Cloward Pivening

Once upon a time in the mad 60’s a pair of mad lefty (but I repeat myself) socialist sociologists refined a strategy for bringing about the blessed socialist utopia by overloading and bankrupting the welfare system. This, they confidently hoped, would crash the capitalist system and bring about the longed-for socialist utopia. Essentially, they drafted the poor and unprivileged into an army demanding services which the state ultimately could not provide; somehow, this would crash the system and bring about radical social reform. The whole thing sounds rather like the Underpants Gnomes theory of economics or the cartoon showing a pair of white-coated scientists examining a complicated mathematical sequence on a chalkboard with a notation in the middle of it which says, “And here a miracle happens.”

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Aristos a la Lanterne!

When the rage of downtrodden French peasants, living-on-the-edge city dwellers and frustrated bourgeois towards the ruling nobles and royalty final exploded into a kind of civic wildfire, there was no appeasing their collective anger. A handful of wary and fleet-footed aristocrats, or those who had made a good living out of serving the royals and the nobility fled from France in all directions. The slow and unwary made a humiliating appointment with Madame Guillotine before a contemptuous and jeering crowd, if they had not already run afoul of a mob with pikes and knives, and ropes at the foot of civic lampposts. (The fury of the French Revolution flamed so furiously that it that eventually it burned a good few leading revolutionaries themselves. As the Royalist pamphleteer Jacques Mallet Du Pan remarked pithily, “Like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children.) For a long time, my sympathies as regards parties in the French Revolution tended to be with those who fell out with it, sympathies formed by popular literature and music: The Scarlett Pimpernel, A Tale of Two Cities, Dialogues of the Carmelites, and other tales which basically tut-tutted the madness which overcame all reason and discretion, and championed those who had the brunt of it fall on them, either justly or not. How fortunate that our own very dear revolution had been able to escape such conflagrations: Loyalists in the colonies might have suffered being tarred and feathered and ridden out of town or having to leave in an undignified rush when Yankee Doodle went to town and made their independence stick. But the jailhouse regrets of those who called up and inflamed that conflagration, even inadvertently is not my concern here.

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The Odessa Steps

The early Soviet propaganda movie, The Battleship Potemkin, culminates in a prolonged and shocking sequence of local citizens – men, women and children – gunned down by remorseless Czarist soldiers on Odessa’s famed harbor-to-town staircase. The sequence remains a shocker. (And is still studied in film schools, apparently, for being ground-breaking effective and technologically ahead of the time.) Historically, there was never such a massacre on the Steps, but the sequence served as a kind of cinematic shorthand for State brutality aimed at essentially harmless, unarmed, unthreatening civilians in a public place; civilians who were seen to be defying the authority of the State. And so the armed minions of the State acted – because even the mildest defiance of Authority on the part of ordinary workers and their families is a stab at the heart of those Authorities. They cannot brook defiance, and so out come the armed police, just as they have this week in the streets of Ottawa with regard to the truckers protesting vaccine mandates. All the forces of the law, with the cheerful approval of the Canadian established media, the intellectual and ruling class – it’s really rather breathtaking, this concentrated venom and enthusiasm for breaking heads and bones, all aimed at the workers participating in a civil and well-organized street protest. (It would seem that as far as the RCMP are concerned, Dudley Do-Right and Constable Benton Fraser both have left the building – so much for Canadian ‘polite.’)

What will happen now that the ordinary working stiffs of Canada have been so casually abused by their native ruling class; threatened with having bank accounts frozen, their means of earning a living confiscated, themselves arrested, while their pets and children given over to the tender care of animal shelters and the child “protection” authorities? How far will this protest go now, bouncing down the Odessa Steps like a runaway baby carriage? It could be that Canadians, with the ethos of being polite, courteous, and truthful, may be truly shocked, shocked to the point of open rebellion over being consistently lied about and bullied by their ruling elite. In America, our own flyover country residents are perfectly accustomed to being abused as stupid, red-necked rubes by our own elite class. It’s what we have come to expect of NPR, the political ruling class, the New York/Hollywood cultural axis and the inside-the-Beltway-Washington DC denizens; what we have come to expect of them anyway. It may be a new and shocking development to ordinary, working-class Canadians, this contempt for the working class, though. Comment as you wish.

Pwosesis Ayiti A

No reward for resistance; no assistance, no applause.

— Neil Peart, “Lock and Key

 

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.

— Paul of Tarsus, Epistle to the Romans

La merde a frappé le ventilateur; my earlier post became abruptly more topical on Wednesday the 7th, when we woke to the news of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. This follow-up will consider the implications of developments since late June and will specifically respond to commenters on Dilèm Aksyon Kolektif nan Matisan. Most of the structure of this post will follow the Deming process-workbench model, because history is, to a great extent, a series of contingent events, and because I am a giant process nerd.

Follow along, kids, as I summon the shade of W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) to analyze the biggest mess I’ve ever been in!

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Dilèm Aksyon Kolektif nan Matisan

Generatim discite cultus

(Learn the culture proper to each after its kind)

— Virgil, Georgics II

Stephen Biddle, Nonstate Warfare: the Military Methods of Guerrillas, Warlords, and Militias (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021)

one-to-many entity-relationship symbol superposed over map of Martissant, Haiti

By way of making this more than a merely armchair review, I will be discussing the developing situation of state failure in Haiti, which is providing a personally harrowing example of the phenomena theorized and studied in this book. NB: additional situation reports like the one I quote from below will appear at this OCHA webpage.

I. Increasingly Scale-Free Military Activity in the 21st Century

In this follow-up to 2004’s Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (also from Princeton), Stephen Biddle continues to elucidate the many ramifications of the one-to-many relationship which came to dominate the battlefield between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I. Over that century and in the decades that followed, individual-service weapons increased in rate of fire from a (very) few rounds per minute to ~10 rounds per second, in effective range from ~100 to >300 meters, and in accuracy from (optimistically) 10 to 1.5 milliradians. Say 2½ orders of magnitude improvement in RoF, half an order of magnitude in range, and one order of magnitude in accuracy; multiplying these together to create a sort of index of effectiveness, I get an overall change of 4 orders of magnitude, with stark implications for battlefield environments.

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