Life lived with the “quite brutal hegemon”
The appearance of Prof. Alfred McCoy on The Dangerous History Podcast highlights the turmoil I face when coming to terms with my place in the world — very basically summed up the characterizations of the US as bringing bad and good to the world and, compared to China and Russia, maximizing the good:
One of the hallmarks of the American empire was that, firstly, we constructed an international order governed by the rule of law. We integrated the international court in the U.N. apparatus. Secondly, we presided over the establishment of the United Nations, a real community of nations, and within the U.N. we made respect for national sovereignty and the right of all the people of the world to enjoy national sovereignty one of the hallmarks of the world order.
Also there has been a massive growth in the global economy with alleviation of poverty; with the World Health Organization epidemic disease has been controlled — people around the globe have better health than people have ever had.
Empires are by their very nature asymmetric in their power and the hegemon can be quite brutal and do a lot of damage. […] But the United States has also stood for economic progress, human rights, the rule of law, an international community. And the powers that are standing by to succeed us — Moscow and Beijing — they don’t share any of our commitment to these principles.
And this is coming from someone who has written great historical works of, for one, the US role in the global proliferation of heroin. He has a balanced, nuanced view of the US and its role in the world. Taking his work as an example you can go on and reflect on how you feel about or relate to the grande bête that is the United States. Something not popularly done.
I live my life as though I’ve moved on from this problem — given greater or lesser abilities/opportunities I would have pursued greater or lesser vocations. But I’ve for great part of my life fostered the critical view and this has informed my view of myself and those around me and has led to pessimism about others and an agnosticism concerning anything to do with actions motivated by beneficence. McCoy’s moderating statement notwithstanding.
McCoy’s view can be construed as “lesser of two evils” argument. It reminds me of the (actually) compelling case of supporting Hillary as a maintainer of the status quo/establishment — the cracked eggs of the attacks on Libya and Syria necessary to make an “overall good,” err, better omelet.
Is drawing things in such simple terms the source of my malaise? An unfair expectation of purity? Simple complexity: the libertarians I follow want the abolition of the state to solve these problems: the metaphor of the state being like a brutal mafia that helps out those that play along is quite apt. But as the state of some form of a state will never go away (sorry libertarians?) and as evil is a necessary component of any state, the evil of coercion to pay taxes, of the evil of destroying other countries, then the presence of evil must be accepted and must be worked with, must simultaneously be made apparent/exposed and opposed the whole while must not hinder one in one’s advancement in understanding the world and one’s place in the world. Alright. Okay. Deep breath. Sigh.