Previous posts in this discussion:
PostIs the Uighur Plight an Example of Ethnocide? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 06/11/21 5:41 am)
John Eipper (June 10th) described the Uighur situation in China as an "ethnocide."
Many sources, biased and unbiased, who actually went to Xinjiang to look at the situation and the sources spreading the rumors about it with no evidence, have concluded that there is no forced integration (it is not illegal to teach, learn, and use the native languages, and there are well-kept Mosques everywhere).
It is true that if the Chinese government would suspect me of actual or potential terrorism, they would put me in a "concentration camp" much more livable than Gaza, Guantánamo, or some of the secret prisons all over the US. They would also force me to learn the national language and get job training because when I am ready to behave as a proper citizen of China, they let me go home and go to work. Anyone who really cares about any type of genocide should first look at what we have been doing and supporting all over the world under all sorts of disguises to innocent people, including children.
John also asked: "What can you tell us about their environmental impact of the BRI? I've read-heard many bad things, but it could this largely be anti-China propaganda?"
When one glances at the many hundreds of BRI projects all over the world, the red flags would clearly have to be related to environmental protection. To be fair, the Chinese are doing many "untouchable" projects in places like Africa, such as fresh water and sewer systems, which are highly positive for the environment. Also, there projects to expand solar and wind farms which are environmentally friendly. However, I would opine that in most cases the BRI projects' environmental impact is a low priority at best, and AWOL in many cases.
On an unrelated topic, I must congratulate my dear friend and marvelous olive oil supplier Eugenio Battaglia for his sobering and highly informative post of June 9th. Indeed, England has done a great job painting itself as the "little island alone who roared when needed." The UK had at the time the greatest navy and that is absolutely the most important factor for defending any island. I can't forget reading that Hitler said he was going to string Britain's neck like a chicken, and Churchill retorted later at the US Capitol wooing our politicians "quite like a chicken." That Churchill sure was great with words.
Finally, I have more bad news for the American people: While we might have problems feeding the kids, getting health care, or raising the minimum wage, the US government is now committing another $72 billion to improve our already ridiculously large stockpile of nuclear weapons. What a waste, since if we use it the whole world becomes toast, but hopefully it will just get everybody with a conscience even more nervous, and feed a few more billionaires.
JE comments: Has China somehow seized the moral high ground, as Tor Guimaraes repeatedly suggests? I have a hard time accepting that an authoritarian regime can be "better" than the Western democratic model. Is this my prejudice? Democracy is the messiest of systems--except, perhaps, for all the others.
On a more specific note, how can we be so confident that the camps for Uighurs are benign, and for terrorists only? Color me skeptical on this one. Tor, do you take the reports of the systematic rape of Uighur women as sensationalist anti-China propaganda?
Does China Have the Moral High Ground? Biden-Putin Summit
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
06/13/21 3:30 AM)
John E suggested that I believe China has achieved the moral "high ground" in geopolitics and economic development.
Gaining such a position with me is not that easy. China has been doing many great things for the last few decades that I think admirable and envious because my beloved USA could have done the same or better. These include moving large numbers of people away from poverty, improving health care and education, giving people more freedom to travel, developing an incredible transportation infrastructure, massive advances in science, technology, and innovation (is it our turn to steal their secrets?), attempting to implement the greatest social political economic experiment in human history (the BRI), and so on.
Unfortunately for us Americans, our leaders have been big on BS (including American exceptionalism, Churchill's paraphrased words that "Democracy is the messiest of systems--except, perhaps, for all the others," and ideological political catfighting). I don't think John is prejudiced, just that he should stop being brainwashed by our regular media and look wider for information to form his own opinions.
It will take a long string of "China deliberately doing well for mankind" before they can clearly gain the higher moral ground that the US used to have under FDR and JFK. The problem is that for the last few decades we have had a double whammy: On one hand, the dirty nasty evil Chinese Communist Party has been doing great things for the Chinese people; on the other hand the supposedly freedom-loving, law-abiding, democratic US government became a plutocracy and has gone slowly but steadily in the opposite direction for the American people, as I have been writing for the last 20 years on WAIS. We have produced a few more billionaires, but the US middle class is quickly evaporating with no end in sight.
John also asked: "On a more specific note, how can we be so confident that the camps for Uighurs are benign, and for terrorists only? Color me skeptical on this one. Tor, do you take the reports of the systematic rape of Uighur women as sensationalist anti-China propaganda?"
If one bothers to dig a little deeper, one can see that the US government agencies are behind the few sources which our corrupted media is spreading around. It is obvious now that China is a threat to US hegemony. As such anything and everything will be used to make China the next evil empire. Unfortunately for us, China has proven to be much more prepared to win the competition.
Geopolitically Obama turned out to be a disaster, and Trump was out to lunch, primarily living in an alternative reality, worried about lining his and his associates' pockets, as well as covering his legal arse. Biden was following Trump's bankrupt policies for a few months but lately is showing signs of greater awareness and direction change; how much only time will tell. The two most important regional areas to watch closely are Taiwan (for China) and Ukraine (for Russia). The Putin/Biden meeting on June 16th might become very interesting. The rest presently seems to be mostly psychological warfare.
JE comments: Tor, you omit one crucial element about the MHG (moral high ground): can such a thing exist in a society that allows no freedom of expression or freedom of dissent? Earlier, I said that China will truly be a moral hegemon when people around the world flock there to live and study. I'll add a question closer to home: would the free-wheeling political discussions of WAIS be permitted in the Chinese regime?
Let's turn our focus to the upcoming Biden-Putin summit, scheduled for Wednesday the 16th in Geneva. Biden has labeled his Russian counterpart a killer, and Vladimir Vladimirovich must be reeling from that. What are the expectations for the meeting? What are the chances that anything meaningful will come from it?
China and the "Moral High Ground," Revisited
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
06/15/21 3:59 AM)
John Eipper commented on my last post: "Tor, [can a nation claim the moral high ground if it] allows no freedom of expression or freedom of dissent? Earlier, I said that China will truly be a moral hegemon when people around the world flock there to live and study. I'll add a question closer to home: would the free-wheeling political discussions of WAIS be permitted in the Chinese regime?"
John has an extremely narrow-minded test (freedom of expression or freedom of dissent) for a nation's government to gain the MHG. What good is that if the government does not advance the cause of its own people? If it ignores the will of the majority when it comes to important things like food, shelter, health care, big business-government corruption, and adventurism in war? If it is elected under false pretenses? Or if after the election it is so controversial that half of the population continuously hates the other half to the brink of potential civil war?
As I said earlier, gaining MHG with me is not easy. China has been doing many great things for the last few decades but it also has some serious issues. The first stems is the universal wisdom: power corrupts. The CCP is keenly aware that corruption has been and remains a never-ending issue which they are working on. Presently in China corruption is mostly at the local and regional level, but because the CCP is in charge, they are ultimately responsible.
Meanwhile in the US, democracy has morphed into plutocracy with two dominant parties who can blame each other for our deteriorating social political economic situation, with popular demonstrations quenched by force, just like China does. At the risk of seeming sacrilegious, the CCP at the local level seems to be increasingly listening to what people like and dislike, to reduce social dissidence in the long run.
Nevertheless, China has a second major problem: the national interest comes first, the individual is a far second. The is anathema to the US ideology where individual civil rights supposedly come first but we all know by now that is just talk so the two parties just sling mud at each other while the plutocrats do business as usual.
In China what I write about my beloved USA would send me to prison, unless I expressed more diplomatically and mindful that the CCP earnestly believe it represents the body and soul of China. In the US, anyone can say the government leaders are all pedophiles who sacrifice little children at dawn. No one would care until we elect a fictitious President who might propose such alternative realities while lining his own pockets, and have 74 million followers supporting him.
Can the CCP ever change to make individual civil rights over national goals? I think never, because their system is working extremely well for them right now. Their leaders have plans to make their nation great based on science, their hierarchical decision making by consensus is surprisingly efficient compared to our present circus, which is based on BS and security/military apparatus. However, the CCP is totally responsible; thus it will be blamed by the Chinese people and the world for whatever does not work in practice.
The CCP will have to continuously guard against corruption induced by their limitless power. The social economic benefits for the Chinese nation have been so great lately that the CCP is riding high. What will happen when their social economy will have to share resources necessary to play the Cold War the US is unleashing against them? That remains an interesting question. I hope and pray that our government wakes up and strengthens the American middle class, find ways to do business with China, not just more endless war. Mankind is running out of time. The Cold War mindset is a guaranteed disaster proposition.
John turned to the upcoming Biden-Putin summit with Biden stupidly labeling Putin a killer. I believe that was taken as the "brain fart" that it is. What could come out of this meeting? The sky is the limit from nothing to great joint projects, but I believe the Biden real objective might be to place a potential wedge between China and Russia. That won't work. It is too late; the two behemoths are now attached at the hip.
JE comments: Tor, you're in excellent company: Aldona calls me narrow-minded, too. So I'll stick to my guns on the paramount importance of freedom of expression (and especially, of dissent). Otherwise, what puts a check on the absolute power and absolute corruption of those in charge? Another benefit of dissent is economic: it fosters innovation.
Given tomorrow's summit, it may become Putin Week on WAIS. Allow me to get the ball rolling: isn't it fairly obvious that Putin is a killer?
Is Putin a Killer?
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
06/16/21 4:21 AM)
John E asked, "Isn't fairly obvious that Putin is a killer?"
No, at least not any more than the average low-profile president of the Empire has been. For instance, it is said that all human beings do good and bad things, so I assume that George W. Bush also achieved good things. Unfortunately, I do not recall any.
On second thought, does the concept of "Putin the Killer" have anything to do with the terrible syndrome of the "inimicus bellum psycologia"?
JE comments: I expected we'd see the u vas negrov linchuyut response to my question. George W Bush never put out hits on his domestic critics, but Eugenio's point is well taken: military adventures cause more deaths than the occasional political assassination. Why should the latter be condemned as criminality and the former accepted as "muscular geopolitics"?
Today's the day for the Putin-Biden summit/showdown in Geneva. The world--and WAIS--will be watching.
Reviewing our Latin: Enemy Warfare Psychology
(Edward Jajko, USA
06/17/21 3:51 AM)
Eugenio Battaglia used this pseudo-Latin phrase, "inimicus bellum psycologia," in an earlier posting, there defining it as "enemy warfare psychology."
My philological senses are screaming. Herewith the correction:
The words do indeed mean "enemy," "war," and "psychology," but not as a phrase. "Inimicus" is here a masculine adjective, while "bellum" is neuter. The "h" is in the English "psychology" because it is in the Graeco-Latin word, for good reason. The Latin word is a feminine noun.
If Eugenio means to say "the psychology of enemy war(fare)," then he must say "inimici belli psychologia." If he means to say "the enemy(‘s) psychology of war(fare)," then he must say "inimica belli psychologia."
"Bellum" means "war" more so than "warfare, the carrying-on of war." There's a range of words and compounds that might be better in this phrase than "belli," but let that word stand.
The phrase as used by Eugenio cannot stand.
JE comments: Ed, you've repeatedly earned the crown of WAISdom's Greatest Philologist! Much obliged, and an mea culpa to Classicists everywhere. While we're on the topic of pseudo-Latin, the tradition goes back centuries, probably to bored Medieval seminarians. My favorite: Semper ubi sub ubi ("always where [wear] under where [underwear]").
Pardon my Latin...
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
06/18/21 4:01 AM)
Many thanks to Edward Jajko (June 17th) for sending the correction.
Really I was very doubtful of what I had written and unfortunately, my Latin is extremely rusty.
I can only say that I am very sorry for the blunder.
JE comments: Eugenio, you are too gracious! And also very brave. Whenever a language asks one to attempt declensions, the safest response is always to decline...
- Does Dissent Foster Innovation? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/17/21 4:50 AM)
When commenting on my most recent WAIS post, John Eipper had some interesting comments about the "paramount importance of freedom of expression (and especially, of dissent)." John argued that this is the best way to counter the corruption that inevitably results from absolute power.
Theoretically that makes a lot of sense, superficially speaking. If it is true, then why are so many nations, the US included, with a de facto Plutocracy calling the shots, despite all the echo chambers repeating the words freedom and democracy? Why has our middle class increasingly shrunk over the years? Why do we continue to go to endless wars when the people say no? Why the people are not respected by proper representation? Our freedom of expression and dissent has done us no good. In practice it seems to be a fool's errand.
John also stated, "Another benefit of dissent is economic: it fosters innovation." That is totally wrong. Innovation does not come from dissent. It comes from the ability to look at the situation, at a problem or opportunity, a product and/or a process, and see the possibility of some potential solution or improvement. Unless properly harnessed, thought through from many perspectives, dissent is likely to become a negative factor. That is the problem with freedom that we all love so much; it must always be qualified: Freedom to do what? To say what?
Biden behaved inappropriately as a person and as our President by calling the head of a major nation which we must cooperate with, a killer. Is Putin is a killer? I am sure he is, but Biden was VP under Obama and Hillary Clinton who ended up killing many more people all over the world. Also I never heard Biden call any of our Presidents a killer even though they are ultimately responsible for doing that all over the world also. We have to be fair to not lose our credibility calling people names for no good purpose.
JE comments: I was thinking of dissent not in strict political terms, but in the wider concept of "out-of-the-boxism." Who is brave enough in a authoritarian state to question the way things are always done? It's difficult enough when you work for an authoritarian company.
Has the US Become a Plutocracy?
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
06/22/21 3:26 AM)
I agree with John Eipper's comment (June 17th) that "few are brave enough in an authoritarian state to question the way things are always done." However, John is wrong when dismissing my point that despite our freedom of speech and civil rights, long enshrined in law and partially enforced in practice, our democracy is not working, to the point where half of the voters are following a would-be dictator.
The evidence indicates that for several decades what we actually have had is a plutocracy, regardless of which major party is in power, and other parties have no chance to participate in government. Correspondingly, the mainstream media is totally owned by the plutocrats to produce a steady stream of bromides, misinformation or selected information designed to manipulate the people. This has lasted for several decades, so reality is beginning to more clearly show and one must explain some important questions: Why has our middle class increasingly shrunk over the years, reducing US standard of living, continuing racism, increasing violence, lack of health care, poverty, etc? Why do we continue to go to endless wars when the people say no? If free speech is so beneficial in our free society, why are people's wishes not respected by proper representation?
In summary, our freedom of expression and dissent has done us no good. It seems to be a useless exercise. No wonder so many people are angry and frustrated, allowing dangerous unqualified demagogues to gain power. Thus, John is only partially right when stating the "paramount importance of freedom of expression (and especially, of dissent) ... is the best way to counter the corruption that inevitably results from absolute power." This is true only when the political system cares enough to listen to people's opinions, enables a lively constructive debate, clearly understands the consequences of implementing apparently beneficial ideas. We don't seem to have that in America today. We have great freedom of expression but it seems useless.
JE wrote that he was thinking of "dissent not in strict political terms, but in the wider concept of 'out-of-the-boxism'" when he stated that dissent fosters innovation. John ignored that "innovation does not come from dissent. It comes from the ability to look at the situation, at a problem or opportunity, a product and/or a process, and see the possibility of some potential solution or improvement." He also did not parse my statement that "the problem with freedom is that it must always be qualified: Freedom to do what? To say what?"
The bottom line then is that under dictatorship assumed freedom of expression is useless and might quickly cost your life. Under our plutocracy, people can harmlessly talk and march to their heart's content but no one in power seems to care because they can provide an alternative reality through the media until things blow up, just like under a dictatorship. Thus we all need a form of government where the ones in power must respect the people's needs and wants, eliminate poverty, provide a decent standard of living, good education, jobs, health care, etc. That should be the primary objective, not freedom of expression and dissent, but freedom from a low standard of living first.
JE comments: Some would say that our democracy is working, as proven last November. But let's focus on a point Tor Guimaraes has raised many times over the years: that the US middle class is shrinking. We can unearth data to support a variety of views. One source shows a decline in the percentage of Americans in middle-income households from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019. At the same time, the upper classes in the US are growing, suggesting that much of the erstwhile middle class is actually improving in status. The larger problem is of income inequality, which by any measure is increasing.
So what does it mean to be "middle class"? Is it an income level, or a mindset? Pew defines the MC as $40,100 to $120,400 per household per year. That's a threefold spread from highest to lowest. I would venture that most folks at $40K feel poor, while very few at $130K consider themselves rich.
- Does Dissent Foster Innovation? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/17/21 4:50 AM)
- Pardon my Latin... (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/18/21 4:01 AM)
- Reviewing our Latin: Enemy Warfare Psychology (Edward Jajko, USA 06/17/21 3:51 AM)
- Is Putin a Killer? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/16/21 4:21 AM)
- China and the "Moral High Ground," Revisited (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/15/21 3:59 AM)