October 17, 2006

Anti Imperialism Day Pyongyang

Today is North Korea's anti-imperialism day- Pyongyang, Havana and other capitols make much of the anti-imperialist credentials of their regimes to the extent where it becomes a justifying ideology. Neo Conservatives often point to the idea that an installed democracy or even a colonial administration is more just than a tyranny- interestingly the argument in contrary has existed for a long time- at least since Herodotus and its most famous expression was that of Lord Byron about Polycrates, tyrant of Samos. Byron acknowledged that Polycrates was

A tyrant; but our masters then
Were still, at least, our countrymen.

The sentiment that tyranny is better than enlightened administration so long as it is 'our' tyranny is one that has a long history of being used by tyrants in their rhetoric but also a long history of being acknowledged by populations- there is no use hiding from the fact that traditionalist regimes based on feudal structures have been more popular over the world than have enlightened modern governments imposed from afar. Indeed one of the trends of modern politics whether on the left taking the form of opposing imperialism or the right opposing international norms and rules no matter how conceived, has been the central idea that only someone like me can leglislate for me- that democracy in some vague sense means representation as well as it means election. Part of the problem with the enlightenment project was its refusal to recognise this problem with universal values and universal aims- they brush up against sometimes violently the wishes of local populations who are happier to go for a reactionary but local solution than a progressive but universal one. There are many examples of this and much of what is going on with fundamentalism today can be reduced to this knee jerk response to cosmopolitanism. Whether we describe this as false consciousness or not, it is a fact about present politics and we have to deal with it. Kim Jong Il's day against imperialism in that sense is but the extreme of a more common preoccupation of modern politics.


edmund said...

I think the general point is a good one, but not one to be exaggearted either. However I don't think it really applies to this case( if it does it's more like hte southern korean attitude to NK al la USA than the north korean) much more important is both a reign of fear and a unbelievabl control of information- saying north korea is better off than most other countries, the Us wants to kill as many nk's as possible ect- which it seems at least a lot of North Koreans actualy believe> it is 1984 there -just less high tech

Gracchi said...

Yes I have to say I agree completely Edmund- I suppose the North Korean thing was just a starting point for a more general reflection.