A week ago I posted on Latin America’s (and more generally the global south’s) defiance of “the international community” over Ukraine.
The international community as endlessly invoked by ‘our’ media
It generated a response from – it’s possible this isn’t his real name – Johnny Conspiranoid. Picking up on a comment from Mohandeer, herself using a phrase from the Book of Hosea, Johnny said:
The general population of the West will reap while those who have sown will continue to live well in an isolated and diminished hegemony consisting of the ‘international community’ as shown on the map. No doubt a lot of joint enterprises conducted in secret will be required to safeguard class interests.
I agree. As a matter of fact we know that some at least of the billionaires in whose interests the planet is being trashed, even as nuclear Armageddon looms on Russia’s borderlands and in the South China Sea, are buying boltholes in New Zealand. It’s a weird kind of funny if you’re in a good mood.
Dave Hansell then weighed in with this:
Even though those for whom an infinite amount of power over others, along with the money, will never ever be enough don’t believe in reality when it catches up – which it will – there will be no hiding place for anyone. Having invested so much in a subjective fantasy there will be a lot of psychological damage from the hubris for that class. Along with the resulting loss of value of what they have in terms not only of money but also power when the current everything bubble bursts and covers them and the rest of us with the systemic excrement they have sown.
Mixed agricultural metaphors aside – shit gets spread before the sowing – I agree with Dave too. But lets return to that phrase from The Good Book. It’s been used apropos both the French Revolution 1 and (self-servingly by Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris) the RAF’s incineration of Dresden in February 1945. Originating in Hosea 8:7, the phrase promises that:
… they have sown the wind and shall reap the whirlwind …
Maybe. Those who recognise that there are indeed such things as ruling classes are prone to the mirror opposite of denial; of assuming them – or their lead schemers – to be omnipotent and all-seeing. They aren’t. When I began this blog I worried over terms like “imperialism” and “ruling class”, aiming to keep their use to a minimum for fear of turning off liberal readers I still wanted to reach. I knew I couldn’t avoid such terms entirely but sought alternatives to vary the mix. One I hit upon very early as a substitute for “ruling class” was “the criminally insane”. It still features on my “about” page, on which, referring to myself in the third person for reasons long forgotten, I wrote.
He says he’s “become less liberal with age but – since a world run for profit is a world run by the criminally insane – more left wing”.
These days I worry less about offending liberal sensibilities – most liberals abandoned me long ago – but have stuck with that term. Out of expedience, however misbegotten, I’d happened on an uncannily accurate form of words. Those who rule behind a chimera of democracy are both criminal and insane.
Dave is right. Johnny is right.
And from a certain viewpoint they’re not even a ruling class. Here’s something I wrote on the 500th anniversary of the day legend has it that Luther kicked off the Reformation by posting his ‘grievances’ to a chapel door at Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31st, 1517:
I start as Luther pace Wycliffe did, with injustice rationalised by cant. The idea of a soul sped to heaven by cash payment to a priesthood now unites believer and non believer alike in aghast incredulity. T’was ever thus. The crimes and absurdities of times gone by are crystal clear to our so clever, end-of-history gaze – “what wolves and sheep they were; what rogues and fools!” – but should humanity survive, a time will come when belief in the superiority of market anarchy over wealth creation planned by and for humankind will evoke a similar response. Ditto the fact of fewer than a dozen men owning half the world, while scores of millions die in destitution and arms profits in and of themselves drive industrialised carnage. Cry Godwin’s Law if you will, but why would these things not seem as monstrous to our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s age as the nazi holocaust to ours?
There is an answer to that but it’s not good news. Not only is every generation desensitised to greater or lesser degree to the horrors of its day. And not only are we in the West sheltered from those endured by peoples at best not psychologically real to us, and at worst out of sight and out of mind. The horrors I speak of flow from laws of motion few understand (least of all economists, their salaries dependent on their not understanding) and which leave us with clear beneficiaries, yes, but not identifiable agents in the sense of individuals who by making other choices could reverse those laws of motion. On the contrary, by making different choices those agents would see their ‘power’ evaporate in an instant. I call them a ruling class, and with good reason, but ultimately that’s no more than a useful fiction when they too are enslaved. In our day the Henry Tudors and Heinrich Himmlers, ogres whose humanity we must deny to reaffirm our own, are thin on the ground but their elusiveness is that of a world amok: an Isaac Asimov dystopia without the robots. [emphasis added]
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- I concluded my post on the Reformation with this:
… in the wider scheme of things Henry VIII’s desires and agendas were small events while the Reformation was a Momentous Event. Small events may be catalysts but not causes of momentous ones. We can say with a confidence close to Beyond Reasonable Doubt that the Reformation had to happen for reasons way beyond securing the Tudor line; such as that the rise of mercantile capitalism created tensions insoluble within the absolutist worldview Martin Luther – objectively, and whatever he may or may not have believed he was up to – railed against on that church door. Tensions we see replaying in later times between old money and new; brittle certainty and dangerous discovery. Tensions whose drivers have a habit of tossing aside the agents – the Tyndales and Tudors, Dantons and Bourbons, Kerenskys and Romanovs – who’d thought to control their pace and direction.
By the same token that upsurge in scientific enquiry of the late seventeenth century can hardly be chalked up to Charles II, a quite unremarkable man. But then, history has a way of making use of whatever materials are to hand, even mediocrity: witness, a century on from the Stuarts and on the far side of the Channel, the empty headed vanities of an aristocracy which, having sown the wind, now stood to reap the whirlwind. Those vanities did not cause France’s transition to capitalism – that was going to happen come what may – but did ensure she got there by the most violent route.