Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Against J.Michael Cole's "Pessimism" Editorial

"In addition to helping us avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, history can also teach us that our pessimistic urges, when we believe that all is lost, have nothing original about them."
Originality, or the lack thereof, is no refutation to facts whose implications are most naturally rendered in "pessimistic" colours (for example, it is a fact that current levels of U.S. government spending are "unsustainable"). That being said however, I do not think the PRC will outlive the current decade - though I cannot say that doubt is an entirely optimistic one (imagine the internal pressures on a democractic Chinese government to launch itself into another nationalist war).
"There was a time, soon after the euphoria that followed the end of World War II, when failure seemed certain and that the selflessness and sacrifices of the “greatest generation,” which had ensured victory of the “free world” against fascism, had been spent in vain."
In vain for whom? Many Chinese and Eastern Europeans may have once had "interesting" opinions about that.
"Sixty years later, the West finds itself in a similar situation. Just as it did back then, pessimism pervades in the wake of a sweeping ideological victory."
Pessimism among whom and with regard to what ideals? I do not think, for example, that the current political leadership of the important Western countries (i.e. the U.S.) is "pessimistic". I think they are perverted by their own democratically-necessitated pragmatism. It is through this which a nihilistic impulse is gradually corroding the political and cultural instantiation of Liberal principles such as private property and freedom of thought and speech.
"There is no reason why democracies should capitulate on human rights just because China’s economy is supposedly holding the whole world together..."
To the extent that the populations of these democracies are infected with anti-conceptual and value-levelling mental reflexes (e.g. the ironic drive against "discrimination" even as more and more aspects of life fall under the political axe of illegality), then there is every reason for the political leadership to capitulate: reflecting this is their arc to power.
"The “China threat” looms large because through pessimism, the West has allowed Beijing — a Beijing that is endlessly wracked by insecurity, ironically — to get away with murder for too long."
It is not through pessimism, it is through a political pragmatism coupled to a creeping mental nihilism that the West is allowing Beijing to get away with murder.

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