by Emmett R Smith
THE Discussion on BBC ‘Radio 4’ to-day, on ‘Thinking Allowed’ with Mr Laurie Taylor, was of the social and political pressures of chinese internal labour-migration. Lots of farm-folk are swarming the slummy cities of old Cathay and sending home cash. ‘Wealth’ thus is increasing in the usual way during such an historical phase; and, in the usual way, the poor and legally disadvantaged rural emigrants to such unappetising ratholes as Shanghai and Peking are being slapped around and pushed in the face, by their urbane & sneering, globalising, exploiters — and, there is as well a good deal of out-right stealing off these folk in the street, especially by the police and others themselves not quite good enough to make it in bona fide self- or (at least) corporate-employment.
The non-productive and hence-despotic, thieving or sociopathic, personality is a universal in human history. The persistence of the morally-defective in all societies is a grim testimonial to the theories of the Darwinites; and, it attests the eternal fitness of lies, brutality and self-absorption. And, since the human problem of moral-insanity be universal (as attested by the constant grimaces of Mr T Blair, or the cowboy-boots [!] peeping shyly, slyly, from beneath Mr R Cheney’s trouser-cuffs), it is perhaps jejeune to go on over-much as did the ‘Thinking Allowed’ panel to-day, about corruption in such faraway places as Nigeria, on the Slave Coast, and Thither Hindoostan.
The problem of chinese internal labour-migration and corruption is most interesting on its own terms; and, the resulting uncontainable pressures will generate an historical solution of some sort. In this connection, it is fashionable in many so-called academic quarters to do down the West, but it is also so that our experience points out a possible line of development for Cathay.
On this thorny problem of corruption, as an historian I should only wish to point out that, in the West, our post-1871 system of professionalisms, ‘meritocracy’, hypercredentiallism and state-subsidy of same, all of this has been our historical answer to this challenge. Our experience was that wealth increased in any case at a rate far in excess of the capacity of local police and tax-farmers, and other resentful mediocrities, simply to steal all of it. Not least because not all defective characters in any case can be accomodated in the ranks of the gendarmerie, other ways had to be found of buying-off what future-historian Mr Jack Vance has referred to, insightfully, as society’s non-comps.
In the West, extensive subvention of non-production has served as an enormous shock-absorber and pacifier (there are now more psychologists, accountants and chiropracts than ever before, as well as loads of farmers being kept in style at home by the federal government), but one suspects that non-production remains non-production, irreducibly after all — and, civil service-processes at last make thieves and clients of us all. We have been able to have fifty or sixty years of comparative social-peace through this wealth-transfer dodge; but, at the end of the day, demography rather obviously is “agin it” as they say here, in America.
In short, what has proven for Europeans and Americanos a remarkably-successful adaptive-technique for several generations is now about played-out; whereas, for Cathay, the soon-emergence of a professionalist ‘service’ economy may be the very next step in their emerging inevitable decadence. Indeed, in the chinese case, it is more accurate to speak of the re-emergence of a meritocracy, certainly when thinking in historical terms of any cyclical dynasticism. The East arises, the old Atlantic West shivers and withdraws. The real question being therefore how acutely does this pattern of directly-opposed trends aggravate the probability of all-out war between two major trading-partners?
AND, As well, what of the famous confucian matter of respect — for the elderly and diseased?
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 11 April 2007]