Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Defeat is Victory

John Holcroft
[Niederlage ist Sieg]
[La défaite, c’est la victoire]
[Sconfitta è Vittoria]

On the wall of George Orwell's Ministry of Truth from his novel 1984 there were three slogans:


It occurred to me that these apply just a little bit too well to the way the Washington, DC establishment operates.

War certainly is peace: just look at how peaceful Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria and the Ukraine have become thanks to their peacemaking efforts. The only departures from absolute peacefulness which might be taking place there have to do with the fact that there are some people still alive there. This should resolve itself on its own, especially in the Ukraine, where the people now face the prospect of surviving a cold winter without heat or electricity.

Freedom is indeed slavery: to enjoy their “freedom,” Americans spend most of their lives working off debt, be it a mortgage, medical debt incurred due to an illness, or student loans. Alternatively, they can also enjoy it by rotting in jail. They also work longer hours with less time off and worse benefits than in any other developed country, and their wages haven't increased in two generations.

And what keeps it all happening is the fact that ignorance is indeed strength; if it wasn't for the Americans' overwhelming, willful ignorance of both their own affairs and the world at large, they would have rebelled by now, and the whole house of cards would have come tumbling down.

But there is a fourth slogan they need to add to the wall of Washington's Ministry of Truth. It is this:


The preposterous nature of the first three slogans can be finessed away in various ways. It's awkward to claim that American involvements in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria or the Ukraine have produced “peace,” exactly, but various lying officials and assorted national teletubbies still find it possible to claim that they somehow averted worse (totally made-up) dangers like Iraqi/Syrian “weapons of mass destruction.” What they have produced is endless war financed by runaway debt which is leading to economic ruin. But ignorance helps a lot here.

Likewise, it is possible, though a bit awkward, to claim that slavery is freedom—because, you see, once you have discharged your duties as a slave, can go home and read whatever crazy nonsense you want on some blog or other. This is of course silly; you can stuff your head with whatever “knowledge” you like, but if you try acting on it you will quickly discover that you aren't allowed to. “Back in line, slave!” You can also take the opposite tack and claim that freedom is for layabouts while we the productive people have to rush from one scheduled activity to another, and herd our children around in the same manner, avoiding “unstructured time” like a plague, and that this is not at all like slavery. Not at all. Not even close. Nobody tells me what to do! (Looks down at smartphone to see what's next on today's to-do list).

With ignorance, you don't even have to make the case: ignorant people are some of the most knowledgeable people on earth—according to them. I see that all the time in the hundreds of blog comments I delete; ones that start with “Surely you must know that [something I don't know]” or “By now it should be clear to everyone that [something unclear]” are particularly amusing. On some days I find such ignorance almost overpowering, and so ignorance is indeed strength.

But it is very hard to claim that defeat is victory, and herein lies a great challenge for the Washington, DC establishment. When they are victorious, your leaders get to have their way with the world; when they are defeated, the world has its way with them. This is something that is hard to hide: your leaders say what it is they want to do; and then they either succeed at it or fail. When they fail, they still try to call it a success, but if you look at their original statements of purpose, and then the results, and the two don't match at all, then it looks just a bit like a defeat-ish sort of thingy no matter how they writhe and squirm and twist. This is a good thing, because with all the propaganda the Ministry of Truth puts out, it is hard for the average person to ascertain the nature of the “facts on the ground.” But when it comes to victory vs. defeat, you can usually take it straight from the horse's rectum. Yes, the Ministry's public relations consultants can still claim that “we forced the enemy to give us a free deep-tissue massage of our glutei maximi,” but a precocious 8th-grader can still decode that to “We got our asses kicked.”

So, allow me to enumerate some American victories. Or should I say defeats? Your choice; the two are the same.

• Thanks to the trillion or so spent on the war effort, the 1.5 million Iraqi casualties, and the 5,000 dead US soldiers, there is no longer any al Qaeda in Iraq now (just like there was under Saddam Hussein) and the country is free and democratic.
• Thanks to many years of continuous effort which cost well over half a trillion dollars and the lives of 3500 or so coalition soldiers, the Taleban in Afghanistan have been vanquished and the country is now at peace.
• The Syrian regime has been overthrown and Syria is now peaceful and democratic, and not at all a war-torn basket case that has produced over a million refugees, a large part of it ruled by Islamic militants that are too radical even for al Qaeda.
• Overall, the problem of Islamic extremism has been dealt with once for all, and George W. Bush's “Islamofascists” (remember that term?) are but a vague memory. ISIS or ISIL or the Islamic State are something else entirely, plus us bombing them sporadically at great expense has “degraded” them a tiny bit... maybe.
• Thanks to a perfectly legal and very necessary US-managed coup, Ukraine is on its way to being a stable and prosperous member of the EU and NATO, and the freedom-loving Ukrainians are no longer at all dependent on Russian gas, coal and nuclear fuel for being able to merely survive the winter of 2014-15, or on Russian good will to send in humanitarian relief convoys, house and feed the refugees from their civil war, or broker their peace agreements with each other.
• In accordance with our grand geopolitical strategy for eternal world domination, we successfully kicked Russia out of Crimea and are busy building a huge NATO military base there to make sure that Russia never becomes a great world power again but is forced to comply with our every whim.
• Thanks to our relentless diplomatic efforts, Russia is now completely isolated, which is why it can't be constantly signing gigantic trade agreements with countries around the world or championing the cause of non-western nations who don't like being pushed around by the west and have no desire to westernize.
• Our sanctions have really hurt Russia, and not at all the EU which didn't lose a huge export market and is not at all at risk of losing access to Russia's natural gas which it doesn't need anyway. Nor did they provide any sort of a huge protectionist benefit to Russia's domestic producers, or a big new export market to our economic rivals.
• Regime change in Moscow is a white ribbon's throw away, and our expensively nurtured political pets inside Russia are more popular than ever and are feeling all sorts of love from the Russian people. After all, fewer than 90% of Russians respect and support Putin for the great things he has achieved for them, so our stooges like Khodorkovsky or Kasparov should have no problem getting at least 1% in the next presidential elections, sending them straight into the Kremlin.
• Thanks to our relentless political pressure, Putin is now a chastised man, ready to be reasonable and bend to our will, and not at all saying things like “This will never happen!” in an internationally televised annual address to his nation's elected leaders. In any case, nobody listens to his speeches because our national media doesn't need cover them because they are so long and boring.

...and, last but not least...

• America is the world's indispensable nation, world's (second) greatest economic power (but rising fast), and American leadership is respected throughout the world. When President Obama said so in a recent speech he gave in China, the audience did not at all laugh out loud right in his face, roll their eyes, make faces or move their heads side to side slowly while frowning.

How can you avoid recognizing the importance of such things, and the fact that they spell DEFEAT? Easy! Ignorance to the rescue! Ignorance is not just strength—it is the most awesome force in the universe. Consider this: knowledge is always limited and specific, but ignorance is infinite and completely general; knowledge is hard to convey, and travels no faster than the speed of light, but ignorance is instantaneous at all points in the known and unknown universe, including alternate universes and dimensions of whose existence we are entirely ignorant. In short, there is a limit to how much you can know, but there is no limit at all to how much you don't know but think you do!

Here is something that you probably think you know. The American empire is an “empire of chaos.” Yes, it sort of fails somehow to achieve peace, prosperity, democracy, stability, avert humanitarian crises, or stop lots of horrible crimes. But it does achieve chaos. What's more, it achieves a wunnerful new type of chaos just invented, called “controlled chaos.” It's much better than the old kind; sort of like “clean coal”—which you can rub all over yourself, go ahead, try it! Yes, there are naysayers out there that say things like “You reap what you sow, and if you sow chaos, you shall reap chaos.” I guess they just don't like chaos. To each his own. Whatever. 

Want more? Consider this. If you live in the US, you probably celebrated Thanksgiving a little while ago, by gorging yourself on turkey and stuffing with cranberry sauce, and maybe some pumpkin pie. You think you know that this holiday is related to the Pilgrims, who first celebrated Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Massachusetts, but I am sure you don't remember the exact year. But I am sure you think that these Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving by feasting with the natives. You might even tell your children this story, and think that you are teaching them a bit of history rather than expanding their field of ignorance.

Now, here are some points of fact. The Pilgrims weren't Pilgrims at all, but colonists. They were re-branded as “Pilgrims” in the 19th century. Believe me, nobody ever went on a pilgrimage to Plymouth, Massachusetts! These colonists ended up there because, being incompetent sailors, they missed Boston Harbor by half a day's sail, and ended up in Plymouth Harbor, which is as exposed, shoal and as useless today as it was then. They did not celebrate Thanksgiving; being weird religious zealots, they didn't even celebrate Christmas. Despite fake “evidence” from “social media” of the period, they certainly didn't feast with the locals, who by that time spoke pretty good English and traded with the world. The locals thought these colonists were a bizarre religious cult (which indeed they were), that they were lousy and smelly (they never washed and had no idea about saunas or sweat lodges) and had repulsive personal habits (such as carrying their snot around with them wrapped in a rag). They were also quite hopeless at hunting or fishing, and survived by plundering the locals' kitchen gardens, then starved. To top it off, the “national” holiday was first created by Abraham Lincoln during the height of the Civil War, which (this you must surely know!) was much, much later. And he didn't call it “Thanksgiving”; he called it “Day of Atonement” for the horrible crimes Americans were committing against each other at the time.

But that's before the Frozen Turkey Marketing Association had a go at adjusting that story. It was a plan as simple as it is brilliant: they overdose you on Tryptophan, then, next day, while you are still groggy, they send you out into an over-hyped shopping frenzy and, sure enough,  you will be rack up some high-interest debt, which it will take you well into the next year to pay off. Plow some of that interest back into turkeys and holiday hype, and you have a national industry—one that drives people into debt buying imported products they don't need (remember, if doesn't say “Made in China” then it's probably fake) until everybody is broke.

With a history that fake, the American Ministry of Truth may yet manage to project it into the future as well. They may produce a level of ignorance so astonishingly high that Americans at large won't know that they have been defeated, thinking that the torrential downpour of the world's rancid slops raining down on their heads is God's rain, and being thankful for it. Unless, that is, enough Americans wake up and start making the word DEFEAT part of the national vocabulary. This is not a exceptional nation, not an indispensable nation, but a defeated one. Defeated by their own hands, mind you, because nobody particularly went out of their way to defeat them. They showed up to get beaten, over and over again, until they got what they came for.

Now, defeat has proven to be a great learning experience to many countries that then went on to be quite successful: Germany (on second try), Japan, Russia after the Cold War... Of course, the first step in that learning process is to admit defeat. But if you don't want to do that, that's OK, because there is always ignorance to give you all the strength you need.



Dmitry, you made me laugh out loud, as always!

“we forced the enemy to give us a free deep-tissue massage of our glutei maximi,” hurray!

The knowledge versus ignorance passage is just brilliant, but the list of victories is simply priceless.

"the audience did not at all laugh out loud right in his face, roll their eyes, make faces or move their heads side to side slowly while frowning."

Kevin Anderson K9IUA said...

When you gave your fourth additional slogan, Defeat is Victory, I immediately thought of the book, Catch-22, and the old man in the brothel who kept chiding Nately when he came to visit his whore. That the future of Italy was to be defeated, so that the Americans would come to give them gifts, money, rebuild them, etc. In retrospect, the backwards logic of most of the Catch-22 book would fit right in here with the logic (or anti-logic) that you provided. It has been years since I read that book, and maybe I should dig it back out of its box - possibly a nice diversion right now from all the advertisements and telephone survey calls I get nightly since I live in Iowa. The time to read a bit of Catch-22 each evening will about fill my time between today and February 2, when my phone will again go quiet again until next fall.

Kevin Anderson

Fred said...


You never seize to enlighten, amaze and totally captivate with your fantastic, well-thought out, well-written articles.

I salute you and thank you for the time you invest here and sharing...

Socratic Dog said...

Vintage Orlov. Unfortunately the humor means it can be easily dismissed as.... humor. Too bad.

Going from an ingrained belief in exceptionalism to an acceptance that one is just another defeated also-ran won't be an easy thing for the USSA. Hubris will make the fall that much harder. I can't see the US coming out as well as Russia did, or Germany or Japan. More like Egypt. And that's ignoring the hundreds of meltdown-ready nuclear reactors, and the nuclear weapons that can highly likely be launched from, and by, Israel.

Harder times are coming.

Kutamun said...

I wouldnt write the US off just yet , they still have the worlds largest military together with the worlds largest debt , all soon to be headed by Donald Duck. Like any good psychopath , they simply cant stop and when cornered i expect them to fight like a rabid dog and lash out with everything at their disposal . This show is just beginning , not ending . Happy new year , Dmitry . Are you still an American ?

My donkey said...

To paraphrase Homer Simpson:
"Defeat? Woo hoo! The two sweetest words in the English language: Dee feat, dee feat, dee feat!"

Arnold Ziffel said...

"Friends may come and go but enemies accumulate." Kind of sums up America today.

Murdoch Matthew said...

The ignorance of the US public is deplorable, but it has been expensively bought. The public is systematically misinformed, or left uninformed, and truth is stigmatized.


You might as well blame chickens for the conditions in a factory farm.

Sites like ClubOrlov offer light in the murk and are invaluable. The more people who can be lifted out of their mental cages, the better. But spare some sympathy for those just trying to keep their heads down and survive day by day -- though their enforced passivity weighs down us all.

Anatoly Panov said...

and Liquidity is Solidity...

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Hilarious - and bullseye accurate - as ever! Unique Keaton-deadpan humour and incisive insight combo. Very many thanks, skipper!

BTW, Dmitry, what is your 40 УДАРОВ project, and is there an English-language version, please?

Martin Hayes said...

There are more gems here than I could find six ways from Sunday. Comes winter, comes treasure.

gadsdendtom said...

Not all us americans are ignorant cattle. But not enough aren't either to make a difference. Great article, depressing, but completely on point.

DeVaul said...

I notice there are some comments about "exceptionalism" and America, but I wonder. Is America really the first country or empire to be afflicted with this condition?

What about Rome at the height of its empire? I wish I could stand in the streets of Rome and listen in on a typical Roman conversation about "the greatness of Rome", etc., etc. I am guessing it would sound much like how Americans talk about their own country. In fact, I believe it would.

There is an old Jewish saying that goes something like this: "There is nothing new under the sun." I believe the same or similar form of exceptionalism afflicted not only Rome, but other empires throughout time such as the Egyptian and Chinese empires that lasted for centuries, to name just a couple.

And what about all the countries and empires that tried to emulate Rome even after its fall and dissolution into (ahem) Italy? I even read once that Ho Chi Minh wrote a declaration of independence that was almost verbatim like our own, but we still rejected Vietnamese independence from France. I wonder how many nations will try to copy at least our republic long after our decline and fall into obscurity?

Just remember: exceptionalism is nothing new. It just happens to afflict America at the moment. My guess is it will afflict some other empire or nation in the future. In fact, I might go so far as to say that empire (and its Orwellian nature) actually breeds exceptionalism, especially at the very end, when the empire has nothing left to offer its subjects.

billf said...

Thanks, Dmitry, for a great laugh. I am frequently depressed by my own ignorance, but amazingly I find the cure is to actually find out something true that I didn't know. I think it would be a great step forward if we could somehow force the msm to headline their articles using the word "allegedly" or some such, e.g "President Obama alleges that the US economy is the strongest in the world" or "Colin Powell alleges that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction". Maybe this would at least raise the question in people's minds that the statements might not be true. Then again, probably not :-(

rapier said...

I think that history has proven conclusively that all nations that rise to some significance have problems that are pathological which leads to their downfall. In tepid defense of the US its probably unmatched in history global power could have been worse. Imagine German fascism triumphant or how about an alt history with the USSR somehow the world's premier power.

Well alt history is a fools errand but humans individually and collectively will always fail and bill of indictment are so very easy to compile.


Ravish B said...

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