Boils on The Butt of Humanity
There is no lack of tyrants, both petty and seriously big. Putin is the most obvious thug now, with plenty of dishonorable mentions for big, bad pimple people. Add the long list of petty tyrants, tyrants in training, and wannabes. After considering world history since the start of civilization, they have always been there with seemingly generalizable characteristics: the need for power and wealth, the continued need for more of both, showing no empathy (captured by Trump’s line “suckers and losers”), and with the focus on me, me, me. Chinese war lord Qin Shi Huang conquered the country and became the first emperor in 221 BC. He built the terracotta army as part of his giant mausoleum. Some 700,000 men were used for construction, not hired to relieve unemployment with poor prospects of survival. He also sought immortality by drinking mercury, poisoning himself after a relatively short reign—the psychology of God-emperors.
My theory is the driving force is wealth. Prior to the settling down in villages to accumulate food surpluses, there seemed to be rough equality. The priority was a full belly most of the time and tribe survival. Once surpluses accumulated, elites sprung up as wise elders, generals, witch doctors and sundry religious leaders—all with claims on surpluses and power. All potential pimples. This is the tradeoff. Progress happens with wealth as elites use funds for palaces, temples, bureaucrats, and craftspeople. The benefits go to the elites, likely with growing distain for the remainder now deemed peasants. Republican politicians came up with the term “trickle down,” which captures the idea that some benefits may even assist peasants—not directly, because elites could care less. Roads can be useful; elites want the stuff traders can bring and traders are willing to barter with peasants. Plus, the warlords had to protect the peasants who would serve as infantry and archers.
Peasants periodically get fed up with the abuse and revolted. Elites can use brutal force or compromise by offering something to benefit peasants, possibly food. Most civilizations over the millennia collapsed, as likely as not caused by peasant revolt. The history books usually focus on the bigger, badder invaders: Genghis Khan and Alexander (of course, called the Great) made the history books. The collapse of, say, the Mayans, remains a mystery. Peasant revolt success like Haiti or the French Revolution are not celebrated in most histories. Unfortunately, the French Revolution resulted in a power-hungry emperor and the European world made sure that Haiti would struggle to survive.
To me this is the yin and yang, Vishnu and Shiva, saint and gargoyle of history. Progress was made, but at a horrible price for common people. The nastiness of people with power and wealth seems boundless. My last blog was a book review of Banana, the despicable actions of fruit companies and the “American way of capitalism.” This foreign fruit became America’s favorite and the entrepreneurs figured out all the techniques to make it happen. At the same time, they treated the banana-growing countries and people disgracefully. They could have partnered up to benefit everyone, the idea of stakeholder capitalism. Not a change. It was entirely intimidation and destruction, with zero empathy for the people involved. This included sending US troops to protect the banana interest: that’s invading a sovereign country for bananas. This included toppling reform-minded, democratically elected governments, using intimidation, propaganda and outright lies. These “banana republics” remained weak with accumulating problems. The repercussions are obvious today as thousands of mistreated Central Americans are attempting to cross into the US. Most of us were just accomplishes eating bananas.
The attacks on Latin American sovereign countries don’t look that different from Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, except he is a gigantic purple pimple and Ukraine is an important European power. Putin may be the world’s richest person, accumulated by corruption. He also maintains the largest stock of nuclear weapons and his mental stability is questionable. The stakes could literally be world survival. Putin is in such a powerful position that he must be appeased. His military proved to be surprisingly poor, likely because of the corruption he sponsors—generals funneling money into Switzerland rather than military preparedness. Granted, he has taken land in Eastern Ukraine and could just declare victory and consolidate. Putin seems to want all the countries not in NATO and the Baltic to boot. We can only see how it plays out: once again we’re subject to the God-emperor complex of a puss-headed tyrant.