VARIOUS EXAMPLES OF OBSOLETE NATIONALISM AND OTHER MENTAL DISTORTIONS. AND HOW EUROPE HAS BITTERLY LEARNED TO PUT COMMUNICATIONS ETHICS FOREMOST.THE CIVILIZATIONAL GRADIENT WITH THE US.
Abstract: Sparked by a blatant lie ubiquitous in US media in recent years, we sketch related examples of small mental biases which have led to humongous wars, as they were allowed to grow unimpeded. A typical sin is outright lying on raw data, and getting away with it (a speciality of US neocons). Europe has now drawn lessons form this to become multinational and multiknowledgeable, and, most importantly, to institute more advanced CONVERSATIONAL ETHICS (although some cracks in the EU show not all is perfect). Lying manipulation of data has become more prevalent in the USA than in Europe. Genuine US patriotism calls to redress this.
One should beware of media in general, including the New York Times, the journal of reference in the USA. For years the NYT pursued a nationalist agenda, in the neocon sense of US nationalism. Propaganda works best when it infuses people with erroneous data. This way they feel that they themselves generated the erroneous product of their thoughts, when in truth they are mentally owned.
The best ways to infuse people with erroneous data is to lie by omission, or by incorrect emotional weighting of data (for example presenting as very important what is truly anecdotal, and conversely).
An essential aim of the neocons has been to persuade US citizens that the European Union (EU) is impotent and degenerate, because it has neither higher values nor the capability to defend them. Thus informed, US citizens have no doubt that they live in the best of all possible countries. So great is the impudence of US right wingers that routinely US media derides EU countries as "wellfare states". They seem unawares that calls to ponder whether the USA is a bad fare state.
Gaetano Catelli from New York (IHT Passages December 17, 2007, post # 9) said: "I only know about the subject what I've read in the New York Times. But, if that source is to be believed, for 4 years the EU did nothing to ameliorate, much less "banish" war in the Balkans during the 1990s. Instead, it was the US that brought about an end to the conflict there."
Well, not so, but, in any case, thank you for harboring some momentary doubts about the New York Times.
Verily, the EU is not just more democratic, and more caring than the USA, she is also arguably more aggressive in the defense of her civilization. Indeed, Europe is endowed with Britain and France which have proven, for centuries, to be massive exporters of the Enlightenment (after all, who enforced the suppression of the slave trade? Certainly not the dear old Uncle Sam! He, or at least president and Founding Father and great US style deep thinker Thomas Jefferson was too busy dispensing his tender ministries to his under age slave lovers!)).
France in particular has intervened militarily more often than the US in the last few decades. Simply France does it minimally, and passes the buck to international organizations as soon as possible (as she is trying to do in Chad/Darfur presently, 2007/08).
After its declaration of independence, the Bosnian republic was attacked by the JNA (Yougoslav People Army). Sarajevo, the capital city of 600,000, was besieged, and came to depend upon a United Nations airlift (1992). Serb nationalist extremists (in a sense of nationalism most Serbs probably would not have approved, had they been fully informed) kept on firing shells into Sarajevo so as to destroy it. A high of 3,777 shell impacts was reached on July 22, 1993. The population of the city was cut in half.
To say the EU did nothing, as the NYT claimed, is a vicious play on semantics. It's vicious because it's a lie masquerading as a truth. Britain and France, as individual nations and allies of each other, concerned with European well being, sent their military to Bosnia for several years in an attempt to separate the fighting factions (they were not sent by the EU, which is how the NYT told a big lie by using a pseudo truth). The Franco-Brits were soon covered by a UN mandate. (France and Britain, united by the Entente Cordiale since 1904, constitute the law enforcement of Europe, a situation in which they was reinforced on August 1, 1914, when the fascists attacked; the US position that the rest of Europe has abdicated its democratic defense obligation is correct for many other European nations, but many will argue that's just as well).
The French, still moved by their common past with Serbia, fighting fascists in World War I, and WW II, long hesitated before using deadly force against Serbian hyper nationalists, but finally they did, and were the first to do so. Perched on the highest mountain next to Sarajevo, that they had conquered by force, the French used counter force radar guided artillery to destroy the murderous guns which were flattening Sarajevo, saving the city. Hostilities kept on increasing, and NATO intervention followed. A massacre like Serbenica (at least 7,000 assassinated), was made possible because the Dutch force was overwhelmed. When the Dutch asked the French army to intervene. The French claimed that only the US would have had enough armored helicopters to do something (!).
Thus, at European request, the USA accepted to be dragged into the conflict, and did well, and did even better in the similar intervention in Kosovo (the Serb army suffered a particularly devastating blow from B52s, thousands of soldiers killed in one bombing). So one should not deny that the USA can play a helpful role (when it enters the Entente Cordiale!). Without the USA, it's highly doubtful the Franco-British muscle, even with Saudi money, could have ended the war in Bosnia (let alone Kosovo). Since the USA is in an important sense the (unruly) child of France and Britain, let alone of democratic Europe, it's only natural it would come to help its parents when they struggle against fascism. One should only deplore that, as during WW I and WW II, the US was a few years late arriving on the scene.
Ever since the foundational work of the Franks (~ 5C), keeping fascism in check, more than Rome did, has been one of the building principles of Europe. Thus so should it be with its civilizational children and (ex) colonies, in particular the USA.
Mr. G. Catelli is the victim of New York Times propaganda. The biased data the NYT fed him leads him to experience outrage, a sense of loss. He comes unwittingly, irresistibly, to a harsh conclusion: the Europeans are no good, the USA is right. Mr. Catelli sees a triumph for the USA: "To the extent war has been banished in Europe, it was banished by the US in 1945. Likewise, to the extent war has been banished in East Asia, it was banished by the US in 1945. Therefore, I suspect that when war is finally banished in the Middle East and Africa, it will have been banished by the US."
Thus Mr. Catelli finishes by celebrating the homicidal oiligarchic policy of the Bush Administration. It's the neoconic refrain: the USA saved the world, thus the USA saves the world, hence the USA will save the world (so help me God, and pass the ammunition!).
The way things look is not always the way things are. US American heavy weights played a huge role in the fascist tragedy which struck Germany after 1919. To start with, the USA refused to entered the (French initialized; 1916) Society of Nations (the ancestor of the UN).
The US government stole German property (as war reparations), and redistributed it, with characteristic plutocratic generosity, to some hyper rich US capitalists. Those worthies then leveraged it by supporting all sorts of fascists institutions and organizations they helped set up in Germany (from the Amerika-Hamburg Line to IG Farben, to Hitler). US investment in Hitler's Reich reached a crescendo to the point Hitler's operation OUGHT TO be seen as SUBSIDIARY of a particular US class. The Nazi war economy and organization completely depended on US companies (for gasoline, aviation fuel, synthetic rubber, computing, etc…).
It was in the interest of the USA as a nation to create havoc in Europe, and then come and install itself as the manager of the peace. It was also in the interest of some particularly depraved individuals and operators to do the same (IG Farben was created by Wall Street types and ordered to divide the world with some US oil companies, each in its own sphere, supporting each other; that's how Prescott Bush ended as one of Hitler's most important managers, using Auschwitz, a place where IG Farben invested a lot too).
The USA itself was able to leverage in turn all this Nazi economic and industrial machinery to its own further profits after the war. Americano-Nazi companies were just proclaimed to be Americano-Freedom companies (after a few years even the most outrageous Nazis, like "I-have-paid-Hitler" Thyssen, were allowed to come back, and head their companies). In other words, far from "banishing war in Europe", the US world empire was created by using its tool, Nazism. This is a very serious accusation.
The European construction was started psychologically when Germans and French took some time away from normal rationality (well, especially the Germans) to explore the absurdity of fighting each other to its bitter end. Even a disgusted Hitler had to draw the conclusion that he needed the French. The most striking result of sending lots of German occupiers into France to live in French castles with the locals and listen to Sartre's theater, was that they organized coups (operation Valkyrie, July 1944). Even Hitler's most trusted SS general, the "butcher of Sevastopol", when he had to choose between Hitler and Paris, decided to save Paris from Hitler (August 1944).
Earlier, the French and the English, having fought a 500 years war (that may be an underestimation), had come to similar conclusions: fighting is nice, but it makes less sense than just being nice, among friends.
Interestingly the Franco-English civil war was fueled by questions of vassality (London did not want to obey Paris, and reciprocally) and questions of language (after it was decided the Duke of Bedford, around 1,405 CE would be regent of the whole Franco-English polity, Bedford tried to save money by using cheap English speaking only troops to police too much of France, which antagonized the natives, rekindling the war (soon with the help of the combustible Joan of Arc)).
The morality? Initially silly, and if not outright puerile, psychological posturing can lead to grave mental acts and labyrinths. Those, in turn, can lead to the logic of war.
If one asks any modern Englishman or Frenchman why their ancestors were at war, from the 12C to 1815 CE, they would evoke a "family feud", but they would be at lost for facts or logics (Eleanor's and Isabelle of France's love lives would have to be a big part of a thorough explanation...).
Although nationalism is understandable to some extent (the Basque have been occupied by Celts, Romans, Visigoths, the Inquisition and Franco, in the last 3,000 years, and some resent using newly imposed languages for example…), it is also fed by the incapacity of understanding the other. Then it becomes one more infamy, in the service of local mafia, and it has to be crushed in the name of the Enlightenment.
Besides encouraging the main train of the European Union, a discourse which never ends, there are two ways to discourage noxious nationalism (such as may be growing in Flanders):
1) Push English as a universal European language (to reassure the French, let's point out it's probably more correct to view English as deriving from the third French language, Anglo-Normand, rather than as a Germanic language). English has very little grammar, it's easy to learn.
2) Change language education to favor understanding of many languages rather than speaking two fluently (so everybody could stick to English or their own language, and still be understood by everybody).
Those avenues should be encouraged as a worldwide paradigm of conflict resolution.
The vaguely amusing much ado about nothing presently unfolding in Belgium is in part reminiscent of the problem with local taxation and its global reach, which has affected the USA. Rich Americans, eager to become ever richer, did not want to share with the poor, so they moved out to the suburbs, and voted for Reagan (who closed many Federal programs that had redistributed riches). It was morning, all over the suburbs. The result has not been pretty, and it's not just a question of having car swallowing potholes everywhere. The entire social fabric has been devastated. The rich got much richer, the poor much poorer.
This same striving for selfishness and local democracy is a temptation among those who want to split Belgium in two (or more exactly three, since Brussels is its own region). What is slightly alarming is the play on local nationalism, as a new PARADIGM to be RESPECTED. There are always would be willing thugs to become local petty chiefs, heading "national" movements. In the past nationalism, an outgrowth of tribalism, has often provided with a ride to the apocalypse.
In the case of the break up of the polity that France, England, and Flanders constituted in the Middle Ages, differences about dining were viewed gravely. Of course that was silly, and just a symptom of the will of petty chiefs to become bigger chiefs, but so it ignited.
As the leaders and their vassals once met, somewhere in France, the Franco-Normands lords made a point that they would not share the same fare as their Franco-French cousins: they preferred beer and boiled meats to wine and roasted venison, it should have gone without saying. Separate tables had to be made, and two different menus ordered. Cousins stayed separated. Between this sort of things, and Eleanor's love life, the Anglo-French civil war started with a comic touch (Eleanor was desperate because she did not have children with the French king; so she married Henry II of England, 10 years her junior, and gave birth to 6 or 7 children; so doing she carried to the Franco-Normand side her gigantic dominion of Aquitaine, which was larger than the kingdom of France itself).
Soon enough things turned sour: the English king forbade English students to study at the University of Paris... Misunderstanding and mutual ignorance was favored because it allowed the growth of the local war chiefs in particular the monarchs in London and Paris. Besides the ravages of armies destroying all on their way, the triangle economy of the Netherlands, France and England broke down, furthering the alienation among various provinces who had been one political entity for about a millennium.
The US neocons have been anxious to favor misunderstanding and ignorance about the ways of the European Union. It's not just that they do not like Europe as an equivalent power. They also do not like that Europe has substituted the most advanced ethics of conversations to what the US neocons prefer, the most advanced ways of war. US neocons want US citizens not to know that has found better ways to improve and spread democracy in a non violent way. In a way US neocons are more infused with the old Athenian notion of demo-kratos as people-violence. That notion was excessive, and led Athens to disaster.
The European ways of dominance through speech have grown out a deeper understanding of how to enforce democracy by talking deep logics and hearts rather than using force right away. Those ways can be duplicated outside of Europe. But they rest on telling the truth as much as it can be ascertained. US media is very restricted, with the NYT looming large. European media is very diverse and vociferously divergent (since it's national based). This is useful, because European citizens are aware of the content of transnational media, nowadays. This more truthful media puts Europe at a mental advantage, and the USA at a mental disadvantage.
Thus, as a patriotic duty, US media should make a bolder effort away from the neocon madness, and closer to God, namely Truth… Or, if that's too tiring, at least away from blatant lies... However inconvenient that maybe.