News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

This is a long reply to your post. If you get sick of reading it and don't finish it, I won't hold it against you... haha...

You wrote: "Terminologies exist for certain reasons. For the sake of wider social movement, the propagnda will be more successful with much more general content and language."

This is true. But in my experience terminology is often used by people to impress others with bogus learning. Many people who have nothing to say will employ terminology for no other reason other than to sound important. VS Naipaul never uses clumsy terminology ( i.e. jargon) in his essays and George Orwell wrote a very famous essay (Politics and the English Language) devoted to nothing but a critique of people who misuse terminology. The anthropologist Marvin Harris overcame the problem of terminology by writing two versions of the same book: one book for the layman (with little or no jargon) and another book for his peers in the anthropology field (with the appropriate terminology).

You wrote: "However, the term "development" in the filed of sociology only refer to the "backwardness" in the third world countries after the Great Expansion, especially after WWII when many new stated were formed with the help from the formor colonials. As for your ancestors, their context was different from which Marxists have probed after the industrialization."

I've read that Marxists don't bring up the example of the Romans civilizing England because it's inconvenient. Marxists seem to want people to believe that there is something new and progressive about socialism. But the Roman Empire had a socialist government 2000 years ago which provided free education, free public entertainment, free public baths, subsidized food and subsidized water and subsidized transportation among other amenities. And, for that matter, socialism employs a moral scheme that is a throwback to the Neolithic Age (fairness, common ownership of property, conspiracy theories, etc. are Stone Age tribal mores).

Speaking of Marxists, Karl Marx appears to have been a serial con artist in both his public and private life. (Perhaps you can ask Harry to send you the Chinese edition of historian Paul Johnson's book, "Intellectuals".) When it comes to contemporary left-wing frauds who you may be familiar with, I'd recommend Edward Said who pretended to be a dispossessed Palestinian for 30 years. In the late 1990s he finally admitted the truth which was that he was a dispossessed Egyptian. The Israelis didn't steal his family's property, Nasser of Egypt did. But of course it was inconvenient to admit that an Arab leader harmed his Arab family so he pretended that the Jews ( i.e. the Israelis) did.

There are many, many frauds on both the left and the right wing of politics, of course. A prominent right-wing fraud was Mother Teresa, who pretended to set up hospitals for the poor. She was an old-fashioned Catholic who was devoted to insuring that people expiated original sin before they died. The only way to expiate original sin is to suffer in this life. Thus she established hospices, not hospitals, to make sure the poor suffered as much as possible (by denying them access to modern medical care) before they died.

I've been fooled by many of these people too and I've learned that it's always wise to ask impolite questions about the authors of the books I read.

You wrote: --Sun Yat-sen and the foreign imperialists had the same enemy - Chin Dynasty.--

Are you sure about that? The foreign imperialists saved the Ching Dynasty during the Taiping Revolution in the 1860s through sending in foreign advisers and a Scottish military commander nicknamed "Chinese Gordon". They didn't want the Ching dynasty harmed because they were afraid that China's economy would collapse and their special economic and diplomatic relationships would end. And the British Parliament did not want the Opium War. It was happy with its relationship with China. Prior to the Opium War, the British parliament sent two different envoys with specific instructions NOT to start a war with China. But the first envoy went ahead and deliberately tried to start a war anyway. The Dao Guang Emperor sent a new representative, Lin Tze-hsu, to settle the problem. He was told specifically not to cause trouble with the foreigners. Lin Tze-hsu instead confiscated more than 20,000 cases of opium from the merchants in Canton which provoked great animosity and led directly to war. It's worth keeping in mind that opium was legal in England and America all throughout the 19th century. There was no double standard when it came to the sale of opium.

You wrote: "In the case of Japan occupation, what was "greatly improved"? Was it the indigenous culture, the accelerated national wealth extraced wealth from coal and sugar, or the infrastructure Japanese built and left behind. I wonder whether my late grand uncle who were forced to fight in the Philippines for Japanese for 9 years would consider he and his family were "greatly improved". "

I would argue that by the time the Japanese arrived in Taiwan there was no "indigenous culture". Taiwan's first indigenous culture appeared during the Paleolithic era when Taiwan was likely settled by Negritos or Austronesians around or before 15,000 years ago. The original inhabitants of Taiwan (and the Philippines), to the best of my knowledge, were probably black people. Taiwan's first indigenous cultures (ex: Changbin, Dabenkeng, Yuanshan, and Shihsanhang cultures) were probably quashed by later generations of aboriginal invaders ( i.e. aboriginal martial and cultural imperialists) from the Philippines and southern China. I use the word imperialist because I presume that's how Marxists would view the process of a larger-scale hegemonic culture's destruction/assimilation of a minority culture. The next generation of martial and cultural imperialists would be the ethnic Chinese (Hakka, Min, etc.), Japanese, and other foreigners who came to Taiwan. I would argue that every person alive on this planet is a cultural imperialist or the descendent of a cultural imperialist because we're all the descendents of peoples who wiped out other peoples. So when Japanese forces arrived in Taiwan in 1895, the indigenous culture(s) were actually second or third or fourth or fifth generation hybrid cultures. With the arrival of the Japanese, another generation of hybridization took place. Was that a bad thing? I grew up in six countries and had three parents (including my stepmother, that is) which means I was hybridized by the cultures of six countries and three parents from Scotland, England, and America. Was I victimized? Am I traumatized? Is Harry culturally imperializing you or are you culturally colonizing him? Are Harry and I being victimized by Taiwan's indigenous culture? By asking these questions I'm trying to illustrate that much of socialism, and probably all of Marxism, is based on conspiracy theories, moral combats, and figurative sleights-of-hand.

You write: "national wealth extraced wealth from coal and sugar." I'm guessing that you mean the Japanese took something that didn't belong to them: i.e. Taiwanese resources. If I guessed your meaning incorrectly, please skip the next couple of paragraphs.

As I understand it, Marxists believe that wealth is extracted, particularly from colonies. In fact wealth is generated not extracted. Coal still lying underground and unprocessed sugarcane in the fields do not represent wealth because nothing has value until it can be sold. The only way to get and process coal and sugarcane was to pay local Taiwanese workers. Everybody benefited. And, besides, it was very hard for local people to generate wealth in Ching Dynasty Taiwan because of poor physical infrastructure, a virtual absence of commercial law, plus banditry, Hakka and Min blood vendettas, aboriginal raids, rampant official bribery and malfeasance, etc.
I have a book on my shelf describing how the Japanese government tried to monopolize the rice market and keep Taiwanese farmers out. The government failed because the farmers grew non-banned brands of rice and used loopholes (including the usual one of bribing customs officials) to get around the monopoly. Many Taiwanese farmers generated wealth selling contraband rice to Japan. Furthermore, as I understand it, the Japanese made Taiwan's coal and sugar much more valuable by introducing contract law, a stable currency, improved transportation, and enormously expanding markets through easy access to Japanese shipping interests.

You wrote: "I wonder whether my late grand uncle who were forced to fight in the Philippines for Japanese for 9 years would consider he and his family were "greatly improved"."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Japanese were only in the Philippines from 1941 to 1944/1945, so I don't think he fought there for nine years, but I understand your point. I can sympathize with your late grand uncle, but conscription is a fact of life in democratic countries as well. Taiwan still forces its young men to perform military service. How many children of the mainland Chinese in Taiwan would be happy to fight against Communist Chinese troops if war breaks out across the Taiwan Straits? Many Americans did not want to fight in the US Civil War but they were forced to do so. US troops were pushed into battle with one man holding a revolver behind every 12 troops holding rifles. If a man holding a rifle tried to flee he was shot dead on the spot. I'm not saying it's OK that your granduncle fought in a war that he did not agree with. If I had been conscripted I probably would not be happy fighting either.

But it should also be kept in mind that the KMT and the CCP forced millions of unwilling Chinese civilians to fight for them. Plus, as I understand it, the Japanese typically did not put Taiwanese or Korean troops in the front lines, but in less dangerous posts in the rear. Chinese troops, whether from Taiwan or China, were notoriously poor fighters. Many of Taiwan's aborigines identified heavily with the Japanese (as they shared common traditions of personal valor and loyalty) and were found to be aggressive fighters. Many willingly served as kamikaze pilots.

Fortunately, these days conscription is going out of fashion. One good thing about the war in Iraq is that no American is forced to fight against his or her will. Democratic countries favor professional armies these days and, hopefully, someday soon the government of Taiwan will not force Taiwanese citizens to fight in its army.

When I wrote about indigenous rulers killing their own people, you wrote: "Those who committed genocide and masscre did it for revenge and/or other personal and political reasons." This is true but you're not addressing the point I was making. My point is that indigenous people are not less violent than the people of developed countries. They're much, much more violent. Look at it this way: who is more likely to be violent when they're angry, a blue-collar person or a white collar person? Indigenous people are not usually well-educated and violence is something we associate with lack of education for good reason. As to examples of traditional violence: Taiwan's aborigines and their traditions of head-hunting and ancestor-communication (shooting arrows into live prisoners until they die and take their messages up to the ancestors); India's Hindu tradition of burning widows alive when the husband dies; the many American Indian traditions of ritual torture by Indian women, cannibalism, indigenous slavery, and so forth; Burmese aboriginal traditions of plantation slavery and celebrating the erection of a building by crushing a live slave to death under the first beam. My ancestors burned live male virgins in wicker cages to placate their gods. Europe's Christians during the Middle Ages were very brutal to one another as well. If you have time, I'd recommend you read up on the violence that takes place in hunter/gather tribes in the Amazon even today. Brazil has a state park for its aboriginal peoples which is as large as France and Belgium combined. By the middle of this year, aborigines had murdered more than 20 miners and even slaughtered their chief negotiator at an ATM machine. Nobody will be charged with these murders because under Brazilian law aborigines are not considered adults, but minors (wards of the state).

If you meet up with indigenous people today and they're not violent that's because they are the recipients of cultural imperialism. The only cultures that I'm aware of that aggressively stamped out slavery were the capitalist cultures of Western Europe and Japan. Japan, for example, stamped out slavery in Korea where between five and 10% of the national population had traditionally belonged to a slave caste. If the European nations and Japan didn't end slavery, it would still be all around us. America's first war overseas was with a Muslim empire in North African which had enslaved around one million British folk over the previous couple of centuries.
Concerning my comments on corporations you wrote: "This sounds a bit simplistic. The board is formed by major shareholders. Did the board of Eron and Disney please or use their investors? From where they generate the extra money and transfer it to the foreign bank account of their family?"

Corporate boards are not necessarily composed purely of major shareholders. Board members often consist of outside specialists or consultants. Enron didn't try to please its investors and that's a major reason why it went bankrupt. That Enron collapsed is simply more evidence that capitalism works. Enron was a dysfunctional company that specialized in monopolizing markets and squeezing its customers through unethical means. It's customers were not happy so it went bankrupt. That's what's supposed to happen.

I don't know much about Disney but I presume it does try to please its investors. For example, Disney refused to carry the Michael Moore film "Fahrenheit 9/11" because it does not want to offend its customers by dabbling in politics. This sounds to me like a company that cares about its customers and its investors.

As to business people cutting corners and trying to put more money in their pockets, some people do and some people don't. Just because some doctors are bad doesn't mean that most doctors are incompetent. Just because some politicians are crooked doesn't mean most politicians are crooked. (though I'd trust the average politician before I'd trust the average reporter, that's for sure. Karl Marx, by the way, like many crooked writers, started out as a reporter.) The fact of the matter is, and you can ask Harry about this because I've discussed this with him at length, is that the most important asset a company/corporation can have is a good reputation. A good reputation does not come from stealing or misrepresenting oneself. If you have a good reputation you gain repeat business. Otherwise you lose your original customers and you have to fight for new ones every time you want to make a sale. Any company doing this is not going to grow. Ask yourself this: when is the last time you went to McDonald's and ordered a hamburger and received a screwdriver, or a plastic doll, or something else that was entirely different from the product that you ordered? The fact of the matter is that McDonald's, like 99% of corporations, makes the bulk of its money through return business. It cannot afford to ignore its customers or its shareholders.

You wrote: "when talking about fairness between countries, especially between the first and third world, we need to look into what is happening."

The problem I have with this sentence is the word "fairness". Nothing in the world is fair. Nothing ever has been or ever will be fair. So fairness, to me anyway, is not a word that is useful for our debate.

You wrote: "American and European corp. of agricultural products want WTO to form a world market for their subsidied products to enter. This will wipe out the market for indigious farmers in Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and others."

I share your skepticism about subsidized farm products. But, as I understand it, the main reason America and Europe subsidize farm products is because both regions want to maintain economic self-sufficiency in case of war. During a war, countries need to be as self-sufficient as possible. WWII made that very clear to everyone when the Axis (Germany and the Japan Empire) and the Allies (the US and the British Empire) fought over oil in both the Middle East and Indonesia, and over access to nitrates in Argentina (used in gunpowder) and rubber (for tires, etc.) in Malaysia. That being the case, it is not likely that helping foreign farmers is going to trump national interest. So I doubt subsidies are going to end.

It's worth mentioning that the indigenous farmers of America and Europe have been wiped out as well. Less than 2% of Americans farm these days. The number used to be close to 100%. But is this a change for the worse? After all, markets and economies change just as national wealth and demographics change. The conditions which arose making farming profitable for the average person in the US no longer exist. That corporate farming squeezes out traditional farms may be unfair, but the sun rising only in the East is also unfair. Perhaps it would be more fair for the sun to also rise in the North, the South, and the West. But that's not going to happen. And the primal conditions which made it profitable for the average American to farm two hundred years ago are not likely to return. Likewise, farming is a doomed industry in Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Protecting it for reasons other than national defence interest is a waste of taxpayers' money. Steel manufacturing is a doomed industry in America. Logging is a doomed industry in Canada. I don't think either should be protected. Just like I don't think the translation industry for foreigners in Taiwan should be protected.

You wrote: "oil and arms Corp.'s assist their governments and planning their foreign policies."
Shouldn't oil and arms Corp.'s assist governments plan their foreign policies? In a democracy, everyone has a voice. Secondly, without oil, the United States economy would collapse. If oil companies don't assist the United States government the whole world will be in trouble again, just as it was during the Great Depression. And just think of what would happen to Taiwan if the United States government no longer listen to arms Corp.'s? China would invade Taiwan in a heartbeat once it realized how weak and misguided United States foreign policy was.

You wrote: "Big Pharma make lucrative profit via intelligent property rights. Yes, their investors are benefited, but how about the farmers and African children whose parents who can't afford to buy medicine."

Does Big Pharma actually make lucrative profits? Big Pharma often loses its shirt on research that goes awry. These days it costs more than US $500,000,000 to develop one effective drug. Most venture-capital pharma start-ups fail and go bankrupt. And if you don't have intellectual property right protection, no pharmaceutical company is going to invest money in developing drugs. It would be crazy to invest US $500,000,000 in developing an effective drug if there were no intellectual property right protections and anybody could copy the formula.

The problem is not Big Pharma. The problem is corrupt African governments that install state monopolies, reinstall tribalism, ban free speech, set up death squads, allow colonial-era infrastructure to collapse, close the law courts, institutionalize corruption, and end free trade. As I understand it, every famine since WWII has been deliberate. Every one. The cheapest way to exterminate your rivals in the Third World is to starve them out. That's what happened in Ethiopia and Somalia, etc... You cut off trade links and people start starving.

I read an article recently which mentioned that the average cost of buying an airplane ticket to Europe from an African nation costs six times the price of buying the same ticket in Europe. The article claimed this was due to pervasive state monopolies.

Again, I don't think the problem is Big Pharma (which, after all, is forced by the consumer to sell products at prices that people can afford. If people can't afford to buy their products, Big Pharma will necessarily go bankrupt. Only governments or subsidized companies can sell products at prices so high that they don't care if anybody can afford them. This is because they get their revenues from the national tax base). Poor African customers can't buy Big Pharma products because corrupt African governments keep African customers poor. The Catholic Church kept all of Europe poor for a thousand years by burning Roman libraries, closing Roman schools, shutting down women's and gay liberation, and killing people (and massacring entire civilizations such as the Albigenses) for having ideas of their own. It's the same problem in sub-Saharan Africa. Different actors, but the same traditional human tragedy.

Anyway, I know this is a very long letter. Sorry about that. And I don't pretend that my opinions are necessarily correct. I'm always happy to learn from others and have my bad ideas (of which there are many... haha...) corrected. That's why I take the time to write.
Take care,

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