Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Delusional comfort and anarchist terrorism

I was reading Eric Hobsbawm's Industry and Empire this weekend. One interesting argument in the book is that Britain suffered decline because it got complacent about its dominant position. If it was being out-produced or out-innovated, it could retreat back into the comfort of its world empire. Having a power base is useful to buffer against shock or sudden change, but the factors causing the shock or change shouldn't be ignored. Even though it's reassuring to have something to fall back on, this comfort is a temporary solution and something must be done about the root cause of the problem.

Another book I read this weekend was Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America. Its thesis is that the man who shot McKinley was only one part of the "murder." The McKinley legacy was also wiped out by his successor, Theodore Roosevelt. (The author of the book, Eric Rauchway, is a professor at UC Davis. I took his course on the Gilded Age and Progressive era.) From reading the book, I noted that America and the world have dealt with terrorism before, during the anarchist movement around a hundred years ago. The anarchists managed to cap several European heads of state. I wonder if there are lessons to be learned from that anarchist movement that we haven't bothered exploring.