China spreads its influence

Michael Gerson tells about China’s inroads into Africa and its bigger plans:

The skyline of this city — what little there is of it — is a Chinese creation. Chinese money built the Parliament building. A $100 million, Chinese-funded hotel and conference center is rising. The Chinese government is constructing a soccer stadium, a decidedly popular move.

It is difficult to argue that these shiny new buildings are more urgent development priorities than, say, fighting malaria or providing a daily meal to children in rural schools. But the Chinese don’t even pretend this is the case. These highly visible investments, increasingly unavoidable across Africa, are designed to buy influence with governments.

But why Malawi? This poor, rural, landlocked nation is hardly a strategic prize. Elsewhere, the Chinese are clearly after oil and other resources. Malawi does have some unexploited rare-earth metals and a mine producing uranium. But the aggressive Chinese outreach here seems more directly motivated by a plan to establish China as a power throughout the continent, even in its remotest corners.

This is sometimes called neo-imperialism. At closer range, it more closely resembles mercantilism. Unlike in Asia, where China pursues tinderbox land disputes, the objectives here are overwhelmingly economic — securing vital commodities while selling cheap manufactured goods.

Though China does not seek to plant military bases or ideological revolutions in Africa, the Chinese model of state-led development is increasingly viewed as an alternative to Western economic liberalism. Leaders such as South African President Jacob Zuma are impressed with the Chinese economic approach — which is naturally attractive to leaders inclined toward the expansion of government power.

But what is appealing to African leaders is not always good for African societies. China’s defining foreign policy principle is “mutual noninterference in domestic affairs,” which comes in handy for a nation that fears a focus on its own domestic oppression. In practice, this means that African governments have a rich friend with low standards. Some Chinese associates, such as Zimbabwe or Sudan, are international outlaws. Elsewhere, the influence is more subtle. Malawi, for example, is a multiparty democracy that is experiencing slow democratic regression. Recent legal changes have restricted press freedom and expanded discrimination based on sexual orientation (adding a prohibition against lesbianism to the existing colonial-era statute). Western donors have objected. But since China is indifferent, the pressure on the Malawian government is diluted.

via China’s African investments: Who benefits? – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Let me throw out the idea, just for arguments sake, that the Chinese govt has their foreign policy about right:

    dont meddle in internal affairs that are none of your business.
    Pursue self-ish strategic interests.
    Project the values of your nation in your actions.
    In this case the national values are pure materialism.

    Our american mileage would differ somewhat, I would hope, on the content of those last two points.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Let me throw out the idea, just for arguments sake, that the Chinese govt has their foreign policy about right:

    dont meddle in internal affairs that are none of your business.
    Pursue self-ish strategic interests.
    Project the values of your nation in your actions.
    In this case the national values are pure materialism.

    Our american mileage would differ somewhat, I would hope, on the content of those last two points.

  • Jonathan

    Can we interest them, perhaps, in taking over for us a humanitarian police action in a certain north African country?

    Just spitballin’ tossing the old idea ball around.

  • Jonathan

    Can we interest them, perhaps, in taking over for us a humanitarian police action in a certain north African country?

    Just spitballin’ tossing the old idea ball around.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    j @ 2

    They seem, as the article suggests, only interested in military action with countries with whom they share a border. so they are only interested in forcable policing of their own borders and territory.

    again this makes alot of sense to me. And then they use “soft (read economic) power to get what they want otherwise.

    we are quickly losing our economic power by expending it on two wars that I dont see are in our immediate self-ish interest to pursue.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    j @ 2

    They seem, as the article suggests, only interested in military action with countries with whom they share a border. so they are only interested in forcable policing of their own borders and territory.

    again this makes alot of sense to me. And then they use “soft (read economic) power to get what they want otherwise.

    we are quickly losing our economic power by expending it on two wars that I dont see are in our immediate self-ish interest to pursue.

  • Cincinnatus

    fws: I don’t think they’re as “right” as you claim. While they apparently don’t (currently and publicly!) wish to graft the continent of Africa onto their empire, the Chinese are seeking an empire no less than did the United States circa 1898, but they’re starting (as we did) with a “sphere of influence.” They’re hoping to obtain a rather dominant grip on the East Asian sphere, and they’re engaging in numerous more subtle efforts basically to kick the United States out of the region.

    What I do know is that, whoever ends up “in charge” in Africa, Africa is going to get screwed yet again.

  • Cincinnatus

    fws: I don’t think they’re as “right” as you claim. While they apparently don’t (currently and publicly!) wish to graft the continent of Africa onto their empire, the Chinese are seeking an empire no less than did the United States circa 1898, but they’re starting (as we did) with a “sphere of influence.” They’re hoping to obtain a rather dominant grip on the East Asian sphere, and they’re engaging in numerous more subtle efforts basically to kick the United States out of the region.

    What I do know is that, whoever ends up “in charge” in Africa, Africa is going to get screwed yet again.

  • Cincinnatus

    Two other addendums:

    -Economic empire is every bit as imperial as military empire in the modern world, and is undoubtedly a prelude to the latter (what happens when the United States also needs resources from Africa? What happens when a particularly useful nation goes “rogue”?)

    -The only substantial difference between Chinese and American imperial policy is that China doesn’t purport to be spreading democracy and human rights. This is generally a good thing, but the reason China is wise enough not to go gallivanting off on idealistic quests of knight-errancy is that it believes in neither democracy nor human rights.

  • Cincinnatus

    Two other addendums:

    -Economic empire is every bit as imperial as military empire in the modern world, and is undoubtedly a prelude to the latter (what happens when the United States also needs resources from Africa? What happens when a particularly useful nation goes “rogue”?)

    -The only substantial difference between Chinese and American imperial policy is that China doesn’t purport to be spreading democracy and human rights. This is generally a good thing, but the reason China is wise enough not to go gallivanting off on idealistic quests of knight-errancy is that it believes in neither democracy nor human rights.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    cincinnatus @ 4

    I was just floating a debate point to see what came back.

    I like your comparison to the USA circa 1800s

    I think we just kinda fell into the world-power-police thang sorta by accident. we were the “last man standing” after WWII. I think we don´t fit our current role very well. We are isolationists by nature and temperment I think.

    The brits did it alot better than us.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    cincinnatus @ 4

    I was just floating a debate point to see what came back.

    I like your comparison to the USA circa 1800s

    I think we just kinda fell into the world-power-police thang sorta by accident. we were the “last man standing” after WWII. I think we don´t fit our current role very well. We are isolationists by nature and temperment I think.

    The brits did it alot better than us.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    cincinnatus @ 5

    I think I am saying that if we want to see what “neoconservatism” and “realpolitik ” should look like, we should study the Chinese.

    I am not suggesting really that we model our foreign policy after theirs.

    But then I am not certain what our foreign policy should look like except to say we should maybe not meddle and we should start to realize that our power and resources have definite limits.

    We dont want to hear that second part.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    cincinnatus @ 5

    I think I am saying that if we want to see what “neoconservatism” and “realpolitik ” should look like, we should study the Chinese.

    I am not suggesting really that we model our foreign policy after theirs.

    But then I am not certain what our foreign policy should look like except to say we should maybe not meddle and we should start to realize that our power and resources have definite limits.

    We dont want to hear that second part.

  • Porcell

    China, an essentially tyrannical regime, is welcomed by tinpot African tyrants. In the long run Africa too will wake up and topple these dictators, shoving China aside in the process.

    The best thing America can do is to support the African nations that are developing relatively decent democratic republics with free economies. Pres. Bush II did this particularly with South Africa, Botswana.

    We neo-cons are delighted of late to welcome Pres. Obama into our camp, much to the dismay of the hardcore pacifists and isolationists.
    It could be said that Obama is a closet follower of the Bush doctrine of promoting liberty and fighting tyranny around the world.

  • Porcell

    China, an essentially tyrannical regime, is welcomed by tinpot African tyrants. In the long run Africa too will wake up and topple these dictators, shoving China aside in the process.

    The best thing America can do is to support the African nations that are developing relatively decent democratic republics with free economies. Pres. Bush II did this particularly with South Africa, Botswana.

    We neo-cons are delighted of late to welcome Pres. Obama into our camp, much to the dismay of the hardcore pacifists and isolationists.
    It could be said that Obama is a closet follower of the Bush doctrine of promoting liberty and fighting tyranny around the world.

  • Louis

    I think mercantilism is a good description. China needsraw material, Africa needs development. So far, quite good. The thing that China should be careful of is too deep an entanglement with the African governments. With the exception of SA, Botswana, Namibia and a few others, one would be hard-pressed to talk about stable democracies. More often than not you have autocratic or semi-autocratic Democracies, such as Uganada. I’m not casting a value-judement on this btw. But it is the reality. As such, should civil unrest / revolution start, foreign nationals and foreign interests seen to be in cahoots with the government in question could find themselves in a very difficult, and dangerous position, the target of popular hatred, justly or unjustly so.

    I cannot see Chian building an overseas empire – Chinese imperialism, throughout tha ages, has been more of the “short-arm” variety – neighbouring countries, like fws notes. Thus their response to such uphenvals as I described here would be a complete unknown.

  • Louis

    I think mercantilism is a good description. China needsraw material, Africa needs development. So far, quite good. The thing that China should be careful of is too deep an entanglement with the African governments. With the exception of SA, Botswana, Namibia and a few others, one would be hard-pressed to talk about stable democracies. More often than not you have autocratic or semi-autocratic Democracies, such as Uganada. I’m not casting a value-judement on this btw. But it is the reality. As such, should civil unrest / revolution start, foreign nationals and foreign interests seen to be in cahoots with the government in question could find themselves in a very difficult, and dangerous position, the target of popular hatred, justly or unjustly so.

    I cannot see Chian building an overseas empire – Chinese imperialism, throughout tha ages, has been more of the “short-arm” variety – neighbouring countries, like fws notes. Thus their response to such uphenvals as I described here would be a complete unknown.

  • Louis

    BTW, Purcell, Bush II was highly unpopular in SA. He did much with his Aids initiative, though, but not much as a supporter of SA democracy. Remember, SA became a non-racial democracy (it was a whites-only ‘democracy’ since 1910, when the country was formed) during Clinton’s first term. And if any single foreign person could be credtied with stopping the outbreak of civil war, and ensuring that the process didn’t collapse in the very last, very fragile, days before the first ‘free-and-fair’ election, it was a Kenyan, professor Okumu. This after Kissinger and Carrington left, being unable to make it work. (see here – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/how-the-peace-was-won-richard-dowden-reveals-that-harsh-words-from-a-kenyan-professor-made-buthelezi-accept-south-african-poll-deal-1371146.html).

    And Botswana was a democracy since independance (1966), when Johnson was president.

    And the Namibian peace process, elections, and independance, took place during Bush I, but under guidance of the UN, with the Finn, Martti Ahtisaari, as head of the UN body UNTAG.

  • Louis

    BTW, Purcell, Bush II was highly unpopular in SA. He did much with his Aids initiative, though, but not much as a supporter of SA democracy. Remember, SA became a non-racial democracy (it was a whites-only ‘democracy’ since 1910, when the country was formed) during Clinton’s first term. And if any single foreign person could be credtied with stopping the outbreak of civil war, and ensuring that the process didn’t collapse in the very last, very fragile, days before the first ‘free-and-fair’ election, it was a Kenyan, professor Okumu. This after Kissinger and Carrington left, being unable to make it work. (see here – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/how-the-peace-was-won-richard-dowden-reveals-that-harsh-words-from-a-kenyan-professor-made-buthelezi-accept-south-african-poll-deal-1371146.html).

    And Botswana was a democracy since independance (1966), when Johnson was president.

    And the Namibian peace process, elections, and independance, took place during Bush I, but under guidance of the UN, with the Finn, Martti Ahtisaari, as head of the UN body UNTAG.

  • Louis

    The first of my two posts is riddled with typo’s, I do apologise.

    Say after me: Write, Read, Correct, Post. Now repeat that 200 times.. :)

  • Louis

    The first of my two posts is riddled with typo’s, I do apologise.

    Say after me: Write, Read, Correct, Post. Now repeat that 200 times.. :)

  • Porcell

    Interesting that so many pundits extoll the virtues of China while predicting doom for America. I remember back in the eighties a similar phenomenon with regard to Japan., though Japan just now is in deep trouble economically and politically.

    Actually, America has a $14 trillion economy; its people just now have woken up to the excesses of government spending caused largely by the influence of public employee unions. Should the people prevail over narrow interests, America will once again prevail on the world scene.

    The truth is that China continues to be a tyrannical, second world country with huge political and environmental problems. Personally, I at one point considered China as an opportunity for investment, though on careful analysis desisted from this view. My guess is that China, like Japan, is a Western wannabe that due to fundamental Oriental limitations will fail. The one joker in this analysis is the reality that some hundreds of millions of Chinese have managed to convert to Christianity.

  • Porcell

    Interesting that so many pundits extoll the virtues of China while predicting doom for America. I remember back in the eighties a similar phenomenon with regard to Japan., though Japan just now is in deep trouble economically and politically.

    Actually, America has a $14 trillion economy; its people just now have woken up to the excesses of government spending caused largely by the influence of public employee unions. Should the people prevail over narrow interests, America will once again prevail on the world scene.

    The truth is that China continues to be a tyrannical, second world country with huge political and environmental problems. Personally, I at one point considered China as an opportunity for investment, though on careful analysis desisted from this view. My guess is that China, like Japan, is a Western wannabe that due to fundamental Oriental limitations will fail. The one joker in this analysis is the reality that some hundreds of millions of Chinese have managed to convert to Christianity.

  • Louis

    Porcell – what are the “fundamental Oriental limitations” you are writing about?

  • Louis

    Porcell – what are the “fundamental Oriental limitations” you are writing about?

  • Porcell

    Louis, the Oriental compared to the Western Judeo-Christian and Greek heritage doesn’t really value the dignity of individual human beings. The emphasis tends to be on collective matters. The ancient Greeks well understood this when dealing with the Persians. Anyone who seriously understands the Muslim Arabs, also, knows that the emphasis is on the dignity of the tribe as opposed to the individual.

    Christianity is fundamentally about the dignity of every individual before God and the Law. Asians in general have a hard time understanding this, though it might be that with tens of millions of them having converted to Christ things are a-changing.

  • Porcell

    Louis, the Oriental compared to the Western Judeo-Christian and Greek heritage doesn’t really value the dignity of individual human beings. The emphasis tends to be on collective matters. The ancient Greeks well understood this when dealing with the Persians. Anyone who seriously understands the Muslim Arabs, also, knows that the emphasis is on the dignity of the tribe as opposed to the individual.

    Christianity is fundamentally about the dignity of every individual before God and the Law. Asians in general have a hard time understanding this, though it might be that with tens of millions of them having converted to Christ things are a-changing.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, it’s probably unfair and unnecessarily simplistic to claim that the West “well understands” the dignity of the individual. Fascism is/was a home-grown innovation, after all (assuming you would include Germany and Italy in your definition of the West), as was Communism. And let’s not start on what Rousseau had to say about the individual.

    That said, you’re quite right otherwise: the Orient, broadly defined, always has acknowledged the superiority of the collective over the individual, and this is particularly true with respect to the virile, militant form of politico-communist-economico-imperial nationalism that dominates Chinese foreign policy. Thus, Louis, I’m not so sanguine about the whole thing as you are: those being “colonized” always lose, and you’ll recall that American imperialism also began from modest ambitions (to subjugate the North American wilderness coast-to-coast; the Monroe Doctrine, which resembles very much China’s contemporary policy with regards to its desired “sphere of influence” in East Asia). It might also be that Chinese imperialism, starkly “realpolitik” as it is, might be far more dangerous than anything Americans have ever proffered, a la the Soviet Union’s imperialism. At least American imperialism has always been moderately tempered by talk, if not practice, of rights, dignity, and democracy.

    On the other hand, China’s growing class of upward-mobile, opportunistic youth are highly individualistic (albeit hyper-materialistic), so I wonder if they might soon morph into a Chinese ruling class with ambitions distinct from those of the “party.”

    Also, lest we forget, my prediction is that China is a gigantic bubble waiting to burst–soon. I’ll be taking bets on that proposition if anyone expresses interest.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, it’s probably unfair and unnecessarily simplistic to claim that the West “well understands” the dignity of the individual. Fascism is/was a home-grown innovation, after all (assuming you would include Germany and Italy in your definition of the West), as was Communism. And let’s not start on what Rousseau had to say about the individual.

    That said, you’re quite right otherwise: the Orient, broadly defined, always has acknowledged the superiority of the collective over the individual, and this is particularly true with respect to the virile, militant form of politico-communist-economico-imperial nationalism that dominates Chinese foreign policy. Thus, Louis, I’m not so sanguine about the whole thing as you are: those being “colonized” always lose, and you’ll recall that American imperialism also began from modest ambitions (to subjugate the North American wilderness coast-to-coast; the Monroe Doctrine, which resembles very much China’s contemporary policy with regards to its desired “sphere of influence” in East Asia). It might also be that Chinese imperialism, starkly “realpolitik” as it is, might be far more dangerous than anything Americans have ever proffered, a la the Soviet Union’s imperialism. At least American imperialism has always been moderately tempered by talk, if not practice, of rights, dignity, and democracy.

    On the other hand, China’s growing class of upward-mobile, opportunistic youth are highly individualistic (albeit hyper-materialistic), so I wonder if they might soon morph into a Chinese ruling class with ambitions distinct from those of the “party.”

    Also, lest we forget, my prediction is that China is a gigantic bubble waiting to burst–soon. I’ll be taking bets on that proposition if anyone expresses interest.

  • Louis

    “Christianity is fundamentally about the dignity of every individual before God and the Law. ”

    Maybe your version of it. Mine is fundamentally about how the Law shows us that we are all dastardly sinners, but that God loves us so much that He saves us. Law and Gospel.

  • Louis

    “Christianity is fundamentally about the dignity of every individual before God and the Law. ”

    Maybe your version of it. Mine is fundamentally about how the Law shows us that we are all dastardly sinners, but that God loves us so much that He saves us. Law and Gospel.

  • Porcell

    Louis, to make a long story short, Christianity both avers the dignity of the individual before the God and the Law, while, also, understanding the sinfulness of man. Luther captured this well with Simul justus et peccator.

    Cinncinnatus, fascism was not a Western home grown innovation. It was A Teutonic pagan reversion.

  • Porcell

    Louis, to make a long story short, Christianity both avers the dignity of the individual before the God and the Law, while, also, understanding the sinfulness of man. Luther captured this well with Simul justus et peccator.

    Cinncinnatus, fascism was not a Western home grown innovation. It was A Teutonic pagan reversion.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, not to derail this conversation, but are you denying that Germany and German thought are included in the Western tradition? What about Rousseau, who provided some of the philosophical prerequisites for fascism? And what about Marxism? And what about those collectivist Diggers in late medieval England?

    Meanwhile, you’ve also contradicted yourself. Those ancient Greek philosophers you lauded above? They were kinda’ pagan. So were the Romans. Yeah.

    So who made you the authority on what constitutes the Western tradition?

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, not to derail this conversation, but are you denying that Germany and German thought are included in the Western tradition? What about Rousseau, who provided some of the philosophical prerequisites for fascism? And what about Marxism? And what about those collectivist Diggers in late medieval England?

    Meanwhile, you’ve also contradicted yourself. Those ancient Greek philosophers you lauded above? They were kinda’ pagan. So were the Romans. Yeah.

    So who made you the authority on what constitutes the Western tradition?

  • Louis

    Porcell, the Law accuses, so how on earth can Christianity aver man’s dignity before the Law (Law as in, the Law and Gospel)?

    Methinks you are holding onto some sort of neo-Western Mythology, one that picks and chooses from among the greater Western heritage that which conforms to its own peculiar vision, as well as, and this is more serious, utilises certain elements of Christianity for it’s own cultural-politcal cause. For instance, more than any other New Testament commandment in frequency, one is exhorted to care for the poor, the widow and the orphan. Yet that somehow never makes it into your mythology. You use a lot of Christian language, even fooling some here, but it seems to me that the heart of whatever it is you are holding on to is some sort of mythological vision, where all and sundry hold to some Victorian- bourgeousie religious-cultural values, and everybody is nice and proper. This ties in well with your revisionist history as I earlier, and Cincinnatus in #15 and #18, points out.

    No, no. Christ came to save us sinners. Without Him we are dead.

  • Louis

    Porcell, the Law accuses, so how on earth can Christianity aver man’s dignity before the Law (Law as in, the Law and Gospel)?

    Methinks you are holding onto some sort of neo-Western Mythology, one that picks and chooses from among the greater Western heritage that which conforms to its own peculiar vision, as well as, and this is more serious, utilises certain elements of Christianity for it’s own cultural-politcal cause. For instance, more than any other New Testament commandment in frequency, one is exhorted to care for the poor, the widow and the orphan. Yet that somehow never makes it into your mythology. You use a lot of Christian language, even fooling some here, but it seems to me that the heart of whatever it is you are holding on to is some sort of mythological vision, where all and sundry hold to some Victorian- bourgeousie religious-cultural values, and everybody is nice and proper. This ties in well with your revisionist history as I earlier, and Cincinnatus in #15 and #18, points out.

    No, no. Christ came to save us sinners. Without Him we are dead.

  • Porcell

    Louis, again, the Judeo-Christian West for all its faults stands fundamentally for the equality of the individual before the law and God, whereas orientals by and large stand essentially for their assorted tribes. This has been understood by acute Western scholars since the time of Plato. Your moralistic remark that Christ came to save we sinners is beside the pont.

    Cincinnatus, other than a reversion to Thor, as Heine predicted, how else do you explain the tragedy of Germany during WWII?

  • Porcell

    Louis, again, the Judeo-Christian West for all its faults stands fundamentally for the equality of the individual before the law and God, whereas orientals by and large stand essentially for their assorted tribes. This has been understood by acute Western scholars since the time of Plato. Your moralistic remark that Christ came to save we sinners is beside the pont.

    Cincinnatus, other than a reversion to Thor, as Heine predicted, how else do you explain the tragedy of Germany during WWII?

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, as to Rousseau and Marx, both reverted to a sort of romantic tribalism that went against the best of the Western tradition.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, as to Rousseau and Marx, both reverted to a sort of romantic tribalism that went against the best of the Western tradition.

  • Louis

    Porcell, I have problem with your use of the word “fundamental”.

  • Louis

    Porcell, I have problem with your use of the word “fundamental”.

  • SKPeterson

    Well, fascism had its roots in anarcho-socialism, a decidedly Western affectation. Mussolini brought to the anarcho-socialist fundamentals a penchant for regimented nationalism. In Germany this combination of socialism and nationalism resulted in the aptly named Nationalist Socialist Workers Party, or the Nazis. They are/were a Western creation, firmly grounded in the peculiar Western social pathologies that grew up in the wake of rapid 19th century industrialization. Couple that with the combined Enlightenment and Pietist assault on traditional forms of religion mediated through either an agrarian socialist or Nietschzean nihilist perspective and you get a fine multinational tragedy playing out in European locales like Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Spain, Portugal, large parts of France, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria from 1920 through to the mid-70′s.

  • SKPeterson

    Well, fascism had its roots in anarcho-socialism, a decidedly Western affectation. Mussolini brought to the anarcho-socialist fundamentals a penchant for regimented nationalism. In Germany this combination of socialism and nationalism resulted in the aptly named Nationalist Socialist Workers Party, or the Nazis. They are/were a Western creation, firmly grounded in the peculiar Western social pathologies that grew up in the wake of rapid 19th century industrialization. Couple that with the combined Enlightenment and Pietist assault on traditional forms of religion mediated through either an agrarian socialist or Nietschzean nihilist perspective and you get a fine multinational tragedy playing out in European locales like Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Spain, Portugal, large parts of France, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria from 1920 through to the mid-70′s.

  • Porcell

    SK Peterson, I should say that fascism had its roots mostly in a Teutonic reversion to paganism as the following prescient remarks of the German poet, Heine, during the mid nineteenth century explain:

    The Romantic nostalgia for ancient Teutonic myths and the folklore of cruelty and evil as typified by the Brothers Grimm was destined, Heine predicted, to release the dark, aggressive, cataclysmic forces in the German people.“Christianity,”he wrote, “and this is its greatest merit, subdued to a certain extent the brutal German belligerence, but it could not entirely quench it; and when the taming talisman, the cross, falls to pieces, then will break forth again the ferocity of the old combatants…There will be played in Germany a drama compared to which the French Revolution will
    seem but an innocent idyll…Take heed, then! Ye have more to fearfrom a freed Germany than from the entire Holy Alliance with all the Croats and Cossacks.” This warning was followed by an even
    more astounding prophecy: “If one day Satan…should be victorious, there will fall on the heads of the poor Jews a tempest of persecution which will far surpass all their previous sufferings…I shudder at the thought and an infinite pity ripples through my heart.” Heine, alone in his generation, was thus the first to foresee the Holocaust. That
    being said, nowhere in his ominous caveats did he ever accuse the Germans of collective guilt.He saw the nation as divided in two, and praised the “better and more beautiful half of the German people, but that is precisely the half that does not bear arms.”

    From A Jew of the Third Kind Heine: His Double Life
    Yigal Losson

  • Porcell

    SK Peterson, I should say that fascism had its roots mostly in a Teutonic reversion to paganism as the following prescient remarks of the German poet, Heine, during the mid nineteenth century explain:

    The Romantic nostalgia for ancient Teutonic myths and the folklore of cruelty and evil as typified by the Brothers Grimm was destined, Heine predicted, to release the dark, aggressive, cataclysmic forces in the German people.“Christianity,”he wrote, “and this is its greatest merit, subdued to a certain extent the brutal German belligerence, but it could not entirely quench it; and when the taming talisman, the cross, falls to pieces, then will break forth again the ferocity of the old combatants…There will be played in Germany a drama compared to which the French Revolution will
    seem but an innocent idyll…Take heed, then! Ye have more to fearfrom a freed Germany than from the entire Holy Alliance with all the Croats and Cossacks.” This warning was followed by an even
    more astounding prophecy: “If one day Satan…should be victorious, there will fall on the heads of the poor Jews a tempest of persecution which will far surpass all their previous sufferings…I shudder at the thought and an infinite pity ripples through my heart.” Heine, alone in his generation, was thus the first to foresee the Holocaust. That
    being said, nowhere in his ominous caveats did he ever accuse the Germans of collective guilt.He saw the nation as divided in two, and praised the “better and more beautiful half of the German people, but that is precisely the half that does not bear arms.”

    From A Jew of the Third Kind Heine: His Double Life
    Yigal Losson

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, I’ll second what SKPeterson said.

    I believe this discussion will be fruitless, as your arguments are essentially both incoherent and inconsistent (with reality). You’ve just asserted that Rousseau and Marx (and many other thinkers both like and unlike them), who are very prominent figures in the Western “canon” are not part of the Western canon. You’ve also asserted that “paganism”–in which at the “Greco-Roman” half (or more) of the Western tradition is deeply and inextricably rooted–is also non-Western, even though it is quintessentially Western. Unless you’re going to discard the Greeks, the Romans, and the Germans, along with the pagan elements in much of our modern Christian tradition (the liturgical calendar, etc., is superimposed over the pagan religious calendar). You’re also dismissing the various mythologies that richly texture the Western literary tradition. And if you do that, you may as well throw out pretty much all of Western philosophy since Plato–even the Christian philosophy–since it has truly been spoken that all Western philosophy since Plato has been a mere footnote to Plato’s work.

    Such a proposition is patently absurd. The Western canon is irreducibly and incredibly diverse. The point of the Western canon is that it disagrees with you, with me, and with its own constituent parts. It is a raucous dialogue, not a uniform choir singing the same notes for four thousand years. It includes Plato and Nietzsche, Jesus and Voltaire, Marx and Hayek. This is its beauty and its strength vis-a-vis an “Eastern” canon that is neither so broad nor so diverse. I could go on, but I think I communicated the general idea.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, I’ll second what SKPeterson said.

    I believe this discussion will be fruitless, as your arguments are essentially both incoherent and inconsistent (with reality). You’ve just asserted that Rousseau and Marx (and many other thinkers both like and unlike them), who are very prominent figures in the Western “canon” are not part of the Western canon. You’ve also asserted that “paganism”–in which at the “Greco-Roman” half (or more) of the Western tradition is deeply and inextricably rooted–is also non-Western, even though it is quintessentially Western. Unless you’re going to discard the Greeks, the Romans, and the Germans, along with the pagan elements in much of our modern Christian tradition (the liturgical calendar, etc., is superimposed over the pagan religious calendar). You’re also dismissing the various mythologies that richly texture the Western literary tradition. And if you do that, you may as well throw out pretty much all of Western philosophy since Plato–even the Christian philosophy–since it has truly been spoken that all Western philosophy since Plato has been a mere footnote to Plato’s work.

    Such a proposition is patently absurd. The Western canon is irreducibly and incredibly diverse. The point of the Western canon is that it disagrees with you, with me, and with its own constituent parts. It is a raucous dialogue, not a uniform choir singing the same notes for four thousand years. It includes Plato and Nietzsche, Jesus and Voltaire, Marx and Hayek. This is its beauty and its strength vis-a-vis an “Eastern” canon that is neither so broad nor so diverse. I could go on, but I think I communicated the general idea.

  • SKPeterson

    Which is not to say that the German variant of Euro-fascism did not have its share of Wagner-besotted German Romantics, but that is more a manifestation of its own local peculiarities than an argument against the general European, i.e. Western, fascination with some form of socialism, either of a fascist bent, or its ideological cousin, communist from the “proto” stages of the 1890′s, to the early versions of the 1910′s and 1920′s, and on into the full-blown realizations of the 1930′s and 1940′s. Good Lord, what a run-on.

  • SKPeterson

    Which is not to say that the German variant of Euro-fascism did not have its share of Wagner-besotted German Romantics, but that is more a manifestation of its own local peculiarities than an argument against the general European, i.e. Western, fascination with some form of socialism, either of a fascist bent, or its ideological cousin, communist from the “proto” stages of the 1890′s, to the early versions of the 1910′s and 1920′s, and on into the full-blown realizations of the 1930′s and 1940′s. Good Lord, what a run-on.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, regarding Rousseau and Marx as “canonical” western literature is absurd. Neither of them come close to being authoritative in a canonical sense in their fields.

    One notes you haven’t come close to refuting Heine’s prophetic view of the Teutonic nostalgia for ancient romantic myths and folklore that caused the twentieth=century disaster for Germany. This nostalgia overcame the best thinking and religion that distinguishes the West above other civilizations. Also, the best ancient Greek philosophical and artistic literature transcended the basic character of Paganism.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, regarding Rousseau and Marx as “canonical” western literature is absurd. Neither of them come close to being authoritative in a canonical sense in their fields.

    One notes you haven’t come close to refuting Heine’s prophetic view of the Teutonic nostalgia for ancient romantic myths and folklore that caused the twentieth=century disaster for Germany. This nostalgia overcame the best thinking and religion that distinguishes the West above other civilizations. Also, the best ancient Greek philosophical and artistic literature transcended the basic character of Paganism.

  • Louis

    Porcell, it is evident that you work with an entirely different assumption as to what “The West” is. Maybe it would help if you define your concept of “The West”?

  • Louis

    Porcell, it is evident that you work with an entirely different assumption as to what “The West” is. Maybe it would help if you define your concept of “The West”?

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, not only are you working with an entirely idiosyncratic and exclusionary (and, frankly, arbitrary and weird) definition of the “West”–which I would love to see you define more specifically–but you’ve apparently never taken an introductory class in Western philosophy or political theory, in which Rousseau is always read, and often Marx as well. And both should be read: they are important thinkers, both philosophically and historically.

    Meanwhile, I was never attempting to “refute” Heine’s “prophetic view” of “Teutonic nostalgia”–or rather, Porcell’s summary of Heine’s prophetic view of the same. I think most, if not all, scholars of fascism, etc., acknowledge that romantic nationalism played a pivotal role (though certainly not the only role) in the development of National Socialism. Volumes and volumes (upon volumes and volumes) have been written on that connection. The debate here isn’t over such truisms, but about your absurd criteria for what counts as “Western” (apparently anything that agrees with you) and what does not (anything that does not).

    Please clarify this matter.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, not only are you working with an entirely idiosyncratic and exclusionary (and, frankly, arbitrary and weird) definition of the “West”–which I would love to see you define more specifically–but you’ve apparently never taken an introductory class in Western philosophy or political theory, in which Rousseau is always read, and often Marx as well. And both should be read: they are important thinkers, both philosophically and historically.

    Meanwhile, I was never attempting to “refute” Heine’s “prophetic view” of “Teutonic nostalgia”–or rather, Porcell’s summary of Heine’s prophetic view of the same. I think most, if not all, scholars of fascism, etc., acknowledge that romantic nationalism played a pivotal role (though certainly not the only role) in the development of National Socialism. Volumes and volumes (upon volumes and volumes) have been written on that connection. The debate here isn’t over such truisms, but about your absurd criteria for what counts as “Western” (apparently anything that agrees with you) and what does not (anything that does not).

    Please clarify this matter.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Sorry guys, but I have to side with Porcell here — you really have hardly refuted Heine’s argument.

    Serious cartographers well understand that “West” and “East” are not defined solely according to the cardinal directions. Only a feckless moralist would hold to such a rigid sectarian notion.

    According to the scholar Arthur Brooks, the true East/West line runs on an axis that runs through Birmingham and Istanbul. All serious historians aver this, although liberal ivory-tower academicians, pushing their radical secular Islamist agendas, refuse to even admit exactly how correct this is.

    When constructed, this line clearly delineates East from West, with all but the northeast corner (whence all the ancient pagan myths) of Greece firmly established in the West, and all but the southwesternmost portions of Germany (a region whose Teutonism is only made tolerable due to its adherence to Catholicism) clearly in the East.

    Though Luther (and Calvin; they agree on almost everything) was quite right when he averred that all men want democracy, it was ultimately his Teutonic paganism which led him to attack the Jews, jealous as he was of their racial superiority.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Sorry guys, but I have to side with Porcell here — you really have hardly refuted Heine’s argument.

    Serious cartographers well understand that “West” and “East” are not defined solely according to the cardinal directions. Only a feckless moralist would hold to such a rigid sectarian notion.

    According to the scholar Arthur Brooks, the true East/West line runs on an axis that runs through Birmingham and Istanbul. All serious historians aver this, although liberal ivory-tower academicians, pushing their radical secular Islamist agendas, refuse to even admit exactly how correct this is.

    When constructed, this line clearly delineates East from West, with all but the northeast corner (whence all the ancient pagan myths) of Greece firmly established in the West, and all but the southwesternmost portions of Germany (a region whose Teutonism is only made tolerable due to its adherence to Catholicism) clearly in the East.

    Though Luther (and Calvin; they agree on almost everything) was quite right when he averred that all men want democracy, it was ultimately his Teutonic paganism which led him to attack the Jews, jealous as he was of their racial superiority.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, I define the West as essentially the development of a civilization after the fall of Rome centered on the synthesis of thought of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London. Civilizations are basically cultural entities. One distinguishes between, say Western, Muslim, Chinese, and Japanese civilization.

    On the subject of Germany during WW II, as Heine prophetically saw, a disordered Teutonic reversion to paganism that brought the country low and far removed from what the West stands for. There is rather a difference between Thor and Yahweh.

    On thegeneral subject of the West, Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations remarks:

    The West obviously differs from all other civilizations that have ever existed in that it has had an overwhelming impact on all other civilizations that have existed since 1500. It also inaugurated the processes of modernization and industrialization that have become worldwide, and as a result societies in all other civilizations have been trying to catch up with the West in wealth and modernity.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, I define the West as essentially the development of a civilization after the fall of Rome centered on the synthesis of thought of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London. Civilizations are basically cultural entities. One distinguishes between, say Western, Muslim, Chinese, and Japanese civilization.

    On the subject of Germany during WW II, as Heine prophetically saw, a disordered Teutonic reversion to paganism that brought the country low and far removed from what the West stands for. There is rather a difference between Thor and Yahweh.

    On thegeneral subject of the West, Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations remarks:

    The West obviously differs from all other civilizations that have ever existed in that it has had an overwhelming impact on all other civilizations that have existed since 1500. It also inaugurated the processes of modernization and industrialization that have become worldwide, and as a result societies in all other civilizations have been trying to catch up with the West in wealth and modernity.

  • Louis

    Porcell, your inclusion of London is curious: What about Paris, for instance? Or Edinburgh for that matter? Or Geneva?

    So, there is a difference between Thor and Yahweh. Actually, Odin would be the correct deity to pick, but never mind. You of course ignore that Odin becomes Wodin across the English Channel. You ignore the influence French enlightenment thought, the enourmous ingluence of German Romanticism, especially on Victorian England, etc etc.

    You forget that the Anglo-Saxons and Jutes were Germanic tribesmen, as were the Danes and the Norse, who heavily influenced and contributed to the creation of what we call the “English”, nevermind the Normans, with their Frankish/Norse ancestory, as well as all the Celts.

    You draw lines that aren’t there.

    On way of defining the “West” would be through Charlemagne’s empire, which, of course excludes Alfred’s England, but includes both German and French antecedents. Another way would be to include all of Catholic (and later Protestant) Europe: But that would include the Scandinavians, Germans, French etc etc.

    Your specific choices then do not make sense, as Cincinnatus points out, and are rather arbitrary. It does seem though that you hold to some sort of Anglo-American Romantic mythology, vaguely reminscent of some movements towards the end of the 19th Century. One is reminded of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, perhaps. True, it appears to be much gentler mythology as the Teutonic-inspired pipe drams of some German Romantics (Wagner?) and their Nazi progeny. But it is as much of an illusion.

    Huntington is to be read circumspectly – see Berman’s, as well as Said’s criticism of him.

    Civilization myths are common in history – one can find them from Pericles to Xerxes to the Romans and down the line. I have come across Russian myths of the same type as well. We are well acquianted with the myths woven by the Nazis, because of their horrible affects.

    But in the end of the day, history, philosophy and culture are incredibly complex features, and one has to take the good with the bad.

    Civilization myths are but the most the extreme expression of Tajfel’s In-Out groups, as defined in his Social Identity Theory.

  • Louis

    Porcell, your inclusion of London is curious: What about Paris, for instance? Or Edinburgh for that matter? Or Geneva?

    So, there is a difference between Thor and Yahweh. Actually, Odin would be the correct deity to pick, but never mind. You of course ignore that Odin becomes Wodin across the English Channel. You ignore the influence French enlightenment thought, the enourmous ingluence of German Romanticism, especially on Victorian England, etc etc.

    You forget that the Anglo-Saxons and Jutes were Germanic tribesmen, as were the Danes and the Norse, who heavily influenced and contributed to the creation of what we call the “English”, nevermind the Normans, with their Frankish/Norse ancestory, as well as all the Celts.

    You draw lines that aren’t there.

    On way of defining the “West” would be through Charlemagne’s empire, which, of course excludes Alfred’s England, but includes both German and French antecedents. Another way would be to include all of Catholic (and later Protestant) Europe: But that would include the Scandinavians, Germans, French etc etc.

    Your specific choices then do not make sense, as Cincinnatus points out, and are rather arbitrary. It does seem though that you hold to some sort of Anglo-American Romantic mythology, vaguely reminscent of some movements towards the end of the 19th Century. One is reminded of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, perhaps. True, it appears to be much gentler mythology as the Teutonic-inspired pipe drams of some German Romantics (Wagner?) and their Nazi progeny. But it is as much of an illusion.

    Huntington is to be read circumspectly – see Berman’s, as well as Said’s criticism of him.

    Civilization myths are common in history – one can find them from Pericles to Xerxes to the Romans and down the line. I have come across Russian myths of the same type as well. We are well acquianted with the myths woven by the Nazis, because of their horrible affects.

    But in the end of the day, history, philosophy and culture are incredibly complex features, and one has to take the good with the bad.

    Civilization myths are but the most the extreme expression of Tajfel’s In-Out groups, as defined in his Social Identity Theory.

  • Porcell

    Louis, The equation of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome and London with Western civilization came from Russell Kirk’s book Roots of American Order. Kirk correctly identified these cities as preeminent in the Western tradition. In an article about Kirk’s book Lee Edwards summarizes as follows:

    First came the Hebrews, who recognized “a purposeful moral existence under God.” For the prophets, the hill-town of Jerusalem was the eternal city for salvation. Next came the Greeks who strengthened the roots with their philosophical and political self-awareness. Athens was where Western philosophy was born, and from it came the Western views of science and the conviction that all areas of knowledge are within the ability of the mind of men. There followed the Romans, with their emphasis on law and social awareness. Rome was the seat of a great empire, and its political administration and stability echoed down the centuries. The roots of these cities were intertwined “with the Christian understanding of human duties and human hopes” and were joined by medieval custom, learning, and valor.
    The roots of order were then enriched by two great political experiments in law and liberty centered in London and Philadelphia. But they did not come to pass overnight. Indeed, the British contribution was made possible by six-and-a-half centuries of political experimentation from the Magna Carta in 1215 through the Glorious Revolution of 1689.

    As to Said, his view that Muslim civilization is as distinguished as that of the West is based on a crude, relativistic, egalitarian assumption. Bruce Thornton in his recent book The Wages of Appeasement: Ancient Athens, Munich, and Obamas America has a section titled Said’s Malignant Charlatanry in which he argues that Said’s multicultural ideology and leftist politics has directly compromised our understanding of Islam and the Middle East.

    Your view that these civilizational matters are of little consequence is mistaken.

  • Porcell

    Louis, The equation of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome and London with Western civilization came from Russell Kirk’s book Roots of American Order. Kirk correctly identified these cities as preeminent in the Western tradition. In an article about Kirk’s book Lee Edwards summarizes as follows:

    First came the Hebrews, who recognized “a purposeful moral existence under God.” For the prophets, the hill-town of Jerusalem was the eternal city for salvation. Next came the Greeks who strengthened the roots with their philosophical and political self-awareness. Athens was where Western philosophy was born, and from it came the Western views of science and the conviction that all areas of knowledge are within the ability of the mind of men. There followed the Romans, with their emphasis on law and social awareness. Rome was the seat of a great empire, and its political administration and stability echoed down the centuries. The roots of these cities were intertwined “with the Christian understanding of human duties and human hopes” and were joined by medieval custom, learning, and valor.
    The roots of order were then enriched by two great political experiments in law and liberty centered in London and Philadelphia. But they did not come to pass overnight. Indeed, the British contribution was made possible by six-and-a-half centuries of political experimentation from the Magna Carta in 1215 through the Glorious Revolution of 1689.

    As to Said, his view that Muslim civilization is as distinguished as that of the West is based on a crude, relativistic, egalitarian assumption. Bruce Thornton in his recent book The Wages of Appeasement: Ancient Athens, Munich, and Obamas America has a section titled Said’s Malignant Charlatanry in which he argues that Said’s multicultural ideology and leftist politics has directly compromised our understanding of Islam and the Middle East.

    Your view that these civilizational matters are of little consequence is mistaken.


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