Friday 12 October 2012

Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got

Christ, I’m going to have to write about the fucking rocks, aren’t I?

You know what? I really can’t be fucked. It’s just too depressing. But it’s there. It’s definitely a thing, and it really doesn’t look like it’s going to stop being a thing any time soon. It’s not like we haven’t been here before though, is it? I reckon I can at least partially dull the pain by constructing a post composed mostly of quotes from other people. What better way to demonstrate that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it than by repeating stuff other people have said throughout history?

Eyes on the prize.

“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for their lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”

It’s 1982 and Maggie Thatcher isn’t doing too well in the polls. So she does what embattled leaders do everywhere to improve their popularity at home: stokes a pathetic little conflict that costs millions and gets many of her country-folk killed (as well as some foreigners, who matter less). This, as ever, proves to be marvellously popular. It also gets the Tories re-elected and everyone lives happily ever after.

Wiser heads later likened this little spat (over 900 dead) to ‘two bald men fighting over a comb.’ A stance which does at least assume that both sides are adults, so there’s that.

There’s also the fact that The Falklands are inhabited. As is Gibraltar. I’m pretty certain that few people in the UK, and even fewer in the FCO could give even one fuck about The Falklands or Gibraltar. And frankly Pitcairn is just a headache we could all do without. But, for better or for worse, people have a right to self-determination and such is the unhappy legacy of Empire. It’s like being a parent, your early problems are with rebellious children who want independence before you think they’re ready, but later on the problem is the ones who stayed at at home, are going slightly weird and refuse to ever leave.

Yet, despite the mass of data that suggest becoming a parent is actively detrimental to your quality of life, people still keep having kids (idiots). In fact, many people are so desperate to have children that they’ll go to huge lengths to do so, sometimes even stealing other people’s. Or keeping the ones they do have locked up in their backyard and abusing the shit out of them while the rest of the street turns a blind-eye. So basically any nation with imperial ambitions is a geopolitical Josef Fritzl.

Tasteless? Yes. Offensive? Definitely. No less so though than the morons currently stoking nationalistic fires on either side of the Japan Sea/ East Sea/ Whateverthefuckthekoreanswanttocallitthisweek Sea. Who gives a shit? Really? No-one even fucking lives there. I know, the EEZ, the fishing and the extraction rights, but for fuck’s sake…

I get that there’s an inescapably patronizing air of western paternal (post)imperialism whenever anyone from Europe, let alone anyone from the UK, comments on nationalistic expression in other parts of the world. I’m fully aware of it, but there’s no way I can rid myself of it short of renouncing my citizenship so we’ll just have to live with it. Now we’ve allowed for that, here’s the most important quote:

Just fucking grow up, will you?

Seriously, this is less two men fighting over a comb and more two toddlers arguing over the finger paints. Or two primary school boys comparing cock sizes in the toilets during afternoon break. Another glorious example of how diplomacy is conducted in this part of the world, largely via knee-jerk inanities from short-term, populist politicians who really should know better when it comes to keeping their dicks in their pants. It should not go unnoticed that that's also how diplomacy seems to be conducted in many other parts of the world as well.

I’m not claiming we’ve got it down pat in Europe, of course not. But we’ve had several centuries of knocking the shit out of each other already, and after a while it just gets so fucking tedious.

Because I'm boring myself now.

And I’ve run out of quotes now too, so I’m going to subject you all to a couple of ill-thought through historical musings and then go stick my head in the oven*.

1.    England/The UK is an archipelago just off a large continental landmass. For centuries England’s diplomatic stance was geared towards maintaining the balance of power in continental Europe. Realizing it had no room for expansion, England played off one continental nation against the other, generally siding with the weakest to ensure that the strongest could never consolidate and get too powerful. This was complicated and messy – very messy – but was by and large successful.

Japan is an archipelago just off a large continental landmass. For centuries Japan’s diplomatic stance towards the continent was this –

Despite the best efforts of the current Han majority, China is hugely multiethnic and riven with divisive tensions. Japan failed to play the bogey man previously and allowed one group to dominate, so now it’s left with little choice in the matter as the CCP attempt to paper over the remaining cracks by diverting attention. So the Japanese also have themselves to blame, really. The rest of the world is out there, whether you like it or not.

2.    Germany got screwed in the aftermath of both world wars. That it was done so ineptly after WWI directly contributed to WWII, so for round two the Allies made damn sure they screwed them properly this time, and that all concerned got their pound of flesh. Not pleasant for Germany or the Germans, true, but it did at least allow for some form of catharsis for those nations that bore the brunt of their aggression.

That never happened in Japan. Thanks to MacArthur and the Americans, China, Korea, the Philippines and other SE Asian nations never got to take a swing at their invaders in the way France and Belgium did in Europe. That’s got to rankle. Germany got ripped in two for a generation, whereas within a decade Japan was getting flooded with regeneration cash in an effort to combat Communism. That worked out about as well as you’d expect, and means that any discussions about apologies, compensation, and the like always come across as bureaucratic nitpicking. Bureaucratic nitpicking doesn’t really inflame the sensibilities of the common man, y’know?

Add to that the undeniable trauma of the atomic bombings, which has allowed certain sections of Japanese society to view themselves, on balance, as victims of the war but not aggressors – as if the final few weeks of the conflict somehow erase all the preceding years – and you get a very unpleasant mix of bile, ignorance, and resentment that’s been festering for decades.

Actually, fuck it. Thank god for the rocks. Go at it boys (and it is boys, in every sense), get it all out of your system. Best to do it somewhere all those hormones are easily contained. Get shitfaced, have a bit of a ruck, and hopefully you’ll wake up in the morning with a hangover and vow never to touch a drop again. Just get it all out of your system as soon as possible and come back to the rest of us when you’re ready to act like proper adults.

Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Quote roll call
George Santayana
Herman Goering
Jorge Luis Borge
Jeremy Hardy
Any one of my ex-girlfriends

*Don’t worry, it’s Japanese, and thus electric.


  1. There was an article in the New York Times about how a Chinese person driving a Japanese car was attacked. Oh dear... Do people ever realise why they are only allowed to protest certain things? Wasn't many people protesting when the bullet train crashed and they buried the fucker. I mean who does that? The few who did mysteriously weren't there after a few days. Shame on you for being upset about your family dying and no one even bothering to find out the cause.

    I wish they put Ishihara, any other knob like him and all these people smashing up Aeon malls and the like and let them go at it.

    1. It's the flip side of all that risk-taking behaviour in young males I was (kinda) praising a while back. Gotta have an outlet, however state-sanctioned it might be.

      People are dumb, all over. Those are good questions about being 'allowed' to protest, but I doubt they're thinking about them when they throw a brick through the window of a (Chinese owned and operated) Japanese restaurant.

  2. Being British doesn't disqualify you from expressing an opinion on the Liancourt Rocks. If anything, our Falklands experience is a good parallel.

    It should be noted that China has two purposes: One is to maintain internal social coherence by focussing popular discontent on an external hate object -- Japan. (Korea has the same purpose in the dispute about the Liancourt Rocks.)

    The other purpose is genuine territorial expansionism, which is why they have similar disputes with Vietnam and the Phillipines about the Spratly and Paracel islands.

    1. It's not that I feel disqualified, so much that I (and a lot of other people in the west) have directly beneficent from the imperialism of our forefathers. It wouldn't be wholly unreasonable for someone from the Third World to throw accusations of hypocrisy my way if I just stood here waving my finger at them. Not that being a hypocrite necessarily means you're wrong, of course.

      Yeah, it's the oldest misdirection ploy in the ruling classes' playbook. Sad that it still keeps working so well. I'm not sure that they genuinely care about territorial expansion for it's own sake though, always seemed more of a 'prestige' issue to me. Though I'm far from an expert and the difference in motivation is perhaps moot.

  3. How does a mayor of Tokyo have any's trying to get the Olympics with one hand and trying to start a War with the other. He has cost this country an enourmous amount of cold hard money in the form of investments, purchase of Japan owned goods manufactured in China or shipped from here.

    As if this was a good time....if there ever is a good time to fuck yourself?

    Not a particular Fan of China or Japan but Ishihars should read some Sun Tzu:

    Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

    Has anyone ever told Ishihara to sit down and shut the fuck up?
    He really needs some tough love. If he was a true Nationalist he would put his country in a position to "Win" and not to "Lose".

    1. Ah, now you see what you're doing here is crediting Ishihara with some sort of long-term vision, or just any sort of common sense at all. This despite all the evidence that the man doesn't 'think' in any sense you or I would recognise, just jerks his knee so wildly that his foot usually ends up in his mouth.

      This is one of those fortunately rare occasion that any kind of tangible action has resulted, and hasn't it turned out well? I suspect for him, and Hashimoto and others, 'winning' means getting their faces on the front page of the morning papers.

  4. You must have had the best writer on 20th Century politics and history in mind, eh?

    1. Too easy, frankly. Plus I want to use his less political stuff in a book post coming up. 'All Orwell All The Time' actually wouldn't be that bad as blog concepts go, but isn't the direction I want to take this in ;)

    2. His less political stuff? Pray do tell what qualifies. Shooting an elephant in Burma doesn't, nor essays on English, nor slumming in Paris, London or Wigan Pier...

      'All Orwell All The Time'? Hmm...

    3. Well, if we're going to pick over those particular nits, I'll have to point out that I only said less political, not 'not political at all'.

      Though I'll concede that the fact the particular piece I was referring to was called Politics and the English Language does rather demonstrate your point...

  5. It will definitely get interesting in the next couple of decades as China establishes a larger and larger naval presence in the region...

    1. True, just got themselves and aircraft carrier, haven't they? Interesting to see how the 'Americans Out' Japanese politicos square that with Article 9...

  6. Oh, reading this was a bit unsettling, because I've had exactly the same thoughts about those islands, and also the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan. I just made a new German friend, and we were talking about the fact that Germans are so much more willing to accept some responsibilty for awful shit that happened during WW2. I think it was a story about a billboard in NY asking Japanese to apologise to the "comfort women", that got me thinking about it.

    1. Thing is, the billboard is almost even worse that the islands. The rocks are pretty trivial, but the comfort women are real people. It's so clearly just another attempt to whip up nationalist hysteria, and if you're going to do that, at least leave out real people as much as possible. Even more pathetic, imho.

      And Japan has actually apologised for these kind of things, on several occasions. But they've all been so bloodless and half-hearted I can kinda understand other countries not accepting. That 'bureaucratic nitpicking' link above has the best description of it I've ever read.

  7. Somehow I was thinking, as I looked at the various goods for sale in the hardware store that the fine print states the truth about Japan: Made in China.

    Kind of hard to deny what everyone's buying.

    1. Which of course adds another layer of idiocy. It's all very well for Chinese consumers to boycott Japanese firms, but if those firms have to lay people off as a result then the first place they'll do it is from their factories in, wait for it...