Monday, April 11, 2005

The optimum blend of savagery and skill

Fun all the way
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

A couple of thoughts have been rattling around my head these last couple of days.

The first was a comment I read on another blog that maintained that the average IQ in Africa was 70. The second was a comment in this blog about the fact that Western economies are currently only propped up by money borrowed from the East.

Both of which observations are almost certainly true.

I am perfectly willing to believe that the average African IQ is 70; based on tests devised in Europe and the US that is. I wonder what we would score on a test put together by Africans?

I definitely know that we are heavily indebted to the Far East and that, one day, when they have enough consumers of their own to buy their goods, they will pull the rug on us.

It will hurt, and not a little. It will hurt a lot.

Anyway, this got me thinking. How is it we in the West have had it so good for so long? The Chinese have always been more numerous, smarter and harder working than us. Tribal cultures, from the Highland Scots through to the Zulus, were more militaristic. Yet we whooped them all.

The answer is obvious of course. For centuries now, Western culture has maintained the optimum blend of savagery and technological prowess. Clever enough to make effective weapons, vicious enough to use them.

Look at the Chinese. They discovered gunpowder then used it for parties or to scare away evil spirits. They invented the blast furnace but prefered to work with porcelain. We on the other hand knew exactly what to do with gunpowder and steel.

From the Crusades to the '€˜opening up'€™ of China in the 19th century, we were the barbarians; falling upon civilised nations from out of the wilderness in search of better food and softer fabrics. 'Oi! Gunga Din! Two chicken vindaloos, a plain nan bread and four pints of lager. Then Number One Boom Boom with Mama and Daughter San! Go on! Pull your finger out. Chop! Chop!' is a cry that has echoed down the centuries.

We haven't changed much. Still smart enough to create WMDs. Still daft enough to use them.

Even though the US economy is virtually bankrupt and the dollar sliding into a black hole, the trillion dollars a year the Americans spend on defence is still an awful lot of money. The more you think about what the bulk of that money is spent on the more bizarre the spending can be seen to be. Dozens of nuclear powered aircraft carriers, billion dollar stealth bombers and nuclear submarines are criss-crossing the Earth as I type. Hundreds of multimillion dollar Abrams tanks and Apache helicopters are whizzing around the desert, waiting for someone to put them out of action with a $15 RPG round. Million dollar cruise missiles are used to blow up mud huts.

All this hardware may have made some sort of made sense when the Russians were building their own crude versions of the same things, but now? Which other kids on the block have a box full of the same toys as us? Who are we going to play with?

Tony Blair illustrated my point nicely when he sent those light tanks to Heathrow as part of the wicked, cynical campaign to scare Joe Public into war. How were those tanks going to deal with a terrorist threat in an airport? Was the plan to blow an entire departures lounge away?

I am certainly not picking just on the Americans here. My country plays more than its fair part in this nonsense.

We could, of course, cut our military spending by, say, half. We could employ the same number of personnel. They could keep their tanks. There are plenty of ludicrous military projects out there we could close down without any impact on our frontline strength. We could then take all that money we have saved and construct some roads, purify some water, build some medical equipment and give it to all those people who hate us for free. Yes, for free. It would not cost us a penny more than we are already spending and larger proportions of our populations would actually be employed making useful things that benefited other human beings. $500bn spent on global aid and development every a year? After about five years, we'd be onto jacuzzis and swimming pools. The World would be a safer, healthier happier place.

Of course, barbarians don'€™t think like that.

Maybe, the Chinese will be doing everyone a favour when they do finally call our note in. Mind you, we could always nuke their ass.

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