Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Godwin's Law

"He was expressing the fact that he needed to send in troops to protect those in Crimea of Russian ancestry and Russian language and certain religious groups," he said. "And what the President made clear to Putin was, this was unacceptable."

Someone pointed out in a NYTimes story today, a Ukrainian citizen in fact, that the claim that you need to invade a country to protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers from their government has just got Nazism written all over it.  Not just fascism; we're talking about a very specific set of ethnocentric claims about the identification of a group of people with a state, and that the state itself is an expression of the ethnic composition and identity of that group.

There are people who, by virtue of colonial histories, happen to find themselves "left behind" when the colonizers depart.  For those people to demand the colonizing country come in and protect them, indeed invade and run the damn thing, is the height of entitlement.  The UK left people all over the globe and spent many years using slights to Englishness as a pretext for invasion; thankfully that's a policy Her Majesty's government no longer pursues.  During the 60s various former European colonial powers would send in rapid-reaction forces to get their citizens to safety; that's one of the benefits of a passport, that there's a Marine regiment waiting somewhere to keep you safe.  (This is true of Belgium, France, Holland, the US and the UK, for instance.  Canada has no such policy and, in fact, much of the populace and the better editorial pages will happily blame you for any trouble you might find yourself in - for Canadians, once you leave you're on your own.)  Algeria comes to mind, as does northern Ireland, of instances where it gets more complex: a whole group of people and a significant portion of the population born in the colonized territory who identify as colonizers and aren't willing to give up the colonial project.  Israel, through certain lenses, looks similar.

Monday, March 03, 2014


I bought myself a rifle recently so I could go hunting for larger mammals, a spiffy little Marlin in the Winchester .270 caliber.  I was inspired by Hank Shaw's blog and a couple of others; I'm at an age where I'm looking back on the things I really liked to do when I was younger, the things that didn't involve sitting in a bar arguing Foucault, and wondering why it is that I stopped doing them.  In an earlier age that might have driven men like me to buy a Porsche and a pretty young girlfriend.  But practically, as Plato once noted, you don't really become a man until your forties.  The "mid-life crisis" was always more about marketing lifestyle shifts, sub-dividing consumer categories to make it easier to slot people in and sell them stuff, and it was a co-optation of an actual, honest-to-god milestone in one's life.  So now, having spent far more of my time arguing Foucault in bars than I'd really have liked to, I'm beginning to do the things I like.  Like go trail-running, and hunt, and play music.  This is good for my mental health - building new skills keeps the brain humming along - and my physical health, and my family, and if we ignore all the mass-market bourgeoisie bubble culture built up since the 30s, a necessary part of what it is to be a round, solid, useful human being.