Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Key News Events for June 24th, 2015

France is in an uproar after revelations by Wikileaks that its leaders have been spied upon going back as far as the presidency of Jacques Chirac that began in 1995. This information, coming after last year's revelations that the White House had spied on Angela Merkel, appears to be seen as something of a 'last straw' in the already troubled relationship between Europe and the US.[tag]France is in an uproar after revelations by Wikileaks that its leaders have been spied upon going back as far as the presidency of Jacques Chirac that began in 1995. This information, coming after last year's revelations that the White House had spied on Angela Merkel, appears to be seen as something of a 'last straw' in the already troubled relationship between Europe and the US.[tag]

RT this morning interviewed a highly respected former French Foreign Minister, Roland Dumas, who made several references to the way Charles De Gaulle would have handled a similar situation. (He was took France out of NATO and developed a French nuclear strike capability.) Dumas lamented that socialist President Francois Hollande did not seem sufficiently 'Gaullist', but I believe it is one more indication that the idea of a long overdue divorce from the US is really beginning to take shape in the minds of its leaders, who know that once they sign on to TTIP, a treaty that will destroy what is left of a welfare system that is the envy of the world, it will be too late. 

Not to worry, the other relevant news this morning is about a new Maidan in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The scenario is immediately clear to anyone who has read Zbignieuw Brzezinski's 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, which lays out plans to detach each of the then Soviet Union's near-abroad countries from Moscow.

Better yet, read a new work by two intrepid California analysts, Natylie Baldwin and Kermit Heartsong, Ukraine Checkmated that brings Zbig's chessboard up-date-with stunning analyses of the Neo-con-made Ukraine crisis, recently reviewed by David Swanson.
Armenia, as well as Georgia - which had its turn in 2008 - are on Zbig's list of countries to be subverted by fomenting 'color' revolutions according to the system elaborated by one Gene Sharp.


According to Peter Lavelle, Washington would appear to be seeking a way out of the crisis it created in Ukraine, as that country's financial situation becomes dire, but not to worry, the next phase of the plan against Russia is already up and running in Yerevan. I wonder how long it will take for us to see a State Department official handing out ice cream to the demonstrators.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Is Europe Imploding or Relocating?

In 1985, soon after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, I wrote a paper that unwittingly echoed the theories of the early twentieth century British historian Halford Mackinder, who realized that the Eurasian continent was the hub of the world. My thesis was that Europe had wrongly linked itself to a country on the other side of the Atlantic, and needed to see itself as one among several giants on the Eurasian continent that counter-balanced the power of the Soviet Union. That paper went unpublished and the book that developed the idea into a plan for European reunification found only a small academic publisher.  It came out on the day the Berlin Wall fell, astonishing most Sovietologists.
Thirty years later that paper still describes Europe’s fate: continued dependence on the United States, even though the Soviet Union with its wicked economic system, is long gone.   That dependence, poorly rationalized during the Cold War because it condemned Europe to being the theatre of a war between the two super-powers, is now bearing its poisoned fruits: economic austerity, an unsustainable influx of refugees from lands devastated by US war-mongering, and the concomitant rise of the anti-immigrant far-neofascist right. Luckily for Europe, Vladimir Putin is acting on Mackinder’s thesis. During the Cold War, the specter of Soviet tanks rolling across the plains of Eastern Europe alternated with warnings of ‘Finlandization’, an insidious Soviet takeover of Europe through soft power. Today, a Europe Finlandized by the US will be emancipated by becoming part of Putin and Mackinder’s Eurasia.
Brzezinski refers to Mackinder in his 1997 ‘The Grand Chessboard’ an elaborate plan for American domination of the world, that was reprised by the Neo-Cons.  The 2014 coup in Kiev is step one in Zbig’s plan to detach Ukraine, George, Armenia, Belo Rus and Moldova from Russia, risking World War III.
Although few people are saying it, the fact that Europe has fallen on extremely hard financial times is partly due to its continuing location as the potential battlefield between the US and Russia. For decades, outsiders complained of “fortress Europe”, the myriad rules and regulations hatched by bureaucrats in Brussels to protect European farmers and entrepreneurs, as well as the tight border controls that until recently have kept most asylum seekers at bay. In reality, fortress Europe was largely built according to American specifications, as an ‘Atlantic partner’ excused from participating in Washington’s military adventures while it perfected ‘the welfare state’. Decades on, although life in the welfare state is largely hidden from rank and file Americans by a complacent press, American workers are beginning to wonder why they only get two weeks vacation and expensive medical care.
By 2008, with Europe becoming the second largest economy in the world, it was time to do something about that. It would not have occured to anyone in Paris or Lisbon that the financial crash was not a temporary economic conjuncture. But, seven years later it has dawned on left-wing millennials that the European house - to use a term coined by Mikhail Gorbachev - is being deliberately undermined at its foundations by the very country that had saved it from two world wars.
Greece, once known for having been ‘the cradle of democracy’ in recent years became the ‘sick man of Europe’ (a favorite American phrase used originally to describe Turkey’s Ottoman Empire), no longer seen as the land of sun, surf and sirtaki, but a nation of slackers whose workers retire early to sip ouzo and play checkers by the sea. In reality, Greece, like Iceland and Cyprus, was targeted by unscrupulous international bankers, who now want the population at large to pay for their irresponsible deals.  They are backed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, who are empowered to lay the bill at the feet of the 99% while accusing them of taking high pensions from a government vis a vis whom the 1% evades taxes.
“TINE” - Margaret Thatchers “There is no alternative” to austerity had increasingly been turning the screws on Europe’s workers for half a decade until their anger coagulated into broad-based, determined movements for change, especially across Europe’s southern tier: Greece Italy, Spain and Portugal, the countries that have historically had the strongest communist and socialist parties, and that continue to have vibrant trade unions.  Greece, which had suffered a continuous string of inept so-called left and more often right-wing governments, finally birthed Syriza over several years of patient organizing.  In 2015 Syriza won the parliamentary elections on a detailed platform that promised to roll back the austerity that was driving thousands of Greeks to suicide.
In an unprecedented happening, activists from Spain and Portugal flocked to Greece to help the Syriza election campaign, and now Spain’s Podemos Party stands a good chance of winning elections in September, as workers across Europe continue to demonstrate against austerity, including in Great Britain, where ’Europe’ is blamed, and in Germany, whose workers have been told that they have to support ‘lazy’ Greeks.
As the possibility of a Greek default draws ever closer, Europe’s rulers play it cool, but they are running scared. If their brinkmanship forces Greece to leave the Euro, the other southern countries could follow suit, unraveling a system patiently built up over decades as part of an economic union that touches the lives of every European. Alas, Europe’s principle actors are no longer the politicians who built the ‘European Dream’ with peace in mind, but the global moneymen who want to have their cake while European workers eat crow. 
In the twentieth century, Europe was the theatre of two world wars, but in the twenty-first century the only way it can be taken down is through economic warfare. Modern historians are revealing the fact that the two world wars were more about economics than ideology, and the new way of fighting economic wars is through international Washington-controlled economic policies. And just as the US has been determined to take down Russia in order to access its trove of minerals, it has become equally determined to make sure that the European Union does not continue as a worker’s paradise, inevitably coming to the attention of US workers.
According to Sarah Wagenknecht, vice president of the German Left Party in today’s conversation with Sophie Schevarnadze on RT, Europeans are beginning to realize that while they have not been forced to participate with boots on the ground in Washington’s wars in Africa and the Middle East, they are expected to support the tens of thousands of refugees, many of whom are Black and most of whom are Muslims, fleeing to their shores.
As the Europe of manicured public lands, museums and cradle-to-grave worker security implodes under a three pronged assault: finance, population and religion, the answer to its predicament is the same as it was thirty years ago: independence from the US. And now, a small country whose claim to fame dates back two millennia, is leading the way. toward a twenty-first century democracy. While his finance minister continued to negotiate with the money hawks, Alexis Tsipras was at the Fifteenth St Petersburg Economic Forum, where in a major speech let the world know that his fellow European millennials were not going to line up behind Washington anymore.
Even as the US claims that Russia is isolated on the international scene, comparing its highly popular president to Hitler, businessmen and academics from 120 countries joined Tsipras in repeatedly applauding Putin’s calls for dialogue, cooperation and negotiation. Although war is known to be good for business, today’s international businessmen increasingly see the folly of continually destroying the world in order to rebuild it, especially a world of nuclear weapons. In St. Petersburg they inked $5.4bn worth of deals.
Finlandization was imagined as a gradual takeover of a sleeping Europe by the Soviet Union. As the US continues to press the EU into a treaty that would make corporations all-powerful, Vladimir Putin is basing his policy on the well-known development mantra: “Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he can eat every day.”  He offered Greece a way to ensure its financial future without needing handouts or bailouts, signing a deal for a pipeline to bring Russian gas to Europe via Greece.
If its southern tier can convince the north to leave its Atlantic dependence behind, the Europe we have known since the Second World War will be unrecognizable by its hundredth anniversary: home to perhaps a majority of Muslims, it will be part of the vast Eurasian continent described by Mackinder as the hub of the world, separated from Africa only by a commonly owned sea.  And far from their nations falling one by one to the United States, Eurasia’s multifarious peoples will be riding the Chinese silk road from Vladivostok to Lisbon, as De Gaulle suggested.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mumia abu Jamal Still Denied Access to Outside Physician

While the Black Lives Matter movement gains in strength and prominence in the face of continuing police brutality, the health of the most famous Black prisoner, Mumia abu Jamal, continues to decline in a Pennsylvania prison. 

Mumia, as he is familiarly known to Black and white activists alike, was accused of killing a police officer in 1981 and has been in solitary confinement on death row since his conviction in 1982.  His supporters insist that Mumia, a former Black Panther, was framed by police. In recent months his health has deteriorated and the prison system has not allowed him to be seen by an outside physician, allowing a normally non-fatal illness (diabetes) to risk becoming lethal. Citing an up-coming re-trial, the prison system has refused to release his medical records.Since his imprisonment, Mumia has become an internationally acclaimed author and radio commentator whose cause is supported by human rights activists around the world https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mumia-abu-jamal-needs-medical-care-now#/story

Putin in Italy

Milan’s World Fair illustrates the emptiness of Europe’s dictated words with respect to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Has anyone noticed that Putin’s relations with both Greece and Italy have a different flavor from those with Germany and France?  This is not a coincidence.  Both Italy and Greece have had important Communist and Socialist parties since the end of World War II.  Both have very active left-wing trade unions, and Italy was the fulcrum of the Eurocommunist movement that arose in the seventies, partly inspired by the Prague Spring of 1968 and the protests that rocked Western Europe, in particular France.
 And although Putin is in the same 60ish age group as Merkel and Hollande, he is closer in style to the fortyish Renzi and Tsipras and the Spain’s Podemos head, thirty-six year old Pablo Iglesias (maybe thanks to all those sports he practices…).
But I don’t want to give these personal details more importance than they deserve.  What is significant about Putin’s relationship with the two younger men who head Europe’s troubled southern countries is that all four are against the form of capitalism that the United States and the world’s major industrialists are bent on imposing on the world, and which is at the root of Europe’s troubled economies.  The same holds true for his relationship with the Pope: though the Western and Eastern Churches have been at odds for centuries, that time is long past, and unlike his Soviet predecessors, Vladimir Putin attaches great importance to religion.
The mainstream press took note of Putin’s meeting with Tsipras a few weeks ago over the debt crisis in Greece  - which is also an Orthodox country, by the way - when he invited Greece to join the Eurasian Union that links Russia to China by way of the central Asian countries.  It would not surprise me if Italy were to receive a similar invitation.  Under Washington’s watchful eye and long arm, the members of the European Union know they must continue to mouth adhesion to sanctions against Russia, but it is certain that the Milan World Fair is only one of many ways in which European countries can bolster ties with Russia until the time comes when they can officially end the rules that hurt both.

While most pundits are observing France and Germany for tangible signs of readiness for a historic break with Washington, Europe’s southern tier can quietly go about putting in place the first building blocks of a real Eurasian union. I have just discovered the 1904 Heartland Theory of Halford MacKinder, to which I could have paid tribute when I wrote ‘Une autre Europe, un autre Monde’ published in 1989, whose main argument was that Europe had no reason to fear the Soviet Union because it did not stand alone with that giant country but shared the Eurasian landmass with several other powerful entities, including India, China, and the Middle East. Mackinder wrote that whoever controls ‘the heartland’, i.e., the Eurasian landmass, controlled the world, and Vladimir Putin’s Eurasia Union, whether or not he is aware of Mackinder, does just that.

The "R" Word is Out

On the day that OEN published Chris Hedges piece entitled "We are in a revolutionary moment” http://www.opednews.com/Quicklink/We-are-in-a-revolutionary-by-James-Quandy-Activist_Chris-Hedges_Chris-Hedges_Christianity-150605-120.html  if you had been watching RT you would have seen the protesters outside the German venue of the G-7 Summit holding up big signs calling for Revolution against Capitalism and Globalization.  I believe this is the first time international protesters have explicitly called for revolution. Until now, their slogans have reflected the conventional wisdom of most of the left, that the system could be fixed. That American policy-makers would somehow realize that private-public cooperation makes for a wealthier polity, that the social-democracy that gave Europeans such a high standard of living was not the enemy of business and should be emulated rather than overthrown.

It is no coincidence that the call for Revolution should be going out now.  Since the 2008 economic crisis which I believe specifically targeted the European welfare state, the global economic situation has not improved: the smaller and southern countries of the EU are still mired in high levels of unemployment, as governments increasingly privatize sectors that were well-run by governments or government/private entities.  These changes are not being reported in the American press, nor have Americans been told of the many key sectors of Europe’s economy in which governments were heavily involved, such as education and health care. Most utilities were also run by join government/private entities, and the austerity programs imposed on the EU by the world economic organization have included their privatization, to the detriment of the populations they are intended to serve.

A few days ago RT did a short feature on a German university that has welcomed 4,000 American students to its post-graduate courses taught in English. Education is not only free for Germans and other members of the European Union, in Germany it is now also free for students from other parts of the world.  Across the EU, college tuition has always been minimal, making it for all intents and purposes, free.

Paraphrasing a comment to Chris Hedges’ article yesterday: 

<blockquote>Even as Chris publishes Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, demonstrators at the G7 about to meet in Germany are calling for revolution. This is the first time I have seen this reported, and as a Senior Editor at OEN.com, I watch international news channels all day. Besides condemning capitalism and globalization, demonstrators are holding signs calling for revolution. Of course, these things happen more easily in Europe, because there is a high level of ideological literacy there, even among the young.  America has Black Lives Matter but the long tail of McCarthyism has prevented minority movements from assimilating two hundred years of revolutionary discourse.</blockquote>

The reason why, as the G-7 gets under way - a prelude to the Bilderberg conference coming up, where the real decisions are taken - it’s still the Europeans who are carrying water for the American left is not just because Americans have to buy a transatlantic ticket to join the action. Sadly bereft of ideological underpinnings, the American left is still drawn to the daily charade over an election that is almost a year and a half away, instead of gearing up for resistance to an over-armed state which is in fact a subsidiary of the military/industrial/financial complex. The Hillaries and Bernies, the Ricks (Santorum and Perry) and the Walkers, Bush-maybe-three and presidential poster-child Marco Rubio, still in my view most likely to walk away with the Republican nomination based on his youth, energy and dazzling smile that will make Hillary look like a dowager, already dominate the news, while Ukraine comes closer to bankruptcy or all-out war, (the latter saving it from the former) and the US Navy tries to persuade the world that it should decide what goes on in the South China Sea.

The American Declaration of Independence is the only document I know of that specifically authorizes ‘the people’ to take matters into their own hands and replace a government that does not serve their interests. But that was our earliest founding document, and those that followed  - the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and other amendments - walked back its revolutionary message. 

Whatever happens from here on in, however long it takes for a world revolutionary situation to emerge, this weekend marks the watershed moment when McCarthyism was finally buried, and activists no longer hesitated to brandish the word ‘Revolution’. In terms of public figures, Chris Hedges, the former seminarian turned foreign correspondent, was not alone in using the ‘R’ word; he was preceded by Pope Frances who after rehabilitating liberation theology, (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/11/vatican-new-chapter-liberation-theology-founder-gustavo-gutierrez) condemned the atmosphere of war that prevails in the world. http://rt.com/news/265486-pope-francis-sarajevo-bosnia/


As I’ve written before, physics has something called the arrow of time, which is irreversible. When a process gains a certain momentum, it cannot be stopped, much less reversed: it continues until it reaches a bifurcation point, thence to a new level of civilization which can be either higher or lower. Whether it will lead to a more equitable regime, or terror, the number of people driving the system toward a bifurcation appear to have given it sufficient impetus to continue in its forward trajectory.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"What Does Europe Want?" A Book Review

A Croatian writer is interviewed on Democracy Now about a book he’s written called What Does Europe Want?, and given my abiding interest in the subject - having written the only book that foresaw the reunification of Europe AND the dissolution of the Soviet Union - I request a review copy.  It turns out that it is a joint effort between the Croatian, Srecko Horvath, and the mischievous Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who has published many books in the US and taught at New York University. Not only: there is a third participant in this discussion of prospects for radical change in Europe, the leader of Greece’s Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras who since the book was written has become the country’s Prime Minister. With tongue-in-cheek chapter headings such as “Are the Nazis Living on the Moon?” or ”Shoplifters of the World, Unite!” or even “Do Markets have Feelings?” the book revolves around the failure of the left to liberate Europe from American domination and what to do about it.

Toward the end of the book we learn that it was first published in 2012 in a number of European languages, so the English text is probably intended for Zizek’s mainly academic American readers who might be familiar with the European saga; most of the material will be excruciatingly unfamiliar to other American readers, even those interested in foreign affairs. I say excruciatingly because as a few commentators are beginning to notice, one of America’s greatest handicaps when it comes to dealing with other countries is its ignorance of their history and current realities.  Not having been written for an American audience, this book offers a glimpse into the way Europeans think and behave when addressing each other. 

The chapters are written alternately by each author, but the Preface is by Alexis Tsipras, and the final chapter is a discussion between Tsipras and the two authors. Scattered throughout the book in bits and pieces is the story of the party’s rise over several years, culminating in its electoral success that took most of the world by surprise. As Greece’s dire situation continues, with talk of it having to leave the Euro, Tsipras is trying to maintain the promises he made to the Greek people during the time the book was being written. The most significant aspect of Syriza’s rise was that for the first time, an election campaign in one country drew the active support of left-wing movements and parties across the European Union, in particular that of the Spanish Podemos Party which in turn made significant progress in parliamentary elections, partly thanks to the Syriza precedent.  Although socialist, communist and green parties have always been active on the European electoral scene, this is the first time that a party descended from the Occupy movement has come to power.

“What does Europe want?” enables American readers to penetrate a world in which 500,000 people speaking over thirty languages live cheek to jowl in an area that is roughly half the size of the continental US  (1.7 million square miles to over 3 million). The European Union was set up in small steps after two World Wars had ravaged the Eurasian peninsula (as I like to call it), in the space of thirty years, hoping to put an end to strife among neighbors with not only different languages, but also different religions, mainly Catholicism and Protestantism, but also Judaism and Islam.

The first time I travelled from Paris to Prague, in the early sixties, I was surprised to discover that the plane ride was scarcely longer than a bus ride from one end of Paris to the other.  At that time, the existence of the so-called Iron Curtain made the Eastern half of Europe seem very far away. Conversely, propinquity partly explains why European cultural and political figures speak several languages and become intimately involved in each other’s worlds, as was the case even when Eastern Europe was part of a different military block. While American academics are most likely to be familiar solely with the work of other American or British academics - or at most that of speakers of one other language - European intellectuals skate back and forth between capitals, mixing and matching the work of a host of Others with whom they may share oppositional histories.

I would not want American readers to be put off from this valuable work by its incessant references to ‘foreign’ people and theories. Zizek in particular loves to mix opera with physics and cinema with history. He is a Marxist whose interests include both philosophy and psychoanalysis, and when he makes the case for radical change in Europe he will say things like:

"The unofficial anthem of the European Union, heard at numerous political cultural and sporting events, is the Ode an die Freude melody from the last movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony: a true ‘empty signifier’ that can stand for anything.

……. However, before we dismiss the fourth movement as a piece ‘destroyed through social usage’ as Adorno puts it, let us note some peculiarities of its structure.…..The finale is a weird mixture of Orientalism and regression into late 18th century classicism, a double retreat from the historical present, a silent admission of the purely fantastical joy of all-encompassing brotherhood. If ever there was a music that literally ‘deconstructs itself’, this is it…Does the same not hold true for Europe today?…..What we need is a totally new definition of Europe itself.

…..Europe lies in the great pincers between America on the one side and China on the other…….There is effectively a need for us Europeans for what Heidegger called interpretive confrontation with others as well as with Europe’s own past, from its ancient Judeo-Christian roots to the recently deceased idea of the Welfare State. Europe is today split between the so-called Anglo-Saxon model, which asks for acceptance of ‘modernization’ (adaptation to the rules of the new global order) - and the French-German model - which asks us to save as much as possible of the ‘old European’ welfare state."

Zizek argues that the aim of Europeans should not be ‘globalization with a human face’, but to “step into the unknown”, the only alternative being slow decay, “the transformation of Europe into a destination for nostalgic cultural tourism”.  (In previous blogs I have referred to Europe as a museum….)

While Horvath advocates "direct democracy as a necessary corrective (and possibly a true alternative) to electoral democracy and ‘partitocracy’”, he has claimed that "it is becoming more and more clear that a movement without a party is impotent, and that a party without a movement can only repeat the failures of the past”. (Both authors participated in Occupy’s New York saga, whose critics claimed that it lacked a program…) But Zizek cannot be content with common-sense solutions. He calls for “a sectarian split from the standard European legacy”. (Only by) “cutting ourselves off from the decaying corpse of the old Europe can we keep the renewed European legacy alive.” Readers will find that legacy in quips scattered throughout the book.

Horvath is particularly concerned over the rise of fascism in Europe. During the second world war, the Ustashi government of his country, Croatia, was Hitler’s ally, and as with the Banderistas in Ukraine, the Ustashis still have fervent descendants today. Tsipras believes that to make its voice heard within the EU, making a difference for itself and others, Croatia would have to replace one-way communication with Brussels by becoming part of large solidarity networks both within the EU and the rest of the Balkans. During a talk at the Subversive Film Festival in Zagreb, he called upon Croatia to “join the struggle for a European Union that would be different from the one currently dominated by neoliberal ideology and austerity measures, based instead on the principles of democratic participation, social justice and international solidarity.”

Horvath responds by pointing out that Croatia’s entry into the EU in July 2013 effectively separated it from its historical environment formed by the other former Yugoslav states Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. When it voted to outlaw gay marriage, its footballers saw in this democratic decision a tribute to their Nazi revival. They incited the crowd at a major football stadium to salute the Croatian collaborators of the Nazi regime who had sent tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews and others to concentration camps. Here, Horvath sees his country as part of the “rotten heart of Europe”, in which fascism rises again.

This book by scholars from two of Europe’s smallest countries, Croatia and Slovenia, spotlights events that may have gone unnoticed by their larger neighbors, but were part of the dense fabric of European life that most Americans only know as tourists. One of the events that Americans probably didn’t hear about was the staging by Susan Sontag of ‘Waiting for Godot’ during the three year siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, in the nineteen-nineties. During this longest capital city siege in history, a number of theaters remained active, often by candlelight.  According to Horvath:

"Overall the city had 182 premieres attended by upwards of a million playgoers. While the Croatian and Serbian theatre scenes at the time were focused mainly on national(ist) issues, Bosnian theatre was international in the true sense of the word: Alkestis, Godot, Hair and In the Country of Last Things, were among the plays to grace the Sarajevo stage during the siege."

Referring to a week of protests against the privatizations that mark the transformation of Europe from a comfortable welfare state into another cog in the wheel of globalization, he asks:

"What does the ‘theatre under occupation’ from the 1990’s have in common with the people’s uprising in Bosnia and Hercegovina in 2014? According to a participant in Susan Sontag’s Godot: “Before the war, everyone was waiting for his own Godot. Now 300,000 people were waiting for one and the same Godot.” Borrowing a slogan from Obama, Horvath says, “We were the Godot we were waiting for."

I am gratified that Tsipras, Zizek and Horvath agree with me (http://otherjonesii.blogspot.com/2013/04/euro-crisis-or-war-on-welfare.html) that the 2008 crisis fomented by Wall Street was part of Empire’s plan to destroy the Welfare State, and that EU bureaucrats answer to Washington via London. (Prime Minister David Cameron, who brought Margaret Thatcher’s ‘there is no alternative’ (to austerity) into the 21st century, is making the rounds of European capitals, seeking a two-tier EU and threatening a referendum to leave if he fails to get his way. As of this morning, he appears to have won over Angela Merkel, an indication that she is not ready to lead the EU away from Washington by severing important ties to its local representative.

Very differently, Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and the small countries that once made up Yugoslavia want to revive the welfare state under more democratic conditions. But they also recognize that there may no longer be time for conservatives to organize a two-tier Europe. Seeing only that they could not share the far-right’s stigmatization of brown people, they failed to recognize that immigration from Africa and the Middle East was unstoppable, until thousands drowned in the Mediterranean in the attempt. Suddenly, it became clear that NATO’s decision to force regime change in Libya and Syria had resulted failed states causing desperate populations to surge toward Europe, while the US remained comfortably out of reach a wide ocean away. 

In a chapter titled “I’m Not Racist But….The Blacks Are Coming!”, Horvath shows that people in the small states of the former Yugoslavia that did not have African colonies and had not previously drawn African immigrants, are having the same reaction as the French or Germans did decades ago: “When someone comes directly from Africa to a European capital he kind of stands out a little, you know.” Horvath notes that “in Croatia, previously there were the Serbs, and now there are the blacks,” equally perceived as ‘Others’. But Europe’s small countries are not the only ones to experience immigration negatively: “In the Italian town of Lucca the city council voted to outlaw the selling of foreign foods in the old city, and soon Milan voted a law to protect “local specialties from the influence of foreign cuisines”. (Foods and alcohols that carry a label attesting to their local origin are prized by tourists.) For Horvath, “culinary racism is not some excessive anomaly, but should be seen as part of the general trend toward xenophobia.”


As Europe comes to grips with a growing number of asylum-seekers, the left’s search for a 21st century civilization democratically based on equity may be doomed: after sixty-five years of American domination, Europe may not have time to transition to an independent entity before becoming an outpost of the Islamic world. On the other hand, as Karen Armstrong reminds us, Islam demands that humans treat each other with equity, dignity and respect, thus Europe will be an important region in which Islam’s reformation plays out. http://otherjonesii.blogspot.com/search?q=Islam's+Reformation.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Is ISIS Post-Modernism's Latest Avatar?

On Memorial weekend, Meet the Press was replaced by sports, TCM’s movie line-up is devoted to war movies, and Face the Nation devoted half its time to a discussion of the Vietnam War - the one the US military needed to get over by invading Afghanistan, then Iraq.
But that was before ISIS, the army that is creating a country, and whether and how it can be defeated. Will the US have to put boots on the ground, as Senator McCain believes, or will it suffice for the Iraqi Shia’ dominated government to give Sunnis a bigger voice so they don’t join the fanatic Islamists?  The desertion of Ramadi by Iraqi troops showed how poorly organized the army is, and certainly the US must be held in part responsible. 
But one thing that is never mentioned is the fact that in the space of a year, ‘ISIS’ has taken over half of Syria and half of Iraq, without an established government and bureaucracy behind it: their blitzkrieg will go down in military history as a new form of guerrilla warfare. And yet, the press is mainly concerned with how many troops the organization has, how they sell oil to Turkey, and — currently — whether they will destroy a magnificent UNESCO heritage site, the ancient ruins of Palmyra. (In that regard, perhaps our only hope is that ISIS will prefer to use its troops to take more land than to dynamite what they consider to be objects of idolatry.) 
At the end of the day, ISIS shows what determined fighters can do without a cumbersome system behind them. It would be interesting to find out how much it spends keeping its forces clothed, fed and mobile. (We already know that they capture a lot of weapons dropped by the US for what it hopes are forces fighting them….) We know they have relatively easy access to money through the sale of energy from conquered oil and gas fields, but their use of modern tools of communication and control has apparently enabled them to eliminate the institutions that have always overseen the conduct of war and often lead to contradictory messages. 
It’s axiomatic in military discussions that the army with the best morale usually wins, and with ISIS morale is on steroids. But the motivation of its fighters cannot be attributed solely to the predations of Empire across the Muslim world. This is not a you-exploited-us-and-now-we’re-booting-you-out campaign. Fighters would not come from the world’s most developed countries to schlep across the desert fully clothed (in those picturesque uniforms consisting of lose trousers, jumpers and face masks that one can recognize from afar on the news) just to fight a modern-day war of liberation. Its tit for tat is about morality. aWhile Europeans are increasingly determined to resist the austerity mandated by Brussels under orders from Washington,- Spain’s Podemos Party just chalked up similar wins to those of Greece’s early Syriza Party - superimposed on the age-old fight for equity is a new fault-line that goes under the name of morality but is more complicated than any morality play.
Broadly speaking, it is a revolt against the type of society that has evolved from an overemphasis on consumption. Labelled ‘moral degeneracy’, behaviors previously considered depraved have become the norm (as in ‘anything goes’). Although Western societies have, since the Second World War, been characterized by ever looser standards of sexual behavior, what is remarkable is the fact that increasingly, the classical labels of left and right are muddied, as people belonging to the two groups find themselves agreeing on a growing range of subjects, giving rise to what is called ‘post-modernism’. Vladimir Putin, for example, is endorsed by the president of France’s neo-fascist National Front, Marine Le Pen, because both pay tribute to their respective religious institutions, (organized religion having always backed authori-tarianism, whether as monarchy, fascism or the Stars and Stripes) and because the Russian president, while retaining the trappings of a welfare state, uses ‘managed democracy’ to bring back nationalism, a hallmark of right-wing parties. 
Opprobrium against ‘loose morals’ is prominent among believers of all faiths, but it increasingly involves non-believers, many of whom espouse hedonism while condemning vulgarity. The fact that young women - and even teenagers - respond to on-line invitations to travel to a war zone to marry Islamic fighters is as much about a dawning awareness that life shouldn’t be all about the latest shade of lipstick or the newest rock song, as a revolt against being treated as an object by boys and men. While ‘liberated’ women resent being blamed for sexual assaults because of their short skirts and make-up, others choose to protect themselves from harassment by hiding their shape under long skirts and loose, long-sleeved tops. To be told you will be put on a pedestal rather than whistled at plays to the princess lurking beneath the bikini. 
For young men, the equivalent attraction is the image of themselves as not only heroic fighters, but paladins of propriety.   ‘Submission’ too is a powerful attractor, as history has shown from earliest times: today, Americans ‘submit’ to monitoring by a government that tells them they are ‘free’; they ‘submit’ to nine-to-five jobs in order to pay the mortgage, and to the pharma-ceutical industry that conjures up dangers to their health, having been trained by tv - mom’s free baby sitter - to demand the newest of everything. One doesn’t necessarily have to believe in God to welcome an obligation to behave in ways that humans are programmed to judge positively, including those that allow societies to occasionally blow off steam, as opposed to a permanent permissiveness that leads to boredom.
The Western alliance claims to bring democracy by the sword, while ISIS claims to bring propriety, both believing their actions justified by the superiority/sanctity of their cause.