Thursday, March 20, 2008

Type 1: "Classic Imperialist"

. Thursday, March 20, 2008

Over the next few days, The Monarchist examines the worst and best forms of government, by revealing each of the prevailing mindset types (seven in all) that characterises the resulting Liberty vs Power governing arrangement. We begin today with the most repressive and end in the days to come with the most free.

Mindset: "I am chosen by birth right and divine destiny to rule over the soiled masses and have them do my bidding, till my fields, fight my wars of expansion and service the needs of the nobility class I create to uphold my arbitrary, absolute authority. My whim and will is not to be questioned as it is the extension of Divine Providence. The greed, avarice, corruption and profligacy of my ilk is above the law."

Model of Government: Absolute Despotism (One Man Rule), which could be a perverted form of absolutist empire/monarchy/republic. Note: I do not apply the term "despot" to those who acquire such position by regular constitutional means, such as a hereditary absolute monarch, except to denote personal abuse of power.

Intellectual Theories of One Man Rule: The Devine Right of Kings, Mandate of Heaven, The Natural Power of Kings (Robert Filmer), Leviathon (Thomas Hobbes), The Philosopher King in Plato's Republic (Socrates). Intellectually, Montesquieu pointed out that there were three main forms of one-man government, each supported by a social "principle": monarchies (free governments headed by a hereditary figure), which rely on the principle of honour; republics (free governments headed by a popularly elected leader), which rely on the principle of virtue; and despotisms (enslaved governments headed by dictators), which rely on the principle of fear.

Quotes: "L'État, c'est moi" (Louis XIV, falsely attributed); "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" (Lord Acton).

Practitioners: Egyptian Pharaohs, Imperial Rome/Medieval Europe/Tsarist Russia occasionally, Napoleonic France, South American Juntas, Central American/Middle Eastern/African Tin Pots...i.e., perhaps Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Caligula, Emperor Charlemagne and Ghengis Khan; certainly Attila the Hun, Tamerlane, Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon Bonaparte... shared this "type 1" megolomaniac mindset, just as Mussolini, Hitler, Francois Duvalier, Idi Amin, Bokassa, Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein did in modern times.

Manifestations: Absolutist, imperialist, theocratic, feudalist or fascist military dictatorship, at times bent on the sadistic desire or insane notion of World Domination (i.e., Hitler/Napoleon/Alexander).

Notable Results: At its worst, the conqueror/ruler brought slavery, subjection, tyranny, brutal exploitation and dehumanisation. In every instance, the pressure of an alien culture, with its different values and religious beliefs, and the imposition of new forms of social organisation meant the breakdown of traditional forms of life and the disruption of native civilisation.

Contemporary: Osama Bin Laden and other supreme mullahs preaching Islamic terrorism/expansionism, the corrupt House of Saud (harboured Idi Amin and other Islamic terrorists), Middle Eastern "Presidents for Life", the theocratically opressive Taliban in Afghanistan, also some elements of modern globalism, such as "Robber Baron" oligopolist/capitalist exploitation in Third World countries (i.e., sweat shops, child labour) with the willing acceptance of African warlords or other tin pot dictators eager to line their pockets.

Not Included: Benevolent absolute monarchs such as His Holiness the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and other king saints - obviously there is a difference between monarchies and despotisms, just as there is a difference between free subjects and oppressed slaves. Nor do we include the Holy Roman or British Empires, and to a lesser extent the French and Spanish Empires, which for the most part stood for culture and civilization, though they still disrupted native populations and were responsible for the odd massacre.

Comments: Disciples to this extreme right wing imperialist, fascist, or theocratic ideology have been with us throughout our entire history, and survive to this day. It is a personality disorder usually born of a malignant narcissism, such that you get the ridiculous spectacle of Napoleon crowning himself, or the psychotic hubris of Idi Amin awarding himself the VC and the rank and title of Field Marshal and "Conqueror of the British Empire", not to mention the heavy-weight boxing championship of Uganda. You get the semidivine voodoo power of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier of Haiti, who would routinely terrorize his country's population with "Bogeymen". We are entertained by the lunatic "Emperor Bokassa I" of the "Central African Empire", who spent his country's entire annual budget on his own coronation in the late 1970s. We are not entertained by the savagery of Tamerlane, the 13th C. Turkik Mongul, who had a macabre sense of architecture — building towers out of the skulls of his victims.


Marquis Black said...

Out of curiosity, then, what would you categorize an Empire like the one the British have? I mean, it's been always divided into two (sometimes three) incarnations, and the First Empire does seem to me to be a bit of a "collective Classic Empire," given that the mindset of the British rulers (including civil government), at the time, was increasingly centralist and authoritarian (albeit not despotic by any means).

Sophia said...

This seems like its going to be a really interesting series. Good show.

Sir Walter Scott said...

Hmm. Slightly deficient in historical sense, I fear: under different conditions - e.g. looking back to the dark ages of our island, mired in barbarism, brutality, invasion and lawlessness - the ascent out of which owed a lot to a) the Church and b) absolutist, sometimes despotic monarchs, able to unify the people by appealing to their religion and their imagination, command loyalty in rivals through patronage and the creation of nobility, and protect his people and bring internal peace through a monopoly of violence. Yes, corruption and avarice might at times have been mixed up in it, and abuse too - not all of the kings were good - but, I should remind you, one of them we still know as Great.

I know you preclude them under 'king saints', but a lot of their characteristics and actions were exactly similar - just differently motivated, differently orientated, and in a different context.

Now it is hideous, but once absolutism was righteous. The people often cried out for it; till, at length, and I think particularly of 1215 here, society was developing enough, and it was necessary and possible for it to be progressively abated.

Beaverbrook said...

This is a messy exercise and necessarily revisionist to fit the times. Obviously it is historically stupid to criticize Genghis Kahn for not being a democrat, but there is value in stating what I think would be the most repressive kind of government today, using despots of the past to make my point. And the most despotic form of government and governing mindset I can think of is being attacked and subjegated by an all powerful invader, raping burning pillaging his way across my land.

Sir Walter Scott said...

Fair enough! You're quite right about Napoleon on up; he remains, almost above all, a dreadful example for the worst of men that nature throws up. His vaunting achievements are more than enough to encourage their ambition, though they never reach him except in ridiculousness.

Lord Best said...

I disagree regarding Napoleon, and at the very least as the greatest military leader in human history* he deserves some respect. He rose to absolute power entirely on his own merit and restored some semblence of order, peace and justice after the catastrophe that was the French Revolution. I find it more than a bit offensive that he is lumped alongside people like Bin Laden and Idi Amin.

*The Iron Duke himself will back me up on this.

Beaverbrook said...

It's the mindset I'm after here, not any good that might have come of it. Napoleon is to be preferred over Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety (my next post), but he shared the mindset of a megalomaniac. Yes, France benefited from the Napoleonic code and such, and brought a good deal of order, but he also ravaged Europe and instilled fear all over the continent. Napoleon was a menace.

Sir Walter Scott said...

Perhaps from this vantage point we can enjoy him; but put yourself in the boots and britches of a British ancestor of the time, and you will rightly feel him the most petulant, dangerous, satanic intelligence alive.

Beaverbrook said...

It is, of course, unfair to compare Napoleon with Idi Amin - as far as I know, Napoleon didn't feed his people to crocodiles - or any other tyrant, because, let's face it, tyranny has many faces. Suffice it to say, Napoleon was no sadist, but he did reintroduce slavery to France after the Revolution abolished it, and ensured a slavery revolt in Haiti was put down.

We respect Napoleon only because he was a winner, but the usurper tyrant and the people who felt his oppression lost much. For all of his brilliant advancements in warfare, Europe got almost two decades of continuous war, six million dead, a bankrupt France and a loss of French prestige for a century thereafter. If Britain and the world lived in fear of the man, we can safely conclude it was because they didn't want to be ruled by a conquering despot.

Lord Best said...

Though ironically the complete reduction of France after the Napoleonic Wars probably paved the way for the Pax Britannia, as until the resurgence of France (admittedly as a British ally) and the triumph of Prussia in the 1870s there was no other European power that could challenge Britain.
I certainly do not believe Napoleon was perfect or blameless, but given the circumstances France was in when he seized power, he was a lot better than the alternatives.
My great, great, great, grandfather (possibly i'm missing a great) fought in the 9th Dragoons during the Penninsula War, and watched nearly shis entire regiment killed by the French or disease during the retreat to Lisbon, so I dare say he did not have a particularly high opinion of Napoleon.

Realist said...

Is Napoleon truly to be preferred over Robespierre? After all, Robespierre was never as successful as Napoleon in rampaging through Europe. Your second part of the series listed other candidates for the designation "revolutionary" and I can't help but notice that what most of them have in common is that though they are experts in ruining their own countries, the harm they did to others tend to be relatively limited. In contrast, megalomaniacs of Napoleon's caliber tend to be most destructive, not just of France*, but of other countries as well. It seems to me that they are the more destructive type.

*Here I dissent from the view that Napoleon cleaned up after the Committee of Public Safety. That murderous oligarchy was replaced by Napoleon's drafts of Frenchmen to die all over Europe and eventually foreign invasions of France. I'm not sure the guillotine really claimed more people than all the Frenchmen who were drafted and died in Napoleon's wars.)

Lord Best said...

Given the vast improvements in prosperity, public health, education, law, banking, infrastructure, industry and agriculture that were instituted by Napoleon, I find your argument hard to sustain. Even after the decades of constant war had drained France, the people still considered themselves better off than before and during the Revolution.
It is worth remembering that when things turn bad the people generally turn on a tyrant, the French have never turned on Napoleon.

Beaverbrook said...

The Realist is right in that invading conquerors cause more destruction and death, which is why I categorise it as "type 1". But as a realist Frenchman, I think I would take my chances in Napoleon's army, rather than shaking in my hole hoping that I don't get guillotined because some neighbour who never liked me might report me to the Committee of Public Safety.

David Byers said...

I don’t know if this is quite the worst form of tyranny as the socialist ideologies of Lenin and Stalin are extremely bad.

Lord Best said...

I agree with Mr Byers on this, extreme socialism creates a culture of mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

"The Devine Right of Kings"

Something to do with Grant Devine?

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Knights of Oz: Revive Sirs or I'll have your guts for garters
Peter Hitchens: People love the Queen...and the BBC hates us for it
Our Greatest Monarch: Paul Johnson says Henry V was our greatest monarch
Princess Diana Inquest: A Dirty Raincoat Show for the World
Malcom Turnbull: 'Queen's death will spark republican vote'
Duke of York: The Royals are not "stuffed dummies". They should have their say
Peers of the Realm: The decline and fall of the House of Lords - Charles A. Coulombe
Peter Hitchens: Get rid of the monarchy and you will get rid of a guardian of liberty
Honouring Sir Edmund Hillary
The Queen versus an E.U. President
Going Solo: Prince William earns his Wings
James C. Bennett: The Third Anglosphere Century
Knights of Oz: Revive Sirs or I'll have your guts for garters
Princess Diana Inquest: A Dirty Raincoat Show for the World
Malcom Turnbull: 'Queen's death will spark republican vote'
Future Peer: The life and times of Lady Victoria Beckham
Peers of the Realm: The decline and fall of the House of Lords - Charles A. Coulombe
Peter Hitchens: Get rid of the monarchy and you will get rid of a guardian of liberty


New York Times: Ever Backwards into the Royal Future
Peter Hitchens: People love the Queen...and the BBC hates us for it
Christopher Hitchens: An Anglosphere Future
Andrew Cusack: Republicanism is a traitor's game
Courageous Patrician: Rt Hon Ian Douglas Smith (1919-2007)
The Last Rhodesian: What began with Rhodes and ended with Ian?
Gentleman Journalist: The Lord Baron W.F. Deedes, 1913-2007
Not Amused: Blair's sinister campaign to undermine the Queen
Loyal Subject: Queen Elizabeth: A stranger in her own country
Reverence Deference: Bowing and Scraping Back in Tradition
Rex Murphy: Kennedy, Churchill, Lincoln - The rousing bon mot is no more
Gerald Warner: Don't shed a tear for Diana cult in its death throes
The End of Grandeur: Rich, chincy Canada puts Strathmore on the blocks
Confessions of a Republican Leftie: "The Queen charmed the pants off me"
The King's Own Calgary Regiment: Cpl. Nathan Hornburg is laid to rest
The Royal Gurkha Rifles: Prince William grieves the death of Major Roberts
Queensland Mounted Rifles: Trooper David Pearce, 41, killed in Afghanistan
The Order of Canada: 100 investitures later, Canada's highest honour turns 40
Prince Edward on Prince Edward Island: Troop's link to monarchy important
HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN: Unveils the UK Armed Forces Memorial
Great Britain: "A rotten borough with a banana monarchy" - by Europhile
Peers of the Realm: The decline and fall of the House of Lords - Charles A. Coulombe
Remembering 'Smithy': An obituary tour de force by Andrew Cusack here, here and here.
NOT AMUSED: Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Quebec not invited to Quebec's tercentenary