Friday, 7 June 2013


Charles James Napier was Britain's Commander-in-Chief in India in the mid 1800's. His chief purpose in India was to quash rebellion, and he did so with efficient brutality.

Many of his quotes pertaining to putting down rebellions are well noted:

* The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed.
* the human mind is never better disposed to gratitude and attachment than when softened by fear.

These two quotes should acquaint you with the fierceness of the man, the iron-fist attitude which helped him conquer those who would shake British rule  in India. I think most of us in Western society today--especially after the horrors of the era surrounding World War II, when dictatorship was used to such nightmarish effect--  would agree that this way of thinking is antiquarian, and far too brutal to be used in a modern political forum. 
However, consider these next two quotes from the same man which, while we may not agree with them in principle from our modern Western perspective, are still very much present in our political lives: 

* so perverse is mankind that every nationality prefers to be misgoverned by its own people than to be well ruled by another
*Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.
See, Western culture has this nasty habit of thinking that other cultures and nations would be "well ruled" by it. Partly because, as Napier points out, other cultures have certain traditions which appear brutal to the Western eye. So, here's the moral question, one which has been asked over and over, and which I am going to ask again: Do we, as Westerners, have any right to think we are in a moral position to rule over others, and point out which of their customs and behaviors are "right" and "wrong"? 
If we react to what we view as brutality with brutality, are we just as bad and antiquated as Napier? Do we want to be like Napier, or not? Do means ever justify ends in stopping those behaviours we view as cruel? Is there such a thing as a global morality which should be applied across the board, and where does it begin, and where does it end, and what defines it?
No answers here, just throwing out some thought munchies. Because its Friday, and everyone wants to think on a Friday.
You love me anyway.  

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