Archives for posts with tag: dictatorship

“Friedrich Engels in a thinker’s pose
The four-meter-tall bronze sculpture of the other philosopher of communism, Friedrich Engels, is a bit smaller than the planned Marx statue in Trier. This Engels monument in his hometown, Wuppertal, was also made by a Chinese artist and offered by the government of China in 2014.”

I grew up under communist rule.
We studied marxism in school.
At some point, I was about 16, the teacher asked us about the relative merits of the different brands of materialism he had mentioned during his classes.
My answer was ‘dialectic materialism is better than all others because those who apply it into practice constantly gouge the consequences of their (political) decisions and fine tune policies accordingly’.
Some 15 years later the communist lager had imploded simply because those who were supposed to act in a dialectic manner had failed to put the principle in practice.
Coming back to the original question, ‘was Marx a determinist’, the answer is yes.
Marx’s dialectics is only a procedure. Meant to help the communists exercise the dictatorship mandated by Marx in the name of the proletariat. And dictatorships are determinist by definition.
Why mandate one if you are not convinced that things can be ruled?
For the long run and in a comprehensive manner?

Liberty is freedom from being constricted, in any way, shape or form. Period.

Liberty is more of an adjective rather than a verb. A situation more than an action.

Liberty can be attached to a space, to an agent or to both.

A free space would be a space where no constriction may occur, whatsoever.
A free agent would be an individual entity outside any constriction, whatsoever.

Mathematically, both definitions are possible.
Philosophically, both definitions are imaginable. By philosophers, of course.

Oscar Hoffman, a Teacher, kept telling us, his students, “For a proposition to be true it is not enough for it to be logically correct. It also has to make ontological sense. For those of you who don’t remember what ontological means, a true proposition must describe something which has to be at least possible”

In the real world, where there is no such thing as absolute freedom, liberty has to be first noticed/invented. And then constantly negotiated.

‘No such thing as absolute freedom?!? But liberty is a (God given) (human) right!!!’

Do you remember what Hoffman had (just) said about things which can exist in practice and things which can exist only in our minds?
Liberty might be a right – for those who enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean that everybody has it. And, even more important, that there is – or ever will be, something even close to absolute liberty.
If you don’t believe me, try to fly off a balcony without any ‘mechanical’ help. Or stop eating for a day or two. The Earth will surely ‘constrict’ you back towards its center and your stomach will certainly constrict itself for lack of food. And both Earth and stomach will constrict you back to reality.

‘OK, so no absolute freedom for individuals. How about ‘free spaces’?’
‘As in spaces where no constriction, whatsoever, may be exercised?’
‘Yes.’
‘Well, that would be possible. If a space is completely empty… no constriction might be exercised in there, right? On the other hand, as soon as something, anything, populates that space, constrictions start to appear. For instance, since no two things can simultaneously exist in the very same place, the mere existence of a speck of dust in a whole stadium induces the restriction that no other speck of dust may exist in the very same spot. Sounds trivial, true, but this is it… No absolute freedom. Not for individual agents and nor for spaces.’

‘Then why are writing a post about ‘Free market’? Doesn’t make much sense, isn’t it?’

Let me finish with liberty before going any further.
I mentioned earlier that liberty must be first noticed and then negotiated.
You see, right or no right, liberty is, above all, a concept.
We’d first observed that a flying bird is freer that a crawling worm and bam!!! We realized that some of us were freer than the others. Then that freer groups/societies fared better than the more ‘stifled’ ones.
But only where liberty was more or less spread around, not concentrated in one hand. Dictatorships – where all liberty is concentrated at the top, are way more fragile than any democracy. I’ll come back to this.
Now, for the negotiation part.
‘Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’. And vice-versa. Only this is rather incomplete.
Let me examine the situation where you are a person who likes to swing your fist. In the air, not with any aggressive intent, of course. So you were swinging your fist, after you had determined, in good faith, that there was no nose close enough to hurt. But what if I am a ‘nosy’ guy? ‘Nosy’ enough to bring my actual nose inside your reach? You having to restrict your swings – or to go somewhere else, isn’t a limitation of your freedom? An absolutely unnatural limitation of your freedom?
Has it become a little clearer? What I mean by negotiation when it comes to individual freedom?

OK, time has come for me to go to market. To the free market!

A market is a place. Obviously, right?
A place where people trade their wares. Because they have noticed that it is easier for each of them to do what each of them do better and then trade the results of their work instead of each of them providing everything for themselves. As in everything each of them needs. Or fancy.

Initially, markets were far from being free. First of all, supply was sorely limited. Transportation means were practically nonexistent so supply varied seasonally and was severely influenced by weather, soil and other similar factors. And, maybe even more importantly, supply was influenced by the sheer will of the most powerful ‘free agent’ who happened to be around. Or, more exactly, supply was heavily influenced by the whims of the most powerful free-agent who happened to be around.
Don’t believe me? Then consider the extreme famine experienced by the Bengalis in 1943. Or by the Romanians during the last years of Ceausescu’s reign.
Slowly, people have learned that freer markets tend to be a lot more stable than the less free. ‘Freer’ markets meaning freer from both exterior and interior limitations. For a market to become free(ish) the participants need to have a big enough pool of resources at their disposal and to be wise enough to organize themselves in a ‘free’ manner.

And what happens when at least one of the two conditions remains unfulfilled?
Time has taught us that while markets tend to be limited in space and that some of the participants tent to impose themselves over the rest there is one dimension where the liberty of the market is very hard to be limited. ‘Liberty’ here meaning that things tend to evolve more in their own terms rather than ‘according to plan’. Or according to anybody’s wishes.

Whenever the available resources dry up, the participants to the market move someplace else. Or die of starvation.
Whenever a market looses too much of its freedom – as in some agent controls too much of what is going on there, the market itself no longer functions properly. Whenever too many of the participants loose their ability to determine their fate/future they slowly become ‘sitting ducks’. Not as much easy to hunt down but actually unable to feed themselves.
And since hunger is the best teacher, they either learn to fight for their freedom or… die of starvation. Pol Pot’s Cambodia would be a good example, even if somewhat extreme. The fall of most communist regimes also makes a compelling case for what I have in mind.
Even more interesting, though, is what had happened to the American Automobile Industry. General Motors and Chrysler Corporation, once the dominant stars of the market – along with Ford, had to be rescued by the government. Quasi monopolistic positions tend to be bad for the monopolists also, not only for the rest of the market. Given enough time, true enough…

As the only defendant at the Nuremberg Trials to admit to his share of guilt in the crimes of the Third Reich, Speer had been sentenced to twenty years in Berlin’s Spandau jail. He was released in 1966. Some ten years later, the Canadian high school in Lahr, West Germany, which looked after the education of our children, invited Speer to speak to the student body. I was invited to the dinner that concluded the evening. I found it more than a little humorous when Speer was asked bya very confident grade eleven student: “Mr Speer, how could a group of talented people like yourself be convinced to follow a madman like Hitler?”
Speer was quiet for a few seconds, giving the impression he had never been asked the question before. Then he responded, “young lady, probably because we were all trained as engineers!. We were pragmatic to the extreme, and we thought every problem could be solved by an equation or by adjusting the numbers. Not one of us had any education in the humanities – even Hitler fancied himself an architect, in spite of his lack of formal training.

Louis MacKenzie, Soldiers Made Me Look Good.

Well, there’s a small problem here.
While I agree with Speer about the importance of ‘humanities’ I also must notice that Marx had been another example of an individual convinced that the world can be ‘tweaked’ by following a ‘blue print’. He used the term ‘ideology’ instead but… And we cannot say that Marx was stranger to ‘humanities’.

But there’s another observation made by Speer. “We were pragmatic to the extreme”. While their ‘deficient’ education might have made Hitler’s job easier, I’m afraid it was their ‘nearsightedness’ which had been the catalyst.

It was their obsession with their immediate goal – transform the reality according to their own wishes, which had made them blind towards the future consequences of their actions.

It was not ‘humanities’ they lacked but ‘religion’.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” is not really about what you pray to as about what you convince yourself about. That the ‘image’ you have developed about your surrounding reality is good enough to be ‘graven’. For ‘future reference’ and for it to be imposed upon others. By force if necessary.

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Last time I checked, for a rebellion to make sense, it had to be against some precise thing. Otherwise…

On the other hand, there are only two kinds of freedom.
‘Against all others’ – which starts as anarchy and very soon becomes atrocious dictatorship. Where the dictator is free to rule and the oppressed are free do obey. Or to attempt to climb into the dictator’s shoes…
Or ‘with all others’. Also known as ‘democracy’. The real thing, of course, not the ‘mob rule’ variety which is currently creeping upon us.

Hence the only sensible rebellion would be the one against any form of dictatorship and ‘executed’ in concert with the rest of the oppressed.

shark2-625x352

Over reliance on ‘tradition’ and over reliance on ‘science’ (a.k.a. rational thinking).

The individual prone to falling victim to the first method is convinced that:

They has adequately framed the problem.
– The answer, to that particular problem or to one close enough so that the old answer is still usable,  has already been found and recorded in the collective archive currently known as ‘tradition’.
– They is smart enough to identify the correct answer inside that huge wealth of  rather haphazardly accumulated knowledge.

The individual prone to falling victim to the second method is convinced that:

– They has adequately framed the problem.
– The answer to that particular problem can be reached scientifically.
– They is smart enough to identify the correct answer using the scientific tools currently at their disposal or to develop new ones, if necessary.

If, on top of all this, that individual, in no matter which of the two situations described above, is so convinced of the adequacy of “their” answer as to be prepared to impose it on others, even against their will – or without telling them before starting the implementation of “the answer”, then all hell will break loose – sooner or later.

By now you have probably figured out why these two methods are ‘only apparently different’.

In fact both of them are nothing but variations of the ‘inflated ego syndrome’.
This theory has been proven by the fact that all the dictators that have ever ‘ruled the Earth’ have always been convinced they were ‘rational people’, regardless of all of them either pretending to had been ‘blessed by God’ or explaining their ‘arrival’ as a ‘natural consequence’ of Marx’s scientific/dialectic materialism and/or Nietzsche’s Will to Power.

The people suffering from this syndrome can be identified by the manner in which they react to every input they receive. If their response is either ‘No, you’re wrong about this’ or ‘Yes, I was thinking along the same lines’ but never ‘Thank you for this fresh and very interesting perspective’ then you are dealing with someone harboring a very ‘inflated’ – and usually also very jealous – ego.

This kind of people are usually very good at spearheading change but allowing any of them  to acquire any considerable amount of power is, to say the least, suicidal.

coruptia ucide

Every 25 years or so Romania startles the rest of the world.

In 1989 we had to pass through the bloodiest Revolution in the Eastern Block in order to get rid of the most unreasonable communist dictator in Europe, bar Stalin of course.
In 2015 we had to be awaken by a disastrous fire in a night club to oust a prime minister who is currently under investigation for alleged corruption.

What’s going on here?

Some history first.

For the last 2000 years the Carpathian mountains have been the first obstacle that had to be negotiated by the migratory peoples that came to Europe from the depth of Asia.
Since for the first 1000 years on the plains where now lie Northern Poland and Northern Germany there was nothing to be plundered while the Northern shores of the Sea of Marmara were harboring a very rich city – Byzantium – most of those tribes transformed the area between the Carpathians and the Black Sea into a sort of highway. That’s why whatever forms of political structures the local population – the proto-Romanians – were trying to set had very short lives. They usually were fleeting fiefdoms run by chieftains from the migratory tribes whose authority survived only till the next, and more powerful, tribe arrived in the region.
After the huge Russian plains have been somewhat stabilized by the establishment of the Crimean Khanate the situation became even more complicated. The area was a battle ground for Bulgarians, Turks, Tartars, Hungarians and later Austrians and Russians. Besides the constant political instability this situation included the fact that very seldom the people who were in charge with running the place had a strong connection with the people they were leading. If any at all.
This had very insidious consequences, the most important being a huge distrust of authority. The present days libertarians would argue that this is a good thing… Well, think again.

If the people do not, not at all that is, trust those who happen to be in power and those in power do not care at all about those under their patronage you have the ‘perfect’ set of circumstances for the onset of an all pervasive corruption.

During the last five centuries the Western Europe has slowly evolved from Feudalism – the rule of he who happened to be powerful enough, tamed by some traditions inspired by religion, to what is now known as ‘The Rule of Law’. Meanwhile, in the European provinces occupied by the Ottoman Empire people lived in an almost schizophrenic manner. They passionately hated their rulers – and did their best to cheat them when ever they could, while developing a very strong respect for traditions, the only thing that kept the people together.
By the way, this is also the explanation for what has happened in the former Yugoslavia, where strong ethnic and religious allegiances were played upon by callous political adventurers.

This constant distrust/disdain between the rulers/administration and the general public has only deepened during the Soviet imposed communist rule and produced a real chasm between these two social strata. And it’s exactly this divide that is the reason for which all dictatorial regimes fail abysmally, sooner or later.
A convincing explanation for this was provided, long ago, by Pareto: ‘whenever the circulation of the elites (social mobility) is hindered, the society where this is happening is in great danger’.
Another way of explaining the unfailing demise of any dictatorship is corruption. When ever the rulers do not care about anything else but their very short term interests and the ruled do their best to cheat the system the corruption becomes so pervasive as to clog the entire social mechanism.

If left to itself this cancer can lead to implosion. The Roman Empire, for instance, didn’t fell because it was mortally wounded by the barbarous migrant tribes. It had became so weak because of wide spread corruption as to allow the barbarians to provide him with the fatal blow… Just consider what Caligula used to do for fun… The Soviet Empire did almost the same thing.
Now that I’ve reached this point I’ll have to remind you that corruption does not always have to be about money but covers all instances when people misuse, intentionally, their power.

You see, people make mistakes.
There is no way of avoiding this.
And the main difference between a corrupt society and one which is more or less ‘normal’ is that in a normal society he who notices a mistake has at his disposal enough means to report that mistake to the relevant authorities while having a decent chance to survive the attempts of the ‘perpetrator’ to ‘cover his tracks’.

The fire that started the current uprising in Romania was nothing but the final straw that broke the camel’s back. People have witnessed, individually, so many instances of corruption that had become fed up with it. But each of them wasn’t quite sure about what the guy next door was going to say/do about it. Meanwhile the authorities were more a part of the problem than providing a solution.

When this tragedy struck a lot of people have finally understood that this has to stop. And took their grief to the street.

Photo credit: Akram Abahre. While European countries are being lectured about their failure to take in enough refugees, Saudi Arabia – which has taken in precisely zero migrants – has 100,000 air conditioned tents that can house over 3 million people sitting empty.

Those tents have been erected there precisely for the pilgrims who go there for the Hajj. They are empty now because at this time of the year there are no pilgrims, yet.
If the Saudis were to invite refugees to stay, temporarily, in those tents, they would have to provide for those refugees more stable lodging by the time of the next Hajj.
Integrate them, that is.
And this is the reason for which the Syrians are not at all welcome there, just as the Palestinians were not welcome either. They would upset the balance of power.
Basically the rulers of the Gulf states bribe their citizens with money coming in from the rest of the world while shamelessly exploiting imported workforce, allowed to stay only on temporary visas. The Syrians (and the Palestinians) would have to be accepted on a more permanent basis and offered the option for a full citizenship. That would both dilute the per capita revenue of the citizens and introduce a more liberal line of thought in a very conservative society.
Yes, a more liberal line of thought. The Syrians do not insist that their women cover their faces and have tried, repeatedly, to out-throw the ruling family.
So yes, the wealthy Gulf States are indeed very hypocritical “when it comes to helping with the crisis.” (they have helped create) but that’s no excuse for us to follow their example.
After all it is us who came up with the notions of ‘human rights’ and ‘pursuit of happiness’, didn’t we?
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