Saturday, November 07, 2009

Counter-tribalism close to home 

In response to the Facebook version of my "Visions of the Anointed" post, a fellow Yalie (one of my Freshmen when I was a Freshman Counselor) writes:

I would change the "failure of Soviet communism" to the "success of American capitalism" and leave everything else the same. In it's successful quest for world domination, the US has inflicted far greater suffering than the soviet union ever did. We always had more money for war, and our economic system has always been a more effective tool for international oppression and colonialism.

Where to start? Stalin killed at least 20 million. Mao may have killed 50 million. This fellow isn't just left, he's irredeemably counter-tribal. One doesn't have to put on red white & blue-colored glasses to see a distinction.

UPDATE: An anonymous commenter on my prior post points out this site:

In sum the communist probably have murdered something like 110,000,000, or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments, quasi-governments, and guerrillas from 1900 to 1987. Of course, the world total itself it shocking. It is several times the 38,000,000 battle-dead that have been killed in all this century's international and domestic wars. Yet the probable number of murders by the Soviet Union alone--one communist country-- well surpasses this cost of war. And those murders of communist China almost equal it.

How can we understand all this killing by communists? It is the marriage of an absolutist ideology with the absolute power. Communists believed that they knew the truth, absolutely. They believed that they knew through Marxism what would bring about the greatest human welfare and happiness. And they believed that power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, must be used to tear down the old feudal or capitalist order and rebuild society and culture to realize this utopia. Nothing must stand in the way of its achievement. Government--the Communist Party--was thus above any law. All institutions, cultural norms, traditions, and sentiments were expendable. And the people were as though lumber and bricks, to be used in building the new world.

Constructing this utopia was seen as though a war on poverty, exploitation, imperialism, and inequality. And for the greater good, as in a real war, people are killed. And thus this war for the communist utopia had its necessary enemy casualties, the clergy, bourgeoisie, capitalists, wreckers, counterrevolutionaries, rightists, tyrants, rich, landlords, and noncombatants that unfortunately got caught in the battle. In a war millions may die, but the cause may be well justified, as in the defeat of Hitler and an utterly racist Nazism. And to many communists, the cause of a communist utopia was such as to justify all the deaths. The irony of this is that communism in practice, even after decades of total control, did not improve the lot of the average person, but usually made their living conditions worse than before the revolution. It is not by chance that the greatest famines have occurred within the Soviet Union (about 5,000,000 dead during 1921-23 and 7,000,000 from 1932-3) and communist China (about 27,000,000 dead from 1959-61). In total almost 55,000,000 people died in various communist famines and associated diseases, a little over 10,000,000 of them from democidal famine. This is as though the total population of Turkey, Iran, or Thailand had been completely wiped out. And that something like 35,000,000 people fled communist countries as refugees, as though the countries of Argentina or Columbia had been totally emptied of all their people, was an unparalleled vote against the utopian pretensions of Marxism-Leninism.

But communists could not be wrong. After all, their knowledge was scientific, based on historical materialism, an understanding of the dialectical process in nature and human society, and a materialist (and thus realistic) view of nature. Marx has shown empirically where society has been and why, and he and his interpreters proved that it was destined for a communist end. No one could prevent this, but only stand in the way and delay it at the cost of more human misery. Those who disagreed with this world view and even with some of the proper interpretations of Marx and Lenin were, without a scintilla of doubt, wrong. After all, did not Marx or Lenin or Stalin or Mao say that. . . . In other words, communism was like a fanatical religion. It had its revealed text and chief interpreters. It had its priests and their ritualistic prose with all the answers. It had a heaven, and the proper behavior to reach it. It had its appeal to faith. And it had its crusade against nonbelievers.

What made this secular religion so utterly lethal was its seizure of all the state's instrument of force and coercion and their immediate use to destroy or control all independent sources of power, such as the church, the professions, private businesses, schools, and, of course, the family. The result is what we see in Table 1.


By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Sat Nov 07, 09:15:00 PM:

Apparently that Yalie learned as much grammar (in "it's successful quest for world domination”) at Yale as he did history. It appears that dear old Dad didn't get his money's worth.

With due apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, here are Allan Sherman’s lyrics to When I was lad.

When I was a lad I went to Yale,
And I knew then that I could never fail.
For I studied very hard and furthermore,
I polished up the apple for the professor.
(He polished up the apple for the professor)
I polished up the apple so frequently,
That soon I had a Phi Beta Kappa Key.
(He soon had a Phi Beta Kappa key,
From polishing the apple very frequently.)

On graduation day I made a stop
At a very exclusive clothing shop.
I opened up a charge account and asked them for
The best grade flannel in the clothing store.
(The best grade flannel in the clothing store.)
That suit was a part of a great intrigue,
For it proved I was a member of the Ivy League.
(It was part of a great intrigue,
For it proved he was a member of the Ivy League.)

Then I got a crew cut and a sincere tie,
And for my first job I did apply.
A job in an advertising agency,
Sharpening the pencils of a big VP.
(Oh he honed a lot of pencils for a big VP)
I sharpened all the pencils so pointedly,
That now I am a partner in the agency.
(He sharpened all the pencils so pointedly,
That now he is a member of the agency.)

I kept my ears open and my big mouth shut,
And I learned all the agency's scuttlebutt.
I learned who was going out with whom,
And who had the keys to the powder room.
(And who had the keys to the powder room.)

For the key to the powder room you see,
Is the key to the structure of the agency.
(The key to the powder room is the key
To the structure of the agency.)
I worked real hard for the dear old firm,
I learned most every advertising term.
I said to the men in the dark gray suits,
"Let's run it up the flagpole and see who salutes."
(Let's run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.)

I ran it up the flagpole perfectly,
So now I am a partner in the agency.
(He ran it up the flagpole perfectly,
So now he is a partner in the agency.)
Now I have a big office at the end of the hall,
With very fancy carpeting from wall to wall.
I keep my mouth open and I keep my ears shut,
And I've got a little palace in Connecticut.
(And he's got a little palace in Connecticut.)

So I thank old Yale, and I thank the Lord,
And I also thank my father who was Chairman of the Board,

(And he's grateful to his father,
Yes he's grateful to his father,
Yes he's grateful to his father,
Who was Chairman of the Board.)

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sat Nov 07, 09:27:00 PM:

@Boludo: One of the fat man's great classics, I must say.

@Mindles: I must say, even I am hard-pressed to understand how your interlocutor can be so unbelievably ignorant.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Sat Nov 07, 10:27:00 PM:

"...the US has inflicted far greater suffering than the soviet union ever did."

I am sure that at Yale, it was expected that undergraduates could back up their arguments with sound reasoning, based upon research and the analysis of data. I'd be interested in reading a two-pronged explanation of the above thesis: a)with respect to the suffering of each country's own citizens; and b) the citizens of the countries of rest of the world.

No matter how "counter-tribal" you are, (a) cannot be close at all, unless you are really bad at math (i.e., counting dead bodies). A Yalie can't be that bad at math, because of the minimum SAT scores required to get in.

As someone who grew up with relatives behind the Iron Curtain in Central Europe, (b) is frankly not a close call either.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 08, 02:36:00 AM:

About the death of, say, a million people (Re: www.hawaii.edu/powerkills). This is a fairly macabre discussion and a horrible cost-benefit analysis, but here it is.

If it costs a million lives to stop a something (Communism and Nazism are good examples) which (maybe in the long run) will kill far more people, ruins the lives of far far more, and creates such changes in society and general behaviour (dependency, re-emergence of old hatreds, utter impoverishment, for example) that it will be very hard to recover, then it is possible that one million lives were worth it. Good examples: The aforementioned Soviet Union, Nazis, and China. Smaller (but equally brutal examples) include North Korea and Cambodia. And these are only the best known examples.

A well known "right wing" (we have to emphasize it don't we) dictator was Chile's Augusto Pinochet. According to the Rettig Report (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rettig_Report), well below four thousands people were killed (possibly less than 9/11 took). Now, if we think about how many people were killed in communist countries with comparable population, ... the question emerges: did Pinochet saved a lot of people when he overthrew Allende?

Another interesting example from this article:

This is about the Vietnam War, and here is the relevant quote:

----- excerpt starts -----
What of the significance of Vietnam as a local skirmish in the Cold War? Here we have the testimony of Asia's principal elder statesman, Lee Kuan Yew, First minister of Singapore. He has pointed out that the American intervention in the war halted the onward march of Communism southwards for 15 years — roughly from 1960 to 1975. In that crucial period, the new ex-colonial states of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, maybe India itself, took advantage of this incidental American protection to develop their economies from poor agricultural and trading post economies into modern industrial and information societies. By the time the war was over and North Vietnamese tanks were surging into Saigon, these countries were prosperous NICs (i.e. newly industrializing countries), more or less immune to the Communist virus and capable of resisting external attack.
----- excerpt ends -----

The "million worthy dead" question re-emerges. Was the Vietnam War worth it? Americans rightfully (but maybe not brightfully) can say that no, because they lost a lot of their people in a war which didn't (immediately) affect them. However, if any from the aforementioned countries tells me that it was not worth it, then I would simply ask that how many of their citizens fled/emigrated to the West, and how many to a Communist country? I, as somebody who grew up in a Soviet satellite country (but it was not our choice), I say that it was possibly worth, and the Vietnam War quite possibly saved untold millions of people's lives. The proof? Just look what happened in neighbouring Cambodia.

About the Yalie this post was written about originally.

Just watch this 10 minutes long video:

Nuff said.


By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Nov 08, 01:34:00 PM:

I've just about decided that Ivy League schools perpetuate, rather than diminish, ignorance in the long term.

Why, you may ask?

Because for the rest of their lives such graduates, whenever they are faced by moments of self-doubt, whenever they ask 'hey, am I wrong?', they have the option of falling back on their school's reputation. 'No, I went to school X. I'm smarter than these people. I'm right and they're wrong.'

A senior partner at a law firm told me once about how she can always pick out the Yale graduates she interviews on referral without looking at their resumes, because 1) they're utterly confident that the firm wants them and 2) they know jack shit about practical application of the law.

All those opportunities for re-examination and improvement of ideas and refinement of beliefs, sacrificed at the altar of pride...

So we have 'highly educated Yalies' spouting on about how much death and destruction the US has wreaked upon the world, utterly confident in the rightness of their 'knowledge' and opinion because of where they got them.

If a community college graduate spoke such retarded garbage, observers would use it as evidence to not attend that college. It would be an embarrassment to that school

Why should Yale have a lower standard?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 08, 08:33:00 PM:

An community college engineering major is much more impressive to me than a sociology major from an ivy.  

By Blogger TOF, at Mon Nov 09, 10:48:00 AM:

Attempting to reason with a child -- or a lunatic -- is futile.  

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