Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CLOVERFIELD and DIARY OF THE DEAD as (Post)Apocalyptic Film-making.

There was a bunch of apocalyptic movies in the 90s exploiting the vibes surrounding the approaching millennium. As it happened, the latter part of the 90s was relatively stable. The late 80s and early 90s saw the fall of Iron Curtain and communism relegated to the dustbin of history. There were economic good times under Clinton, who was a ‘new kind of Democrat’. There was the rise of Tony Blair in UK too. It was as though the right vs. left dichotomy was a thing of the past. Clinton was a free market globalist liberal who could work with conservatives in congress. With the rise of internet stocks, it seemed as though most Americans would become prosperous. As the 90s progressed, many believed the US was ‘building a bridge to the 21st century.’ Clinton was even called the ‘first black president’, as though race no longer mattered. We could almost forget about the Gulf War, the LA riots, and the Oklahoma bombing. Crime rates were falling. NY, once considered irreversibly in decline, was again a safe place to live. Of course, there was the threat of terrorism, but Americans shrugged off the first attack on the twin towers in the 90s. The fact that the towers had stood the test and the culprits apprehended and brought to justice made most Americans feel safe and invincible. There were some major bombings overseas–most notably in Africa–, but the world wasn’t much alarmed as, well, the third world was the third world–as usual. As long as we could occasionally lob missiles at nations like Afghanistan or Sudan, we thought we were safe. More troubling for us was the disintegration of the deal between Israelis and Palestinians. Perhaps, that was a portent of things to come.
Anyway, most of us were in a celebrating mood as the new year/decade/century/millennium dawned. So, all those Hollywood films about the End of Days or Armageddon were made and watched in jest; it was more like an apocalyptic chic than anxiety about what might REALLY happen. (Similarly, radical chic has always been for the privileged secure in their belief that the revolution would never touch their lives.) We felt so secure and strong that even the idea of the sky-falling-down was part of the cool celebration; we hyped it as though to mock it. So, we had movies about satan’s evil plans, an asteroid about to tear Earth a new arsehole, or some other concoction about everything blowing up reeeeaaaaaal good. They were nothing more than cinematic fireworks, pure popcorn movies. 2000 came around, people celebrated around the world, and all seemed well. To be sure, the stock market tumbled, but most Americans felt it was a momentary lull to pull back from the excesses of the 90s, the hip-hop age. So, we ended up with a ‘humble’ president in the man of George W. Bush. We looked to a period of stability, sobriety, and slow-down before things would start booming again.

But, then 9/11 happened. The feeling of invincibility went out the window. The stock market fell even more. But, Americans, being Americans, rallied and supported the lightening war against Afghanistan and achieved quick victory. It was as though America would own the 21st century. The attacks on 9/11 gave US the moral capital to use its force around the world.
But, then came Iraq. Bush wanted to be a man for the ages. He gambled and lost–at least in the short term. He couldn’t have given a better present to anti-Americans, leftists, and Islamic radicals. Even his supporters grew embarrassed of their commander-in-chief and then, even of the military, and began to harbor doubts about American power around the world. Oddly enough, genuine apocalyptic fears reached critical mass only after 2003. The Iraq war was the catalyst–not only because of the long-drawn-out war and political complications in Iraq, but because of the moral revulsion created by Abu Gharib, Guantanamo, and the issue of torture–, but there were other factors too.

Being out of power politically, leftists and liberals–who control the media, academia, and entertainment–grew angry and unhinged and produced books, music, and movies whose purpose was to make Americans and the world feel disgusted at America-under-Bush as much as possible–politically, diplomatically, militarily, culturally, morally, environmentally, etc.
The Katrina disaster was everything rolled into one–fears about global warming, unpreparedness of our government, racial tensions, ineffectiveness of Bush, national disconnect among regions, the divisions between ‘haves and have-nots’, etc. Liberals and leftists had a field day making, turning it into a secular version of ‘god punished us for our sins’. It was their Noah’s Ark story... from which we needed a Messiah(and guess who?).
In the 90s, with Clinton at the helm, Hollywood gave us stuff like "The American President" and "The Contender". With Bush as president and Congress dominated by the GOP, leftists and liberals in the media were determined to make as many Americans hate their own country as much as possible. The main reason why young people have turned overwhelmingly liberal in the last several years is because they depend on popular culture and celebrity news for information on much of anything. For most young people, the Bourne Trilogy, Matrix movies, V for Vendetta, articles in Rolling Stone ragazine, statements by Rock stars, TV talk shows, MTV, and etc. are the source of their worldview. Initially, due to 9/11, leftists and liberals were restrained in their anti-Americanism, but Bush’s Iraq misadventure gave them an opening. As the war dragged on and disgusted even many American conservatives who felt duped by Bush and his ‘neo-con cabal’, the leftist and liberal attacks on Bush’s America grew stronger and gained momentum. Even superstar conservative film makers gave us a pretty bleak vision of the world. Mel Gibson’s "Passion of the Christ" was blistering and bleak, not a movie to feel good about. His next film, "Apocalypto" was about the corruption and fall of a civilization intoxicated with hubris and arrogance. And, his drunken meltdown did severe damage to his career in a Jew-dominated industry. Clint Eastwood made two excellent films–Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima–, but they weren’t rah-rah movies by any means. They were defeated at the box-office, and conservatives had little to rally around–not their president, no cultural figures, no nothing... except some blustering talk radio hosts becoming more irrelevant by the day as they’d thrown their lot with Dubya.

For many people, it really seemed like US was helplessly on the ropes. That the so-called mightiest nation was hopelessly mired in a poor and desperate country made many people lose confidence. And, Bush increasingly seemed like an idiot or buffoon, incapable of even stringing together simple sentences. He had talked tough like a Texan cowboy before the war on Iraq, but as the war dragged on, he sounded more like a retarded dummy on someone’s lap.
Just when US seemed to be in big trouble, we heard more news about the rise of China. Trade deficits were going through the roof. And, national borders were utterly broken. If patriotic conservatives were unable to do anything about the Invasion by foreign illegals–a problem plaguing Europe as well–, was there a future for the Western world?
There was a true cloud of apocalyptic fears gathering in our culture and politics. If the pre-2000 apocalyptic films were in jest, films since the Iraq War took on genuinely dark overtones and conveyed the real possibility of an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic landscape.
It was this sense of malaise which laid the ground for Obama’s rise. Though a cheap, dirty, thuggish, and self-promoting Chicago machine politician–and black nationalist and stealth Marxist radical–, he had the fortune of being handpicked by the super-rich and super-powerful liberal and leftwing Jews who run the national media, culture, and academia to run as the New Hope of mankind. Of course, many sappy white gentiles loved him too, especially the privileged ones whose socio-historical consciousness was formed in schools taught by liberals and by PBS documentaries and Hollywood films that give us the impression that blacks are inherently nobler than the insipid, bland, and generic honkeys.

If white girls voted for Obama out of political jungle fever, white boys voted for him because they’d been castrated into metro-sexual faggoty-ass dweebdom.
But, there was a political, spiritual, and cultural climate for this kind of CHANGE. There was a sense that Clinton had ultimately failed us in the 90s. US grew richer but the boom did end in bust, and Clinton was no moral exemplar. So, Hillary couldn’t convince people that she represented something new. As for Bush’s compassionate conservatism, it turned out to be socialism-with-tax-cuts-for-the-rich; as for his cautious and humble foreign policy, oh well. As for McCain, he looked old and mummified. He didn’t have the look and spirit of something new. So, there was Obama. By going with Obama, Americans could pretend to be back in the year 2000, starting the millennium anew. It’s as though we’d made a mistake in 2000 by going with Bush–not that Gore would have been any better. They were both insipid white males. Of course, many Americans are wary of black politicians and black folks, but Obama looked and sounded special. He had some of that black soulfulness without coming across as aggressive and intimidating; he mastered the art of Oprah’s pompous fatass bullshittery which melts the hearts–and minds–of stupid white dupes who dream of a Great Black Hope who’s worthy of admiration and respect and not out to intimidate or beat up. He seemed intense without really being angry. He seemed smart without being intellectual. To be sure, he’s a pompous, self-centered, narcissistic, and insufferable jiveass motherfuc*ing jerk, but in this Age of the Celebrity, that sort of thing sells.

Anyway, Obama is the fantasy voodoo doll that will supposedly erase our memory of the past 8 yrs, or even 16 or 20 yrs. It will be the end of apocalyptic fears, and the start of something new–or so Americans(and fools around the world)think. With the economic catastrophe–largely caused by liberal Jewish finance capitalistss who supported Obama and have much to gain from Obama’s administration–, people want some kind of relief, new sign of hope.
So, what is the nature or mood of our apocalyptic anxieties? Consider a film like "Children of Men". Though far from a great film, it frighteningly depicted a plausible scenario of total social breakdown. It really presents a vision of hell and effectively exploits all our fears–low birthrates among whites, illegal invasion, terrorism, state power, militarism, mob rule, etc. Also, it’s documentary style makes us feel trapped and claustrophobic. Events seem unpredictable and real than staged and choreographed. In its cluttered and chaotic universe, Hollywood suspense is an unaffordable luxury. Things happen or they don’t. You get shot or you don’t–but you’re bound to be hit sooner or later. "Children of Men" is ultimately a sensationalistic, trashy, and shallow, but it’s impossible to shake off its harrowing effects. Some people have compared "Children of Men" with "Blade Runner", but the comparison is fundamentally flawed because the world of "Blade Runner", though dark, is fascinating and awe-inspiring( and cool) rather than revolting or repulsive. I can imagine fans of Blade Runner wanting to visit the world of Tyrell corporation and the replicants, but who’d want to spend a single minute in the world of Alfonso Cuaron’s film? So, at the very least, Cuaron succeeded in creating a genuinely unnerving apocalyptic landscape.

Two other films of comparable style and effect are "Cloverfield" and "Diary of the Dead". Neither is great by any stretch of the imagination but both are effective in the way of "Children of Men". They both convey horror and despair beyond the scope of crowd-pleasing spectacles.
Cloverfield is post-9/11(and the Iraq War) as "Independence Day" and "Pearl Harbor"–and the End of Days films of the 90s–are pre-9/11. When NY and the White House were blown up in "Independence Day", the audience cheered–not out of anti-Americanism but out of incredulity. And, audiences who flocked to see "Pearl Harbor" felt safely distanced from the actual event and marveled at it as movie theme park. Movies like Titanic and Pearl Harbor, though apocalyptic in tone, tended to be hopeful, romantic, and grandiose. Okay, so US was attacked by the ‘Japs’ and thousands died. Never mind the grisly details and just get your kicks out of all those special effects; besides, we know US won WWII anyway. As for Titanic, the jaw-dropping special effects overwhelmed the fact that people were getting killed in the disaster; besides, Celine Dion’s song and the love story made it all so meaningful and sweeping. Also, it too is set in the past, and we know the world survived WWI, WWII, and the Cold War since the Titanic disaster; as such, it was an exercise in nostalgia as well as a celebration of the latest movie techno-gizmo in cinema.
Films such as these were specifically made to be crowd-pleasers. When buildings blow up in "Independence Day", we are not expected to visualize or think of actual people dying inside them. We were meant to look upon them as ‘cool effects’.

But, I doubt if anyone was laughing or cheering when NY is struck by calamity in "Cloverfield". When we see a building fall in the distance, it reminds us of what happened on 9/11. And, the home video style keeps us close to and on the vulnerable level of the characters; we have no superiority-of-safety over them–other than the fact that we are not actually there.
The weakest part of the movie is the monster itself, awesome though it is. Somehow the realism of the home video is undercut by the existence of something so far-out and grotesque.(It’s as though a Noah Baumbach film got invaded by Godzilla). But, the style carries the movie through, especially since the focus of the film is about survival and cooperation than monsters wreaking havoc. We remain close to the characters, almost as if we are being-john-malkoviched through each of them.

In a movie like "Independence Day" or the far superior "War of the Worlds"(Spielberg), the spectacular style diminishes the human dimensions. We become impressed with the pop-wagnerian spectacle and, as a result, happy to sacrifice our sympathy with ant-like humans. This was the moral argument against Star Wars and LOR film from certain quarters. Not that Lucas or Jackson personally endorses the destruction of millions, but the vastness of their narrative canvas reduces the destruction of entire worlds into mere afterthoughts. We don’t have such luxury in "Cloverfield" and "Diary of the Dead". We cannot marvel at the awesomeness of something blowing up or crashing down in "Cloverfield" without it affecting our characters–rather badly. There is no safe vantage point to which we can cut in and out of.
When 9/11 happened, many people said it looked like a movie–where violence looks real but no one gets hurt. Secure in our knowledge that no one actually dies, it’s easy to be seduced by the nihilism of movie violence; the style takes precedence over the moral substance of a violent act(after all, it’s all fake, right?) We’d long felt a disassociation between the imagery of destruction and its physical outcome. Being mostly familiar with movie disasters, we’ve come to regard calamities as something created in a magic factory. But, people were confronted with the fact that on 9/11, real people were getting burned, falling out of buildings, getting buried under the rubble, etc. 9/11 forced many Americans to rethink violence, tragedies, and even heroism. We’d all grown accustomed to movie heroes of superhuman power always coming out on top. Oliver Stone’s film WTC showed us that even the toughest and bravest Americans–firemen, policemen, etc–are only human, and that true heroism is quiet and resilient. (Sadly, it was a flop, and again, we have movies like "Dark Knight" making gazillions from morons hooked on Hollywood fantasies–and plunking down their hard-earned cash only to make Liberal Jews who run that empire richer and richer). Perhaps, people in other nations who’ve experienced greater calamities first hand have a different view of reality and history–on the other hand, the popularity of mindless Hollywood movies all over the world indicates that all peoples have short memories and trouble with the truth. (Most disturbing of all is the flippant and nihilistic treatment of nuclear disasters and earthquakes in Japanese anime.)
The core conceit of "Cloverfield" negates the luxury of perceptual detachment in favor of spectacle over characters. We are forced to accept that it is a home video of people navigating through a frightening urban landscape; it’s kinda like "Metropolitan" crossed with "The Warriors"(or perhaps "Open City")–with a bit of "Saving Private Ryan" thrown in for good measure.

As such, everything we see is fixed at the human level. There can be no montage to a non- or supra-human angle for the purposes of aestheticism or a ‘cool’ view.
Of course, the whole thing was conceived and executed for effect, mainly for a fresher kind of chills and thrills for young moviegoers bored with most conventions. No one’s looking for anything natural or truthful in "Cloverfield". It could even be argued it is less honest than your average Hollywood movie which comes with no pretensions except to entertain and rake in the money.
Still, the ground rules set by "Cloverfield" makes greater interest than on average.
For starters, the visuals, always attuned to the characters’ will to survive and help one another, don’t carry the implicit baggage of nihilism contained in the third person perspective; there are no ‘interruptions’ of unfolding events with fancy editing, slow-motion, and other tricks which accentuate style over content. Because our access to reality is only through our characters, we share their vulnerability every step of the way. It is this sense of being trapped in time and space with an handful of characters that increases the level of apocalyptic anxiety. There is a sense of a calamity too big for the human senses and mind to process. We feel like human insects–quite different than looking down on people as insects; looking down on people-as-ants, we smugly share god’s perspective.

In reality, a cut in space or time from one perspective to another is simply not possible; everyone is trapped in his own reality. Most movies are constructed of many perspectives, both subjective and ‘objective’. As such, the viewer almost gains the perceptive power of a god or, at least, an angel.
To be sure, access to multiple perspectives can make the viewer feel even more helpless and terrified as in the famous scene in "Alien", which cuts back and forth between a group of people tracking the whereabouts of the monster and a man unawares in a tunnel. But, the conventional movie with third person perspective can always cut to a safe haven no matter what; it is based on the notion of the invincible, or at least, the innumerable camera. In "Cloverfield", there is only one camera, which underlines the fact that everyone has only one life. As with "Blair Witch Project", there is and can be no reality outside or beyond the camera. The camera in "Blair Witch Project" or "Cloverfield" is mortal and vulnerable. It breathes, runs, lives, and dies along with its handler.

If Blair Witch Project was a cheapie indie film, "Cloverfield", despite its ‘simple’ conceit, is surely an expensive film. It is all the more remarkable for this fact for it has seamlessly interwoven the expensively outlandish with the ‘cheaply’ realistic. Because of the dogged consistency of its style–and the dedication and talent of its actors–, genuine anxiety and horror are maintained throughout. Some may condemn it as a case of Hollywood appropriating indie techniques for no other purpose than to make a buck, but it isn’t the first nor will it be the last.
Something about "Cloverfield" both annoyed and inspired me. Its cast of characters are in their late teens or early 20s. They are the children of yuppies of the late 80s and early 90s. They are privilege born of privilege; they register as zeroes. They are realistic enough, which is the very problem; our society has a lot of well-educated and overly privileged drones. They talk a lot but have nothing to say. They are post-everything. Post-conservative, post-liberal, post-ideological, post-post-modern, etc, etc. We know that many kids of yuppies go to fancy schools, learn from privileged radical professors, and even put on radical airs themselves, but they are, foremost, children of privilege satiated and bored with privilege–and even bored with being bored with privilege.. The kids in "Cloverfield" are the shallowest and most rootless bunch of people; they’re too hip to be snobby but they’re also too hip to be hip. They are ‘nice’ and ‘tolerant’ and into ‘diversity’. They’re mildly ‘correct’ in a privileged world where certain disaffected attitudes are the price of admission. They are also the most self-absorbed bunch of insipid fools I’d ever seen. The guys are mostly like clones of Ethan Hawke, who mastered this type of post-everything personality on film. The girls are mostly insipid twits who chit-chat airhead crap.
The first 1/4 of the film takes place at a yuppie-junior party, and it’s convincing enough as social document. Indeed, had the monster never materialized, the entire film might have made a decent enough flick about the lives of today’s privileged youths–an annoying but truthful enough film.

But, when the monster comes and terrorizes the city, the kids are forced to muster their courage and stamina, and the transformation is convincing enough to win some of our respect. It goes to show that inside every dork and twit, there is something nobler than the habit of checking the cell phone every 10 minutes. (Nobility, like monstrosity, lies dormant within us, and depressingly, only tragedy can awaken and bring it to life. We have to look at the devil in the eye to realize the angel within us.)
As the city crumbles all around them, they are forced to put aside their boutique-zen disaffectedness and awaken as feeling/thinking adults.
When the film began, the kids acted like they were too cool even to be cool, too beat even to be beat, etc--as though they were beyond both passion and dispassion. They didn’t even have the hippie’s dedication to being laid-back or the snob’s delight in greater wealth or higher status. The core of their privilege is being oh-so-nonchalant about their privileged status. The 60s youth had idealism, even if stupid. The 70s were about enjoying the new freedoms and lifestyles won in the 60s. The 80s were thrilled with lower taxes, booming economy, and the new patriotism. Everything began to get tiresome in the 90s. Hip-hop was lively but mindless and polarizing. Grunge and other forms of rock music were world-weary deadends. Clinton’s consensus style of politics was satisfactory but not satisfying. The nation was at peace and good times were at hand, but there was no longer any central theme. The theme of the 60s was liberation and rebellion. The theme of the 70s was finishing what began in the 60s and/or working toward a national renewal. The theme of the 80s was saving the economy and defeating the Evil Empire. The 90s were a good decade but a theme-less decade. Sure, Clinton reduced crime by throwing many more negroes in jail than any previous president and enacted welfare reform, but those things failed to engage the ‘spiritual’ passions of the people. As for Bush, no one could really take him seriously, and his comparison of himself with Churchill and Truman seemed funny as hell.

And now, even as the world faces great new challenges, many of our privileged lived in the Francis-Fukuyama-ist -End of History–not the apocalyptic kind but the anti-climactic triumphal kind where liberal democracy is supposed to have won the battle of history and ideas. So, there is utter dispassion among the privileged kids we see in "Cloverfield". Even though or precisely because the world is more connected than ever, today’s urban young are cocooned in their cool fanciful world with all sorts of gadgets and goodies. Even as the working class and lower-middle class Americans have faced stagnant wages, the urban professional class has seen tremendous rise in their wealth and privileges. "Cloverfield" is about the children of the professional liberal yuppie class. These are the people who voted for Obama because he fit their ideal of the privileged-mandarin-celebrity-narcissistic-yuppie-professional-who’s-supposed-to-be-post-everything. It’s post-radical chic.
They have this ‘been there, done that attitude’. And, this sensibility is partly, I believe, the product of our increasingly connected and electronic age. With cell phones, global internet access, a zillion images and sounds downloadable from all over the world, with endless sources of news, there is a sense that everything has been seen, heard, shared, experienced, and felt. Nothing is fresh or exciting to these kids hooked via their ipods to the global village all day and night. Every corner of the world has been explored and mapped out; Google Earth allows any dork or twit to fly all around the world. With advances in psychology and tell-all/share-all talk shows, there is also a sense that we’ve heard of every hang-up, every break-up, every possible social or emotional neurosis. And, having avoided a truly grave economic downturn for so many decades, there’s a sense that everything will turn out alright in the end. Also, with the rise of shamelessness–Jerry Springer, declaring bankruptcy, mainstreaming of porn, etc,–there’s nothing to culturally shock us anymore. And, with things like myspace and what have you, everyone has his 15 gigabytes of celebrity. Even celebrity culture has become a parody in the age of Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith–and when just about anyone can effectively ape those idiots via youtube or the internet. But, even parody has become tiresome and lame.
And, in a world where kids of all background get along–at least within certain socio-economic circles–, there is little urgency about social progress. So, that’s the kind of reality we see in the first part of "Cloverfield". A bunch of nice kids who are annoying as hell because they are not committed to anything. Not that it’s their fault; it’s just the nature of the age they’ve grown up in.

Anyway, the kids are shaken out of their doldrums by this monster that wreaks havoc on NY. The monster is less important that what it forces out of the characters–reach deep within to find unknown reservoirs of strength. Of course, the whole movie can be seen as just another exercise in youth narcissism. As if being privileged weren’t enough, young people today have to be flattered as closet-heroes who would stand up to any challenge! So, the film begins with a bunch of comfortably privileged and numb kids, but we come to see them act with toughness, resilience, determination, and camaraderie.
When the monster first attacks, it reminds us of 9/11. But, the prolonged assault on the city and the mounting difficulties remind us of the Iraq War. And, as the kids huddle under a collapsing bridge in the final scene, they might as well be Iraqi civilians hiding from US bombing. Perhaps, the film is saying that US was struck by monstrousness on 9/11, but we then morphed into a monster of our own making. In our anger, we unleashed ‘shock and awe’ assault on Iraq; we too released a monster on another city.
Anyway, for all its conceit and bogus nature, "Cloverfield" is a gripping film. And, its amateur home video style restrained the visual and audio gratuitousness so routine across the blockbuster movie landscape. Big movies are saturation-bombed with an excess of visual trickery and auditory madness. Every sound roars like thunder or rumbles like an avalanche. A pin drop sounds like an hammer hitting the anvill. A whistle sounds like a supersonic jet. And, digitally tweaked slo-mo, the fancy acrobatic editing, CGI trickery, ludicrous action choreography, and so on, while technically dazzling and impressive, are more often than not mind-numbing sensory overloads. "Cloverfield" is pretty mindless as material but interesting as execution. It has the immediacy of real events and is reasonably compelling as a human story. Of course, if this becomes the new staple in Hollywood, it’ll be just as dreary as what we generally have now.

Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with any filmic approach. Personally, I think Peter Jackson’s "King Kong" is magnificent for what it is. But, who can deny that most movies use technology to serve a formula than a vision? If I’m not mistaken, "Cloverfield" was, at the very least, made by someone with fresh ideas. And, it’s not disgraceful.
For some viewers, George Romero’s "Diary of the Dead" may be the most interesting film. Romero has a reputation as an intellectual in some circles, and critics have regarded his zombie films as satire on one thing or the other. Personally, I think Romero has made one great film–"Night of the Living Dead"–, one highly interesting film–"Martin"–, and then mostly garbage. "Diary of the Dead" is a return to form of sorts though Romero is treading much the same ground. Like Stallone with Rocky and Lucas with Star Wars, Romero seems incapable of box office success outside his original formula.
Many horror flick fans will, of course, defend "Dawn of the Dead" as a great movie, and it has a special place in my memory–I first saw it as an highly impressionable kid. But, I’ve revisited that film, and every re-viewing has diminished its worth. With zombies pretty much ruling the world, the story has nowhere to go. "Dawn" is somewhat interesting as a survival game of logistics and strategy, but it’s essentially "Night" expanded into a franchise; fittingly, it’s set in a shopping mall . As for "Day of the Dead" and "Land of the Dead", they were not even fun as trash. .

There are obvious problems with the zombie scenario. Just how can zombies take over the world when they are slow-moving and easy to spot? What with Americans owning 100s of millions of guns, you’d think every zombie would be shot within seconds of coming into view. This is why "Night of the Living Dead" is plausible within the logic of zombie universe. Zombies may take over an isolated community. But, they are bound to lose to lots of men with guns, and that’s how the movie fitfully ends. But, we are asked to suspend more than disbelief when zombies quickly take over the world in Dawn. With "Day" and "Land", it seems 99.9% of the planet is ruled by zombies. How?
It is for this reason that Romero has finally done it right with "Diary of the Dead". No, it was not worth doing, but if had to be done again, this was the ONLY way. To be sure, zombies seem to gradually gain the advantage, but the shock and uncertainty make for ‘spiritual’ malaise as well as physical horror. A movie where zombies rule over everything just isn’t interesting–just like a bodysnatcher movie with everyone as a pod person. The problem with Dawn, Dead, and Land is the zombies have won already; with only a few humans left, all that’s possible is internal bickering or a shooting gallery of horrors. (Of course, one could argue that Romero’s larger point is humans defeat themselves than are defeated by the zombies. If people all unite and work together, zombies ought to be no problem. But, humans fall prey to greed, desperation, cowardice, egocentrism, pride, envy, etc, and as such are incapable of working together. So, it’s not so much zombies beating humans so much as humans freaking out and defeating themselves, whereupon zombies take over from humans’ self-destruction. Recall that in "Dawn", humans fought humans in the mall, and in the end, the zombies unwittingly took the whole prize. Perhaps, one could drawn an analogy with the Roman Empire where the more advanced Romans couldn’t hold back the Germanic tide because of internal divisions. And, perhaps the same could be said of Europe and US today. Though richer and more powerful than the rest of the world, the internal divisions–liberal vs conservative, men vs women, atheist vs religious, etc–make it nearly impossible for the people of either Europe or US to come together to confront the threats of illegal immigration, cultural rot(such as zombie movies), and the like. Of course, Romero is politically on the left, but one can understand why his movies are so popular with right-wing nuts.)

In ‘Night of the Living Dead" and "Diary of the Dead", the process of the world becoming zombified is a novelty worthy of shock, horror, debate, and anxiety. In "Day of the Dead", in contrast, there is only the prospect of physical horror. In "Night of the Living Dead" and "Diary of the Dead", we ask the question, ‘why is this happening?’ By "Dawn" and "Day" came around, ‘it’ had happened already, and there wasn’t anything else to do but shoot zombies by the bushel.
Still, zombie films shouldn’t raise too many questions, and "Diary" suffers as a result. I said young people in "Cloverfield" talk a lot but have almost nothing to say. It’s worse in "Diary" where every word is nonsensical, ludicrous, precious, moronic, pretentious, pregnant, and annoying. The worst offender is the leading female character who’s supposed to be the model of ‘the strong intelligent female.’ Ideals are always less interesting than Reals. Then, there is the film professor, an Englishman, who seems have an inkling--philosophical, spiritual, intellectual, social, and political–as to why the dead are walking again but cannot be bothered to share his wisdom; he talks in riddles as though he can’t be bothered with anything resembling simple truth. The girl is supposed to represent feminist/American toughness and individualism, the professor is supposed to embody old world experience, patience, and irony. They put on superior airs all throughout the movie, like they know or sense something others–and we–don’t. And, Romero sympathizes with them most. But, I wonder... what is the value of their supposed intellect or insight when confronted with something monstrously raw and savage? The only option is to survive, and ideas seem trivial. (Of course, Romero fans can argue that the professor and the feminist girl have superior qualities. The girl is both tough and adaptable, intelligent and intuitive. And, the professor is smart enough to understand that a lot of things are unknowable, and therefore, one’s intellect should try to find ways around things than try to access their inner truth–which is like opening pandora’s box. The professor’s attitude seems to be that people, being what they are, will always open pandora’s boxes everywhere–political, scientific, social, economic, religious, etc–, and dire problems will ALWAYS plague our world. So, the thing to do is to keep one’s cool, maintain’s one’s sanity amidst insanity--by accepting insanity as the natural order among humans--, not be surprised or shocked by anything, and try to find the best way possible to maintain one’s small oasis of safety and peace.)

Romero always put on pompous airs. So, he had a one-legged black guy in the beginning of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ say, ‘when the dead walk, we must stop the killing’. What does that mean within the context of zombies coming back to life to eat people?
Preachy spiritual or philosophical meaning is impossible in such context. If a tiger wants to eat you and your friends, what sense does it make for you guys to debate the meaning of life or the cosmic injustices of the world? Just get away. This is why "Night of the Living Dead" made moral sense. The characters don’t debate about some larger meaning; they register shock and horror at what’s happening and then get down to the messy art of survival.
But, already by "Dawn of the Dead", Romero was acting all pompous, as if his gore fest was onto some deeper meaning. So, he had the black guy say stuff like, "my grandfather told me... when there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth." Oh really? Actually, Romero’s bullshit began even with "Night of the Living Dead". The lone surviving black guy is ACCIDENTALLY shot dead by white townsmen, yet the grim final still images invoke the Jewish holocaust and lynching. But, the killing was accidental. The white gunman thought the black dude was a zombie. Romero unconvincingly tried to add a layer of social meaning to his movie, as though "Night" had something to teach us about racial oppression, genocide, and perhaps Vietnam. This was utterly unnecessary.

All the commentary about the nature of man was there in the story itself. The irony of "Night" is that zombies, though ravenous and mindless, get along fine with one another whereas humans fight and kill one another for power and egomania. At the very least, there is a kind of zen-like unity among zombies. They may attack the living but merely out of a need to eat, not to commit acts of evil. Humans, on the other hand, kill for reasons other than food. And, in both "Night of the Living Dead" and "Diary of the Dead", conflicting egos try to mask their power hunger with moral or philosophical justification. Worst by far, according to Romero, are the people who take a special pleasure in killing or using violence. Both "Night" and "Diary" end with grim images of rednecks who enjoy the killing of zombies. For such folks, killing zombies is not a necessity but a sport. Zombies, for all their grisly habits, don’t enjoy what they do; they are rather like alligators who eat cuz they have to eat. Humans, on the other hand, can take special delight in using violence to maim and kill. (I hope Romero is being somewhat self-critical because his zombie films are exercises in gory excess as pleasure.)
But, there’s something simple-minded and bigoted about Romero’s view of people. Notice that almost all the repulsive characters in his movies are white rednecks or biker types(or white militarist goons).

In contrast, blacks and females are generally positive forces. For a white guy to be decent, he must be passive or nearly ascetic–and abandon all ‘imperialist’ or ‘patriarchal’ claims upon the world. (There are almost no hispanics in Romero’s films by the way). You’d think blacks are incapable of acting insane, brutal, or sadistic. Romero still sees racial reality through the sixties of radical revolution. So, we have a sympathetic portrait of the black looter-survivalists in "Diary of the Dead". The black guy takes pride in the mini-empire he’s built up since the social panic. He justifies his empire of loot as won through opportunity that had been lacking under normal circumstances. There are several problems with this. Why would the zombie crisis affect blacks any less? Why wouldn’t they panic and scatter too, instead of building up an impressive warehouse fortress? Just compare New Orleans after Katrina and Iowa after the massive floods. Looks likes white folks handled the crisis much better. And, look at the fate of Africa. Blacks ended up with LESS after the whites were forced to flee amidst the political crises. The idea that blacks will only have an opportunity to own things for themselves upon the demise of the ‘white order’ is a stupid myth. Blacks in America are the richest in the world because they participate in the socio-economic order created by white-and-Jewish folks. There are tons of great athletes in Africa, but most of them are poor because Africa doesn’t have whites and Jews to build up and manage sports enterprises. Just look at the fate of inner city communities. They always turned worse when non-blacks fled and left it all up to blacks. Blacks can take and rob things, but they generally have been unable to build, maintain, and produce things.

If "Diary" had been set in 19th century or even the first half of the 20th century, there may some validity to the notion of ‘radical’ solutions for the advancement of blacks. But, this is 2008. Blacks have taken over entire communities and have run them to the ground. They riot and loot almost at will. Most big cities are at least 50% controlled by blacks; some are even 80-90% black. And, we need only to listen to rappers and black thugs to know there’s no shortage of blacks who take pleasure in rape, murder, mayhem, cruelty, sadism, dog-fighting, and insanity. So, why does Romero keep pretending that the biggest louts in America today are small town rednecks? It shows that Romero is a tiresome 60s radical still living in the past or a politically correct coward who’s afraid to deal with today’s reality as it is.

On some level, Romero must know that his zombie concept is pretty stupid and limited. But, he’s never been content to be just another horror movie maker. He has delusions of being a thinker, a philosopher, a satirist, and intellectual. Worse, there are enough dupes and idiots in the film community–and elsewhere–who agree. "Night of the Living Dead" is worth thinking about because Romero dwells on the action and lets the view to think on his own. But since "Night", Romero has been thinking for us. Since zombies pretty much won the battle starting with "Dawn of the Dead", only two options were left for Romero: mounting gore or idle philosophizing.
The setting of "Dawn" have led many people to see it as a satire on consumerism. But how? Do zombies represent the mad consumer in us? So, do the surviving humans represent resistance against consumerism? But, they seem rather content in the shopping mall. And, the mall comes under attack by a goon of bikers who seem to care only about consuming too. The more you think about it, the less sense it makes. If humans and zombies are both into consuming, what’s the point?

The problem with zombie-as-metaphor is it can be applied to just about anything. So, zombies can stand for herd-like consumers, herd-like religious fanatics, herd-like revolutionaries(as in "Land of the Dead"), and so on. A metaphor so alleable is worthless. I suspect Romero is saying the world is filled with two kinds of people–the mindless mob who just follow the instinct of the herd(zombies) and the cunning predators with cruel appetite for power and cruelty(people who cling to or seek power in the new chaos). In between these two types are the chosen few who are capable of being free. In this sense, Romero’s philosophy has shades of libertarianism. In "Dawn", "Day", and "Land", both the zombies with their mindless appetite for human flesh and the humans with cunning lust for power are presented as pretty negative. The only good people are a few individuals who seek their little sanctuary of peace and freedom. They aren’t saints but they don’t want nor need anything beyond what they need to survive; they are not after power or control. Also, they only kill zombies in order to survive, not to take cruel or sadistic pleasure in the massacre–as the biker gang in "Dawn" and rednecks in "Night" and "Diary" do. So, I suppose the black guy in "Dawn" is supposed to be the superior sort of guy because he does whatever is necessary to survive, but he doesn’t get worked up in egomania–like the white guy who takes risks and gets bitten–and the copter pilot who becomes so attached to the mall as his precious property that he starts a war with the bikers. Perhaps, it is this libertarian streak which has attracted both members of the right and left to Romero’s zombie films. Though Romero is clearly on the leftist side of the political spectrum, his films can be appreciated as a survivalist tract for rightists and a guerilla tract for leftists. Both Che/Mao worshipping guerilla romantics and gun-loving militia movement types can identify with the band of freedom-seekers in the zombie films.

The zombie metaphor is comprehensive enough to be applied to the rise of the internet. In "Diary of the Dead", it’s implied that the development of digital technology and the internet has led to a kind of zombie-ization of information. Prior to the internet age, information was controlled by the major networks and newspapers. But, digital technology and online information sites have expanded like crazy–like the population of zombies. And, internet zombies have been devouring the old institutions of information and truth; just look at the decline and fall of newspapers, publishing companies, music industry, and even the film industry. Romero sees both healthy democratization and mindless lobotomization(in a zombie-like fashion). Notice that zombies defeat death and come back to life–a miracle of miracles–only to be animal-like in their appetite. Similarly, it could be said that we’ve finally arrived at a ‘utopian’ democratic community of information gathering and creative access... only to indulge in our worst appetites; consider the prevalence of porn, idiot blogs, nutty posts, false rumors, subcultural trash, celebrity wanna-be narcissism, etc on the web. More ‘people power’ hasn’t necessarily translated to greater truth or higher beauty. In many ways, it has led to more vulgarity, mindlessness, and lunacy. We blame politicians for social problems, but if we came to rule society ourselves, would we be better off? Not if society ends up like the online world.
"Diary of the Dead" is not a necessary movie, but finally Romero re-captured some of the old magic. I felt the same way about "Rocky Balboa" which, though unnecessary, is the only Rocky sequel that made any sense(except when Rocky gets in the ring with Tarver). The first Rocky movie was special not for the fight but for the affecting life story of a palooka in Philadelphia. And, "Rocky Balboa" restores that intimacy and warm quality–so lacking in parts III, IV, and V.
Like "Rocky Balboa", "Diary" is a return to roots, which is all the more welcome since "Night" derived its power from its stark simplicity. This material is best served by docu-horror or home-video approach. The idea of flesh-eating zombies isn’t much in terms of visual possibility; the zombie either eats you or you bash its head in. The effectiveness of the idea relies on the incredible nature of the fact itself–which is why the story is only compelling in its early stages when the shock factor is still there–and the fear of zombies appearing out of nowhere. (Once zombies take over the whole planet, they are always popping out of somewhere than nowhere.) The home video style is perfectly suited for this material. It’s too bad that Romero went ‘epic’ with sequels such as "Dawn", "Day", and "Land". A Big Splashy movie about zombies roaming about and eating people or getting their heads blown off is pointless. This material has to be on the level of the B-movie or home-video. Also, the diary-aspect of the movie keeps it on the personal level instead of getting lost in logistics or overloaded on satirics. The unfortunate satirical and philosophical aspects of "Diary" are thankfully sidestepped–mostly anyway–by the mood of mounting horror. Also, the mostly rural setting makes for powerful contrasts between peaceful lull and horrific violence. Romero is most effective is when he situates us in an idyllic setting where the air is crisp, trees are green, meadows are pretty, and then... we see the living dead lumbering out of the woods or from behind the barn. The contrast of heaven and hell which is unnerving. In a movie like "Day" or "Land" where every inch of Earth is hell, no amount of gore or ugliness disturbs us–though it certainly upset us–or our stomachs. "Diary", like "Night", really gets under our skin. It really looks like something that shouldn’t be happening is actually happening.

The digital hand-held camera style of filmmaking has really caught on. But why? Why didn’t the Arriflex camera have as great an impact. Except for the early films of French New Wave, 60s Cassavettes, cinema verite–which fell out of style in documentary filmmaking–, and few others, the hand held Arriflex style was not favored among filmmakers–and the shaky imagery was rejected by most filmgoers who found it dizzying and headache-inducing.
The New Wave directors all settled for steady camera positions and smooth camera movements as they matured, Cassavettes’s fimmaking grew more static, and most indie films prior to the digi-cam era employed traditional camera techniques and set-ups. But, things have changed dramatically since the rise of digi-cam. One possible reason is that digi-cam is so much cheaper than film. Due to the high cost of film stock and development, handheld camera style was surely more prone to produce bad, unusable shots. As such, all filmmakers–Hollywood and independent–probably preferred the safer camera techniques placed on tripods or dollies. But, with the cheap cost of shooting with digi-cam, filmmakers have been able to experiment far more freely and arrive at a shaky style that actually works.
Another reason for the acceptance of shaky style may be MTV and other media forms which popularized the ‘alternative’ visuals for the new generation.
Finally, its acceptance may have something to do with the fact that so many people now own digicams. Everybody has made home movies with shaky styles, and it has become part of how we see reality. In a way, Romero has come full circle. He had once been the odd-man-out, the student filmmaker who made a legendary film with the barest of means. But, he soon turned his idea into the Burger King–if not MacDonalds–of horror. He not only made "Dawn", "Day", and "Land",but franchised both "Night" and "Dawn" to be remade by others. Finally, he’s come back down to ground. Using the simplest of cinematic means, he has re-imagined the story from scratch. And, in its silly but crazy way, it is pretty effective for what it is.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

John Boorman's Excalibur: Paganism into Christianity.

John Boorman’s film Excalibur contrasts the pagan character with Christian consciousness. The story begins with Uther, the brutish warrior who becomes king through sheer might. Uther is like a wolverine. Brave, tough, insatiable. His heart is beastly. He lives, triumphs, and dies as a pagan warrior through and through. For him, there’s no concept of peace or truth beyond this–or his--world. Even with the aid of Merlin, he cannot see anything beyond his appetites and ambitions. He’s suspicious of everyone, and in time, everyone’s suspicious of him. He rules by fear; his followers admire his strength but don’t respect or love him. Even as he dies, he bitterly clings to the magic sword. He screams NO ONE shall wield Excalibur but he. He drives it into a stone from which it can’t be extracted... except, as it turns out, by his son Arthur.
If Uther made himself king through the laws of the jungle, Arthur is favored by higher powers and, as such, is destined for higher things. As soon as he pulls the sword out of the stone, he’s instructed by Merlin that this gift of power must be used wisely and virtuously–morally justified. For Uther, power was like a carcass secured by an hungry predator. Because of the hardship involved in the prize, Uther feels entitled and uses and abuses it anyway he chooses.
Arthur, because the power was handed to him by divine force, feels he must live up to a sacred ideal. Initially, Arthur fights the knights who refuse to acknowledge him as king; he proves his worthiness not only as a warrior but as a man of virtue; he spares the life of one of the great knights who, in turn, feels good vibes emanating from Arthur and pledges loyalty to him.
And, consider how Arthur dies. He doesn’t bitterly cling to life, power, or glory. He doesn’t guard Excalibur for himself to the end. He meets death with peace and calmness. He tells Perceval to return Excalibur to the lady of the lake so that it may rise again for the future king. Christianity is crucial to Arthur’s peace with death and his generosity of heart. He’s in tune with a greater conception of time and humanity.
To be sure, Arthur too is a pagan warrior and rules over a domain that is, at best, only half-Christian. It’s a time when the new religion avails higher wisdom and deeper truth but at the price of man’s vital link to nature and magic. Ultimately, the balance between paganism and Christianity is unsustainable. Warriors are meant to fight, and a world of peace softens and corrupts them.
Arthur, through the fellowship of the Round Table, seeks to maintain a tough, disciplined, and virtuous military order over his peaceful land. But, his knights grow decadent, lazy, and distracted. We may find a parallel in Seven Samurai, where the samurai are at a loss after their great triumph over the bandits. Having restored peace for the peasants, what is the meaning of their existence... except to wait for another dreary opportunity to fight, kill, and perhaps die? And, this was indeed the problem of Japan of the Tokugawa period–when Japan was unified. Without war, many samurai lost their positions. Many turned to gambling , the easy life, and ended up in debt; some even had to sell their swords–the soul of the samurai(powerfully portrayed in Kobayashi’s "Seppuku"–a.k.a "Hara Kiri". It was still a samurai-ruled order but with no need for samurai.
Because of the impossible nature of Arthur’s political/moral order, it too must fall. Arthur’s saving grace is he can let go with peace of heart, something beyond the grasp of his father. Uther was the greater warrior than his son but spiritually a zero. He died pitifully, clinging to physical power to the last. Arthur dies as horrible a death–and at the hands of his wicked son–, but he meets death with honor. And, his example inspires Perceval who, though tempted to keep Excalibur for himself, casts it back into the lake. The theme of victory even in defeat is central to Christianity, and it can be said Arthur triumphs in one sense despite the fall of his kingdom: his virtuous legend will be remembered for all time.
Yet, the passing of warrior paganism also designates the loss of something wondrous and beautiful–for universal laws, the basis of future social order, are generic, and moralism can be dogmatic(as Lancelot-as-Christian-fanatic seems to be at one point.)
Arthur’s dilemma is universal for all non-democratic political leaders seeking to be just. In a world where power is won and held by might, how does one distinguish virtue and weakness, between law and honor? It’s true that Uther took another man’s wife whereas Arthur–in the movie version at least–would not have done so; but, Arthur loses his wife to another. And, when Arthur cannot make himself kill Guinevere and Lancelot, was he being decent or weak? Is virtue possible in a world where might and honor still account for much of the political order?
It’s a question visited upon Western Man in the latter part of 20th century, and it continues to this day. Can Western Man survive by trying to the lone virtuous figure in the world, atoning for all the sins committed in its interests, ideals, and ambitions? Western Man would like to believe that his socio-politico-economic order was based on the highest ideals and beliefs, the most heroic adventures and achievements, but look closely at any history and there is the equivalent of the Uther-Merlin alliance to create the New Order. So, since the end of WWII, especially with the rise of leftwing Jewish power, the West has been filled with little more than self-doubt and self-loathing.
The very dynamic of the relationship between Arthur and Lancelot is problematic. Lancelot pledged his loyalty to Arthur in the mistaken belief that Arthur had fairly beaten him in a fight. Actually, Arthur cheated by improperly using the power of excalibur. Lancelot is the most powerful knight yet comes to believe that Arthur is the mightiest one. Lancelot does come to respect Arthur’s decency and goodness, but it’s still the world of the warrior, where the central basis of power is the sword and martial honor.
Arthur is good, but his goodness may be inappropriate–even foolish–in his world. Also, there is a threat far more sinister and lethal than sword and physical power. Wit can be used for good or evil. Knights may chop off heads, but Morgana poisons the hearts of man. She gains control over them from the inside. Of course, this is complicated by the fact that Merlin, in his wish to do good, has become tainted in his complicity with Uther’s lust and madness. Merlin is a necessarily devious character, rather like Henry Kissinger. In a cruel and ruthless world, he had no choice but to work with what was available. His machinations led to the birth of good king Arthur, but only at the murder of Duke of Cornwall, the rape of his wife, and the fall of kingdoms.
In this sense, Merlin and Arthur made a natural pair. Both tried to do their best with an imperfect world. Arthur is a willing student. Alas, Merlin cannot teach Arthur everything, and if any mortal could see what Merlin could see, he would be filled with doubt and without faith in social order. In a way, Merlin represents both the comedy and tragedy of superior knowledge. It humors him to see people act like children, but it also troubles him to see the sad fate of all things, not least those he helped build.
(Merlin maintains his sanity because he not only has superior knowledge but superior wisdom. The latter gives him the will to carry on despite the futility of all things. A mortal who gains his knowledge may well turn to nihilism since all seem fated to rot and decay; Merlin’s wisdom accepts the rise and fall of all things as a cyclical system. Departing from Arthur’s side, he knows the kingdom is doomed. But, it is not the only one. It is only one of many worlds, all of which will rise and fall and lay the ground for new worlds. Merlin cannot help being attached to certain mortals, and Arthur is one of his favorites, and so he tries to something drastic to bring down Morgana, but he must have know that it would be futile. Even so, he had to try because even his failure would be a crucial part of the bigger story. And, it is indeed; though entombed in Morgana’s spell, he turns into a Jungian dream and helps Arthur to defeat Morgana and Mordred. And, there’s even a bit of irony here, for even as Merlin fears the coming of the One-God-that-drives-out-the-many, he becomes a kind of Christ-like figure, a resurrected sorcerer rising from the crucifixion at the hands of Morgana.)
As a pagan figure, Merlin is not all knowing nor all powerful. He’s a sorcerer, not a god–besides, even pagan gods are far from all-powerful. He sees and understands more than mortals, but he is often surprised by what men are capable of. Though he’s an expert on the dragon, he lacks complete knowledge of it ways. After Arthur’s misuse of the magic sword against Lancelot, Merlin thinks it’s shattered for good. He’s as surprised–perhaps even more–as Arthur when the lady of the lake holds up the mended sword for the repentant king.
How did Northern Europeans go from pagan to Christian consciousness? That is a question for historians, but surviving artifacts can only teach us so much. Art can approach it from a psychological angle and a mythopoeic process; and John Boorman’s Excalibur is among the greatest of such imaginative endeavors. Boorman’s film is story of Northern European consciousness than of men.
It begins in the world of nature, man, and magic. Nature is mysterious, beautiful, and cruel. Man is a part of this nature, but his intelligence and imagination lead him toward ideals outside nature. Merlin represents the wit, brilliance, and magic between nature and man. Merlin has insights into nature’s designs and even limited power over it. Merlin also understands the heart of man. Merlin is a slippery ideal in a world where notions of perfection and purity have as yet to be discovered. And so, he’s a man of wit as well as wisdom. He has to be devious in order to negotiate between nature and man, but Merlin is not without higher vision of man. He has an appreciation of the beauty of nature and guides man toward potential for order and truth. Merlin’s ideal for man is a balance between nature and community, between mind and body.
The film opens with bloody warfare. It’s a world where brutish might is the law. Merlin seeks an order when men will be wiser and more enlightened. As such, they will use their power to create than destroy, to spread peace than violence. What Arthur represents for Merlin is the law of the righteous king. Of course, Merlin fails because the Arthurian order too is based on personality and a deep connection to haphazard forces. What must prevail for there to be lasting peace is impersonal law and ideals separate from the randomness of nature. Excalibur ends in a world which has yet to come under the domination of Christianity and legalism. It is a celebration of that cyclical world when man was cyclical along with nature, rising and falling, being born and growing, then decaying and dying. A world dark and dangerous but virile and magical.
The rise of Christianity and legalism has provided man with a firm and stable system less dependent on personalities and on the ways of nature. Even when leaders are inferior and weather turns bad, we have the law and technology to maintain our social well-being. And, the belief in the one-and-only Almighty God provides us with an idea of a perfect and stable cosmic order–as opposed to the pagan view of spirituality linked closely with nature.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Atlas Shrugged? Or Huggy-wugged? Are Rich Leftists and Liberals the True Rand-ians.

Today, many libertarians and conservatives recommend that we read Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED to understand the true meaning of freedom, individualism, American values, and capitalism. They argue that our society is burdened by big government and an elite that simply does not appreciate the power of capital, enterprise, ambition, risk-taking, and innovation. You’d think that American society is divided into big government socialists on the one side and individualist capitalists on the other. We have this impression of unimaginative and resentful socialists, liberals, leftists, and government bureaucrats manipulating resentment of the masses in order to undermine the Promethean greatness of the enterprising capitalist class. Perhaps, this was closer to reality back in the days of Rand when much of the capitalist class was none to happy with the New Deal and less burdened with the culture of social and historical guilt. . But, this hasn’t been the case for quite some time. The problem today is not the absence of Randians–as there is no shortage of super-capitalists–but, the nature of the capitalist elite.

In practice, economic competition is as ruthless as it had always been. The best students still strive to enter into top universities. Even if most of them play by the rules–as they should–they want to get ahead of the pack. They don’t want to be like the rest-of-humanity. And, once they get into top schools, they want to get all A’s. They want to graduate with honors. They want to be better than their peers. Out of college, they look for the best jobs that offer the most money, power, prestige, influence, pleasure and/or whatever that they find most fulfilling. They want to come up with the new idea or technology that will earn them not only millions but billions. The point is today’s creme de la creme never practice egalitarianism. Some of them may see themselves as promoting or fighting for equality or ‘social justice’ but want to do so from above. Among those really interested in money, there is brutal competition. These are not ‘nice guys’ but ruthless competitors. Being ruthless doesn’t necessarily mean one is unethical or evil, but it does mean that one is hungry, even mad, for power. So, there is no lack of Randians in our society. Just look at business, government, and other endeavors, and they are filled with people who want more money, power, influence, prestige, honor, etc. They are all Randians in practice.

If so, why is the majority of the most successful people in the US liberals or left-leaning? It’s because Randianism isn’t fulfilling as a professed philosophy. It’s one thing to go after great power, money, fame, honor, and etc, but it doesn’t feel noble to claim such self-obsession. The more convenient way to feel morally satisfied and good about oneself is to claim compassion for mankind. So, we have Angelina Jolie who obviously loves being glamorous, rich, narcissistic, making millions per movie, being on magazine covers all the time, and so on–and is utterly ruthless in the Randian school about it. Yet, she’s also holding and kissing African babies and acting like Mother Teresa. It’s not Atlas Shrugged as much as Atlas Hugged. Contrary to what conservatives think, many liberals and leftists are not sheepish or dorky tree huggers or people too beset with guilt to compete and rise in the world. Indeed, the smartest liberals often tend to be far more ambitious, ruthless, cutthroat, driven, power-mad, and money-crazy than most conservatives. A good many conservatives may love guns, rugged outdoors, and manly stuff, but they are no match to the likes of Rahm Emanuel who’s one of the most ruthless operators around. Rahm will do anything to win. He’s no liberal softie. Or, look at Bill Gates or all those liberals in Hollywood or Silicon Valley. You can’t get any more cutthroat or blood than they.
Sure, they say ‘nice’ things and appear ‘soft’ in public–at times anyway–but, they love power and money and have done anything and everything to get it. If we judge people by what they do than what they say, Randianism is alive and well among the liberal elite.

Sure, there are many wimpy gimpy liberals, but they are not the successful ones. The successful liberals often have bigger balls than most conservatives. Conservatives may love to hunt, but that’s easier than what some liberals like to do–mountain climb, cross an entire continent on a bicycle, and travel all around in dangerous countries. Notice that some of the most daring and big-balled journalists have been leftists and liberals. Conservative journalists generally like to stay close to home and spout opinions. Liberal and leftist journalists like to venture into the jungle world of international politics with heavy equipment. It’s no wonder that liberals and leftists dominate the way we see the world. They got the balls to go where most of us will not.

Woodward and Bernstein had big balls. And, look at some of the most daring artists in the modern era. We may hate Oliver Stone, but the fact is he had the balls to go to Vietnam, see the reality up front, and then go to film school and fight his way up the ladder to make the films he wants to make. In practice, he’s been one helluva a Randian even if his politics is closer to Marx. Conservatives and libertarians talk of how daring, free, and gutsy they are, but in practice, the toughest and most badass people in business, technology, arts, media, and etc have been liberals and leftists. Consider the fact that many liberal bitches have the balls to do something wild, daring, and crazy. They’ll travel the world, climb mountains, go to places where even most of us guys will not dare go, and so on. In contrast, your average conservative girl would rather stay home, watch tv, and hug her bible. Who’s more Randian in practice? Of course, not all liberal women are like this. A good many of them are sheep–reasonably successful but not daring or original. And, they have very naive understanding of society since they don’t come in contact with real reality. But, this is true of most conservative women too.

Anyway, there is a ballsy and gutsy side to liberal and leftist Randians–in practice. Many conservatives think liberals and leftists are for internationalism and trans-nationalism largely of white guilt. There is something to this, but it’s equally true that leftists and liberals–the successful ones anyway–support the dissolution of national borders because they figure they’ll always be #1. They figure they are so smart and so great that no matter what happens to America, they will looking down on all of us. In contrast, it is conservative Americans who are insecure and afraid. Conservatives feel that, as middle Americans, they’ll have to compete with newcomers and would prefer not to since most of them don’t have the brains, talent, or balls to rise above the rabble. In contrast, Randian liberals and leftists feel that they and their kids–blessed with higher IQ genes and good schooling–will always be #1. Come to think of it, I don’t think Rand was ever an American patriot. It was not America–its flag, people, heritage, etc–that inspired her as how America could be used as her pet ideological project. She wanted America to lead the way with super-capitalism but she saw it as something for ALL mankind. Her main loyalty was not to America but to her ideological concept of America which was not only radical individualist but radical universalist. It was a blueprint for the whole world. She though Great Men everywhere should be primarily committed to their own supremacy than to their country and people. And, liberals and leftist billionaires feel this way, live this way, and think this way. Of course, what they say is something different. (In a way, she was no more American than she was Russian. Compare her with Solzhenitsyn who had suffered under the communist system a 1000x more. He too came to America, but he always felt a great love and devotion to Russia despite all he had suffered under the communist system. He was born, lived, and died a Russian patriot. Rand felt no love or nostalgia for Russia though she’s been born there. As an American, she tried to impose HER idea of what American should be on all of us than try to learn what America really was. Rand tried to remake America as much as Lenin tried to remake Russia. Lenin tried to remake Russia into a post-national socialist state, and Rand tried to remake America into a post-national playground for her mythic individualist-capitalists. Granted, her ideology was bound to be far less dangerous because it didn’t seek to gain total state power)

So, the dichotomy that libertarians have in their silly minds is all wrong. The world is really not split between the freedom loving, masterful, competitive individualists AND dull, unimaginative, and jealous socialists and their mass followers. Rather, today’s Randians are the ‘socialists’.

But, this is nothing new since rich and powerful people in the West have been Christians for most of European and American history. The rich and powerful are like you and me in this regard–they wanna have the cake and eat it too. They want all the power and money yet they wanna hog the morality and compassion too. When Bill Gates made his billions in the 80s and 90s, people just saw him as the Rich Guy. That wasn’t enough for him so he set up a mega-foundation to dole out money to this cause, that cause, and buy the respect and appreciation of mankind. He makes his money the Randian way but uses it the socialist way. That way, he can be rich/powerful and noble/caring. Of course, acting the savior-of-mankind is just another way to win power and influence. Powerful liberals in government are less likely to inspect his dirty ass, and leftists are less criticize and condemn everything he does. It’s one way of buying off the opposition.

But, I don’t doubt Gates’s ideological sincerity since everyone gets their view of the world from people who write books and the news. And, who controls the mind of the nation? Mostly liberals and leftists, a good many of them Jews. Since Jews are intelligent, even their falsehoods, distortions, exaggerations, and fantasies have a way of sounding true or brilliant. It’s no wonder that so many of the smartest people in the world were taken in by people like Trotsky. They admired Trotsky and favored him over Stalin not so much because Trotsky was less of a radical but simply because he sounded more intellectual and smarter than the ruffian-like Stalin. It’s the cult/conceit of brilliance. Jared Diamond, for instance, is a very brilliant Jew. He’s a lying leftist ideologue and lowlife asshole, but his book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" was provocative and seemingly profound. People like Gates read it–and the books of Jeffrey Sachs–and found a convenient explanation of the world–why parts of it work, parts of it don’t.
On a related subject, one should consult here:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Will America become more confident as an anti-American country?

Thus far, US has been largely ruled by white elites. There is a perception among both the elites and masses around the world that white people—especially of Northern European ancestry—have been guilty of imperialism, slavery, and worldwide oppression/exploitation. White Americans have tried very hard to defend themselves against this impression, but the fact is the academic and media elite in America itself now perpetrates this perception. American kids are taught more about some slave in the 19th century than the great white heroes who built America. This perception has played a key role in restraining the power of the white elite in this country in both domestic and world affairs. But, as America grows darker and its elite becomes less white, might this not make American more 'imperialist'--unapologetically so? “People of color” feel no guilt since modern liberal history teaches us that only white folks are guilty of wars, genocide, slavery, 'racism', 'sexism', and so on. If America is indeed a 'neo-imperialist' country—a belief increasingly held even among the white right, not least because of the perception of neo-con Zionist 'democratic fundamentalists' having hijacked the US policy—and therefore must check its own power and be apologetic to the rest of the world, wouldn't this dynamic change if the rulers of this country were to become less and less white? Since their ancestors didn't commit the great historical crimes—at least according to leftists, multi-culturalists, etc,--why should they feel guilty about maintaining and benefiting from the American imperial order? Most of what follows is a meandering free-flow thoughts on this theme. Only the last two paragraphs are really concerned with this issue, so skip down if you must.
The Left has gained tremendous influence in American society. Up until the 60s, liberalism had been dominant, and though it was anti-conservative, it was still pro-American for the most part. It tended to be critical of America's failings but still embraced the notion that America was a great and good nation. But, liberals in the media and academia were nudged aside with each passing year, and the left took greater control.
To be sure, the whole process was complicated. In one sense, the Left failed in the 60s. Their call to revolution didn't inspire most Americans. Communist nations like the Soviet Union crumbled while others turned to capitalism for economic recovery and growth—namely China and Vietnam. 'Socialist' India embraced free markets in the 90s and has seen astonishing economic success. Eastern European nations were glad to shed communism. And, there seems to be a consensus even on the Left in Europe and United States that 20th century communism was, at best, a great tragedy and, at worst, indeed one of the greatest crimes ever committed.
So, what is the problem today? Not all radicals had a great change of mind. They entered the academia or media—or found positions in foundations ironically funded by capitalists—and have continued to push their radical agenda on impressionable minds. How influential are these professors? From what we see in the media and culture, very influential. No, they seem incapable of inspiring the bulk of new generations toward radical or violent action. But, even those who don't take up arms and radicalism buy into the idea that the world is miserable largely because of the United States, white heterosexual white males, legacy of imperialism, neo-imperialism, capitalism, and 'greed'. Many of the most intelligent and active members of our society have come to see the world in terms of 'social justice' vs conservatism/capitalism/white-power-ism. This is rather odd when many of these progressives tend to be affluent or privileged—much more so than your average conservative. Some of these progressives are indeed successful businessmen who'd been taught in business schools, liberal arts courses, and media-at-large that successful people must 'give back' to society—as if creating a business, creating new jobs, providing goods and services, etc are not social goods. There is still the Judeo-Christian conviction that business, in and of itself, is not a good thing. It is a good thing only because it makes us work hard and then use the fruits of our labor to do 'social good'. This is not necessarily a bad notion, and indeed, has contributed to American's superior and more humane capitalism. Even during the era of social Darwinism, American businessmen felt an obligation to use their wealth for the good of society. This is in stark contrast to what we see among Russian capitalists who neglect their own country and prefer to indulge on luxury imports. Or, consider the Latin American elite, known for their narcissism and shallow vanity. American rich hasn't been as trashy as the ones in Venezuela, Brazil, or other countries. The American rich has been more like those in Germany and modern Japan. There has been a sense of moderation and social purpose.
But, many of today's affluent, privileged, and successful are fundamentally anti-American or, at the very least, non-American(aka transnational in outlook). Of course, anti-Americanism is for idiots who know little of the world and histories of other nations which are filled with bloodshed and injustices far worse than anything that happened in the US. But, for many young people, being anti-American has become fashionable—as rebellion or cynicism associated with Rock culture or TV comedies(which are perhaps the most important shapers of how most Americans see the world). Non-Americanism is trickier, but in some ways, even more fashionable than anti-Americanism. Anti-Americanism seems somewhat passe and unhip in its overwrought 'been there, done that'-ness. To be anti-American implies that there is still a powerful idea and reality of America to reject or rebel against. But, this hasn't been the case for some time. The elite of this country has long felt closer to the elites of other countries. Indeed, many affluent Americans spend a great deal of time apologizing to Europeans and others, eager to convince their international peers that not all Americans are dumb, provincial, greedy, power-mad, and immature. To be non-American means to be an enlightened citizen of the world, and in a way, Obama's victory signals the rising trend of globalism and trans-nationalism. (Rock stars—the most influential role models for the young--are internationalist, more concerned about fighting AIDS in Africa or MTV-uber-alles than preserving the demography and cultural heritage of their own countries. Today, the yuppies in Chicago are more likely to be familiar with Afro-pop than know or care anything about Western classical music or 19th or even 20th century American history—unless it's about Martin Luther Bling or Emmit Till).
This is all very tricky and confusing since anti-global-capitalism has long been the staple of the Left.
So, why are so many rich/successful people on the Left, and why are leftists so closely in cahoots with global capitalism? The truth becomes clear when we understand the macro-leftist world view. Marx hated capitalism but believed that it was absolutely necessary for the rise of socialism or communism. Marx believed no force in history was as productive and effective as capitalism in creating a new order, generating new wealth, and opening up new potentials. So, according to Marx's view, capitalism, the enemy of mankind, would create the very conditions which would eventually empower socialists who would save mankind. Capitalists would create the new economic order, but socialists would inherit and run it according to the ideals of egalitarianism. So, a rich guy with leftist leanings can rationalize his participation in global capitalism since it is giving birth to an wholly new world order which will eventually be inherited and controlled by socialists—preferably and very likely their children who are sent to the most exclusive—and leftist—schools to be trained as the future mandarins of the global bureaucratic order. Vito Corleone built up his economic empire so that his son Michael could become a senator or governor one day. Today, rich leftists justify their 'greed' because it gives them economic muscle not only to a create a new world order but to raise a new generation that will inherit it and fix its problems by socializing it. Obama kinda fits into this mold—an Ivy League leftist mandarin type promoted to power by the rich liberal and leftist class, many of them Jews(or goyim brainwashed and/or castrated by left-wing Jewish indoctrination).
Globalism is to neo-socialism what capitalism was to Marxism. Leftism has been about creating a new world order unified in ideology, values, and social/political systems. Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact nations were supposed to be a vast united empire of liberated and happy workers. They were supposed to be linked up harmoniously with their Asian brothers in communist China, North Korea, and Vietnam. Nationalisms would melt away. Workingmen of the world would melt into ne. But, it didn't happen. Nationalism continued to be a powerful force in communist nations. Because each communist nation was ruled by a paranoid elite clinging to power at all costs, no communist nation was willing to forgo or relinquish authority to any 'higher' authority. Of course, there were puppet regimes within the communist empire, but there was no real trust among the various nationalities who'd been forced to cooperate and co-exist as comrades. Each people secretly hoped to break out of the empire. So, despite all the rhetoric, Marxism failed to create a new world order. Warsaw Pact nations secretly loathed the Soviet Union. Many republics within the Soviet Union wanted to break free from Moscow. Russians and Chinese became mortal enemies in the early 60s despite their shared ideology. China and Vietnam came to blows over national issues. The only way to create a united order under communism was to use ruthless force. Few peoples ever democratically elected communists into power, and communist nations never freely joined with others to create a new world order . And, as communist leaders knew that their power was founded on terror and repression, they were averse to any social reality or political arrangement that loosened the power of the national state.
Though associated with the Right, it was capitalism that created the new world order amenable to utopian leftist agendas. In the 19th century, capitalism spread throughout the world through violence as well as trade. But, once barriers were torn down among 'nations' and peoples, it increased the levels of freedom and interaction everywhere. It opened the doors to greater political, social, economic, and cultural freedom. This was true even—or especially—of non-Western regions forcibly pried open. Consider Japan prior to the arrival of white imperialists. It had been independent as a nation but severely restricted and regimented for its inhabitants. Upon the pressure of Western nations the Japanese elite had lost much of its sovereignty, but the nation as a whole became much freer and open to new possibilities. Japanese reacted to this new arrangement in two diametric ways, often in combination. On the one hand, they were grateful for the new freedoms and possibilities. They were happy to see their country grow richer and stronger with Western ideas and methods. On the other hand, there was a great sense of shame, resentment, envy, and even hatred. Japanese became aware and increasingly anxious of their weakness vis-a-vis advanced Western nations. Also, the more power and wealth Japan attained, the more it demanded respect as an equal partner. But, even equality wasn't enough for growing numbers of Japanese, who were convinced that Japan had become as powerful as most Western nations and could take them on. Hatred turned into arrogance. Japanese believed that it was not enough to be an equal partner with Western imperialists in Asia. Asia should rightfully be dominated by Japan alone.
For much of the first half of the 20th century, imperialism was almost synonymous with global capitalism. Though trade among advanced nations was on an equal basis, most of the non-white world traded with the advanced world under the domination of Western or Japanese guns. In many cases, the imperialist were not particularly brutal, the local elites were pliant, and the local mass populations lacked, as yet, the nationalist identity necessary for the struggle of 'liberation' and 'independence'. (I use quotes because many of these 'nations' were essentially geopolitical and even historical creations of Western imperialism. It must also be said there had always been myriad forms of local imperialism within the larger Western empires. India had its mini-empires in which provincial elites of one tribe ruled over others. Zulus in Africa were imperialists in their own right. Even as China came under the pressure and influence of Western imperialists, it had its own vast imperial control over non-Chinese peoples. And, when the French arrived in Indochina, huge parts of Cambodia had come under the imperialist rule of the Vietnamese and the Siamese. And, of course, American colonists in the 18th century overthrew British imperial rule only to embark on the imperialist conquest of the entire continent. And, in the early 20th century, places like Cuba and Philippines were liberated and occupied simultaneously. Liberated by Spanish imperialists who were replaced by American imperialists.)
Anyway, the point is the viability of a unified global community was realized by 'right-wing' capitalism. (What nationalists had built up for the sake of national power was judo-tossed to serve the leftist agenda—similar to Marx's prediction that the wealth created by the bourgeoisie would be used to fulfill the dreams of socialism.) Despite all the complaints and criticism of it, there was much that was appealing about global capitalism to peoples all around the world. There is an incentive in capitalism allowing for greater freedom and wealth.
Prior to the rise of capitalism, empires had been created and maintained largely through force. In many cases, such a vast empire proved expensive for the imperial center. Because of top-down economics, the vast regions were not exploited in ways that could make them profitable—or maintain their allegiances to the imperial system except through the sword and high taxes. Such empires were not economically viable nor integrative for longterm survival. Once the center lost its ability to enforce its will, the subject peoples and nations and the periphery went their own ways.
But, there arose a new kind of empire created by the West. Many people credit the success of the Western imperialism to its technological superiority, but that wasn't as crucial as the economic advantages it opened up to many peoples—even non-whites. Africa, for instance, didn't come under Western rule until the 19th century. Up until then, much of the trade between the West and Africa involved slaves, which was very profitable to Africans. How could this trade have lasted for so long if Africans were averse to the European global order?. In truth, great many Africans were not hostile to trading with Europeans and whites of the Americas at all. There was a great deal of fortune to be made by African kingdoms along the Western coast through the sale of black slaves. The slave trade lasted for centuries because of its economic benefit to both whites and Africans. Indeed, the slave trade didn't end because black Africans realized its evil, but because whites—especially Anglos—came to abhor it and sought to end it around the world.
Anyway, the point is the new economic order didn't just benefit the dominant group. Indeed, up until the 19th century, it couldn't even be said that Europeans were dominant over most of humanity. Europeans gained dominance in the Americas only because Old World diseases wiped out entire populations in Central/South America and because most of North America was sparsely populated by primitive peoples—some of them still in the stone age. Western nations found much of the non-European Old World impenetrable or formidable. Africa was vast and had myriad diseases fatal to the white man—until the rise of modern medicine. And, without modern methods of terrestrial transportation, it was near impossible for the white man to trek through a continent the size of a planet. As for Japan, China, Ottoman Empire, India, and others, European trading ships preferred not to avoid military confrontations as those civilizations were populous, relatively effectively organized under central authority, and, in some cases, even possessed weaponry to match those of Europeans; they also had the homefield advantage
Anyway, the global order created by the Western world has been long-lasting—even after the passing of European imperialism—because there was something for every people or nation. It was not a one-way deal. In the pre-modern era, the fall of empires was regarded as good riddance to many occupied or oppressed peoples. In the new era, economic interests persuaded or even required 'liberated' peoples to stay within the global world order. (For many nations, their newly acquired economic status could only be maintained through world trade overseen by the West. Hong Kong or Singapore would be little more than poor island or coastal cities if not for the linkage with the world economy established by the Anglo-imperialist system.)
Consider the fact that United States and the British Empire remained close on many levels even after the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The new world ordert was not only about conflict among empires but competitive and mutally beneficial trade enforced by laws that became more universal and fair in execution but recognition. Even China, a xenophobic empire over the millennia, recongized and exploited the advantages of trading with the British Empire by exporting silk and tea. The problem arose when China would not buy in return, especially opium which was to have devastating impact on the Chinese--not least upon the elite. This led to Chinese trade barriers on imports, which then led to the Opium Wars which forced the Chinese to open up to Western trade. Though Chinese remember this historical episode with great bitterness, it is true that many Chinese saw the advantages of new relations with the West. Like all nations forced into the new world order, Chinese felt a mixture of resentment, envy, respect, and admiration of the new, foreign, and innovative. This is true even today as China is eager to learn and borrow more from foreign countries while, at the same time, trying to maintain their idea of a proud united China with full sovereignty.
Anyway, pre-modern empire building efforts all eventually failed—except across huge landmasses sparsely populated by minority groups(like vast areas of Asiatic Russia)--, or unless the people within the vast empire were, more or less, of the same racial or ethnic stock—like China and America through most of its history. If an empire could be consolidated into and administered as a nation, it was viable as a great enterprise. Otherwise, it was bound to fall and disappear... until the system developed in the modern era. (Recall when the Roman Empire or the Mongol Empire fell, so did the links among peoples and regions. But, even as European empires fell, the world order they'd created grew more integrated and powerful. There was something within modern imperialism that was more powerful and resilient than imperialism itself; the idea of world trade guided by a set of economic principles and universal laws ensured that the world system would continue even with the decline of the original imperialist powers. The question, then, is this. If the global system was created by imperialists but still remains even after the decline of imperialist powers, can it be regarded as imperialist when it comes increasingly under the control of people who had once been conquered, colonized, or 'oppressed'?)
Thanks to universal application of laws and mutual benefits through trade, the global empire system created by the West has not only survived but grown stronger. Of course, the system is no longer dominated—at least not politically—by the West. The idea of Western nations using gunboat diplomacy to intimidate and dominate non-Western peoples is a faint memory and a fantasy in today's world—the Iraq War notwithstanding as it was made possible only due to 9/11. Even if Western military domination were feasible materially and logistically, the new morality among Westerners would not permit such to happen—also, Western people don't want their kids to die in wars for 'national glory'. Consider the fact that the invasion of Iraq, even for the purpose of democratization, was rejected and condemned by most Western nations. And, even the Coalition nations of Central and Eastern Europe soon lost interest in the mission—and they'd really joined to win favors from the US anyway. And, when the war became more difficult, the majority of Americans called for pulling out as soon as possible.
But, despite the fall or passing of European/Western imperialism, the world order they've created has grown more powerful, more fully realized than ever dreamed possible. What we have today is not an empire with national centers as there once had been—mainly Britain, France, and Spain--, but it is connected together west and east, north and south, in ways that even the biggest imperialists of the past could not have fantasized. One could argue that it's a center-less or democratic empire whose greatest forces are the interests of transnational business elites, cosmopolitan professionals, and the masses who seek new opportunities and/or cheaper goods in the new order. It's an empire held together by an Idea and by the appetites of the entire global population than one controlled by a 'mother country' over the subject peoples. Of course, theorists of neo-imperialism will argue that beyond the ruse, the new system is no different than the old one. Marxists, who focus on economic forces, may well argue that Western nations are still rich and powerful while non-white nations—minus Japan—are still backward, powerless, and at the mercy of what happens in the Western world. But, many non-Western nations don't necessarily feel that the global economic order is exploitative or rigged to serve only Western interests(though all are well-versed in anti-imperialist rhetoric in order to wrest favors from guilt-ridden rich white countries). As long as they have political and social autonomy, many non-Western nations have been willing to join in the global order.
In Europe, most Eastern Europeans(who are kinda like white third worlders) want to be part of the EU—at least economically. And, after decades of communist misrule, Vietnamese entered the global economic system. Nations generally don't feel oppressed by foreign powers as long as they have political and social self-rule. Also, they believe that the global system brings investment to their country, opens up markets for exports, and positions their country on the global stage. Consider the fact that Venezuela, for all its anti-American rhetoric, would never dream of stop business with 'imperialist' Americans. Chavez's 'socialism for the 21st century' depends on selling oil to capitalist and 'greedy' Americans. More tellingly, Cuba, a fully communist nation, has long wanted to do business with the United States, and pro-Cuban leftists have argued for the end of sanctions.
Now, consider the funny logic of anti-imperialist Marxists. They say that being linked with the global capitalist order is to fall prey to neo-imperialism. But, they want United States and other rich capitalist nations to do business with socialist or Marxist nations for the welfare of the latter—an admission that all countries have something to gain by being part of the capitalist world order. So, whether it's a leftist or a third world nationalist, there is a desire to do business with the First Capitalist World. And, it is the undeniable advantage of being part of the global system that has maintained and expanded the new world order created by Western imperialism/capitalism.
It had been spread by European ships exploring new territories and forging economic links with empires and peoples around the world. In the 19th century, with the inventions of new medicines, transportation, and weaponry, the West was able to not only to expand trade but enforce it—even upon once formidable nations like Japan and China.
But, through it all, there was the creation of mutually beneficial trade even if, for quite some time, the West held the best cards. So, even when the empire of the gun faded, the empire of trade remained.
This is quite evident in the histories of the United States and Hispanic America. Both were creations of imperialism. And, the white settlers in both areas were terrestrial imperialists. They sought to conquer and/or dispossess the native peoples and establish new nation-states based on the European model. But, once they settled in the new land and forged a new identity, they also became anti-imperialists. American colonialists were imperialists against the native populations of America yet anti-imperialists against the British King. Even so, relations between United States and Britain remained crucial because both sides had much to gain from mutual trade.
Perhaps, this was less so between Latin-American nations and Spain or Portugal, which failed to create a world trade system as powerful, effective, and mutually beneficial as the one created by the Anglos. Even the mighty French who competed with the British neck and neck up to the 20th century—though generally obtaining the less desirable real estate—failed to create a global trading system as effective as that of the British. (Anyway, the fact that the British and the French were able to carve up the world in relative peace and mutual understanding based on mature diplomacy may have been one of the bases for something like the UN in the 20th century—even if not consciously. The very fact that neither the Brits nor the French were willing to risk everything for total supremacy was proof that understanding
on a grand scale between nations can avoid conflicts. Even though most of humanity had no say in this, it was remarkable that the two premier powers in the Age of Empire were able to expand and compete without too much bloodshed. This partly explains why the British naturally sided with the French against the Germans. Though the French had been the main competitors of the British in empire building, the British had come to regard the French as generally trustworthy and reliable—not necessarily because the French character was more honorable but because the French were a people the British had grown accustomed to. The rising Germans, on the other hand, seemed too eager, hungry, and reckless—nouveau riche without manners who might break the china. Perhaps, the Germans too would have mellowed in due time but it would still take a painstaking process of international readjustment on a massive scale. Ironically, the British effort to suppress German power in order to maintain the international status quo led to the very opposite. Two cats that have fought one another often and know each other's strengths and weaknesses are more likely to tolerate one another than a new cat on the block.) Perhaps, this had something to do with the principle of 'fair play' in British tradition. The Brits embraced Free Trade and stuck to it even with nations that disregarded or violated it. Had the British been as mercantile as the rest of the world community, perhaps the global system we have today would have been far less viable.
After all, it was US which inherited and continued the Free Trade policy from the Brits when it became the new great world power following WWII; this was absolutely crucial to the further expansion of the global world order. There is an unspoken understanding that the Mother Country—whichever country is most dominant power at the moment—in the global economy has to be nurturing, generous, and forgiving to all the other nations(just as a real mother often sacrifices her well-being for the welfare of her kids). (Of course, while kids generally feel gratitude toward their mother, this is generally not the case with nations. For all the good the British Empire has done for the world, most nations only remember and curse its guns, arrogance, and prejudice.) In a way, both WWI and WWII could be seen, to some extent anyway, as the battle between father-imperialism and mother-imperialism. Germany was the Fatherland, Britain was the Motherland. Germany was the land of the Kaiser, Britain the land of the Queen(even when a King was on the throne). German power meant dominance and self-interests of Germans. British power meant protection and interests of the world community under rules of Fair Play. Germans were more harshly realistic, the Brits were more softly idealistic. Though imperialist, Brits used their power to end the slave trade; they came up with Free Trade to give equal access for all countries to the economic system created by the British. Germans could only scoff at such naivete. Brits could only sneer at German thuggery. The British imperial mindset became more nurturing, more beset with guilt and conscience. The German imperial mindset grew more militant, ruthless, and cold-eyed. Eventually, the British empire could not stand up to a half naked Hindu who spouted platitudes in a funny accent. British imperialism was fated to fall because of its fundamental moral contradiction—it promoted Fair Play all the while allowing the Brits to be more equal than others. Still, the world order it created would not only survive but expand under the leadership of America as the new nurturing country. (When US inherited the world order after WWII, it had to grow tits to nurse the world. Uncle Sam because Auntie Sally. Today, US is like a sow pig suckled by the world community). The world order maintained by America was essentially created by the British. Though French and other Europeans had been empire builders, they came to take part in global economic paradigm constructed by the Anglos and Anglo-Americans—and advanced further by Jews. This is true of Japan and China—and the rest of Asia—as well. It's an empire without an emperor even though US is the greatest power in the world. Because the world order is premised on Fair Play and on the expected generosity/magnanimity of the richest/most powerful nations, it's not necessarily advantageous to be #1—it certainly is the most expensive and burdensome(not least because of the legacy of the Cold War when the conflict between US and USSR was essentially ideological; both nations sought to prove their moral superiority by lavishing huge aid upon third world countries, a game understood and exploited by all poor countries.) Similarly, the US president may be the most powerful man in America but he must be accountable to the people; in this sense, he is the weakest man in America. He takes some credit when times are good, but he takes ALL the blame when times are bad.
Britain may be richer and more powerful, but it has no effective control over other nations in the Commonwealth. If anything, UK is being invaded by non-white hordes from the Commonwealth nations like Jamaica. And, white Britons are paralyzed to stop this invasion because doing so would be 'racist' and against Fair Play. Of course, non-white nations rarely play fair, but they are forgiven because rich and powerful nations are supposed to be generous and compassionate to weaker and poorer ones(despite the fact that poorer non-white nations are invading European countries and America and taking over from ground up. The anti-racist Western elites are afraid to ponder, let alone accept, the truth that demography is destiny. As long as the rich Western elites can live in affluent and safe gated communities, it doesn't matter what is happening to the rest of their country. They can shut off reality and watch PBS documentaries or Hollywood movies 'celebrating diversity'). An affirmative action mentality afflicts the global community. There is a sense that since white nations 'exploited' and 'stole' from the non-white nations in the past at the point of the gun, white nations must be forgiving with non-white nations, at least until they catch up to the levels of the West. But, this affirmative action mentality may long linger even after the non-white nations rise in power and wealth. There is still great reluctance to speak honestly of rising black or Hispanic power in the US. In sports, blacks are now totally dominant, and many whites are virtually locked out of many positions; but whenever another position is taken over by blacks, we celebrate it as 'diversity' and 'inclusion'. Following this logic, we should celebrate the 'diversity', 'inclusiveness', and 'progressiveness' of an all black football team! Blacks have become victims-for-all-time. Even if blacks were all to become powerful millionaires and all whites were to become poor powerless folks, we would see blacks as victims of whites. Today, poor and working class whites are routinely harassed, attacked, and robbed by blacks, but we still see criminal blacks of the white-dominated system. In the case of Jews, the most powerful and the richest people in the world, we are still stuck in an affirmative action mentality whereby we are supposed them as helpless ghetto Jews pursued by Nazis.
Anyway, the global empire is still intact. The difference is that it's an empire with no real emperor. Consider the fact that there is only a weak bond between the rich white elites—who are often liberal Jews in the US—and the white masses. In Western imperialism of the past, the white elite often justified imperialism as a great benefit and glory to all whites in the mother country. Today, many of the white elites in America and Europe feel contempt for the white masses—especially if of conservative bent—and feel greater affinity for people of shared sensibilities in other countries—cosmopolitan, globalist, liberal to leftist. Of course, if you're non-white, you can embrace both cosmopolitan AND tribal sensibilities. So, Obama could pose as both a post-racial/post-national candidate AND practice the most brazen kind of black nationalism by being a member of Trinity Church. There is a conviction among the liberal white elite that non-whites, no matter how rich or educated, are justified in their tribalism or nationalism since they need self-esteem to survive and thrive in a white dominated world(which explains why Michelle Obama was allowed to graduate with honors simply by writing some bitchy doctoral thesis on how terrible it is to be black in Princeton where white people were exceedingly kind to her! That got her into Harvard where she met another resentful black asshole who was chosen, groomed, and promoted by the liberal Jew media to become president). Jews feel much the same way. Though they preach the virtuese of trans-racial and trans-national sensibilities to gentile whites, they shamelessly practice Jewish tribalism via Zionism and work together to promote Jewish power and interests.
Today, the West is still dominant in the world empire but mainly in the economic sense. Because its political morality is apologetic and guilt-ridden, the West is incapable of preserving national power rooted in demography. The Western elites are afraid of stemming the tide of non-white immigration into Europe and America because doing so would smack of racism—that Europe and America belong essentially to white people. Of course, no non-white nation thinks like the Western elite, but they all admonish US and European countries to follow the ideology of color-blindness to the letter. There is a degree of moral and economic blackmail in all this. Non-white nations throw back at the faces of pompous Westerners all the sermons about equality and human rights.
Also, a good many white liberals have built their fortunes on global trade, and they fear backlash from nations like Mexico, China, India, and etc where they've invested a good deal. Also, with the Holocaust as the religion of the secular white elite—both Jewish and gentile--, anything that pertains to white racial agenda is deemed evil. Jews, as the victims of the Holocaust neglected or turned away by most nations, speak as though turning away illegal immigrants amounts to a form of Nazi-esque bigotry. Gentile whites believe that turning away non-white refugees and illegals amounts to only a milder, disguised form of old 'racism'. Feelings and ideas about the Holocaust and Racism affect the core of social and political morality in the Western world. Even conservatives spend at least half their energy trying to woo Jews at all cost and beating their chests(and kissing the accuser's ass) to prove that they are not 'racists'. So, it doesn't matter if the Western world is still economically dominant. A nation is more than the riches and vanities of its economic elite. Today, the Western elites grow richer, but their influence is anti-national. They use the media and schools to indoctrinate us into the new world ideology. Consider the fact that though whites are facing demographic catastrophe, an overwhelming majority of young white people voted for Obama. Higher education today is higher indoctrination.
Anyway, we've gone far off track. The original point of this piece was to ponder the nature of American and European power in the years to come as dramatic demographic changes are likely to occur. Thus far, because America and Europe have been ruled and shaped by white elites—gentile in most nations--, there had been increasing moral brakes on their power, at least since the beginning of the 20th century. Because of the idealistic nature of the British—and to a lesser extent among the French with their liberty, equality, and fraternity—, pressure on Western nations to live up to their own principles regarding all of mankind intensified. Often, the non-white elites in subject nations went off to study in France and Britain and absorbed ideas about the equal rights of man, human rights for all, and so on. In some cases, many colonial subjects were introduced to ideologies such as Marxism. But, even those who came to admire the imperial system and accepted its benefits soon realized that the white imperialist dominated order wasn't equally open to all. Consider the movie “Gandhi” where we first see the Indian hero as a young British educated lawyer filled with admiration for the white-ruled world only to be rudely reminded that he's less equal than whites.
And, Ho Chi Minh grew disillusioned even with French leftists who, despite their ideology and rhetoric, believed in the French Empire and the idea of the white man's burden.
All of this changed with WWII, the revelations of the Holocaust, the glory of communism in its defeat of Nazism, and the Cold War where Western nations—European and American—had to demonstrate to the non-white peoples around the world that they were more enlightened and freedom-loving-and-promoting than the Soviet Union and Red China. Though Soviet Union was indeed the evil empire, its ideology of anti-imperialism, brotherhood of man, and world revolution was appealing to many third world peoples. Indeed, from the 40s to the 70s, great many nations might have fallen under communism had it not been for the brutality and cunning of right-wing or nationalist regimes and their exploitation of traditional symbolism. Of course, this was mostly a good thing as the ruthless communists did far more damage when they came to power. Right-wing dictatorships in Asia and Latin America could be murderous and brutal, but communist regimes were annihilative and maniacally ruthless—and committed to spreading the radical virus beyond their national borders.
Anyway, white man's burden changed after WWII from civilizing the rest of the world to apologizing to the rest of the world—and proving that the Free World had more to offer, morally and economically, than communist nations such as the USSR and Red China. This wasn't easy because despite all their brutality and crimes, neither Soviet Union nor China had been involved in empire buildings outside their borders. Russians did rule over a vast empire but it was all in Eastern Europe and Asia. The Chinese empire was restricted to the Chinese nation. To people in Africa and Latin America, Russians and Chinese had not been the 'imperialist oppressors'. They recalled being dominated by Western Europeans or by the gringos. On the other hand, communism had a tremendous disadvantage in many of these countries because it was an intellectual ideology which didn't make much sense to the illiterate peoples of the third. Also, communism attacked too many customs and traditions dear and sacred to backward peoples. There was greater chance of communism succeeding in third world nations if the population was more homogeneous. Since there was minimal tribal or cultural rivalry, communism could be sold simply as 'soak the rich and get yours'. But, in African, Latin, Middle Eastern, and Asian nations which had been artificially created by Western imperialists, the tribal, ethnic, and/or racial tensions and distrusts undermined the universalist ambitions of Marxism. Poor uneducated people may understand the appeal of the poor taking from the rich, but they simply could not identify or sympathize with peoples of other tribes, ethnicities, races. In a crazy quilt nation, the masses were more likely to side with the rich/powerful elite of their own kind than with the poor masses of another tribe or ethnicity. This was the problem at the core of Yugoslavia, which had been prevented from blowing up by Tito's totalitarianism. But, 45 years of iron-fisted communist rule did not resolve the hatreds will exploded in the 90s..
Anyway, white elites, or at least the gentile white elites, were supposed to feel guilt, and this moral dilemma was supposed to restrain their power. Today, Western nations are richer and more powerful than ever. US military has never been as powerful and advanced as it is today. Yet, Western nations have never been as apologetic, defensive, and desperately eager-to-please as they are today.
We see this with both US and Europe. With the US, this outlook is rooted in both pride and guilt.
Though American colonialists were imperialists in their own right, the founding of the US brought forth a sense that America was an anti-imperialist nation, the first to throw off the imperialist yoke and declare itself a democracy. When European nations descended on China in the 19th and 20th century, US acted as a kind of neutral player, even a protector of the Chinese from the insatiable Europeans. Americans took moral pride in lecturing to the Japanese about their imperialist ambitions in Asia—which was rather amusing and frustrating to Japanese who'd been forced into the imperialist game under pressure from American and European imperialists. Even though the conquest of the West and the annexation of SW territories were imperialist in nature, Americans could overlook this fact because (1) the American West was only sparsely populated and, as such, hadn't really belonged to anyone before the white man settled it properly (2) Americans spread democracy and liberty, which absolved them of the sin of imperialism (3) Americans were well-intentioned and exerted their power/influence on other nations only for the latter's own good, not for the interests of Americans. It was these sentiments and beliefs that made World War II the Good War to most Americans. It was not just the fact that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and then Hitler declared war on the US. It was the sense that Americans, if they must fight, fight for idealism, for the good of humanity, out of selflessness. And, this attitude continued after the war. From Truman to Kennedy, America pressured European nations to abandon their empires and treat non-white peoples as equals.
But, it was precisely this idealism—both genuine and pompous—which got US in trouble. With race problems at home, it looked rather odd for white America to be morally lecturing to the rest of the world. If America was for the equality of all nations and all peoples, how come there was still discrimination in America? The rising Jewish power in the US exploited the racial issue, and in the 60s it was fashionable in some circles to see urban black areas as part of the Third World occupied white imperialist 'pigs'. If Algeria has the FLN fighting the French imperialists, left-wing Jews in America argued that the Black Panthers were the brethren of 'people of color' struggling for independence and revolution all over the world.
Of course, the influential leftists in the West favored Third World nations ruled by leftist or communist leaders. And, many Third World leaders were careful to play on the perceptions of the Western elite. While third world nations could comfortably lean right or anti-communist and receive solid American backing OR lean leftist or anti-American and receive Soviet backing, many nations learned the art of suppressing leftist insurgency at home and maintaining the status quo all the while speaking the language of progress and revolution. Leaders like Nasser cleverly played on both the right and the left. As such, they were wooed by both America and the Soviets. In most cases, they had to lean more to one side than the other, but they played both sides. Though the leaders in such nations didn't want radicals to take over, they wanted to portray themselves as revolutionaries. It was particularly these nations that were most appealing to Western European nations.
After World War II, the empires of Western European nations were lost or soon to be lost. Western Europe was anti-communist and anti-Soviet, yet it also resented the rise of American power. Europeans agonizingly came to accept the loss of their empires, but it enraged them to see—or perceive(rightly or wrongly)--their former empires being devoured by the United States which dominated the affairs of other nations in the name of spreading democracy, liberty, freedom, or stopping communism. As far as the Europeans were concerned, Americans were merely practicing a bigger kind of imperialism and world domination disguised in the rhetoric of freedom and fairness.
We saw the resurgence of much the same feelings with the invasion of Iraq. Many Europeans were convinced or wanted to be convinced that United States had simply come up with an idealistic set of excuses to embark on an imperialist conquest of the oil rich Middle East. They saw it as US taking the Middle East for itself, whereby US oil companies would get the prize. How Europeans viewed the American venture in the Iraq and the Middle East is akin to how Americans view the Chinese adventure in Africa. Chinese, as we all know, speak of friendship with African nations and fostering mutual understanding and benefit, but Americans see it merely as a Chinese play for power and influence.
Anyway, in the post WWII world order, Europeans had prosperity but not the muscle and influence to control the world. That kind of power was possessed only by the US and the USSR. So, the one weapon Europeans had left was moralism and idealism. Their hands washed of 'evil' imperialism, they could now throw idealism back at the faces of USSR and USA. Their preferred target was the USA since Americans generally gained dominance or influence over the parts of the world that had once belonged to European empires. Also, even though Western Europe was free and protected by the American military, being within the Anglo-American sphere of influence made Western European intellectuals to feel under the weight of American imperialism or colonialism. It was as if Europe too was subject nation of American imperialism. Not that American military used violence against the Europeans. But, the astonishing fact that the once proud and powerful Europeans not only lost their empires to Americans but were dependent on American good-will for survival was humiliating and insulting. French felt frustration the most because (1) it has been a loser nation in WWII and (2) its main European rival in the post WWII era—Great Britain--was close to the US culturally and politically. For many Europeans, the very dominance of American movies, TV, and pop music was enough evidence that Americans were the premiere overlords of the world. Hollywood, as far as they were concerned, was American cultural imperialism.
So, what could Europeans do to gain power or authority in the new world order? The world order following World War II was intensely moralistic, perhaps more so than at anytime in world history. If the British and French empires had competed to see which side would be mightier and greater, the Americans and Soviets competed to show which side was morally better. Of course, both US and USSR did ruthless things to win the Cold War and were allied with many thuggish regimes. But, it was a war neither side could win by arms or money alone. The British and the French were not primarily concerned about which side was nicer or more humane than the other. Their rivalry was about national-imperial glory—albeit done with some degree of Fair Play and give-and-take.
With the US and USSR, the fight was over which side offered a more humane and liberating model for all mankind. This was a rivalry that one side was bound to lose if it couldn't prove its moral worth. In the end, most of the world concluded that communism didn't spread or promote human rights, wealth, and national renewal for peoples around the world. It was becoming more and more clear that not only was the USSR a pretty miserable and oppressive place but that its satellite and client nations were no better or even worse. Even before the fall of the USSR, China embraced capitalism, and even communist nations which had fought Americans wanted to do business with the US. We need only to look at Vietnam.
But, the fact remains that the Cold War was a very ugly affair in many parts of the world. As such, it was easy and convenient for Western European intellectuals to nitpick at all the failings, flaws, and shortcomings of the Americans. Japan did some of this too. Japanese had swallowed a great deal of pride when they lost the war and their entire empire in the Pacific War. They convinced themselves that they'd deserved to lose since Japanese had employed militarism/imperialism. But, there still remained the resentment of the loser. Like the Europeans, Japanese regained authority via moralism by accusing Americans of being the new imperialists in Asia. Of course, we are talking mainly of leftist intellectuals, artists, and politicians, but such people were disproportionately influential in both Japan and Europe since they wrote books, shaped the media, and controlled the schools. They conditioned entire generations of European and Japanese youth.
As loser nations in the new world order, their one great advantage was the moral or the anti-imperialist card. For them, Americans were the new imperialists. As a way to get back at Americans, this jaundiced view was adopted by the Right as well. Anti-Americanism was where the Gaullists and the Leftists saw eye to eye in France. And, even though the Japanese Right was pro-American in policy, they were deeply anti-American underneath their skin. The Right in both Europe and Japan were angry at US for stealing what had been their empires whereas the Left hated the US for not living up to its professed anti-imperialist ideals—and standing in the way of communist revolution.
US had indeed fought a good war, defeated fascism, and pressed Western European nations to free their empires, but US then stepped in the way to take this empire for themselves—or so the European and Japanese leftists believed. This is how much of the world came to see the Vietnam War. We know that US fought in Vietnam not to exploit or oppress the Vietnamese people but only to stave off communism. The world saw it as US imperialists using anti-communism as an excuse to spread American hegemony. Besides, many people on the left felt that communism was the best deal for Third World nations as a force of social change, economic development, and overall national good. We've come a long way, but the world reaction to the Iraq War revealed that much remained the same; and this anti-Americanism was, in large measure, shared by both the Right and the Left; both the Right and Left in European countries also believed that neo-con Jewish power had a huge stake in the war but didn't say so explicitly since Europeans had become allergic to any criticism of Jewish power since the end of World War II—though not as much as Americans(which is rather odd since Americans have no reason to feel any guilt for the holocaust.) The narrative accepted by many nations was that USA, being the lone superpower after winning the Cold War, was out to dominate the entire world through economic and even military might.
To understand that moral reputations of nations—or at least of powerful nations—are of utmost importance, we need only look at the reaction, both international and domestic, to Obama. Many people around the world wanted Obama to be president in the hope that his presidency will check imperialist American power. Many people have this simplistic view that America is run by cowboys and Zionists--the Bush administration was almost a tailor-made caricature of this perception. Bush is from Texas and was surrounded by a bunch of neo-con intellectuals.
The fact that Obama is a black guy with a Muslim/African name meant—to the world at least—that the power of mad cowboys and Zionists would be checked with him as president. And, many Americans, especially the privileged, highly educated, and well-traveled, felt the same way. They felt guilty and ashamed to belong to America of imperialist cowboy Bush and his neo-con cabal. Though America is the most powerful nation in the world, the liberal elite—and even elements of the conservative elite—believe that American power isn't as important as how the world regards it. It's more important that the world sees us as a 'good nation' than to exert our power to accomplish what WE believe is right. Again, the world is like an empire without an emperor, without true central authority. In some ways, this is great progress as it means the world no longer believes in might-is-right. But, it is also frustrating for the US because, as the richest and most powerful nation, it is expected to do so much, pay so much, take care of so much, take the lead so often, and etc, etc... all the while being ever so sensitive to world opinions which are more often envy and resentment disguised as idealism-of-little-nations. (Swedes and Norwegians especially love to pull this shit, taking bogus pride in the fact that they give more to Africa on a per capita basis than any other nation. It doesn't matter that their ill-conceived aid hasn't done any good for Africa as long as they can show off the figures as proof of their own moral superiority.)
The world community is kinda like Wikipedia. Wikipedia may be the most read, most influential, and most powerful source of information around the world, yet there is no central authority. It is accessible to and controllable by all.
So, the problem of American and European power today isn't so much their dominance over other nations, which is not only forbidden but considered morally unacceptable and even evil. The problem of the new world order is that even if Western elites have most of the economic power, the increasingly open and porous world system allows all sorts of people to flood into the First World and change the demographic, cultural, and social landscape of the entire nation. In almost all cases, the majority of the people don't want this, but the elites control the laws. The courts can overturn any majoritarian demand to control the borders and restore national sovereignty.
Even so, something very strange might happen if current demographic trends continue. Remember that the only people who are required to feel any remorse or guilt are white people—and to some extent, the Japanese. Third world peoples committed horrendous crimes, but they are not held accountable in the world community. Partly, this is because they tend to be poor and backward, and it's just not good sport to knock people when they are down and miserable. Sure, Hutus killed a whole bunch of Tutsis, but look at the economic status of most Hutus and you feel pity. Sure, Chinese killed more of their own kind than the Japanese or Western invaders ever did, but until relatively recently, China has been poor, and before that, there had been a history of Western imperialism. Also, some nations simply will not tolerate any criticism and throw a fit when called on their abuses. China and Russia routinely act this way, and they can get away with it because there are enough nations in the UN that side with them just to torment US and Europe. Let's face it. Most Third World nations employ moralism not because they are morally virtuous or care about humanity but because it's an handy way to milk rich European nations and the USA for handouts. For many Third World nations, China and Russia are useful as a balance against the United States or Europe which is often moralizing to the world on human rights so lacking in the Third World. Considering that most Third World nations are still run by brutal thugs and populated by even more brutish peoples, the moral sermons of the West are most annoying to people like Mugabe and Chavez. Palestinians, for instance, are tired of Americans preaching to them about peace when Americans looked the other way when Israelis have abused Palestinians through the years.
Anyway, as America becomes darker and its leadership filled with more 'people of color', the world will have to face a paradox—an America that is at once weaker and stronger. The divisions caused by radical diversity and multiculturalism will likely weaken unity among Americans and lead to massive social problems. On the other hand, if the political, cultural, and economic areas are more and more controlled by 'peoples of color', there will be less justifiable reason—at least within the leftist context—for the world to condemn or denounce the US.
The main moral argument against American power has rested on the notion that the United States is the creation of white imperialists—especially of Northern Europeans who are especially held in low esteem by political correctness. (Whites of Hispanic or Portuguese background, due to their racial mixture and their having become the 'subject peoples' of Norte Americano Yanquis, can just barely pass as honorary 'people of color'. Che Guevara was white but is widely seen as a Third World figure.) As America becomes controlled more by blacks, Hispanics—the majority of whom are of mixed blood(substantially Indian-American)--, there is a less of a reason to condemn it as a world center of white imperialist evil. Indeed, we've already seen this change of perception take place. Consider the fact that much of American pop culture is dominated by liberal Jews and blacks. Much of American export in music is jiveass Rap music created and spewed out by demented negroes. Though it has conquered and colonized the minds of young people all around the world, it isn't condemned as an example of American cultural imperialism—at least not in the way that American TV shows with white casts or Westerns used to be. Because blacks are perceived as the oppressed people in America and because rap music is regarded as the music of the disenfranchised, US music companies—mostly owned and/or run by liberal Jews—can peddle that garbage all over the world and rake in gazillions, and yet not be accused of cultural imperialism.
And, this brings up another issue. Perhaps the white elite in this country knows this all too well. Perhaps, they find people like Obama and Oprah useful in maintaining their own power. Rich white folks are well aware of how the both the elites and masses around the world see the US as the center of global neo-imperialism. Having the likes of Oprah and Obama as the prominent face of American politics, power, and values changes the way the world sees America. The American elite will largely be dominated by whites in decades to come, but having Obama as president may give the impression that American power is no longer 'racist'-imperialist and has become open-and-fair-to-all. (This may also account for the sudden rise of Bobby Jindal. Even Republicans want to prove that their party is no longer the bastion of evil white males by hiding behind a 'person of color' hindu-convert-to-christianity.) This perception may work to disarm the critics of America. How evil can America be when a negro is president? This is especially useful to the Jews. Jews, as we should all know, have become the most powerful and the richest people in America. On the one hand, Jews are happy and proud to have all this power. On the other hand, Jews are awful worried because it means that the world will see Jews as the main operators of the global American neo-imperialist system. By supporting Obama and using him as the proxy of Jewish power, Jews can then make people believe that Jews are not all that powerful. How can they be when US never had a Jewish president and now has a black president with a Muslim name and is friends with certain key Palestinians? In truth, both the Bush and Obama administration is 50% dominated by Jews, for good and bad. I do not suggest that Jewish power, in and of itself, is evil. It depends on the perspective of those who might benefit or suffer from the consequences of Jewish power. Since over 80% of Jews are liberal to leftist, Jewish power is bad for people on the White Right. If most Jews were rightist, we would embrace them. To be sure, Jewish leftism has been existential as much as ideological. Jewish leftism preserves their rightist instincts to gain and maintain their own power. If rightism is particularist and if leftism is universalist, Jews found leftism useful in the service of their particularism. When it comes to their own power, Jews are tribalist and fanatical. But, Jews make up only a small minority and cannot easily enforce their will on us. So, their main weapon has been leftism whose purpose is to weaken the particularism or tribalism of the goy majority.
Anyway, it's something to think about. As American grows darker, it will become a more troubled and divided country. A weaker country. But, if its elite becomes darker—by perception or in reality--, American position will grow stronger because 'people of color' will be in control. As we know, only white folks feel—or are required to feel--any guilt about their historical crimes. If blacks and Hispanics came to rule America, they would never feel guilty about anything—just as Chinese feel no guilt about anything they've done. As a 'people of color', Chinese perceive modern history as imperialist nations having picked on and exploited China; China has been the victim, and so no one has the right to criticize the Chinese who are only struggling to rise up in the world as an 'equal nation'. (Besides, even if the Chinese committed mass horrors, it was mainly to themselves, and as such, they didn't technically exploit or kill OTHER peoples and nations. Their crimes were not 'racist').
Germans felt the same way in the 19th and first half of 20th century. They saw themselves as hemmed in by the imperialist orders of Britain and Russians. Both Germans and Japanese—and Italians—saw themselves as victim-imperialists or victimperialists. They felt that the established imperialist powers—Brits, French, Russians, Americans, etc—were not giving them an equal chance to carve out their own empires..
Americans felt something similar too for much of its history, and this gave Americans the moral confidence to do as they pleased in conquering and settling new lands. As long as the narrative said Americans were freedom loving folks who had cast off the British imperialist yoke, Americans could always justify their use of power as former victims who had stood up. So, when Americans took the SW territories from Mexico, Hawaii, Cuba, and Philippines—either to incorporate them into the US or to manage them as protectorates--, they didn't see anything wrong with what they were doing.
And, it has been this sense of victimhood among Jews and the perception of guilt-ridden Europeans and Holocaust-indoctrinated Americans that allowed Zionists to get away with the creation of Israel and the oppression of Palestinians for 60 yrs. Since Jews are saints who'd been crushed by anti-semites, how can they ever do wrong? Similarly, when blacks burn down cities, they feel no remorse since they are victims of history.
So, the future of America will be interesting.