Characteristics of an Aggressive Imperialist Culture

A fundamental question to all people should be how a modern country, a culture or society, can descend to the barbarism exhibited by the aggressive imperialist countries such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.  For example, Jordan Peterson, referring to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Victor Frankl, stresses the need for truth-telling by all members of society early on before the manifestation of the horrors. Today Wilhelmine Germany is not the first society that comes to mind with an aggressive imperialist culture, but it certainly was cast in this light by its allied opponents during World War I. In this article I submit the observations of John Buchan (1875-1940) from his A History of the Great War (free download here); that originally  appeared in 24 volumes, between February, 1915, and July, 1919, under the title: Nelson’s History of the War.

From Wikipedia we learn that Buchan first “went to write for the British War Propaganda Bureau and worked as a correspondent in France for The Times. He continued to write fiction, and in 1915 published his most famous work, The Thirty-Nine Steps, a spy-thriller set just prior to World War I.  … Buchan then enlisted in the British Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Intelligence Corps, where he wrote speeches and communiqués for Sir Douglas Haig. … Buchan was appointed as the Director of Information in 1917, under Lord Beaverbrook …”

The 39 Steps John Buchan Best Price: $5.48 Buy New $4.95 (as of 06:40 EDT - Details) Buchan’s description of the battles has a consistent style that at a minimum need maps, and perhaps relief maps, to be understood, that are supplied in the book but are not readable in the Kindle version. Page-after-page goes on like this description of the runup to the first Battle of Ypres in 1914:

On 19th October the 2nd Corps held a line pivoting on Givenchy in the south, and then running east in a salient north of the La Bassee-Lille road to the village of Herlies, where it bent westward to Aubers, and connected with Conneau’s cavalry in the neighbourhood of the La Bassee-Armentieres highway. The 5th Division was on the right of the front, and the 3rd Division to the north of it. The Germans, the centre of the Crown Prince of Bavaria’s huge command, held La Bassee, the line of the La Bassee-Lille canal, and all the country immediately to the south and east. Smith-Dorrien’s first aim had been to strike at the fine La Bassee-Lille in the neighbourhood of Fournes, and so, with the help of the French Tenth Army, isolate the La Bassee position. But from the 20th onward, as he felt the surge of the great German advance, his whole energies were devoted to maintaining his ground and blocking the passage to Bethune and the west.

A true Victorian and man of the Empire, he could write a sentence on the death of an English officer like the following that now would even make a hardcore neocon blush:

They and their kind had made Britain a nation, and had won for her a great empire; they now perished joyfully in the gate that the work of their fathers might endure.

Perished joyfully!!!

John Buchan in uniform as the aristocratic Baron Tweedsmuir (Wikipedia)

The Wikipedia article continues that “It was difficult for him, given his close connections to many of Britain’s military leaders, to be critical of the British Army’s conduct during the conflict.” Now that is an understatement as it is clearly propagandistic. Nonetheless, I found his descriptions of Wilhelmine Germany interesting, not necessarily because they are accurate for Germany. Nor that they truly represent the dangerous characteristics I referred to above. But the fact that they are what an accomplished English writer would want his readers to believe about his enemy Germany; and what I find is that many the traits he outlined are eerily similar to the post 9/11 culture in the US.

First, he describes what we might call the German military-industrial complex.

The trading community in any land is as a rule pacific, and undoubtedly the bulk of the German merchants looked with profound anxiety at the prospect of war. But the most pacific felt the weight of the armament taxes, and the most far-seeing were uneasy about Germany’s economic future and predisposed to some heroic effort after security. Yet on the whole we may set down the rank and file of German industry as an element on the side of peace. It was otherwise with many of the merchant princes —the host of men who were part industrial magnates and part courtiers.

He continues with a description of what could be the Washington suburbs and Silicon Valley today.

It had been amazingly successful, and its success had turned its head, for the industry of the German people exploited by these entrepreneurs had produced results which might well leave the promoters dizzy. This megalomania affected to some extent the whole commercial class. The standard of living had changed, and extravagant expenditure on luxury had become the fashion among industrial magnates, a fashion which was reproduced in the bourgeois life of the cities. Being genuine nouveaux riches, they had no traditions to conform to, no perspective to order their outlook on the world. The kingdoms of the earth had fallen to them, and, like Jeshurun [a poetic name for Israel], they waxed fat and kicked.

A money quote that could be applied to Americans.

As for the ordinary German he was of an obedient temper, and the Government had drawn him so wholly into its net that the thought of opposing its will did not enter his head.

And why was the ordinary German obedient?

The intricate system of minor decorations with which his good conduct was rewarded, and the surveillance by the State over every part of his daily life, had deprived him of all political individuality. Lastly the bulk of the ” intellectuals,” the teachers in the schools, the professors at the universities, the clergy, and the men of letters, were in questions of politics little more than officials, speaking from a brief. The educational hierarchy was as much a branch of the bureaucracy as the management of the post office, and the class which in Germany’s dark days had roused the people by dwelling upon her ancient strength and the hope of the future, now taught the same creed in coarser accents to the greater glory of the Hohenzollerns. But our picture of Germany is not completed when we have analyzed the elements of power in her community and sketched the formal nature of her Government.

Just like the mainstream media, the universities, etc.; all the PTB in today’s USA.

Here again, the typical American does not seem to understand the complexity of the world;

In both philosopher and politician there was that naivete which Renan found in the tissue of the German mind, the desire to canalize the free currents of life and reduce the stubborn complex of the organic to an artificial simplicity. Both sides in the compact gave and received.

A description of the Germans who were equivalent to Trump voters in fly-over country.

There were millions of plain men to whom the word ” kultur ” was unknown, and to whom Deutschtum stood only for homely and honourable things. They had no hankering after conquest and would accept no war except one of self-defence. Before such it was necessary for any bellicose government to pose as the aggrieved and not as the aggressor. There were some, too, in all classes who had diagnosed the national madness and suffered a disillusion, like Caliban’s: ” What a thrice-double ass Was I, to take this drunkard for a god. And worship this dull fool!

In the US is our simple-minded culture of supporting the troops who protect our homeland and freedoms … thousands of miles away from the homeland police state.  As Eric Zuesse has recently written, “the most important truths are prohibited from publication in the US-allied world — it’s a world dominated by lies. After all: we invaded and destroyed Iraq for no real defensive reason, and our Government has never apologized for that, much less been held accountable, at all, for it.” Let this be the last word on our current aggressive imperialist culture.