Agents

One of the keys to understanding egghead psychology — insofar as it can be understood — is the concept of agency.  It means “the ability to meaningfully influence events.”  Brown people, obviously, don’t have it, as they’re forever getting colonized / exploited / murdered by cops as they’re holding their hands up to show that they’re harmless gentle giants walking back from their Advanced Calculus classes on their way to mentor gay disabled Cub Scouts.  But here’s the thing: White people don’t have it, either.  In fact, no one does.

Consider the British Raj.  This should be the paradigm case of eeeevil White people sticking it to noble, helpless brown people, and indeed, it sure looks that way on the surface.  There’s an entire academic discipline, Subaltern Studies, that exists only to dredge up new Subcontinental grievances.  But if you look a little closer….

How the hell did 200,000 White folks, max, hold down a native population in the hundreds of millions?  That question has baffled the History biz for decades.  Even those of us who resisted the compulsory enstupidation of K-thru-college education tend to wonder at it.  The answer — are you ready? — is so simple, so obvious, that it’s right there in our faces, and only loooong indoctrination, by the entire culture, could make us miss it:

The natives don’t think of themselves as The Natives.

It’s a category error.  If you’ve ever been to India… hell, if you’ve ever even looked at a map of India, you’ll notice that the place is huge.  It’s got hundreds, probably thousands, of distinct ethnic groups, each following their own customs and speaking their own language (India has, sez Wiki, “1635 rationalised mother tongues, 234 identifiable mother tongues and 22 major languages” as of 2001, the last official census data released).  The “official” language, Hindi, is spoken by less than half the country (and it’s Hindi-lite; the real thing is spoken by about 25%, which is probably somewhere close to the number of English speakers.  The problem with trying to learn a Subcontinental language, I’m told by people who’ve done it, is that everyone you meet wants to practice their English on you).

How do you convince an “Indian” from Bangalore to obey you, even to the point of fighting other “Indians” from Delhi?  Simple: Point out that Delhi is a thousand miles away, they speak a different language there, practice a different religion… It’s the same way you get a Frenchman to fight a Russian, or a Scotsman to fight an Englishman.  And that’s how the British did it.  It was really that easy — well into the 19th century, the “British” were just another political group, to be allied with, fought against, or ignored, as the situation dictated.

Race didn’t matter much until the Mutiny, and even there, the best explanation for “British” victory isn’t race, but politics.  The British thought of themselves as “The British,” all right — a small, easily identifiable minority, under real and constant threat — but “the natives” were what they always were: A loose collection of wildly different peoples.  The British had simple, straightforward war aims: The return to the status quo antebellum, which they could describe in exquisite detail.  They could also woo reluctant rebels back with detailed, implementable promises of reform.

The “natives,” on the other hand, had no grand plan.  How could they?  Once the British were gone from each region — a shockingly simple accomplishment — the local powers had to figure out, now what?  The seventeen zillion princely states still had longstanding beef with each other, Delhi was still a thousand miles away from Bangalore, and the “natives” were still just human beings, which meant that they immediately took advantage of the chaos to settle all their longstanding grudges with each other.  So long as the British held firm — and they were 10,000 miles from home, with no hope of reinforcements in under 6 months — and didn’t do something unforgivably stupid, the “natives” were hosed.

So it would seem that “the British,” at least, had “agency.”  But… did they?  Here’s where it gets interesting.  You can find named individuals, who did specific things that contributed to the Mutiny’s suppression — Hodson really did have Bahadur Shah’s sons killed after recapturing Delhi, and the archives probably have the name of the officer who had mutinous sepoys blown from cannon at Ferozepore.  Did Hodgson, then, and Left-tenant Smith (or whoever he was) have agency?

It sounds that way, but there’s fierce debate over the impact — if any — of any of those decisions.  The “bloody gate” still exists in Delhi; did it crush the last spirit of the rebellion, or inflame last desperate acts of resistance?  Ditto blowing from cannons — it’s a hideous way to die; if that’s what I’m in for, I’ll go down fighting, thankyaverramuch.  So Hodson fails the agency test.  He did what he did, but what difference, at that point, did it make?

As with everything Liberals say, details defeat them.  Just as no Liberal knows which specific regulations he wants back, to counter the horrible effects of “deregulation” of the ___ industry, so no professor would ever assign “agency” to a named individual, if for no other reason than it would let someone else get tenure by denying it.  No, really: I was a part-time prof at best, and I could easily construct an “argument” painting Hodson as a victim of systemic class prejudice in the Indian Army.

That’s the key.  I went into all that detail because I wanted you to see two things.  The first — how much effort eggheads make to escape the obvious, and how successful their efforts have been — I’ve written about a zillion times before.  The second is relevant here: In the crunch, nobody has “agency.”  The vast, panoramic sweep of History is just the interplay of impersonal forces, like “Racism” and “Capitalism;” when you get right down to it, individuals don’t matter.  At all.  And if individuals don’t matter, then they — the professors themselves — don’t matter.

Which is why they say the things they say and do the things they do.  Have you ever played CivilizationSim City, or a game like that?  Hell, ever played Monopoly?  It’s fun sometimes to do goofy, counter-intuitive things, and why not?  You don’t really get thrown in jail if you can’t pay the mortgage at St. James Place, any more than the residents of Sim City really get stomped when you unleash Godzilla on them.  Just to stick with a theme, anyone who’s old enough and nerdy enough remembers Civilization‘s “nuclear Gandhi.”  Who hasn’t ICBM’d that asshole a few times, just on general principles?

It’s all a game to these people, and since they’re in total control of their environment, it’ll be beyond Thunderdome in the outside world before they’re forced to confront Reality.

And that’s the attitude they’re teaching your kids.

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