My Imperialism

I like to describe myself as an imperialist, or at least as having imperialist sympathies. That’s admittedly a bit of an exaggeration, but is certainly true relative to most of my contemporaries, if only because I don’t automatically equate ‘colonialism’ and ’empire-building’ with ‘evil.’ My admittedly-limited knowledge of history tells me that the world is at its safest and most prosperous when one or two large ruling powers of high culture exert dominance over most of the world. Nor am I much moved by talk about it not being ‘their land.’ For the vast majority of mankind, who is ruling them matters much less than how they are ruled, and, especially, how much they’re left alone. If an imperial power rules a certain region, and in so doing largely leaves the locals to manage their own affairs while shielding them from invaders, preventing local rivalries from boiling over into violence, and linking them up with a prosperous economic system, I don’t see how that can be considered a worse state of affairs as far as the local populace is concerned than that region being left to govern itself, fight off its own enemies, deal with its own inner rivalries, and sift for itself in the global economy.

(On the subject of this kind of benign neglect, I remember reading about a survey conducted after the British departure from India where some people travelled around to see what the rural villages and farming communities thought of the British departure. The most common response was ‘who are the British?’).

Now, I’m not discounting the great evils done by the various colonial empires, but we should note that in most cases the alternative was not ‘brutal dominance by Western powers’ and ‘free and happy independence.’ The alternative is more ‘brutal dominance by Western powers’ and ‘brutal dominance by the nearest powerful neighbor’ or ‘brutal dominance by local ruler, with accompanying sectarian violence, probably soon to be followed by dominance by nearest powerful neighbor.’ Whatever the flaws of the Western powers, they at least had the temporizing influence of civilized and Christian values that might conceivably restrain them.

I also note that, at least as far as the British Empire is concerned, the two main counter-arguments to British rule – Ireland and America – were instances where they did not practice the kind of benign neglect that they generally employed elsewhere. And there are other issues there (i.e. the religious question in Ireland), but that’s for another time.

In any case, I think there are serious arguments in favor of western imperialism. Actually, I think it would be more justified today than it was in its heyday (since today, unrest in one region can lead to violence and humanitarian crises on the other side of the world), but that hardly matters, since it’s not coming back any time soon. Mostly this was all just a long intro to the following video, which is a summation of the positive effects of the British Empire. It’s a little over-sunny, but since most people today tend towards the opposite extreme I’m not going to knock it for that. Enjoy!

 

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Check My Reasoning Here

I was fantasizing about pitting one of my characters against Hannibal Lecter (because I do that sort of thing) when I came out with an argument that rather surprised me. It went something like this:

When a psychologist is studying his patient, his only evidence are what the patient tells him about himself (drawn out by questioning) and the patient’s behavior. His only way to test any ideas he may have about the patient is to ask questions. But by asking questions, he necessarily plants ideas in the other person’s head, thereby changing the state of his mind. If a psychologist suggests a possible explanation, the patient will immediately take that explanation and see if it fits. And, since evidence can be found to fit any theory, he probably will, even if it has nothing to do with the real movements of his mind. The presence of a new idea itself encourages him to view his mind in light of the new idea. Therefore, in psychology the proposal of a theory alters the facts that are supposed to make up the theory.

Thus, psychology inevitably alters the the thing it studies while it’s studying it and can only study by changing it, meaning that, scientifically speaking, almost all psychological conclusions are worthless, because the very act of proposing them alters the facts they are meant to explain.

What do you think? Am I missing something here?

By the way, I don’t think psychology is practically worthless: I’ve benefited from counsellors and the like myself. What I am saying is that, as a theoretical or explanatory science, it has severe flaws. Psychology, as far as I can see, is in much the same state as medicine was in the Medieval period: a lot of the time it works, sometimes it doesn’t, we have no idea why and the explanations we do have are tenuous at best.

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“Oh, that’s…oh dear.”

Writing Only Leads to More Writing

My goal at the moment is to write a sellable essay every day. Initially I was worried about whether I’d have enough material, but then I quickly discovered that essays are like bacteria: they multiply and divide exponentially!

So, I was working on a piece about Jimmy Stewart for CatholicMatch. While making my point, a phrase came to mind: “the gifts of manhood.” That naturally raised the question “well, what are those? Mightn’t people be interested in reading about that?” So, I marked that down as another essay. Before that I did a piece on the need to respect all art forms, which led to an idea about the difference between ‘higher and lower’ and ‘better and worse,’ which then led to an idea about equality and inequality. So, two possible essays right there!

I don’t buy the canard “war only breeds more war” (that would explain the endless Civil Wars that have rocked the US and the repeated wars with Japan and Germany after WWII), but it seems writing only breeds more writing.

Fairy Tales Post at Catholic Match

I like this one. Fairy Tales are near and dear to my heart and it annoys me to no end when people attack them or sneer at them for silly reasons.

It’s an odd thing about fairy tales—they’re always under attack, yet they always survive. Like Snow White, they are constantly being threatened by proud malevolence, yet they’re always finding shelter among the noble and humble, and even when they seem dead, they keep coming back.

The attacks have been much the same since at least the Victorian era (when, as Prof. Tolkien said, they gravitated to the nursery along with the old furniture)—fairy tales are ‘unrealistic,’ childish, silly, ‘escapism,’ and so on. More recently, they’re ‘sexist’ and create unrealistic expectations, especially with regard to romance.

All this, I think, is very silly. True, it’s easy to deconstruct a fairy tale. It’s also easy to deconstruct a Ming vase, but doing so says more about you than about the art of Chinese pottery. Fairy tales simply aren’t built to stand up to that kind of criticism because they’re meant to do other and more important things

Read the whole thing here.

And, if that makes you interested in reading more about the deeper ideas in fairy tales and similar stories, you might like to check out a certain book that just came out:

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A Thought

(The following came while reading a Yard Sale of the Mind post)

How is it that a right exercised only on occasions determined by others, only under conditions dictated by others, and whose effectiveness is almost wholly determined by circumstances outside the individual’s control should be counted as the defining element of liberty?

The Land Before Time and the Proper Approach to Prejudice

Over the weekend I posted my first video review, of The Land Before Time. I discovered how time-consuming such things are to make, and so I wasn’t able to address everything I wanted to. In particular, I glanced over the film’s approach to prejudice, partly because it’s actually kind of a minor theme compared to its dealings of faith and love (Cera’s the only character who evinces any real bigotry), and partly because it’s not a subject that really interests me that much. Everyone and their dog talks about the evils of prejudice these days; that and global warming constituted the main bulk of my public school education. It’s gotten to the point where I think it actually does more harm than good: people are so sick of being lectured about the evils of racism that they actually start to wonder whether the racists have a point. At least, that’s my experience.

(And for  the record, no, the racists don’t have a point. In the first place, a cursory knowledge of history shows that virtue and excellence are to be found in every race under Heaven. In the second, the Christian faith is clear both in Scripture and Tradition that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, but all are the children of one God, made in His image and likeness. And finally, any differences in accomplishment observable between the children of Europe and the rest of the world are explicable culturally and vanish to the extent that that culture is expanded. That Christendom was long limited to Europe and hence to ‘white people’ is a historical accident brought about by the Muslim conquests).

Anyway, I oppose racism, but I also oppose our chosen method of combating it, which is to view everything through the lens of race and insist that some races are naturally racist and need to own that fact, which will somehow lead to racial harmony. In other words, we fight racism with racism. Call me crazy, but I always thought that would backfire.

(By the way, if whites are ‘born racist’ wouldn’t that, by LGBT logic, mean that racism is okay? I mean, if they can’t help the way they feel, that means there’s nothing morally wrong with it, right?)

What I would propose instead is something more like what’s shown in The Land Before Time, and was a popular notion before critical race theory became the order of the day. Cera’s an unrepentant bigot for most of the film. Littlefoot responds by trying to make friends with her. He doesn’t demand she change before he’ll have anything to do with her; he just tries to be as nice to her as he can, partly because that’s just the kind of person he is, and partly because he recognizes they’re in the same boat together. Even when she’s being a complete jerk, he still shows her kindness, as when she refuses the food they’ve gathered in favor of trying to get her own, and he just tosses her down some anyway.

I’ve always been of the opinion that prejudice and bigotry ought to be met with good-will and, well, tolerance. People don’t change their convictions overnight, and they’re not likely to change if you just arbitrarily demand they do so while constantly insulting them. Instead, it’s best to prove them wrong by your own actions. What changes Cera in the end is the fact that her friends do show her great kindness despite her bad attitude. She sees for herself that she was wrong because her friends have proven her wrong; that they’ll be there for her when she needs them, even if she won’t be there for them.

The point is that you can’t just demand someone change: you have to give them a reason to. Constantly telling someone he’s a horrible person who can never change is unlikely to inspire him to reform.

Catholic Match Post: Love Honor More

My latest post is up on Catholic Match:

Of course, honor isn’t only expressed in momentous, world-shaking events like the American Revolution. In fact, it’s mostly expressed in small, day-to-day affairs in which we are offered the chance to do either what is right or what is easy.

There’s an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show that illustrates this well (if you haven’t seen the show, you should check it out; it’s a ton of fun, and has more raw talent packed into a relatively small cast than half the shows of today have all put together). The episode sees Rob (Van Dyke), a TV writer, discovering that he has to take a business trip to review a new performer his show might want to hire. Only the trouble is, the trip would mean missing his son’s school play. Rob doesn’t want to miss the play, but feels that his responsibility to his job has to take precedence in this case, especially since getting out of the trip would mean lying to his boss. His wife, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) thinks he ought to put his son’s play first, and pressures him into lying his way out of the trip.

However, after sleeping on it (and having a hilarious nightmare) Rob decides that he needs to be the one to make this decision and goes on the trip. Laura’s angry at first, and Rob spends the trip feeling guilty, but when he gets home she admits that she’d much rather he do what he thinks is right than cater to her wishes every time. The fact that he is willing to honor his responsibilities, even when it is difficult, is precisely what makes him a good husband and father.

Such a small domestic argument probably isn’t what comes to mind when you think of the word ‘honor,’ but for most of us, this is how the matter will manifest itself; not in a decision whether to run home or fight for the freedom of your nation, but in the simple question of which of two competing responsibilities in daily life you will give precedence to.