[Written in Africa]
As I said at the outset, not every phenomenon described in this series has been ‘communist’ per se. In many cases it has simply been authoritarian, or irrational, or pig-headed. Communism takes on different shapes depending on the culture where it takes root, and that is how the system has so far turned out here.
Living in this country has made me rethink what communism really is – what defines it, what underlying philosophy or psychology motivates it, what maintains it against all available evidence of the harm that it causes.
My conclusion: the communist mindset, similar to that of the fascist mindset, is that the government knows better than the people do how they should live their own lives.
– The government knows better than you whether you should be allowed to leave the country or not.
– The government knows better than you how much water, gas, paint, bread etc. should cost, even if the buyer and seller have independently agreed on a different price.
– The government knows better than you how much cooking gas you ought to be allowed to purchase per month.
– The government knows better than you where you should be allowed to travel within the country.
– The government knows better than you how much money you should be allowed to withdraw from your account, and under what circumstances.
– The government knows better than you where you should work and how much you should be paid.
– The government knows better than you what you should be allowed to read, hear, say, broadcast or publish.
And so on, for every facet of life.
Picture the sheer audacity of it – for one man to think that he knows better how millions of people ought to live their lives than they do themselves. That by taking away their right to choose for themselves, he can arrange things in a much better way for everyone. And he doesn’t just think this, in an idle moment of intellectual laziness – he is absolutely certain of it, to the point of fighting a war, torturing and murdering people, and risking assassination, in order to gain and keep his position of absolute Boss who controls everyone else.
Think of it!
People say the Boss is highly intelligent, and I don’t doubt it. He is fluent in several languages and knows many things. Where he falls down is that there is one, simple economic fact that he is does not grasp: individuals in the aggregate know far more than any government.
Information is expensive. Ordinary people only have a little bit of it, but that is usually enough for their daily needs. A highly informed government staffed by the best and brightest cannot possibly have as much information as the total of that known by millions of citizens. Nor can they have this information in such a timely manner, nor could they react as quickly if they did. The people, even if simple and uneducated, know better.
I can see why communism was always going to take hold here – within this culture, people generally tend to think that they know better than everyone else, and to be quite obstinate in agitating for what they think ought to be. All these local traits push heavily in one direction, and that direction is left.
Yet one can see the same attitude in Western schoolmarm SJWs who think they know better than we do what we ought to be allowed to read, see on YouTube, and the same crowd are the ones who want to ban smoking, coal and cars.
They know best.
How does a communist society manage to limp along for such a painfully extended period of time? The Soviet Union hobbled along for more than 70 years. This one has not made it that far, but it really ought to have collapsed long ago. Why has it not done so? Was Atlas Shrugged all wrong?
Well, many people have ‘gone Galt’ and left the country – the majority, in fact, and the vast majority of those with any skills. As in Ayn Rand’s work, this has had repercussions as there are too few knowledgeable people around to run anything, hence bank transfers are no longer possible and the water supply has become laughably unreliable despite the fact that the dams are full.
But why does it not collapse? How has this zombie-country, emptied of its young, managed to keep on circling the bowl in perpetuity?
There are a few factors. First, remissions come in from overseas. These keep people alive who might otherwise die or cause trouble.
Second, the birthrate is still high. While many young people have fled, there are always new ones coming along to fill their places.
Third, and most significantly, what would a ‘collapse’ actually look like? It could not just be famine, economic standstill or infrastructure collapse because all of those have happened and yet the state apparatus is still strong.
A collapse seems to require a challenge to the ruling party, chaos, or a voluntary and radical change on the part of the rulers themselves. None of these has happened, and none seems likely to happen as there is no opposition active within the country and those who might rebel are either out bush on national service or have already escaped.
Some people like to say the communism must eventually fail under the weight of its own inefficiencies, but this is not true. A communist state can continue indefinitely, in extreme poverty and misery, until someone is willing to push it over.
And so the nation stumbles on, zombie-like, not forever but perhaps for a very long time.
[Edit] I have one final observation. While I prefer to remain in Zen-like isolation from my surroundings because I am a foreigner, now that I am out of the country I can express my disquiet about something.
Imagine you’re an old fellah living there. Your grandchildren have either fled or are stuck in national service, unable to marry or have any sort of normal life. You are poor but have enough to live on. You spend your time meeting your old mates, having tea at the bar, sitting in the park, enjoying the ambience. It’s a great place for retirees.
You see your country falling apart. You see the individual responsible for it.
There is an AK47 in every house.
Do you not think, maybe I should . . .
One old fellah would no doubt fail, but there are thousands of them. Do they really value their old man lives so much that they are unwilling to sacrifice anything for their descendants and their country? Don’t they care? Is all that tea and sunshine worth the shame of living in a failed state?
It’s none of my business. I advocate no course of action – foreigners must live their own lives and manage their own affairs. I don’t want to be just another guy who thinks he knows better than anyone else what everyone should do.
But I’ll tell you this: if any communist dictator tries to take over Australia and turn it into Eritrea, I will shoot him dead or die in the attempt.
. . . We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
That Shakespeare spoke: the faith and morals hold
Which Milton held . . .
Next up we’ll take a break from communism and commence a new series on poetry.
P.S. A free one month subscription to SovietMen for the first person to correctly identify the image reference at the top of this post. Second prize: two months.