Friday, September 27, 2013

Self-Hating Government?

When the government of a country acts against the interests of that country, there are a few possible explanations.  First, it could be simple incompetence, as I'm sure Napoleon would point out.  Second, it could be that the interests of the people controlling the government do not coincide with the interests of the country as a whole.  And a variation of that last, it could be that the people controlling the government simply dislike the country as a whole and want to destroy it, or change it so much that it amounts to destroying it.  It probably takes all three to explain our current government. But there's nothing new about having a government like that.  Gustav Venter writes about several such, with special attention to the South African leader, F. W. de Klerk, who turned the country over to the ANC, which is now actively destroying it:


FW de Klerk, pink peeling face bloated as if by cortisone, funereal smile stretched under dull eyes, his political ideas as obsolete as a typewriter, his opinion blighted by the ridicule of opponents – and his opponents are everywhere and everybody – his memory distorted by his misapprehensions and his reputation finally tarnished by extra-marital dalliance, will have what he has desired above all else: he will leave a legacy. "Legacy" in the mind of the career politician means "place in history." And a place in history FW de Klerk will have and it will be that of a rare enough political bird, and though he represents a well-developed example of a certain category, he certainly is not without company in his corner of history. There future historians will find him with a coterie of some of history’s most flamboyant figures. Montezuma, the Aztec king, will be there, as will Rehoboam the grandson of ancient Israel’s great king David, as will France’s "Sun King" Louis XIV and Phillip II of Spain, a lineage of Renaissance popes and England’s "Farmer" George the Third.
What distinguishes these men; why are they in that particular corral of history? They were leaders sure, as were thousands of others, but they are remarkable for having devastated their countries and their people, not by one massive miscalculation, but in persisting in a course of action that was so foolish that historians are at a loss to explain the slow meltdown of mental processes.
Popular historian Barbara Tuchman (popular historians are the same as regular or "academic" historians except that they write readable prose) considers the effect in her pondering (as opposed to ponderous) work, The March of Folly. She beautifully describes the nature and mechanisms of folly, but concedes that she does not understand why the leaders in our list persisted in it. And persist in it, that they did.
Farmer George lost America forever for England, Louis expelled the Huguenots and thus impoverished his country and then vaingloriously waged unnecessary wars which bankrupted France and shoved the country over the precipice towards revolution, popes Sixtus IV to Clement VII through their perversions and arrogance triggered the Reformation which split the church and eventually led to it forever losing its pre-eminent position in the world, but only two of the leaders in the list – Montezuma and FW de Klerk – rushed from heights of enormous power to prostrate themselves – and their people – at the feet of a ruthless but weak and outmanoeuvred foe.
Montezuma was the mighty leader of the Aztecs, a people so ruthless they habitually sacrificed people in an effort to cajole some goodwill from their imaginary gods. They were safely ensconced in the natural fortresses of the high mountains and were a prosperous lot. There was no reason to even contemplate a radical change in position or fortune. They had every reason to feel safe behind the aggressive bulk of a standing army exceeding six hundred thousand men. Then, at the height of their power, one Hernán Cortés came calling. He’d sailed from the Old to the New World, not with an armada, but with a few dainty wooden ships containing 600 men, seventeen horses and 17 small cannons in all.
Cortés was a conquistador, a Spanish invader and fortune seeker. He was utterly ruthless, decisive and fearless. And outmanned. His enemy had the decisive advantage of 1,000 men under arms for every one of Cortés's adventurers. Montezuma could have summoned his cooks to do his fighting and still overwhelmed Cortés and his avaricious band. This he did not do. What he in fact did was to meekly submit to the conquistador, thereby cracking the door to his country for the thin edge of the wedge. Soon he was deposed and his people subjugated under the unsympathetic heel of Catholic Spain.
This stunning capitulation still renders historians nonplussed. Tuchman has a tentative stab at an answer, but if she is not convincing it is because she is not convinced. She timidly ascribes Montezuma’s meltdown to the superstition of the Aztecs. "Their ‘gray’ faces, their 'stone' garments, their arrival at the coast in waterborne houses with white wings, their magic fire that burst from tubes to kill at a distance, their strange beasts that carried the leaders on their backs…" apparently was too much evidence for the idol-worshipping Montezuma who forthwith caved in. But who can tell?
If Tuchman cannot explain Montezuma's brain freeze, she is in her own mind sure what constitutes folly. In her "inquiry" she defines it as "policy contrary to self-interest" and lists three requirements for a policy to receive full recognition as folly. She writes that "it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight...Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available." The third requirement is that "the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime."
Montezuma's actions were decidedly contrary to his self-interest and that of his followers. He was ignominiously stoned to death and the Aztecs subjected under the iron heel of the avaricious conquistadors and eventually removed as a culture and distinct people from the face of the earth. (Read the rest HERE.)

1 comment:

  1. I had a friend of mine fight for the Ian Smith side back when it was Rhodesia, and he told me fighting Africans was a turkey shoot. The problem, he said, is that the West turned against them - especially that moron Carter - and all the embargoes did them in. Now the place is a fit maybe fit for beasts, but not men. By the way, I have a $20,000,000,000 Zimbabwean note. I kid you not.