19 December 2010

The rest of the story

When the nation's narrative begins with abundance and security the rest of the story, of necessity, becomes one of descent and decay. 
"The full impact of the African experience was first realized by leaders of the mob, like Carl Peters, who decided that they too had to belong to a master race. African colonial possessions became the most fertile soil for the flowering of what later was to become the Nazi elite. Here they had seen with their own eyes how peoples could be converted into races and how, simply by taking the initiative in this process, one might push one's own people into the position of the master race. Here they were cured of the illusion that the historical process is necessarily 'progressive,' for if it was the course of older colonization to trek to something, the 'Dutchmen trekked away from everything,' and if 'economic history had taught that man had developed by gradual steps from a life of hunting to pastoral pursuits and finally to a settled and agricultural life,' the story of the Boers clearly demonstrated that one could also come 'from a land that had taken the lead in a thrifty and intensive cultivation ... [and] gradually become a herdsman and a hunter.' These leaders understood very well that precisely because the Boers had sunk back to the level of the savage tribes they remained their undisputed masters. They were perfectly willing to pay the price, to recede to the level of a race organization, if by so doing they could buy lordship over other 'races.' And they knew from their experiences with people gathered from the four corners of the earth in South Africa that the whole mob of the Western civilized world would be with them." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 206). 
If the story of progress is told well by the story of the ascent of institutions that create a self-regulating marketplace, the story of regress is told well by the  story of the descent of institutions into a self-serving capture of the political process. That switch from flourishing economic determinants to degenerate political ones is what is accomplished under the effects of the resource curse. 

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