Staying at home is the norm... What are you reading?

TheMysteriousGX

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Delicious in Dungeon volume 10 has some of the most gruesome manga panels in the industry. It's like if Studio Ghibli did Berserk. Honestly think that maybe White Fox studio and Takaharu Ozaki might be a good choice for an anime adaption: they can do acheingly cute slice of life stuff, solid worldbuilding, and flip on a dime to horror

The worst (best) is yet to come. Genuinely disturbing shit goes down in volume 11 in the best way. If you know what to look for, volume 10 has some "oh you bastard" moments
 

Specter Von Baren

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Delicious in Dungeon volume 10 has some of the most gruesome manga panels in the industry. It's like if Studio Ghibli did Berserk. Honestly think that maybe White Fox studio and Takaharu Ozaki might be a good choice for an anime adaption: they can do acheingly cute slice of life stuff, solid worldbuilding,
So Berserk levels of violence but with Ghibli's luscious and supple meat.

and flip on a dime to horror

The worst (best) is yet to come. Genuinely disturbing shit goes down in volume 11 in the best way. If you know what to look for, volume 10 has some "oh you bastard" moments
Ah, so it's Higurashi.

Note: Seriously, food in Ghibli films looks delicious.
 

Specter Von Baren

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Ok, continuing my reading of Eighty-Six, I have some problems and while I could rant about this, I'd rather make brief summaries for now and maybe do a more in depth dive later. I see potantial diamonds in this roughness but I need to get the bad off my chest.

3 things.

1. The author needs to read more history.
If you're going to do blatant allegories of things like the Soviet Union, then do enough research to see how the human meat grinder that was that shit stain actually worked so your story makes sense.

2. Think about whether you're a racist or not before writing about racism being bad
Having a mainline subject matter of racism bad doesn't work if you then portray almost all of the people oppressing them as uniformly terrible and awful outside of a few people in the single digits. Also, your supposedly diverse group of oppressed people from different countries and nationalities doesn't sound that diverse when all of them have Japanese names!

3. You don't understand how sympathy and empathy work.
One of our main characters, Lena, she's one of the few people of her race that's portrayed as a decent human being. She cares about the 86 and sees them as humans unlike the rest of her people who are cartoonishly terrible. Don't then proceed to have her act nice and try to get to know the 86 only to have them treat this rare example of human decency like shit and expect me to like the 86 characters. When a character that was previously shy and sensitive talks about hoping Lena experiences something that potentially could cause her to commit suicide from shock, I don't sympathize with them, I now see them as a two-faced hypocrite. And that is just one example that pisses me off.

This is another light novel that probably works better after all the poorly written aspects get filtered out by being adapted to an anime format, so maybe I should be watching that rather than reading this.
 

Hawki

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America: The Farewell Tour (3/5)

So funny thing - I actually think I would have been more reciprocal to this book a few years ago than I was now. Because if I had to sum up the thesis of this book, it's "the American nation/empire is in decline, here's why, everything's screwed, better get ready for it, or at best, join a socialist revolution." I'm not saying that to be snarky, that's the best way I can describe it. I mention the few years thing because already the book feels anachronistic now that Trump's been voted out, and while I'd hardly describe myself as a lover of the United States, recent events have shown us what a post-US world can look like. I mean, the US has lots and LOTS of problems, but compared to the alternatives out there?

To the author's credit, he's not taking the point of "I for one welcome our new Chinese/Russian overlords," but the issues don't end there. A lot of the time, Hedges uses the writing technique of focusing on a few individuals, showing their struggles (e.g. gambling addiction, poverty, etc.), then using it as a springboard for the wider subject. The problem however is that, IMO, a lot of these examples go on far longer than they have to. Hillbilly Elegy had the same problem - I get why both authors might focus on individual stories and experiences, but I'm here for the wider picture.

And what is that wider picture? Well, it's another problem of the book that's not technically a problem, but for me, a lot of the stuff here isn't that new. Wealth inequality is severe. Drugs are epidemic. The for-profit prison system is a disaster (well, for prisoners at least, the prison industrial complex makes a killing). Deindustrialization has done a number on the country so there's a wide gap between the haves and have nots (related to whether they're blue or white collar), with the middle class disappearing. And we can debate whether the US is an empire or not, but it shows the signs of a dying one. Hedges points out that when empires go into decline, they act irrationally, and uses the invasion of Iraq as a turning point (feel free to draw similarities to Russia's invasion of Ukraine).

So, what's to be done then? Well, that's not for me to say, but I feel this is where the book has another problem (arguably), in that Hedges is very vague on any actual solutions. I'm not saying he's obliged to provide them, but any such solutions are your generic answers of class conciousness, worker revolution, unions, etc. I certainly can't really call myself any kind of "ist" on the economic spectrum, and wouldn't attempt to declare what the "correct" economic system is (only that in reality, most economies are mixed, so maybe this is a false dichotomy), but Hedges's class rhetoric isn't anything I haven't heard before. I mean, I certainly won't object to unions (a union certainly helped me indirectly during lockdown), but don't expect me to be wearing a Che Guvara t-shirt anytime soon either.

So, yeah. The book's decent, and there's some sections that are quite eye-opening, but it's not anything particuarly new, and if you want to see the US rise from the ashes or collapse, this book isn't really a manual on either of those things.
 

Hawki

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Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race (3/5)

I really didn't want to read this. Not just because of the subject matter, but because of the fact that I'd have to review it later, which leaves me in a bind. Either I can agree with the novel's premises, or I can disagree, and therefore be called racist for disagreeing. Not that the book actually makes this claim, but having also read White Fragility awhile ago, I'm on the lookout for Kafka traps. Still, I figured the reason I didn't want to read this was a reason to read it, so to speak, so fine, whatever.

Actually, to be fair, this book is much better than White Fragility, and even if you disagree with everything it says, it at least makes a far more coherent argument, and for the most part, doesn't rely on special pleading. So on that note, I'm going to divide this feedback broadly between "The Good, "The Iffy," and "The Bad" and go from there. Obviously I'm setting myself up for attack on that front, but I'd rather be honest about this. So on that note:

THE GOOD

-"The good" in the book is mostly front-loaded, in that it delves into the history of the UK post-WWII in regards to its civil rights period for people of the African diaspora. I don't have any objections to this section. I mean, the actual history itself is objectionable, but I think this is the best element of the book. It's history, it's well presented and well documented.
 
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Hawki

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THE IFFY

-The book simultaniously makes a good case for systemic racism, yet it's got an Achilles heel. The case by itself would come under "Good," but it lays out how biases can stack up against individuals, and lays out the racial wealth gap between Black and White British, step by step. I think this is a reasonable case - it's not making the case of "difference = discrimination" per se, in that per its step-by-step approach, it does look into how systemic racism can stack up. However, the counter-argument to this, and one that the book doesn't address at all, is how other minorities do so much better then. For instance, if the white majority has biases (which it probably does, in that everyone has bias of some kind), then why some groups do worse as a result (e.g. Black British and Pakistanis, as the book points out), then why do other groups do so much better (e.g. Chinese and Indians?) I kept waiting for the book to examine this and explain why that's the case, but not only does it not examine this, it doesn't even address the question. Systemic racism exists because Group A is less well off (arguably true), but systemic racism doesn't exist for Group B because it isn't less well off. I've seen what happens to people who ask why, but meh, I've got an alias here, so bite me.

-The book ends with a call to, among other things, examine your workplace and whatnot. Well, um, my workplace has me as a minority, and everyone I report to bar a single exception is female, so, um, you tell me. Somehow I don't think the call for more males in a profession that's 90% female is going to get much support, and while I'm not interested in fighting that battle, it's still got the selective issue of "unrepsentative workplace A is a problem, unrepresentative workplace B isn't").

-The book doesn't make this argument explicitly, but there is the implication of racism being a recent phenomenon, and that as soon as it's eradicated in the West, it'll be eradicated everywhere. I won't fault the book for focusing on the UK (that's its prerogative, and like I said, the history parts are the strongest suit), but I'm left to ask in some hypothetical scenario in the West, if racism was eradicated today, how that helps Rohinga in Myanmar, or Hazaris in Afghanistan, or Pygmies in Congo, or Ughyrs in China, for instance. That said, I get the feeling I'm not supposed to ask that, so okay. I'm not trying to do whataboutism, crimes in one part of the world don't excuse crimes in the other, but that's not the argumet being made.

THE BAD

I guess this could be labelled "stuff I completely disagree with," but fine, let's do this:

-The book declares that racism = prejudice plus power, or R = P+P. Even by its own reasoning however, I completely disagree. Systemic/institutional, maybe, but if we accept this is the definition, then I'd have to ask how I can be racist, because my level of "power" over others is really limited to how I serve people inside the workplace, but somehow, I don't think the argument of me not having power would fly if I did treat people terribly. There's also the fact that if we accept minorities can only be "prejudiced" but not "racist," then it means that every piece of flak I've got based on inherent traits isn't racist, and more importantly, when I've stepped in to help staff on the receiving end of racial abuse (usually between minorities), that it's simply "prejudice"...yeah. Sorry. I don't buy it.

-The book explicitly rejects colour-blindness. I'm not talking about the idea of "pay no attention to ethnic groups in statistics," there's a case for that, I'm talking about the very concept in its entirety. This is ironic, since I've recently come off Democracy in a Divided Australia, where it briefly delved into how identitarian approaches ended up increasing tribalism, whereas here, the opposite approach is taken. To be clear, I do agree that "I don't see colour" is a lie, everyone does, but the idea that we should treat people based on inherent traits rather than individuals, that universalism should be rejected into identitarianism, that liberalism should be replaced with tribalism, are notions that I can't get behind. The book doesn't go down as far down the rabbithole as White Fragility, but these are the implicit arguments being made.

But then, what do I know? I'm just a straight white male. 0_0
 
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Specter Von Baren

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THE IFFY

-The book simultaniously makes a good case for systemic racism, yet it's got an Achilles heel. The case by itself would come under "Good," but it lays out how biases can stack up against individuals, and lays out the racial wealth gap between Black and White British, step by step. I think this is a reasonable case - it's not making the case of "difference = discrimination" per se, in that per its step-by-step approach, it does look into how systemic racism can stack up. However, the counter-argument to this, and one that the book doesn't address at all, is how other minorities do so much better then. For instance, if the white majority has biases (which it probably does, in that everyone has bias of some kind), then why some groups do worse as a result (e.g. Black British and Pakistanis, as the book points out), then why do other groups do so much better (e.g. Chinese and Indians?) I kept waiting for the book to examine this and explain why that's the case, but not only does it not examine this, it doesn't even address the question. Systemic racism exists because Group A is less well off (arguably true), but systemic racism doesn't exist for Group B because it isn't less well off. I've seen what happens to people who ask why, but meh, I've got an alias here, so bite me.

-The book ends with a call to, among other things, examine your workplace and whatnot. Well, um, my workplace has me as a minority, and everyone I report to bar a single exception is female, so, um, you tell me. Somehow I don't think the call for more males in a profession that's 90% female is going to get much support, and while I'm not interested in fighting that battle, it's still got the selective issue of "unrepsentative workplace A is a problem, unrepresentative workplace B isn't").

-The book doesn't make this argument explicitly, but there is the implication of racism being a recent phenomenon, and that as soon as it's eradicated in the West, it'll be eradicated everywhere. I won't fault the book for focusing on the UK (that's its prerogative, and like I said, the history parts are the strongest suit), but I'm left to ask in some hypothetical scenario in the West, if racism was eradicated today, how that helps Rohinga in Myanmar, or Hazaris in Afghanistan, or Pygmies in Congo, or Ughyrs in China, for instance. That said, I get the feeling I'm not supposed to ask that, so okay. I'm not trying to do whataboutism, crimes in one part of the world don't excuse crimes in the other, but that's not the argumet being made.

THE BAD

I guess this could be labelled "stuff I completely disagree with," but fine, let's do this:

-The book declares that racism = prejudice plus power, or R = P+P. Even by its own reasoning however, I completely disagree. Systemic/institutional, maybe, but if we accept this is the definition, then I'd have to ask how I can be racist, because my level of "power" over others is really limited to how I serve people inside the workplace, but somehow, I don't think the argument of me not having power would fly if I did treat people terribly. There's also the fact that if we accept minorities can only be "prejudiced" but not "racist," then it means that every piece of flak I've got based on inherent traits isn't racist, and more importantly, when I've stepped in to help staff on the receiving end of racial abuse (usually between minorities), that it's simply "prejudice"...yeah. Sorry. I don't buy it.

-The book explicitly rejects colour-blindness. I'm not talking about the idea of "pay no attention to ethnic groups in statistics," there's a case for that, I'm talking about the very concept in its entirety. This is ironic, since I've recently come off Democracy in a Divided Australia, where it briefly delved into how identitarian approaches ended up increasing tribalism, whereas here, the opposite approach is taken. To be clear, I do agree that "I don't see colour" is a lie, everyone does, but the idea that we should treat people based on inherent traits rather than individuals, that universalism should be rejected into identitarianism, that liberalism should be replaced with tribalism, are notions that I can't get behind. The book doesn't go down as far down the rabbithole as White Fragility, but these are the implicit arguments being made.

But then, what do I know? I'm just a straight white male. 0_0
The animation shorts 'There She Is' have a better message about racism than most of these kinds of books and you can watch that for free.
 

Specter Von Baren

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@BrawlMan

Well shit. A friend lent me the first two volumes of the Spy X Family manga and it's actually up my alley. I was thinking the series would be something more cynical but it's actually quite heartwarming. Sorry, wallet, but sacrifices must be made
 
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Drathnoxis

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THE IFFY

-The book simultaniously makes a good case for systemic racism, yet it's got an Achilles heel. The case by itself would come under "Good," but it lays out how biases can stack up against individuals, and lays out the racial wealth gap between Black and White British, step by step. I think this is a reasonable case - it's not making the case of "difference = discrimination" per se, in that per its step-by-step approach, it does look into how systemic racism can stack up. However, the counter-argument to this, and one that the book doesn't address at all, is how other minorities do so much better then. For instance, if the white majority has biases (which it probably does, in that everyone has bias of some kind), then why some groups do worse as a result (e.g. Black British and Pakistanis, as the book points out), then why do other groups do so much better (e.g. Chinese and Indians?) I kept waiting for the book to examine this and explain why that's the case, but not only does it not examine this, it doesn't even address the question. Systemic racism exists because Group A is less well off (arguably true), but systemic racism doesn't exist for Group B because it isn't less well off. I've seen what happens to people who ask why, but meh, I've got an alias here, so bite me.

-The book ends with a call to, among other things, examine your workplace and whatnot. Well, um, my workplace has me as a minority, and everyone I report to bar a single exception is female, so, um, you tell me. Somehow I don't think the call for more males in a profession that's 90% female is going to get much support, and while I'm not interested in fighting that battle, it's still got the selective issue of "unrepsentative workplace A is a problem, unrepresentative workplace B isn't").

-The book doesn't make this argument explicitly, but there is the implication of racism being a recent phenomenon, and that as soon as it's eradicated in the West, it'll be eradicated everywhere. I won't fault the book for focusing on the UK (that's its prerogative, and like I said, the history parts are the strongest suit), but I'm left to ask in some hypothetical scenario in the West, if racism was eradicated today, how that helps Rohinga in Myanmar, or Hazaris in Afghanistan, or Pygmies in Congo, or Ughyrs in China, for instance. That said, I get the feeling I'm not supposed to ask that, so okay. I'm not trying to do whataboutism, crimes in one part of the world don't excuse crimes in the other, but that's not the argumet being made.

THE BAD

I guess this could be labelled "stuff I completely disagree with," but fine, let's do this:

-The book declares that racism = prejudice plus power, or R = P+P. Even by its own reasoning however, I completely disagree. Systemic/institutional, maybe, but if we accept this is the definition, then I'd have to ask how I can be racist, because my level of "power" over others is really limited to how I serve people inside the workplace, but somehow, I don't think the argument of me not having power would fly if I did treat people terribly. There's also the fact that if we accept minorities can only be "prejudiced" but not "racist," then it means that every piece of flak I've got based on inherent traits isn't racist, and more importantly, when I've stepped in to help staff on the receiving end of racial abuse (usually between minorities), that it's simply "prejudice"...yeah. Sorry. I don't buy it.

-The book explicitly rejects colour-blindness. I'm not talking about the idea of "pay no attention to ethnic groups in statistics," there's a case for that, I'm talking about the very concept in its entirety. This is ironic, since I've recently come off Democracy in a Divided Australia, where it briefly delved into how identitarian approaches ended up increasing tribalism, whereas here, the opposite approach is taken. To be clear, I do agree that "I don't see colour" is a lie, everyone does, but the idea that we should treat people based on inherent traits rather than individuals, that universalism should be rejected into identitarianism, that liberalism should be replaced with tribalism, are notions that I can't get behind. The book doesn't go down as far down the rabbithole as White Fragility, but these are the implicit arguments being made.

But then, what do I know? I'm just a straight white male. 0_0
Yikes, I never realized you were such a bigot, Hawki.
 

Hawki

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The Great Imperial Hangover: How Empires Shaped the World (4/5)

Definitely one of the best non-fiction books I've read this year. I'm going to try and sum up its arguments as best I can, and interject where I feel it's appropriate. So on that note:

GENERAL

-We're living in a strange time in world history, in that empires are a thing of the past, at least hypothetically. Go back hundreds, even thousands of years, and you wouldn't find many people who questioned the logic of empire. However, the 21st century is bizzare in comparison, in that not only are empires shunned, but that the nation-state has taken over as the de facto method of organizing societies.

-There's a myopia among historians on European empires (at least in the West). This isn't to discount their relevance to world history, but you cannot understand global history by casting all other empires to the side, nor can you claim that their legacies don't exist. This has led to a stunted understanding of global history.

-The author doesn't outright state this, but given how language is used, it more or less distinguishes colonialism from imperialism as simply being an empire that doesn't share one cohesive landmass. So for instance, the two largest empires in history (British Empire, Mongol Empire) are both empires whose legacies resonate today, but the British Empire is colonial due to it being maritime, while the Mongol Empire isn't colonial, because it's one cohesive landmass. Speaking personally, I think this is the best distinction I've seen, because otherwise, I've seen people go into knots trying to draw a distinction.

-The world's imperial powers tend to have been on the receiving end of imperial powers.

The book then goes to look at a number of areas. Some of these aspects I found more interesting than others, and I can't sum up all the ideas, but I'll do my best to present them.

UNITED STATES

-There's a question as to whether the US should be considered an empire or not. Personally, I think there's a good argument for the US being an empire (at the very least, its territories aren't all continguous), but that aside, the author highlights how the US is a potential example of an empire that doesn't see itself as an empire, or at least, makes pains to present itself as not being an empire, because this is an era where empire is a dirty word.

-The US is an example of the author's idea that imperialists are often those who were once part of empires, who end up repeating the same patterns. As in, the Founding Fathers explicitly broke away from the British Empire, and declared that all men were created equal, but the country then steadily expanded its territory by force. The Munroe Doctrine was simultaniously anti-imperialistic (in that it didn't want "the Old World" interfering with "the New World"), but also imperialistic, in that it made the Western Hemisphere the US's backyard.

-The section raises the issue as to whether US hegemony has been a net positive or negative for the world in the context of the 20th century. It doesn't pick a side here. Speaking personally, I really can't answer that. There'd be a time where I'd have easily answered negative, but in light of recent events (*cough*Russia*cough), it's easy to see how awful the alternatives can be.
 
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Hawki

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UNITED KINGDOM

I'm not sure why the author focuses specifically on the UK (granted, he's a Singaporean who lives in the UK, so it's his 'home turf' so to speak) as opposed to European empires in general, but considering that the British Empire was the largest empire in history, then it makes sense to include it. So on that note:

-The British Empire's legacy is hotly debated, and insanely polarized. I don't know how true this is, but the author claims that there's basically two camps that go to both extremes, with little discussion in the middle. He cities Nial Fergusson and Sharshi Tharoor, with their books "Empire" and "Inglorious Empire" respectively as examples of the two extremes.

-The British Empire is a weirdo in the history of empires, in that it spread in a hodge-podge manner, beginning with trading ports and growing from there (couldn't you say the same about the Portugese though?) There's no great rolling frontier like you'd find in land-based empires, but even that aside, the British Empire grew up haphazardly, from place to place, and that consequently, there's no single event in British memory that can be called THE point where the empire collapsed (by way of contrast, the author uses Algeria and Indochina as a case of France trying to hold onto its territory).

-The author doesn't say this directly, but Britain does arguably fit into his thesis of "imperialized become imperialists," in that he points out how Britain has experienced waves of invaders over its history, before becoming the heart of an empire rather than the periphery of one (e.g. the Roman Empire).

-Britain's also a case of what the book might call "an imperial hangover," in that it's navigating its place in the world where its status is grossly diminished. Not economically, but more in terms of military prowess - in this sense, Britain invading Iraq is a case of Britain thinking it's more powerful than it really is, with the Suez Canal Crisis being another example. This also (partly) explains Brexit, with Britain seeing itself apart from Europe, and having more of a role in the wider world, regardless as to whether this is actually the truth.

EUROPEAN UNION

Honestly, I found this section the iffiest, and therefore, don't have much to say. Basically, there's the idea of the EU being both an empire and a post-imperial super-state...or something. Honestly, I didn't really follow this train of thought much. If you want my view on things, I don't think the EU can really call itself an empire, nor do I think the EU could be an empire even if it wanted to. By any measure that I've seen, Europe's in no position to be a military superpower given its ageing population, and as some have argued, cultural malaise), but that aside, yeah. I think in the scope of European history, the EU is a net positive, but I don't think it really belongs in a discussion about empire per se.
 
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Hawki

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RUSSIA

-Russia is a classic example of imperialized people becoming imperialists themselves. The author points how the Rus were terrorized by the Mongols, before eventually becoming one of the largest empires in history. It was actually a bit striking to me how you could draw parallels between the UK and Russia - both start off as backwaters, both are subject to waves of invasion, both eventually spread out and dominate large sections of the world, and both suffer what the author calls "imperial hangover," dealing with a reduced presence in the world.

-The author explicitly calls the USSR an empire, and it's a case of paradox/hypocrisy, simultaniously pushing for decolonization of the third world, while also clamping down on its satellite states (though being fair, I'd argue hypocrisy is bread and butter in general, so I wouldn't single the USSR out in this particular case). By extension, the collapse of the USSR marks the end of formal empires in the author's point of view, and what you're left with are either nation states, or empires that don't see themselves as empires (e.g. the United States).

-Russia's actions in Crimea are a case in point of Russia's "imperial hangover" and trying to reclaim lost glory. Bear in mind that this was written before the recent invasion of Ukraine (the breakaway regions notwithstanding), and it's eerile prescient how well the author captures Putin's state of mind).

-Russia is cozying up to China, but it isn't an equal relationship. China has a population of over 1 billion, Russia's population is but a fraction, and incredibly sparse. Overall, the future for Russia doesn't look good.

CHINA

-China's a weird one. It's arguably a case of an empire that became a nation state with its borders fully intact. As in, China the empire and China the country are one and the same.

-China simultaniously calls itself the victim of imperialism (which it was), while also drawing on its own imperial past (which it was). The claim that "China has never attacked another country" is an exercise in semantics, because it's like saying "the Mongols never attacked COUNTRIES" for instance. The author regards this as a toxic combination of nationalism, with China simultaniously playing the role of victim, while also celebrating its imperial legacies.

-Heavy reference is drawn to the Mongol Empire, and how both China and the Mongols have effectively colonized each other over the course of history, with their fortunes changing.

-China and the West (or more specifically, the US) are fundamentally at odds with each other. The author explains it better than I ever could, but basically, the entire conceptions of democracy, and the prioritization of the individual vs. the group are irreconciable.
 
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Hawki

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INDIA

-India has experienced waves of invasions over its history, which have bequeathed their legacies, good and ill.

-Most of the time is spent on examing the Mughal Empire and the British Raj. Time is spent accomodating different viewpoints as to whether the Raj should be considered distinct from India's prior empires or not.

-You're probably aware of the Hinduvata movement in India. The book goes into some detail, kind of claiming that the idea of a 'pure' Hindu India is ahistoric, since India's has had waves of invasions over its history (note that when I say India, I'm referring to the overall landmass, India the country is a new construct).

-Not that the author says this, but India kind of strikes me as an outlier to the theory of "those who are imperialized become imperialists," in that India's experienced waves of invasions, and has had empires rise and fall within its own borders (Sikh Empire, Maratha Empire, etc.), but doesn't seem to have projected its own might out that much. I could be wrong, I think at least one Indian empire spread pretty far south, but meh.

MIDDLE EAST

-The Middle East is dealing with the legacies of both internal and external empires. Internal, in the sense that the ME has had countless empires rise and fall. External, in the context of European colonial empires, which have left artificial borders. Both of these legacies have their own issues with them - for instance, ISIS made a point of demolishing the border between Iraq and Iran, but was also trying to claim a linneage of the Islamic caliphates.

-Quite a bit of time is spent on the Ottoman Empire. The author seems fairly approving of its record, such as the millet system, though doesn't ignore the Armenian Genocide. The basic undercurrent seems to be that empires are (or were) better than nation-states of accomodating different ethnic groups. That may be true, but I'm not sure if that should be used as a case for bringing back empires (not that the author is making that claim).

-Time is spent on the Iran-Saudi rivalry. These two bodies aren't necessarily empires, but are drawing on history for their competing claims over the ME.

-Again, interjecting, I think the ME is a case where it's too simple to say "the imperialized become imperialists," because not only is the ME a broad swathe of land, but there's no distinct chronology. The ME has birthed empires that have spread from beyond the region (Ummayad Caliphate, Ottoman Empire, etc.), but has also been the subject of empires coming 'into' it (Alexander's empire, the Mongols, European empires, etc.)
 
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Hawki

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AFRICA

-Brief mention is given to the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai Empires, as well as Great Zimbabwe (does that count as an empire?) Honestly, the first three are examples of repeatedly observed phenomena in history, of empires rising and falling over the same patch of land.

-The author makes specific reference to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as being unique due to depopulating West Africa. Personally, if you want to call the TSA unique, this seems like the weakest of differentials, because if depopulation is the only issue, then that's fairly common in slaving, ranging from Easter Island to the so-called Harvesting of the Steppe of eastern Europe.

-If you want to ask why Africa is the way it is, and you say "colonialism" or "tribalism," then the author takes the view that the answer is "both," and that neither extreme can generate a full picture. On one hand, Africa has the legacy of artificial borders and weak national identity, but on the other, that doesn't excuse the actions of African elites, nor does it deal with tribal rivalries hindering development. Personally, I think this section is ill-served by not even mentioning Ethiopia, since it never came under European control in any real sense.

-If you're looking for an optimistic outlook on Africa here, you won't find it in the book. It does make me wonder, again, hypothetically, if Africa is another break from the whole "imperialized become imperialists" thesis, because as of typing this, there's no real chance of that happening. The continent is fractured, the AU is limp, Pan-Africanism is dead, and even if you factor out all the social issues, sub-Saharan Africa has a number of disadvantages. Not all of these claims are the author's own, but basically, the prognosis is the same. And that's not even factoring issues such as climate change. :(

CONCLUSION

Overall, the book was a solid read. There's a chance I've mischaracterized some of the author's arguments, and obviously I don't agree with everything, but overall, it's solid writing.
 
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Thaluikhain

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I don't see anything particularly noteworthy in backwater victims of imperialism becoming imperialist. Everywhere has been a backwater and a victim of imperialism at some time or other. Most don't get their own big empires, though, but the ones that do share that aspect of history with everyone else.. Likewise, anyone that used to be powerful and now isn't is going to have issues adjusting their culture to that. You could say the same about Italy, for example.
 

Hawki

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Likewise, anyone that used to be powerful and now isn't is going to have issues adjusting their culture to that. You could say the same about Italy, for example.
I agree, but is Italy really yearning for the Roman Empire these days? I know Mussolini drew on it for WWII, but there isn't a 1:1 link between the empire and Italy, which grew out of a confederation of city-states IIRC.

Also, the 'imperial hangovers' of some countries clearly have more weight than others. In Russia's case, with lethal consequences for instance, or for Britain's, arguably self-inflicted wounds.
 

Thaluikhain

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I agree, but is Italy really yearning for the Roman Empire these days? I know Mussolini drew on it for WWII, but there isn't a 1:1 link between the empire and Italy, which grew out of a confederation of city-states IIRC.
Nowdays, not so much, WW2 seemed to be the end of most of that, but then the Roman Empire is literally ancient history. Russia's power was in living memory, and Britain's almost so. Probably just takes some time to get over it and they aren't there yet.