Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What People Should Know

Dan pointed me to an interesting post recently regarding the technical prowess of the Celtic people at the time the Romans colonized Britain. The revisionist history, by a Monty Python alumnus, no less, was that in fact the Celts were pretty advanced, which flies in the face of the general consensus of history showing the Romans to be builders of civilizations while the Celts were pretty much barbarians.

The interesting point of this is that out of the millions of shards of facts in history, someone can build a case for virtually any position. These facts are painstakingly gathered and presented to advance an opinion that really is in abeyance with the overall reality of the situation. Since historians, by and large, are a polite bunch, they usually don't call hogwash unless you are trying to deny the Holocaust or something of that ilk, so these types of actually counter-factual analysis tend to not get that much negative press.

Historians get bogged down in fact checking and smaller areas of focus; pretty much any historian studies a narrow area and publishes on that specific arena. Most, but not all, are squeamish about wide and sweeping statements, especially with the seething political correctness that poisons actual debate on campus.

Thus, people miss the point. Our schools don't directly teach what is really going on in the world today, and what has been directly going on for the last century or so. Sure, there are exceptions to any rule, but by not at least stating the general rules, people are ignorant of what actually happened. Many people will call this "stereotyping" but showing only counter-factual, minor examples and ignoring broader trends really goes under the proper category of "propaganda".

So, let's get started. If people want to know about history, or what is really going on in the world today, and have some general "rules of thumb" or principles, here's where I'd start:

  1. Only developed, functioning democracies actually care about the environment and act to protect the environment. If you look at Africa, they have pretty much devastated the entire continent through overgrazing and burning everything that can be used for fuel, poaching and killing what could otherwise be a valuable natural resource for tourism. Russia and China completely foul their skies and rivers to a ghastly degree, and much of Eastern Europe was being ruined until the fall of communism in the late 1980's put the brakes on these trends. Mexico, South America and most of Asia are also ruining their fresh water and natural resources at an alarming rate. The US, Canada, UK and Australia, Japan, etc..., on the other hand, have generally put more and more land under conservation and are showing positive trends towards clean watespeciesnative pecies. This is the opposite of what they tell you in Hollywood or on all the blog boards, but they are basically and totally, wrong
  2. Only developed, functioning democracies care about the rights of women and act to protect their rights. Women are barely even allowed to exist in India and China... ultrasound is used to track newborn girls and they are outnumbered by 1000-600 in a lot of areas. The Muslim countries are particularly bad offenders. In Africa, where there is little rule of law, they generally fare even worse. Remember that the next time you see someone burning their bra or protesting against the injustice of it all
  3. Virtually everything that you use technologically was invented in the US, UK, Japan, Taiwan, Germany or France. While the world is a large place, virtually all advanced research occurs in just a few places. A large percentage comes out of the US - the cell phone, the computer, the integrated circuit, etc... and almost none of it comes out of Africa, South America, most of Asia, etc... as a rule of thumb, if "world music" comes from there, they aren't exactly winning Nobel Prizes for physics
  4. Dictators only respond to force, not negotiations - it is an old UN saw that you need to negotiate until the cows come home... talk, talk and more talk. But what comes out of these negotiations? Nothing. Darfur hasn't been helped at all by mounds of talk and celebrity discussion. Tibet is still under China's boot the last time I looked. Talk has a complete and utter history of failure. From time to time, it appears that talk works (like with Libya) but that is really just someone "blinking" before the fist hits them between the eyes
  5. Without capitalism and free markets, the standard of living is utterly terrible - free enterprise and free markets power the world economy, from Japan to the UK to the USA and Canada. Countries that hurt capitalism, through red tape and laws that strangle businesses, fall further and further behind, such as Argentina in South America, especially compared to countries like India and China that recently embraced free market reforms to feed the tens of millions of people that join their work force every year
  6. Life is extremely cheap in most of the world - a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal cited a North Korean defector in China and the man that was holding her against her will said killing her would be no more difficult than "killing a chicken". Indentured servitude in India and Africa is widespread and the sums that bond people for life can be triflingly small. Over 100,000 workers were said to have died in industrial accidents in China in a recent year (none of these statistics can be proved because they are suppressed by the government). In the US we bend over backwards to save a life due to an obscure medical drug impact or asbestos, which is a very marginal killer of citizens. In most of the world lives are essentially throw-away and treated as such by their governments. With the massive rise in population, especially in the developing world, unless capitalism and free markets burst forth in a major way, this problem is going to get significantly worse
  7. Corruption is the rule in most of the world - corruption is endemic throughout China and Africa and the developing world. There isn't a concept of a "civil service" that works on behalf of the people; rather it is a malevolent world order of bribes and favors in order to provide what should be provided by the state, whether it is health, safety or customs. The public purse is to be looted; presidents and their cronies should become multi-millionaires; meanwhile, the public is shortchanged
  8. Most countries hate their neighbors - look at the Pacific, where China hates Japan, Korea hates China and Japan, North Korea and South Korea are still at war, and Indonesia is a powder keg ready to blow. These regional rivalries are from way back and often fanned by the flames of authoritarian rules, but it is still a serious situation. South America has come to blows a few times, and Israel and their neighbors are in a tinderbox situation. India and Pakistan are on hair triggers, and China has "beefs" with many of its neighbors

I hope this helps. Back to your reguarly scheduled propaganda...

1 comment:

Dan Szepesi said...

you would enjoy 'Carnage and Culture'....but probably have already read it.