Mad Rant: Freedom in the Far East
Recently, the eyes of the world have again been drawn to the Far East thanks to the antics of the Orwellian real-life nightmare that is North Korea. Such incidents make me think and that is usually not a good thing, at least not for any poor soul who happens to come see me in the aftermath and is subject to a long, manic lecture on my obsession of the moment. Well, you happened into this corner of the inter-webs so you get it too. When I look at Korea, I am reminded of a few things. For one, I am reminded of why I could never condemn all American intervention overseas. True, I look back on American military history and see no vital reason for most of the wars America has fought, but when I look at South Korea as compared to North Korea, I say, “well done America, Great Britain and all the other allies”. Too bad the whole peninsula could not be as prosperous as the south. It also makes me angry again at the U.S. government (or the Democratic Congress anyway) for the abandonment of South Vietnam, which could be just as successful today. However, after such a pat on the back, I also think about what an obvious nightmare it is that countries like Korea, China and the Indochinese lands broke from their own long established traditions to embrace the political feuds of the western world.
I think of the fallen dynasties and the whole populations nearly brought to ruin in wars driven by competing allegiances to totally alien ideologies, being used as proxies usually for the United States or Soviet Union. Not that those two were in any way comparable, as the contrast between North and South Korea clearly shows, but it is a crying shame it ever came to that in the first place. Now, usually, when I go on this tirade, someone will mention that it was from the west in general or the United States in particular that people learned about things like freedom, liberty or the great “gift” of democracy. Please, spare me the sanctimony. There were certainly things the east needed to learn from the west but there were also plenty of things the west could have benefited from learning from the east. On a moral level, each seem fairly well matched to me. The most basic traditional values of right and wrong were much the same in both parts of the world, and both have abandoned many or most of these in our time anyway. However, it positively infuriates me that so many people seem to think that before the era of republicanism all the peoples of the east were living in grinding poverty and near slavery. That, in a word, is idiotic.
You could say the same thing about the west. How everyone seems to think that before the era of the so-called “Enlightenment” and especially before the revolutionary era, everyone lived in oppression and ignorance. They forget all about the great universities established in the Middle Ages, the tremendous scientific, literary and artistic discoveries of the Renaissance or how, even in feudal times, most Europeans had more holidays from work and paid less to their governments than they do today. But in the east this same ignorant attitude has often also been combined with a disgusting dose of condescension and thinly veiled racism. I will never forget finding an old school book, written sometime in the 1910’s, that spoke with such arrogant, ignorant pride about the 1911 Revolution in China. This was from a contemporary American perspective of course, and the book spoke so smugly about how the Chinese had finally “grown up” and were embracing the idea of the republic which, of course, Americans were “smart” enough to have figures out two centuries earlier. One would think the very concept of “freedom” had only been invented in Philadelphia in 1776!
This is obviously garbage for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the facts. Under the Confucian monarchy, for example, Korea actually had a more meritocratic system hundreds of years ago than the United States has even today where your popularity can get you a high position even if your ability is nil. The imperial system in China certainly could not have survived for thousands of years and maintained a vast country with the largest population in the world without doing something right and the masses would not have just submitted for so many centuries if they were all living like slaves. The Mongol Empire, for example, had freedom of religion, vibrant commerce and laws protecting property and all without a written constitution or elected national assembly. Tell that to a republican today and blow their mind.
Human beings the world over had plenty of time to learn what worked and what did not and, unlike today without our collective safety nets, if something didn’t work the consequences could not be ignored. People learned from it, adapted and moved on. When a system was found that worked, they stuck with it until it became sacred tradition. Many attributed foreign influences with the establishment of the Japanese constitutional monarchy in the Meiji Constitution. However, it embodied the same values held by the Japanese going back at least to the Seventeen-Article Constitution released in 604 by Prince Shotoku. This document included such points as being tolerant of disagreement, not to be envious, not to conscript people at times that would prevent them from providing for themselves and that important decisions should be left to one ruler but taken after discussion. Those who believe that government which governs best is that which governs the least might also be surprised to learn that many Chinese came to the same conclusion a thousand years ago. In Imperial China there was the famous saying, implying considerable freedom through benign neglect that, “Heaven is high, and the Emperor is far away”.
Today we smart, modern people in our republican world think that we have to have a small army of politicians at every level of government and all of these people always think they have to be “doing something”. Are these hordes of compulsive regulators really creating more freedom as compared to the traditional systems of the past where the Emperor of Japan just prayed for his people or where the Emperor of China was “far away” in Peking? In Imperial Vietnam there was a very old traditional saying that the authority of the Emperor stopped at the village gate. This was, obviously, not absolutely the case but it arose because of the considerable autonomy that existed from village to village. The Emperor in Hue or (prior to that) Thanh Long focused on the big issues while for the most part the people were governed on the local level by their own village elders with an occasional visit from an itinerate mandarin. They also had sense enough to appreciate the importance of saving for a rainy day whereas today we seem to have made a “virtue” out of not saving anything and even spending money we don’t have. Remind me again; who are the ignorant ones? Those people ruled by kings and emperors who actually produced things or the populations of today who have every minute detail of their lives regulated and have based whole economies on betting on the profit or loss of products that no one has even made yet? They had a government with one emperor and an economy based on real money and real goods. We have governments made up of thousands of parasites and economies based on moving around “potential” (imaginary) money no one has even earned yet.
People in the past, as I am so fond of saying, were not stupid and the Vietnamese who used to watch tigers and elephants fight in an arena were a hundred times more civilized than the people who watch “The Jersey Shore”. People in the East, as well as the West, were not living a nightmarish existence before the revolutionary republic was introduced and I have no doubt that all would be better off to return to tried and tested traditional ways, adapted for the modern world and technological improvements, while throwing away modernistic concepts that have so clearly and painfully failed. I think such a thing would be beautiful, but then I am, as any will say, just … The Mad Monarchist.
I think a more nuanced analysis will take into account the big differences between China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.ReplyDelete
Firstly, China has had not one monarchy but numerous dynasties with periods of fragmentation and warfare. Korea on the other hand had been more stable, with longer-lived dynasties. Japan and Vietnam had a central monarchy whose powers were (especially Japan) limited by feudal lords.
I don't think you understand what a "Mad Rant" is. These are not nor intended to be, detailed, "nuanced" studies but emotional tirades, in this case, a venting of frustration against those who think American liberals invented "freedom" and "rights".Delete
i freaking love u u think just like me!!!!!! in another note, have you ever considered moving to a Kingdom? i am from the Kingdom of Morocco but my family took me to USA for a better education but i will return soon as I get my HS Degree. I know you're from texas right?ReplyDelete
Good to know. Probably most monarchists in America have considered or at least thought about moving at some point. I have as well but never firmly decided on where I would go if I did. However, unlike some, I am heavily attached to my home and native land (Texas), I live off my land and could not live so comfortably in another country and I live on land that was owned by my father, grandfather and greatgrandfather all owned and it would be nearly impossible for me to walk away from it.Delete
I often speak of my own ancestral Homeland, England, and Ireland to some extent. In this case though I think an article I read, from the Guardian no less, explains why we see there attitude we see.ReplyDelete
Most people do not know the History of their own Peoples, or even their own Families. I've met people who didn't know what their own Grandparents did.
What little History we learn is rooted in the Revolutionary Fairy Tale of evil tyrannical Kings who didn’t care about their people, struggling against noble Freedom Fighters rising up in the name of he People.
I maintain that, far from becoming Irreligious, modern Secularism is itself a Religion, and a large part of its doctrines are to support Republicanism. To them, the story of the American Revolution, and later the French Revolution, are the equivalent of the Story of Moses freeing his People, or of Jesus dying for our Sins, or even the Prophet Muhammad and his foundation of Islam. The ideas they promote predate the events, but this is seen as the Funding of the Religions in full.
This new Enlightenment Religion has successfully spread out and become the dominant Religion, in fact I'd say its the worlds largest Religion, for even those who have not embraced Atheism, or even still cling to traditional Faiths like Christianity or Buddhism or Islam, have really subordinated those Faiths to the modern Secular, Enlightenment ideology. In America, for example, a lot of Neo-Cons say they are Christian and want a return of Christian Values, but to them, the American Founding Fathers based the American Government on the Bible.
When I tell them that previous Generations of Christians were actually Monarchists, I am told I'm either wrong, or it was because they were afraid of the evil Kings slaughtering them, or because they were ignorant of the Bible due to it being banned or illiteracy. They can't comprehend how a Christian can support Monarchy when the Bible clearly condemns it. This despite the Kingship of Christ being central to the Christian Faith.
Asia is no different than the West. The Enlightenment Religion spread to them via the West, and took root. Everywhere it spreads, it spreads the same way. First by demonising the past, then by causing a sort of Historical and cultural amnesia to prevent it from being considered.
The past is usually depicted as a Time of oppression and Ignorance in which people lived in fear for their daily lives, had no Freedoms, and were no better than ignorant beasts. Then, Enlightenment cam and men’s minds opened to Truth, and they became Rational, and clawed heir way up. Thy realised they were oppressed, and tossed aside the evil Oppressions of the past to embrace freedom, which naturally means Republicanism. ( Or today Democracy.)
This narrative is no different from the narrative of Sin enslaving us till we find Salvation in Jesus, or the world being in Darkness till Muhammad was given the Koran by God.
Heck, its not even different from the story of how all Truth was lost after the Apostles Died in the Great apostasy, and men walked in Darkness and ignorance with no love or peace till the Prophet Joseph Smith found the Golden Plates in Palmyra, New York and restored the Gospel.ReplyDelete
It's essentially the same kind of story, with the same emotional appeal and the same basic structure of contrasting the world before with the world after.
The story was simply modified to fit Asia. The Emperors and old Feudal Stem left them living in grinding poverty and in abject oppression where merely saying the worked thing would lad you to being beheaded! Luckily, the West has discovered Freedom and Reason and elevated us out of the darkness of superstition and subsistent living and made us see the world anew in the light of Rationality and Science! Oh and they gave us freedom by letting us realise true power rested in the people and giving us Basic Rights!
One must forget the past, in order to not see any alternative. This is that the way the world is now is the only way people ever see it. They may elect new leaders, or even overthrow an elected government by Revolution,but it will be replaced by another Elected Republic that is much the same. Its the only choice they know.
They either do not think of the past, or think of it in terms of backwardness, with Monarchy at best an older form of Government used by man in his infancy but which we have outgrown, and which has become obsolete against the newer, better Democratic system. At worst, its a tyranny thay held us back in the Dark Ages and prevented any real Growth till the explosion of Knowledge and Rationality in the 18th Century.
To learn History is to dispel this mythology, and perhaps even to reject the Modern Religion.
It is like John Corigliano said, “The French Revolution is the ultimate modernist statement. Destroy everything. Don't build on the past. There is no past. “. Or, Chesterton. “You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.”
I think the Asians, as in the West, were basically told to ignore the past, and are only taught sketches of it before the 20th Century and Democracy took root. They don’t understand the ideologies and beliefs of their ancestors, nor know any detail, and no benefit is ever taught of the old ways, only how superior is the new.
It is the same sickness, I suppose I feel a little more sorry for the Far East since it was imposed on them before anyone really knew what it was all about as opposed to the west where we fell for it, fought it off and then willingly and cheerfully embraced it again, assuring ourselves the whole time of how "enlightened" we are.Delete
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True, yet we go on making the same mistakes over and over because we refuse to look back or, more importantly, we refuse to admit when we made a mistake. China made a pretty big damn mistake with Chairman Mao and all his idiocity but at least, after about 60 million people died, Deng Xiaoping came along and said, that didn't work, lets try something a little different. In the west, two World Wars, the Soviet Union and we still refuse to learn the lesson. Heck, there are still people in Russia who think Stalin was a great guy. We just refuse to see the facts staring us in the face.Delete