Friday, November 05, 2010

Living in the Future. With Talking Giant Pandas.

One of the things I like about about living living in the future is access to CGI giant pandas that mock the odious "Chinese Professor" political ad. These are from Next Media Animation, first noticed for their CGI reenactments of recent news events like the Tiger Woods car crash. New technology lets people tell stories in ways that were not possible earlier. In this case, the result is both entertaining and a sharp critique of their target

And, incidentally, provides an example of how other countries becoming rich enriches us.

The original is eminently worthy of mockery.
Why do great nations fail? The ancient Greeks, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and the United States of America. They all make the same mistakes, turning their back on the principles that made them great.

Evidently, in 2030, Chinese history professors will be incompetent. OK, one theory is that the Romans turned their back on their former civic virtue. I don't buy it as sufficient explanation. I prefer the theory that as they expanded they found it increasingly difficult to keep powerful generals from seizing power. Also, they eventually reached the limits of what they could effectively administer and defend with contemporary technology, and their later foreign wars were no longer profitable wars of conquest but unprofitable and exhausting defensive campaigns. But some historians believe the decline of civic virtue theory, so it's not absurd.

But the Greeks? They had the misfortune to run into a ruthless enemy with superior tactical doctrine who had already conquered most of the western Mediterranean.

The British? They built an empire by having the best navy in Europe and being located where anyone in Europe that wanted to sail to places beyond the Mediterranean had to get past them. Inconveniently, someone invented a practical submarine, aircraft were developed that could threaten ships far out at sea, and Japan developed a formidable modern navy. Having a better navy than any combination of European nations was no longer enough. Defeating the Axis under those changed circumstances took Britain to the edge of bankruptcy.

Another principle that made the British Empire great was allowing its colonies a relatively high level of freedom and self-government. Its greatest failure was not giving enough freedom to the 13 colonies to keep them in the empire. Ruling in this way made the British Empire far more durable and prosperous than the Spanish.

It did mean that as the colonies developed the capacity to survive as independent states and the capacity to govern themselves, they would eventually seek and obtain independence. By letting the former colonies become allies rather than slaves, Britain did not turn her back on her principles, but followed them. That was not failure, but greatness.

This is why history matters. I want my fellow citizens to know enough about history to recognize nonsense like this when they see it.

Here the same artists have fun with Christine O'Donnell

CGI giant pandas mocking the mockworthy. It's a wonderful life.

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