Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Genghis Khan

Reading “The Silk Roads” by Peter Frankopan is going very slowly because I keep going back to the early chapters.  One of the most fascinating, partly because it is revisionist, is the material about Genghis Khan who, like Neanderthals, DNA has revealed is part of most of us, in our very code.  Early written material, made newly available by the Internet and of new interest because of our miserable entanglement with the Middle East, gives us a picture of the Mongols as excellent administrators.  What is excellence?  Good results.  

It is of no use to conquer a country by destroying it, an idea the US has not mastered, because the result is nothing but a wasteland that needs money instead of a productive land that can contribute to an empire.  Ask Afghanistan.  The Mongols, in battle, were all out destroyers. That's what we remember.  But afterwards, they made peace and concentrated on production and trade. 

The obsession with antagonistic competitive sports, which can crowd out actual education as was the original purpose of schools, has drummed into many people the idea of “winner takes all.”  That is, domination justifies status, wealth, and even injustice.  Certainly, in the history of dictatorships this has seemed true.  But the idea carries the internal seeds of destruction.

There is a vital corollary to this theory which is that minorities must be protected.  This is particularly important in a democracy that is made up of a composite of minorities who must collaborate to form a unified group.  The present shifting alliances in the United States are divided in their understanding of the world.  The hard work of reconciliation can become difficult, which makes people long for someone to come along and fix it, a dictatorship.  But dictators are told only what they want to hear, so trouble builds quietly, secretly.

What Genghis Khan knew was that unless the opposition is respected and has enough to eat, it will consolidate and rebel.  If you begin to shoot them in the streets, their opposition will increase.  If you use military force — water cannons, rubber bullets, gases of various kinds — against people for whom you have racist contempt (I’m talking about the Sioux resistance to the corporate pipeline in North Dakota), the whole world will finally get involved and you will be ridiculed with contempt.  

For some time a certain kind of person — intellectuals and politicians — have been reflecting on democracy as a form of government.  They point out that democracy only works if enough of the people are a certain kind: pretty much in agreement about values and conscientious about the things they need to do as self-determining people who want a minimum of oversight and rules.  Since I was raised in a household preoccupied by my father’s work with cooperatives, mostly those serving farmers, I have a high awareness that democracy itself is a cooperative and that democracies are hard work.

As agriculture has become more capitalist (meaning more dependent on money, mostly because industrialism has meant bigger, more expensive machines and literal tons of chemicals), it has slipped over to being corporations.  A corporation is an institution pretending to be a “person” (a corporate body) and using a projection of its image to persuade other people to invest in it.  The ag co-ops who had come together to form buying coalitions so as to get low prices were replaced by outsiders who ran profit-focused businesses that tried to get the prices as high as possible so that the shareholders would get profits — not the farmers.  Something like that has happened to the whole United States.

The farmer co-ops dispersed.  They were accused of being communist.  They were too much work and the population has thinned.  Anyway, they’re all home watching television.  They can’t come to a meeting because they might miss a game.

There were two chilling sights on my internet news feeds recently.  One was https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FPrJxTvgdQ   where Trevor Noah directly compared vid quotes from African dictators with quotes from Trump.  The other was Trump’s own minuet of major figures greeted on steps before a big door, ushered in, later ushered out.  He omitted the part where they were supposed to kiss his ring.  I suppose he didn’t want to challenge the Pope.  His next move was to call all the major media figures into a room where he scolded and insulted them.  This is supposed to improve his news coverage.  Now he thinks he is the principal of a junior high school.

I’m not pleased with liberals either, though I can NOT understand the venomous and atavistic hatred of Hilary Clinton.  The only thing that compares with the take-no-prisoners attitude is Brody’s daughter on “Homeland,” and we know where that got her: a job cleaning rooms in a motel.

I don’t enjoy thinking about Trump and I have other things to do.  Like attending the Valier town council meetings where I’m often the only citizen besides the board.  The town is a cooperative when it comes to water and sewer.  We are IN it, not subscribers as for telephone or even electricity, though both of them are supposed to be cooperatives as well.  They don’t act like it.  But the election monitors assured me that most people were voting in the recent government election.  

Based on experience with our town council, I predict that Trump — like our two-week mayor who sounded much like Trump (he knew everything and would fix it all) — will stay in office just long enough to reverse all of Obama’s executive orders  (list at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions) that affect him, mostly restrictions on business.  Also, by then he will have made side-deals with foreign corporations.  By that time his conflicts of interest, illegal practices, lawsuits, and so on — alongside the actual duties of a president — will just be too hot and boring to sustain.  He’ll resign.  Suddenly.  Announcing the decision from a hotel he owns in a foreign country.  He may or may not take his wives, but he will take his children.  

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