Monday, April 27, 2015

We’d all be speaking German…

In 2003 the US government assembled an international army to invade and occupy Iraq, in order to destabilize the region and thus allow Israel to feel more secure. France refused to join. The Imperial rulers were so offended that for the next three years the menus of the US Congress’s cafeterias sold “freedom fries” instead of “French fries”.

The US’s idiot-fringe has never forgiven the French and their nation. “If it wasn’t for us you’d all be speaking German!” “Our boys saved you last time, yet now you won’t help us!” Never mind that the Iraq venture was illegal, immoral, and based on the deliberate lie that that nation had hidden weapons of mass destruction ready to launch at 45 minutes’ notice.

On one international web-forum I once had occasion to criticise the US military’s routine torture of POWs in Iraq (members of the local resistance). In response, one simple-minded patriot demanded to know why I felt no gratitude to the US military of the 1940s for saving Australia from invasion and occupation by the armies of Japan. Another poster frothed with indignation: “My father was a US Marine, and he was a fine man and a war hero, and how dare you demean his heroism by questioning the Marine Corps?” And so on.

It’s a dangerous path to follow. Is one never to forgive the descendants of an ancestor’s enemies? “Those Afghan bastards! My great-grandpa died invading their country. I will never buy an Afghan rug! The more villagers killed by drone strikes, the better.” “Those Russian bastards! My German grandpa froze to death during the siege of Leningrad. Let’s nuke the whole nation now!”

Is one never to resent atrocities committed by criminal gangs claiming to act in the name of an old political ally?

In October last year I noted a great-uncle’s role in the slaughter of Nigerian natives rebelling against the British invasion of their homeland in 1902. I wondered if that slaughter might be in part responsible for the current atrocities against Christians in the region. [You can find a direct link to my piece by Googling “Uncle Charles and the Boko Haram”.]

In the early 1800s a great-great-great-grandfather of mine made a modest fortune as a trafficker of opium from India to China. A few of his rupees (sadly not many, but a few) have trickled down to me. Do I deserve the wrath of a billion Chinese descendants of his victims? “You bastard! If it wasn’t for your criminal ancestor, our families would be rich today.”

It’s alarming how many people do hold grudges for ridiculously long times. Western newspapers carry resentful accusations of Kurds’ and Arabs’ killing of European invaders a thousand years ago – and even of the Persians for their invasion of Europe two thousand years ago. There are European Jews who have not yet forgiven Egyptians for enslaving the Hebrews three thousand years ago. The descendants of African slaves are claiming trillions of dollars in reparations for their ancestors’ sufferings. And so on.

In light of such nonsense, I suppose re-living atrocities of a mere seventy years ago is not surprising. The government of Israel has a regular blackmail campaign against the current taxpayers of Germany in respect of their forebears’ crimes in the 1940s. In decades to come, lawyers for Palestinian survivors will be seeking redress from Israeli taxpayers in respect of today’s brutalities. Maybe the Palestinian government-in-exile will persuade Germany to pay the blackmail money directly to it, and cut out the middle-man. At least there would be a logic to that.

Interestingly, few conquered peoples ever do allow their languages to be replaced by those of their conquerors. Wholesale ethnic cleansing is effective, and we can expect Arabic to disappear from Palestine when all the natives have been removed from there. But when the local populace is left in place – as it has been in so many places in Europe over the Centuries – its language almost always survives intact.

The French would not all be speaking German if Hitler had won his War – any more than the Germans spoke the languages of any of their conquerors when Hitler’s War was lost. Whatever the current US Empire does and doesn’t do to its conquered peoples, it won’t alter the languages they speak.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Where did all the bad people come from?

Linda and her young sister learnt to swim in the hands of a middle-aged man who knew their mother, though not particularly well. He had no qualifications, no insurance, no supervision, and (on the evidence) no evil desires. It never occurred to anybody that he might let his hands roam where they shouldn’t roam – and one assumes it never occurred to him either. Those were the days, eh?

She and her friends rode or walked to school and back unmolested, and played in parks afterwards, and crossed roads and tramlines, and skipped safely through dark underpasses. No mobile phones to tell their mums where they were, no wrist-watches to tell the time; bikes were never stolen from where they’d been dropped on the ground.

(In the Exeter City public swimming baths a few years ago I was ticked off for taking photos of my granddaughters while they swam with their grandma. I was probably lucky not to have my name put on the sex-offenders Register.)

Out in the bush, my young brother and I rode our bikes home after school – in a convoy up the dirt road, peeling off one by one at the tracks to our respective homes, half a mile or more in from the road. During the rains, horses took the place of bikes on what was then a mud road.

Some days, I would go home with the Cameron kids, and Mrs Cameron would phone Mum to negotiate a departure time. On hot days, we’d all pile into their swimming hole. I don’t think any of us could swim, but we could stay afloat; the nearest adult was up at the house two hundred yards away.

Except for the time Bryan broke his arm galloping through the scrub [reported in The Man from Snowy River in the Archives of November 2012], nothing bad ever happened to us. Frankie once accidentally rode his bike over the tail of a brown-snake: that could have been nasty – but he was lucky, so we didn’t even bother to tell the parents.

Back then, we were allowed to look after ourselves – Linda in her seaside town, me in the bush. So was our son on this island, a generation later. So too are his children in their semi-rural Scandinavian setting. We have all learned to calculate the risk of any activity, and to act accordingly.
When Linda and I backpacked through the Middle East in our mid-20s, our mothers took comfort (well, some comfort…) in the knowledge that we probably could look after ourselves.

Surely, far too many middle-class children today are coddled – by parents, neighbourhoods, towns, provinces and nations. Toddlers whose parents leave them in cars for more than ten seconds run the risk of being abducted by social-services bureaucrats. Parents are publicly scolded for letting their kids find their own way home from schools and playgrounds. Indeed, for even letting them be at playgrounds without adult supervision. What’s next: certificates from City Hall for play-dates?

All parents know that at some stage children have to be capable of crossing streets without having their hands held. At some point car-drivers have to be trusted not to run them down, and ice-cream vendors not to rape them, and teachers not to turn comforting hugs into rabid molestation.

Sooner or later – children have to be trusted to look after themselves. Society just hasn’t got the resources to look after everybody. Already, “society” is looking after far more people than it ought to be – far more babies, far more children, far more incompetent adults, far more old folk.

Here in Cayman, half of all Civil Servants, half of all private-sector personnel-staff, and half of our Public Revenues, are assigned to protecting Caymanian citizens who aren’t even encouraged to look after themselves. Civil Servants and politicians all have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Like most other communities in the Western World, we are in danger of ending up with everybody being protected all of the time, by armies of bureaucrats whose wages are paid out of money borrowed against the taxes of future generations. In the end, everybody will have forgotten how to look after themselves.

That’s the socialist dream, isn’t it?