Tag Archive | Christmas

Issuing a Challenge to the United States

To clarify the title (originally “War With North Korea is Inevitable”), within the confines of the current U.S. foreign policy, war is inevitable with North Korea. Since it seems extraordinarily unlikely that U.S. foreign policy is going to change very much, I’m reasonably confident that war with North Korea–even if it’s been avoided this weekend–remains inevitable.

First, Kim Jong Un and North Korea aren’t going to stop working out how to make an ICBM and how to lob it at the United States.

Second, they take so much pride in their nuclear program that they would all rather die than surrender it.

Third, the United States is not going to tolerate North Korea developing a nuclear warhead ICBM.

China doesn’t have the power over North Korea that we non-North Koreans like to think they have. It’s true that China is North Korea’s primary lifeline to the world, but North Korea is notoriously defiant, even of China, and if China could tell Kim to “Just cut it out” they would have done so by now–or around the time that we sent carrier groups into the Korean Peninsula. North Korea isn’t part of China, and they don’t like to be treated as though they are–the Sino-Korea Treaty takes great care to be a mutual defense pact, and not a case of “We’re going to protect our little brother.”

While we in NATO know that Montenegro isn’t going to come to the defense of the United States if we’re attacked–and, even if they do, they can’t contribute anything of any actual significance–this isn’t necessarily true with North Korea and China. While China can undoubtedly do more than North Korea, North Korea’s capabilities aren’t inconsequential, though they are limited to that region; North Korea would be almost no help in a war against the United States (except that they’d be able to decimate South Korea), but could contribute considerably in a war against Japan or India.

Our tendency to treat North Korea like China’s little brother, quite frankly, pisses off North Korea. And, realistically, it probably should piss them off. It’s supremely arrogant of us, first of all. North Korea came as close to “kicking our asses” as any nation ever has. It’s rather like getting beat up on a playground and limping away while telling the kid who beat you up that they should be glad they’re being protected by their big brother. They have a feather in their cap that few nations can claim: they took on and defeated the United States.

There are a lot of reasons for that. Our hearts were never in it, and we had to impose the draft to get people involved–and it’s a matter of record that draftees are motivated more by the desire to get back home than to win a “righteous” battle. We ended the Korean War after only three years, making it perhaps one of the shortest wars in American history. That’s how little we wanted to fight it. We were also constrained by UN policies and regulations that, like Vietnam, seemed more designed to make the war perpetual than anything. None of this really matters, though, because the fact remains: North Korea fought us, and North Korea won.

Compare it to our involvement in World War 2, where we were ready to throw anything and everything into the war effort, and against Japan. Then, for the Korean War, we could barely muster an entire regiment of volunteers.

I was relieved today to wake up and learn that we hadn’t started World War 3 in response to North Korea’s testing of a nuclear weapon, primarily because North Korea didn’t test a nuclear weapon.

What does it really matter, though?

It has merely postponed it.

For months, indications have been that North Korea was about to test another nuclear weapon. This is why tensions have been so high–the evidence is pretty clear that we are going to attack if they do so. Satellite images routinely show the “right” activity to indicate there is about to be a nuclear test, and it’s pretty likely that Kim Jong Un backed out at the last minute precisely because of pressure from the United States and China.

But this hasn’t changed anything.

It’s worth taking a moment to ask ourselves why we care whether North Korea tests nuclear weapons. The answer is that our actions throughout the last century have left us having to look over our shoulders constantly, and the only solution we’ve found for this is to continually look over our shoulder and attack anyone we happen to see–which, of course, means that we have to spend even more time looking over our shoulder.

In less than a week, we went from “Are we about to start World War 3 with Russia?” to “Are we about to start World War 3 with China?” One gets the image of a lunatic spinning wildly in circles firing an Ak-47 at every moving shadow he happens to see, paranoid and terrified that someone is coming to get him–and, honestly, is correct that someone is coming to get him, but only because he went around shooting people like a psychopath in the first place.

From what I can tell, this madman could really use some sleep. But he can’t sleep, because he’s created so many enemies that any one of them would sneak up on him in the middle of the night and slit his throat. So the only thing he can do is continue standing and spinning, firing missiles at anything that dares move in his presence while laughing and proclaiming to the world how secure and safe he is now that he’s gone through the world and shot everyone.

I was born on a planet alongside about six billion other people. For the first few years, things seemed pretty ordinary and sane, but then I noticed something odd. These otherwise rational and loving people had the strangest tendency to wantonly kill one another.

And then I noticed something even more bizarre.

Everyone acted like it was totally normal, and as though I was the crazy one for suggesting that we stop killing one another.

We’ve been killing each other for so long that we don’t know any other way. We’re set on that path, and the idea of getting off it, for some reason, terrifies us more than the prospect of nuclear war. God forbid we try to be friends with these people. No, we’d rather risk the possibility of annihilating life on the planet. The notion of just putting down the guns scares us more than nuclear war.

Something remarkable almost happened during World War 1. We came so close to putting war behind us permanently. It marks the most tragic moment in human history, when both sides of a war realized that they didn’t hate each other and that they were brothers being pit against one another by governments. On Christmas Day in the first year of the war, Central Europe forces and Allied forces put down their weapons and met on the battlefield for a day of celebration and peace.

War ends when the soldiers decide to stop fighting.

This posed such a threat to the powers that be–the states of the world–that it was forbidden from then on, and anyone who attempted it faced treason charges. They knew the danger it posed; they knew how close we had come to permanently putting down the guns. All we had to do was make one more decision–“When the sun rises tomorrow, we won’t resume shooting.”

The courage it took those soldiers to rise out of the trenches and walk toward the opposing side was more courage than anyone else had ever displayed in human history. There was every possibility that the other side would seize the opportunity to kill them. “They’re coming at us without weapons! The fools! Kill them! Kill them all!”

But that didn’t happen. They put down their own weapons, and the two sides met in a scene virtually guaranteed to bring tears to any peace lover’s eyes. We were right there. We had put down our guns and approached the other side, trusting that they would accept the gesture of peace and that it wouldn’t prove to be the dumbest thing anyone ever did. And our enemies rose and met the challenge. We came so close to learning it all right then–war is a racket of states. They can order us to kill each other all they want, but they can do nothing if we refuse to. And if we refuse to, we learned on that day, then the other side will refuse to.

It just takes that first courageous gesture of peace, that first person putting down the gun and stepping forward with a hand extended.

The next thing you know, generals and politicians throughout the world are freaking the fuck out because they’ve lost control of the minds of the soldiers and can no longer tell them to go and kill one another.

I challenge the United States to do this today.

Disarm.

If you expect to find a bogeyman pointing a gun at you in every shadow, then that is what you will find.

So disarm completely. Dismantle our warships, our jets, our bombs, our nuclear warheads. Disarm and dismantle everything. Show how courageous you are. Be like those soldiers in World War 1. It doesn’t take courage to continue maniacally shooting at everything that moves. What took courage is throwing up one’s arms, rising out of the trench, and approaching the other side without weapons drawn.

If we put down our weapons, they’ll put down theirs.

It’s time to end the worldwide Mexican Standoff.

And if our government doesn’t do it? Then American soldiers need to just go home. Just put down the weapons and go home. They can’t imprison all of you, because the only people who would imprison you would also have put down their weapons and gone home.

Is it unlikely? Perhaps.

Is it impossible?

The first Christmas of World War 1 suggests that it isn’t. It just takes courage.

 

Christmas Isn’t the Capitalist Wet Dream

I’ve seen a lot of posts and articles in the past few days from libertarians and other capitalists that suggest that Xmas is some kind of Uber Capitalist Celebration, like it’s just this zenith of capitalist ideas and a wonderful, grand thing. In the interest of religious friends, I want to draw a distinction between Xmas and Christmas, because I’m not sure they’re the same thing. Christmas is a holiday about love, family, and friendship–regardless of where it may have its roots. Xmas is a holiday tied to Black Friday and is directly at odds with family and friendship because of this.

There were Facebook posts this year of people asking businesses to not open their stores on Thanksgiving Day, to at least wait until Friday to open up their Black Friday sales, but we all knew they wouldn’t do that, and we all knew that half of those people posting such things would be the first in line. It’s this hyper-competitiveness that destroys the Christmas spirit and replaces it with the Xmas spirit. People abandon their family and friends to go stand in line, rampage over old ladies, punch little kids, and all manner of other horrible things.

In most ways, Christmas has been replaced with Xmas, and it hasn’t been a good thing. It has invaded Thanksgiving–and it threatens to invade Halloween. Now that we have allowed the day to successfully sink its teeth into another holiday, there is likely no end to it; give it a few more decades, and Xmas will have devoured everything from December 25 to September 25. People get so caught up in it, but it’s not because of friends and family–it’s because of gifts, omg, gifts!

One could say that this is a good thing–the spirit of giving and all that, but it’s not the spirit of giving, is it? No, it’s the spirit of buying. We all know this to be true, even if we don’t say it. My father, being perpetually broke, spends each year making fudge and other sugar-loaded crap that he gives out, and it’s never stated but it’s always there, underlying the entire gift-giving process: “These aren’t real gifts.” I believe my nephew has outright stated that. But we don’t make gifts, and none of us has any interest in making gifts. Those who do give such gifts are looked upon strangely, and why? Because this isn’t a season of giving; it’s a season of buying.

There are outliers, of course, and nothing is universally true. But it’s never “Make your loved ones something special this holiday season” that we see, is it? Not anywhere do we see such messages. We’d expect advertisers to jump on the “NO YOU HAVE TO BUY YOUR GIFTS” train–we’d expect them to be in charge of that train, in fact–but their subtle propaganda has been so effective that the masses of people believe it. You’re weird if you make people gifts. That’s too personal, too emotional, too… weird.

But I didn’t mean to get into that.

I’m more concerned with the libertarians and capitalists who have so misunderstood economics and capitalism that they think Xmas is this wonderful season. I’ve even seen people call it “CapitalisMas.” It’s sad that people who profess to understand capitalism show themselves to be so extremely confused about it.

Capitalism is about taking resources and using them to generate a profit. It is quite literally about acquiring resources and turning them into capital.

Realistically, we have to draw a distinction between Consumer Goods and Capital Goods–one is not an investment, and one is. A consumer good is something that is consumed–slowly or quickly, it doesn’t matter–and that won’t return any value beyond the gluttonous value of having consumed it. Chocolate, televisions, video games… The list is practically infinite. A capital good, on the other hand, is something that is an investment, something that will return a profit–or, at least, has the potential to return a profit. No matter how many televisions you buy for your children, those televisions will never become profit, because they aren’t investments. The moment that box is opened, the value plummets, and after 2 or 3 years the value of that television is no better than twenty or thirty percent what it was when purchased. The same is true of phones, computers, and other electronics. Houses, vehicles, stocks, bonds… These are capital goods.

The more consumer goods a person purchases, the fewer resources they have with which to purchase capital goods. Consumer goods, in a very real sense, are the equivalent of pissing away money–except the money isn’t really pissed away, is it? No, it simply changes hands, transferred from the Buyer to the Seller. In exchange for your capital good of “money,” they provide you with a consumer good that is guaranteed to become worthless at a rate that makes the USD look like a good investment.

So what is Xmas? It’s not the Glory of Capitalism that people make it out to be, because no one is out buying capital goods for the holiday season. They’re out buying consumer goods, which transfers money from their hands to the hands of people who sold them the consumer goods–the goods that will be consumed and discarded. It is the Glory of Consumptionism, and Consumptionism and Capitalism are actually at odds with one another–because every penny one spends on a consumption good is one less penny that one can spend on a capital good.

It is not consumption that is the driving force of economic growth. It is savings. Savings is the catalyst of economic growth and the destroyer of poverty. Think about it. No amount of televisions, iPhones, Xboxes, or chocolate will ever make a person wealthy. The expiration date on these things is simply too soon; they are terrible investments. However, even something simple like taking that money and instead burying it in a jar outside will begin the slow process of moving ahead.

If Bob makes $8,000 a year, Bob will never get out of poverty by spending all of his money. He can buy all the televisions and gaming systems that he wants; he will always be poor. What can Bob do? He can save his money. Every penny that Bob puts back is Bob’s profit–he has weighed his income against his expenses and has a surplus of capital. This is capitalism. Bob spending all of that money on consumption goods that he will consume and discard is not capitalism; it is a method of transferring wealth from the buyers to the sellers while leaving the buyers with nothing of value. If this is what you are advocating as a good thing, then you’re not a capitalist.

You’re a Cronyist.

So masses of people–I would hazard the guess that we’re looking at 90% of the American population–have been carefully and deliberately persuaded by the sellers to spend obscene amounts of money each year on consumption items. So parents buy toys that the kids will break or stop playing with, clothes the kids will outgrow, computers that will become obsolete, all because decades of advertising and blatant manipulation have left people convinced that if you don’t buy, buy, buy! then you’re a Scrooge, a monster, and “Bah, humbug!” to you.

Capitalism doesn’t work when masses of people keep themselves in poverty by transferring wealth to the manufacturers and sellers while only getting consumption goods–things that will be consumed and discarded. That is a recipe of careful wealth redistribution from the bottom to the top. It doesn’t matter that it’s not orchestrated by the state; it’s still a huge problem, creating a permanent caste of people who consume everything they can get their hands on, swapping out wealth for chocolate, and digging themselves deeper into poverty rather than lifting themselves out. We should not be advocating this. We should not be cheering for this.

We should be fighting tooth and nail against this.

We should be fighting hard against the propaganda that if you’re against Xmas shopping, then you’re a Scrooge and “just need to get into the Xmas Spirit!” We should be fighting to reveal the truth of the holiday, that it’s not about giving; that it’s about buying. We should be working to educate the masses of people and explaining to them that consumption goods do not and cannot end poverty, that consumption cannot end poverty, and that the only true catalyst of economic growth is savings, not consumption.

Capitalism is about taking a resource and turning it into capital–hence why it’s called “capitalism.” Xmas, on the other hand, is about taking a resource and turning it into nothing: clothes that will be outgrown, toys that will be broken, games that will be beaten. This isn’t to say it’s bad to buy things; it certainly isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with consuming or consumption. But an entire holiday dedicated to it? And loads of people mistaking it for some kind of capitalist Ramadan? No. Just no.

Taking a resource and consuming it–that’s like literally the opposite of capitalism.

Save, save, save!

Not “spend, spend, spend!”

This is Keynesianism versus Austrianism–Hayekism, if you like. Perhaps Misesian? And we have loads and loads of “capitalists,” “libertarians,” and “anarcho-capitalists” advocating Keynesian economic strategies. I wonder if these are the same people who have confused pro-market with pro-corporation, who have confused being a libertarian with being a corporate shill. As libertarians, capitalists, and anarchists, we should want nothing more than to see the poor lift themselves out of being poor.

But that will never happen as long as we foster this Keynesian mentality that spending is the catalyst of economic growth.

Keynesians, pretending to be capitalists.