October 9, 2010

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Is The Striving For Freedom Our Basic Instinct?

Present performance and the degrading inferiority of the Soviet system. A crime, committed by one, remains an offense even if it is said to be to the action of many. Good terrorists? More Marx or more money. 

1. Examine the record of Eastern Europe and of Russia since the collapse of Communism as a ruling system. In doing so, one is hardly able to suppress some disappointment. The performance registered is below par for the potential we discover. Often, only the voluntary and outright restoration of the totalitarianism of the USSR and its empire would underbid the accomplishments.

If you do not think that the striving for freedom is the instinctive course pursued by mankind, then you are interested in how freedom came to work in successful societies. You will also want to investigate the cases in which risk-laden freedom has been abandoned for safe servitude.

Overall, the record after the introduction of a free market and of a system of self-determination has been something of a disappointment. The phrasing is used to express the difference between the expected, the attained and the potential. Frequently, the region has not made the adjustment fast enough and in a sufficiently far-reaching manner. Why? It seems to be a weak argument to say that, these societies had no experience in liberty as a system. Originally, all free peoples have known servitude. That makes out of serfdom, even if it is not seen as the natural condition of man, our original condition.

Wherever there has been a move from external control to self-determination and its corresponding public order, there had been, prior to the overthrow of the old order of  constraint, a budding alternative to it. This alternative included a life-style and substitute elite. It had education, some material well-being and at times even some limited public affairs experience. (Recall here of the American Colonies’ pre-1776 institutions and practices.) In the case of Russia and Eastern Europe, reflecting the ruling system’s totalitarian nature, this alternative and unofficial parallel society has been too feebly developed to assume full control. Therefore, the smarty descendants of those that operated the country as vassals of the Communist Party could sneak into power positions. These were both political and economic. Privatization generally meant that the Party-imposed managers could use their pull to purchase enterprises for a pittance. Thereby these were enabled to take the step from collectivistic state capitalism to individual capitalism for a symbolic dollar and a signature.

On this basis, the inadequacies of the systems that replaced the Soviet one do not prove the inferiority of the indigenous population or the limited uses of democracy. What the case proves is the degrading, destructive inferiority of the previous system.

2. In more way than one, the roots of the problem depicted above go back to a nationally or ideologically one-eyed view of the world and to the skewed ways developed to prevail in this construct. In some cases, the local politics are reduced in practice to being free to determine which gang gets a license to be corrupt without the fear of retaliation. All these favored sons have to do is to claim that they act to advance the cause of some group, race, class or nationality that has defined itself as a natural embodiment of the community.
The insight is that what is criminal in the individual case – admittedly benefitting a single person- gains legitimacy once the crime committed is a collective one and is claimed to be to the advantage of a group. Legitimization by relating what would otherwise be clearly a felony to benefit a real or existing larger entity has been responsible for dozens of millions of victims. What is required is not to continue along the path that accepts the individually abhorrent crime as excusable once it is divided not by one but by millions. In doing so, we need to complete a return to an old form of accountability. Accordingly, what is a crime for one perpetrator remains a crime even if in theory many share the benefit of the action by a mass. If someone acts in a way that is unworthy of a single member of the human race then, he should also be judged unworthy for membership by his nation. Reflecting our immature nationalism, we are still far from the application of this principle.

3. For years, with the support of the defunct GDR, the “Palestinians” and ultimately the USSR, the terrorists of the RAF (Red Army Fraction) have created havoc in what was at the time Western Germany. The disapproval of our careless day is limited. That is because, supposedly, the Communist terrorists killed in the pursuit of a worthy –but unrealized- ideal. Furthermore, PC standards -but not necessarily the facts- tells one that, when put to the fictitious choice between Red and Brown terror, one is to chose and support the crimson version.

There is a danger inherent in the simplification that the tactical needs of the last World War have created. Somehow, terror practiced by the right people remains thereby an acceptable, albeit overreacting, way to deal with the problems of society. Once we entertain that thought, we are close to accepting that there is a basically good terror and also bad terror. By the defiance of logic, we are made to approve that the persuasion by violence one would have liked to commit but for which one lacked the courage, is excusable. At that, point right or wrong depends on who you are and for whose benefit bloodshed is practiced. Last but not least: it matters a lot who the victim is.

Here a caveat is necessary. Violence against a system that brutally suppresses dissent and attempts to adjust it so as to conform to the will the majority, is not necessarily terrorism. If it would not be so, then we would have to remove most national monuments. These tend to enshrine those that faced the violence of their rulers by organizing society’s resistance.

4. At long last, and after an initial “no”, North Korea has agreed to a concession. Members of families that have been torn apart during the Korean War will be allowed to meet. Undoubtedly, the capitalistic and therefore inhuman regime of the South, where according to the North pauperism and exploitation prevails, will have to pay dearly for the humanitarian gesture. As you know, the People’s Republic needs money more than it does additional doses of Marx - or Whiskey for the “Dear Leader”. That is because you cannot buy or generate food with Marx. But for dollars –may they be cursed if in the pocket of others- you sure can.

The revealing and not accidental detail of such meetings is that they are scheduled to take place in the Northern that is Communist, half of Korea. Now Communism’s apologists would explain this with world famous North Korean hospitality. Indeed, that is so strong that there are foreigners that enjoy it based on a life sentence. Of course, here the machinations of imperialist propaganda need to be addressed and corrected. Not a word is true about the kidnapped Japanese whose release is, even after decades, demanded by Tokyo. According to a malicious accusation, they were removed from Japan under duress.  The vicious allegation is that Pyongyang’s intelligence operatives needed these unfortunates to teach their operatives perfect Japanese.

The practice of encounters on North Korean soil allows you to guess why no North Koreans are allowed to visit in the South. If that would happen many of those that have not left behind hostages would defect. Instead of returning to the Kim family’s paradise, their confusion- reflecting a misguided preference for life in the capitalist hell which the ROK is- might be to defect. To protect the innocent from mistakes it is, therefore, imperative to hold the encounters in the North. Oh, by the way, South Korea has not had any problems with its citizens asking for refugee status in the North.