A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on. The last got clogged with random conspiracy theories.
To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.
142 thoughts on “Sandpit”
The story must be more complex than ‘The Coalition Government decided to institute a policy of mandatory detention in order to win an election’ because, as I mentioned earlier, the policy of mandatory detention was initiated by a Labor Government. It may be that Coalition governments have subsequently increased the strictness and harshness of the policy–I think that’s so–but the Coalition won an election in 1996 and came to power in a context in which such a policy already existed. The correct question to ask, therefore, cannot be, ‘Why did the Coalition institute a policy of mandatory detention?’ but rather ‘Why did the Coalition not abolish the policy of mandatory detention?’ and because it’s a different kind of question, it demands a different kind of answer.
However! let’s take a break from burrowing even further into that rabbit hole.
I questioned the degree of confidence you exhibited in your description of the purpose of the policy when you referred to that in the context of explaining media strategy (namely, do everything possible to restrict the disclosure of information about detention conditions).
It is (I think) an interesting point that it’s fairly easy to construct an explanation of this media strategy which makes no reference at all to any supposed purpose of the underlying policy and which is nevertheless similar although not identical to the one you gave. In other words, although I don’t think your explanation of the policy is an adequate full explanation, I think your explanation of the media strategy is largely if not wholly correct. Free disclosure of information about how horrific detention conditions are would be, for the government, in publicity terms, a nett negative; the deliberate creation of a presentation of non-horrific conditions would require a substantial investment of effort and resources for at most only marginal benefits; the obvious choice, therefore, is to constrict the flow of information as much as possible, and that’s true regardless of what the purpose of the underlying policy is supposed to be.
As far as I can tell, discrimination against minorities is a universal phenomenon, so the idea that China is the one place in the world where it doesn’t happen is grossly implausible on the face of it, and certainly needs more than your bare unsupported word to make it plausible. Separatism and secessionism are not universal phenomena, but they’re common enough for it to be unlikely that they’re absent from places with the known history of Tibet and Xinjiang (I assert this only about those regions, not about other minority-inhabited areas of China, which don’t have the same kinds of history–the existence of secessionism and separatism in some of those areas is possible, but doesn’t have the same kind of fundamental likelihood). The attitude of the Chinese government to any sort of secessionism or separatism is also no secret, even if it weren’t deducible from general principles; put that attitude together with the existence of some level of separatist sentiment, and it’s natural to expect a repressive response which would spill over into some level of negative treatment of the Tibetan and Uighur minorities (although this particuar line of reasoning does’t apply to other minority groups).
I imagine it’s fairly easy to find out what the Chinese government says about its minorities policy and about the treatment and condition of minorities in China, but why should the Chinese government be believed?
J-D, detention before 1992 was explicitly for the purpose of processing applications, and was in an unfenced area in Sydney. From 1994 the process was widened, but there is no reason to think the ALP wasn’t doing this for electoral reasons – they have played this game just as much and did it in response to Indonesian boat people. The cruelty has been ratcheted up ever since, and really “I think that’s so”? You aren’t sure the current regime is crueler than the 1992 regime?
Also I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with me about now on China – I made clear that I think what is happening in Xinjiang is about terrorism prevention, and those terrorists are secessionist. Are you agreeing with me now that the government’s policy goals make sense?
Hugo, finally you have tried to defend your sources. Good, now we can talk about how terrible they are. First of all, the BBC is not even reputable on British politics anymore, and all the media sources you cite – NY Times, Guardian, ABC – are shockingly bad on China. To give you examples, the Guardian has a single correspondent covering Japan who cannot read or write or speak Japanese, and came to Japan as an English teacher. Everything he writes is secondhand knowledge from his biased English-speaking Japanese friends and colleagues. He also covers Korea and doesn’t even live there. The ABC’s China correspondent deliberately misrepresented his own quarantine notice (or can’t read Chinese). The NY Times is as shockingly biased on China now as it was on Iraq before the Iraq war. You cannot trust these people. This is why they don’t report on the racist violence in HK (that you obviously didn’t know about) – because they are prejudiced.
All the satellite “research” you refer to is dodgy as hell. The Guardian has already been caught using this wrong, reporting on mosques being destroyed when actually they are still there. Satellite coverage of China is notoriously poor. Where else do we see satellite coverage used to push stories? Wherever the US wants regime change.
The CCP documents you claim report half a million children detained actually notes that they are in boarding schools while their parents are detained, something that was clear in the report you cited and you didn’t understand (and I noted when you posted it). Boarding school is actually very common in China (did you know that?) because of the remoteness of many communities. It’s also not true that they have no hope of ever seeing their parents again – even China’s worst critics have yet to contend that the detention terms are unending. This would be obvious to you too if you would just note the number of times they quote interviews with people who have left the camps.
The testimonies you have cited are mostly from people who are known frauds and have never been detained. You can’t just cite any source without some kind of investigation into their credibility. Doing so just makes clear that you are pushing a racist line rather than actually investigating Chinese human rights abuses.
The article on Kaifeng Jews made clear that the actions against them were not anti-semitic, but you missed that and used it as an excuse to liken the CPC to Nazis. The true story is probably closer to this: the Synagogue rebuilding program was foreign-funded, which is against the rules for religious organizations in China. This rule applies to all non-religious NGOs too (I worked with an NGO for MSM in China that had the same problem – you can’t accept foreign money and be publicly active in any area in China). You may not like it but it’s not an attack on minorities.
The number of Uygur in camps that you claim is “commonly reported by academics” was actually made up by a far right evangelical christian who works for the Victims of Communism foundation, and is based on a non-random sample of 27 counties which he extended to the entire population of Xinjiang. You can read about how these estimates were obtained, and discover that actually the number could be anywhere between 200,000 and 1 million. But you chose the high estimate, and then cited some media reports that arbitrarily doubled it. Why? Note also the shockingly speculative use of satellite imagery in those estimates. Really, you shouldn’t trust this stuff.
Note that in Australia in 2013 there were 10,000 people in immigration detention, which recall we have established is unlimited in term. Per capita, that is 560,000 people in China. Since a proportion of people leave within 1-2 years, we can be confident that subsequent numbers (e.g. 3700 in 2014) cover at least a partially different population. It is likely that in per capita terms Australia has also held a million people in internment camps, under much worse conditions and much more arbitrary rules than those in China. Note also that this is an accounting from an NGO, because the government doesn’t share numbers (sound familiar?) You, of course, refuse to acknowledge the similarities, because you aren’t attacking China out of any concern for the human rights of non-Australians.
I do not deny that bad things are happening in Xinjiang. However, I don’t put a number on the people affected, and I certainly would not simply choose the high end of an anti-communist US agent’s guess. I also don’t characterise it as genocide or cultural cleansing or whatever your latest euphemism is, because a) they’re not extermination camps b) nobody is being expelled or moved out of Xinjiang, c) nobody is being denied their language or cultural rights. It’s a ham-fisted, overdone, heavy-handed anti-terror action by a nation that is worried about secessionist movements. And back when Australia was doing far worse, in 2013, and the US was attempting to curry favour with China, the same “credible” news outlets you now cite in outrage were citing Chinese religious freedoms approvingly when reporting on female imams in … shock … Kaifeng!
If you are a leftist and care about human rights overseas then you should 1) distrust all pro-US media outlets, 2) support decolonization, 3) support national self-determination, 4) support communism and 5) support any efforts to weaken the role of religion in public life. That doesn’t mean you have to uncritically support what China is doing in Xinjiang but it means you should at least try and check your sources, read a Chinese perspective, and analyze the actions from a left-wing perspective, not a US regime change perspective. I hope now that I have shown how wrong you are, you might try and be a little more critical of China reporting in future.
All of these processes are merely the continuation of the impulse to empire and colonization which historically has applied as much to dominant Eastern ethnic groups as it has to dominant Western ethnic groups.
The expansion of the Han people is ongoing today. Methods and ideologies chosen may change but the ethnocultural foundation of the expansionism remains substantially the same.
Whereas the West has largely abandoned physical colonization (for whatever reasons and with no claim being made by me that these are moral reasons), the Han Chinese have not abandoned their physical colonization which proceeds apace in Xinjiang, Tibet and the South China Sea. Consolidation of the colonization of Inner Mongolia also proceeds.
The pretence that this is not expansionism and colonization is just that, a pretence. This is just as the westward expansionism of the USA, starting from the thirteen colonies and proceeding across and down the continent to the annexation of California, Texas and related territories before and with the Mexican-American War, 1846 – 1848, was indeed expansionism and colonization.
The pretence to Chinese exceptionalism and/or to “left” or “Communist” exceptionalism in this matter is also nothing but pretence. It’s the same phenomenon of dominant ethnic interests being placed over minority ethnic interests: another example of humans being able to use everything from Christianity to Capitalism to Communism to justify what in the end is naked self-interest.
Faustusnotes once again demonstrates that he is a fascist, a racist and an anti-semite.
The Kaifeng Jews are a minority of no more than 1,000 to 2,000 and have been in China for close to 1,500 years according to some scholars. The Kaifeng Jews pose not even the slightest to CCP hegemony yet they are oppressed by Xi Jinping and his thugs.
Faustusnotes bilge about “foreigners” is racist nonsense and to the extent that it is true, does not explain the deliberate instillment of fear, the prohibition of religious gatherings or the destruction of and tampering with ancient artifacts, such as the mikveh.
As previously stated, the behaviour of the CCP in relation to the Kaifeng Jews is reminiscent of the Third Reich during the Kristallnacht phase.
In spite of the Kaifeng Jews being in China for well over a millenia, the Chinese Communist Party expressly excludes Judaism from the list of religions China will tolerate.
If somebody challenged me to produce evidence to demonstrate that conclusion I’m not sure I could find it. I own and have read copies of No Friend But The Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani and The Undesirables: Inside Nauru by Mark Isaacs. I would be comfortable citing them as evidence of cruelties and abuses in Australian immigration detention, and I would be comfortable getting them off the bookshelf to find specific passages I could quote. On that basis, I feel I could produce evidence to support conclusions about how bad things have been over the last decade, and I expect with somewhat more effort I could find more citations by Web searches.
However, if somebody asked me whether things were any less bad in the 1990s, I’m not sure I could find the evidence. I haven’t tried looking for it. Maybe it would be easy to find; maybe it wouldn’t. If you want to tell me that things were less bad in the 1990s, I won’t question you, but that’s not the same thing as being confident that I could produce the evidence myself.
If you tell me that you have provided an adequate basis for accepting any or all of the following conclusions–
The Chinese government’s detention system is justified.
The Chinese government’s detention system is not cruel and/or abusive.
Uyghurs detained in Xinjiang by the Chinese government are terrorists.
Secessionists should be penalised for being secessionists.
It doesn’t happen that the Chinese government imposes harsh repressive measures on the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.
–then I disagree. You have not provided an adequate basis for accepting any of those conclusions.
But maybe none of those are conclusions you’re defending? If not, is there a conclusion you’re defending which you’re not sure that I accept?
“KT2: see above re quartz article. If I need to go digging, apologies – haven’t got the time, but I did have time ask you. So… twitter and social media links please. You write as if you are both in or familiar with china on the ground and must read these posts you have ‘dug’ for. Where are they please?”
KT2, I’d be very wary about social media links on this issue. I’ve seen/heard/read lots of arguments, rants and video clips from both sides on SM – both citing evidence of violence, extremism and disturbing behaviour to feed the confirmation bias of their respective followers/participants.
I’ve banned Hugo. Discussion of China has derailed this thread and should be taken to the sandpit
1. It is reasonable to treat all media outlets as having some kind of bias, because all human beings have some kind of bias. But it’s not sense to reject every report from every source, even though bias is an ever-present possibility. What sense requires is to do the best you can to take as much account as you can of whatever bias is likely, as far as you can judge, in each source. It’s not sense to try to divide sources into pro-US and anti-US then accept everything from one category and reject everything from the other.
2 & 3. Some people would argue, on grounds of national self-determination, for Tibetan independence and/or Xinjiang independence, so your position on these points isn’t as clear as it might be.
4. There are, and always have been, non-communist and anti-communist leftists. It’s clear why communists would advocate that other leftists support communism, but it’s not clear why other leftists should accept that position.
5. I agree that on balance the influence of religion in public life has favoured the right more than the left (and on general principles that’s the natural expectation), but it’s important to qualify that understanding by recognising that there have been specific instances in which religious support for the left has been importan (and on general principles that also a natural expectation).
John, I’m confused – you say discussion of China has derailed the thread and should be taken to the sandpit but this is the sandpit???
1) I didn’t say reject them I said distrust them.
2) & 3) Tibetan independence would mean a return to a theological dictatorship enmired in poverty that would simply become someone else’s puppet. Tibet and Xinjiang have also been part of China for a very long time. this argument doesn’t really work.
4) I didn’t say accept I said support. Words J-D!
5) Maybe but not the way it works in Asia.
I posted multiple links to social media sites with video of racist violence in HK for KT2’s benefit, and also pointed out various flaws in the choices KT2 makes about which media to trust and ignore. Unfortunately John has removed them all! And I’m not going to repost them because it took a lot of effort. Sorry KT 2, but you can search in twitter or online for the evidence I posted.
But are you saying ‘distrust them more than other media outlets’ or ‘distrust them in a different way from the way you distrust other media outlets’ or ‘distrust them just as you would distrust any other media outlet’ or what? It makes a big difference!
2&3) Before you said ‘support decolonisation and national self-determination’. So what are you saying now, ‘support decolonisation and national self-determination except when they would result in theological dictatorship or poverty or becoming somebody else’s puppet or when the national territory has been part of another country for a long time’? I bet all movements for decolonisation and/or national self-determination have been opposed by people arguing for one of those exceptions, or others like them.
4. Again: you wrote that leftists should support communism; It’s clear why communists would think that leftists should support communism; it’s not clear why non-communist leftists should accept that leftists should support communism.
I don’t suppose that such instances are typical in Asia, because they’re not typical in general, but they have happened, so it would be somewhat surprising if there have never been any in Asia; and even if there never have been any in Asia, it’s still possible there will be in the future. However, one shouldn’t rely on them in general (in Asia or anywhere else), because they’re not typical. In general it’s still better (in Asia and everywhere else) if the role of religion in public life is diminished. However, leftists should still be alert to the possibility of situations where exceptions should be made (without relying on them).
Yeah, no offence, but I did think that too. (I guess we can all lose track sometimes …?)
This coronavirus has surely made it to every corner of the globe by now. At least every corner of the globe that has a populaiton density of more than 10 people per square kilometer. That means that the virus has made it to every war zone by now and every refugee camp including the world’s largest prison, the Gaza Strip. Yet why are no mass graves of the elderly being reported from these areas.
There can be no doubt that it is not possible for the elderly in these areas to shelther in place. They should be dead. The hospitals should have been overwhelmed with very sick patients at least. Wounded soldiers should have been shown giving up their beds so that the old people that they are trying to protect from the enemy have a clean comfortable place to die.
The western media has access to Yemen and to Libya and to Sudan and to Syria, and to Iraq, and to Haiti. Yet there are no pictures of convoys moving mountains of dead people to mass graves or even people spreading lime over deceased people to stop the spread of desease.
Yet the impication of this is that the story that has been reported from northern Italy is false? Yet it is absurd to believe that a lie that big, with the involvement of the number of people neccesary to have done that, is possible. Believing that the moon landing was faked would be far easier to believe because that could have been done with the knowledge of relatively few people.
The implication of this paradox is that something unprecedented in world history is happening.
Either an unprecedented hoax is being carried out, or miracles are occuring that dwarf the parting of the Red Sea.
J-D about 2&3, I’m making two points here (do you have to be so damned pedantic all the time, and why do you only focus on the first thing you read and not all of it?). Perhaps the opposite order would have been better. Tibet and XInjiang have long been part of China. Tibet was a protectorate of China until it was stolen from China by the British. Tibet has a long history of invading and being invaded by China. Xinjiang first became part of China 2000 years ago and has been on and off part of China ever since. These aren’t just random whims of the Chinese government – it has a long-standing goal to restore Chinese territory that was lost to the British or to the collapse of China during the Republic of China period. Decolonization of Asia – a goal all leftists should support – requires the restoration of those lost territories (including Taiwan, which was taken by Japan in 1895). Until the restoration of lost territories is complete, there can be no end to the damage done by colonialism in Asia. The second point is simply that if Tibet were to not be part of CHina it would be a disaster of a country. (see also my blogpost about how an independent HK would be a gangster state and there is no left wing vision for an independent HK).
About 4, yes leftists should support communist governments. If you don’t, you’re a shit leftist. That doesn’t mean you have to support them unconditionally, but it does mean treating them with a little more respect than modern leftists are showing China.
You are trying to dictate what everyone should be and think, even on the left. If they are not precisely the kind of leftist you are then they are “shit leftists”. Most leftists in the democratic world do not accept your definition of left-ism. Our definition includes democracy, meaning a better form than mere bourgeois representative capitalism.
Dictatorship and hierarchical power are the antithesis of democracy and socialism. China is on a wrong path. The USA (being a corporate-oligarchic quasi-dictatorship) is on another wrong path.There are plenty of wrong paths and very few right ones. Party-line thinking in a one-party, one ideology state (China) or a two-party one ideology state (USA) is not going to help us choose a right path. Both ideologies are blind and ostensibly define themselves as the opposite of the other. In fact they are very similar: completely hierarchical and based on capital power either as state capitalism or corporate capitalism. Just like the end of Animal Farm, they are becoming more and more alike.
faustusnotes, the fact that something has been the case for a long time, or that it used to be the case for a long time, has absolutely no bearing one way or the other on whether it should be the case in the future. The fact that Tibet, or Xinjiang, or Taiwan used to be ruled under the authority of a government in Beijing has absolutely no bearing, one way or the other, on whether it should be ruled under the authority of a government in Beijing in the future.
I did read your blog post about Hong Kong, don’t you remember? We had an extended exchange in comments. Nothing you wrote there gave me reason to change the views I expressed there, and I haven’t found any reason to change them since.
There are lots of countries in the world which are, one way or another, badly governed. That is not, by itself, sufficient reason for them to be taken over by other countries’ governments. That’s a colonialist argument!
I wrote that you hadn’t given any reason why non-communist leftists should support communist governments. Repeating the assertion doesn’t count as giving a reason. It’s also unclear what kind of support you’re talking about. You disavow the idea of unconditional support, which is good, but then what conditions would you place on support? Somebody might say that communist governments should be supported on condition that they are doing the right thing, but to that I would respond that good actions by any kind of government should be supported. To me, your suggestion that the government of China should be treated with more respect has a Cartmanesque flavour. An authentically leftist position, I suggest, is that what governments of all kinds need, in general, is not to be treated with a little more respect but to be treated with a little less respect. I don’t believe that Xi Jinping receives less deference than he merits; much more likely the reverse.
Am I a fortune Teller? How about a fortunate Teller? I am willing to say that in less than 3 years some legal firm(s) in the USA will start advertising to find clients for a class action suit to sue the Chinese government for gross negligence that lead to the death of thier loved ones. I would say that I bet that it will happen but I think that gambeling is a stupid passtime. Class action suits against the Chinese government will also be attempted in the (dis)United Kingdom as well as Canada and Australia.
Now for the important point. If the courts of any of these countries allow such a class action suit to go to a trial that would be solid evidence that human history is being driven more from outside of our dimension of the universe than in it. If that course of events occurs it would be if not a smoking gun at least a squirting gun that the simulation administrators are manipulating human history for ENTERTAINMENT purposes to benifit those outside of the simulation.
But if the courts rule against the plantiffs in this case that would mean that human beings are the driving factor in human history and that the simulation we are trapped in is run for research or traiining (educational) purposes.
Personally I hope they are using us for something more important than entertainment.
What do you say? Does my assertion make sense? Does it sound like a comment that is to pro chinese government? It is not my intention to make it sound that way.
But it would not surprise me if such a class action suit is allowed to go to trial because the Chinese government will certianly not send any legal representation overseas to oppose such moves in court.
I think that means that the plantiffs would win pretty much by default. After that I would expect western governments to try to enforce the courts ruling by siezing Chinese assets outside of China. That would of course lead to new tensions in the world which would of course be entertaining to those viewing the action safely from another dimension.
This train of events could be directed off to the siding if there were an overt reasonable revolution in the USA in less than 3 years. It would not neccessarily have to be a pro Chinese or even a Cuban Revolution just one that was reasonable like Thomas Paine. Because there is no way in heck that reasonable people could conclude that the Chinese Government NEGLIGENCE was responsible for the Coronavirus shamedemic. I hope that my character count was not exceeded.
Troy Prideaux says at 4:00 pm
“KT2, I’d be very wary about social media links on this issue.”
Thanks TP. I am wary.
faustusnotes says 12:13 pm re J-D… “(do you have to be so damned pedantic all the time, and why do you only focus on the first thing you read and not all of it?)”
1. Yes, he does have to be pedantic and most times I am happpy for the clarificatiin triggered by J-D’s damned pedantry and,
2. imo he focuses on what his mind cannot interpret so back to 1 before being able to move on.
“I posted multiple links to social media sites with video of racist violence in HK for KT2’s benefit”. Thank you faustusnotes.
faustusnotes says at 12:13 pm
“Tibet was a protectorate of China until it was stolen from China by the British. Tibet has a long history of invading and being invaded by China.”
KT2 – Stolen / invaded. Return = ? Non colonial Empire building?
faustusnotes; ” Decolonization of Asia – a goal all leftists should support – requires the restoration of those lost territories (including Taiwan, which was taken by Japan in 1895).”
KT2: Why? You want a colonial set up again, from the largest areas China controlled, before it can be decolinised??? And ALL Asia has to have China take everything over – again – before all asia can decolinise? I realise I may have a log in my eye, but that statement cintains every forest in Asia.
faustusnotes: “Until the restoration of lost territories is complete, there can be no end to the damage done by colonialism in Asia.”
KT2: Why? Cooperation seems in short supply.
Ccp: Why won’t these naughty separatists bow to us?
Sep: Because we get a raw deal and treat all if us as potential terrorists.
Ccp: But we will make you great, you just have to accept you are Chinese. Sep: No.
faustusnotes: “The second point is simply that if Tibet were to not be part of CHina it would be a disaster of a country. (see also my blogpost about how an independent HK would be a gangster state and there is no left wing vision for an independent HK).”
KT2: Why? So maybe is timor lestè, but as the kid who failed said to his parents “why did you help me. I need to fail for myself without your help”. And don’t mention west papua. So, reasoning Tibet would be a disaster of a country, doesn’t win the debate.
faustusnotes: “About 4, yes leftists should support communist governments. If you don’t, you’re a shit leftist.”
KT2: I am not a leftist’. Ahit & leftist becomes a null set with shit being the defining tag. No left required. And as J-D said “It’s clear why communists would think that leftists should support communism; it’s not clear why non-communist leftists should accept that leftists should support communism.”
Your passionate posts have prompted me to take a fresh look at china, tibet, urygurs taiwan etc. I still cannot understand why china needs to for example, veto Taiwan from who in a pandemic? Why precognition action of “we had to teach ALL parents -we deem them all potential terrorists – so send kids to boarding school”?
Writing that line re boarding school, does china have something like a royal commission style enqiry into institutional Child Sexual Abuse. Now faustusnotes, don’t portrat me as a racist or ignorant fool, because like everything else, human nature demands such if 1000 or 200000 children are whisked off to boarding sschool. Even the buddhists and hari’s. Maybe you will come back with ‘but they’re so kind and controlling abuse wont happen”. Colour me skeptical.
Biarding schools – 2 perspectives;
“For students who don’t go to visit their relatives, the school arranges to watch indoctrinatory films that praise the Communist Party and help erase their ethnic identity.
“In Korla, Xinjiang’s second-largest city, people often notice a police officer accompanying a group of Uyghur children, aged from 3 to 6, who are being taken to a welfare house. Their parents are interned in transformation through education camps, so they have to go to the welfare house after school, not home, where they would be loved and cared for by their families.
And now msm version from CGTV… ccp spent $36m on this boarding school. Why didn’t they just build and staff schools near workers and give parents capital productivity options so the kid didnt need to say “my parents work all day”? I call this child abuse. Communist. Capitalist. Authoritarian. Any system you name – this is abuse and assimilation.
cgtv is as bad as any of the news sources you deride. If this isnt a orooaganda video, I need re education! Seriosly now, an eight yr old saying ” food’s good”. A. Sim. il. Ation.
Feel free to re educate me. Not at a ‘boarding’ school tho.
J-D, when you say the fact tht something used to be the case has no bearing on whether that case should be restored, you effectively rule out decolonization as a political goal. We might as well just hand HK back to the UK, and Taiwan back to Japan, right? Since historical injustices are irrelevant to what should happen. Why make reparations for slavery? Why discuss apologies for stealing Aboriginal land, when “the fact that something has been the case for a long time, or that it used to be the case for a long time, has absolutely no bearing one way or the other on whether it should be the case in the future”. I mean, sure, they owned the land and we stole it. But that was before. Who cares, amirite?
If you have a theory of justice and a theory of national self determination, you need to combine them to obtain a theory of decolonization and restoration. If you refuse to, then your two separate theories mean nothing.
This dovetails nicely with Ikonoclast’s objection. He states that “Our definition includes democracy, meaning a better form than mere bourgeois representative capitalism”. Sadly, that rules out restoring sovereignty to Tibet, since it would be a theological dictatorship. It also includes any form of independence for HK, since it will just become a gangster state and tax haven, and probably a UK client state, destabilizing the region.
If you rethink all these ideas, and roll them up into a general theory of justice, national self determination, and decolonization, you’ll find you need to support the Chinese government’s goal of restoring its pre-humiliation territories. The alternatives are far, far worse, and would destabilize Asia, with even worse implications for our support of post-colonial governments in Asia and the Pacific. It would also, obviously, make any coherent approach to Palestine impossible. This isn’t opinion – it’s the simple consequence of your own lack of coherent political theory.
No, and for exactly the same reason: it used to be the case that Hong Kong was ruled by the UK and Taiwan by Japan, but the fact that it used to be the case has no bearing one way or the other on whether either of those things should be so in the future.
But that’s not what I wrote: that’s a much more broadly encompassing claim, too broad for me to endorse.
Not on the theory that it will restore things to the way they were in the past, since obviously they won’t; the justification has to be different from that.
Again, apologies don’t restore things to the way they were previously, so if they are to be justified, it has to be on some other basis.
What if I don’t have a theory of justice, what then? I can recognise injustices, or at least some of them, and as far as I can tell I am doing so without any theory of justice. If you have a theory of justice, I don’t know what it is.
I wouldn’t know. I don’t read Ikonoclast’s comments.
I have no idea what Ikonoclast means by that, so I can’t say whether I agree with it, and I have no idea whether it has any relevance to our discussion.
What if I don’t?
I don’t know which are all the ideas you are suggesting I rethink, nor why you suggest I should rethink them. Creating a general theory of justice is, I think, too hard for me.
I can say, however, that I can’t figure any way to reconcile the idea of ‘national self-determination’ with the idea that people should be forced to be part of a country they don’t want to be part of under a government they don’t want to be under; what’s more, even if it could be reconciled with the idea of ‘national self-determination’, I would still be against it, because I know of no justification for it. As I understand it, the idea of ‘national self-determination’ is that people who want to be self-governing should be self-governing, and even if that’s not what ‘national self-determination’ means, I still think it’s a good idea.
When it comes to historical injustices, how far back do we go? That’s a rhetorical question just to illustrate that historical injustices of many kinds go back to time immemorial on most continents and most islands for that matter. To whom should the British Isles be given back to, for example? That’s a rhetorical question too, so let’s not try to answer it.
Realistically, Hong Kong must revert to China, as it has done, and realistically the Chinese central government will assert full national power over it sooner or later. That’s the realpolitik of it. Tibet, I am not so sure about. At the moral level, I think the Tibetan people (not the colonizing Han people) should be given the right to self-determine even if they want a Buddhist “theocracy” back. I’m not sure Bhuddism is theocratic in the sense we Westerners understand that term.
Taiwan, though its modern birth was Kuomintang in nature, is now a functional democracy and its people in the majority do not want to rejoin China. I think that wish should be respected. The realpolitik of it also says, for the time being, that in all likelihood the USA and maybe other allies will assist Taiwan in any war. That being the case China cannot retake it, just as, for example, Mexico cannot retake Texas and California.
Maybe China can re-take Taiwan in 2040 or 2050. Maybe they will. The geostrategic tectonic plates are definitely shifting. The USA is weakening progressively and China is still strengthening though I think there is a near time limit on China’s strength due to limits to growth and long-run stagnation which will hit China too. The issue will be complicated as climate change damage could affect China rather badly.
However, I have trouble seeing the USA ever reforming and rebuilding itself due to its political economy and social problems. Their decline looks long-term continuous to me. But even if the USA ends up as shambolic as Russia, who will mess with the USA in its own hemisphere? They will still have 1,000s of nuclear weapons, a top-tier conventional military and enough civilian small-arms for every man, woman and child in the country. They will however lose the economic power to project conventional military power globally. Their economy and infrastructure are crumbling to the shambolic. The USA will be reduced back to being a “mere” hemisphere hegemon in partnership with Europe (which also looks rather poorly these days).
The bottom line is that no coherent theory of national determination is possible. National borders are socially constructed. Threre is no way in hell that one can scientifically say where the border should be drawn to determine WHO gets to take part in the decision to socially construct the border.
In the case that is being discussed Tiawan was Chinese for a long time. But it is POSSIBLE that the people of TIawan COULD change their minds about wanting to continue that relationship. But whether or not they should be allowed to do that without allowing the Chinese on the mainland to have a say in the discussion is a completely different manner.
In the US Civil War southern states voted by democractic majorities with in those states to withdraw from their previous relatiohship with northern states. But the people of the north did not accept that.
Even if slaves had been allowed to vote in the southern elections it would not have tipped the balance because slaves were at most 1/3 of the population, usually less. The votes to succeed from the Union were, or would have been, so lopsided among the non slave population that that when the slaves voted unanimously to end slavery the outcomes would not have changed. Furthermore if one were to believe the slaveholders side of the story the slaves would have voted unanomously to remain slaves. I can imagine that perhaps 5% would have done so based upon the story Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Years (Decades?)after Ireland won its independence from the United Kingdom the leadership of the Irish Republican Army issued a statement saying that they had fought the wrong war. Rather than fighting a war of succession they wished that they had fought a war of TRANSFORMATION.
But I wonder if those leaders were still alive if they might withdraw their wish because if they had fought for a war of TRANSFORMATION there is an 80% chance that they would have lost long ago. There is a 20% that they would still be fighting that war. If they were still fighting that war the chances that they would be on the verge of victory by this point would be about 2%. I hope that such a bold statement does not get me excommumicated from the club of realistic pessimistic commedians.
Are you serious? Let me give you a short quote from Paul Keating’s Redfern speech:
Apologies are either a first step towards restitution for past theft, or a recognition that the situation is now too complex to complete the process of restitution. They are not justified “on some other basis”. But for you – on the principle of “the fact that something has been the case for a long time, or that it used to be the case for a long time, has absolutely no bearing one way or the other on whether it should be the case in the future” – there is no need or justification for restitution for stolen land and destroyed culture, no basis for reparations for stolen land and destroyed culture, and no reason to apologize if those things can’t be achieved. You know that there is a land rights battle going on in Australia that is entirely about restoring things to how they were, but to you it has no basis in any principle of justice or reconciliation, and everyone should just let bygones be bygones.
I don’t think you seriously believe that. So now you should ask yourself why you think this kind of restoration of the past – or recognition that the impossibility of restoration is so tragic that it demands an apology – is okay, but restoration of the past of other countries is not.
I should not have to explain this to Australian leftists, ever, under any circumstances. It’s deeply disappointing that I should have to.
Ikonoclast, do you seriously not know what the political goals of the free Tibet movement are, what Tibet was like before China recovered it, or what the Dalai Lama’s goals are? You didn’t do any research on the political movement you support before you decided that China had wronged them? Do you apply the same lack of research to the Hong Kong movement? Any bunch of idiots waving the US flag are your friends, regardless of what they want or who is using them? This is very very naive. I recommend you investigate the nature of the Tibetan leadership before 1959, and the goals and policies of the Dalai Lama and his mates.
And you wonder why I think you’re reflexively opposed to China, and why I question your motives …
My assessment is that China will continue to attempt to follow its strategy of endless incremental expansion on those borders where opponents are weak. It will continue to attempt to incrementally take over the South China sea and all the islands and atolls in it on the basis of the absurd nine-dash line which is entirely baseless in international law. It will continue to incrementally take territory around its land borders where it can. Indeed, it is doing so now. Not content with conquering Tibet, China disputes the entire land border of Tibet with India. These are just a few examples of a belligerent, expansionist China intent on wider regional domination without regard to the rights of any other nation or people in its region.
All superpowers do this kind of thing. China is not special. It is neither better nor worse than other superpowers in relation to nationalist expansionism. But all empire expansionism reaches its natural limits. Russia and then the Soviet Union reached its limits. The USA reached its limits, China is close to approaching its own limits. If it pushes too hard against those natural limits it will both over-extend itself and provoke severe reactions from multiple opponents, encountering the same problems that all bloated empires encounter.
Your position contradicts itself. You acknowledge that there may be situations in which restitution is infeasible. In a situation where restitution is infeasible but apology is feasible, by logical necessity an apology does not constitute restitution. If there is a situation where apology does not constitute restitution, by logical necessity it cannot be part of the justification for an apology that the apology constitutes restitution, so if there is a justification it must be a different justification.
But that’s not what it’s about! That’s a fundamental misinterpretation. The way things were before 1788 was that the whole country belonged to the Indigenous Australians and nobody else lived here; the object of the land rights battle is not to restore that situation. (To restore that situation would require the expulsion of the non-Indigenous population; obviously that’s not feasible, but it would be unjust now even if it were feasible. It’s a good thing that nobody’s suggesting it.)
Have you considered the possibility that if you find the position you attribute to me incredible, it’s because the attribution is mistaken?
I have been well aware in composing previous comments that (while making negative statements rejecting, denying, or disputing aspects of your position) I have not stated any affirmative position on the subject of reparations, restitution, or anything similar or related. One way you could have responded to that would have been to point out that I hadn’t stated my position and to suggest that I should do so. You have not chosen to do so (which is a choice you’re entitled to), but what you have chosen to do is to state my position for me, which was a mistake; and the description you have given of my position is a mistaken one.
If you would like me to give more affirmative explanation of my affirmative position, you only have to ask; I could readily do so with pleasure. In the meantime, what I would like would be if you could give more affirmative explanation of your affirmative position (that is, without reference to positions you are rejecting, denying, or disputing).
J-D, this is really disingenuous:
You know this is not a fair response to the point made. You’re being deliberately super picky about words in order to avoid admitting you’re wrong. You know that the issues of land rights, reparations, restitution and apology in Australia completely invalidates your original position. You’re now just being pedantic to avoid admitting it. The same set of principles that requires us to find a settlement with Aboriginal people also requires us to recognize that Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang are part of China. Most particularly, if you reject the Chinese claim to Hong Kong because history doesn’t matter, you have no basis on which to support any aspect of reconciliation. You know this.
Ikonoclast is ignoring my question about his ignorance of the Tibetan leadership’s goals, and in response quoting the National Review. Charming.
faustusnotes, I have an idea this may not be the first occasion on which you have been led to suggest that I am being disingenuous. If you have made such a suggestion before, it’s possible I made the sort of response I sometimes make to that kind of suggestion, roughly on the following lines: if you believe I am being disingenuous, I don’t know that it would do any good for me to deny it, however vehemently, but if that’s what you believe then it’s not clear what you think the purpose of this exchange is.
But what principles are those? You haven’t provided additional explanation of your position, although I did request exactly that. Conversely, although I offered to provide additional explanation of my position, you have so far shown no interest in taking up that offer. It does seem that you’re misunderstanding my position; if, when you use the phrase ‘history doesn’t matter’, it’s because you think that’s part of my position, then you are mistaken: I didn’t write that and I don’t mean that.
History matters! Of course history matters. But why does it matter and how does it matter? It matters because it affects the present. So, then, in order to understand how it matters, it’s necessary to understand how it affects the present.
J-D, history doesn’t just matter because of how it affects the present. It matters because of the need for justice. Justice means addressing or restoring the wrongs of the past. It also means providing restitution. With Aboriginal people that means restoring lost land or giving some form of reparations for that lost land (and for the children who were stolen from them). For colonized nations it means restoring land that was stolen, or providing some reparation for that stolen land. I’m not sure why you think you need “additional explanation” of my position, it’s a bog-standard political position that has been part of mainstream leftism since the colonial powers began to unravel. Your position is what needs more explanation – the gap between restoring land to (or at least apologizing to) Aboriginal people for things that happened 100 years ago, on the one hand, and refusing to consider the same thing for Chinese people, when both things were done by the same colonial power – now that’s something that needs explanation.
(Just for clarity before you begin your usual pedantic quibbles, I’m aware that “100 years ago” is not perfectly accurate, it’s a rhetorical turn, and you are intelligent enough to address the point underlying the rhetoric, not to quibble about every word in the sentence).
I’ll remind you that you said this, about restoring land stolen during hte colonial period to the people it was stolen from:
I am going to characterize that as “history doesn’t matter” until you can present me with a more nuanced interpretation of this. Because what you have written here is antithetical to any reckoning with the past actions of the colonial powers, and unless you have a better alternative, it’s a pretty disastrous ideal.
Because I don’t know what it is. I literally do not know what your position is. If somebody came up to me and said ‘What is faustusnotes’s position?’ I would not know how to answer them.
I suppose I could say that your position is that I (J-D) am not serious, deeply disappointing, disingenuous, not fair, deliberately super picky, and pedantic (but intelligent enough to understand rhetoric). At least, you’ve said all these things about me. So, if you meant all those things, I think your position on me is clear to me. Possibly your position on Ikonoclast would also be clear to me if I checked back on what you wrote.
If I had to pick one simple declarative statement which you agree with and which you think (rightly or wrongly) I would disagree with and which you think is a key statement for this discussion, I would not be able to. I have disputed a number of statements you have made, but since in some cases your response has been that I am being unreasonably picky about words, it makes me feel that I have failed to grasp what is essential to your position and not an inessential detail. So I’m at a loss.
I could give you nuance, but it would take lots of words, and I’d be expending those words not knowing whether I was dealing with the point you were really interested in and also not knowing whether you’d dismiss all that nuance as pedantic quibbling. Do you really think it would be a good use of my time and yours for me to write you an essay of several thousand words? If so, you could at least state the topic for the essay in an ‘essay question’ format.
I’m sorry J-D I thought decolonization was a fairly well-understood concept on the left, especially the Australian left. It’s pretty simple: I think things that were stolen from people by force should be given back to them, if possible, and if it’s impossible then reparations or some compensation should be given. This principle applies to people and to nations. There are obviously limitations on how far back in history this should apply, but generally speaking the latter part of the most recent period of British colonialism (i.e. things stolen from about sometime in the 18th century on) is a good starting point for when these things should be considered. You’ll note lots of people agree with me about this, which is why there were independence movements in most of the world, why the notion of decolonization was invented, etc. This is necessary because as you say the past affects the future, and also because of justice. It’s something most left-wing people agree with (I thought), which is why there was a land rights movement in Australia and more recently a reconciliation movement.
You seem (based on your vague statements about how things having been so doesn’t mean they should be so) to think this principle doesn’t apply to China, which (I guess) uniquely among nations that were victimized during Britain’s colonial period is supposed to just give up everything it lost and be happy with that. Yet you still think this principle applies to Aboriginal people. This is inherently contradictory, and I’m wondering how you manage to square that circle. I really can’t believe you don’t understand the principle of decolonization, and so I wonder why you’re spending so much time demanding it be clarified before you defend a very simple and clear statement that you made, which I characterize as “history doesn’t matter”.
I hope that’s clearer.
Part 1 of 4
Yes, that is clearer–it’s clear enough, at any rate, for me to be clearer about how I disagree, which I’m going to do in a series of comments, because otherwise this one comment would become impractically long.
I don’t know whether your position is clearly understood (and also clearly agreed to?) on the left, or at least the Australian left; you state that it is, and I have no particular reason to doubt you, although I’ve also got no particular basis for confirming it; but even if this is so, I don’t understand how the statement is supposed to be relevant to this discussion. That’s a side point, but you mentioned it and so I’ve responded.
Nearly every inhabited territory in the world has, at some point in its history, been seized by force from its previous occupants. It may even be that this is true of every inhabited territory, but in some cases the historical evidence is inadequate for drawing conclusions. For most if not all inhabited territories this has happened multiple times. Consider, just for example, the classical Land of the Two Rivers which is the heart of modern Iraq and the source of the earliest written records. It was seized by force from Saddam Hussein’s rule by the US-led coalition; Saddam Hussein had taken control by force in the last in a series of such seizures going back to UK withdrawal; the UK seized the territory by force from the Ottoman Sultanate during the First World War; the Ottomans were the last in a series of dynasties variously Turkish-speaking and Mongolian-speaking established by a series of forcible seizures going back to the Mongolian destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate; the Abbasids were one of a series of of dynasties variously Turkish-speaking, Persian-speaking, and Arabic-speaking established by a series of forcible seizures going back to the first Arabic conquest by the original Islamic caliphate; the first Islamic conquest was a forcible seizure from the Sassanid Persian dynasty by the Arabs; the Sassanid Persians seized control of the territory by force from the Arsacid Parthian dynasty, which had previously seized control of it by force from the originally Macedonian dynasty founded by Seleucus Nicator; Seleucus was one of a series of Macedonians who seized control of the territory by force, going back to Alexander the Great; Alexander seized control by force from the Achaemenid Persian dynasty; they seized control of the territory by force from the Chaldean dynasty then ruling from Babylon, and they in turn from the previous Assyrian Empire. Should control of the territory therefore be restored to the modern Assyrians (they make no such claim themselves, as far as I know)? No: for one thing, the Assyrians seized control of the territory by force from earlier dynasties, and those from still earlier predecessors, and so back into the obscurity of the earliest records; but for another thing, the forcible subjection of the non-Assyrian remainder of the population would be an injustice to them.
My late parents had on their bookshelf (from which I often took it for perusal and amusement) a collection of cartoons by Bruce Petty. I think they were old even when I first looked at them and they would certainly be much older now, but one which has stuck in my memory seemed to be set at some sort of international conference, or rather in the cafeteria where the delegates were taking their lunch break (all this is from memory, so I may have some details wrong, but the main point remains). In the first panel, one delegate, presumably from the UK, comments on some contemporary border dispute and then mentions, approvingly, that UK borders haven’t changed in 100 years. A Polish delegate objects that 100 years earlier there was no Poland, and expresses a preference for 300-year-old borders. An Israeli delegate objects that there was no Israel then, and asserts that the legitimate states are to be found 2000 years ago. A US delegate points out that 2000-year-old borders would have the US belonging to the Indians and suggests 200-year-old borders would be nearer the mark. A Mongolian delegate expresses a preference for Mongolia’s borders from 700 years earlier. As the bickering continues, a delegate of unspecified origin/background makes a speech about how this kind of childish behaviour is amusing but pointless, as we must all learn to get past such things and focus on how we can work together to resolve our problems and share the world, instead of on petty grievances. His speech complete, he finds that somebody has taken his seat at one of the cafeteria tables. He only left the seat thirty seconds ago, he says; but the person now seated in it says that’s impossible, he’s been seated there himself for two minutes; and the cartoon ends with the two still squabbling.
to be continued
Part 2 of 4
In your comment you suggest (if I have understood you correctly) that there are ‘obviously’ limitations on how far back in history the principle of restitution of territory should go. It’s not obvious, however, what that limiting point should be. ‘About some time in the eighteenth century’, you suggest, is ‘a good starting point’, but it’s not clear either what the justification is for picking that period or what principles you would apply to possible variations from that starting point.
If all seizures of territory by force since the eighteenth century were to be reversed, what would happen, just for example, to California, Texas, Finland, Silesia, the Hejaz, and Sarawak? Or, if those were to be excepted, on what principle would they be excepted?
The principle I would assert is that the thing that can provide justification for the government of a territory is the preference of the inhabitants of that territory. The government of Western Australia as part of the Commonwealth of Australia is justified if that’s the preference of the people of Western Australia; if the people of Western Australia would prefer something different, they should be able to have their preference. The government of Wales as part of the United Kingdom is justified if that’s the preference of the people of Wales; if the people of Wales would prefer something different, they should have their preference. The government of Iran as an Islamic Republic is justified if that’s the preference of the people of Iran; if the people of Iran would prefer something different, they should have their preference. The government of China by the Communist Party is justified if that’s the preference of the people of China; if the people of China would prefer something different, they should have their preference.
If you reject that principle, then you’d have to be prepared to say, at least in some instances, ‘These people should be subjected to this government even though they themselves would prefer to be under a different government’. I don’t know how you’d justify that. I can’t do it.
It’s probable that this principle is frequently violated, just as it has been frequently violated throughout history. But when we’re discussing what’s justified, we’re discussing what should be, not what is: lots of things are so that shouldn’t be so, or else the distinction between ‘justified’ and ‘unjustified’ would be meaningless.
The termination of Spanish colonial rule in the Americas did not restore control of those territories to the peoples from whom the Spanish forcibly seized them, so if it was justified, that’s not what the justification was; if it was the preference of the inhabitants of those territories that they become independent from Spain, that’s all the justification required, and if it wasn’t, then nothing else will do the job. On the other hand, regardless of whether it was justified then, there’s no sign whatever now that the inhabitants of those now independent countries want them to come back under Spanish government, and therefore no justification for such a change (which, to be clear, nobody is suggesting as far as I know).
It is to be expected that in many instances the government actually in control of territory won’t want attention drawn to the preferences of the population and will prefer them to remain unknown, and of course in many cases they are difficult to be guessed, but that doesn’t affect the reasons for treating them as the standard on which the legitimacy of a government depends.
to be continued
Part 3 of 4
If you lend me your lawnmower and then I won’t return it, you will probably have the basis for a successful lawsuit against me. Of course laws vary, and there may be circumstantial details which make a difference, but the general concept is sound: you should have the basis of a successful lawsuit. An appropriate remedy would be for the court to order me to return your lawnmower. Regardless of whatever the law may in fact be (I’m not an expert on that subject), the principle which ought to guide it in general terms is clear. While I am not returning your lawnmower, you are suffering a loss, specifically the loss of the capacity to mow your lawn; it’s appropriate restitution if I am required to restore that capacity to you by restoring your lawnmower. That form of restitution exactly restores what you have lost.
If you have a business in which you use that lawnmower to earn money in exchange for mowing other people’s lawns, you could also have suffered financial loss as a result of my keeping your lawnmower away from you, and it could be appropriate if, in addition to being required to restore your lawnmower, I were also required to pay you financial compensation, which might, in that case also, exactly restore your loss.
However, if we construct a story in which, as an indirect result of your lawn not being cut, you suffer some permanent disabling injury, then your loss can’t exactly be restored and you can’t be put back in the same position you were in before. It might be just for me to be required to pay you financial compensation for your injury, but even if I did you would still be disabled. Financial compensation doesn’t restore things to where they were before, but it is, in many cases, the best that can be done.
More generally, if you have (or somebody has) suffered loss or harm inflicted intentionally or negligently by me (or by somebody), it will typically be just for me (or the somebody culpable for the harm) to be obliged to make reparations to you (or to the victim who bears the burden of the loss).
If the burden of the loss is borne by your business, it may sometimes make sense (and under at least some legal systems this is legally possible) for the right to reparations to attach to the business and to be transferred when it is transferred; that is, if you sell the business to somebody else, and if the business is still bearing the burden of the loss, the purchaser of the business may acquire with it the right to legal action against me and to any compensation that may ultimately be awarded as a result of that lawsuit.
In another case, if you die, it may be that the burden of the loss that was yours now falls on the heirs who inherit from you, and their inheritance may include the right to legal action against me and any compensation that may result from it.
The point is that there is a continuing connection between the burden of the loss or harm and the right to be compensated; the history matters because it affects the present.
In a real historical example, a large part of Belgium and northern France was under German military occupation for four years from 1914 to 1918, and the people who lived there suffered great harm and loss as a result. It was not possible afterwards to reverse all that harm and loss and restore things just as they had been before; financial compensation was all that was feasible, and financial compensation was feasible. An assessment was made of an appropriate amount of reparations to be paid, and Germany, which had inflicted the loss, began to make payments. It was many decades before the final bill was settled, but a schedule of payments was eventually completed. The payments were not made by the Second Reich, which had inflicted the loss, but which had ceased to exist; earlier payments were made by the Weimar Republic and later ones by the Federal Republic of Germany, because they had inherited Germany from the Reich and, with it, the liability for reparations. The Germans who made the final payments were not the ones culpable for the original harm, but (collectively) they were their heirs and as such they inherited their liabilities as well as their assets. Similarly, although the people who were the original victims were long dead when the final payments were made, the recipients of the final payments were (collectively) the heirs of those original victims and inherited the right to receive compensation for the original loss, which could at least arguably be considered uncompensated (or not fully compensated) up to that point.
to be continued
Part 4 of 4
Australia was seized by force from its Indigenous inhabitants. This wrong was perpetrated by the British; but the liability for it is inherited not by the modern British but by the modern Commonwealth of Australia (and thus collectively by the non-Indigenous population of Australia), because it is the modern Commonwealth of Australia (and, collectively, the modern non-Indigenous population) which has inherited the proceeds of that seizure, namely, Australia itself. My own ancestors, for example, had no role whatever in that seizure (they were all still in Europe at the time, non-British Europe, experiencing their own problems); my grandparents arrived in this country in the 1920s and I imagine (I never asked them) had little or no idea of what had gone on here a century and more earlier; however, from the time they arrived my family became sharers in the proceeds of that seizure, as I myself still am.
Meanwhile, the Indigenous Australians of today continue to bear the burden of that historic loss; on that basis, and on the principle I indicated previously, they inherit the moral entitlement to reparations, even if not a legal one. It’s important to the case that they bear that continuing burden of loss; the history matters because it affects the present. Contemporary Indigenous Australians aren’t the original victims against whom the original wrong was perpetrated; but they still suffer from the harm of it. (Some of them are the direct victims of more recent, separately identifiable wrongs, which give rise to separate cases for reparations.) They should be compensated for the original wrong as suffering the continuing harm of it; and they should be compensated by the inheritors of the proceeds of the wrongful seizure, meaning, as already stated, the Commonwealth of Australia, as representing collectively the non-Indigenous population. Financial compensation can’t restore Indigenous Australians to the position they would have been in if the seizure of this country had never taken place (nothing can); but financial compensation is feasible, and it counts as some kind of reparation. Apologies are also feasible; and it seems as if they can also count as some kind of reparation, although they also can’t restore things to what they would have been, or how they were before. (Financial compensation and apologies also can’t reverse the effect of other later wrongs, following the original dispossession, but are also feasible as some kind of reparation for them.)
China and its people suffered grievous wrongs from a number of foreign powers in the later part of the nineteenth century and the earlier part of the twentieth century. I cite the Opium Wars as one example. I’m not sure whether it would be feasible, at this date, to identify or assess a continuing burden of loss suffered by China as a direct or indirect effect of the Opium Wars, but I imagine such a case could be argued by somebody who was interested, and it would provide the basis for a claim for compensation. If China is entitled to compensation for the Opium Wars, it might take the form of financial reparations to be paid by the United Kingdom and/or an apology to be made by the United Kingdom. Neither of those would reverse the effects of the Opium Wars, or restore things as they would have been if the Opium Wars had never happened; but they are feasible. I have no idea one way or the other whether contemporary China, or its people, have any interest in receiving reparations (in the form of financial compensation and/or apologies, presumably) for the wrongs of the Opium Wars, provided by the United Kingdom; or for other wrongs suffered over the period I indicated, provided by the countries which inflicted them. However, I expect that if they did have an interest in reparations, a case in favour could be made out (it’s harder to imagine how it might be enforced, but that’s a practical issue, not a moral one).
You referred to reparations for slavery. The existence of a case for reparations, on the same principle as discussed above, depends on the existence of an identifiable population which bears the continuing burden of loss resulting from slavery (and again there’s the same case for reparations even though reparations can’t make it be as if slavery never was, or reverse all the harm it has caused). In the case of American slavery, there clearly is such a population, namely, the modern African-American population of the contemporary USA. Again by similar reasoning from the same principle as before, the obligation to make reparation (presumably financially and/or by apology) is borne by the contemporary USA, on behalf of its majority population collectively, even though American slavery and the American slave trade predate the USA and none of its contemporary population ever owned slaves. I don’t know enough about the facts in other countries where slaves have been held to know in which cases a similar argument for reparations could be made, but I expect it could be made in some of those cases, or perhaps in all. In each case the right to receive reparations would be connected with the existence of a continuing burden of loss, and the obligation to make reparations would be connected with being the heir, or equivalent, of the state or government which established and/or upheld the system of slavery.
The same principle, as I understand it, runs through all these cases.
There, is that enough for you, or do you have more questions?
Thanks for the effort here J-D, I appreciate it. Let us focus on this principle:
If I am not wrong, you seem to think that this means parts of a country should be able to secede. This seems to be what you’re saying with this follow-up statement:
But there are a lot of problems with this democratic idea. We can see this clearly in the case of HK (which I will tease out below). But first I want to ask you, what democratic principle allows a part of a nation to leave based on its own democratic decision, against the democratic interests of the rest of the country? Why should WA be able to democratically choose to leave Oz if the rest of Oz doesn’t want it to (democractically). Surely the majority of the country should make this decision, not the majority of a single territory? Otherwise for example California could choose to leave the USA, which would significantly impoverish the USA. Or London could choose to leave the UK, taking much of the UK’s economic power with it. That damages the interests of the rest of the UK, but not of London – why should a minority of the country be able to do this? And surely it opens the converse, that the majority of a country could choose to just dump a non-performing part of the nation. By your same democratic principle, surely if the majority of America decide to dump Tennessee because it’s an economic basket case, they should be allowed to? Where do you draw your democratic lines? It’s a mess.
Let’s consider this for the case of HK, and see where it leaves us. First of all in 1997 the British government, without asking the people of HK, returns them to China. This is a democratic decision: the UK govt was elected by a majority of the British people, and chose to dump HK because it wasn’t worth keeping. The actions of a democratically elected government representing the democratic will of the nation, this means that a majority of British people had chosen for 100 years to hold the people of HK in subjection (they could have given them the vote at any time and never did) and then chose to dump them on China. At that point the rich white people of the UK got to choose what happened to their Asian subjects, and you think that’s fine because democracy. Then, when HK is part of China, you think suddenly that the people of HK should be able to democratically leave China, impoverishing the Chinese, because (again) democracy. Do you see how the shit flows downhill here, from rich white people to poor Asians? (At the time of handover HK was 20% of China’s GDP and HK people were wealthier than Chinese people but less wealthy and powerful than the UK). How do you reconcile this? You can argue for the totality of democratic rights, in which case the Chinese people would (obviously) vote to not let HK leave; or you can argue that in this situation only HK should have democratic rights, in which case the majority of British people would have been forced to keep HK against their own political, geo-strategic and economic interests (which is why they dumped it); or you can argue that only white people and their past subjects get democratic rights (so white UK can dump HK; post-colonial HK can dump China; but China has no rights). Which of these principles are you applying? In any case it seems that there is a racist element to your principle: if you respect the totality of democratic rights then HK being a subject of the UK and being dumped when they are done with it is right, and HK cannot leave China – in this case HK is everyone’s bitch and you think that’s fine. Or you can argue that HK should have all the rights, in which case the UK is HK’s bitch and China suffers; or you can argue that HK only gets rights after it is dumped by the UK, in which case HK is the UK’s bitch and then China is HK’s bitch. Also none of them are incoherent: if you think HK should have the right democratically to just up and leave from a nation 100 times its size because democracy, then you should also surely agree that the UK should be able to force HK to become part of a nation 100 times its size because democracy. How come one democracy trumps another? There is no sense behind this.
In contrast a political stance built on justice and decolonization makes sense. HK should never have been stolen from China (this was unjust); it should have been handed back to China (at the very least) because it is just that a thief returns stolen property; and HK cannot then leave China because it would reduce the welfare and go against the chosen will of a much larger body of people, which would be unjust. This same justice framework also enables us to understand national determination struggles like Tibet: it would be unjust for Tibet to leave China because a) China was restored Tibet after it was stolen, which is just; and b) it would be unjust to the majority of Tibetan people to be forced from a communist state into a religious dictatorship. Similarly you could argue it would be unjust for China to take a piece of Vietnam, because that would be theft, which is unjust – China has no historical claim to Vietnam and there is no restorative justice in China taking parts of Vietnam.
Such a framework also avoids privileging a western illiberal political system in the debate about how to resolve these conflicts. You say it should be “democracy” that decides, but British democracy is not genuinely democratic, and neither is US democracy (if it were, Puerto Rico would be a state); to say things should be resolved democratically is to suggest that these illiberal, violent systems of imperialism have a greater validity in decision making than Vietnamese authoritarianism, Japanese one-party rule, or Chinese communism. Why should we prioritize imperialist systems over those of the post-colonial states that have resisted them, or the few nations (like Thailand and Japan) that have avoided their imperial grip? And why should we expect China to resolve territorial disputes over land these imperialists stole from it using the political tools of those imperialist states?
Your “democratic” approach to resolving these territorial disputes hands all the power and authority to the imperialists, and perpetuates injustice. It is also illogical and incoherent, and would create as many conflicts as it solved. Decolonization is the only just, fair and truly democratic way to resolve territorial disputes between formerly-colonized nations and their former colonizers.
Yes, I do. As a general principle, those who desire independence should be allowed independence. If the people of South Sudan wanted to be independent from Sudan, the independence of South Sudan was justifed; if the people of Eritrea wanted to be independent from Ethiopia, the independence of Eritrea was justified; if the people of Slovenia wanted to be independent from Yugoslavia, the independence of Slovenia was justified; if the people of Belarus wanted to be independent from the Soviet Union and/or Russia, the independence of Belarus was justified; if the people of Timor Leste wanted to be independent from Indonesia, the independence of Timor Leste was justified. I mentioned Western Australia as an example because there was a referendum in 1933; there were 138,653 votes counted in favour of Western Australia withdrawing from the federal Commonwealth and 70,706 votes against. That would have justified Western Australia seceding and becoming independent. I think the people who were campaigning for Western Australian independence were massively misdirecting their efforts; I think the same about the people campaigning for the independence of Catalonia or Quebec; but I also think it should be their choice, not mine, and if they want independence they should be allowed to have it. All the cases I have mentioned were or are real cases, and what general principle is there for deciding them more just than the democratic one of what the people involved want? Your principle of support for decolonisation (whatever its merits in some cases, and I agree it has some) doesn’t have the same general applicability; what does it tell you about Slovenia or Catalonia, for example, or about the movement favouring secession of Nevis from St Kitts and Nevis?
The desire and the consent of two is required to justify a marriage, the desire and the wihdrawal of consent of only one to justify a divorce. If the majority of the Corsicans want Corsica for the Corsicans, it would not be just for their preference to be overridden by a preference of the majority of the French to have Corsica for the French. Was the union of Great Britain and Ireland justified? Yes if both the British and the Irish wanted it; if only one of the two desired it and the other did not, that’s not enough to justify the union. Was the union of England and Scotland justified? Yes if both the English and the Scottish wanted it; if only one of the two desired it and the other did not, that’s not enough to justify the union. If it should happen to be the case that the majority of the people in your country want my country to be part of your country, that wouldn’t justify overriding the desire of the majority of people in my country to remain separate and independent (if we want to unite with you as well as you wanting to unite with us, then it’s justified). To force you into a marriage that you don’t want, or to keep you in a marriage that you don’t want, is much the same as to enslave you, or at least it’s wrong for the same reasons; to dissolve a marriage because that’s what one partner wants may disappoint the other partner, but disappointment is not like slavery.
Applying those principles to the case of Hong Kong, it’s true that the United Kingdom obtained control of the territory by forcible extortion from China, and I’ve never for a moment suggested that was just. For the avoidance of doubt, I agree that the United Kingdom acquired Hong Kong unjusty. Since we’re referring to that, though, how do you think China acquired Hong Kong? The whole southern half of the present territory of China was acquired from its indigenous non-Chinese (non-Han, non-Huaxia) population by force; how was that not an example of colonialism? (Don’t take my word for it; look it up for yourself and educate yourself!)
Setting that aside, though, not only was the acquisition of Hong Kong by the United Kingdom an injustice; the subsequent government of Hong Kong was also an injustice, or a series of injustices, not perpetrated against China but perpetrated against the people of Hong Kong, in that they were denied democratic rights. If Britain and Hong Kong had been parts of a democratically governed system, then Britain would have been within its rights (if that’s what the British people wanted) to withdraw from that system and separate from Hong Kong, leaving Hong Kong to determine its own independent fate, although even in that hypothetical scenario Britain would not have had the right to make the decision for Hong Kong that it should become part of China. But Britain forfeited the right to make that decision without reference to the preferences of the people of Hong Kong when it denied democratic rights to the people of Hong Kong. It was an injustice for the United Kingdom to take Hong Kong from China without reference to the preferences of the people of Hong Kong and it was also an injustice for the United Kingdom to hand Hong Kong over to China without reference to the preferences of the people of Hong Kong. That latter injustice was aggravated by the refusal of the United Kingdom to allow the citizens of Hong Kong entry to the United Kingdom. It would have been more just (or less unjust, depending on how you look at it) if Hong Kong citizens had been allowed to enter the United Kingdom as citizens, and if they had been it seems likely that events would have developed differently.
So what would be just now? It would be just now for one-party rule of China to be replaced by some more democratic system; but obviously there’s no current prospect of that. If, hypothetically, it did happen, the chances are that the preferences of the people of Hong Kong would change. Given the existing situation, though, what would be just? If Western powers try to pressure China to change its Hong Kong policy, the effects are practically certain to be harmful, to the people of Hong Kong and also to others, so that can’t be what justice demands. What the best course of action would be, consistent with justice, supposing we assume (what seems likely) that the rulers of China will continue on the path they’ve currently set for themselves, is something I simply lack the information to judge. That doesn’t mean I can’t perceive the injustice in the way the rulers of China are currently handling the situation. Of course if I were a politican or a diplomat or an international trader or in some other way influential over the relationship between China and the West, it would be misguided and cruelly wrong to base my policy on telling the rulers of China how unjust they’re being; but I’m not, so I don’t have to constrain my expression in the same way. Equally, for reasons some of which I’ve just indicated, I don’t have to constrain myself from expressing my assessment of the way many Western figures are handling interaction with China as cruelly wrong.
China only acquired control of Tibet in the first place by an unjust forcible seizure.
It does not automatically follow that if Tibet became independent from China it would be logically necessary for it to become a religious dictatorship. It would not be just to offer the people of Tibet a choice between being forced to accept Chinese communist rule and being forced to accept a religious dictatorship. It would be just for the people of Tibet to be offered a free choice, without force. I don’t know that they would freely choose a religious dictatorship if they were offered that choice; if that’s really what they would do, given a free choice, I think they’d be making a ghastly mistake, but they’d be making it for themselves and they should be free to do so. Obviously under current circumstances there’s no prospect of their being offered a free choice of any kind; the only way they’ll be offered a free choice is after some drastic change in circumstances, currently unpredictable and unforeseeable, and therefore it’s also unpredictable and unforeseeable what options they would have to choose from in that hypothetical future.
In the current circumstances, I lack the information to answer the question ‘What is the best option available to people (outside Tibet and outside China) who want to improve the lot of the Tibetan people?’ but that doesn’t mean I can’t perceive injustice in the treatment of the Tibetan people by the rulers of China.
You are mistaken about the historical facts. Vietnam, or at least the greater part of it, was imperial Chinese territory for a millennium. (Don’t take my word for it, look it up and educate yourself!) The seizure of that territory by the Chinese empire was no more and no less unjust than the seizure of the southern part of modern China, which I mentioned above; in fact, they can be seen as elements of the same historical development. I agree with you that it would be unjust for China to seize Vietnamese territory, but I reach that conclusion for a different reason, the same one I’ve adopted all along, that it’s not the preference of the people of Vietnam (or some part of it).
But I didn’t say that! Check for yourself, as I have just done! In my earlier comments I never used the word ‘democracy’ or ‘democratic’, except when it appeared in quotations from your comments! I described a principle of general applicability which I endorse; you chose to attach the words ‘democracy’ and ‘democratic’ to it. I don’t have any objection to my principle being described as a democratic one if you think that’s appropriate, but that doesn’t make your criticisms of other things described as democratic relevant to my principle. Whether the UK is or is not democratic does not affect the assessment of my principle, because I didn’t derive it from the practices of the UK; whether the US is or is not democratic does not affect the assessment of my principle, because I didn’t derive it from the practices of the US. The principle I am asserting is of general applicability in answering the question of who should govern a territory, and the principle is that the answer should be determined by the preferences of the people of that territory. I endorse that principle regardless of whether UK or US governments adhere to it (or any other governments, for that matter); I endorse that principle regardless of whether you think it fits with a definition of democracy or not (I think it does, but if it didn’t I would still endorse the same principle).
If you are endorsing a similar generally applicable principle, I can’t tell what it is. At one point earlier in the discussion it seemed as if you might be suggesting that your general principle was that the answer to the question of who should govern a territory was that it should be determined by who governed that territory in the eighteenth century. Is that your generally applicable principle and, if it isn’t, what is?
The constent ot the two is required for a marriage.
But that does not hold up because there is no scientific way to determine where the two sides sperate and where they merge. The Irish and the English, The Eritreans and the Ethiopians, the Croats and the Serbs, and the Bosnians, The Fillipino Catholics and Muslims, the American confederates and unionists, North and South Sudanese, Catalonians and the Spanish, Kurds and who ever, these are not married couples, they are all Siamese Twins. These are all cases in which one of the twins wants to seperate, and then if and when the issue gets forces there is always a huge disagreement about where the physical body of one ends and the other begins.
If your government or favorite political party does not get involved supporting one side or the other that means the side that you favor might lose. Well naturally from your point of view that would mean that your understanding of truth and justice would lose. But who can say how things will work out in the longer run. A for truth and justice today could fertilize the ground for the two victories for truth and justice in 50 years, maybe even 25 years.
Oops I meant a LOSS for truth and justice today could fertalize the ground the for future victories.
Example the liberals lost to the monarchists in 1848. But as a result many of those so called losers immigrated to the USA were they played a roll in the civil war mostly to the benifit of the north.
A counter example the south lost civil war but by rewriting history and mounting a massive campaign of sedition managed to take over the US in a 17 year process that lasted from 1963 to 1980 replacing one set on evil dumbshits with another set of evil dumbshits in the process. I just mention this counter example because one persons evil dumbshit is another persons quality führer so for those people the loss by the confederacy in the civil war would not be a counter example but would bolster my case.
Anyways we all have multiple personalities, oops I mean multiple hats so that complecates things as far as deciding what to ignore or not ignore in other countries. As a secular social stoic confuscian buddhist unitarian universalist I think that I have lots of ideas that would make the lives of people in other countries better and some of the people in those countries will even agree with me. But others will think that i am full of BS. So do I have a duty to support my side elsewhere? Or do I have a duty to observe social distancing and keep my viruses out of other bathtubs?
For most people most of the time supporting their side elsewhere usually means only with words. Compared with monitary donations which some people make and actually going to the location to take part in a struggle with actual labor or risks in combat which very few do, support with words is really just letting off steam.
So I am hearing stories about how mortuaries in the USA, St. Louis and Kansas City to be specific, are swamped because of the Coronavirus.
But I just saw that 1000 people died of the Coronavirus in the USA in 24 hours. Yet before the pandemic between 7000 and 8000 people died in the USA every single day. So adding 1000 deaths, if 1000 deaths were actually added makes and additional 12% to the national mortuary work load. But were the mortuaries actually operating at capacity before the pandemic? Were they even operating at 90% capacity before the pandemic. And I am calling capacity meaning the number of deaths that can be processed in a 40 hour work week. So how hard would it be to increase capacity 12%. Now I can imagine that a place like New York City might overwhelm the local capacity. But the US has quite an interstate highway system. How hard should it be to distribute the neccessary work that needs to be done over a 33% larger area?
Again it does not seem that the numbers add up.
The following link to a report by the Washington Post is also extraordinarily odd. It says that there have been 66,000 extra deaths in the US between 1 January 2020 and 31 March 2020. But only 15,000 of these excess deaths occured in March, That means that 50,000 occured in January to the end of Febuary. It does not list each month seperatly in the article so we have to guess that the rate was 25,000 for January and 25,000 for Feburary. But those months were supposed to be before the covid virus was widespread in the US. If covid was responsible it would throw cold Minnesota water on the story that the virus even orginated in China let alone in a Chinese Lab. Are there any other implications as a result of this unverified report? Can the info be trusted?
J-D your principle is a recipe for a return to the era of monarchist banditry, when European states handed territory around between each other without regard for the impact on the residents of those territories. It’s a return to might makes right, and I’m surprised you can’t see it. It is also a perfect situation for states that want to destabilize other states through separatist movements (as is being done to China now). The comparison with a divorce is also facile – states aren’t families or individuals, they don’t follow the same principles or rules. California can’t just leave the USA if they want to – it would impoverish the rest of the USA. Imagine if China just decided to leave Hong Kong behind, that would leave a city of 12 million without a reliable supply of fresh water. And of course under your system it’s almost always the poorer, non-white states who have to be torn apart to please the whims of rich white countries who want to see their colonial possessions returned to them (or, as is often the case with the UK’s pre-independence intentions, used as a wrecking ball on the stability of the post-independence states).
You also misunderstand the de-colonization position. When I said “about the 18th century” you know I’m referring to the colonial possessions of the colonialist bandits – the European states who stole land elsewhere. You know that the date I’m giving is not arbitrary, and that I’m simply referring to the approximate time in history when Europe began its banditry. I’m not, for example, suggesting that the UK should be returned to France. I’m talking about states that were stolen by the European colonialists from non-European territories, and not to the spoils of inter-imperial wars that happened hundreds of years ago.
It’s a simple principle: colonial possessions should be returned to the states they were stolen from, and independence movements in those returned states should be ignored as the revanchist and reactionary holdovers that they are.