22 July 2016

Jesus Opium – Prelude to the Opium Wars

The Imperial Cruise by James Bradley, 2009, Excerpts

Bengal in northern India had long produced opium, for centuries used across Asia as a medicinal and social drug. England controlled a vast swath of prime opium-growing country, stretching five hundred miles across Bengal, and the British Empire invested enormous sums in state-of-the-art opium farming and productive systems. More than two thousand British opium agents oversaw the efforts of one million registered Indian opium farmers. The Bengal-to-China opium business became the world’s most valuable single commodity trade of the nineteenth century, opium accounted for 15 to 20 percent of the British Empire’s revenue. Western banks, shipping companies, and insurance companies sprouted to serve this enormously profitable trade.

Realizing the harm to their people, the Chinese government banned opium’s sale and use in China. White Christian opium smugglers could not legally sell the banned drug on Chinese soil, so they installed floating wooden warehouses in the Pearl River Delta, where they sold their booty to Chinese criminals who rowed out under the cover of darkness. It was Christians who smuggled the poisonous drug into China, so the Chinese called it “Jesus Opium”.

Between 1814 and 1850, the Jesus-opium trade sucked out 11 percent of China’s money supply. China lost more silver in thirty years than had flowed into the country in the 125 years leading up to the opium trade. As the Chinese money supply contracted, silver became unnaturally scarce, peasants had trouble paying their taxes, counterfeiting rose, waves of inflations and deflation whipsawed the economy, and unrest grew.

The Chinese government dispatched a royal representative to Canton in 1839 to stop the Foreign Devil drug trade. Buckingham Palace shook at the news. Queen Victoria was just twenty years old at this point, on the British throne less than two years, but when the Chinese threatened to cut her largest single source of income, she understood the dire financial consequences, the drug trade provided easy money, silver, that most sustained her empire. Victoria dispatched her industrialized navy to enforce Britain’s ability to push an illegal drug. What followed were the two Opium Wars – one from 1839 to 1842, the other from 1856 to 1860. What Victoria spent on these military operations against China was paltry compared to her take of profits from the illegal Jesus-opium trade.

18 July 2016


Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann, 1921, Excerpts

In the great confusion of the outer world, we tend to pick out what our culture has already stereotyped for us by our culture. Whatever we recognize as familiar we tend to visualize with the aid of images already in our mind. We notice a trait which marks a well-known type, and fill in the rest of the picture by means of the stereotypes we carry about in our heads. Consequently the stereotype not only saves time in a busy life and is a defense of our position in society, but tends to preserve us from all the bewildering effect of trying to see the world steadily and see it whole. It is the guarantee of our self-respect; it is the projection upon the world of our own sense of our own value, our own position and our own rights.

The stereotypes are highly charged with the feelings that are attached to them. Stereotypes are loaded with preference, suffused with affection or dislike, attached to fears, lusts, strong wishes, pride, and hope. They are the fortress of our tradition, and behind its defenses we can continue to feel ourselves safe in the position we occupy. Any disturbance of the stereotypes seems like an attack upon the foundations of the universe.

What matters is the character of the stereotypes, and the gullibility with which we employ them. Uncritically held, the stereotype censors out much that needs to be taken into account. It is only when we are in the habit of recognizing our opinions as a partial experience seen through our stereotypes that we become truly tolerant of an opponent. What will become accepted as true, as realistic, as good, as evil, as desirable, is not eternally fixed.