great empires have been built on this simple principle. In both the first and the second Punic Wars, Carthage began by beating the crapusculum out of Rome. They sank the entire Roman fleet twice. Hannibal stormed about Italy at will, pillaging and looting, without effective opposition. But Rome, behind her walls, refused to accept defeat, and never agreed to peace—until they finally won a battle or two. Then, they were ready to talk.
The black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the embodiment of the historic English character. Bulldog tenacity; the stiff upper lip; sangfroid; keep calm and carry on. Everything is only a flesh wound. From Crecy to El Alamein, Britain always loses every battle of every war--except the last. An orderly retreat is seen, rightly, as a great victory. This kind of perversity built the biggest empire the world has ever known.
|The French retreat from Moscow, 1812.|
Russia, too, aided by her vast distances, has perfected the technique. Napoleon defeated Russia in 1812, and occupied Moscow. Hitler defeated Russia in every encounter in 1941. But each time they lost, Russia just retreated and built another defensive line a hundred kilometers further back. Eventually, both Napoleon and Hitler punched themselves out, and, exhausted, were forced to withdraw. What can you do when the other guys just won’t lie down and die?
Sunday, December 08, 2013
|This one lasted about 100 years on top.|
In his 1985 state of the union address, Ronald Reagan said “We must stand by all our democratic allies. And we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth.”
How dated does that sound, 28 years later?
Many are now saying the USA is in decline. And it is true. Not necessarily economically or culturally; but it has definitely declined on the world stage over the past few years, in terms of its diplomatic power.
This might seem surprising only twenty or twenty-five years after the US won the Cold War, “ending history” as we know it and establishing itself as the sole world hyperpower. Shouldn’t we now have total American world hegemony? Instead, almost at the instant of its greatest success, America is retreating everywhere.
|The last days of the Berlin Wall.|
But there should be no surprise at this. The dynamic here is inevitable; it is why we need never fear any kind of world hegemony or one world government. The whole idea is a will-o-the-wisp. It’s all swamp gas. For better or for worse, it can’t happen.
It takes a sense of clear and present danger to motivate any group of people to pay the price and bear the burden to arrive at great power. Otherwise, it just isn’t worth it; especially for a democracy. The game is never worth the candle. As a result, there is no way to move from a bipolar to a unipolar world. The instant all serious opposition is overcome is the instant any organization either drops its guard and stops taking care of business, or splits into warring factions.
Conversely, any nation or movement that suddenly lunges for world power will automatically arouse opposition substantial enough to make it unlikely to succeed—as it begins to appear to others as a clear and present danger. So any nation that openly seeks world power won’t get it; any nation that gets close to world dominance will be there because it does not want it.
In Reagan’s day, the Soviet Union still looked like a world-wide threat; an "evil empire," or empire of evil. His call for sacrifice made sense to the American people. Now, it does not. If there is a threat to the US from Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda is in the end just a handful of conspirators. An evil gang, not an empire. Moreover, the simpler way to avoid the threat seems to be to withdraw from the Middle East, rather than continue to fight. China’s rise may trouble some geopolitical thinkers, but it is a hard sell to the American public, so long as they derive obvious and immediate benefits from that rise, in cheap goods.
So in the natural course of things, the US will probably fall back now into isolationism. We will slip back from a unipolar world to a multipolar one, as before WWII, but with new players.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Superheroes in general, according to a recent piece in Salon magazine, “are a bunch of Fascists.”
How so? Apparently “The main problem is force: sheer physical force, which lies at the heart of the superhero myth…” This is “essentially a fascist concept.” Beyond this, it appears that superheroes are “hypercapitalist.”
Yes, superheroes defeat their enemies by sheer physical force. So did Churchill and Roosevelt, not to mention Lincoln or Washington. So, by this logic, they are more fascist than Hitler or Mussolini—who in the end failed to apply enough force to defeat their enemies.
Now, as to “hypercapitalism”: I doubt anyone can really figure out Superman’s favourite economic theory. But let’s suppose all these superheroes are capitalists. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, after all, are rich. This means they are not fascists. Fascism is a form of socialism: the Nazis were the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, and Mussolini split from the Italian Socialist Party. Stalin, whom our present writer also cites as a fascist, was the general secretary of the Russian Communist Party. If these guys were capitalists, who isn’t?
|Flag of the Fascist Party, showing the fasces.|
On the other hand, the one core belief of Fascism is corporatism, as the symbol of the fasces is meant to convey. Individualism is to be subsumed into the movement, the race, or the state.
The superhero, on the other hand, is the very embodiment of individualism—one man against the galaxy. The unique, colourful costume is the opposite of a uniform.
|First appearance of Batman, 1939.|
Superman appeared first in 1938. Batman appeared first in 1939. Stan Lee was born in 1922, and would have been 23 when World War II ended. His first writing job was on Captain America in 1941. Captain America's specialty was, of course, fighting fascists.And he started doing it a full year before America entered WWII.
|Captain America #1, appearing a full year before Pearl Harbor.|
Can anyone really believe these Jews were all secret Nazis, at the very time that Hitler was doing his worst to the Jews of Europe?
|The golem of Prague. Remind anybody of The Thing?|
In fact, the reverse is probably the case: the entire superhero genre was probably inspired by Jewish models, such as Samson, the Judges, David, and the Golem of Prague. The lone superhero fighting for justice and to protect the wider community has a long history in the Jewish tradition.
As a matter of fact, there's a thesis in that: the Jewish origin of the superhero.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Leonard Cohen is a gentleman in the full meaning of the term. Montreal produces them. This is why he is understood and appreciated in Europe, but not in the U.S.A.
Are we missing something in the rest of North America in lacking this class of gentlemen, of people trained in good manners, style, taste, and honour?
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
My question is this: this woman is an English professor. How can it be pedagogically necessary to talk about "structural racism" in an English class?
She ought to be booked for professional malpractice, quite apart from any racial harassment.
She ought to be booked for professional malpractice, quite apart from any racial harassment.
Monday, December 02, 2013
|Statue of Tommy Douglas as "The Greatest Canadian."|
In a recent CBC poll, Tommy Douglas was voted the “Greatest Canadian.” Obviously, he is still popular with Canadians—indeed, apparently more popular than when he was actually running for office. I guess this is progress. It did not seem to matter that he once advocated eugenics—the forced sterilization of the infirm, mentally ill, or even immoral--for the betterment of the race. It was the same policy Hitler was advocating at the same time. Douglas later grew quiet about the idea, but it seems he never publicly renounced his former stand. Whether he still believed in it or not, by World War II he would surely have understood that the idea was no longer politically marketable.
|Racial theorist and minister J.S. Woodsworth. Opposed war with Germany.|
In believing in this method of eliminating the poor--by preventing them from breeding--was Douglas just one rogue NDPer/CCFer? No, this was a, perhaps the, common view among Canadian socialists of the time. The founder of the CCF, J.S. Woodsworth, was another public advocate of eugenics and forced sterilization; he worried about the effects of the floods of new immigrants on the “racial stock” (see his book Strangers within our Gates). Other promoters of eugenics included all five of the “Famous Five,” commonly honoured as Canadian feminist pioneers.
|Statue in downtown Calgary honouring the "Famous Five" eugenicists.|
You'd think this kind of callous dehumanization of the poor would delegitimize a party and a movement that claimed to represent their interests. In the end, it’s roughly the way “Ducks Unlimited” looks after the interests of ducks. Plainly, the CCF/NDP has never really been the party of the poor. It is the party of the petty bureaucrats, who wish to expand government in order to expand their personal power. Yet ordinary Canadians still vote for them in large numbers—large enough that they are currently the Official Opposition, the second-largest party in the House. Rather like turkeys voting for an earlier Thanksgiving; or lemmings voting for a field trip.
But enough of that; there is another problem here. The alert may have noticed that both Woodsworth and Douglas are ordained ministers. This is true also of an uncanny number of prominent NDPers: Bill Blaikie, Stanley Knowles, Lorne Calvert, Dan Heap, and on and on.
Granted, we see pastors in politics in other countries too. But in nowhere near this concentration in one party; and elsewhere there are usually extenuating reasons for it. For example, pastors have been prominent in the US because for many years this was virtually the only learned profession open to blacks.
There is a reason for the separation of church and state: it is very dangerous to mix politics up for religion. It is dangerous for politics, and it is dangerous for religion. On the religious side, it kills true spirituality. On the political side, it almost automatically invests the state, as here, with some or all of the prerogatives of God. This mix of politics with religion is the essence of the “true believer,” rightly defined: someone who makes their political beliefs into a religion. The original and classical example, for which the term “true believer” was coined, is Fascism. Other obvious examples are al Qaeda, Maoism, Marxism generally, and Jonestown/The People’s Temple.
|Trained for the Orthodox priesthood.|
The belief in the superhuman power of the state leads as well to crackpot notions like eugenics. It is simply a matter of choosing the correct government policy in order to achieve paradise on earth.
It is hard to believe grown adults could convince themselves of such a notion. Canadians, it seems, in large numbers, can.