Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

We’ve Got A Cold, Oh Yes!

with 4 comments

Never mind.  I’m really out of it at the moment.  I don’t know if I’m making any sense at all.

But I thought I’d check in, and say the following:

It’s true enough that we in the West are past the point where we ever could be proud of imperialism or colonialism–but have you noticed, we’re the only ones?  Even the old USSR made no apologies for expansionism, and most of the Asian and Arabic worlds just think we’re all lying when we say we think it’s  a bad thing.

And that’s interesting too, if you think about it.  Robert, I think it was, said that our distaste for imperialism and colonialism could be tied to Christianity.  Or maybe I’m remembering that wrongly.

But I never thought that former Empires justified their existence by how much good they did their conquered peoples.  Of course they didn’t.  Why would they bother?  They thought empire was a good thing in and of itself. 

I was just pointing out that Empires had, in history, done a fair amount of good in the long run, good we tend to pretend didn’t happen, as we equally pretend that things like the rule of law and the rights of citizens would have evolved on their own no matter what the environment.

The other thing is that I got an e-mail from a woman who read Living Witness in a library book discussion group, and found it upsetting, because, she says, she found it too realistic.

And that’s such a compliment that I should leave it alone.

But she also said that she and other readers were taken aback because the murder in the book is not motivated by the creation/evolution controversy that’s tearing up the town, and that gave me pause.

I suppose, at base, I don’t think the book would have been realistic if  the murder had been so motivated–I don’t think we kill each other over things like creation/evolution much.

Love, money and revenge–definitely the three I’d go with.

And now I’m so dizzy I need to lie down before class.

I want more tea.

Written by janeh

October 14th, 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'We’ve Got A Cold, Oh Yes!'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'We’ve Got A Cold, Oh Yes!'.

  1. You shouldn’t be out spreading those germs around, you know! You should be home in bed, drinking hot tea, listening to harpsichord music and reading a good book.

    I can’t get too critical, because I don’t like staying home when I’m sick, either.

    Maybe I’m too cynical, but I really don’t think we – that is, the culture as a whole, and not merely a loud minority – is all that opposed to imperialism at all. We don’t CALL it ‘imperialism’, of course, but if imperialism is exercising anything from influence to direct control of another part of the world, it’s still alive and well, only other different names, like protecting human rights, fighting terrorism, and (although in much quieter tones) improving trade and securing access to important resources, including labour. Moreover, those Western countries who don’t do US-style intervention will send ‘peacekeepers’ to prop up the least objectionable (to the Westerners) of the leaders in distant countries, and use trade regulations to try to enforce their views on various environmental or social issues around the world. They many no longer have the armies to send in to direct control, and they may oppose such direct intervention in foreign countries on principle, but they sure haven’t foresworn intervention they can afford and do think is justified. They’ve substituted moral and environmental improvement for the desire to gain wealth and power or the desire to bring civilization to the benighted distant lands, that’s all.

    Possibly the reader was used to less in-depth books, and assumed that anything that took up a lot of space in a mystery novel must be related to the mystery, not ‘just’ there for character development or realism in the setting and characters.


    14 Oct 10 at 10:29 am

  2. No, I wouldn’t call all that imperialism. Imperialism means taking over another country (usually by force) and ruling it as a subject state.

    Something the USSR did quite openly.

    And I think the issue DID have something to do with the mystery (in fact, quite a bit) it just wasn’t the motive for the murder.

    If that makes sense.

    Everything is very blurry.


    14 Oct 10 at 10:50 am

  3. I’m not sure about the definition of imperialism – the British went in for quite a range of self-rule options, from the propping-up of local puppet rulers to allowing the kind of self-rule that eventually evolved into complete independence in Canada and Australia, to the situations in which the entire ruling class in the subject states was British, right up to the revolutions. And no one says the British didn’t have an empire, or that India, much of Africa, much of North America and Australia were part of the Empire.

    I should have said ‘motive’ – it’s been a while since I read the book, but I meant clearly and directly related to the solution. Some people seem to think anything extraneous to the solution and an couple red herrings is a waste of paper.


    14 Oct 10 at 11:27 am

  4. For motives, I always go with Nero Wolfe–“safe, satisfied or solvent.”

    And I will not beat up–or praise–an author’s book on her own blog.

    You’re remembering me pretty well. I wrote that Christianity made a difference, but not so much as one might expect. On balance I’ll hedge that. I’m not sure there has been, ever, a Christian civilization in the sense of Western civilization–just civilizations with a lot of Christians in them. That makes a difference more in HOW things are done than in what kinds of things are done, I think. But an empire justified by benefits to the governed seems to have a short life expectancy. Empires have often done good, but that seems to be a separate issue.

    And I agree, the moral revulsion against empire is very much a recent Western thing–certainly not shared by the Chinese, Indians or Russians. Not sure about the Arabs. They’ve never really come back from the Ottoman conquests and their time as subject peoples. I think the core impulse at this stage is Arab unity rather than foreign conquest, and they haven’t had any luck even with that.

    For which I am grateful. As the old cartoon ran “I’m an awakening giant too! What will we have for breakfast?”


    14 Oct 10 at 4:25 pm

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Bad Behavior has blocked 241 access attempts in the last 7 days.