“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” — Aristotle
We tried to write about markets today. We could not. This was meant to be for subscribers only but we are putting it out there.
The great Libyan anti-colonial liberation fighter Omar Mukhtar (1858 — 1931), also known as the Lion of the Desert, protected two Italian prisoners in his custody saying, “We do not kill prisoners.”
In response to this, a fellow warrior protested and said, “They do it to us!”
The Lion of the Desert responded, “They are not our teachers.”
As images of the cold-blooded murder of Greg Floyd, wide spread police brutality against peaceful protesters and the senseless looting drowning out legitimate protests fill social media feeds, we want to remind ourselves first and then our friends and readers that “they are not out our teachers.”
The World We Live In
“We will not go into the ways in which geography shapes a nation’s culture. Thucydides noted the difference between a coastal city and an inland city. He discussed the difference between large cities and small ones, cities with enough resources to build walls and villages that lacked the resources to build walls and therefore never truly became cities. It is easy to consider the difference between being born in Singapore and being born in Ulan Bator. But there is a fundamentally important concept to introduce in relation to place: the idea of fear. Wherever you live, there is always the fear of the other nation, the other community. Two communities, living side by side, always live in fear of the other. The origin of the fear is the unknown intention of the other. No one can know what another person really intends. In casual relationships, where the cost of miscalculation is something trivial, you are free to assume the best about people. Where the only thing at stake is your own life and your own freedom, the consequences of miscalculation can be borne. But when the lives and freedom of your children, your spouse, your parents and everything you hold dear is at stake, then your right to take chances decreases dramatically. At this point, the need to assume the worst case takes precedence. Wars originate far less in greed than they do in fear. Thomas Hobbes in the Leviathan explained this in detail. It is the unknown intention and capability that causes neighbors to distrust one another. Knowing that one’s own intentions are benign does not mean anything concerning your neighbor. His appetite for conquest is the great unknown. This drives a community to more than defense. It drives them to pre-emption. If the enemy wishes the worse, then better to strike first. In a universe of mirrors, where the soul of the other is permanently shielded, logic forces one to act vigorously and on the worst case. Place determines the nature of a community. It drives the manner in which humans make a living, how they bear and raise children, how they grow old. It determines who will wage wars, who they will wage wars against and who will win. Place defines enemies, fears, actions and, above all, limits. The greatest statesmen born in Iceland will have less impact than the poorest politician born in the United States. Iceland is a small, isolated country where resources and options are limited. The United States is a vast country with access to the world. While its power is limited it is nonetheless great. Place determines the life of peasants and presidents. Place imposes capabilities. It also imposes vulnerabilities.” — Dr George Friedman, The Methodology of Geopolitics: Love of One’s Own and the Importance of Place (2008)
Nations are filled with communities, that are further divided by ethnicity, religion or socially defined constructs. The greatest divider of our age, however, is wealth. An individual’s wealth today moreso than most, if not all, factors decides how said individual lives their life. And as is well documented, the wealth gap between the haves and have nots has been rising for years if not decades.
An increasing number of nations across the world are facing both internal strife — the struggles within a nation’s borders that eventually lead to civil war or a revolution — and external conflicts between two or more distinct populations that may lead to war or severing of ties that leads to multi-polarity, much like during the days of the cold war. Given that we live at a time when the wealth gap has risen to levels last seen during the Gilded Age, the rise in conflicts should not then come as a surprise.
The catalyst that tips internal and external conflicts from peaceful struggles to armed conflict is a severe ratcheting up of fear. A fear for one’s own life and the lives of loved ones. A fear of losing one’s livelihood. A fear of a drop in one’s standard of living. What ever the fear may be, if stoked sufficiently, it manifests as armed conflict against the oppressor, perceived or actual.
The greater the fear and the greater the probability of its realisation, the greater the propensity for conflict to erupt.
“A generation that has taken a beating is always followed by a generation that deals one.” — Count Otto von Bismark (1815 — 1898)
The continued brutality of the police force against African Americans and President Trump’s willingness to stir up emotions has probably tipped the fear scale to the point of no return. Barring a swift about turn and reparation in cross community ties — which we do not think is likely to happen or even be enough — the conflict between the oppressed and the oppressors will devolve to the point it becomes unbearable for the oppressors.
The first sign of victory for the protestors will come when the morale of the moderate enforcers, the members of the police force or the military that are begrudgingly carrying out orders, breaks and they join the protests as protestors not enforcers.
There are no bystanders. The time for passivity has gone, everyone in the US and the rest of the world has a choice to make. Remember not making a choice, is a choice.
Our forefathers may have watched as African Americans and minorities were oppressed. Let them not be our teachers.
The time to be better and to root out racism, bigotry and hate from within us, our households, our communities, our cities and our nations is upon us.