« Help from an unexpected Source | Main | Some Nuances of Presidential Pot Use »

September 20, 2012

American Tea Parties

The United states has experienced two “tea parties”. The first was in Boston while Massachusetts was still a British colony; it was motivated by resentment over the taxes demanded by the British Crown to finance the expenses of Empire after discovering what great wealth could accrue from ruling a string of distant colonies from which raw materials and labor could be obtained cheaply. An added bonus was that when “colonials,” became loyal subjects, could be induced, by various means to favor British goods over those of Britain’s rivals: generally other European nations playing the colonial game, but with a later start and less powerful navies.

Massachusetts Colony had been populated by British subjects, many of whom had emigrated in search of the religious freedoms being denied them at home. Ironically, once established, successful Colonies tended to favor the more dominant faiths over religious minorities. Otherwise, they were culturally British and quite hip to the colonization game; thus they were the first to become resentful of their second-class status and to rebel against the crown. The Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre quickly became hallowed icons for what was a signal event: the first-ever successful colonial rebellion against British rule. That the 13 rebellious Colonies would eventually become the most powerful military and financial power on earth is now a matter of history, but could not have been predicted in the late Eighteenth Century. That it will remain such was almost certainly not divinely ordained, despite what a majority of its present citizens may assume.

Nor does it take much imagination to see the “Tea Party” movement that flared recently within the right wing of the Republican Party as inspired by an almost identical resentment over taxation in a more modern context: its founders clearly resent being taxed to finance programs from which they do not directly benefit: education, medical care for the poor and the elderly, maintenance of America’s global alliances, and more latterly: the temporary salvation of its auto industry. Whether the essentially selfish expressions of emotion expressed by "Tea Party"activists will hurt or hinder the Republican Party in the coming election remains to be seen.

That the colonists who staged the original tea party were dressed as Indians when they dumped casks of tea into Boston Harbor is ironic, given the treatment of “Native Americans” in the nation that eventually became the United States. Even more ironic is that the tea came from China which was then demanding payments in silver which had become so onerous that the British were exporting opium from their province in Bengal to offset the cost of Chinese tea, silks and ceramics demanded by British consumers, a practice the Emperor attempted to offset with the first international attempt at drug prohibition. Its failure produced the first Opium War, which was won by superior British weaponry and cost China Hong Kong island. A second opium war, fought two decades later over the same issue had a similar outcome. By adding the Kowloon peninsula to Hong Kong island it produced what eventually became a thriving financial entity in its own right. After Hong Kong and Kowloon were returned to China in 1997, they became a bi-cultural umbilical cord through which Western Technology was quickly and smoothly delivered to a highly competitive nation whose talented people are now forced by their own leaders to subsidize Western consumption with their labor in what seems to be an attempt to provide China with leverage in world affairs through non-military means; rather than through the ruinous weapons competition that bankrupted the Soviet union.

Two of many wild cards are the impact and rapidity of the global climate change that now seems assured will have on global ecology and the commercial markets dependent on weather and habitat.

That the Chinese people have been patiently nursing a desire for their own thriving auto industry is not a good sign.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at September 20, 2012 09:14 PM