Friday, January 19, 2018

In Defense of Modern Monarchs

Monarchs today, specifically those in the western world, are increasingly taking criticism from the more right-leaning sections of society which have traditionally defended them. This is bad, in my view both for them and for society and I fear could be the beginning of something disastrous for the cause of traditional authority (just add it to the list). They are not, you will notice, being defended by the left-leaning sections of society as you might expect for anyone or anything being attacked from the right. You might have even thought you heard the left defending them but, sorry, you did not. The left will say they agree with a royal who agrees with them on global warming or open borders, tolerance and diversity and all that, they will applaud Prince Harry for marrying a mixed-race, divorced actress from America but they *never* defend the monarchy itself because they know, even if many on the right have forgotten, that monarchy by definition goes against their fundamental worldview and can never be reconciled with it. When modern royals parrot the leftist narrative, the leftists simply applaud them cutting their own throats.

What tends to upset people on the right today about modern royals is just a little contradictory. On the one hand, they do not like what many royals say and do but there are also those who do not like them because, as they say, they don’t actually “do” anything and are purely ceremonial. Personally, I have a problem with all of these things as well and wish that it were not so and these criticisms are not coming out of thin air. Most of, if not all, of the things that upset the right-wing critics of modern monarchs upset me as well, the difference is that none of it turns me against monarchy in general or any particular monarchy either. Modern royals have been placed in an extremely difficult position. They were told from birth that they must be above politics, can say or do nothing political only to then have the ever-expanding left-liberal state make absolutely everything political. They have also been taught in the same schools and by the same professors as the liberal elites who are making such a mess of things. Similarly, when they attend church, be it Protestant or Catholic, they hear the same narrative about diversity, inclusion, environmentalism and so on which their pastors, whether appointed by the Pope or politicians, are told to preach.

They do live in a bubble and these days it is a poison-filled bubble. Keeping all of this in mind, they are also told that they must “do” something to justify their position as the idea of a hereditary birthright is unthinkable in this day and age combined with the natural human desire to pursue some activity to avoid leading totally empty lives. Because the liberal elites who rule us do not, of course, actually mean the things that they say, modern royals have found that championing traditional or right-wing causes leads to condemnation for being “political”, this leaves only fashionable left-wing causes which they are allowed to pursue as the left certainly doesn’t object to this nor, these days, does the mainstream right or the so-called “conservatives” which pass for this in Europe today. All of this means that while I find many of the things that modern monarchs do or say unpalatable, it also means that I can find little room to blame them personally for it. It does not make me despise them but pity them and desire to rescue them from this left-liberal prison they have been born into.

The enemies of monarchy are happy to applaud royals when they do something detrimental to traditional authority or the survival of western civilization but they do so not because they believe in monarchy but because this is all part of their plan to undermine the most fundamental elements and institutions of western civilization in order to turn people against it. In other words, they want the defenders of traditional authority to believe that their cause is not worth defending at all and so they might as well give up. It reminds me, as I mentioned in a recent film review, of the scene in “1898 Los ultimos de Filipinas” which shows the Filipino rebels trying to persuade the Spanish garrison to surrender by telling them that their own government never showed much concern for them, forgot about them and sold the whole place to the Americans or, in other words, that they were fighting for leaders unworthy of their sacrifice. If it means ending opposition to them, these people will say or do anything and just as they have infiltrated and twisted the entertainment industry, education, government and the churches it is foolish to think they would stop short of their takeover of all culture and society at the foot of the monarchy.

As such, when the royals of today say something that infuriates me, I do not blame them but rather those who actually rule us as modern royals are in their power, unfortunately. When it comes to moral issues, if the King of Spain, the King of the Belgians, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg or the Princes of Monaco or Liechtenstein say something I find objectionable, I do not blame them but rather the Pope who is set above them and who, in the past when popes were crowned and acted like popes, was called, “the master of kings and princes, the ruler of the rulers of the world”. Similarly, when something like this comes from the Queens of Britain or Denmark or the Kings of The Netherlands, Norway or Sweden, I blame the politicians who pay and appoint the leaders of the churches who are supposed to pass on proper moral teaching to royals and commoners alike. One could also then cast an accusing eye toward the voting public who put these people in office and submit to their rule but that leads us to the other point, that royals today are simply ceremonial figureheads unworthy of serious consideration. Perish the thought!

No monarch in Europe today, save arguably the Pope as Sovereign of Vatican City, has much if any actual power. Some may have a slight degree of influence but that varies with governments and issues. Even the monarchs in Europe with the most power, the aforementioned Princes of Monaco and Liechtenstein, are not quite so powerful as they may appear. They are sovereign states but not really independent states given that they are micro-states which frankly couldn’t survive a grape embargo. They can exist only because their powerful neighbors allow them to. The huge population of Monaco would not be able to survive for a week without the food and other vital resources France allows to be passed through her borders to the tiny principality. Lest anyone think that one of these monarchs could stand up and defy the prevailing world order, consider the fate that befell countries like Rhodesia or South Africa which did the same, countries with things like farmland, room for livestock, mineral resources and fresh water. If Rhodesia could not survive the hostility of the international community, I fail to see how anyone could argue that Liechtenstein could.

It is clear then that modern European monarchs reign but absolutely do not rule. Why then should we care about them? We should care about them for the same reason that the republicans care about them; because of what they represent. For hardcore traditionalists, I would point to the many child monarchs of history who I have admitted before to having a fondness for. Obviously, it is not ideal to have a child monarch, the ideal being to have a mature, wise, moral and courageous monarch but, as I have related in the past, child monarchs have something to teach us. When Frenchman dropped to one knee before the 5-year-old King Louis XIV or when wrinkled Vietnamese mandarins kowtowed to the 8-year-old Emperor Duy Tan they knew perfectly well that such children had no power and would not actually be ruling the country but that, then as now, others would be ruling in their name. It was, rather, what they represented that was important, all of the culture, religion, traditions and the history of the nation that was bound up in the bloodline represented by the tiny child draped in regal robes before them.

One could view modern monarchs in much the same way as you might view an historic building such as an historic cathedral, once held sacred but which is today no more than a tourist attraction. The Palace of Versailles is another example, once the magnificent residence of a sacred regal line but which is today pimped out by the French republican government like a prostitute. The fact that trashy American celebrities can rent it out or that it can be used to host obscene and grotesque “art” exhibits should repulse us all but it should not make us wish to burn it down or allow it to crumble through neglect because it has been tainted by the wickedness of our time.

When I was a child, and it seems I may have been the last generation to experience this, even living in a very old republic far distant from any actual monarchies, my imagination was filled with castles, knights and kings (especially castles, I really had a thing for them in my earliest years -which hasn’t entirely gone away). I could not say specifically where this comes from but in my earliest memories I had the image firmly implanted in my mind, presumably from story books and cartoons of the good king being deceived by his wicked and manipulative prime minister. I can distinctly remember, though it was ages ago, before I had any knowledge at all of how modern monarchies worked or even if actual ones still existed, of the prime minister always being the villain of the story who had to be thwarted so that the good king, who naturally loved his people as a parent naturally loves their children, would see the true state of affairs and set things right. Later on I found out what a prime minister actually is and how the system actually works but I also do not think that trope to be entirely unfounded and I would urge monarchists, traditionalists, the rightfully disgruntled on the political right-wing, to view modern monarchs in the same way; as prisoners of a corrupt and wicked political elite who are manipulating them and who the truly loyal must rescue them from.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Well, This Happened...

So, I have been "missing" for a while, at least from these pages and I wanted to give anyone who by some miracle is still checking in here after nearly two months, an update on what has been going on. One day, out of the blue, my internet simply stopped working. I live in a very (VERY) remote area and getting something done about this, particularly during the Christmas/New Year period, proved practically impossible. Around the same time my primary computer went a little funny, which did not help. I was left only able to access social media via my phone when, once again, I was suspended from Facebook for posting something "offensive" (though of course the minions of Zuckerberg would not explain precisely what that was) and decided to stop having a Facebook page even after my suspension ended since I was simply fed up with not knowing what might get me thrown off the platform altogether. The internet age we live in is one of "out of sight, out of mind" so as the weeks went by I began to doubt that if things ever got up and running again I would have any audience left.

Then, after just about giving up entirely, earlier this very evening I turned on my machine just to play some music and found, by some miracle, the internet was working again. This may not last I must warn you. No one has come here and "fixed" anything, it just suddenly started working and may just as suddenly stop, I have no way of knowing as I never knew what was wrong in the first place. I have had plenty of things I would have liked to write about it you can be sure but I do not think anything will be forthcoming immediately. I am trying to keep this short simply so as to get some word out before my internet goes out again as it did before. I had just (as in yesterday) about resigned myself to this little side-job being over and done with and I now have to reconsider that, see how many have remained in spite of the long, unexplained absence and also to simply see if this connection is going to hold for long or not. My thanks to all of those who sent messages of support, as you can imagine there was rather a pile-up of comments so I probably won't be able to get back to responding to all of them but I have seen them and appreciate those of you who were concerned.

We will just have to see how things go, and before I am suddenly cut off again, I will say "until next time" (hopefully),
I am and shall remain,
               ...The Mad Monarchist

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

RIP King Michael of Romania

As most of you have probably heard, His Majesty Michael I, the last King of Romania, died yesterday in Switzerland at the age of 96. A sad day, to be sure, for the House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, for all loyal Romanians and for monarchists everywhere. He was a good man and those interested can find out more at the links below about his life and the part he played in Romanian national life at a critical time for the world. When it comes to monarchs in general, what they represent is always far greater than the individual and their own virtues or flaws; so it is with the death of kings as well. King Michael I represented a great hope for a return to traditional authority in Romania or, at least, a hope for the future by providing a 'foot in the door'. Perhaps it is the emotion of the occasion but I cannot be as optimistic as I was before about a royal restoration of some sort in Romania now that the last king has gone to join his ancestors. There were brief occasions when it seemed a very real possibility, all of them missed opportunities but as long as he lived I thought there was a better chance than their could ever be without him.

King Michael I had lived long enough to see the collapse of the communist regime that forced him from his throne and into exile. He was able to return home, gain some official recognition from the existing (usurper) government and even undertook efforts on their behalf as a sort of unofficial ambassador-at-large for his country. Because of his actions in World War II, he was highly respected even among many who are not and would never think of themselves as monarchists. For that reason, I had long hoped that he might be able to be restored, at least as a ceremonial, constitutional monarch, as a sort of symbolic tribute to an elderly man who had lost everything for standing up to the communist oppressors. I could have seen a republican government doing that, seeing it, as they would, as a rather empty gesture of no real importance but one which would, nonetheless, restore the monarchy on an official basis and provide a place from which to advance farther toward a state of affairs more acceptable to Romanian monarchists. As the King entered extreme old age, I thought it unlikely but not beyond the realm of possibility that something might be negotiated to correct the past wrong and restore him to his throne before his death. Alas, it was not to be and I fear things will be much more difficult for Romanian monarchists going forward.

It must also be said that King Michael himself, the Royal Family and monarchists (not unusually unfortunately) also sometimes got in their own way. Changes to the succession, involvement in politics and other issues were not helpful. I am not as critical as I might be as changing the rules of succession for non-reigning dynasties has always been a difficult issue and the political situation is an impossibly fine line to walk. Stay aloof and you have nothing concrete to offer, get involved and you are seen as partisan and a source of division rather than unity. It is certainly a difficult situation. Hopefully, the next generation will carry on and will achieve success but without King Michael and his remarkable life story I think it will be much harder for them.

For more about the life of the late King:

Monarch Profile: King Michael I of Romania

The Story of the Kingdom of Romania

Romanian Royal Struggles in World War II

May the last King of the Romanians be welcomed by choirs of angels into the Kingdom of Heaven and May he Rest in Peace in the light of the Holy Face.

May his cause be vindicated by the successful restoration of the monarchy, a return to traditional authority, grounded in faith and family and may Romania be lifted to her full potential as a people and as a country.

This is my sincere wish. -MM

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Castling Prince Harry

As some of you may have heard, Prince Harry is getting married and, apparently, many people have a lot to say about that. Many people also have a lot to say about what other people are saying. As is not unusual for me in such cases, both sides shouting at each other are people I find annoying. One side is mad because other people have opinions on the subject and they are wrong; this is, in fact, rather out of the ordinary as a royal marriage and that can be legitimately talked about. On the other hand, the people who are complaining the most are complaining about the least important “issue” with this marriage. Prince Harry is marrying Meghan Markle next May at Windsor Castle. This is legitimately a cause for comment due to a number of reasons. Meghan Markle is a commoner (not very unusual at all anymore but still an innovation in historical terms), she is an American, she is several years older than the Prince, she is divorced, she is an actress (not a line of work traditionally considered socially acceptable) and she is of mixed-race background with a White father and a Black mother which seems to matter more to both sides than any of the other issues.

Another issue which seems to have been given no attention at all is that it was announced that Miss Markle will be baptized and confirmed into the Church of England the day before the wedding which, I assume, means she has never been a member of any Christian church before. Ordinarily, that would also be rather a big deal but it doesn’t seem to be to most, not even to the Church of England, nor does the fact that she is divorced. No, the biggest, most talked about issue is the racial issue which I have a hard time getting a grasp on simply because it only seems to be an issue because people say that it is an issue and point it out. I doubt most people would even know about it if someone else had not told them about her parentage. I think most people, knowing nothing else but what they see, would just take for a White girl with a tan. Yet, today, everyone is hyper-sensitive on this issue and so it might as well be dealt with right at the outset. Does it matter to me? Yes and no. Sorry to be ambiguous but it really does come down to being no big deal in one way and rather “problematic” in another, neither of which, it is important to add, have anything to do with Prince Harry or Miss Markle but rather with reaction to their coupling.

The reason is doesn’t matter is because interracial marriage is not anything new nor does it have anything to do with anyone other than the two people involved. It is not very common, most people choosing to marry people like themselves, nor is it “groundbreaking” even for royals. It isn’t even much of an interracial marriage given that one of them is White and the other is half White. Regular royal watchers will know that this has happened before and I don’t remember anyone making a big deal about it, perhaps because previous examples were from non-English-speaking monarchies. HRH Prince Joachim of Denmark married a woman of mixed European and Chinese ancestry in 1995, Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg, (the two divorced in 2005) and HSH Prince Alois of Liechtenstein married an African-American woman in 2000, Princess Angela of Liechtenstein. It is also not completely unknown outside of Europe. The late King Hussein of Jordan married Queen Noor, an American of Syrian and Swedish ancestry, Princess Ubol Ratana of Thailand gave up her royal status to marry a White American man, Peter Ladd Jensen, in 1972. However, the princess did have to give up her status for this, her husband was given no titles or court recognition and the two divorced in 1998. The last King of Sikkim married a White woman from the United States as did the son of the last Crown Prince of Korea though he had no official status at the time and both of these marriages ended in divorce. The last Emperor of Vietnam married a French woman while in exile and I believe I recall a member of the Cambodian Royal Family marrying an American from New Jersey in 2002 (possibly not the first but don’t quote me on that). The most prolific were the Ottoman Sultans whose harems were almost completely full of women from the Balkans and southern Russia but, of course, those were not exactly voluntary marriages.

Obviously, interracial royal marriages, while not the norm, are certainly not unprecedented. In and of itself, it is not a major issue. Most, as you can see, have been second sons or granddaughters and thus not in direct line for the throne and the same could be said about Prince Harry. Were this not the case, there would probably be more uproar over it. Even for non-reigning royals, such as the heir to the Korean throne, many in the Royal Family were not pleased and pushed for ending the marriage, which was finally done on the pretext of it producing no children. It is not that out of the ordinary but neither is it terribly common and thus should not be seen as anything “threatening” to the royal line in and of itself. People should be able to marry whomever they wish and, as mentioned, most prefer to marry people who are like themselves. On the other hand, neither are most people royalty and if marriage was about romance and nothing else there would not be so many laws concerning royal marriages. For example, if Miss Markle had been a Catholic rather than non-religious, Prince Harry would not have been able to marry her or at least not without forfeiting his place in the Royal Family. Like it or not, the marriages of royals have been and in most places still are matters of state as well as the heart. However, suppose, just for a moment, that Prince Harry had proposed to an alternate version of Meghan Markle, one that was not divorced, not an American, one that was born and raised Church of England and even of aristocratic background but still the daughter of a White father and Black mother. Would there still be an issue? Yes, even though there shouldn’t be.

The problem is a societal one. The problem is that all the people saying you *have* to be ecstatic about this marriage because the bride-to-be is mixed-race are just as fanatical as those saying you *have* to be upset about it for the same reason. The problem is not these two individuals, the problem is the context in which studies have shown that the media, in Britain, have been pushing a false representation on this issue, presumably in order to foster the more rapid transition of the British Isles from one population to another. Interracial couples, while obviously more numerous in the past as the population becomes more mixed, are still quite rare and yet the media in Britain, studies have shown, portray a disproportional amount of interracial couples in order to influence people into thinking this is more common than it actually is. This puts pressure on people to conform with trend of population replacement as well as inflaming the racists who then provide just the sort of bogey man the people in power want to see (because they have always defeated them due to the fact that your average Brit is not a hateful, violent, bigot). As a result, the problem is not the couple in question but the hyped up level of virtue-signaling that is bound to go along with this as well as enabling people to call anyone who does not jump with joy over this event a racist.

Keeping in mind that Prince Harry is now quite a ways down on the line of succession (and more so since the abandonment of male primogeniture) and this really should not be such a big deal, the bottom line is that the fact that the bride to be is partly of another race than the husband to be is only a side effect of the far more central problem this is product of and why, no, I was not overjoyed with Prince Harry’s choice. First of all, in no particular order, she is an American and I have long said that it would be better for the monarchy if Prince Harry would marry a girl from one of the Commonwealth Realms as it would help strengthen ties with the monarchy in those countries. She is divorced which, in my old fashioned views, would make her unacceptable just as it once did for Mrs. Wallis Simpson. She is also common and before anyone brings up the Duchess of Cambridge, I was not exactly thrilled about her nouveau riche background either, though she had none of the other problems Miss Markle does. It is not unprecedented, in fact it is the rule rather than the exception these days, that still doesn’t make me have to like it. However, there is more to it than being common alone. This is someone who has been an actress and I don’t doubt she will probably be the first member of the Royal Family to have been seen half naked in sex scenes on television. This was another one of the things that not so very long ago would have been considered an immediate disqualifier to say the least of it. There is also the religious issue but, frankly, that doesn’t bother me as much as it probably should simply because the clergy doesn’t seem to either and that would have to be the bigger priority.

I am certainly not against interracial marriage as an individual choice and certainly not the slightly interracial marriage that this would be, it is when people start pushing it as part of an agenda that I have a big problem. I am against royals being “unequally yoked” to borrow a phrase from Scripture. As far as I am concerned, the biggest problem with this marriage is not the marriage itself, even with all of the “issues” it comes with but rather it is the more fundamental problem underlying it. That problem is the on-going leveling of the remaining monarchies of the world which has resulted in modern royals being seen as simply celebrities and thus having no problem viewing an actress as suitable material to be accepted as one of their own. I believe royals are different and can never be the same as ordinary people, that they should be set apart, exclusive, lofty and even a dramatic and overt reminder of the truth of inequality as a fact of life. That is my biggest problem with this and just as the mixed-race aspect is played up to feed a narrative that encourages something negative, it also coincides with things like royals going to school with the commoners, associating with the wealthy, liberal elite almost exclusively, with the abandonment of male primogeniture, traditional court protocols and the idea that imaginary things like “fairness” and “equality” have any part other than a destructive one in any sort of monarchy.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sacrifice at Fort Carillon

Today is St Andrew's Day, the "national day" of Scotland as the feast day of Scotland's patron saint, Andrew. As such, it is a day to celebrate all things Scottish and, for me at least, nothing symbolizes the best of Scotland like the highland regiments of the British army. Today they have been sadly reduced but best not to dwell on that now. One of, if not the, most famous of these regiments was the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot, better known as the "Black Watch". It was formed in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Uprising and, naturally, consisted of highlanders who had supported the government which meant they tended to be Protestants in their religion and Whig in their politics. The Black Watch would have a long history of many great victories and ample military glory, however, one of her most famous engagements was not a victory at all but a very heroic, tragic and bloody defeat. It would go down in history as one of the worst British defeats but for the men of the Black Watch it would be remembered for the tremendous sacrifice their soldiers made. It was during the French and Indian War (which regular readers will know all about) and happened at a French fort called, at the time, Fort Carillon, later re-named Fort Ticonderoga on the east border of what is today the state of New York, south of Lake Champlain.

The French and the Indians
The French, and their Indian allies, had been winning stunning victories over the British despite the fact that they were outmatched and the governments in both Paris and London had focused mostly on the European front of the war. The Marquis de Montcalm, commander of the French forces in North America, had won a string of victories in 1756 and 1757 despite having the odds against him. Although he did not enjoy it, the lack of French support for the war in the American colonies meant that he had to augment his forces with American Indian tribes who were difficult to integrate into European-style warfare. However, for a change, in what was to prove his greatest victory, the French would be fighting on their own. The British government, after a number of embarrassing setbacks, decided to made North America the main focus of their war effort, seeing it as of greater long-term value which did not exactly best please King George II who was very concerned about his native Hanover in Germany falling into the hands of King Louis XV of France. However, his fears were set aside in favor of a new, major, offensive in North America.

The British planned for a huge, crushing blow that would strike northward, via Lake Champlain, retaking lost outposts and ending in a massive attack on Quebec City, the capital of New France (Canada) which would win them the war. Doing that, however, would mean that they would have to take Fort Carillon which the French had just built to guard the southern approach to Lake Champlain (the lakes and rivers being the most efficient ways to travel in North America at the time). On paper, this seemed to be no great challenge. General James Abercrombie would have nearly 30,000 British troops at his disposal, a huge army by the standards of the time and place, with many excellent units such as the Black Watch. The Marquis de Montcalm, on the other hand, would have only 3,600 soldiers to defend the fort and many of these would be Canadian militia rather than French regulars. However, perhaps overconfident because of all of this, Abercrombie would fight this battle with all of the strategic calculations of a bulldozer. The Marquis, on the other hand, had his men in well fortified positions, with men in trenches out in front with other men on the walls to give them covering fire and obstructions in front of all of them. Although his defenses could have been more solid still, they would prove more than up to the task given that Abercrombie's plan was simply to charge right in.

Abercrombie's force approached on July 8, 1758 with local militia units and the famous "Roger's Rangers" out front having no problem forcing the French skirmishers back. However, Montcalm had good troops under his command in the center with good protection for them and artillery in redoubts to cover his flanks. One of these was unfinished but, it would not matter, because Abercrombie would be charging straight in, confident that his regulars could smash the French without undue difficulty. He was, of course, to be proven completely wrong. In fact, from the outset, everything seemed to go wrong for the British. Units were drawn into battle early and not as planned which led to disorganized attacks that failed and were very costly. The Black Watch was supposed to have been kept in reserve but, seeing their comrades engaged, demanded to join the fight and so were sent in as well. The result was that the British troops charged into a killing zone of withering French fire. Montcalm, who had thrown off his coat and was dashing among his men in his shirtsleeves, kept up French discipline and morale while the British commander was far away from the action (which had broken out before he had planned). Nonetheless, Abercrombie ordered more attacks, thinking each one would break the French lines and carry the day. Instead, he simply sent more men to certain death.

To make matters worse, the British had no artillery to provide fire support for their attacks. The barges carrying the guns had gone the wrong way and ended up floating down within range of the French in Fort Carillon who quickly spotted them and sank several of the barges in quick order. Abercrombie then sent in his reserves, mostly local militia, but they too were ruined and finally he decided to admit defeat and call off the attack. However, heroically but tragically, just because he had had enough, did not mean the hard fighting highlanders of the Black Watch had. They refused to retreat and continued trying to push on, finally charging forward, they alone managed to reach the foot of the outer walls of Fort Carillon but those who tried to continue ran into French bayonets. When there were finally none left to carry on, the battle came to an end.

Montcalm triumphant
Ultimately, the Battle of Fort Carillon would prove to be the most vicious and bloodiest battle of the French & Indian War. The British lost nearly 3,000 men dead, wounded or missing. The heroic highlanders of the Black Watch lost more than half of their entire number. The French, on the other hand, lost only a little over 600 men, the vast majority of them wounded rather than killed. It was the greatest victory in the military career of the Marquis de Montcalm and would never be surpassed. Abercrombie, by contrast, would never command an army in the field again. The British offensive had been stopped cold and with bloody losses, bringing about a change in command, however, the overall situation did not change at all. The British continued to make North America the main focus of the war, the French would provide precious little support to their own forces in the region and Montcalm would go on fighting against the odds until his life and French rule over Canada both came to an end. Because of a lack of resources and defeats elsewhere, the French would later abandon Fort Carillon, leaving it to be occupied by the British who renamed it Fort Ticonderoga. It would remain in British hands until the outbreak of the American War for Independence.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Christianity and the Migrant Crisis

This has been an issue I have not been eager to expound upon but do so because so many have challenged my (very obvious and correct of course) remarks on the subject and it would be easier to simply have an article to refer them too with all of the proper Biblical citations. This has been coming up for quite a while, the issue that it is somehow a Christian duty to be in favor of open borders and allowing all and sundry into your country. This is not true. It is so manifestly untrue that it staggers the imagination that any serious Christian or anyone with any understanding of Christian Scripture could possibly believe it. Rest assured, I do not think they actually do as it is often the ones who are ordinarily the most anti-Christian who suddenly start telling actual Christians how to be ‘more Christian’ when it suits their political agenda. The really perverse thing is that, in this case, it is also an anti-Christian agenda.

I will address this primarily from a Biblical point of view because Christians have many different traditions but pretty much everyone has the same Bible and nothing I will be talking about will involve those books that are present in Catholic Bibles but missing from Protestant ones, so this does not devolve into a denominational food fight. There is actually nothing, at all, anywhere in the Bible that says one has to take foreigners into your country. You can read it from cover to cover, it is not in there. That being so, the proponents of open borders must cite other verses that they then ‘interpret’ to mean national borders should be abolished. They won’t come right out and say that quite often but when you say every country is entitled to have borders and set their own immigration laws but then oppose any and all efforts to actually enforce such laws, you are being dishonest and deceitful and I have heard many (usually Catholics) pull that trick. If you say you are for borders and for immigration laws but when someone crosses the border illegally they cannot be sent back, then you are not for borders and should stop lying.

Since the Bible does not say you must let any and all people into your country as they please, the people who favor this have to come up with something else and it usually comes down to only two or three verses that they repeatedly refer to. I cannot resist pointing out that there are more verses in the Bible that command people to obey kings and princes but I shall try to stay focused here. One of the most cited comes from very, very far back in the Bible, indeed almost to the book of Genesis which, by the way, pretty much all of these people believe to be completely fictions but I am speaking of Exodus 22:21 which says, “You shall not wrong a stranger (aka foreigner) or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” That is pretty simple, calling to mind the trials the Jews suffered in Egypt, it says do not treat others the way that you were treated. Do not oppress foreigners. The Jews, of course, were enslaved by the Egyptians and I don’t think anyone is arguing for the enslavement of foreigners. They want to keep the strangers out which, if they do, will certainly make it impossible to oppress them.

Everyone, presumably, knows the story of the Jews being in Egypt. The Patriarch Joseph became prime minister to the Pharaoh of Egypt and when famine struck the Jews, he gave them sanctuary in Egypt. After he died, the Jews were enslaved, Moses came and told the Pharaoh to ‘let my people go’ and God sent increasingly horrible plagues on the Egyptians until they finally did that and let the Jews go. As soon as they got the chance, all the Jews left, even digging up the bones of Joseph and carrying him away with them as well. The bottom line is, as soon as they were able, they left Egypt to go to their own country which is exactly what people who oppose open borders want too! They want these people to go back to their own countries. However, aside from the history lesson, if anyone quotes this verse, you might also put it in context for them by quoting the verse which immediately precedes it, Exodus 22:20 which says, “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the LORD alone, shall be utterly destroyed”. Now, are most of these migrants Christians? No. Are they even Jews like the people in Exodus? No. You might ask the people who think Exodus 22:20 means to let anyone into your country if they then favor utterly destroying any of them who are not Christians.

The idea that the Old Testament commands mixing it up, promotes diversity or multiculturalism is so blatantly wrong as to be totally absurd. In speaking of foreigners in the “Promised Land” the people are told in Deuteronomy 7:3-4, “Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.” You might also look at Joshua 23: 11-13, “So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God. For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know with certainty that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.” This is not exactly a call for inclusion and acceptance and there are numerous other verses that say the same thing.

Another passage, sometimes cited, is Leviticus 19:33 which says, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.” For context, the following verse says to love the stranger as yourself and calls to mind the exile in Egypt just as the passage from Exodus did. As with the first verse addressed, this one is basically the same. It does not say to let all foreigners come to your land, it does not say to give them your land, it simply says not to oppress them and this is very interesting for the ‘open borders’ crowd to cite today. I should hope no one would be in favor of oppressing anyone but it is the people who are pro-open borders who are usually the ones who say that White/Western/European people are inherently oppressive which then begs the question of why they want more people to come in to be oppressed? I also cannot refrain from pointing out, to all of these recent, Bible-quoting leftists, that the same people here being told not to oppress the foreigners are also people for whom slavery was okay. Indeed, in the chapter preceding that of the first verse we looked at, which would be Exodus chapter 21, it starts with regulations regarding the treatment of slaves. It is also worth pointing out considering the topic under discussion that what is detailed there is the treatment of Jewish slaves owned by other Jews as foreign slaves were treated differently from Jewish slaves.

I point this out simply to show that, very obviously, the Old Testament did not regard all peoples the same or interchangeable and also to point out how, certainly when it comes to things like regulations regarding slavery or animal sacrifice, we are assured that us modern folk are not bound to obey all these regulations. So, when these irritating things called facts are brought up, if the exchange carries on this long, the open-borders advocate will then shift to the New Testament if they had not started out there with a verse that is, if anything, even easier to toss around in any and all circumstances. It will usually be a verse such as or similar to Matthew 22:39 which says, “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself”. This is really a fun one to get in to as, again, the person quoting it at you is inferring meaning into it which it does not actually say and has no idea of the context in which the verse is given because they don’t actually read the Bible.

You will notice that this, the second-to-greatest commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself does not say anything about letting throngs of foreign people who worship a different god into your country and giving them welfare payments, housing and medical care. It says to love your neighbor and loving your neighbor is free. We then might ask, as someone did to Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” Before looking at the answer Jesus gave, we should have some context because you really need to do that every time, it is very easy to pluck verses out of context to give people a false impression. Notice that in Matthew 19:19 the command to love your neighbor comes immediately after the command to honor your father and mother, which is to say your ancestors, your blood. Then, for even greater context, look back to the Old Testament to Leviticus 19:18 which says, very similarly, “You shall not take revenge nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD”. Your neighbor was your people, after your family, your wider family, your race or your nation, in this case the Jews were being told not to hold hatred against other Jews. The command from Leviticus to love your neighbor was literally a command to observe what the scholarly types call “in group preference”, the exact opposite of viewing all people as being the same and interchangeable.

The response Jesus gave was the familiar story I am sure everyone knows about “the Good Samaritan”. Jesus was speaking to a predominately Jewish audience and the Samaritans were probably the one group of people the Jews despised more than any other. They were effectively a schismatic sect of Judaism, usually described as being mixed race though this may mean mixed-ethnicity but it doesn’t really matter. The point is, Jesus was talking about a people who professed the same religion as the Jews but who were traditionally hated and shunned by the orthodox Jews. As the story goes, a presumably Jewish man was robbed and left half-dead by the side of the road. His fellow Jews walked by without helping but a Samaritan saw him and immediately stopped to help and was extremely generous to the injured man. Jesus then asked which had shown himself to be a good neighbor and the obvious conclusion is that it was the Samaritan. He saw someone who had been injured and helped him which, contrary to the way most twist this story, makes the definition of “neighbor” even more exclusive rather than inclusive, it is something determined by how you behave.

One might also point out that the Samaritan did not take the injured Jew home with him, tossing out his youngest child to give the man a place to stay and so on. The exact words of Jesus in this story is to help someone who has been attacked in your path, not to go out into the world in search of people who have it worse off than you and bring them home. This was effectively a lesson about reciprocity, which is the part everyone gets wrong because they invariably reverse the story. It was about who the neighbor is and the point was that the neighbor is the one who helped the injured man, the Samaritan proved himself to be a good neighbor by his deeds. This, in context with what Jesus had first said which prompted this question comes down to this: He said to love your neighbor as yourself and when asked who your neighbor is, the answer is a person who helps you when you have been attacked. The Samaritan did not help a man who had ruined his own life, he didn’t take the man home with him, he effectively rendered first aid (to a schismatic of his own religion). It is really not a complicated story and is rather simple. It also has more to do with mugging than with migration.

In Like 9:51-56 we see that Jesus sent two of His apostles ahead of him, while on His way to Jerusalem, to make preparations for a place to stay in a Samaritan village. The Samaritans, hearing that they were headed for the ‘rival’ Temple in Jerusalem, refused to welcome them and when the apostles asked if Jesus might not rain down some fire and brimstone on the Samaritans for refusing to receive them, Jesus said no and scolded them for suggesting such a thing. That is worth keeping in mind because, if one is a Christian, commanded to love everyone, the greatest act of love for a Christian is to save the souls of others from eternal agony by spreading the Gospel to them. At this point in human history, most of the world is probably aware of Christianity and the story of the Gospels. Most of those flooding into Europe certainly know about it but believe it to be wrong, adhering to the Islamic religion which claims to be the final word. So, keeping that in mind, we can see from the reaction of Jesus that raining down Hellfire missiles on these people’s villages would not be the Christian thing to do but we are also told very clearly how to deal with such people and it is not letting them take up residence in your country in massive numbers.

In one of the shortest books of the Bible we see very clearly how a Christian is to handle those who have rejected Christianity. 2 John verse 10 says, “If anyone comes to you bringing a different doctrine, you must not receive him in your house or even give him a greeting. To greet him would make you a partner in his wicked work.” That is when they come to you but the same holds if you go to them as Matthew 10:14 says, “And if anyone will not welcome you or heed your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” or in other words, have nothing to do with such people. Do not harm, do not oppress, simply avoid. Do not associate with them and do not allow them into your home. Mark 6:11, Luke 10:11 and Acts 13:51 all say the same thing just in case anyone thinks I might be taking things out of context.

The final point that I think needs to be made, which all of this tends to broadly coincide with, is the notion that Christianity should not even acknowledge nationality but should instead embrace the revolutionary “brotherhood of man” type concept. According to this way of thinking, everyone is your neighbor and even your brother or sister. This is not only wrong, this is anti-Christian. The fundamental mistake that well-meaning people make in parroting this line is to confuse the flock with the faith. Christianity is for all people and does not change according to time, place or nationality. That is not the same as saying these distinctions do not exist and, again, the Bible actually makes clear that the exact opposite is true. How many times does the Bible reiterate the commandment to “Honor your father and mother” to receive God’s blessing? This, particularly in the Old Testament days when people lived much longer, is a command to honor *you* ancestors who are, obviously, not going to be the same as those of everyone else. The numerous genealogical tables found throughout the Bible also attest to the importance of your blood ties, your ancestry, the history and bonds of your family and your people.

Isaiah 51:1 says, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug.” In other words, honor your heritage, know the history, customs and traditions of your people, your ancestors. Nor can this be confined to the Old Testament as I Timothy 5:8 says, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This means you take care of your own first, your own family and your own people are your first priority before helping others. This means that the “Good Samaritan” would not have been good if he had left his fellow Samaritans to starve so he could help the Jew on the side of the road. Although when it comes to the “Migrant Crisis” the focus is on Europe, this part is also very demonstrative for the United States and the influx from Latin America, all of which is Christian and has been for longer than North America. You take care of your own and it is precisely because Christianity is the same for all people in all places, that Christian mercy stuff does not just apply to Americans but applies to everyone south of the border too. You take care of your own, you do not shuttle them along for someone else to deal with for you.

However, on this issue the one verse that the “brotherhood of man” types invariably bring up is the line from Galatians 3:28 which says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” and, I must say, when it gets to this point you can start planning your victory dance because you are about to win the argument. This verse does not mean that all of these things are the same but that *Christ is the same* for all of them. There is not one Jesus for Swedes and another Jesus for Somalis, there is only Jesus. This is why, in Acts chapter 15, St Peter said that Christianity is not only for the Jews but for the Greeks and Romans as well and that they did not have to be circumcised. This is why Christians do not keep kosher, because such was not their custom, they did not have to become Jews in order to be Christians. Jesus is the same for all people everywhere but people are different and they do not have to all be made the same. Obviously, there were differences between Jews and Greeks as this shows, just as the distinctions between slave and free or male and female no longer ceased to exist. St Paul was approached by a runaway slave and he sent him back to his master, women were told to keep their heads covered in church and so on, there are numerous other verses showing that Christianity did not mean that men and women or different nationalities were all interchangeable but that the faith was the same and the need for the faith was the same for all people everywhere.

This is why, as with Christianity as I suppose it would be with anything else, you must take the entirety of it and not hand pick the bits out that please you. All people need salvation and that salvation is open to all but that does not change the fact that your family and then your people are your first priority. This goes back, again, to the “good neighbor” point. You cannot be a good Christian or a good neighbor on behalf of someone else. To say you will accept the responsibility of dealing with someone else’s problems is only to encourage them to carry on being a bad neighbor or a bad Christian or no Christian at all. Remember that Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart and then, secondarily, to love your neighbor *as yourself*. This means that loving your neighbor in the Christian context is predicated on loving yourself first and if you are displacing your own people for another, you obviously do not love yourself and are, therefore, incapable of loving your neighbor!

The Bible clearly does not teach that all the people in the world are the same and interchangeable. Far from that, the Bible teaches people to have “in group preference”. It says to honor *your* forebears, take care of *your* own family and *your* own people before taking care of anyone else, it says that the teachings of Christ are for all people and not for some people to observe on behalf of other people. It says that the greatest thing you can do is save others from eternal damnation but if people refuse that gift, you are to have nothing to do with them and not even wish them well as you would be wishing them well on a destructive path. For a Christian country such as Poland being asked to take in Muslim migrants, even being scolded by the Catholic hierarchy for being reluctant to do so, the simple fact is that the Bible says not to welcome such people at all, not into your country, not even into your home. There are many *extremely* wealthy Muslim countries which could be taking care of their own just as there are many countries in between Somalia and Sweden for neighborliness to apply. The point about Christianity and Christian morals being the same for everyone means that you take care of yours and that everyone else does the same. You cannot be a good neighbor *for* someone else and taking care of others before you have taken care of your own is specifically anti-Christian. As with so many things these days, actual Christianity is the complete opposite of what so many so-called Christian leaders say that it is. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Day, On the Bright Side

Tomorrow the United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day (though I myself do not) and someone online yesterday came at me with powerful volley against the holiday, probably having read previously that I do not celebrate it and expecting me to concur. I did somewhat but certainly not entirely. This was all the more strange in that this person did celebrate Thanksgiving and will be doing so again. If you think something is as bad as he seemed to, I would think the right thing to do would be to not take part. However, while I, myself, do not, I have said before that I have no problem with those who do and I have no special animus against the holiday. Giving thanks is good, we are supposed to give thanks all the time and these days a great many people have a serious lack of gratitude at every level in my opinion. So, having said before that I do not celebrate it and why I do not, I thought, in the interest of goodwill and truth, I would assuage any anxiety good monarchists might have about it.

The strangest thing the person I spoke to hit me with was the notion that Thanksgiving Day was some sort of Puritanical conspiracy to replace Christmas. Rest assured, there is nothing to such a notion. Thanksgiving was most widely celebrated in various ways at various times by people in New England who, early on, probably were not celebrating Christmas anyway (Puritans tended to dislike the holiday). By the time Thanksgiving became an official, national holiday the Puritans were long extinct and today Christmas (thanks to consumerism) is more apt to displace Thanksgiving Day than the other way around. So, I can hardly see how such an idea could have anything behind it. The Puritan origins are not something I am fond of, thanks to their embrace of republicanism later on, but it is entirely up to you and may depend on where you live if the Puritans had anything to do with it anyway. Ask any native of the Old Dominion state of Virginia and they will proudly tell you that the first Thanksgiving was not celebrated in New England at all but in Virginia by English colonists who were certainly not Puritans (depicted in the image above).

Texans, as I have written about before, know that both are wrong and that the first Thanksgiving in what would become the United States was celebrated in west Texas near what is now El Paso. However, to this day it is still a matter of debate as to where the tradition started in the English colonies, whether Virginia or Massachusetts. I may be biased but it seems to me the Virginians have the stronger claim, having it actually set out in a legal charter from 1619 whereas in New England it was simply a local custom with no official backing that I ever heard of. The New England Pilgrims, as I did mention before, professed their loyalty to King James I of Great Britain though I personally have my doubts about their absolute sincerity. There would, however, be little room for such doubts about the colonists of Virginia who were not Puritans and who even named their colony after England's most famous queen. Virginia, at least up until the War for Independence, was considered rather more on the royalist side compared to some others.

Thanksgiving Day did not become an official holiday until centuries later, even quite a while after the United States had already been established. It was first decreed in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln and this had practically nothing to do with the early English colonists but was supposed to be a day of thanksgiving for the recent victories of the Union armies during the American Civil War. Needless to say, this meant that the holiday did not catch on in the south for a very long time. I might also add that in Canada the Thanksgiving Day holiday has very explicitly royalist origins, being first celebrated to give thanks for the recovery of the Prince of Wales after a serious illness and later moved to its current place on the calendar so as not to detract from the rather more solemn observance of Armistice Day after World War I.

I would say one of the good things about Thanksgiving Day is to call to mind the colonial history of America which is all too often forgotten, that life in what is now the United States did not suddenly begin in 1783 and certainly not in 1776 but goes back to those colonists from the Kingdom of England and the conquistadors of the Kingdom of Spain, the Voyageurs of the Kingdom of France and so on and so forth. It can be an occasion to highlight the European roots of the country, its existence as a product of Western Civilization and that every last corner of this land was once reigned over by hereditary monarchs. America has its roots in the empires of Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain, even Russia and to lesser extent a few others and those roots are not republican or anything to do with the revolutionary claptrap that is still being sold to people today. For myself, family gatherings have lost their appeal as not many of my family are left at this point and I will be spending the holiday alone. However, I do not think there is anything inherently wrong with it, giving thanks is good, focusing on the family is good and if you choose to celebrate it, I wish you all the best and hope you make the best of the occasion.

Related Posts:
The Real "First Thanksgiving"
Why I Don't "Do" Thanksgiving

Monday, November 20, 2017

MM Movie Review: The Last Samurai

“The Last Samurai” is a 2003 film I shall classify as “historical fiction” directed by Edward Zwick and starring Tom Cruise, Timothy Spall and Ken Watanabe. In describing what the film is about one of the major problems with it comes up immediately. As it is entirely a work of fiction, there is some debate over exactly what events the filmmakers are trying to portray here. It depicts a washed-up American cavalry officer who is hired by the government of Meiji Japan to train the newly established Imperial Japanese Army. This officer, Captain Nathan Algren played by Tom Cruise, is a veteran of the Indian Wars who is haunted by his experiences, particularly the atrocities committed by his unit in fighting the American Indians. He is then pushed into acting as an advisor to the Imperial Japanese Army as they confront an army of rebel samurai. Algren is taken prisoner by these samurai rebels, comes to sympathize with their cause, seeing them as analogous to the American Indians who fought the U.S. government, and finally joins them in their “last stand” against the imperial army.

Teaching the Japanese what they already would've known..
One thing to make clear at the outset is that absolutely nothing even remotely like this ever happened in Japanese history. However, the events in the film are generally said to have been inspired by the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 with the leader of the samurai rebels, Lord Moritsugu Katsumoto played by Ken Watanabe, standing in for the historical figure of Saigo Takamori. The character in the film, however, is nothing like the historical figure and no one like the character of Captain Algren ever existed at all. He is portrayed as an alcoholic, haunted by demons from his past, forced to take a job because of his desperate poverty. His former superior officer who recruits him for this job in Japan is a moustache-twirling villain who is hired by equally stereotypical villainous Japanese government officials who are portrayed as cruel and corrupt, dominating the noble, young, Meiji Emperor to enrich themselves in collaboration with the unscrupulous Americans. Again, nothing like this ever happened. Captain Algren begins training the Imperial Japanese Army but, before he thinks they are ready, these men are sent into combat after a series of attacks by samurai rebels.

If all else fails...CHARGE!!!
For some reason, despite being hired simply as a military instructor, Algren accompanies these soldiers on their campaign and, of course, ends up taking part in the battle, effectively commanding them, they are wiped out easily by the samurai and Algren is taken prisoner. Held in the stronghold of the rebels in a remote village, he lives with the wife of a samurai he had killed in the battle, eventually learns Japanese and comes to sympathize with his captors. He trains with them, learns their ways, all in a part of the film that has caused many to refer to this as “Dances with Wolves” set in Japan. Finally, the rebel leader Katsumoto goes to the capital to attend a council meeting in which he hopes to convince the Meiji Emperor to see things his way. However, he doesn’t attend the meeting at all because he refuses to take off his swords, the wicked government officials try to assassinate him and Algren goes with him to prepare for the final battle. Algren becomes a samurai and fights with Katsumoto in the climactic battle of the movie against the Imperial Army, presumably based on the historic Battle of Shiroyama though of course what happens in the film is nothing like what happened in real life.

Brunet
The most obvious problem with this movie is Tom Cruise and his character. The Japanese did not hire American veterans to train their army. During the period of modernization the Meiji government did try to learn from the west but they were much more influenced by the European powers such as Britain, France and Germany than by the United States. The U.S. had obviously played the decisive part in opening Japan up to the outside world but after that point American involvement was minimal. Indeed, the closest historical parallel to the character of Algren is usually given to be Captain Jules Brunet of the French army, however his involvement in Japan was earlier than the period depicted in this film. He was involved in the Boshin War, part of the fighting over the Meiji Restoration, not the subsequent modernization that happened in Japan. This, however, necessitates pointing out another glaring inaccuracy in the film which is the attitude of the rebel samurai toward foreigners and foreign ideas and tools, particularly weapons.

Muskets and volley fire were long established
In the movie, the rebel samurai are portrayed as fighting for the pure soul of Japan, Japanese tradition and as a matter of honor only fight with traditional Japanese weapons. This means they do not use firearms. Pardon me for being blunt but this is flat out retarded. The samurai rebels of the Satsuma rebellion were, to an extent, fighting for traditional ways but they were not stupid and would not refuse to use weapons that would help their cause. The Japanese had been using firearms for centuries ever since the first Portuguese explorers came to Japan and showed them what they were and how they worked. The Japanese immediately built their own firearms and used them forever after. Ranks of ashigaru armed with muskets were a staple of Japanese samurai armies throughout the famous Sengoku Period. Prior to the period of isolation under the Tokugawa Shogunate, many Japanese daimyos made extensive use of firearms with muskets, artillery and naval canon. The man who began the reunification of Japan, Oda Nobunaga, was one of the most enthusiastic about these western innovations.

Personally, I have often imagined what might have happened if Oda Nobunaga had not been assassinated, imagining Japan being united and modernizing earlier and sailing out into the northern Pacific to get in on the colonization of North America via Alaska and California, but that is getting off topic. The point is that no one in Japan would have considered firearms to be dishonorable or even “foreign” at all considering that they had been making and using such weapons for centuries to the point that their warfare was dominated by them long before Commodore Perry ever appeared on the horizon. This also highlights the way the film tries to simplify everything by having one side working with foreign powers and the other side shunning them (aside from Algren of course who adopts Japanese ways). The open to foreigners versus nativist dynamic was not the primary element of the Satsuma Rebellion but would have been more closely related to that of the previous Boshin War. However, even then, it was not so simple as both the shogunate and imperial forces had foreign powers they worked with against each other. As the historical case of Captain Brunet demonstrates, the forces loyal to the shogun had French backers whereas the imperial forces had British support.

Saigo Takamori
Brunet himself wrote to Napoleon III that the daimyos loyal to the shogun were friendly to France and that their victory would mean a greater French influence in the future Japan. No doubt the British backed the imperial forces for the same reason. Neither were open allies of course and neither would have all that much greater a position of favor in Meiji Japan but the point is that each side had foreign support and the rebels were not so puritanical as to shun any and all outside assistance. They would even ultimately adopt a rather foreign government model with a republic and a president; the Republic of Ezo. Their system was, to an extent, inspired by that of the United States yet there was no significant American involvement in this and it all happened in 1869, long before the events portrayed in this film. Saigo Takamori, on whom Katsumoto is based, fought with firearms as Japanese armies had long done, he often wore the western-inspired uniform (most similar to that of the French army of the time) as did the earlier rebel leaders of the Boshin War. Captain Brunet, it should also be mentioned, quite unlike Algren, did not ‘go native’ but rather insisted the Japanese adopt French customs.

Moreover, Saigo Takamori was no isolationist or backward-looking reactionary. He had supported the imperial party in the Meiji Restoration, he helped in the modernization and formation of the Imperial Japanese Army and advocated the conquest of Korea as a way to unite the country, gain foreign respect and provide the disgruntled samurai with an honorable death in battle. Far from shunning western technology, he established his own network of military academies throughout his prefecture and opened his own artillery school. Rebellion broke out when the imperial government tried to disarm these academies, fearing they could pose a threat and inadvertently provoking the very rebellion they had hoped to prevent. Saigo Takamori agreed to lead the rebellion that had already broken out, wearing his western-style army uniform at the head of a column of well-armed men who had raided government arsenals in order to do no more than demand reforms and the removal of corrupt officials and their replacement by men of more traditional Japanese morality.

The Battle of Shiroyama
The film is correct in depicting Katsumoto as a reluctant rebel. Saigo Takamori was insistent that he did not desire war and was loyal to the Emperor, that his only concerns regarded the government but the government would agree to nothing under threat of force and so warfare ensued. However, unlike in the film, the rebel forces never won any significant victories over the imperial forces. Their final confrontation, the Battle of Shiroyama, was not like what was depicted in the film at all but was similar at least in so far as it was an extremely heroic stand against impossible odds. The rebels were outnumbered roughly 60-to-1, were intensely shelled and faced assaults by huge numbers of imperial troops until the last handful of survivors drew their swords and charged to certain death. Saigo Takamori did not survive the battle though there is some dispute as to whether he died of his wounds or committed ritual suicide. Either way, even those who blamed the rebellion for setting back the Japanese economy and causing the samurai class to be viewed with suspicion could not help but admire the heroism of Saigo Takamori and his men.

His Majesty the Meiji Emperor did pardon Saigo Takamori posthumously but it is rather overstretching things to say, as the film does, that this gave Emperor Meiji the courage to slow down westernization and insist on Japanese traditions being retained. This was not something that the actual Meiji Emperor needed to learn. His father had been the most vociferous in rejecting any foreign contact with Japan at all and the Meiji Emperor was always cautious and rather suspect when it came to foreigners from the very beginning. He simply understood that isolation was no longer an option and if Japan was to avoid being dominated by foreigners, it would have to become as strong as the other foreign powers and this, during his reign, the Empire of Japan managed astoundingly well.

Low ranking foreign devils meet the Emperor
On the whole, “The Last Samurai” seems rather too full of tropes and very much lacking in any semblance to actual history. It is very well photographed, the visuals are extremely good and it at least does not ultimately depict the lone westerner as the one who saves the day. Algren is just along for the ride. It can be very moving at times and does get some things right, at least in terms of overall sentiment, which is to say being ‘true to life’ rather than actually true. I did like the scene toward the end when the imperial soldiers all bow down in respect to the courage of the defeated samurai rebels. Actual history is practically nonexistent. What is portrayed is simply not what happened in the Satsuma Rebellion, the rebels did not refrain from using firearms, the imperial army was not inept and not trained by American soldiers nor would any hired captain ever have been allowed into the presence of the Emperor. However, the actors mostly do very well, it can be entertaining and you do get to see Tom Cruise get the ever living crap beaten out of him on several occasions. There is that.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The State of the Khmer Kingdom Today

The often overlooked Kingdom of Cambodia was in the news recently as the pliant Supreme Court ruled to ban the primary opposition party in the country, clearing the way for the ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen of the Cambodian People's Party to sail to (another) easy victory in upcoming elections. I tend to think that many monarchists pay too little attention to Cambodia, thinking that since the monarchy was restored, the important job was done and we could move on. The truth, as usual, is not so simple and I am particularly sensitive to this case. I have personal ties to the Khmer kingdom that make it impossible for me to gloss over. I have family who were involved in the war there, both the U.S. and Vietnamese interventions, a Cambodian cousin (by marriage) and another cousin who moved there with her family last year. If you know what the situation is like 'on the ground' you will know that Cambodia is nothing like its official description as a run-of-the-mill "constitutional monarchy". It is effectively a socialist dictatorship using the monarchy for cover.

A Khmer Rouge King
As usual, to understand the situation, one has to look back at the recent history of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Prior to World War II the country was effectively a colony as part of French Indochina. In 1941, thinking he would be easier to work with, the French authorities influenced the Crown Council to choose Norodom Sihanouk to succeed his grandfather as King. He remained in power during the Japanese occupation, declared independence from France at their prompting and essentially held power in the country ever since 1941 (he did abdicate for a time in favor of his father but still held control of the government during that time). He became extremely popular but as communist subversion increased in the country, King Norodom Sihanouk tried to play both sides of the fence between the French and later the Americans on one side and the communists, particularly China, on the other. Ultimately, anti-communist/anti-Vietnamese uprising resulted in the King being deposed in 1970 while he was out of the country and replaced by General Lon Nol. This caused King Sihanouk to do an 'about face' and urge his people to go to the jungle and join the communist Khmer Rouge.

When the U.S. pulled out of Indochina, the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975 and enacted a puritanical, fanatical, communist makeover of the country with the King as their 'front man' on the world stage. This has led to some lasting controversy given that the Khmer Rouge butchered about a third of the entire population during their time in power. They were not removed until the ruling dictator, Pol Pot, insanely launched an attack on the neighboring Socialist Republic of Vietnam. He may have expected that his forces and China would crush the Vietnamese between them but he learned the hard way what the Americans, French and others, including the Chinese themselves, could have told him; fighting the Vietnamese is not something to take lightly. The Vietnamese basically wiped the floor with Pol Pot's forces, took over the country and installed their own government in 1979. One of the figures they put in power was a former Khmer Rouge cadre leader named (you guessed it) Hun Sen who had fled to Vietnam several years earlier. The Chinese did not approve of this, having backed the Khmer Rouge and because the Vietnamese were backed by Soviet Russia with whom China had a very tense relationship. However, King Sihanouk refused to go along with any pro-Khmer Rouge at this point, being glad to finally be free of them.

Prince Ranariddh
Under various titles, Hun Sen has effectively been dictator of Cambodia ever since the Vietnamese installed him after overthrowing Pol Pot. The UN finally got involved, held elections and the people voted to restore the monarchy so King Norodom Sihanouk was back but Hun Sen was going nowhere. He was forced to join in a nominal coalition government with the royalist party FUNCINPEC, an opposition party founded by the King and led by his second son Prince Norodom Ranariddh. It seemed like a basically normal constitutional monarchy from the outside but such appearances were deceiving. Hun Sen still had the strongest position and in 1997 carried out a coup against Prince Ranariddh when the Prince started to publicly complain about Hun Sen have more than half the power he was supposed to have. In the next elections, and practically every election in Cambodia has been deemed highly suspect, Hun Sen became sole Prime Minister and immediately began building up a cult of personality around himself as the "strong man" leader of Cambodia. King Norodom Sihanouk, who had more political experience than anyone, had his number from day one, famously referring to Hun Sen as the "one eyed lackey of the Vietnamese". However, Hun Sen still had opposition parties to deal with and the very revered King to at least hinder him if not stop him from doing whatever he wants.

The opposition parties were not terribly difficult to deal with. Hun Sen could always find an excuse to arrest opposition figures, suspend their rights or in some way make sure that his party came first in every subsequent election. A favorite tactic of his, used more than once, was to take advantage of the long-standing dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the exact location of their border. Whenever an election was coming up, Hun Sen would send military forces to the border, the Thais would respond by sending their own troops to the border and this was used as justification for Hun Sen to declare a state of emergency and martial law, putting the army on the ground to make sure people voted for the CCP, and then backing off when the elections were over. The only one with the prestige to challenge Hun Sen was King Sihanouk who, while his actual powers were extremely limited, could be a major problem for the prime minister due to his widespread popularity. King Sihanouk could force Hun Sen to back down by threatening to abdicate and the King still had considerable support from China, though many Chinese communists wondered why they spent so much money on a foreigner and a monarch.

King Sihamoni w/ King Sihanouk
When King Sihanouk died, in Peking, in 2012 the largest obstacle to Hun Sen was removed. In my opinion, I think King Sihanouk wanted Prince Norodom Ranariddh to succeed him but, and again this is only my opinion, the Crown Council chose Norodom Sihamoni to be the next monarch. Prince Ranariddh had his problems, whether genuine or arranged by his enemies in the ruling party, who can say, but it seems to me that the Crown Council was influenced by Hun Sen to choose Prince Norodom Sihamoni because he wanted someone who would not pose a political threat to his hold on power and not be as difficult and opinionated as King Sihanouk had been. King Sihamoni seems a very nice man and all Cambodians should be loyal to him, however, it just seems to me that when your choice for king is a gay ballerina from France, you are probably choosing someone who does not fit the bill of a king likely to stand up to a dictatorial prime minister. The royalist opposition has been divided with Prince Ranariddh forming his own party for a time and it is anyone's guess if this was a legitimate internal dispute or not. Personally, I suspect the CCP of being involved in breaking up their biggest rival but I may just be paranoid. Anyway, the bottom line is that there is no longer a monarch with the experience, international support and local prestige to stand up to Hun Sen, the royalists have been troubled by scandal and division and now the primary opposition party has been banned and, it is no coincidence, just before national elections.

Cambodia still has ties to Communist China but the reality that people need to understand is that the country is a dictatorship under Hun Sen with a figurehead monarch. If you want to know who is really in control, it is not that difficult if you take a broad view and not get bogged down in the local political squabbles that often do not amount to munch (even the royalists have long been accused of being what Americans would call 'controlled opposition'). Remember that the communist Vietnamese "founding father" Ho Chi Minh had originally founded the Indochinese Communist Party and he expected and planned to become the communist dictator of all of what had been French Indochina, not just his native Vietnam. Keeping that in mind, recall that Laos is effectively under Vietnamese occupation to this day and that Hun Sen was first put in power in Cambodia by the Communist Vietnamese and has remained in power ever since. If you ever go to Cambodia you will also notice that the army officers all speak Vietnamese. That should be a huge, huge clue as to who is really in charge in Cambodia and who is pulling the strings of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The King is still there but Cambodia is still in need of a true royal restoration.
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