Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Singular Impulse

Now, when the name of Vladimir Putin has appeared on this here blog, it's usually as an almost comical gangster; as a violent, glowering, dictatorial, ludicrous, tiger-shooting, chest-baring mafioso; a blood-splattered, dead-eyed criminal; as democracy Kryptonite.

And you know, it's not like this is exactly a controversial opinion.  Crack open a random newspaper or fire up a TV and you'll discover that it's almost universally held by the British public, political class and press. If I note that Putin is not a nice man, and that he's fond of jailing or killing his enemies, it may help to illustrate a point but it isn't exactly what you'd call Breaking News.

Similarly, when Putin cracks down on the media or flattens Grozny or steamrollers the Georgians out of South Ossetia, the British do not stand up en masse to praise his democratic bona fides or to ponder the depths of his humanitarianism.  When he launches discrimination drives against gay people, academics and hacks and politicians and so on do not generally pen bajillion-word diatribes upon his altruistic yearning for peace and justice and screech about the infamy of his detractors.

What you definitely do see at times like this though, is plenty of is folk issuing shouts of Why are the supposedly anti-war left silent when Putin blah blah blah and Where are the protests outside the Russian embassy? and so forth.

The most hilarious suggestion here, of course, is that there's any such creature as an anti-war faction in the UK, beyond the usual tiny gaggle of politically-irrelevant holdouts on the outer rim of the yakosphere, but that's a point for another day.

So let me just say that if prompted, I'll gladly reissue the previous list of complaints about the Russian government, but you know, what's the point?  The only people in the UK who aren't aware of Putin's villainy are those who'd struggle to name the Prime Minister of the nation.

And I don't even bother my arse to protest our own wars any more, let alone those of other nations, because it's been amply demonstrated that there's no point whatsoever in doing so.  Our own government is utterly indifferent to our opinions on its adventures, and attempts to sway them from whatever madcap schemes they have in mind are like firing a water pistol at a sex-crazed bull elephant.  Like it or lump it, que sera, sera.

Which leads me to also conclude that a thousand furious flag-wavers outside the Russian embassy are unlikely to dissuade the Kremlin, innit.

The basic complaint under these Wilt Thou Not Condemne chuckles is this - why do you criticise our own government's bone-crushing inanities more often than the worse enormities of others?

And there's a long list of perfectly valid and logical responses about holding your own rulers to account and so on, but when it comes down to it, what impels me towards Blogger and Twitter is the daily avalanche of blazing horseshit about humanitarianism and our duty towards the suffering peoples and all of that utter drivel that masks the singular impulse:  Bombs away. 

I don't fantasise that Vladimir Putin is a more reasonable man than our rulers.  I don't imagine that he adheres to the law, or that he holds higher principles, or expect him to adhere to lesser standards of behaviour.

I'm saying that when the bombers take to the air, there is no law; there are no principles; there are no standards of behaviour.  There's only pragmatism, cynicism and cant, and that almost every time you hear the word humanitarianism, it's a mere euphemism for whatever we wanted to do in the first place.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

If everyone asking why there are no protestors outside the Russian embassy went to protest outside the Russian embassy today, there'd be a pretty big protest.

Odd that the likes of Nick want other people to do their protesting for them.

CBinTH said...

So, in other words, because all countries are theoretically equally cynical, you will only protest against the actions of the relatively least cynical, eg the Western rather than the Eastern.

Well, technically you won't protest at all, but you know what I mean.

Interestingly, Russian and Iranian propoganda now swings the same way; rather than whitewash their own nations, their propoganda outlets focus on "exposing" Western "hypocrisy". I guess being told to behave in a more civilised way must be really hacking them off!

The fact is, that governments like Russia are objectively worse in their behaviour than governments in the EU or North America (although not necessarily so awful as we are accustomed to think of them as being). And our own leaders have more room for abstract idealism and are less touchy about being made to look weak. The West is qualitively more ethical in every way.

It might seem rational to care more about Western misbehaviour for a variety of reasons; but when protesting a sense of proportion must be kept.

An example might be the violent anti-American protests of the Vietnam era, in which the protesters, rather than 'regulating' Western behaviour, were actively taking the side of the Communist block enemy against their own allies, which was perverse - because aside from siding with the enemy, they were siding with a block of states objectively more ruthless, imperialistic, and oppressive, than the West (generally speaking).

ejh said...

when protesting a sense of proportion must be kept

And what would our sense of proportion say about the numbers of Vietnamese killed by US inolvement there?

flyingrodent said...

So, in other words, because all countries are theoretically equally cynical, you will only protest against the actions of the relatively least cynical, eg the Western rather than the Eastern.

You read the entire post, and that's what you think I'm saying?

Come on, you can do better than this - it's insultingly lame.

The West is qualitively more ethical in every way.

Well look, I'm going to agree with this in the broad sense, but I do have to point out that, for example, almost every faction in the Iraqi civil war was directly being funded by the US - the American and Iraqi militaries; the Shi'ite government and its skull-drilling militias and death squads; the head-chopping Sunni militias and death squads; the Kurdish militias and the Turkish government it was paggering against.

Now, I can dig qualitative ethics but you know, arming and backing e.g. death squads doesn't meet my exacting standards of common decency.

It might seem rational to care more about Western misbehaviour for a variety of reasons; but when protesting a sense of proportion must be kept.

I've long described this kind of Oh no, some student somewhere said something daft, this is unacceptable! Au barricades citoyens! nonsense as a shit police action upon the outer boundary of acceptable discourse, because it is.

So, Vietnam - let me say this about that. Any consideration of the Vietnam War - a needless human catastrophe on a barely comprehensible scale - that finds time to even make a passing snarky comment about protests against it, is basically hilarious.

Oh, we might have turned half of Vietnam into a blasted, polluted moonscape and killed squillions of civilians with incendiaries and high explosives for absolutely no reason that made any sense but you know, when protesting a sense of proportion must be kept.

It'd be very, very easy to go off on one about apologism for these horrors or that at this point, but I'm not a fan of that mode of argument. So I'll just say: the point that you're making is self-refuting silliness of fish-slapping, Pythonesque proportions.

organic cheeseboard said...

I really can't see the logic in the Cohen/Aaro line on this. They beamon the lack of protests against Russia, and because there aren't any it demonstrates that 'the peace movement' - whatever that is - was insincere about being opposed to intervention, or some such.

But Aaro and Nick are obviously against this Russian intervention, right? So

A) why don't they actually protest themselves, instead of doing what aaro claimed to be yesterday - 'writing a book', or Cohen 'going to London' - and

B) Nick and Aaro are enthusiastic supportters of other interventions, so what makes this 'Russian military defence of a minority in Ukraine who have already been subject to discrimination and violence'* different to, say, our theoretical 'UK military defence of minorities in Syria who have already been subject to discrimination and violence' - which was Nick's stated position on that conflict? If there IS a difference which results in Aaro and Nick's positons on this being different to, say, Syria or Iraq, then why are Aaro and Nick expecting 'the peace movement' to behave differently from themselves? It's offensively and literally hypocritical.

*That'd be the pro- Russian line on this - not mine.

organic cheeseboard said...

I'm amused by your exchange with James Bloodworth on Twitter by the way. He cites 'Hope and change' as if those phrases were to do with positioning Obama as a warmonger whose main goal was to attack Russia (nope, me neither); rather than to position him as the only candidate for the Democratic nomination who opposed the war in Iraq - which secured him both the nomination and the presidency. It's almost as if Bloodworth literally does not know what he's taling about, isn't it?

flyingrodent said...

I really can't see the logic in the Cohen/Aaro line on this.

Probably because there is no logic at all - they haven't even noticed that there have been no significant anti-UK wars protests for more than a decade, so I think we can discount the possibility of honesty here.

Basically, because people were mean to them and called them names for getting suckered by one of the most obvious political con-jobs in recent history, Nick & Dave are going to keep putting the boot into those people at every opportunity forever more, with or without a valid excuse.

I'm aware that there's a certain hypocrisy in me making that point but you know, it's still true.

It's almost as if Bloodworth literally does not know what he's taling about, isn't it?

It's very like that but I suggest that again, he just doesn't really care whether his ramblings make sense. What really matters is putting the boot into the relativissess forever.

And again, irony, hypocrisy on my part and so on but also, still true.

SimonB said...

This, said without any sense of irony by John Kerry, was something special: "You just don't - in the 21st century - behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,"

We don't see that kind of barefaced bullshit very often, even today