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Let Them Drown (2016) (www.lrb.co.uk)
20 points by akbarnama 5 days ago | hide | past | web | discuss | favorite

Hacker News never fails to throw up a diverse array of essays and articles. Thank you to the poster of this.

As much as I appreciate what she's saying, I feel like she's trying to combat the Orientalism/othering. Once the damage is done, it's hard to come right out and say "these people are one of us after all" and expect to be taken seriously.

Mistreatment of the Canadian First Nations and American Indians is one thing; they are our neighbors, and either we inhabit the same land or we stole their land. The story is similar for Asians, Blacks, and Latinos.

But at some point you have to accept that humans are tribal and are only really motivated to care about their own people. Case in point:

‘Never mind foreign aid,’ we read in the Daily Mail. ‘What about national aid?’ ‘Why,’ a Telegraph editorial demanded, ‘should British taxpayers continue to pay for flood defences abroad when the money is needed here?’ I don’t know – maybe because Britain invented the coal-burning steam engine and has been burning fossil fuels on an industrial scale longer than any nation on Earth? But I digress.

Huh? Is this a form of reparations? I mean, great -- reparations are certainly in order. But to deny people their desire to take care of their own? That's a great way to lose people, and have none of them rally to your cause.

To suggest that people ought to start thinking otherwise is to suggest dismantling the entire nation-state system. That's not gonna happen. Your fellow national citizens always come first. You can certainly get people to care about foreigners, exploitation abroad, etc. But you aren't going to convince many people to make sacrifices for said foreigners.

When it comes to the refugee crisis, you have to acknowledge that people are afraid. They ultimately want law and order; they want to maintain their standard of living (maybe they are already struggling and are very loss-averse); they want opportunities for their children. If you are going to convince people to start taking on refugees en masse, you will have to convince them that they, their families, and their livelihoods will be safe.

That said, there was a lot of interesting and enlightening content here. I always dismissed Klein in the past (I read about 10 pages of The Shock Doctrine in college and that was enough for me), but maybr I'll go back and see what else she's written.

> When it comes to the refugee crisis, you have to acknowledge that people are afraid.

I would say they are also made afraid, and the people who push for stuff like cutting social welfare to be able to cut taxes for the rich. I'm simplifying, but the people who are afraid of refugees have more in common with those refugees than with the "1%" of their own country. It's not resources are allocated sanely as is, or as if these people aren't threatened either way, refugees or not.

> But at some point you have to accept that humans are tribal

True, but even Charles Darwin was looking forward to "our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings". Not that I disagree with you, specifically, I don't think that just taking on refugees really solves the problem.

But I think it's also okay to simply tell people what you see, not so much what they would prefer to hear. They want a good future for their children, they need to also consider the children murdered by the war profiteers they let act, that derive most of their power and all their legitimation from them. Otherwise, they are correct to be afraid, since once the declared that might is right, that looking the other way is okay, they now have to be in constant war and if they cease for just one second, someone else might do to them what they do to others.

Going against that cycle would be an actually selfish thing to do, in the sense of personal and community hygiene, not to mention leaving your children a heritage to be proud of -- instead of the trained pseudo-selfishness where a politician says "we" when they send people to war, but "I and my buddies" when it comes to reaping the plunder, and some people still say "yeah, let us do that, Uncle Sam and I are like this, America first!!" and charge out, to make someone else rich and get some PTSD if they're lucky. Not that it's specific to the US at all, this identification with the powerful when it comes to bleeding and/or murdering for them, and the respectful distance when it comes to wealth and privilege, or even just clothes, shelter and medicine.

History is full of dedicated individuals or groups that changed a lot, both for better and worse, precisely because they didn't ask other people what to think of their own convictions -- they asked their convictions what to think of other people, if anything. The people who don't against the grain today would do the same in a completely different setting, and it does not take all of them to change that setting. Beating around the bush and trying to please ages very badly, while the opposite is true for being candid.

If you think someone has accidentally set their child on fire, would you first tell them something more palatable to make them go look, or blurt it out? Let's say some would shut you down without investigation for saying something they don't want to hear -- while others would take you seriously, but then never forgive or trust you, because you didn't tell them that their kid was burning right away. You cannot "have" both, so which group would you rather organize with? Does it depend on the size of the groups? If people need special treatment and sugar to make the medicine go down now, what if the going gets much harder, and the truths even more uncomfortable?

There is reparations, and then there is reaping what you sow. We can't be humanitarian and at the same time think it's just the other people's fault to have whatever problems they have, when most of them were caused by first world countries. If we don't want to help those people, then just kill them, it'll be cheaper and more humane.

To use a variant of Roko's Basilisk (and you have been duly warned).

Suppose that the year is 4xx BCE or so, and you are in Athens. (Also, this is slightly fanciful, but suppose that everybody to-be-named lived at the correct times.) But you're otherwise you. In fact, you're you, but armed with fluency in ancient Greek and also a copy of Wikipedia, a copy of Wikihow, a complete DVD set of Mythbusters, and that one rad poster that the guy down the hall had in his dorm about time travel [0]. You're ready to rock, and you quickly convince the Athenians that you can and will help them use modern technology in order to win the upcoming wars. All you want in return is to go along for the ride, but you insist that no matter what, there will be some reforms to the politics of the region: slavery will be banned and all will be given the vote.

(1) You and Pericles optimize, fertilize, and mechanize. You win the wars. The finances of Greece swell. You balance the books and advance trade. You begin to tap into the natural resources of your surroundings, into iron and coal and steel. You win all of the wars. The Greeks roll across Europe rapidly. You pass away. Skipping feudalism, your children strike oil and go directly to a planned economy, using future understanding of psychology and memetics to ease the rapid industrialization. At some point, somebody builds a nuclear weapon. There is a USA vs. China vs. Greece cold war. You don't personally live to see it, but technology proceeds at roughly the same pace, until the present-day technologies emerge.

(2) Or do you? After all, you've seen the future. You've been from the future. You know what will happen if fossil fuels are tapped into. But you also know that you can't unknow the existence and potential of that oil, of the potential of plastics. You know that you have an ethical obligation to prevent the world from using oil irresponsibly. So you explain all of this to the Athenians, and you convince them of these ethical conclusions.

They agree: Oil is powerful. Too powerful to be used without a central committee's planning and approval. You make the mistake of giving Plato access to Wikipedia, and he learns about the United Nations. A plan is hatched: Athens shall form an Athenian League of Nations, and shall convince all other nations to join in responsible use of oil and other natural resources, for the good of all people. But Plato is not unpragmatic, and so Athens shall achieve military and technological superiority first, and use both the pen and the sword.

Y'know what? It's not bad. Basic improvements to hygiene, cooking, and agriculture lead to control of Greece. Computers are built out of wood, stone, and water. Greek bauxite is converted to aluminium. A robust understanding of chemistry and economics (and a fortunate lack of economists!) leads to a low-waste, sustainable, environmentalist culture. Your first attempts to convert the non-Greeks end in violence and war, but as your reputation spreads, Greek society attains a mythic status: technologically advanced, politically opinionated, and militarily invincible. As nations peacefully negotiate with the League, your sons and Aristotle use neocolonial techniques to wield diplomatic and economic power over them. Access to oil, as ensured by the convent of You, Adam & Jamie, is carefully metered. There are plastics, rubber, and paper. When the last few holdout nations are cornered, they lash out unsuccessfully against an overwhelming coalition. Your grandchildren preside over ALoN's sustainability council, a unilateral peacekeeping and resource-managing force.

(3) Ha! Just kidding. They read the rest of Wikipedia too. And remember, everybody gets to vote, including the uneducated. The resulting arguments are heavily biased in favor of the existing oligarchs and landowners, who do manage to ostracize a few of each other before Pericles secures his gilded-fist control. Athens becomes the first futuro-fascist nation-state ever, unifying under a single banner of making Greece greater than it ever willen was. You do get computers and aluminium produced, but the computers are used for bureaucracy and the aluminium goes to the war effort. By the time Greece is unified, world domination is already being planned, and while you don't live to see it, over the next three generations, large waves of industrialization advance the state of the art of war. Athens builds a nuclear weapon. They build several, in fact, and start using them. By the time the war machine collapses, most of Europe is uninhabitable and the climate is altered for the worse.

Story over. So, as we know, the Athenians didn't know any of this, and the following series of wars led eventually (skipping over a lot) to the Romans winning. And then eventually the Romans stopped winning. In fact, that's the pattern throughout history of every large empire. Meanwhile, environmentalism is a relatively new concept, both in terms of what we know about how to help take care of Earth, and also political and social acceptance of our obligation to do so. We shouldn't put a burden on ourselves to know the future and then completely change our government to match that expected future; how can we be so certain, when we don't have a time traveler showing us what the future will be like?

[0] https://topatoco.com/products/qw-cheatsheet-print

great quote at the bottom:

>All you morons vomiting your xenophobia … about how money should only be spent ‘on our own’ need to look at yourselves closely in the mirror. I request you ask yourselves a very important question … Am I a decent and honourable human being? Because home isn’t just the UK, home is everywhere on this planet.

This planet is not that big. We all live in each others back yards.

Florida refugees must be stopped at the border!

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