February 23rd, 2007

operesque

You're fighting the wrong dragons, the dead ones!

People insist on fighting the wrong dragons, the Old Dragons, the second world war dragons, the slayed dragons, when they should be fighting the New Dragons, the dragons now roaming the globe, trying to run it, breathing fire and killing people.

Don't flog dead horses, and don't waste your time fighting pre-slayed dragons! Please be vigilant, because today's dragon wears sheep's clothing!

Today's dragon is cunning. His fire breath is manufactured by BAE Systems -- stop the corruption investigation, cynics! -- and his rhetoric has been gently hammered out in the white forge of 1960s and 1970s left liberal identity politics. That's why he's such a hard fascist to slay; he sounds like your old sociology prof! The only difference is that your old sociology prof didn't invade Iraq to "bring democracy and human rights"!

Here's a f'rinstance. Over on Neomarxisme there's a debate going on about blood types. Today's Japanese are very interested in blood type. It's one of the first things Japanese people ask you, after your birthday. It's taken to be an indicator of your personality, and to be a good predictor of relationship compatibility. You'd think that linking this to Nazism would be something even Marxy wouldn't stoop to, but that's exactly what he does, quoting Eiji Oguma's book "A Genealogy of 'Japanese' Self-Images".

Oguma has examined editions of magazines called Racial Hygiene and Eugenics published in Japan in the first half of the 1930s (the era of the Original Dragons!) and has found that "a great deal of research was carried out on the connection between intelligence and physical abilities on the one hand, and blood type on the other". He concludes (somewhat illogically) that "the origin of the contemporary theory of blood types which is so popular in Japan today can be seen here". (This is illogical because we're not told definitively that this is the first appearance of these ideas in Japan.) He then makes the link with fascism (the Dead Dragons, but not, remember, today's Living Dragons!) by saying that "within the eugenic school, some argued that each race and nation had a specific distribution ratio of blood types, which was an index of the nation's temperament and of its superiority or inferiority" and that this in turn connects to the belief that "the Japanese nation is a superior, great family nation created in the Japanese islands and presided over by the unbroken line of Emperors, and the only homeland of the Japanese nation is the Japanese islands."

The comments below the piece are full of condemnation of this "pseudoscience". "I can't tell you how much I loathe the blood type personality bullshit and all the other annoying superstitious nonsense in Japan," writes one American. Another is keen to distinguish this superstition from another closer to home: in her family, "our personalities are *nothing* like our blood types... I don't believe in astrology, but for what it's worth, my sign under either zodiac is accurate enough that I can tell people my sign without worrying that they will get the wrong idea about me, were they into that sort of thing."

A British person who fights living rather than dead dragons, and thinks that one of the identifying marks of a dragon is that it attacks other races and other ways of living, at this point smells smoke. "All Japanese people I have known have been very interested in blood type," he writes -- okay, I write. "All Japanese people I have known have believed in ghosts. Hisae tells me that speaking to rice kindly will make it resist decay longer. I accept these things -- not as dogma I must believe myself, but as part of the make-up of the average Japanese person."

Apparently this acceptance makes me a conservative. "I understand your conservative (defining conservatism as support for the status quo) perspective," says someone called Brown, who's often on my side in these debates, "and appreciate it. But do you also disapprove of such social tinkering as say, various civil rights movements, or increased political intervention in the economy? Pretty strange version of Leftism you're working with there."

Brown's view of liberalism, apparently, is that we should get upset and intervene when we disapprove of other people's way of doing things, including running their own countries a certain way, or entertaining their own superstitions. It's actually that discredited interventionist dragon, that saurian in sheep's clothing, Neo-Liberalism.

Other people's customs are not beyond criticism, snarls the New Dragon (not the Old One, the Nazi one)! Look, in some parts of Africa they cut off a woman's clitoris! That's totally against the identity politics we pioneered in our own societies as long ago as the 1970s! (The Old Dragon would just have said "They're inferior!") Human rights, although we made them up, are universal! So let's invade! (The Old Dragon would just have said "We're more powerful! So let's invade!")

Tony Blair uses concepts like democracy, humanitarianism, women's rights and global interdependence as justifications for pre-emptive war in this interview, given to John Humphries yesterday at 10 Downing Street. Globalization is making us all depend on each other more, he says, so we need to nip problems in the bud. Strip out the New Dragonspeak, though, and that means making an inversion of strength and weakness, using the future as a space for creative accountancy. Again and again we see the New Dragons doing this. Sure, NOW we are powerful, say the New Dragons, and they are weak. But SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE (as short a period as twenty minutes, according to the Dodgy Dossier's assessment of Saddam's ability to threaten the UK) the weak will rise up against us, and become the strong. We will, for instance, see Europe become Eurabia, and the white race become dhimmis. We will see Arabs becoming the majority in Israel, and enslaving the Jews behind a wall. To nip these things in the bud, the New Dragons must kill, maim, invade, disable, paralyse the weak NOW. They must breathe pre-emptive fire on a merely potential threat. A threat portrayed as illiberalism, and yet "forestalled" (actually, fire-fanned) by a far, far worse illiberalism.

Hitler is the model of the Old Dragons, and the New Dragons (including those who run Israel) have every interest in keeping our definition of "dragon" pinned to Hitler, who is eternally synonymous with evil. Who, though, is the model of the New Dragons? I'd pick Pim Fortuyn. He's as dead as Hitler, having been assassinated by an animal rights campaigner. But his project lives on. He's the most extreme and sincere example of New Dragonism. Not only did he attack Muslims in Holland using liberal-sounding arguments (they can't understand our tolerance, he said, citing Muslims' condemnation of his own homosexuality -- therefore they must go), he actually was a sociology professor. His lieutenant -- the man who took over his party when Pim was shot dead -- was a black man.

If the ideology of universal, transcendental liberalism and human rights is to the New Dragons what eugenics and racial purity was to the Old Dragons, their mythical locus (replacing concentration camps and Hitler's bunker) must be Baghdad's Green Zone. Bloomsbury has just published Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The Guardian has been running extracts. In the first, Chandrasekaran describes just how out of touch with Iraqi culture the Green Zone is. This is what happens when "transcendental" neo-liberalism touches down in a real place -- total surreal disconnection, pure imposition.

"The Green Zone was Baghdad's Little America... Americans drove around in new GMC Suburbans, dutifully obeying the 35mph speed limit signs posted by the CPA on the flat, wide streets. When they cruised around, they kept the air-conditioning on high and the radio tuned to 107.7 FM - Freedom Radio, an American-run station that played classic rock and rah-rah messages. Every two weeks, the vehicles were cleaned at a Halliburton car wash.

"...Most of the CPA's staff had never worked outside the United States. More than half, according to one estimate, had got their first passport in order to travel to Iraq. If they were going to survive in Baghdad, they needed the same sort of bubble that American oil companies had built for their workers in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Indonesia.

"It feels like a little America," Mark Schroeder said as we sat by the pool on a scorching afternoon, sipping water bottled in the United Arab Emirates. [None of the food or drink served in the Green Zone is allowed to come from Iraq in case it's poisoned.] Schroeder, who was 24 at the time, had been working for a Republican congressman in Washington when he heard that the CPA needed more staff. He sent his résumé to the Pentagon. A few months later, he was in the Republican Palace.

"...Schroeder was incredulous when I told him that I lived in what he and others called the Red Zone, that I drove around without a security detail, that I ate at local restaurants, that I visited Iraqis in their homes. "What's it like out there?" he asked.

"I described the pleasure of walking through al-Shorja market, and of having tea in cafes in the old quarter. I spoke about discussions of Iraqi culture and history that occurred when I went to the homes of my Iraqi friends for lunch. The more I talked, the more I felt like an extraterrestrial describing life on another planet."

This complete out-of-touchness is the reason the New Dragons will fail just as utterly as the Old Dragons did. In fifty years time their deeds will be as synonymous with pure, indisputable evil as the Old Dragons' deeds currently are. It's just a shame that some of the better ideas generated by Western liberalism will inevitably be babies thrown out with the bathwater of Western neo-imperialism. Will ideas like "human rights" be as sullied by association with the New Dragons as eugenics is now, thanks to its co-option by the Old Dragons?