Retrospective
TABLE OF CONTENT

Retrospective

Every now and again, writers need to review what they have written to see if it still makes sense (or ever did).  What better time to do that than in the first post of a brand-New Year?

1. 危機 – Crisis

In our post on Christmas Eve, we wrote about how COVID is changing working lives – forever.  We compared this change to the changes that took place after the Black Death in Europe.  Because at least one-third of the population of Europe died, the UK’s barons and landlords had not enough workers on their fields.  They therefore had to start paying wages to attract workers.  This led to the end of the feudal system, we suggested.

It turns out that we, and many others, are only partly right.

In a recent article in Aeon, John Rapley, a political economist at the University of Cambridge, writes:

As for the Black Death, in much of Europe it didn’t end feudalism but actually reinforced it. In much of Europe, and particularly in the east, the nobility responded by then reinforcing feudal bonds. However, in England, the evolution of Common Law had created a framework that made it possible for land tenure to change from feudal to market-based relations. As a result, when the Black Death caused an agrarian crisis, English society produced new forms of tenancy, thereby accelerating the decline of feudalism. In effect, English feudalism had a vulnerability to exogenous shock that was not present in other parts of Europe.

So, thanks John, for clarifying that.  Even the Black Death had its Brexit aspects.

This ‘correction’ has led us to wonder what else we might have got wrong – or right – in the blog over the couple of years since it began.   

2. Democracy

In The Quiet Americans (July 2020), we wrote about the USA’s deeply held belief that its democracy and values were right for all nations of the world. We wrote:

The people and Government of the USA therefore felt (and still feel) themselves to be the determinants of what is right and good in the governance of mankind. Because of their history, their success, and their power, what the USA believes must, by definition, be superior to any other nation. It is the duty of every citizen of the USA, led by its government, to bring about “government of the people, by the people, for the people” in every country of the world.

Now, this seems to have changed somewhat.

An article in the Times on New year’s Day (2022) talks about the serious possibility of another US civil war.  Barbara Walter, an expert on international security at the University of California, San Diego is quoted:

Emerging and decaying democracies are particularly vulnerable to violent conflict, aided by the “accelerants” of social media. The internet has revealed just how fragile a government by the people for the people can be. Walter believes that America has become a partial democracy or “anocracy”, which she describes as “somewhere between a democracy and an autocratic state”.

USA TODAY Network
USA TODAY Network

Barton Gellman writes:

There is a clear and present danger that American democracy will not withstand the destructive forces that are now converging on it. Donald Trump came closer than anyone thought he could to toppling a free election a year ago. He is preparing in plain sight to do it again.

Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images
Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images

The Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Warns:

We should not assume it (a civil war) could not happen and ignore the ominous signs that conflict is spiralling out of control. Even if we do not end up in open combat, there could be an uptick in domestic terrorism and armed violence that could destabilize the country. It is time to take steps to safeguard democracy, address societal concerns, and defuse our current tinderbox.

US democracy, it seems, is not what it used to be just 18 months ago.

3. The ‘wrong’ flag

Flags have an emotive value far beyond their design and purpose. 

Above is a US protestor with a Confederate flag being arrested by a US policeman.

AP: Kin Cheung
AP: Kin Cheung

Above is the Chinese flag being defaced by students in the 2019 Hong Kong riots.  All the protestors were sure they were right.  All had the support of a crowd.  All broke the laws of their land and deserved their punishment.

End of story, right?  Not so…

In The Great Game, (May 2020) we observed trends in the way in which the west and China dealt with each other.   In this, and in several posts last year, we discussed a major inconsistency in western media.  In The Other Side of the Story , we reviewed a book by respected Hong Kong journalist, Nury Vittachi.  In it, Nury shows conclusively how the 2019 riots in Hong Kong were funded and promoted by agencies of the US government.  Long before Nury’s book came out, the Chinese and Hong Kong Governments had repeatedly condemned the USA for this interference.  At the time this claim was ridiculed in western media. Yet, even though the story is now known to be true, no corrections have appeared in the west.

In Don’t read the News, we gave more evidence of how the western media allows itself to be used by western governments to further their geo-political agendas.  We said:

I do not believe in conspiracy theories. But this is not one. It is an intricate, geo-political, battle in which the (still) most powerful country in the world is trying to keep in check the second most powerful country in the world. It uses all the tools it can to do so. Chief among these is the western media.

In these views, it seems, we have been fair and correct.

4. The UK

Finally, in this review, we looked at a document produced by the English House of Lords about the UK’s policy towards China. We quoted from the report:

China used to think that the United Kingdom had no direct strategic rivalry or conflict with it and had a lot to offer in high tech, financial services, education, and tourism terms. However, the UK has increasingly accepted Washington’s framing of the US-China strategic rivalry. (The US sees it) as a life and death struggle between democracy and autocracy, treating China as an adversary. This will affect the UK’s relationship with China.

© Reuters
© Reuters

In fact, trade between China and the UK is healthy.  The UK government is providing incentives to make it easier for exporters to send goods to China.  The USA’s number one trading partner is, once again, China.  As of August 2021, the USA is importing an impressive 42% of all its imports from China.

Pragmatism at least, is alive and well.  The western media has affected citizens’ opinions but not their common-sense.   Thus, whatever their views may be, nations will continue to buy from and sell to each other.  It would be nice to think that everything else is just ‘noise’.

5. Conclusion

We have written about many subjects over the last two years.  In an early post in December 2019 we set out our beliefs for The Reasonable Man:

‘Reasonable’ men and women try to adapt to and live with these changes. ‘Unreasonable’ people rebel to change things (or to keep them the same). One tribe’s ‘freedom-fighter’ is another’s dangerous ‘terrorist’. Should the tribe be inclusive and try to integrate with others around it; or should it defend its traditional way of life?

There is plenty of space on this planet to feed and house many more people than now live on it. With our science and ingenuity, we can solve the logistics of population growth. What we now must master as humans, is how to live together better than humanity has been able to so far.

Our self-assessed report card on the last two years might read:

The Reasonable Man has tried to strike a balance between the East and the West. However, the writers have focussed too much on the rhetoric and not enough on the action. We are happy to report that the World is in better shape than The Reasonable Man would have us believe.

What do you think?

Worked on the article:

Wanlikhang

Wanlikhang

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