Friday, March 6, 2015
When Is A Country Not A Country? (usually when it's a republic)
Perhaps it is due to the situation being hard to put into words that more people do not see what is right in front of their eyes. The unusual thing about life in Thailand, for example, is that there is nothing unusual about it. To the south, in the Kingdom of Malaysia there has been, relatively recently, a great deal of trouble but, again, it has not brought about any crisis of confidence among the Malaysian people or foreigners. A monarch, by their very nature, and the living link with history that a monarchy provides gives a country that intangible, hard-to-describe “something” that helps people keep things in perspective. It is a stabilizing force, even when taking no action at all, and just by being there can keep things within a traditional framework that allows for change to happen without getting out of control. Moreover, in a way that is also frustratingly hard to put in to words, it represents a means of organic growth for countries as opposed to harsh, artificial regimes that destroy countries by trying to re-make them according to some utopian ideology.
So, China was a country, a culture and a people but suddenly became something artificial. It became, not a country but an ideology. Eventually, after millions died of starvation, disease and poverty, this ideology was proven to be moronic and so, while never officially renouncing it, China became what it is today; essentially a business. It is even run like a business, with one all-powerful CEO chosen by a board of directors known to the public as the Chinese Communist Party. And, unfortunately, China is far from unique. A similar story can be told in a multitude of countries all around the world. Numerous other Asian countries fit the pattern, most African countries fit the pattern, Russia, even South America where, without any direct foreign intervention, countries broke away from Spain and tried to set up their artificial countries based on theories that seemed to work elsewhere but which were ultimately shown to be unworkable in Latin America. What about the United States? It is easy to misunderstand the United States and many have. It is an artificial country but, although plenty of Americans would not want to admit this, aside from a great deal of plain good luck, much of the success of America has been due to the fact that the “American Revolution” was not really a revolution. They didn’t try to remake society, they didn’t really change much at all but basically just took the existing British model of government that was natural to them and tweaked it a little bit to suit their republican sentiments. It was not a jarring break and (unless you were a loyalist) life went on pretty much the same as before.
Next, came the Constitution of 1857, most associated with the tenure of President Benito Juarez. Though power was more centralized, in some ways it was even more like that of the United States than the 1824 version. However, it further broke with Mexican culture and traditions by being so anti-clerical. It was the first constitution to make Mexico a secular country and to place restrictions on the Catholic Church. Thus it became a bone of contention, leading to civil war and ultimately the restoration of the monarchy under Emperor Maximilian. Juarez himself violated the terms of the 1857 constitution on numerous occasions and finally it was found to be unacceptable after the country fell back into dictatorship. It was then that Mexico adopted its current constitution, the Constitution of 1917. Even more restrictive of religion, very leftist in character, it did bring an end to the era of dictatorships in Mexico but replaced it with the era of ideological tyranny with decades of effective one-party rule under the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). Oddly enough, to show how widespread this problem is, this constitution which was not even compatible with Mexico, ended up being the inspiration for those of the Weimar Republic and the first post-Tsarist constitution in Russia. And, of course, we remember what resounding “successes” those regimes were.
France is, on the other hand, an example of a country that was torn, violently, from its traditional roots and while seemingly a fairly prosperous country, had really never recovered from that. The Kingdom of France existed for about a thousand years and while there were certainly good times and bad times the overall structure of the country was maintained and even when things became really bad (be it religious wars or English domination), France always bounced back to attain new heights. Since the revolution, however, France has had the restored monarchy, a popular monarchy, two empires, a pseudo-fascistic state and five republics. Add to that the fact that most did not go peacefully into that dark night and consider how divided France still is today. More to the point, of the problems France has today, virtually all of them can be traced back to the revolution and the, so-far, failed efforts by the French to come to terms with it. Much of the recent internal turmoil has been due to issues involving French Muslims. How did this come about? For one thing, the French Revolution shattered the place of Christianity in France and it has never really fully come back and taken root, secularism became acceptable and so an alien religion like Islam has little competition. More broadly, the very ideals of the French Revolution have made it very hard for France to combat disloyal and even terrorist elements in their midst without looking like hypocrites. And this is nothing new as the speed with which France replaced the First Republic with the First Empire and the numerous republics and monarchies since has plainly shown that the ideals of the French Revolution were recognized to be unworkable, utopian nonsense fairly early on.
Some may disagree, and this is only opinion, but when considering the subject it does seem to me that there is a distinct, if hard to precisely put into words, difference between a radical, violent change, as with a revolution, and natural changes that have occurred within a traditional framework. Additionally, it seems that countries which have taken this route have the greater record of success behind them. Even when things have gone to the extent of, for example, the so-called Glorious Revolution or American Revolution, these things were really not all that revolutionary. There was nothing like the September Massacres or “New Soviet Man” or the Cultural Revolution that came out of those (to my mind) unfortunate events. Countries that attempt to deny themselves, their own past, their own nature, never seem to truly prosper and, as is the case with so many today, they become republics which are not really “countries” at all anymore but simply an ideological camp, a massive social or public works network or simply a big business, not, what has been considered a natural, organic nation as understood through most of human history.