The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Happy Independence Day

US Constitution by KJD

I sometimes wonder if the world would have been a better place of the rebels had lost their war against Britain. Be clear, I’m not saying it would have been, I’m just wondering. In general terms, the released settler colonies turned out reasonably well; Britain got rid of slavery before the US and with less violence, though I’m guessing an attempt to ban it in the US would have caused a second rebellion, and so on.

On the other hand, it’s unquestionable that Britain did try and keep colonies from industrializing up until quite late. Mind you, during the Victorian period this became less of an issue, and, indeed, British money and resources were key to industrializing a number of countries, including Canada and the United States, though Canada never did fully industrialize. That, however, can probably be put down more to its low population and large land mass with associated resources than to anything malign.

In any case, I wish my American readers a happy Independence day. Your country has done some good in the world, and great evil, but that’s true of many nation. The last few decades have been hard for you, and by you, and it is my wish for America that you treat both yourselves and other better. The two are related: One of the reasons Americans are mean to others is that they are mean to themselves; and the reverse is true.

May you be well, and the cause of the wellness of others.

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Happy Canada Day


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  1. jcapan

    As long as we’re dealing in hypotheticals, I’d say it’d have been far greater if the Brits had never left their fucking island to begin with. Or at the very least, once they reached the New World that they’d been the ones to die by the million to native diseases. Ditto the Spaniards, the Portuguese…

  2. cripes

    We are all aware of the brutality and the scale of genocide that European colonization wrought upon the world. It’s also true that the expansion of empire and expropriation of land and resources and expulsion and/or exploitation of subject peoples is a feature of civilization since the beginning of written history. Like warring anthills, it’s a species thing.

    Europeans were uniquely well placed, and timed, to benefit from the development of finance, transport, technology and industrialization capable of a globe-spanning empire.

    They ran with it.

    European and Chinese civilization are the great poles of human development at opposite ends of the Eurasian landmass. Around 600 years ago both were poised to launch global empires across the seas to other continents. A hundred years before Columbus, the Chinese admiral Zheng He commanded seven voyages, as far as Arabia and East Africa, with a huge armada of ships that dwarfed the European vessels. A massive trading fleet. The great age of Chinese exploration came to an end in 1433 with Zheng’s death. China today is resuming his work by quietly building infrastructure and investment projects across Asia, Africa and South America.

    In a few centuries, maybe, our descendants will have a more balanced perspective regarding the 500-year era of European domination which is fading from history.

    They did leave us a few cool toys and unrealized ideas about the rights of (hu)man.

    Americans, or the American system anyway, seem incapable of adjusting course.
    Doubling down on disaster is the American way.
    One in every family, I guess.

  3. V. Arnold

    The 4th of July is my (dead) parents marriage anniversary, and the day I met my wife of 13 years.
    Past that, it’s meaningless to this one…

  4. The Stephen Miller Band

    I sometimes wonder if the world would have been a better place if the rebels had lost their war against Britain.

    The American Revolution was never completed. It was usurped & co-opted early on and the result was one Tyranny supplanting another. In otherwords, The Little People lost — AGAIN. And The Little People will continue to lose until they develop the capacity to see straight and act on their own behalf rather than deferring their responsibility to the Charlatans who claim to be working on the behalf of The Little People but instead conspire against The Little People.

    The People’s Party

  5. nihil obstet

    I just finished reading American Revolutions by Alan Taylor, which I highly recommend. At the end of it all, I still couldn’t decide whether it was better or not that the war of independence was successful. I suspect that independence would have come within 25 to 50 years anyway. Financing imperial conflicts with other European nations, the British would not have paid for troops to dispossess the native Americans and protect the waves of settlers taking their land (who would pay for and profit from the western lands was already a hot topic prior to the 1770s). And the British would probably have attempted to abolish slavery, which was absolutely necessary for colonial elites to have wealth much beyond small farming. This might have been worse, since the American professed commitment to equality was necessary during the war to persuade ordinary white men to fight the battles, and then the elites could never spool it back. Colonies cut loose with their elites still supporting an aristocracy might have been pretty bad.

  6. “Towards an American Revolution ” by Jerry Fresia deals with the usurpation of the elites of the fledgling “democracy” when the Articles of Confederation were “tweaked” to form the U.S. Constitution. Some of the words used by Our Founders for “we the people” was “scum”, “a great beast” , “a disease”. Sounds similar to “deplorables”, doesn’t it?
    From Fresia’s book:
    “As citizens we are supposed to be like the nation’s school children who are given no choice but to stand by their desks and mindlessly recite a pledge of allegiance to a flag, a pledge that was introduced into schools at the turn of the century to counter the influence of ideas that immigrant school children had received from their parents and from distant lands…
    We are not encouraged to think because it is understood that thinking sometimes leads to disagreement, or worse, to the challenging of some sacred text. Instead we are encouraged to believe. Efforts to transform thinking citizens into believing citizens, we should point out, really began at just about the time that the Framers were planning the Constitutional Convention. Disturbing symptoms that common people were ignoring customs of social deference and were beginning to think for themselves led some Framers such as John Dickinson to urge that political instruments be devised to protect “the worthy against the licentious.”

  7. Stephen Miller Band

    At the end of it all, I still couldn’t decide whether it was better or not that the war of independence was successful.

    The War of Independence was only successful for The Wealthy Landowners at the time, not The Little People.

    For The Little People, today is Dependence Day, not Independence Day.

    So, to all you Little People out there who are Americans, Happy Dependence Day.

    Historians are a lot like Economists — they make shit up out of thin air to justify & rationalize the Paternalistic Ruling Paradigm that serves exclusively to increase & concentrate the wealth & power of The Rich.

  8. Ché Pasa

    Liberty and independence for whom, to do what?

    Those are the questions that often are not asked in the rush to celebrate the Fourth.

    A trigger for the revolution was the prohibition on settlers moving west. But why did they want to go west when the 13 colonies east of the mountain chain were so lightly settled? What was the impetus? Why was it so important that a violent revolt was called for?

    While some Americans are definitely mean, many others are not. Those wielding power in the US tend toward greater levels of meanness, but isn’t that so everywhere? If not, where is it not and why not?

    The US suffers from the twin original sins of black chattel slavery and Native American genocide, both of which are enshrined by the Founders. Until they are expiated the US will always be both excellent and foul. Brutal and generous. A celebration of death and hope.

    Happy Fourth.

  9. Bill Hicks

    “Your country has done some good in the world, and great evil, but that’s true of many nation.”

    Since 9/11, it has been a record of almost unmitigated evil–and America now stands as by far the greatest threat to world peace and to the global environment. Were it possible to wave a wand and cause the U.S. to vanish without a trace, the rest of the world would be a far better place.

  10. realitychecker

    It would be nice if we had a better consensus on whether we really believe in and want to advance the lofty principles set out in the Declaration of Independence, or whether we prefer to find it all to be specious manipulative bullshit that we should ignore, and just start over with a new set of principals as yet unproposed in any coherent fashion.

    For many years, all we’ve done is speak “practice” in response to points of “principle,” and “principal” to points of “practice.”

    Which is why even our conversations become such farcical embarrassments.

    And our Masters continue to suck up all the juice while we use up our energies harrassing each other.

    So dumb that we think it’s a point of pride to refer to our “circular firing squad.”

    I think I already know how this story ends.

  11. ejf

    jeapan – …I’d say it’d have been far greater if the Brits had never left their fucking island to begin with.
    well then what is now the USA would have had to deal with the Spaniards. Great creatures. They were in what is now New Mexico and Arizona in the early 1600’s. Got Santa Fe, NM going in 1610, Albuquerque about the same time. They enslaved the Indians until the Indians drove them out in the late 1600’s. The Spaniards came back in 1690, had a wild time beating the crap out of the Natives, got into what is now LA, the West Coast, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and more, all starting with the dream that there was gold in them thar hills. They eventually went broke and signed everything over to Napolean.
    The Europeans were always out for the easy buck.

  12. ejf

    In 1542 de Soto was buried on the banks of the Mississippi. His men didn’t want the native Americans to find out that he was dead because they thought he was a god.

  13. jcapan

    ejf, I know reading past the 2nd sentence of a comment is a lot to ask for but…

  14. Willy

    It’s said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Some say that good intentions may have unintended consequences. Others say that evil masks itself with those “good intentions”. I believe that evil always finds the weaknesses in any good intentions, and when that evil becomes powerful, it’s time for some serious road repair.

  15. Tomonthebeach

    Independence Day (July 4th) was really Day One of a much longer battle for American independence from European hegemony. Because we succeeded, we can define our independence as freedom from tyrannical foreign rule. Of course, it was really a struggle for who gets to keep the profits from US resources and productivity. The Brits, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italians, etc. all wanted – and had – a piece of the American dream till we took it away from them – mostly by military force. That is how we still dominate world markets – a lesson learned from the British Fleets and Spanish Armadas. In the end, US wealth eclipsed all of Europe. However, “we the people” were mostly European expats in the first place. Thus, one might hypothesize that what evolved in the USA would have occurred regardless of which country might have dominated the American colonies.

    The USA might have evolved into a patchwork of fiefdoms whose allegiance was pledged to numerous European countries. Who knows? By the 21st Century, the US might have had to form “a more perfect union” to thrive economically – like the Europeans are struggling with today.

  16. The Stephen Miller Band

    Okay, I’ll start the discussion about The Declaration of Independence.

    1.) All Men Are Created Equal


    This simply is not true in any conceivable way. All men SHOULD be created equal and SHOULD stay equal, but instead, the opposite is true.

    All men are born into a System and that/this System dictates our Socioeconomic Status from the day we are born.

    So, already, we see that those who authored The Declaration of Independence were Elitist in thought & deed. Their Logic, or I should say illogic, is, since we’re all created with the same exact potential (even this isn’t exactly true), success in Life is predicated on how well you find, hone & exploit your talents which all men are created with. It’s a self-serving, circular logic that justifies inequality, not equality. It says, “listen, if the pie in the sky turned out to be miles too high for you, it’s not anyone’s fault but you’re own. Afterall, you & I were created equal. You squandered your talents & abilities. You made poor choices. And now you have to live & die with the implications of your poor choices.”

    I’ll never forget my Undergrad Marketing Professor calling me into his office for an ad hoc Counseling Session. I believe, in hindsight, it was his way of belittling me for my audacity to challenge him on anything, but regardless of his intent, it is something that has shaped who & what I am today, so even if he didn’t mean it constructively, it made a constructive impression on me, just most likely not constructive in the way this Professor intended.

    I attended an old, historic, very expensive Liberal Arts College in the Deep South for my Undergrad Degree. It was attended mostly by spoiled rotten children from very wealthy families all across America. My family was not wealthy. I was poor and was somehow able to secure enough Financial Aid to attend this exclusive School. This Professor told me that because I was poor, I was at a distinct disadvantage to all the other wealthy students. He said they will have innumerable opportunities for independent economic success, and that if I wanted to match or equal them, I would have to work ten times as hard and even that was not a guarantee. He was correct, of course. I always remembered his admonition, and it factored into my ultimately saying F*CK YOU to the Rat Race where you’re starting three quarters of a lap behind in a one lap race.

    I finally said to myself, “what the f*ck am I doing? To be like them, I will no longer be me. I will quite literally destroy any former trace of myself in the process. Is it worth forcing myself into an Exclusive Club where I was never invited and will never be welcome? Is it worth my Psychical Death? Is it worth being these people in order not to be poor?”

    My ultimate answer is, “no, it’s not worth it.”

    All Men Are Created Equal.

    Hardly. Bullshit. So, already, with its Opening Salvo, The Declaration of Independence is hardly a Paragon of Virtue.

  17. V. Arnold

    Quite simply; all humans are created equal; it falls from there…

  18. Willy

    Many major Founders were slaveowners: Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Henry… Most publicly decried the practice but kept them anyways. Most were known to have treated them well enough, a few even giving them children, but I believe most of the offspring remained slaves.

    The mind of a power player is a strange thing.

  19. realitychecker

    Should we be able to agree to strive for the principles, despite the failings of the men who first tried to practice them?

    I don’t why so many seem to have such a hard time getting over that hurdle.

  20. The Declaration of Independence looks forwards – even Independence was not assured.

    And I, for once, would not take the goons here assembled, to move it forward.

  21. Willy

    Striving for principles is the easy part. Getting others to do the same is the tough part.

    My point reflected my own personal experiences, specifically, observing the hyper-confident ubermensh magnanimously publicly speak of high-minded excellence, then doing the opposite when they thought nobody was watching. Those people only confirmed for me what others have said, that our system is but a ruse for the little people. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.

    The Declaration of Independence looks forwards

    Indeed. And 27 amendments later (including reversals) it’s still looking forward.

  22. Duder

    Most Afro-americans fought on the British side against the upstart slave owning class. Just saying…

  23. brian

    I am not well represented by the USA. But as I live there… I wish it just handled structure and fucked off otherwise. You know what I mean?

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