Archive for the ‘Western decline’ Category

Welcoming the Fascists to Charlottesville

By David Swanson

Here is the original: Welcoming the Fascists to Charlottesville

August 10, 2017

I have mixed emotions about the fact that I’ll be missing the latest big fascism rally here in Charlottesville, because I’ll be elsewhere participating in kayak trainings for an upcoming Flotilla to the Pentagon for Peace and the Environment.

I’m delighted to miss the fascism and the racism and the hatred and the gun-toting lunacy. I’m sorry to miss being here to speak against it.

I’m hopeful that there might be something resembling a disciplined nonviolent and nonhateful opposition presence, but strongly suspect that a small number of violent and hateful opponents of racism will ruin that.

I’m thrilled that taking down a racist war monument has gone mainstream. I’m depressed that, even though the legal delay in taking it down is based on its being a war monument, one side wants it down for being racist, the other side wants it up for being racist, and everybody is perfectly happy to pack the town with war monuments.

I dread the possibility of hearing that the racists again chanted “Russia is our friend!” meaning that they believe without evidence that Russia corrupted the U.S. election and they are grateful for it, but I’m hopeful that they have moved on to other bizarre chants — though my hope is minimal that anyone might chant “Russia is our friend” and mean by it that they’d like to build peace and friendship between Americans and Russians.

As I’ve written in the past, I think ignoring the racists and their rallies is wrong, and I think confronting them with a hostile shouting match is wrong. Speaking out in favor of love and sanity and understanding is right. We will again this week see some of each of those approaches. We’re also likely to see another abuse of power by a militarized police force. (Remember when Americans used to think of the police as the most prominent violent racists? When was that, about a month ago?)

The inclination to ignore the racists and hope they’ll fade away into history like trials by ordeal or dueling is strong. Judging by popular social norms and their dwindling membership, the KKK seems to be on the way out. Why give them or their suit-and-tie allies any attention that could help promote them?

Well, for one thing, violent racism is not on the way out if we’re judging by presidential elections, hate crimes, police crimes, the prison system, the choice of communities to run gas pipelines through, or many other factors. And the only way my comment on “social norms” in the previous paragraph makes any sense is if we write off the generally accepted bombing of seven dark-skinned Muslim nations as somehow non-racist.

A truly nonviolent approach toward people who believe they are taking a stand for justice as they perceive it is not a protest but an invitation. Not long ago, in Texas, a group planned an anti-Muslim protest at a mosque. A violent anti-anti-Muslim crowd showed up. The Muslims from the mosque placed themselves between the two groups, asking their would-be defenders to leave, and then inviting the anti-Muslim demonstrators to join them at a restaurant to talk things over. They did so.

I’d love to see skilled mediators and others of good will and good heart extend an invitation to the racists visiting Charlottesville to come unarmed to discuss in small groups, without cameras or audiences, what it is that divides us. Might some of them recognize the humanity of those they scapegoat if some of us recognized the injustices they’ve faced or the unfairness they perceive in affirmative action or in the acceptability of “whites” only as a topic for insults, not as a source of pride in the manner permitted all other racial and ethnic groupings?

We live in a country that has made its biggest social project war, a country that has concentrated its wealth beyond medieval levels, a country that consequently experiences incredible levels of unnecessary suffering exacerbated by awareness of its unnecessity and unfairness. Yet what we have of social supports for education, training, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and income is distributed in non-universal, divisive manners that encourage us to fight among ourselves. The KKK members who came to Charlottesville last month, and most of the racists who will show up this week, are not wealthy. They’re not living off the exploitation of workers or prisoners or pollution or war. They’ve just chosen a particularly harmful object for their blame, as compared with those who blame the Republicans or the Democrats or the media.

When they come to condemn us for seeking to remove a statue, we shouldn’t look down at them like grand generals astride monster-sized horses. We should welcome them to explain themselves.

Continue reading here…

End of Nuclearism or the End of the World: Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Nightmares

By Richard Falk

We are living amid contradictions whether we like it or not, driving expectations about the future toward opposite extremes.

Increasingly plausible are fears that the ‘sixth extinction’ will encompass the human species, or at least, throw human society back to a technology of sticks and stones, with a habitat limited to caves and forests.

This dark vision is countered by gene-editing designer promises of virtual immortality and super-wise beings programming super-intelligent machines, enabling a life of leisure, luxury, and security for all.

Whether the reality of such a scientistic future would be also dark is a matter of conjecture, but from a survival perspective, it offers an optimistic scenario.

On political levels, a similar set of polar scenarios are gaining ground in the moral imagination, producing national leaders who seem comfortable embracing an apocalyptic telos without a second thought.

The peoples of the world, entrapped in a predatory phase of global capitalism, are using their democratic prerogative to shut down dissent, rationality, and science. Read the rest of this entry »

Living in Dystopian Times

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note
The text below is drawn from a talk given at the Spring Festival of the Arts in Beirut, Lebanon on 15 June 2017. Comments welcome.

How can we understand the present unfolding world order, with special reference to its relevance for developments in the Middle East? In my view a fundamental reversal of political expectations has taken place that calls for a new assessment of what is going on, and where the region and the world seem to be heading.

Twenty-five years ago there were three widely held beliefs about future trends on a global level: the assured preeminence of the United States; the continuing globalization of the world economy; and the expanding democratization of national governance arrangements.

It was also assumed that these trends were more or less descriptive of regional realities, including the Middle East.

Each of these trends that seemed so descriptive 25 years ago now seems to be completely out of touch with what is happening around us that is very disappointing when compared with earlier expectations, no where more so than in the Middle East.

These disillusioning changes of perception are contributing to a growing anxiety about what the future portends for all of us.

In addition to these changes of expectation as to international behavioral patterns, there exist a cluster of deeper tensions that concern the very nature of the human condition, extending to challenges directed at the sustainability and quality of life on the planet.

One unfortunate consequence of the preoccupation with these disturbing recent international political realities is that much needed attention is diverted away from these more fundamental issues of an ecological, technological, and cultural character.

As an American, I am especially conscious of the enormous and costly diversionary impact that the Trump presidency is having in weakening the understanding and planning needed if humanity is to have any realistic chance of coping with these emerging threats of great magnitude that have never been confronted in the past.

The most serious menace posed by Donald Trump, who is most accurately regarded as the first right-wing populist tweeting demagogue of the digital age, is his extraordinary talent to shift the conversation from the awkwardly significant to the banal trivial.

He is exerting a great influence on public discourse not only in America but in the world, especially by diluting our perceptions of crucial issues affecting the human species as a whole, including climate change as connected to the related decline of biodiversity, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the destabilizing effects of these technologies of the digital age especially when applied to security arrangements and the broad spectrum of societal policies bearing on individual and collective human wellbeing.

Under the weight of these threats it is not surprising that a dystopian moment is beginning to dominate the cultural imagination.

It discloses itself through a fascination with post-apocalyptic films and an interest in older literary dystopias such as Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale. These books that imagined a future that is in some respects our present are being widely read and discussed as if guidebooks to a set on conditions that were not anticipated.

Within the American political space the fragility of American democracy was prefigured in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here as well in scary premonitions of the imminence of digital age fascism put forward in the recent radical feminist post-apocalyptic novel, The Book of Joan (2017) by Lidia Yuknavitch.

Also indicative of the foreboding quality of the prevailing Zeitgeist is a bestselling booklet that is a collection of identifying markers of tyranny by the prominent historian, Timothy Snyder, with a deliberately provocative title and a pedagogical rationale, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017).

This ‘dystopian moment’ is reinforced by the absence of positive scenarios of the future, and the dismissal of the utopian imagination as worse than irrelevant because it allegedly created receptivity to promises that when translated into political reality produce totalitarian nightmares.

In effect, utopias, correctly understood, have themselves become in these dark times a disguised form of dystopia.

A recovery of societal confidence is a key precondition of envisioning a better future. Its loss is one dimension of the crisis confronting humanity at this time, and these days such failures of moral and political imagination are generally overlooked in the public sphere that is obsessively focused on the latest daily episode in the Trump political soap opera.

Naomi Klein reminds us in a recent interview, “Trump is not the crisis but the symptom of the crisis.” The point is that we must make the effort to grasp the social and political forces that gave rise to Trump and Trumpism. Klein also insisted that the negativity of progressive thinking in recent decades has had little political traction because it fails to present a positive alternative to the angry negativity of right-wing populism that targets the established order.

Klein’s new book has the title No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.

Her text impressively couples a necessary critique of Trump’s pernicious leadership with an affirmative vision of how to move the political process in emancipatory directions. Read the rest of this entry »

New counterproductive U.S. sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea

Jan Oberg comments on the new U.S. sanctions – passed on July 28, 2017, against Russia, Iran and North Korea.

‘NATO-Turkey conflict reveals cracks in Western military alliance’

By Jan Oberg

Comments to Op-Ed page of Russia Today

Turkey is increasingly at odds with NATO and its departure from democracy and loyalty with other NATO members should give NATO solid reasons for solid concern.

However, NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, seems to still praise Turkey’s “democratic institutions” at the time of the coup attempt one year ago.

Here’s the German edition of this article.

Russian and Western influence in Macedonia compared

By Biljana Vankovska

Text of report by Macedonian newspaper Nova Makedonija on 12 June

Commentary by Biljana Vankovska: “Russia ante portas!”

The UK The Guardian recently issued a bombastic report based on certain intelligence leaks, apparently resembling WikiLeaks, that revealed the big and terrifying secret of the Russian bad boys working on Macedonia’s distancing from the West for nearly 10 years through the use of old-fashioned methods (strange and mysterious spies and conspirators) and sophisticated means of influence via public diplomacy and “soft power”.

This crown “evidence” has fitted in perfectly with the subtle campaign that a number of national media has been leading for a while now, promoting the “intimidating notion” of the Macedonians regarding Russia as a friendly country. An opinion poll on our foreign political orientations has indicated that as many as 17 per cent of the respondents have a positive view on Russia.

Imagine, these impertinent persons have dared reduce the incredible 95 per cent of people who support the West, which was typical only of [Albanian communist leader] Enver Hoxha’s Albania and Bulgaria during [Bulgarian communist leader] Zhivkov’s era!

This thesis is being reiterated ad nauseam and serves a double purpose: first, it should prove the harmful effects of the perfidious policies of the VMRO-DPMNE’s [Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity] fake patriots and, second, such an approach of the journalists’ genuine shock and concern is a preventive disciplinary measure for those who – Heaven forbid – would dare criticise the West.

It is interesting that The Guardian report deals with the “self-leakage” of the Macedonian Counterintelligence Agency and that the text was prepared by famous Macedonian journalists.

The story of Russia’s clout, spread through the media propaganda of our journalists who think that it is virtuous to play into the West’s hands, has (once again) imposed our country as an instrument to settle a score between the great powers. Read the rest of this entry »

The BAN Treaty – why it’s significant and why some have isolated themselves from civilisation

By Jan Oberg

The Debate on PressTV with Jim Walsh, MIT

And here the link to a partial transcript

Abolishing war

By Jonathan Power

June 20th 2017

Frederick the Great of Prussia was a friend of Voltaire and enjoyed ribald evenings with the philosopher discussing the intricacies of life’s dos and don’ts. Before becoming king he was persuaded by Voltaire to become a pacifist.

But on ascending to the throne he became the most ferocious and successful of Europe’s warrior leaders. He said of himself that he was “doomed to make war just as an ox must plow, a nightingale sing and a dolphin swim in the sea.”

So far the twenty first century has been far more peaceful than the twentieth. No world war and none are there likely to be, even though the great powers might have the occasional confrontation. Some say we are overwhelmed by small wars, understandably so since the media, especially the fickle eye of television, picks up on every altercation.

As Francis Bacon wrote, there has never been, nor will there ever be, a shortage of “seditions and troubles”. But in fact this century there have been no interstate wars and civil wars are down in number, way below their Cold War total when the big powers stoked their fires.

Perhaps war is sometimes necessary and just. Most people will say that Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 418: Humankind 2050 – A new better world: Peace, Development, Environment

West of Jondal is Torsnes, named after the Nordic war god Thor with his Hammer, a center of the Viking era from 800 to 1050, only 250 years. Why so short? Successful with raids and colonization–Gardarike in Russia, Iceland, Greenland, Vineland in Canada. And then: fini. Why?

Because they had no future. Evil Lóki had killed Good Baldur–next to Torsnes is Belsnes=Baldursnes. They were doomed. Enters Christianity with Evil Satan and Good God, restoring hope. The end.

The Soviet Union Empire had no future: Communism was undefined. Enters Orthodox Christianity–Putin is a true believer–hope restored.

The United States Empire has no future: “allies” refuse to fight US wars and US capitalism increases inequality with reduced growth. Enter Campaigner Trump ‘Making America Great Again’ by buying-hiring American; President Trump making America isolated, violent, unequal–an autistic, psychotic, narcissistic, paranoid in a psycho-pathological exceptionalist, us-them paranoid state. A perfect fit for the worst.

2050 is only 33 years ahead; 33 years back is Orwell’s 1984. Much happened.

The Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989; the Soviet Empire, Soviet Union and Communism followed. The US Empire declined, former clients refused to fight US wars, but not EU wars; eroding NATO.

The Cold war, threatening humanity with a nuclear arms race that in a hot war could obliterate the planet, melted away with a whimper.

China’s incredible growth, also in world presence, from the Deng Xiaoping revolution in 1980, has been mainly within that period.

The attack on Muslim countries by a “US-led coalition” and the reaction by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State-Caliphate: in that period.

All over the world regionalization, ELAC-Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, African Unity/Union, EU, ASEAN; most states being too small, civilizations blocking for a world state.

All over the world non-dominant nations asserting themselves.

And all over the world, inspired from USA, women emancipating.

A new world, in only 33 years of rapidly accelerating history with another new world in the next 33 years. Some forecasts, using Western identification of units-variables prolonging trends and Daoist identification of holons-dialectics, forces-counterforces, yin/yang; to catch both continuous change and the discontinuous, jumpy changes.

Development, defined as satisfying basic human needs by lifting the bottom up; reduction of inequality can be achieved before 2050. The idea of food-water, clothing-housing, health-education for all has arrived and been well received (maybe not in the USA); one formula being the last two free, the first four subsidized with monthly cash to buy. Homo sapiens being homo faber and homo ludens, productive and playful with lifelong support, not lifelong struggle for sheer survival.

True, ground and river water are scarce but ocean water is not, obtainable by boiling with parabolic mirrors, capturing the vapor.

Environment, defined as satisfying basic nature needs, diversity and symbiosis. Fighting CO2 omission, a bilateral relation for a very complex reality, is much too simplistic, fighting CFCs destroying the ozone layer and symbiosis, strengthening the diversity of biota and abiota beyond using only renewable resources make good sense.

Individuals stop smoking if they attribute death from lung cancer to smoking. A catastrophe attributed to insulting nature’s needs may elicit remedial action from collectivities. Likely to happen, but better pro-actio than re-actio. A key: the darker the earth the more heating by solar energy; cities are darker than villages. Therefore, move out from big cities ruled by elites to small local units ruled by people.

Peace, defined negatively as absence of parties being bad to each other, and positively as parties being good to each other–at the mega-macro-meso-micro levels–depends on ability to solve underlying conflicts and to concile underlying traumas–possibly increasing.

Forecasts for twenty cases spanning the world and the levels: Read the rest of this entry »

Trump could play the nationalist card to avoid impeachment threat



By Jonathan Power


June 12th 2017

“The best lack all conviction”, wrote the Irish poet, William Yeats, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Is this not true of America today?

Some of the “best” are working to bring down President Donald Trump yet are they ready to cut to the chase? He has cards up his sleeve. He came to power partly because he won the support of working class and lower middle class whites who were prepared to vote against their economic interest for the sake of the nationalism that Trump espoused. Neither Keir Hardie nor Franklin Roosevelt nor Bernie Sanders were their leader. It was Trump.

I don’t find it difficult to imagine how Trump could play the nationalist card that would rally his electorate. The “best” would be against this, but how many would be convinced enough to go out on the street, French style, and demand Congress impeach him?

I doubt if the Harvard professors would or journalists from the New York Times, business men, school teachers, doctors, civil servants or airline pilots. Of course, as with the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War protests, there would be students in the front row. Then there would be clergy, a few professors from the University of Wisconsin, novelists, Senator Sanders and at most 50 members of Congress. The police would easily face them down and disperse them.

“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”, said Samuel Johnson. So is extreme confrontation, or even war. What follows is not my scenario. It is that of Philip Gordon, writing in the current issue of the respected “Foreign Affairs”.

He was Barack Obama’s Special Assistant for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf regions. Those who have dormant passionate intensity in their bones should read it and act now before it is too late. Events can move fast. “A week is a long time in politics”, said the former British prime minister, Harold Wilson.

Trump could begin his diversionary tactics with Iran, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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