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The myth of interdependence

By Bruce Walker
web posted September 8, 2003

Interdependence is a modern myth accepted as sacred truth. Globally, interdependence means that the different nations and various regions of the world need each other. Socially, interdependence means that different members of society are equally important. Personally, interdependence is the essential quality of success, usually summed up in the ubiquitous term "networking."

Global interdependence is manifestly not part of human history, and although a degree of interdependence arose during the periods of industrialization and colonization, the trend is toward less and less dependence upon other parts of the world.

Imperial Germany in the Great War was brought to its knees by the blockade, even though that nation was a genuine superpower which ending up occupying a good portion of the Russian Empire. Britain also, during the periods of unrestricted U-Boat warfare, was almost brought to forced peace during the Great War.

The democracies assumed that blockade would bring Hitler down in 1939, although Germany proved vastly more capable of supplying its own needs during the longer Second World War. Even excluding expropriations from conquered territories, Nazi Germany simply never suffered hardships as a consequence of blockade. Had the Allies not invested immense resources into strategic bombing, the standard of living in Nazi Germany would have actually risen during the course of the war.

Today, the economy is surely more "global" than ever before. Trade is easy. Information flows quickly around the world. But the impact of efficient trade and communication is not survival or even comfort. It is an increase in relative comfort. The impact of technology and invention has been to make nations increasing independent, not interdependent, upon trading partners.
No longer, we are told, can nations live alone. This has never been less true. During the First World War, the blockade ultimately brought Imperial Germany to its knees.

Nazis prepared Germany for autarky or complete independence from foreign resources. Dismissed as crazy by internationalists at the time and even by later historians, autarky actually worked incredibly well. Even discounting resources seized by conquered nations, Nazi Germany suffered no serious material deprivations during the war, except those created by allied bombing.

Oil, rubber, coffee and almost everything else could be created synthetically, and food production was enough to feed Germany with few imports at all. Had Germany not been at war, it could have shut its borders completely and lived in reasonable comfort, and Germany did not even go on a wartime footing until 1942, three years into the war.

Even more stunning are the examples of Sweden and Switzerland, which suffered hardships, but which never came close to being forced into allegiance with the Axis, despite being nations with little farmland which were completely surrounded by the Third Reich and its allies.

America, Russia and China could close their respective borders completely and continue with adequate food, fuel and industrial production to live fairly well. Trade is important for economic growth and niceties, but not to maintain a healthy and productive society.

Within America this myth of interdependence appears in the guise of "diversity" and "education." Unless we live together, we cannot truly live as Americans. This is also simply not true. America is filled with groups who live apart, live well apart, and could survive if the rest of humanity vanished tomorrow: Hassidim, Amish and Mormons are among the most prominent examples of this.

The myth of interdependence is most insidious when it permeates society to a level which many of us accept blithely without understanding what we are embracing. Consider, for example, the perfectly innocent injunction made by people of every political and philosophical persuasion that we should "network" more to improve our lives.

Networking is considered a good per se because it leads to greater material success. But what is the utility of greater material success? Modern nations - those nations which are not "modern" have chosen not to be - can easily feed, clothe, house and care for their populations. The amount of time each week spent to actually produce these goods is piddling.

Consequently "networking" must be intended to provide other intangible benefits. Certainly an exploration of reality in all its manifold expressions and from all the myriad perspectives of perception and contemplation is a critical pleasure of consciousness. What passes as an interchange of thought and sentiment, however, has become a deliberate blurring of distinction.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous example the compromises needed to encourage this superficial and silly "networking" is the proliferation of euphemisms and neologisms with the stated purpose of modifying cognition. Much of this is the odious and infamous Newspeak of political correctness, a subject about which little more needs to be said.

But even in the jumping world of commerce and enterprise, this dilution of difference pops up more and more. Problems have become "challenges" and motivational speakers who have no sympathy for the crones of feminism embrace the replacement of a descriptive word like "problem" or "difficulty" with the Orwellian "challenge."

Corporations have notoriously adopted the "we are one" consensus approach to society and industry which made Japan Inc. so fabulously popular in the 1970s. Vision statements, mission statements, etc. are developed and proclaimed without fundamental issues - do we really have anything in common or share the same values? - left implicitly irrelevant.

What is both tragic and comic about this slippery descent into coerced community is that the ultimate goals - monopoly money in an age of electronically calibrated financial values - comes at a time in history when almost all true wealth comes from the minds of misfit creators and isolated thinkers.

Homogeny in thought, language and sentiments has no value. Replication is conspicuous in mass consumer economies, and when people become interchangeable parts then they acquire the same value as the British Army at the Battle of the Somme or the latest cacophony of mimicry called modern music.

Genius in its purest sense, not as a psychometric test score but as some of its own kind, is what allowed military commanders to break the deadlock of trench warfare and is what allowed the flourishing of jazz music, which is the antithesis of rap music or the tamer, safer variations of rap.

Genius is the full expression of the individual, which requires a maximum of independence and a minimum of interdependence. Hypothetically, "interdependence" is the great salvation of mankind from the bane of war, but this is clearly false. Germany and Japan were driven to aggressive war explicitly because of a sense of interdependence.

Soviet Russia (with all its faults) and America were not dependent upon other nations at all. Both of these very different polities did not want war in 1939. Interdependence is the compulsory intercourse with those who one does not like. Hardly the best way for achieving peace!

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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