Will Confucius marry Marx?

Will Confucius marry Marx?

October 10, 2020

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Chinese scholar Lanxin Xiang has written a book, The Quest for Legitimacy in Chinese Politics, that is arguably the most extraordinary effort in decades trying to bridge the East-West politico-historical divide.

It’s impossible in a brief column to do justice to the relevance of the discussions this book inspires. Here we will highlight some of the key issues – hoping they will appeal to an informed readership especially across the Beltway, now convulsed by varying degrees of Sinophobia.

Xiang delves right into the fundamental contradiction: China is widely accused by the West of lack of democratic legitimacy exactly as it enjoys a four-decade, sustainable, history-making economic boom.

He identifies two key sources for the Chinese problem: “On the one hand, there is the project of cultural restoration through which Chinese leader Xi Jinping attempts to restore ‘Confucian legitimacy’ or the traditional ‘Mandate of Heaven’; on the other hand, Xi refuses to start any political reforms, because it is his top priority to preserve the existing political system, i.e., a ruling system derived mainly from an alien source, Bolshevik Russia.”

Ay, there’s the rub: “The two objectives are totally incompatible”.

Xiang contends that for the majority of Chinese – the apparatus and the population at large – this “alien system” cannot be preserved forever, especially now that a cultural revival focuses on the Chinese Dream.

Needless to add, scholarship in the West is missing the plot completely – because of the insistence on interpreting China under Western political science and “Eurocentric historiography”. What Xiang attempts in his book is to “navigate carefully the conceptual and logical traps created by post-Enlightenment terminologies”.

Thus his emphasis on deconstructing “master keywords” – a wonderful concept straight out of ideography. The four master keywords are legitimacy, republic, economy and foreign policy. This volume concentrates on legitimacy (hefa, in Chinese).

When law is about morality

It’s a joy to follow how Xiang debunks Max Weber – “the original thinker of the question of political legitimacy”. Weber is blasted for his “rather perfunctory study of the Confucian system”. He insisted that Confucianism – emphasizing only equality, harmony, decency, virtue and pacifism – could not possibly develop a competitive capitalist spirit.

Xiang shows how since the beginning of the Greco-Roman tradition, politics was always about a spatial conception – as reflected in polis (a city or city-state). The Confucian concept of politics, on the other hand, is “entirely temporal, based on the dynamic idea that legitimacy is determined by a ruler’s daily moral behavior.”

Xiang shows how hefa contains in fact two concepts: “fit” and “law” – with “law” giving priority to morality.

In China, the legitimacy of a ruler is derived from a Mandate of Heaven (Tian Ming). Unjust rulers inevitably lose the mandate – and the right to rule. This, argues Xiang, is “a dynamic ‘deeds-based’ rather than ‘procedure-based’ argument.”

Essentially, the Mandate of Heaven is “an ancient Chinese belief that tian [ heaven, but not the Christian heaven, complete with an omniscient God] grants the emperor the right to rule based on their moral quality and ability to govern well and fairly.”

The beauty of it is that the mandate does not require a divine connection or noble bloodline, and has no time limit. Chinese scholars have always interpreted the mandate as a way to fight abuse of power.

The overall crucial point is that, unlike in the West, the Chinese view of history is cyclical, not linear: “Legitimacy is in fact a never-ending process of moral self-adjustment.”

Xiang then compares it with the Western understanding of legitimacy. He refers to Locke, for whom political legitimacy derives from explicit and implicit popular consent of the governed. The difference is that without institutionalized religion, as in Christianity, the Chinese created “a dynamic conception of legitimacy through the secular authority of general will of the populace, arriving at this idea without the help of any fictional political theory such as divine rights of humanity and ‘social contract’’.

Xiang cannot but remind us that Leibniz described it as “Chinese natal theology”, which happened not to clash with the basic tenets of Christianity.

Xiang also explains how the Mandate of Heaven has nothing to do with Empire: “Acquiring overseas territories for population resettlement never occurred in Chinese history, and it does little to enhance legitimacy of the ruler.”

In the end it was the Enlightenment, mostly because of Montesquieu, that started to dismiss the Mandate of Heaven as “nothing but apology for ‘Oriental Despotism’”. Xiang notes how “pre-modern Europe’s rich interactions with the non-Western world” were “deliberately ignored by post-Enlightenment historians.”

Which brings us to a bitter irony: “While modern ‘democratic legitimacy’ as a concept can only work with the act of delegitimizing other types of political system, the Mandate of Heaven never contains an element of disparaging other models of governance.” So much for “the end of history.”

Why no Industrial Revolution?

Xiang asks a fundamental question: “Is China’s success indebted more to the West-led world economic system or to its own cultural resources?”

And then he proceeds to meticulously debunk the myth that economic growth is only possible under Western liberal democracy – a heritage, once again, of the Enlightenment, which ruled that Confucianism was not up to the task.

We already had an inkling that was not the case with the ascension of the East Asian tigers – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea – in the 1980s and 1990s. That even moved a bunch of social scientists and historians to admit that Confucianism could be a stimulus to economic growth.

Yet they only focused on the surface, the alleged “core” Confucian values of hard work and thrift, argues Xiang: “The real ‘core’ value, the Confucian vision of state and its relations to economy, is often neglected.”

Virtually everyone in the West, apart from a few non-Eurocentric scholars, completely ignores that China was the world’s dominant economic superpower from the 12th century to the second decade of the 19th century.

Xiang reminds us that a market economy – including private ownership, free land transactions, and highly specialized mobile labor – was established in China as early as in 300 B.C. Moreover, “as early as in the Ming dynasty, China had acquired all the major elements that were essential for the British Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.”

Which brings us to a persistent historical enigma: why the Industrial Revolution did not start in China?

Xiang turns the question upside down: “Why traditional China needed an industrial revolution at all?”

Once again, Xiang reminds us that the “Chinese economic model was very influential during the early period of the Enlightenment. Confucian economic thinking was introduced by the Jesuits to Europe, and some Chinese ideas such as the laisser-faire principle led to free-trade philosophy.”

Xiang shows not only how external economic relations were not important for Chinese politics and economy but also that “the traditional Chinese view of state is against the basic rationale of the industrial revolution, for its mass production method is aimed at conquering not just the domestic market but outside territories.”

Xiang also shows how the ideological foundation for Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations began to veer towards individualist liberalism while “Confucius never wavered from a position against individualism, for the role of the economy is to ‘enrich people’ as a whole, not specific individuals.”

All that leads to the fact that “in modern economics, the genuine conversation between the West and China hardly exists from the outset, since the post-Enlightenment West has been absolutely confident about its sole possession of the ‘universal truth’ and secret in economic development, which allegedly has been denied to the rest of the world.”

An extra clue can be found when we see what ‘economy” (jingji) means in China: Jingji is “an abbreviate term of two characters describing neither pure economic nor even commercial activities. It simply means ‘managing everyday life of the society and providing sufficient resources for the state”. In this conception, politics and economy can never be separated into two mechanical spheres. The body politic and the body economic are organically connected.”

And that’s why external trade, even when China was very active in the Ancient Silk Road, “was never considered capable of playing a key role for the health of the overall economy and the well-being of the people.”

Wu Wei and the invisible hand

Xiang needs to go back to the basics: the West did not invent the free market. The laisser-faire principle was first conceptualized by Francois Quesnay, the forerunner of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”. Quesnay, curiously, was known at the time as the “European Confucius”.

In Le Despotisme de la Chine (1767), written 9 years before The Wealth of Nations, Quesnay was frankly in favor of the meritocratic concept of giving political power to scholars and praised the “enlightened” Chinese imperial system.

An extra delicious historical irony is that laisser-faire, as Xiang reminds us, was directly inspired by the Taoist concept of wu wei – which we may loosely translate as “non-action”.

Xiang notes how “Adam Smith, deeply influenced by Quesnay whom he had met in Paris for learning this laisser-faire philosophy, may have got right the meaning of wu wei with his invention of “invisible hand”, suggesting a proactive rather than passive economic system, and keeping the Christian theological dimension aside.”

Xiang reviews everyone from Locke and Montesquieu to Stuart Mill, Hegel and Wallerstein’s “world system” theory to arrive at a startling conclusion: “The conception of China as a typical ‘backward’ economic model was a 20th century invention built upon the imagination of Western cultural and racial superiority, rather than historical reality.”

Moreover, the idea of ‘backward-looking’ was actually not established in Europe until the French revolution: “Before that, the concept of ‘revolution’ had always retained a dimension of cyclical, rather than ‘progressive’ – i.e., linear, historical perspective. The original meaning of revolution (from the Latin word revolutio, a “turn-around”) contains no element of social progress, for it refers to a fundamental change in political power or organizational structures that takes place when the population rises up in revolt against the current authorities.”

Will Confucius marry Marx?

And that brings us to post-modern China. Xiang stress how a popular consensus in China is that the Communist Party is “neither Marxist nor capitalist, and its moral standard has little to do with the Confucian value system”. Consequently, the Mandate of Heaven is “seriously damaged”.

The problem is that “marrying Marxism and Confucianism is too dangerous”.

Xiang identifies the fundamental flaw of the Chinese wealth distribution “in a system that guarantees a structural process of unfair (and illegal) wealth transfer, from the people who contribute labor to the production of wealth to the people who do not.”

He argues that, “deviation from Confucian traditional values explains the roots of the income distribution problem in China better than the Weberian theories which tried to establish a clear linkage between democracy and fair income distribution”.

So what is to be done?

Xiang is extremely critical of how the West approached China in the 19th century, “through the path of Westphalian power politics and the show of violence and Western military superiority.”

Well, we all know how it backfired. It led to a genuine modern revolution – and Maoism. The problem, as Xiang interprets it, is that the revolution “transformed the traditional Confucian society of peace and harmony into a virulent Westphalian state.”

So only through a social revolution inspired by October 1917 the Chinese state “begun the real process of approaching the West” and what we all define as “modernization”. What would Deng say?

Xiang argues that the current Chinese hybrid system, “dominated by a cancerous alien organ of Russian Bolshevism, is not sustainable without drastic reforms to create a pluralist republican system. Yet these reforms should not be conditioned upon eliminating traditional political values.”

So is the CCP capable of successfully merging Confucianism and Marxism-Leninism? Forging a unique, Chinese, Third Way? That’s not only the major theme for Xiang’s subsequent books: that’s a question for the ages.

Covid Madness

by Lawrence Davidson 

Author - American Herald Tribune

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

1 July 2020

Part I—Episodes of Madness

If I told you that Covid-19 was sparking recently reported episodes of madness here in the U.S., what do you imagine would be the reason? Maybe it would be the consequences of isolation. If you are alone and have few resources, lockdown might send you over the edge. Maybe it would be the pandemic’s impact on those with chronic hypochondria. This is obviously not an easy time to be stuck with an irrational fear of disease. Or maybe it is coming from the fundamentalist crowd (both Christian and Jewish) who believe that Covid-19 is the wrath of God yet can’t figure out why it is being visited upon their congregations. If you guessed any of these possible etiologies, you would missing the main cause.

So what is mainly causing the present outbursts of madness? It turns out to be a perverted concept of freedom. It is an insistence that, in the midst of a pandemic, temporarily closing down businesses, mandating the wearing of masks, and maintaining social distancing is an intolerable infringement on individual rights. If you would like a visual snapshot of the emotion behind this belief, just take a look at the gun-toting, maskless protesters at the Michigan state legislative building in early May. They are shouting irately about state tyranny, into the faces of masked guards. Other anti-mask protesters around the country revealed a similar off-the-wall attitude, with signs and banners ranging from the nonsensical to the scary: “Give me Liberty or Give me Covid-19,” and in contradiction, “Covid-19 is a Lie,” “Sacrifice the Weak—Reopen,” and “Jesus is My Vaccine.” There is one other rightwing anti-Covid protest sign that must be noted. This one showed up both at the Michigan rally and one in Chicago: ‘Arbeit Macht Frei,” or “Work will make you free.” It is the slogan that stood at the entrance to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. 

Part II—A Perverse Notion of Freedom

This perverse notion of freedom is wholly individualistic. That is, it makes no reference to community rights or needs. This point of view is not restricted to armed anarchists or disgruntled religious fundamentalists. Some quite prominent and successful proponents of this view go so far as to deny the reality of society, per se. Such a denial makes government, particularly in the form of the welfare state, a freedom-denying effort at social control. Also, if society is an illusion, then an institution that taxes the individual for its upkeep is little more than a con artist. 

The British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was an advocate of this outlook. Here is how she put it: “I think we have gone through a period when too many people … understand that if they have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!… ‘If I am homeless, the government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. …There is no such thing as society.” This is faulty logic. Some problems, like poverty and homelessness, can only be understood and dealt with within a societal context. Thatcher would have none of that. Since society does not really exist, problems with societal roots can’t be real either. If Thatcher were alive today, she would probably admit that the Covid-19 pandemic was very real, but otherwise would be reluctant to deal with it in any collective manner—just as are our perverse defenders of “freedom.” 

Part III—Beyond Sloganeering

The madness of these rightwing provocateurs is largely ideological in the Thatcher sense. It is also underlaid with a strong selfishness that really has nothing to do with economic hardships of lockdown. What they are saying is that “I don’t care about other people. I don’t want to wear a mask and social distance, and you can’t make me.” It is the ideology of selfish children and this attitude can drive people to act out in the same way it drives five-year-olds to have temper tantrums. Unfortunately, these protesters are not just children and their acting out goes beyond sloganeering. 

Since April 2020, numerous public health workers, particularly those with policy-making input, have faced threats and intimidation. Sometimes this is through e-mail or Facebook or over the phone. Sometimes it is having to face an armed mob at your front door. Here are a few recent examples:

—Lauri Jones, director of public health in a county in western Washington state, followed up on someone breaking a Covid-19 quarantine. Immediately she faced a barrage of threatening calls and e-mails from not just her home area but from around the country. Her address was posted on Facebook. She called the police and had to set up surveillance cameras at her home. 

—Amy Acton, Ohio’s public health director “endured months of anger against the state’s preventive measures, including armed protests at her home.” One Republican legislator called her a Nazi (Acton is Jewish) and another labeled her a dictator. She has since quit her job and now consults for the state’s health department. 

—Georgia’s public health director has been assigned an armed guard.

—Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, who is transgender, has been publicly harassed for her role in fighting the pandemic. One Republican county official said that he was “tired of listening to a guy dressed up as a woman.”

—Then there is the emotion expressed following a recent Palm Beach county commissioners meeting. The commissioners had voted unanimously to make masks mandatory in the county. Those in the audience denounced the commissioners and threatened them with “citizen’s arrest.” They made the following accusations: “masks are killing people,” masks “toss God’s wonderful breathing system out the window,” and to mandate masks is to follow the “devil’s laws.”

Perhaps the best summing up of this “demoralizing” nationwide situation comes from Theresa Anselmo, executive director of the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials—eighty percent of whose members have been threatened with dismissal or were outright fired from their jobs. “We’ve seen from the top down that the federal government is pitting public health against freedom, and to set up that false dichotomy is really a disservice to the men and women who have dedicated their lives . . . to helping people.” 

Part IV—Lethal Consequences

Ideally, we are supposed to teach our kids that freedom comes with responsibility. Take away a sense of responsibility to others and what you are left with the perverted freedom to be selfish. And, often that selfishness is blind to its own lethal consequences. 

There is a precedent for this sort of selfishness tied to a perverse claim of freedom—it is the American insistence that gun ownership is a right and a primary symbol of freedom. Here in the U.S., an average of 109 people a day are killed with guns, sometimes in quite spectacular fashion, as in the case of mass shootings. We endure it, or perhaps more accurately we choose to ignore it, because an influential, militant and bullying minority has stymied the political will to reign it in. This is a situation that is suggestive of willful madness. The same appears to be happening in the case of Covid-19.

In the last six months over 2 million Americans have fallen ill with Covid-19 and the death toll stands at around 130,000. The present infection and fatality rates are climbing. It seems that after several months of lockdown, which had hurt the economy and increased unemployment while simultaneously bringing the pandemic under control, the will to continue restrictions has largely broken down. Both politicians and the populace appeared to have given up and, as one of those sloganeering signs put it, silently agreed to “sacrifice the weak and reopen.” And almost everywhere they did reopen, the Covid-19 virus returned with a vengeance. It was when a moderate state counter-response, mandating masks and social distancing in public and business environments, was attempted that the militant bullying by Republican politicians, armed “patriots,” and disgruntled religious fundamentalists picked up steam. What now is likely to follow?

Future prospects are described by Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and Brown University professor who promotes gun violence prevention. She explains that the  “dynamics of the lockdown protesters” are similar to those of the gun rights advocates. Both groups of militants “moved the … debate” from a conversation about, first an epidemic of gun injuries, and now the wisdom of health and science in the face of a pandemic, to “a conversation about liberty.” Thus we are no longer talking about “weighing risks and benefits” and are instead involved in “a politicized narrative” about alleged individual rights. This is also a zero-sum narrative because this claim of prioritized rights is, for its advocates, not negotiable.

So there we have it. It is a fight between a perverse notion of freedom and a collective sense of social responsibility. The interests of society—which are real despite the rhetoric of the late Margret Thatcher—already lost out once in the struggle with “gun rights” advocates. Will it lose out again to mad opponents of masking and social distancing? The chances are good that it will. Sickness and death may well be our fate until science, in the form of an adequate vaccine, saves us from ourselves.

What would it take for proponents to say: ‘The Great Lockdown was wrong’?

April 28, 2020

What would it take for proponents to say: ‘The Great Lockdown was wrong’?

By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

There must be SOME criteria where the proponents of the Great Lockdown could say, “In hindsight, this was wrong.”

It is obviously hysterical to insist that admitting a policy mistake is totally, completely impossible. German fascists are not wiping out Poland, after all.

I mean, what if a secret global doomsday machine in Poland gets triggered if global GNP falls below a certain threshold, wiping out humanity? Certainly then all would agree, “The Great Lockdown turned out to be a mistake,” right?

Absurd extremes aside, the coronavirus overreaction has turned into a major test case for today’s Western worship of both technocracy and scientific secularism. Since 1980 they have insisted that national cultures should not play any shaping role in public policy because Westerners have discovered a system of “universal values” which should guide all national governments.

(The Western system is – of course – actually based on aristocratic/bourgeois neoliberalism & neo-imperialism.)

A corollary is that a technocratic 10% should be implementing these values with zero lower-class input into public policy formation. A second corollary is that science is the one, true, rightly-guided, infallible way. In April 2020 the doctors and professors are always right, and US President Donald Trump is always wrong.

But… then how do we explain this written – not spoken – declaration from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, as reported by AP? This was published on April 24, during the truly fake-news controversy regarding Trump and injecting disinfectants.

“Given that countries currently in ‘summer’ climates, such as Australia and Iran, are experiencing rapid virus spread, a decrease in cases with increases in humidity and temperature elsewhere should not be assumed,” the researchers wrote earlier in April in response to questions from the White House Office of Science and Technology.”

But Iran is not in summer – they are in the northern hemisphere, so Iran is in spring.

Australia is in the southern hemisphere – it is in autumn.

In fact, due to the tilting of the earth, if the northern hemisphere is in spring then the southern hemisphere can only be in autumn, never in summer. Spring in the north and summer anywhere else is an impossibility.

Not only am I not a rightly-guided epidemiologist, I am not even a scientist and yet I know this. Heck, maybe even Trump knows this.

Associated Press, the largest news-gathering organisation in the world, obviously made the same elementary mistake as these scientists. It is very possible that in their rabid desire to discredit Trump the journalists cared more about over-exaggerating his clearly off-the-cuff science than fact-checking.

My point here is not to say “gotcha, you are dumb” – my point is to say that this is precisely why socialist democracy (which relies on consensus) is so much more valuable than Western technocratic individualism. You see: God, in His wisdom, made humans imperfect – and that includes epidemiologists and we journalists.

That is why the West’s choice to rely solely on epidemiologists, and also a mainstream media which is supposed to be always ever-skeptically vetting everyone’s declarations, is a fundamentally flawed approach to handling the corona response. Combine this with a Western system where politicians are forced to be always either in electioneering mode or fund-raising mode, and you get a system which uncritically bows to very mistake-prone earthly authorities.

I find it stunning that US polls have consistently pegged general support for the lockdowns to be at 80%, and that an unthinkable 95% of Democrats say the measures don’t go too far. Considering all the poverty, the refusals to loan to Main Street, the delays in government aid, the exponentially-increasing certainty of prolonged economic chaos – Americans are still not fed up? I can only theorise that the US people have been so propagandised by a lack of “contrarian voices” – contrarian because they dare to say that the needs of the lower classes must be voiced and implemented – that they have been terrified into submission by their media. Democrats are obviously the least open to different ideas – we see how fantastically total their groupthink is.

But back to my main point: what are the realistic criteria where people would say – as people must often do if we are to have a civilised society which progresses – “I was wrong”?

I can’t think of any which would be acceptable… and that shows the massive hysteria of the Western response

Please note that “I was misled” is certainly acceptable.

After all, just turn on your television and you are almost guaranteed to see a journalist nodding along to whatever an epidemiologist is saying – these two classes have been given the key to socioeconomic policy. In the corona hysteria these two have worked in tandem, and both must be judged according to the huge power they have been given.

As late as March 20th The New York Times fake-leftist bien-pensant Nicolas Kristof quoted “one of the best disease modellers in the world” declaring that the best-case scenario in the US was “about 1.1 million deaths”, with the worst-case being “2.2 million deaths”. They even put the latter in the sub-headline. Because he is such an awful, unreadable journalist Kristof does not make it clear if these two scenarios are the result of everyone doing absolutely nothing to combat coronavirus (an absurdity, which only an ivory tower academic would waste time studying) – I assume that is the case. However, many others may not make that assumption because Kristof leads the reader to believe (and maybe he believes this – he is not clear) that despite all the personal protective gear, ventilators, new hospital beds and everything else that US society could throw at corona, then we should still expect over 1 million deaths. Thus, both scientists and Kristof conclude: “If anything, we’re still underreacting.”

It turns out the epidemiologist’s numbers were indeed based on the idea that everyone did absolutely nothing. Well, thanks for getting dumb journalists all worked up over nothing! And I guess epidemiologists can’t write Kristof’s article for him but it’s certain that this power tandem failed at the top.

I’m not surprised, because I always doubted 2.2 million and here’s one reason why: MSM journalists seem to forget that recent history is not kind to US epidemiologists: In 2014 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted 1.4 million Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone. There were only 28,616 total cases. If this was Iran or China we could just accuse them of a cover-up, but alas…. And those are two countries with far, far less resources to throw at a virus. On April 3 satirical website The Onion re-ran Historians Politely Remind Nation To Check What’s Happened In Past Before Making Any Big Decisions – they are indeed more credible than The New York Times.

So what are the criteria for a fact-based backtracking?

Frankly, I don’t think the Great Lockdown supporters have thought about this at all, and that should cause them some worry.

This question has clearly been repeatedly shot down to the point where everyone self-censors, which is the most effective form of censorship. The question itself has been deemed to be proof of being a far-right neo-fascist: A Google search reveals What If the Pandemic Policymakers Are Wrong? Will health experts become the latest elite deemed “too big to fail”? That’s a great sub-headline – I’d nick it, but this article is almost completely written already. What’s too bad is that this article is from the website American Greatness, LOL.

So just asking “what if” puts me on the far-right? Well, I did just sign off on the cover to my latest book on socialism so, LOL, I could debate that rather at length. However, asking “but what if”, providing a modicum of contrarian views, being skeptical – this is what objective journalism is in any nation.

I am willing to question my faith: One article idea in my “to do” basket is, “What do socialists do if the bailouts actually work?” I am not so self-righteous, smug and smothering that I refuse to honestly ask and answer that question – it’s at least possible they will… because the question is not mathematical and because that history is not yet written.

Can Great Lockdown supporters question themselves? I doubt they can or even want to respond.

What I fear is this: that many Great Lockdown supporters are so self-righteous, out of touch and indoctrinated that they will genuinely believe that “even preventing one death made it worth it”. This is the view of a child, not an adult citizen who should know that any “War on Dying” is nothing but a joke. That is the exact view of a lowest-common denominator American politician – are REALLY trying to be like them? “Whatever you say” politicians are the third wheel on the tricycle which is steering Western, pro-upper-class corona policy.

To answer my own question: Because the virus was supposed to be so extraordinary, extraordinary measures have been taken. So it’s gone far beyond only total deaths – the accurate counting of which appears to be already hopelessly muddled.

If corona pricks the Western bubble economy (Condensing the data leaves no doubt: Fear corona-economy more than the virus) and “Great Depression 2” becomes a real thing – was it worth it?

If major aspects of the current drastic reduction in political rights get normalised – just as France prolonged a “temporary” state of emergency for two full years, and then Emmanuel Macron legalised it into common police practice – was it worth it?

If the US bows to Dr. Anthony Fauci, their nation’s leading technocrat on infectious diseases, and permanently “breaks that custom” of shaking hands to show warmth and friendship to strangers or if France ends the la bise hello kisses – was it worth it?

There are economic, political and cultural shockwaves stemming from the Great Lockdown – maybe their proponents didn’t foresee them, or maybe they were misled, but these things cannot be ignored because they, too, will cause death and pain.

You don’t want to talk about those things? No problem.

You don’t even have to answer the simple question the headline poses – too many people getting bossed around these days already.

***********************************

Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Capitalist-imperialist West stays home over corona – they grew a conscience? – March 22, 2020

Corona meds in every pot & a People’s QE: the Trumpian populism they hoped for? – March 23, 2020

A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020

MSNBC: Chicago price gouging up 9,000% & the sports-journalization of US media – March 25, 2020

Tough times need vanguard parties – are ‘social media users’ the West’s? – March 26, 2020

If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020

Landlord class: Waive or donate rent-profits now or fear the Cultural Revolution – March 31, 2020

Corona repeating 9/11 & Y2K hysterias? Both saw huge economic overreactions – April 1, 2020

(A Soviet?) Superman: Red Son – the new socialist film to watch on lockdown – April 2, 2020

Corona rewrites capitalist bust-chronology & proves: It’s the nation-state, stupid – April 3, 2020

Condensing the data leaves no doubt: Fear corona-economy more than the virus – April 5, 2020

‘We’re Going Wrong’: The West’s middling, middle-class corona response – April 10, 2020

Why does the UK have an ‘army’ of volunteers but the US has a shortage? – April 12, 2020

No buybacks allowed or dared? Then wave goodbye to Western stock market gains – April 13, 2020

Pity post-corona Millennials… if they don’t openly push socialism – April 14, 2020

No, the dollar will only strengthen post-corona, as usual: it’s a crisis, after all – April 16, 2020

Same 2008 QE playbook, but the Eurozone will kick off Western chaos not the US – April 18, 2020

We’re giving up our civil liberties. Fine, but to which type of state? – April 20, 2020

Coronavirus – Macron’s savior. A ‘united Europe’ – France’s murderer – April 22, 2020

Iran’s ‘resistance economy’: the post-corona wish of the West’s silent majority (1/2) – April 23, 2020

The same 12-year itch: Will banks loan down QE money this time? – April 26, 2020

The end of globalisation won’t be televised, despite the hopes of the Western 99% (2/2) – April 27, 2020


Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

Why does the UK have an ‘army’ of volunteers but the US has a shortage?

Why does the UK have an ‘army’ of volunteers but the US has a shortage?

April 12, 2020

By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

In just 24 hours the UK saw nearly a half-million people volunteer to deliver food and medicine to the nation’s 1.5 million elderly and vulnerable people. Nearly 750,000 signed up, so many that they had to turn people away.

In the US the situation is the opposite: there are no shortage of stories such as NPR’s, Coronavirus Drives Away Volunteers Just As They’re Needed Most. But it’s not just the local holy-rolling church and the local food bank – the professional charity services have seemingly turned tail and ran away even though soldiering through a crisis is their job. In an “only in America” type of headline – The Peace Corps isn’t just bringing home 7,300 volunteers because of the coronavirus. It’s firing them.

With 17 million made jobless in 15 days, but with no government aid system to help them permitted to exist under US neoliberalism, food banks are not only increasingly short on food but short on people to hand out what little food they have left. Their malnutrition situation is so very dangerous that The New York Times reported that, “Uniformed (national) guardsmen help ‘take the edge off’ at increasingly tense distributions of (food) boxes,” and without even commenting on what an abnormal “edge” that is to have.

Doesn’t that all seem very American?

But in the UK national solidarity is now off the charts, and it’s not of the fundamentally conservative, nonsensical “Keep calm and carry on” variety from 2008: commentators say that the volunteer wave is healing the divide caused by Brexit, as well as erasing generation gaps because WWII-era Brits are seeing what their youth can and will do in a crisis.

How can we explain this disparity?

I think I should relate that to an Iranian this disparity is especially perplexing.

After all, “Marg bar (down with) England” is always right up there with, “Marg bar the United States”. Those two comprise 40% of the reliably unholy pentagon of your standard “Marg bar …!” chant, along with Israel, the MKO/MEK hypocrites, and those who oppose the guardianship of the Islamic jurist principle.

But look at all those volunteers – has England changed drastically and grown a conscience? Has Iran got it wrong? Are we supposed to stop marg bar-ing them now?

What?! Have you lost your head during this corona crisis?! If anything, we should be adding marg bars, not reducing marg bars! For example: why not “Marg bar Wales”? Don’t you think they feel left out often enough? And why are we leaving Scotland off the hook?

So the very notion of not marg bar-ing England practically makes me want to add a, “Marg bar you!”

But I get carried away easily, so I think it’s time for a marg bar on jokes in this article.

The reason for the difference is quite simple, but very sad

Are all of America’s healthy men and women aged 20-40, who have a statistically infinitesimal chance of dying from coronavirus, too busy to volunteer? Of course not – they’re mostly on lockdown now.

Are they too self-centred to volunteer? Is this more out-of-control Western individualism? Are they too lazy? Have they been scared into submission by an atrocious and irresponsible national media?

I honestly don’t think it’s anything like that: I think it’s that Americans are scared of the health care costs they might incur if they got sick while volunteering. Contrarily, able-bodied, young, patriotic Britishers have the National Health Service.

It’s really that simple: young Americans want to help their elder class, but they can’t go (even deeper) into debt to do so.

And that is really a sad, sad commentary on “Capitalism with American characteristics”, isn’t it?

I’m sure we can all immediately perceive how so very many negative, anti-social, self-defeating, wasteful and truly lamentable cycles of all sorts are kept in constant motion by the atrocious neoliberal principles which have been foisted on the US populace since 1980.

(Similarly, the US food bank charity is a recent development that exploded beginning in the Reagan era.)

Think of all the helplessness, hopelessness, anomie, anger, bitterness and (that old American standby) rage which could have been alleviated in America by both the act of volunteering and the benefits volunteering would bring, but which cannot even be attempted due to the incredibly difficulty of mere self-preservation in the US?

In their article To Fight Coronavirus, U.K. Asked for Some Volunteers. It Got an Army The New York Times does not mention this obvious explanation for the difference between these two across-the-Atlantic brothers. They either cannot put two and two together, or they refuse to broach the simple fact that the UK can marshal such a force because their youth class has no reason to fear indebtedness due to volunteering.

This disparity – and the explanation is hardly complex, although the ramifications are embarrassing for the US to honestly discuss – is precisely the kind of issue which fake-leftist media similar to The New York Times are steadfastly not discussing in favor of obsessive Trump-bashing and corona “deathboard-watching”.

Because fake-leftists in the US are so prone to turning their rage into false righteousness – this is not a problem caused by Trump: Obama made huge cuts to food stamps for a million households in 2014, which increased the number of people forced to rely on food bank charity, and his health care reform was a pathetic capitulation to the health care corporations and their medical lobbyists. The problem is not Republicans – Democrats are just as rabidly anti-socialist and pro-neoliberalism.

But in a pandemic any nation is necessarily going to live and die on the strength of its existing health care system. The US has to go on lockdown (they say) because their terrible health care system cannot bear even a moderate strain; the same rationale also silently explains why the average American cannot dare to attempt to humanely alleviate the ramifications of such a drastic, anti-lower-class measure.

I’m sure that many American readers are no doubt feeling quite mixed feelings about how such a simple thing – a promise of merely decent health care – could have made such a huge cultural difference during this time of huge cultural upheaval. America has just as many cultural divides to heal as Britain… but they are forced to remain alone, helpless, scared, hungry, untreated and debt-fearful.

One often has to laugh to keep from crying, so permit me one last marg bar – for those who are obsessively making every waking moment and every tiny thing about one subject and one subject only: marg bar religious corona fundamentalism.

The corona fundamentalists in the US could instead spare some time to wonder why it’s too expensive to volunteer for charity work.

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Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Capitalist-imperialist West stays home over corona – they grew a conscience? – March 22, 2020

Corona meds in every pot & a People’s QE: the Trumpian populism they hoped for? – March 23, 2020

A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020

MSNBC: Chicago price gouging up 9,000% & the sports-journalization of US media – March 25, 2020

Tough times need vanguard parties – are ‘social media users’ the West’s? – March 26, 2020

If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020

Landlord class: Waive or donate rent-profits now or fear the Cultural Revolution – March 31, 2020

Corona repeating 9/11 & Y2K hysterias? Both saw huge economic overreactions – April 1, 2020

(A Soviet?) Superman: Red Son – the new socialist film to watch on lockdown – April 2, 2020

Corona rewrites capitalist bust-chronology & proves: It’s the nation-state, stupid – April 3, 2020

Condensing the data leaves no doubt: Fear corona-economy more than the virus – April 5, 2020

‘We’re Going Wrong’: The West’s middling, middle-class corona response – April 10, 2020


Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

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