Thursday, March 31, 2016

北京麻雀 - Beijing - 2

Beijing coming away from the Airport

It was the creeping in all night, on one February weekend along the northern tip of Beijing. The natives had a long time saying, about the weeks of winter: there were three kinds, each one different from the others. The first kind was mild, then the cold came in, and then finally the frost broke, and though it was still winter of a kind, one could see the edges of spring. 

He looked outside the glass all the taxi cab, and saw that it was still mild: it had not strained at all with the touching grudge of winter. It then amused him to think about the last time he saw her, and how he had sworn that he would never see her again. There was a confusion in his mind, that could not be resolved with her in the picture. And for a year or so, that was the dominant picture in his mind. He even got letters from China, begging and pleading him to come back; or at least answer her letters. But none of this did anything to him, at first. One could almost say that he was stone cold; but little by little his heart softened and he thought about all of the good times. These were seen in retrospect; the times in her apartment; the times where she took him in two the high towers and with a wave of her hand showed him the view of Shanghai. There was this and many more views; each one of them looking down on the city, or up where the glance at the low buildings was totally different from the tall buildings just a few streets over. She had taken him out to eat almost every day, to different establishments where he could taste food from all over China; and even select food from outside of China, so he did not get bored.

What he remembered the most was something very unique: all the world of people wrapped around them were indistinct, but she was clear. At the time, this both enraptured and repelled him: she was at once the witch who would entice him, and the purest goddess of Guan-yin, or if one preferred the old spelling: Kuan Yin. That tender goddess which he often dreamed about, and the longer he knew her the more it fused with her face, hands, and flesh. This would be the downfall of his relationship with the real woman: no one could be like a goddess, no one could be as pure as one's mind wanted them to be. 

So he pushed her away, even though while she was not like a goddess; she was extremely close to one. Amidst all of the dirty trappings of Shanghai, she cleaned more brightly than could be possible. A brightness that turned her gaze, and revealed himself the real problem: he was not good enough for her. And in the deep dark of his mind, he knew that it was not her that once the problem, but him. So it was not bodhisattva, by him, whose fragile winglike existence – like the tail of the butterfly – was the heartless soul the problem.

This then worked on his inner emotions: the core was not her, but him. Even though he would tell his government employers that he was leaving, which they warned him was not a good idea. But he did not listen to them, and instead walked with a briefcase and blue pinstripe suit out the door of a very famous building in DC, which anyone who studies such things would know. He did not even glance back, or mind that his time on his resume was composed of seemingly odd jobs which they could verify, and did not even mention what his real work had been.

And what was that real work? Even now he did not want to admit what it was. Even now, it was a secret to deep and dark to contemplate. But still he contemplated the formless mass. And remain in his ears were jingles in several languages all competing to advertise, though half of the things were not available.

We live in a pre-war, not post-war, world.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.

We live in a pre-war, not post-war, world.

I am far from alone in saying this. It is a sense that tracks across the cables released by wikileaks, where an increasingly hectoring and bullying American diplomacy alienates allies who had hoped for a change after George W. Bush. It is felt by a New York Times article, which compares wikileaks to the “long war” of the 20th century, the first battle between the pyramid and the sphere. It is sensed in another on how the present era of relative peace might be broken by American willingness to fight, and by an article on how the Imperial period of the Pax Americana might suddenly meltdown.

There are always prophets of doom, because somewhere, the bitter beat of dark angel's wings is close at hand for someone. However, it is rarer that a grand epoch enters its terminal decline, and a new one greys the east, lit by an invisible sun.
Dystopia is one of the twilight lands, that border the lands of the living. It borders the lands of prophecy, specifically the self-unfulfilling prophecy. Consider the novel 1984 whose existence warned the West of what was in store if should slip down the chasm of totalitarianism. It was a bleak warning that averted the very crisis that it predicted. Several of the most ridiculed cassandras have given voice to fear. From Silent Spring to the Omega Man the cri de coeur warning is one of the most compelling of genres. Marx, while he would have hated the idea, is perhaps at the top of the pantheon, by warning of what the agony of modernization could do, he was the figure who gave energy to save capitalism from the capitalists.

The dystopia is always a simple one, it is the linear or exponential extension of our own “S” curve. An S curve is the natural result of a bell curve of arrivals, a few early, then a flood as the ordinary arrive, and then a trickle. However near the point of last inflection, there is a point where whatever fuel is fed into it runs low, there are no more bishops to trade for pawns to get at the king. The center has not held. And everyone is full of conviction that there is no end in sight. “This time, it is different.”

The very certainty of the stupid that creates the boom, creates unease in those that know themselves to be more thoughtful, at least, than the mass, which feeds on its own stampede. From this the backlash of the intellectual elite, and from the contrarians, who might echo each other, but whose discontent springs from different well springs. One, the elite, cares not for success, but knows that a herd without a leader will find the nearest cliff. The other is the risk averse contrarian, who believes that if the herd were smart, the contrarian would be rich.

There are two dooms that hang over our own age: one feels a doom in global warming, and in peak oil. This looks back to the 18th century, which was “eating its own seed corn,” and could not yet perceive the unseen empire that it was standing at the doorstep of. One should always end an epoch with a preposition, the coming age is writ before it is made. In the case of the 18th century, it was sitting upon enough energy to flood the world with engines of commerce and destruction, but was too busy fighting over the meager present profits of the patents granted to two different men on the steam engine to exploit it. The Watt-Newcomb engine is so called, because each man invented half of it. But it would be almost 80 years before railways would spread like running vines.

The other is that the centripetal forces that will tear apart the present age of complacency, are coming close, and the stupid herds of normal people, who do not see the greatness of those that provide them with freedom. These are quite different from the doom that hung over the time of Wagner and Nietzsche, and which is felt by our own elites. It was and is expressed down the the most mediocre intellect attached to the courts of that and this age: it was an age of an empire of will and men, and the realization was that the slightest slip from that grip would lead to a fall of that empire. Of course this was a self-fullfilling prophecy: to be hard enough launched them into wars that destroyed the will. The colonial empires were given back by bled white core nations that had ripped themselves apart in the long wars. “The Second Thirty Years War” Churchill termed it.

For the elites, hard decisions are those needed to execute the neo-classical play of making the poor pay for the world we live in. The elites think of themselves as “neo-s” Neo-Liberal. Neo-Classical. Neo-Conservative. All of the answers are in and from the past. In an odd twist, one of the most resonant movies that preached the illusion of the present, called its hero “Neo” in an anagram of “One.” And then fizzled out as it found no answer to its answers. In fact, the elites are posts: Post-World War II, and Post-Cold War. They fear a Post-American world, a world which is arriving with every passing moment with the rise of China and its inevitable collision with America.

What has been missing from these predictions is the synthesis which ties them. It is also altering the shape of politics, because there is a difference between the political spectrum of the old order, which has its left and right, its ins and outs, and the opposition between those that cling to the post-world, and those which imagine a pre-world. After all, even totalitarian states have factions, it is not a contradiction to have a left to right spectrum of a conservative state.
The old essay was a classical temple, square and filled in, the new essay is organic, a journey. The first step in the mythic journey is to step away from the cozy starting point of the present conflict and explain what the post-world was, and why it found itself in a neo-mythology.

The 20th century self-consciously deconstructed the early 19th century, in an effort to keep control over the legitimacy of the late 19th century's empire and academic rigor, but remove the foundations of its power and control. It found in the organic naturalism of the Romantic period an easy enemy, since, first Romanticism had been dead for quite some time as an artistic force, and even more so as a political and social force. It was, however, the wellspring from which many of the tropes, the basic outlines, of the late 19th century, the Victorian, had sprung. The late 19th century was deconstructed as an epoch, with some help from the Victorians themselves. What was really a new order, established in a series of wars and revolutions between 1857 and roughly 1873, became the the theory of a post-Napoleonic Romantic world.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

北京麻雀 - Beijing - 1

The Coming of Age: Reactionary Revolution 1857-1876 - I

A spectre is haunting the world, the spectre of conservatism. It is everywhere free to put peoples in chains. It claims that it is all of propriety, and sanity, even as its adherents admit that it's basic ideas just proved to be failures. For validation it presents a legendary moment in the late 19th century, when the European world industrialized, while maintaining traditional values rooted in religion. It presents itself as the inheritor of an eternal church, and a social order rooted in medieval God and Country. The truth is more brutal: the reactionary world was born in a series of revolutions and wars, starting in 1857, and reaching the final polish by mid-1870s. In the space of 14 years, a new order came about, one that was as different from what came before as any communist manifesto, or liberal constitution. This essay is an outline of the hidden realist revolutions that are the basis for the neo-age we live in now.

The past is present, because of its presence in our minds: a debased and ghostly present. Conflicts do not go on for hundreds of years, but, instead, a history of conflict creates a weighty image in people's minds, and provides a source of story. The past can be the mythic past, whose vague outlines are presented as some kind of truth, the past can be the legendary past, where events, buildings, and pictures are held up as an example, and then there is the past in the present: that which people believe, but which is no longer true. In the present a mythic conservative past stalks the discourse and the body politic: a past which presents itself as the great wave of industrialization, the path to prosperity and stability. It is a legend of God and Country, Providence and Propriety. It presents itself as the myth of the founders, and stories of "Bond Vigilantes" waiting to crash the dollar. But the myth has roots in a legend, and that legend is the legend of the Victorian Age, with its globalizing trade, and commercializing society. A society that presented itself as eternal, robust, and the culmination, in government, law, art, and society, as the culmination of a uniformitarian, almost geologic, process of human advancement. It was no such thing.

Where does the present conservative reverence for the "gold standard" come from? From the distant past? No, for most of human history, where the was a metallic metal, it was silver. From the lugal of ancient Sumeria, through Newton's assay for Queen Anne, to the Napoleonic wars, it was silver that was the metal used for currency, because there was enough of it. Gold was too precious to circulate, even when it was coined. No, it was largely establish in England by the 1840's, but globally only in 1871 by the creation of the gold Reichmark. Did Germany have a great gold strike? No, it was from their colonies in Africa. Where does the conservative idea of "liberal" "globalization" come from? There have been waves of globalization, but the idea of "liberalized" trade in a globalizing context is from the 19th century theory of Free Trade. Where did the corporation as not merely legal person, but as having the rights of the people? From the late 18th century railroad cases: remember that Adam Smith thought that few businesses should be allowed to be "joint stock companies." While nothing in human history is completely abrupt, many of the pillars of modern traditionalism date, in fact, only to the 1830's and were established as the res or order of things, with the coming of the realist revolutions.

To understand modern neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, neo-classical economics, neo-romanticism, depressionism, limited government, and fundamentalism, one must look, not to the far past, but to the very specific era that took power beginning in 1858. Far from being a century of stability between the Napoleonic Wars and the First World War, as it is so often portrayed, the 19th century had two distinct arcs: a Romantic arc which attempted to use human emotion to harness a technological and social substratum that was coming to be, but not yet clearly superior to the post-medieval order, and a Realist arc, which placed faith in industrialization, centralization, and using ersatz traditionalism to harness them as an engine of war. In Japan the Meiji government explicitly linked strengthening the economy to building the military. In America, we take for granted that "superior industrial production" lead to the victory of the North, but one must realize that the American Civil War was the first time this had been attempted in the history of the world, it was not a settled notion that elan could be defeated by mills rolling steel.

The people of the late 19th Century are thought of now as "romantic" and their art often classified so in texts. It is not how they saw themselves. Instead, they saw themselves apart, with a critique of Romanticism as unrealistic, artificial, and shallow. These three critiques would form the basis of realism, naturalism, and symbolism. Post-romantic thinkers included Marx, who excoriated "romantic" socialism in Kapital and a host of pamphlets, Chancellor Otto von Bismark, Alfred Marshall, one of the architects of the divide from "political economy" to "economics," among a host of others. Their critique was embodied in a series of revolutions and wars of union. The major nations of the European world were created, or recreated, by these wars. The most important are the six that created the British Empire, the United States as a national Union, Germany and Italy as nations.

British Empire: Indian Rebellion 1857-1858
United States of America: American Civil War 1860-1865
Germany: German Unfication 1860-1871
France: February Revolution 1858
Meiji Restoration/Boshin War 1867-1869
il Risorgimento 1858-1871

The leading edge of this was in France a decade before, at the decisive turning against Romanticism that was 1848. Often seen as "the turning point where history failed to turn," instead it was a turning point in that reactionary forces understood the limitations of technology, social order, and ideas, and set about creating the tools to build a new form of state. Bismark would call it "realpolitick" which plays on real, meaning royal, as well as realistic. The politics of power, is the politics of an assertion that pragmatic acceptance of central power, is realism.

Napoleon III had been elected in late 1848, and toyed with the Second Republic less than three years, before declaring himself emperor, and, at the same time, the ideal of reason and Democracy. He and Bismark could form the great antagonism on continental Europe, and their struggles would define the age. Their hands would reach into the creation of Italy, and the dismemberment of Spain. Into Denmark, Russia, and Turkey. France as both a continental power and an ocean power, with dreams of a world spanning empire, would aid and clash with the rise of British sea power.

Each of these revolutions was a reactionary revolution, which simultaneously defeated the highly decentralized feudal and early aristocratic systems of complex tenure, and held at bay the forces of liberalism and socialism. Each had a period of establishing the new order, whether American Reconstruction, or Germany under the "Iron Chancellor." One could neatly book end the period with two failed Congresses of Europe, that of Paris, and Berlin, in 1856, and 1878 respectively, where the "Concert of Europe," the concept created in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars for a quintuple alliance against instability, faced momentary issues, and ignored even large ones. In 1856 the Congress dealt with the stalemate that was the Crimean War â one of the most ineffectual wars in history, in that it left almost everything as it was before the war â and ignored the growing pressures that were about to explode in Italy and Germany.

By the end, these revolutions would create a new kind of state, and a new world. The old world was of a "company-colonial" order of conquest, and an aristocratic-satrap system of rulership. These were both largely the products of the solutions to problems in the 1500's. Not just in Europe, but in the Ottoman empire, in the Arabic states, in India, and in China. Central governments were metal poor, and needed to work through intermediaries. There just wasn't enough surplus. They were also economic players, setting up factories, granting patents, and running businesses, all in the quest for the money that fueled the aristocratic court, by which they kept their once feudal nobles out of trouble. Or to put it simply: kings were always on the make, because it was expensive to bribe order, and the society was still not much more advanced than the medieval. So monarchs had to give a great deal of power to which ever freebooter promised the fastest riches for the investment of letters of marque, patents, and a loan of ships and gold. It worked for Ferdinand and Isabella.

The new world, though it would maintain the forms and norms of the old one, was to consume it utterly.
That world was like a fire, with the lightening bolt that struck on May 10th, 1857, in Meerut, a town in the Bengali Presidency, a vast and populous chunk of what is now India. On that day an open mutiny of the native soldiers boiled over, ostensibly over having to bite grease, defeating the British garrison, and then making for Delhi, then the capital of the vestigal Mughal Empire, hoping to proclaim a new pan-Indian empire to evict the British and other European invaders. The mutiny would expand to rebellion and war, with independent princely states, native governed areas under the control of the East India Company, and native military units even in loyalist or British allied areas taking up arms against the hated occupiers. There had been rebellions before, but why, at the end of this one, had the very old and successful East India Company been dismantled, and the Raj installed? Why this rebellion? Why in 1858?

At that time the Crown of Great Britain did not govern directly in India, but, instead, it had long ago given power to the East India Company. This was the pattern for four centuries in Europe: the crowns were did not undertake great ventures, but acted like investment banks in conquest: financing and providing legal cover for independent adventurers. From Cortes, through the "Massachusetts Bay Company," through the East India Companies commercial backed empire in India, commercial decentralization was the took by which conquest and war were carried out. An army may travel on its belly as Napoleon quipped, but the states of the time, unable to raise great revenues, instead sold away the rights to tax and rule, to finance private ventures of colonialism or imperialism, demanding only a sometimes very nominal control.

This was part and parcel of the old order, very much in line with there being hundreds of sovereign states in Germany and Italy, a divided and weak union in the United States, a patchwork of local and commercial control in India, warlords across China, and so on. Central states were only partially able to control their own domains, the networks of communication, transportation, and social control were only then being built.

One can see from these maps that in the course of the century before 1857, the East India company grew from the Presidency of Bombay, and the Presidency of Bengal, to controlling almost half of the Indian continent – I say continent because it sits on the same plate, not as the rest of Eurasia, but as Australia, and it only lately in geologic time collided with Eurasia. It is, like Europe, protected by barriers, in the case of India, the mountains spawned by its epic collision with Eurasia. The confused nature of the governmental system had had frequent political effect. Several times wars were fought between one arm of the East India Company and various polities in India, where another division denied or overturned the peace treaty or alliance, or sent aid to the other side.

In the 19th century a more unified hand was applied to control of Indian affairs, and the result was that the periodic wars between the East India Company and Mysore, the Sikh Kingdom, and the Maratha Empire swung from being chaotic and often indecisive affairs, with the Indian powers often managing to stave off or defeat the British company armies, or at least pry back concessions over time, to a string of short, sharp, decisive annexations for the British, the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha Wars (1803-05 and 1817-18) were clear and short, in contrast to the chaotic conflicts before.

However, by 1857 several important factors were in play that would lead to a very different kind of conflict, more reminiscent of the 18th century. The first is that the East India Company was in tremendous financial difficulty: it increasingly could not bear the cost of the very empire it had built, since much of it was not economically productive in the sense of extractable value. The result is that the previous Governor-General, James Broun-Ramsay, had codified a policy of annexation at will called "The Doctrine of Lapse." While previously the East India Company had seized principalities under its rule into formal company control, Broun-Ramsay had set this to paper as a formal law.

The year he did this? 1848.

It is to be remembered that the Marquess of Dalhousie saw himself as a liberal, a utilitarian, and an enlightened despot of his area of command, much as Napoleon III did. The era of 1848-1858 was, in fact, marked by this attempt to use an imposed, rational, calm, and enlightened rulership to bring about moderation, balance, sound currency, trade, and above all, modernization. He had been in charge of the powerful Board of Trade, and had helped resolve the bubble associated with "the railway mania." He was an enormously hard worker, widely read, well spoken, from a minority in England that was only just coming into its own.

His policy was to build up India, reform and rationalize the laws, and continue the very long standing policy of first gaining tax concessions in an area, collecting revenue in the name of a prince, and then annexing the principality when that same prince no longer could control his own realm. Tax farming then, as now, was the engine of corporate control. It was a policy that had worked well for almost a century.

He was also absolutely inflexible, and annexed a string of countries: Satara, Jaitpur and Sambalpur in 1849, with Karauli annexed but disallowed; Jhansi and Nagpur in 1853; three others were returned to "home rule." He left office in 1856, and was dead by 1860, but this was long enough to see the India he thought he had built out of continuous construction and conscientious reform, brought to ruin in a few short months.

The nominal cause was also a child of 1848, and a tremendous change in and of itself: the introduction of the Minié rifle type musket. This is a weapon that you have heard about by not hearing about. The old style musket either had a smooth bore, or had to be made by hand. Interchangeable parts for firearms had been demonstrated by Blanc in 1778, by Eli Whitney in his famous demonstration before Congress in 1801, by the 1830's his company was involved in mass manufacture of muskets. The problem was that rifling was not precise enough to do in this means. Thus in 1847 the Algerians were outranging the French muskets. The solution that Captain Claude-Étienne Minié hit upon was not particularly elegant, but it was subtle: he invented a conical bullet, that had grooves that were greased. The greased grooves would lock into the rifling, and thus allow a rifled musket to be made with the then possible degree of manufactured precision. In 1849 he perfected a rifle that used this bullet. The resulting weapons type was put into service for the Crimean War, and it was adopted by major armies, including the United States, Austria, and Great Britain.

The other major firearm innovation was to aim for rate of fire, instead of accuracy, this was the famous "needle gun," which the Prussians adopted. It featured a paper cartridge, but inside it had a primer which would set off the powder, the innovation of Pauly in 1808 had been to use a needle to ignite mercury fulminate.

The year? 1848. It was used to help put down the revolutions in Germany.

The minie ball changed the nature of muzzle loading weapons, which, it must be remembered were still quite slow in terms of rate of fire, however, the new weapons were accurate at short range, durable, and had long range fire capabilities. Instead of lines attacking with a blunderbuss close range, by sheer weight in general, it was possible to both skirmish, and stand off. The change was dramatic. In the Second Anglo-Sikh War, it was expected to be able to charge infantry with infantry: because the attacked forces would get only one or at most two powerful volleys off. While this lead to terrible casualties, it was not entire suicidal. For example at Battle of Chillianwala General Gough, acting under the already mentioned Marquess of Dalhousie's orders, attacked the Sikhs straight on. While he was checked, and it was a surprise to the British establishment, the fight was close to even in casualties, and it was a very near thing.

However, by the American Civil War, it is difficult to point to a single example of an infantry charge being successful, and many that became famous slaughters. The German Needle Gun, and the Minie-ball, as well as its breech-loaded descendant, would be the major arms of the 1857-1873 wars. They would duel many times. While not as large a shift in fire power as the later automatic weapons, such as the Browning Automatic Rifle, they changed the nature of battle. Instead of lines, which had been used in European gunpowder warfare since the 30 years war in the 1600's and which had been maintained by the great generals such as the Duke of Marlborough, Fredrick the Great, Geoffrey Amherst, and Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington - infantry could strike devastating blows hundreds of yards away. Very close in fighting grew even more important, because suddenly even bayonets and cutlasses seemed preferable to being shot to pieces at range. The new muskets shattered bones more effectively, leading to more deaths after combat and more horrible wounds. Modern nursing was given a kick by tending to the masses of wounded during the Crimean War.

The problem with these new cartridges is that they had to be greased to fit tightly down the barrel. This lead to the problem of with what – since petroleum was not in great supply, the oil of choice was tallow from pigs or cows. This lead to a problem in India, since the drill of a breach loaded weapon, such as the Enfields, not to be confused with the later bolt action metal cartridge .303 Lee Enfield, was to bite the cartridge open, so as to create a hole for the spark that would set it off. Islamic troops were shocked by having to possibly bite pig, and high caste Hindu by the possibility of biting cow. While this has been over done in history, it was the cause of the nominal spark.

So the beginning of the Reactionary Revolution was at the end of a chain of commercial and corporate annexations in India. A dozen states, including the powerful Maratha Empire, the formidable Sikh Kingdom, and proud principalities such as Oudh, had been brought under the tax farming system of the East India Company.

On May 9th, a regiment was harshly disciplined for refusing to use the new guns at drill. 85 native Sepoy were court-martialed, some sentenced to years in prison. The rest of the native troops at Meerut then rescued them, defeated the British and loyalists, and set off for Delhi, hoping for support and reinforcements. The new weapons would make the rebellion that was about to occur bloody, dangerous, and surprising. In part because promotions came slowly in India, and much of the military leadership of the East India Company consisted of old men, unwell, inflexible, and unaware that they, and their opponents, now had weapons that could hit harder, farther, and in small groups, rather than being required to meet in massed firepower.

Gustavus Adolphus Magnus of Sweden would have recognized the battles of the Anglo-Sikh Wars of the 1840's, with lines attacking lines. He might have been surprised by the artillery duels, but the Duke of Marlborough, active in the the late 1600's and early 1700's, would not have been. However, the sieges of Delhi and the reliefs of Lucknow were animals of a very different kind. The commanders of the British were, however, closer in mindset to the 1600's, than to their own moment.

Thus the company colonial order, which had for 300 years dominated European conquest, and the patchwork state order, which came out of the 1400's in both India and Europe, were about to receive a jolt. Not so much in the technology, but in a wave of changes that made it possible for states to bite off more than they could chew. The corporate system was not capable of creating and enforcing loyalty to the very centralized order that its own economic arrangements demanded. This is because when feasting on low hanging fruit, it is enough to graze the most profitable businesses. But as one drills farther and farther down, the margins grow slimmer. Without the ability to create elan, one must squeeze harder. This is what elites had learned in the wake of 1848: squeeze harder with better weapons and the tide can be survived.

But starting in 1857, the wars would not be so easily withstood, because the very tools of empire made revolt as dangerous as the rulers. The "mutiny" of Sepoys turned into a war between the East India Company, and states that were supposedly under its control. It was the first of many such wars. The solution was unification under new principles. These principles of unity, based on corporations rather than companies, on God and Country under a Crown or central government, rather than a feudal-aristocratic confederation or colonial empire, of a unified hard currency system, and personal acetic militarism, are still the icons of today. The 1858-1876 period created the conservative world view as we know it, however often they may quote Burke, it is an attempt to fuse the company-colonial system with Bismark's real politick that is their real model.

In the next essay, the course of the 1857-58 War in India, and how and why it formed a model for the realist revolutions that were to follow.

Monday, March 28, 2016

北京麻雀 - Shanghai - 8

This was found in Scott Morgan's diary

If you want to dream in China, first of all you must realize that the Yuan Dynasty was not a native a native – meaning Han – dynasty. They were Mongolian, which is quite different. It was not even part of the collection of languages that are referred to as 'Chinese'. Consequently all of the officials who did not want to work for them, 'retired', on to a lake by the city of WuShi. Imagine the cloths – with their ornate silken Hanfu. It is the dress of the Han people, documented by the Book of Han. Some ways are particularly held in this enduring culture, and they do not allow anyone to forget it. While we are very close to Nanjing, no one speaks of the horror – and no one even mentions the horrors except in low tones. Though they will admit they hate the Japanese, rather freely in fact. Though you can take the tin out of the outpouring mountain, you can still taste on people's tongues.”

But this is another world, and look south to Jiangsu along the eastern seaboard, to the densely populated province, which almost enigmatically contains a large natural outpouring of fresh water lake. And close your eyes, and imagine people who were different from who have come afterwards. They were dressed in silk, of course – but also a different kind of silk, which was woven the same way from time immemorial. The upper garment consisting 'yi', which is a broad open blouse-colored garment - and for both sexes a skirt called 'chang'. The collars were right over left, and the sleeves were long and loose. There were very few buttons, and hidden on the inside. The belt or the sash fitted around the waist, thus it was loose fitting around the outside and tight around the middle. The decorations of hats, or of hairpieces, had an innumerable designs, each one meaning different things on different occasions.”

There the men were drinking wine in small cups, and reciting poetry, either by themselves – or with groups of women who were too high for prostitutes, but too low for anything else. Both men and women stopped cutting their hair – known as Guan Li – somewhere between 15 and 20. It was a ritual. One million TV serials will depict this type of dress, particularly mimicking the putou – the informal dress hat of officials and academics, which would be discarded as the person realized that this was the life forever. He would be drifting along the barge with his companions.”

“Look out at the basin from the Dragon Light Pagoda in WuShi's XiHui Park, and then up at the sides. There is a peculiar feature of the southern Chinese landscape. In the center it is broad, and there are many roads; but it rapidly climbs upward to the hilltops, craggy with their features, and trees perched just so. And roads dwindled down to paths, with people moving out of the way for more quickly moving ascendance. One would never see trees on the hills in the city: only in the countryside. Away in the distance you can see the bright lights and acid glare of the city. But the city stops, though it creeps over time outwards. But then it is countryside – and while barely so, northern vegetation predominates. On the farther coast away from all of the cities, the coast is immediately driven in to a vast woodside climb in two various temples, which each recognizes some deity who gives forgiveness. The Communist Party has eased its grip, though just barely - and far from the cities, which are still commercial centers, and not religious powerhouses.”

For it is a long does pathways that one comes to a realization of what is important. The leaves brush each other and produce a low kind of rushing sensation. And you can feel flowers melting, but it is only when you enter the courtyard that you understand that they are being simmered down to a broad for hungry individuals, which, to your great surprise, includes you. So you munch on the flower which has been made into a soup and stare around at the beauty that has always been here. Also along the ground there are what are called 'Taihu stones' - which are particularly well known in Suzhou and WuShi, though they are used in all the surrounding villages. Each one in their native language is called gongshi, and is shaped by wind and water, penetrating through to the other side in myriad combinations. They are a delicate kind of limestone. Each form is different from all the others. Each form unique to itself, whether large or small, according to its nature.”

But there are now differences between the old, and the coming new - for example, the 'Star of TaiHu' is a ferrous wheel which is 115m tall on the shoreline of the lake, seeing both the city and the countryside at its peak. It stands boldly declaring that China is young again. If you listen to any Chinese person they will tell you about the sites which are larger than famous sights in the West, but if the new takes the form of a wheel, then underneath it is scoured with pollution. No one can look at this lake and not be aware of the manufacturing chemicals for everything from garments to wool that litter the shore, forming bubbles with cascades. Within each step forward, there are at least one step demarche; the locals grumble about this with vivid pictures and terse remarks. But very slowly, and with passion - or delight.”

The other invisible line is between the languages of Mandarin and Wu, with the latter being dominant in everything that relates to technology and industry. Realize that away from the city, or out of the site of tourists the natives from the countryside are thin and emaciated. The Mandarin, here, are the country folk – and dislike the Wu style inhabitants with a burning passion. This passion is not felt at the top of society, but in the dawn when Mandarin workers line up at the docks of the lake, one will hear mispronounced words of hatred from the lower classes. That is if one speaks the local dialect of Mandarin, which is often unintelligible even if it is the same nominal language as in the north.”

So, the admixture of old tales and young wheels - pollution, with inharmonious racism mixed with deep religion, is gnarled up in a bow which is tied with Zhangokfutou - this admixture is on the Nanjing coastline in the middle of the country that calls itself the Middle of the World.”

Duo for Flute and Clarinet #3, in Eb

Thursday, March 24, 2016

北京麻雀 - Shanghai - 7

The Coming of Age: Reactionary Revolution and the Raj

Ours is a neo- age, and the template is the Victorian, our neo-liberalism, was their liberal trade, our neo-conservatism was their conservatism, our neo-classicism, was their classicism, our neo-imperialism, was their imperialism, their classical gold standard, the model for the modern monetary order. The legend that is presented is that that guilded age was a an age of rapid development, industrialization, and improvement in living standards, and that the policies of that time represented a kind of pinnacle of growth: low taxes, small government, national unity, and an abiding piety.

This order was imposed in a series of wars of unification and revolutions, the model for these, in many respects, was the Anglo-Indian War, often minimized as the "Sepoy Rebellion" or overstated as "The First War of Indian Independence." In truth, it was neither. It was the first war of a Reactionary World - the Realpolitick Revolution was on. Realism, the the ideology that dare not speak its name was about to shock the world. Got it? Then it's time to prelude and fugue...
In the first part, a thesis was put forward: that 1848 served as a shock to the European system, and that in its wake, a series of ideas, laws, technologies, and norms were put forward by the post-ancien order to meet the changed social and political context. Key to these were both accommodations to liberal sensibilities, as liberal was then construed, combined with an expanded reach of powers of state. This was done to reinforce a decentralized company/principality structure which allowed older interests to remain, even as such notions as the Doctrine of Lapse allowed the annexation or amalgamation of states that were deemed too weak.

“You may talk o' gin an' beer
When you're quartered safe out 'ere,
An' you're sent to penny-fights an' Aldershot it;
But if it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.”
Gunga Din
Rudyard Kipling 1890

Kipling was born in 1865, but his world was born in 1857, and many of the characters in his books are drawn from the 1857-58 Anglo-Indian conflict. The state of India in 1857 was has an energetic governor-general, intent on "reform" and construction, had left it: with states being gobbled up by the East India Company, and a collision of a vast mass of the populace living as they had since the medieval, with new technologies sinking their claws as a large swathes of the population intertwined their destiny new English overlords, particularly in joining the military. The officer corps, which was noted even at the time, was superannuated, with many generals broken down, and having not seen combat with the new Minie type muskets which were being introduced. For all his faults, the previous governor-general, Lord Dalhousie, had been able by force of energy and force of personality to hold the factious company empire in a kind of rolling boil. There were revolts and rebellions, but his constant movement, and vast projects, such as irrigation along the Ganges, as well as decisive acts of pure patronage, managed to keep the company officer class together.

However, never in good health, he left, broken and tired, to die soon after leaving office.

The rebellion against the East India Company had three important military theatres. One was the reassertion of control up the Ganges by the company, centered around the rebel siege of Lucknow, and the attempts to relieve the defenders. The second was the quelling of insurrections and mutinies, as well as rolling up smaller states that had joined the general rebellion. The third was the siege of Delhi. Each of these actions would have lessons that would be reasons for dissolution of the East India Company's control, and the assertion of the Raj. These lessons would be repeated in the sequence of realist revolutions that would come. To see what they were, it is essential to go into some detail on the specifics of the campaigns.

There had been rebellions before, but this one, was different: almost immediately the tensions flew in every direction. 

Dispossessed rulers saw a chance to take advantage of a ham handed introduction of new weaponry to generate open revolt. When a group of native infantry rebelled, other units organized to rescue them and then tore for Delhi, the old capital of the Mughal Empire, and petitioned the emperor to declare a pan-Indian state with himself at the head. The empire had from the late 1500's through the early 1700's been the dominate power on the Indian continent, ruling as many Islamic dynasties had, with a tolerance for local customs and authority, provided the vassal states obeyed commands and paid the high taxes regularly.

However by this point it was a islet of control in a growing sea of newer states, and had little to offer in the way of aid, other than Delhi itself: a well entrenched walled city, connected to much of Northern India, and therefore a logical center of rebellion. It also had a very small British presence, even though the British were nominally in control of the civil apparatus of the city, and were planning to annex the small state on the death of Abu Zafar Sirajuddin Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar, who at 82 had been told the title would lapse with his death. The rebels had moved over 60 miles in just over a day, and found fertile ground among the three Bengali regiments barracked in the city for expansion of the mutiny. However, their leaders had already decided that they wanted to be more than a mutiny against the East India Company's military officers, and they petitioned the emperor. Bahadur was not a hasty man, he made them wait. It was the 11th of May, 1857.

But the East India Company was not in hot pursuit, nor had warnings gone forth to other units, not by horse, foot, or then then new telegraph network, which had been under construction for 4 years, but already was linking major British centers of power. Instead, Brigadier Archdale Wilson, who had let the rebels in escape in the first place, sat. He was not alone among the Company officer corps. However, once roused, the Company attempted to put together a column to take Delhi. Sadly for their efforts, the logistical network and equipment had been disbanded after the Anglo-Sikh wars nearly a decade before, and the revolt made simply conscripting native help problematic at best.

Part of the increased urgency came from what the mutineers did late on the 11th: they became rebels with a single act: they attacked the armory and began slaughtering English citizens indiscriminately. The few British officers returned the favor by opening fire into their own troops and the crowd, and after holding out for a few hours, spiked the guns and blew up the tower. By several estimates half of the British civilians of Delhi were killed or kidnapped while trying to either gather at Flagstaff Tower, or flee the city.

On the 12th Baradur held a formal audience, the first in years, with the leaders of the rebellion, and decided to accept their petition, under some duress. At a stroke it both expanded, and doomed, the rebellion. By deciding to rebel, and declare sovereignty, he gave the rebellion a rallying point, and provided legitimacy. However, many of the rulers of states, dispossessed or interested in liberation, were no more interested in being under Mughal suzereignty, which their ancestors had often fought to overthrow, than they wanted to be absorbed in to the Company.

Baradur was riding the tiger: witnesses recounted how the officers acted in an overbearing manner, and refused to accept orders from Baradur or any of his sons. He had given assent, and that was all the needed. The officers of the three Delhi units joined in a fractious council of war which began issuing orders. Among their first was to hang 62 Europeans in the city, over the objections of the alleged ruler. It was the 16th of May, and the news of this action spread quickly. Canning, the new Governor General, and Anson, the Commander in Chief, began reaching out to the over-extended British forces, ordering units to return to Calcutta. The steamship resupply would take time, and Calcutta was the only port that would do.

On the 17th of May, the British under Anson finally roused themselves from their stupor and began gathering a column, which linked up at Karnal with General Wilson, the commander who had overseen the debacle at Meerut, and then allowed the rebels to flee. What came next was to become a familiar pattern: Anson died of disease, and command passed to a man as old and infirm in the form of Major General Henry Barnard. He organized the column and marched to Delhi, finally arriving on the 8th of June after defeating a large, but disorganized rebel force. By this point rebels were arriving from a half dozen cities in the north of India. Barnard began to construct siege works, hoping to move close enough to breach the walls with his lighter canons, when he too died of disease. So far the British had lost almost two full months to age, and ponderousness, of the Company's high officer corps.

They arrived at the old city of Delhi, whose 14 gates had been rebuilt in the early 19th century of Red Stone. The walls were as high as 21 feet in places, and often 12 feet thick of stone and earth. While the British were able to take a ridge in a quarter circle on the West of the city, overlooking these battlements, they were, effectively, a salient, not a siege. The city was open to the south and east. The great Lahore Gate opened to the road directly to the "Red Fort" an imposing central bastion which the emperor occupied, and down which commerce flowed both on foot and on a canal. The British force numbered less than 10,000 men, while the defenders already had twice that many. Wilson, a cautious man, decided against a direct assault, and set about a plan to bring his light artillery to the walls.

However, according to even the British officers, the local artillery was heavier, and the mean firing at them were better drilled, often getting off two shots for every one the British could fire. The defenders were entrenched, more numerous, and at least as skilled as the attackers.

According to Major Agah Humayan Amin the following regiments had already mutinied and were present in Delhi:
3rd Bengal Light Cavalry (504 men), Meerut Cantonment [1 Troop stayed loyal]
9th Bengal Native Infantry, Aligarh Cantonment
11th Bengal Native Infantry (780 men), Meerut Cantonment
20th Bengal Native Infantry (950 men), Meerut Cantonment
38th Bengal Native Infantry, Delhi Cantonment
54th Bengal Native Infantry, Delhi Cantonment
74th Bengal Native Infantry, Delhi Cantonment

According to Amin, the Europeans were not only outnumbered, but had only 30 or 70 rounds per man in ammunition.
One useful account is written by a man who had been in the army in India since 1851, but who would go on to be one of the most decorated commanders in the Empire. He would later be Field Marshall Lord Roberts of Kandahar, but at that time, he was Fred Roberts, and was attached as the quartermaster to the artillery by Anson. He describes the defenses of the city, which were being manned by native artillery men, and whose guns were heavier than the light infantry field cannons which the British had. Encamped on a ridge they were facing a formidable city, with more defenders, and better artillery, whose native garrison sent out daily sorties. Accounts from the siege showed a sharp divide in the army. Roberts was a member of a young wave of officers, and the armies non-commissioned officers were vigorous and hard-bitten, as the notes from A History of the Siege of Delhi by William Ireland show, with his relatively detailed accounts of how exchanges of musket fire occurred daily, until finally a sergeant berates the officers that men cannot take direct fire every day.

Finally after four generals had died, a young officer arrived, and though not in charge, and only 34, he change the complexion of the command when he reached Delhi in early August, on the 10th or 11th, with his column behind: Brigadier-General John Nicholson. Dashing, arrogant to the point of insubordination, and well known to be homosexual. However, he was already an experienced military man, having served in the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1847-48 as protege of Lawrence's "Young Men," who had been the core of Sir Henry Lawrence's staff in the Sikh War, and was imperious, overbearing, and beloved by his men. He one time hung the cooks for trying to poison the soup, he openly sneered at the old generation officers. With four general's dead from disease, and an army being hacked to pieces by the grind of sorties and swelling ranks of rebels, he decided that it was time for direct action.

“Everyone knew that the heavy artillery on route to Delhi would allow the British to assault the city, and the rebels had duly sent a force to intercept it. Nicholson took a detachment and met them at Najafgarh. Out numbered and against a rebel force that held the key ground and was digging in, he elected to attack their strong point. He delivered this speech before the battle:”

“As the Infantry were about to advance, Nicholson thus addressed them: "Men of the 61st, remember what Sir Colin Campbell said at Chilianwala, and you have heard that he said the same to his gallant Highland Brigade at the Alma. I have the same request to make of you and the men of the 1st Bengal Fusiliers. Hold your fire until within twenty or thirty yards, then fire and charge, and the serai is yours." Our brave soldiers followed these directions to the letter, and, under cover of Artillery fire, carried the serai. Front was then changed to the left as had been arranged, and the line swept along the enemy's defences, the rebels flying before them over the bridge. They confessed to a loss of more than 800 men, and they left in our hands thirteen field-pieces and a large quantity of ammunition, besides all their camp equipage, stores, camels, and horses. Our casualties were 2 officers and 23 men killed, and 2 officers and 68 men wounded-the officers mortally.”
41 Years in India, Lord Roberts, Chapter 16

The rebels were armed with older muskets, and Nicholson had heavy guns, but the tactics were straight from the Duke of Marlboro at Blenheim: a close barrage, with the infantry attacking the key point under cover, and delivering a single, short, shattering volley before closing hand to hand. The result was the expected devastation against short ranged muskets that had been raggedly firing. The same occurred a Delhi the same day, with a sortie repelled with only nominal casualties. The reality heavy guns had been known since Napoleon, and had been reinforced by the battles of the 1840s: heavy cannon fire could screen an infantry charge.

Returning to Delhi, he backed the plan to attack as quickly as possible. Roberts reported:

Nicholson was not a man of many intimacies, but as his staff officer I had been fortunate enough to gain his friendship. I was constantly with him, and on this occasion I was sitting in his tent before he set out to attend the council. He had been talking to me in confidential terms of personal matters, and ended by telling me of his intention to take a very unusual step should the council fail to arrive at any fixed determination regarding the assault. "Delhi must be taken," he said, "and it is absolutely essential that this should be done at once; and if Wilson hesitates longer, I intend to propose at to-day's meeting that he should be superseded." I was greatly startled, and ventured to remark that, as Chamberlain was hors de combat from his wound, Wilson's removal would leave him, Nicholson, senior officer with the force. He smiled as he answered: "I have not overlooked that fact. I shall make it perfectly clear that, under the circumstances, I could not possibly accept the command myself, and I shall propose that it be given to Campbell, of the 52nd, I am prepared to serve under him for the time being, so no one can ever accuse me of being influenced by personal motives."

In short Nicholson was willing to talk mutiny, in order to attack Delhi. The attack went forward on September 14th, but at enormous cost: to take the outer gates and walls was the work of a bloody week in late August, and costing three of the commanding officers their lives, including Nicholson. It proceed by bloody steps: artillery would clear a point, sappers would charge forward under cover to blow the wall or the gate, often losing 50% of their manpower on the charge: more than once the an who finally lit the gunpowder to demolish a gate, died while doing so. The problem was that despite having heavier shot, there were no effective explosive shells, so demolition work had to be done manually.

When finally in the gates were held, Wilson was about to order a retreat, as he had lost many of his best men and officers in the assault. However, the remaining officers, especially the younger junior officers, argued vociferously to hold what had been taken, and then reduce the city house by house. The new rifled muskets had been very effective in providing cover for charges, but at close range in street fighting, they were no better than the older weapons, with a similar rate of fire and no greater lethality. Slaughter was with blade, bayonet, and barrage. The defenders pulled field artillery from the walls to contest streets, and so the British had to attack from houses and roof-tops, at which point the artillery would withdraw a block, the process had to be repeated.

On the evening of the 18th, a group that Roberts was attached to discovered that there was a back route to the main street of Delhi - Chandni Chauk - and thence to the main Lahore gate. They returned to the main body, reported on the strength of the works, and the ability to take the gate from inside. The assault that had cost so many lives from the front, was achieved by swift surprise on the 19th with the cost of a life from behind. A lesson as old as Thermopylae was repeated

Contrast the slow assault with the effect of grape shot in clearing street mobs in Europe in 1848, and the effectiveness of the Prussian "needle gun" which concentrated on the rate of fire over accuracy, it also showed, contrary to what you may have been taught, that city walls were not obsoleted by gunpowder. The motivation for adopting the minie type bullet was that it made each bullet count for more with its longer range and greater accuracy, because supply lines were bad in Company controlled India, and indeed around the global British and French Empires, the choice for efficient, and therefore cheaper, muzzle loading long range weapons was almost a given. The Germans, without, yet, a global empire and long range supply problem, in fact, with the advantage of internal lines and a rapidly growing rail network, selected rate of fire for their weapons.

The result is that the British had to rely on elan. Assaults were brutal, and at high cost. However, once the Lahore gate was breached, and columns could enter from the other taken gates, the defenses of the city collapsed quickly, the British soon reached the hard defended points, and the 60th Rifles, one of the elite units the British had, stormed the last key point. Shortly thereafterwards, Major Hodson, in a very controversial act, ordered the summary execution of the emperor's three sons.

The British were, in a very real sense, masters of Delhi.

The lessons of the siege of Delhi were three: that company control through local principalities was incompatible with safety and rapidity of response, that the Company army, with its slow promotions and insular culture was incompatible with competence and good use of weapons, and that the Company lack of logistics had produced woeful and dangerous delay.

The British had a large supply depot in Delhi, and had control over the commercial organs, as well as a large civilian presence, but they relied upon the local authorities for legal legitimacy and protection. To protect such vital nexus points in future required control over all such cardinal points. This struck at the heart of long doctrine of how aristocracies functioned through companies, a cozy arrangement which had prevailed since the establishment of joint stock companies as royal arms starting in the 1500's, and accelerating through the 1700's. It also struck more particularly at the doctrine of the Congress of Vienna, the peace conference that had redrawn the map of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars, and as importantly, established the "Concert of Europe," which was the architecture of the new peace. One aspect of that doctrine was that crowns remained on heads, without some provocation. Even the "Doctrine of Lapse" era had its limits. Crowns had acted through companies, and companies, in turn, through local legitimate authorities, waging war, signing peace treaties, collecting taxes, assigning concessions, and in general behaving as if they were sovereign states, only without the accountability of a state.

The second lesson dovetailed with the first. The Delhi column was slow to organize, slow to move, undersupplied and generally slow. While there was no question of their bravery and ability to fight, they would win all of the major encounters of the campaign, their state of supply and logistics, and the age and ill-health of their officers, was telling. Another telling fact was the generation banding of the officers. The generals were in their 60's, and fell to illness. There was another band of officers in their 30's. These were dashing, educated, brilliant horsemen and swordsmen, who were also capricious and bold to the point of foolhardy. These men, like Nicholson and Hodson, would die of combat wounds during the war. The youngest, while praising gallantry and heroics, were of a far more deft nature. Roberts would be part of taking the Lahore Gate without a loss, after Nicholson had died, along with a third of his troops hors-de-combat, bruising it from the front. Later in the war, officers from the Crimean War arrived to take command, and altered the complexion of the operation.

The third lesson underlined compounded these. The most devastating losses were caused by the scattered nature of the troops, the lack of supply, particularly medical supply, and the difficulty of getting orders changed. Men were moved by ship, not rail, and the only way to communicate with a moving ship, was by catching it with another moving ship, or intercepting it at re-coaling.

 In summary, the mutiny turned rebellion exposed the weaknesses of the conservative ideology of the day: it was dangerously slow, woefully light and under-prepared, and filled with men who had an unfortunate habit of getting themselves killed. The success of Delhi would teach the young officers like Roberts the power of bravery, with preparation. It was a lesson that would conquer India and Africa, but, at the other side, produce a faith in infantry action that would lead to terrible slaughter in the First World War. In a very real sense, the fields of Flanders, were sown at the Siege of Delhi.