July 9th, 2005

Semiformalishmaybe

Wisdom from LongLegs

On this morning's walk, I realized that there's somethnig that, if not a contradiction, is at least an issue with regards to urban development. It's often said that private ownership of land, as opposed to rental, engenders greater personal investment in the community. At the same time, the development of urban sprawl is harmful to community and culture, leading to our empty car culture as well as environmental damage from lack of economy of scale of more centralised dwelling. Is there a way to reconcile these two suggestions? Are condos it?

Semiformalishmaybe

Condemning H

Semi-recently, I learned in a conversation with someone I'll call K that someone I tangentally know, H, was against the war in Iraq and felt it was immoral. This wouldn't be surprising, were it not that H was actually deployed in Iraq as part of the US military for a time, and felt that way when he was over there. Apparently, H rationalised it to himself in that the US government needs the ability to deploy troops without soul-searching. While I might agree that such an ability is quite useful to a government, as individual people we have a higher obligation to our moral system than to the government, and the needs of the state are less pressing concerns than living a good life. Despite the vast gulf of opinion between me and someone who approves of the invasion of Iraq, I can potentially respect people who support it much more than I can H now. Doing things one thinks is wrong out of obedience to a power is disgusting moral cowardice, and is in fact considerably worse than not attempting anything but a narrowly self-serving value system. Under all circumstances apart from when one's life is threatened in situations one did not create, one is responsible to one's moral code and for one's actions. One can't simply point at "higher ups" and say that it's on their head. Shame on H. It's tempting to draw a parallel between H's name and this failing, but that probably would just be sensationalist and empty.

I finished All the Shah's Men. It was a very good, and very disturbing book. I now understand why modern Persia hates western powers, and the title "The Great Satan" actually seems justified. To summarize, in Persia, just as with most of the rest of the world, Britain (and later the U.S., who one would think would've learned enough about British imperialism when it was under it to oppose this kind of thing, but was distracted by a *cough* "Red Herring") pulled all the dirty tricks it could to control the country in order to plunder its wealth, enslaving its people and appointing puppet governments. Naturally, when the people rose up against their oppressors, the British then played the victim and cried breach of the very contracts that they established by coercion several governments before, at the same time as they arranged yet another overthrow of the government to create a better business environment. It's infuriating. Of course, this kind of stuff still happens today -- any opposition to the draining of wealth by rich developed nations from the natural resources of poorer ones is met with lawsuits and playing the same victim games. I feel that international economics should be seen as this: each country runs its own affairs, and may choose to nationalise or change the rules of how their society wants as their perogative. No recompensation should be expected for said opportunity costs -- the risk is the cost of doing business. The only cost countries may acrue from such things should be social -- estimated future risk. Globalization may look nice from a distance, but that distance must be sufficiently large that one doesn't really understand capitalism at all.

With the collapse of the Communist bloc and the betrayal of China of the Communist ideal, I find myself with strange bedfellows when it comes to criticism of the American agenda.. Of course, even the Soviets would've been strange bedfellows for a Trotskyite.

Oh, and watch out for SCO. Scary stuff, man :)