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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Science Of Dismal Invention

General Dyer

She-who-must-be-obeyed has been reading history of the fair gender in the British Raj. We relate the readings back to Paul Scott's The Raj Quartet and its cinema version, The Jewel In The Crown.
We were talking about Jallianwalla Bagh, or the Amritsar Massacre by General Dyer, which also was an episode in the film Gandhi. People had gathered in a walled courtyard and park contrary to government orders, General Dyer ordered troops in, and opened his men to fire indiscriminately: men, women, and children.

In the film, a General Dyer says that the troops would have given aid to anyone who had applied for such. A judge then asked him how a child wounded by rifle fire goes about applying for aid.

Some denounced General Dyer; many others supported the slaughter. Some women in the Raj - probably the majority - supported him, and worked to gather money for a fund to support him.

Reading these things makes me regret the years we spent thinking the Raj was a wonderful gift from European civilization to India. We never saw the evils behind it. We never learned that India was the opium factory of Britain, and the opium forced upon China was grown in India.

India's opium was a cash cow for Britain, and brought in millions and millions. When the opium trade was dismantled in 1910, many people predicted that India would soon be free... for without opium revenues,  it was no longer worth the cost to Britain.


We are also discussing the racial arrogance that grew as the Raj endured.

Civilizations are science, religion, belief systems, technology, and other phenomena mixed together in a complex stew.

Part of the Industrial Revolution was the principle of standardized parts. Starting early on with firearms and rifles, this eventually was combined with the automobile industry and led to the assembly line. The idea of standardization was "in the air" in this new age, and inventors were inspired to new creations.

Many new things are "in the air".
Back some years, theologians put "Death of God" in the air.
I do not really understand it, but I see a direct line from that blasphemy to Fukuyama's "Death of History" and the War in Iraq.
That's me. I know most people would disagree. But that's why I see things they do not, and vice versa.

Anyway, all these things that are "in the air" are swirling about in the stew of civilization. The Past, Present, and Future are all fluid. (A good example of this in film is Lang's Metropolis, in which the inventor of a perfect android is also an alchemist. Everything is mixed together in the conceptual space.)

Hitler was the political inventor who combined:
(1) assembly line tech with killing,
(2) the political concept of the Nation State into Religion,
(3) racial hatred into a standardized political party and program,
among others.

Many of these inventions were duplicated elsewhere in the world and in Europe.

The American Eugenics Society taught the philosophy of a radical eugenics and endorsed the mercy killing of unfit people, a fine euthanasia for fine upstanding citizens to support.
The Nazis paid this group many compliments.

Then there was the racism of Britain in India, and that of the whites in Australia. There was the genocide of the Native American inhabitants.
There was Slavery, which was the base side of the brilliant coin of Thomas Jefferson and many others.

There are many things.

Nobody is perfect...

But the rest of us are lucky that the Nazis were the ones who discovered the monstrous combinations of disaster and genocide and death and the Industrial Revolution and modern business efficiencies, for many other peoples in the world could easily have created the same things:  simultaneous inventions... just like Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin came up with their theories of evolution at the same time,  so also could other and even pernicious inventions come at the same time, or the near same time.

If not the Nazis, it might well have been someone else; maybe us. Who knows? There was a high probability that it was going to be done.

There had been General Dyer.... then there was My Lai.... Abu Ghraib...
There was the Black Hole of Calcutta... there was 9 / 11....

We have not discovered how to stop the cycle of dismal invention.


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