Much time and resources have been wasted on countless futile experiments to determine whether human beings are innately altruistic or selfish. I say “wasted” for a simple reason, that any person possessed of a brain and a healthy dose of reality will come to the conclusion that human beings are indeed inherently selfish, even – and perhaps more so at the onset of civilisation when primitive tribes introduced legalities and religions of sorts for mutual benefit. This is neither a good, nor bad thing, depending on one’s perspective. But for the sake of the argument, let’s observe this phenomenon from a ‘realistic’, rather than an ‘idealistic’ angle.
Man has to feed himself first of all, in order to be able to feed his family. If man does not feed himself, he cannot feed his family. And before he can feed the children, he needs to be able to feed his woman so she can raise the children. This is the oldest and most fundamental tribal structure and applies to all peoples. The first priority of man is the immediate family, then the rest of the tribe, then society and then, if he so wishes, he can choose to also serve the nation for the benefit of all. However, here is where many fall short, for a number of reasons which we will explore in due course, but the long and short of it is because they do not see the immediate benefit of serving their nation. Indeed, many give an illusion of serving society, usually as a way to hold on to their resources, but it is smoke and mirrors. It is easy to pin the blame on politicians, yet politicians, for the most part, are a reflection of the majority, whether though votes or lack thereof. Politicians are little more than oligarchs for the most part, interested and sensitive only to themselves and their interests. Politicians serve to exploit the people’s strength and weaknesses, and they can do so either for the greater good or for their own tribal reasons. It takes a rare individual to inspire his or her own peoples, and manipulate their strengths for the advancement of the nation. But ultimately, it is the people that drive society and the state. If the majority does not like a head of state, they will dispose of him or her, but if they do not care beyond feeding themselves and go on to serving the nation in addition, the politicians will exploit this tribal mentality for their own tribal benefit. And if the masses are passive, it is an indication that at best they do not care for their brothers and sisters in their country, or at worst, they are no better than their self-serving leaders.
Tribalism Post Cold War
Boris Yeltsin, a man widely despised by the Russian peoples for the dissolution of the Soviet Union and selling off the country’s assets illegally and over a bottle of vodka no less, did not last long indeed. The tribal bloodbath that ensued post 1991 between various oligarchs fighting amongst themselves for power and money at the detriment of the vast majority, was soon curbed by Vladimir Putin and Russia became a real nation again relatively quickly, considering the immensity of corruption, poverty and the vastness of the country. The privatisation of Russia naturally came under the deceptive guise of ‘Freedom and Democracy”, when in reality it was heavily supported and propagated by Western agents and the process involved a few small-time merchants who exploited the political instability to gain riches through theft, intimidation and murder. Such people did not care for the nation and the people, they had only their interests at heart, generous only to their families, with no consideration for anybody else who was left disenfranchised and starved. These oligarchs, along with the complicity of a few traitorous politicians in the shape of Boris Yeltsin and Yegor Gaidar who conspired to dissolve the Soviet Union for a few bucks, took Russia back into the stone age, with the oligarchs appointing themselves de facto leaders of their own little Tribes, as the rest of the country plunged into poverty and humiliation which gave rise to unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution and deseases. Making matters even more disturbing was the extent of American agents operating in Russia who were responsible for trafficking drugs to further demoralise the nation, standard practice for the Western foreign policy makers for much of the 20th century as they did in Laos, Vietnam and other countries in a bid to subdue them and maximise and maintain US hegemonic rule and super power status.
China, on the other hand, did not even succumb to an attempted government overthrow in 1989, declaring Martial Law pretty much instantly. The Chinese government of Deng Ziaoping saw the ‘revolution’ for what it was: a political Western friendly and funded insurgency designed to weaken China in the face of foreign aggression, putting the safety and security of its citizens at risk, as well as jeopardize Deng Ziaoping’s revolutionary economic reforms designed to facilitate China’s rise as the Great Multipolar Power that it is today.
To understand why Western powers have engaged in these obstructionist, often clandestine and downright illegal activities to subdue and occupy Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Asia and beyond, it is worth mentioning the British Imperial Strategist Halford John Mackinder who explicitly outlined the aggressive Western stratagem in an essay published in The Royal Geographical Society in 1904 entitled “ The Geographical Pivot of History” (aka The Heartland Theory”). His theory was that whoever controls the “Heartland” i.e the lands of the Russian Empire, controls the world. Once the Heartland is conquered by a Western power, they could easily go on to conquer China and the rest of the world. But the real challenge was the Heartland, and to this day the Western powers continue with their efforts to undermine Russia through Hybrid warfare. Adolf Hitler was well aware of the Heartland Theory, and both WWI and The Great Patriotic War were physical manifestations of this theory, as well as the Cold War.
The overarching Western military stratagem continues to centre on the offensive, with one-to-one combat being the norm, rather than the exception. By contrast, the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu’s philosophy was one centred on soft power, where combat must be avoided as much as possible and his famous words, “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill,” could easily have been spoken by Deng Ziaoping or Xi Xingping, two men who showed (with Xi continuing to show) immense calm and level-headedness at the face of Western aggression, be it military, diplomatic or economic.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The West has a history of using offensive methods to both subdue and occupy its neighbours and far away lands, while the East has generally sought to subdue the enemy through diplomacy and psychological warfare where possible. And if Mackinder’s theory is anything to go by, it confirms what many already know: that the East has generally been a victim of a persistently aggressive West.
If Russia and China, two large countries recovered from the post-cold war chaos that ensued in much of the world, then why is it that a small country like Albania is still suffering from the post-communist malaise of the 90s, with no recovery in sight? Unlike China, once the only erstwhile ally of mid to late communist Albania, and unlike Russia a country even more multiethnic and multi-religious than Albania, Albania is still run by a narco-mafia state rife with criminal oligarchs and foreign agents profiting from what little the country has to offer while unemployment remains high, and inflation even higher.
Technically it ought to be easier, but not necessarily. The primary reason for the political and economic stagnation is that unlike Russia and China, two ancient civilisations, Albania has only existed as a state since 1912. Indeed, despite many myths of Albania being an ‘ancient civilisation’, there has never been a state of ‘Albania”, just a set of tribes in the region, some very powerful indeed. The state of Albania as we know it now, was in fact originally established to serve as a buffer zone by the Austro-Hungarian empire, largely to prevent Serbia from having access to ports. Therefore, the Albanian nation, was and still is little more than a point of experiment and exploitation, to serve the Great Powers, at the expense of Albania and the bordering Balkan nations. Both Albania and its neighbours have suffered immeasurably as a result of Albania being consistently emboldened and manipulated by Western powers whose main objective is not to assist Albania in any way, but to exploit the geography and ethnic and religious make up in order to plunder the resources as well as contain The Ottoman Empire and the all time Russian ally Serbia, with the ultimately objective of containing “The Heartland” – Russia, thus preventing Russia from having any significant influence on the region.
Albanians are a very tribal peoples, and while that is not in and of itself necessarily a negative thing, it can nevertheless make or break a nation depending on whether those tribal elements are manipulated for the greater good or for wicked reasons involving power and resources. Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha, a Bektashi muslim, a branch of Shi’a Islam believed that the quickest and most effective way to civilise a tribal people was through communist reforms. And by and large, he was proved correct. That being said, he was deeply patriotic, indeed it was he who pushed for “Albanianism”, a secular, non-sectarian ideology with added elements of Albanian Folklore, ancient Balkan tribes and history, archaeology, etc that gave the people of the first Albanian sovereign state a sense of belonging and national pride.
Furthermore, he improved literacy, education, pioneered women’s rights encouraging women to take top governmental positions where previously women lived under the whip hand of feudal barbarism. Under Hoxha, the healthcare was very good, free and available to all, including those in remote regions.
It was very common for post-colonial developing nations to adopt a populist, anti-imperialist system combined with indigenous ancient history and folklore in order to establish a new independent national identity. Pakistan is a good example. When it became clear that partition between India and what is now known as Pakistan was an inevitability, Muhammad Ali Jinnah materialised the concept of “Pakistan”, a collective synthesis of its various cultures, ancient indigenous tribes with an overarching Islamic Nationalist Identity. Essentially Pakistan’s new identity was one of Islamic Nationalism with local characteristics. Similar elements were adopted by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party in Syria and Iraq, and especially in Iraq under Saddam Hussein who emphasised ancient Mesopotamian and Babylonian history and mythology to create a single, unique Iraqi identity that would overrule the religious, ethnic and ethnolinguistic divisions within.
Enver Hoxha ruled Albania for 41 years, from 1944 until his death on 1985. His moderate successor Ramiz Alia led the country for the next 6 years until the fall of communism, in 1991. It appears, Enver Hoxha has been vindicated: without law, order and a unifying, anti-sectarian socialist government, inherently tribal people will regress to their tribal impulses. Albania has been a criminal hot bed ever since Communism collapsed with law and order being optional for most, including and especially for corrupt officials, all the while the majority have suffered and continue to suffer to the extent that they have almost given up. Up to 3800 people lost their lives in the 1997 Civil War that broke out as a response to the $1.2 billion in investments that people lost in Ponzi schemes, schemes that were endorsed and encouraged by the government.
All those issues, along with the fact that unlike Russia and China, Albania is an infant state, have contributed to the stagnation of the country. There is nothing wrong with being a young state, in fact, it could be seen as a great advantage as it gives the peoples the opportunity to author their own future in a progressive, modern way starting on a clean slate, without the stigma or baggage.
Power does not corrupt everybody, it corrupts the weak, greedy and tribal. One solution to stabilise a rogue nation, would be to never let a tribal individual any where near power and money, as Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Muammar Gaddafi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru etc would all have agreed.
(To be continued…)