Sunday, September 17, 2006

Empire

















The spending for the U.S. Department of Defense for fiscal year 2006 is 441.6 billion dollars.

That's $441,000,000,000.


Why does the United States have such a large military? Is it to protect us against the overwhelming flood of people who want to thank us for bringing them freedom? Are we afraid of being crushed by the stampede of well-wishers?

Why must we spend more on defense than every other nation on earth combined?

Well, obviously to keep larger, aggressive nations from exploiting smaller, less powerful nations.

You never know what power-hungry, war-like nations often driven by religious extremism may do.

Many nations do not hold the rule of law and human rights to as high a standard as we do.
Some nations even have leaders who wage wars because they believe God wants them to,
and there truly needs to be some way to fight back against such oppressive regimes.

It's just good to know that there are nations still willing to stand up to tyranny.

Our astronomical defense budget is obviously money well spent.

And with God and truth on our side, we will prevail!!!!

20 Comments:

Anonymous UT said...

Decline of the american Empire (by John Chuckman)


The rise now of China, Japan, Europe, and others – India, Korea, and to some extent Russia and Brazil – means the United States must be relatively diminished on the world stage, much as an only child whose mother just gave birth to quintuplets.

The United States is loosing its capacity as supplier of many useful things to the world. This role is being seized by China and others. The American working class, which briefly achieved the status of world's working-class aristocracy after World War II — industrial workers who enjoyed homes, cars, long vacations, and even boats — has seen real wages declining for many years. It works against rising competitors who can now deliver the benefits of their much lower costs to the world owing to the phenomenon of globalization. American manufacturing jobs are moving to the lower-cost places, replaced at home if at all by relatively low-wage service jobs.

The American establishment's vision of the future, implicit in its behavior and policies, has been that traditional manufacturing jobs will pass to developing countries while greater value-added high-tech jobs and intellectual property rights will provide America’s economic strength.

But that is a somewhat arrogant vision, because competitors like China and India do not plan to do only lower value-added work, and they are uniquely gifted to succeed. The Chinese, Japanese, and Indians have an extraordinary reservoir of natural mathematical and engineering talent – every international competition or test shows this starkly — that is only now beginning to be harnessed. There is every reason to believe that over any substantial time the US will decline to a secondary role in high-tech. China or India each likely have something on the order of three or four times the natural mathematical endowment of the US. Their new high-growth economies and emerging modern infrastructure prepare the way for full application of this priceless talent.

There are more forces at work on the place of the American Empire than the emergence of other economic powers, important as that is. Major studies of the decline of empire – from Edward Gibbon to William Shirer — speak to the overwhelming importance of the moral dimension in a society and of the crucial role of capable and responsible leadership.

Polls show that three years after launching its pointless war in Iraq, nearly half of Americans still believed that Iraq was involved in making weapons of mass destruction. Five years after 9/11, better than forty percent of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Both of these ideas have been proved complete fairy tales. But the concentration of American media and their shared establishment interests with George Bush have produced a fabric of omissions and exaggerations as great as we might expect in a non-democratic society like China.

So-called liberal media, the New York Times being the best example, do almost nothing seriously to correct these misunderstandings. Indeed the Times helped drum America into Iraq, an unforgivable manipulation from people who had the resources to know better, and it did the same thing for horrific failures such as the war in Vietnam. The American people are desperately misinformed. What is the good of a ballot where grave ignorance prevails and is indeed actively promoted?

A menagerie of vitriolic radio and television commentators plus a vast apparatus of phony think-tanks, propaganda mills subsidized by right-wing interests, help greatly in the effort to confuse public understanding. The vitriolic commentators, little more truthful or civil in their speech than those doing the same job for third-world dictators, reinforce popular myths and prejudices, appealing to people’s lowest instinct to enjoy a good laugh at the expense of others. The phony think-tanks, much like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain pulling levers to generate puffs of smoke and dramatic noise, offer what passes for learned analysis. Both groups receive an immense amount of broadcast time and publication space in the United States.

Going back to the beginning, it can be argued that many parts of the American Constitution — regarded by Americans with a reverence usually reserved for scripture and a document that is close to impossible to change in any meaningful way — are seriously flawed and promote neither responsible government nor democratic principles. The right-wing commentator and think-tank crowd always play up to the quasi-religious notion that the Constitution is the most perfect political document ever conceived. A disgraced, crooked, nasty right-wing politician, Tom DeLay of Texas, always bragged of having a copy folded in his pocket, almost like a priest carrying a bottle of holy water.

The Constitution’s flaws leave little optimism for substantial political and policy change in the United States. It’s as though all important political institutions were trapped in amber. Without changing the Constitution's flaws, it is hard to see how America's destructive policies at home and abroad can be altered. There are many such flaws, but I’ll mention just a few.

One is the Electoral College. Many Americans do not understand that their vote for president technically does not count. The Electoral College, besides being remarkably anti-democratic, promotes corruption in elections with its winner-take-all provision in states. It is amazing that a country more than two centuries old and making great claims for democracy still can’t hold honest national elections, both of George Bush’s victories, but especially the first, being as dubious as something in an emerging nation.

Another ugly flaw in the Constitution is the power of the Senate. It can veto the more democratic House’s legislation. It must approve all major Presidential appointments and treaties. It is a fundamentally anti-democratic institution, for much of American history not being elected at all, but even now being elected in a staggered fashion that insulates its membership from issues of the day. Its internal sixty-percent rule for debate is plainly undemocratic. You only have to look at photos of American Senators to see the swollen, crinkled faces of arrogant (mostly) men, faces of bloated entitlement, grasping power into their seventies and eighties. They resemble the faces of heads of powerful families in the 16th century or, what is almost the same thing, Mafia godfathers. Surprisingly often sons, or other relatives, follow fathers as though they had inherited fiefdoms or money-minting American evangelism ministries.

The Senate’s two members for each state is an archaic nonsense that makes members from large states virtually unreachable demigods. The two senators from California each "represent" sixteen million people. The huge expense of mounting media campaigns in large states, where a member could never hope even to offer a live smile to most constituents, turns senators into full-time Fuller Brush salesmen soliciting funds. The expense creates two classes of constituents, those who give and the rest. Lobbyists naturally exploit the situation, meaning policy reflects virtually only the interests of the small group with meaningful access.

Dependence upon advertising means tight control over what is disseminated, with voters expected to believe the actor posing in a white lab coat on a patent medicine commercial is giving genuine information. Advertising and brief appearances on favorably-rigged talk shows generates attitudes of aloofness and celebrity dangerous to the public interest. Thoughtfulness and real debate at the national level have become uncommon.

The designation of the President as commander-in-chief has proved an unfortunate provision with effects the founders never foresaw. Many Americans do not realize that it was the Parliament of Great Britain against which the early Patriots railed. They saw the British Parliament as acting without the beneficent King’s full knowledge, understanding fully that the King’s powers were already heavily curtailed by the evolution of British parliamentary government. The idea of the King as tyrant was built up later during the Revolutionary War as a propaganda device, and it has been played on by elementary text books since.

So in America’s constitutional arrangements, command of the armed forces was granted to the new king-substitute, the President (many founders had favored a lifetime or long-term president who would be "above politics"). This authority was supposedly offset by Congress’s having the only authority to declare war. But as we all know, over the last sixty years not one of America’s many colonial wars has been formally declared. The power to declare war has become almost meaningless, but the power of America's Frankenstein armed forces taking orders from a president-commander (often not even honestly elected) is anything but meaningless.

The President does not himself suddenly launch a war, although he clearly has at hand intelligence and other agencies of limitless resources, whose leaders serve at his pleasure, capable of constructing compelling myths for what he wants done. He consults with key Senate and Congressional leaders, all under the intimidating shadow of being branded as cowards (or almost worse in America, poor patriots) in a fashion that is little different to what a late-eighteenth century monarch would have done with key parliamentary figures.

For that matter, few Americans realize that even a dictator with such dreadful power as Hitler, for the most part, did not summarily order dire events. Hitler consulted and argued with other prominent members of government concerning major turns in policy. Factions and other centers of power exist even in dictatorships. It is just the people who are not effectively consulted.

The United States, under George Bush, has spent itself silly on the military and security. It has also foolishly spent much, if not all, of its moral authority in the world — something derived from the many world institutions and arrangements established at the end of World War II when America felt generous and expansive — by going ahead with pointless destruction, ignoring world opinion, as though the very act of doing so were the same thing as bold leadership rather than the bullying it is. Bush is almost a parody of poor leadership, believing himself a convincing figure with his jaw squared, his eyebrows knit, while he mumbles what millions recognize as platitudes and bald-faced lies.

The business of Bush wearing a radio device concealed under his jacket for debates or press conferences or important meetings — an indisputable fact from pictures of his back taken at many angles — is a damning revelation of how under the American system an incompetent can serve two terms as President. It is damning, too, of the mainline media which never pursue such matters, choosing never to embarrass a man who has done a great deal of harm to the nation.

America’s history is important to understanding the attitudes of its people, although we perhaps should judge American democracy today more by its external actions which include invading pretty much any country it chooses, violating the free elections of other countries, toppling democratically-elected leaders, supporting the oppressive regimes, assassinating leaders, frequently imposing destructive economic sanctions, and generally behaving the way you would expect a bully to act who happened also to be the richest kid in town.

Even an honestly elected government which behaves without regard for those outside its territory, which treats others as though they had no rights, can hardly be called democratic in any meaningful sense.

The War in Iraq has been called by an American expert the worst strategic mistake ever made by the United States, and I believe that will prove a deadly accurate assessment. How do all those American patriot types, clutching their private arsenals in paranoid fear of government tyranny, fail to see how millions of others, like the Iraqis, view American government tyranny abroad? The enemies America has made in destroying and occupying Iraq will engage it for many years in totally needless war and terror.

The Middle East has become more unstable and less predictable for decades thanks to George Bush. All recent American policies have been almost the opposite of what would have proved appropriate and effective to a better future.

The glaring injustice of giving Israel its way in almost anything, including bombing women and children in Beirut, while the U.S. invades Muslim lands can only generate frustration and despair beyond measure. Israel has become a garrison state, a grossly inefficient economy, subsidized by the United States, that maintains a nuclear arsenal and one of the world’s most powerful armies, spending an extraordinary portion of its GDP on unproductive military and security apparatus. It is now walling itself in and preparing to carry on with little or no reference to the millions with which it shares its part of the world, except to bomb and rocket them whenever it feels rankled. This is a national vision from hell. The vision has no long-term viability without endless subsidy, an indefinite drain on American resources and the world's patience and a painful injustice for millions of the region’s people.

Condoleezza Rice's disgusting words about children and others torn apart by Israeli cluster bombs in Beirut representing the birth pangs of a new Middle East pretty much speaks for itself. Democracy? Democratic values? Human values? Nonsense. Rather, they are words about as far removed from these values as you can get.

I do not believe that any nation which ignores the serious flaws in its democracy and treatment of others can maintain the moral authority in the twenty-first century required for leadership in the world. The world generally is evolving towards democracy and respect for human rights. This is not a result of American policy, it is the natural evolution of human affairs, it is what happens as countries grow and prosper.

It is true, too, that any nation which spends so much on its military, holding dear the anti-democratic and anti-human rights values of any military, cannot maintain that same moral authority. Eisenhower’s predicted military-industrial complex is not a friendly face on the world, but it is indisputably the face of America today.

Just consider, as one tiny aspect of this, the disgraceful relationship between Vice-President Cheney and Halliburton Corporation. Halliburton has prospered mightily from Cheney’s role as a powerful advocate of war, and Cheney, the company’s former CEO, has openly prospered from Halliburton with all kinds of special payments since first running for office. It is an open disgrace, but no more of a disgrace than the way money runs American elections. The world outside America sees all this clearly, and what else can the knowledge generate but cynicism and disgust? How on earth can a man of this quality address the great principles of humanity without causing listeners to snicker? How can anyone be expected to take America’s high-sounding rhetoric seriously?

The American international structure carefully built up after World War II is beginning to crumble, although it is not always obvious yet since good appearances are carefully maintained. A prime example is the crumbling of NATO. The grass is still kept well-trimmed at headquarters, but America’s insistence on making unnatural demands on this alliance, such as those it has made in Afghanistan, are surely destroying what was once a powerful international organization.

It may be just as well, for Europe has a future more independent of the U.S., and perhaps the decline in NATO only reflects an unavoidable changing reality. Europe’s commercial know-how and technology make a natural marriage with Russia’s vast natural resources. America has for a couple of decades worked to suppress this development, especially with respect to Russian natural gas exports, but it must in the end prove a losing battle.

Britain’s Tony Blair has been exploited by the U.S. to spike European aspirations, much as Margaret Thatcher was previously. Because of a shared history with the former colonies, a good deal of residual xenophobia regarding people on the Continent, plus a sense of its own special importance engendered by memories of empire, Britain remains confused about its role in Europe, and the United States keeps playing on this confusion to avoid a more cohesive E.U. Such American policies in the long run can leave only bitterness over manipulating Europe’s affairs, and they cannot prevent what physical facts and natural self-interests dictate as destiny.

So, too, with respect to Europe’s relations with the Middle East. Israelis sometimes talk of Europe as being anti-Semitic simply because Europeans are more critical of Israel’s policies. But Europe simply sees the problem of Palestine/Israel in a clearer light than the U.S. where religious fundamentalism and other powerful factors blur vision. Europe also naturally wants to cultivate the best commercial relations with the owners of the world’s great reservoirs of crude oil, so commercial incentives add to the force of the moral view. Not only must Europe look to its future energy supplies, but the E.U. is expanding, and Western Asia is becoming a next-door neighbor.

These are just some of the reasons we can expect a decline in the relative influence and importance of the United States over the next decades. A more balanced, multi-polar world is emerging. Unfortunately, the people who seem least ready to deal with it are Americans.

Sun Sep 17, 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous UT said...

For the official Pentagon Budget, it is higher than $500 billion for the year 2006. The last time I asked Pentagon agents they told me it was even closer to 600.
If I have a good memory the Pentagon budget doubled over the last 4 years.
Actually we don't need weapons to eradicate the world, but we surely need more money to eradicate poverty. Even with $300 billion spent every year, it is not enough.

Sun Sep 17, 11:02:00 PM  
Anonymous UT said...

In the Middle-East, I think that people have been cracking the codes of NATO. Since Hezbollah cracked inside the GSM Thomson from the military on the grounds, then it may be strongly possible that the Taleban forces are using it too. I would understand for the Hezbollah in Lebanon with Iran, but I don't understand with the Taleban forces. I understand that's how they are watching NATO moves but I cannot figure out who is behind all of that.

Sun Sep 17, 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger Again said...

thanks for the reference, ut ( Decline of the american Empire by John Chuckman)

Mon Sep 18, 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Nemo said...

The *truest* symbol of America today is NOT the Statue of Liberty, but rather the Gulag of Guantanamo (and its countless "kindred" dungeons and torture chambers operated by the US worldwide). Under the savage dictatorship of the Bush Reich, the words, "with liberty and justice for ALL" ring shamelessly hollow: The View From Guantanamo, by Abu Bakker Qassim [New York Times] ==== I have been greatly saddened to hear that the Congress of the United States, a country I deeply admire, is considering new laws that would deny prisoners at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detentions in federal court. ==== I learned my respect for American institutions the hard way. When I was growing up as a Uighur in China, there were no independent courts to review the imprisonment and oppression of people who, like me, peacefully opposed the Communists. But I learned my hardest lesson from the United States: I spent four long years behind the razor wire of its prison in Cuba. ==== I was locked up and mistreated for being in the wrong place at the wrong time during America's war in Afghanistan. Like hundreds of Guantanamo detainees, I was never a terrorist or a soldier. I was never even on a battlefield. Pakistani bounty hunters sold me and 17 other Uighurs to the United States military like animals for $5,000 a head. The Americans made a terrible mistake. ... ==== AND, it's now revealed, there are 14 THOUSAND just like him -- victims of the official US lawlessness that Bush now wants "legitimized": US War Prisons Legal Vacuum for 14,000 [AP] ==== In the few short years since the first shackled Afghan shuffled off to Guantanamo, the U.S. military has created a global network of overseas prisons, its islands of high security keeping 14,000 detainees beyond the reach of established law. ... ==== "First they came for the [alleged] 'terrorists' ..." (THEN they expanded the "definition" to include virtually EVERYONE who might oppose them!)

Mon Sep 18, 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Nemo said...

The *other*, almost assuredly "inside job" that provided the final blow which railroaded Congress into meekly accepting the Bush Regime's all-TOO-conveniently ready "USA Patriot Act" legislation (the "offer it couldn't refuse", under the circumstances), thereby shredding the Bill of Rights. Yet curiously, as the author below points out, we never hear ANYTHING about it anymore! ==== Alas, it's SO easy to point the finger of blame at a conveniently inaccessible *foreign* bogeyman without evidence! (Even the FBI's Most Wanted List STILL doesn't attribute the 9/11 attacks to Usama bin Laden, though the White House's lying propagandists would have us believe that "fact" is cast in stone!) But when the perpetrator is obviously *domestically* based (and *undoubtedly* officially connected to the US government), what possible excuse can there be for a TOTAL failure to identify, much less apprehend, any reasonable suspect, other than perhaps deliberate official obstruction of the "investigation", typical of "black ops"? ==== Regardless, the silence from the Bush Regime on *this* "unsolved mystery" is truly deafening: The Third Rail of Bush's Dictionary, by William Fisher ==== President Bush's speechwriters have just about worn out their lexicon of scary words and phrases to regale us with tales of all the terrorist plots he has disrupted since 9/11. But one word has apparently been expunged from the White House dictionary: Anthrax. ==== It has been four years since letters laced with the deadly white powder were mailed to the offices of then-Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle and Senator Patrick J. Leahy, as well as to media companies in Florida and New York. The letters included denunciations of Israel and America and were written in childish capitals. ==== Two DC postal workers, a Florida journalist, a New York hospital worker, and an elderly Connecticut woman died. Seventeen others were sickened, and the House, Senate, Supreme Court buildings, and numerous postal facilities were contaminated and shut down. The mailings led the nation to the brink of mass hysteria. The Washington Post reports that, including cleanup costs, the damage was more than a billion dollars. ==== The Post's Alan Lengel reports that the search for the anthrax-mailer led to "one of the most exhaustive investigations in FBI history." But after some 8,000 interviews and 5,000 subpoenas in the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa, he writes, the investigation "has yielded no arrests and is showing signs of growing cold as officials have sharply reduced the number of agents on the case." ...

Mon Sep 18, 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous UT said...

Here is another cool text

Homo Sapiens Adrift
Quest for Certainty and Security in Today’s World





By Prof. Rik Coolsaet, Royal Institute for International Relations (Brussels) & Ghent University (Belgium) — Given to Europäisches Forum Alpbach, Alpbach, 17 August 2006

The world is nót flat. The world is caught up in a white water rafting race. Some of the passengers fall overboard. Others row with all their might. Many close their eyes and grope for something to hold on to.

History is a long, slow-moving river. But sometimes sudden rapids appear. Fifteen years ago we were thrust into a maelstrom. The world suddenly invaded our homes and turned into a global village. People were invited to become cosmopolitans, a long cherished dream of philosophers and scholars. But in reality humanity felt more like a castaway shakily floating on the river of time.

Indeed, too suddenly familiar beacons disappeared. Too much old truths were replaced by too many new uncertainties. Never before had so much information been available to such a large number of people. But the sheer quantity of that information tends to conceal our inability to sort it all out. Men see, but no longer understand. And when the human mind fails to read the world we live in, then the dark side of human nature surfaces.

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history, Aldous Huxley famously quipped. This need not be the case. The world is still comprehensible. And castaways may yet become cosmopolitans.


Fifteen Years in a Nutshell
Fifteen years ago, euphoria was almost universal. At last, prosperity for all in a world at peace seemed within reach.

The Wall had fallen and with it the division of the world in good and evil. A “New World Order” was in the offing. Wars, such as the one in Afghanistan, came to an end. Frozen conflicts, in South Africa, in the Middle East, were thawing out. Europe awoke from hibernation and a wave of democratization swept over Africa.

On Christmas Day 1991 the Soviet Union imploded. From now on democracy, universal human rights and free market economy were to be the worldwide norms. The United States lived through a never-ending economic boom. Worldwide stock markets climbed sky-high. A New Economy was born, so it was said, leaving the booms-and-busts of the old behind. The American growth model – the Washington Consensus – was considered to be the new miracle recipe for a new era of continuous economic growth. Thanks to globalization the sky was the limit.

But then disenchantment set in. We were not about to enter an era of global peace and international cooperation. It turned out to be quite the opposite. New conflicts have broken out, with Lebanon as the latest in a row. Nationalism and religious zealotry have led to violent implosions of states, to ethnic cleansings and genocides. Peacekeeping missions have failed miserably. Multilateralism gave way to unilateralism as the preferred policy option of major states. The no-votes in France and the Netherlands seemed to indicate that the European project was over. And today a new Wall is being built, this time separating the children of Abraham.

9/11 was the symbolic turning point. In the name of the “Global War on Terror” two wars were launched, in Afghanistan and Irak, which keep dragging on. Military power and national security have returned to the very heart of international politics – exactly the opposite of what many had expected to happen after the end of the Cold War.

“Prosperity for all” did not materialise either. A local financial crisis in Thailand in 1997 spread as a monetary and economic whirlwind throughout Asia, Latin America and Russia. In the spring of 2000, as a result of the spectacular fall of the Nasdaq, the dotcom bubble burst. The New Economy turned out to be nothing but an illusion. And an old truth was rediscovered: free markets are inevitably bound to experience phases of speculation and crisis, economic predictability being the exception rather than the rule.

Globalization lost its shine. For, as Bill Clinton put it, there was a dark side to it that was difficult to master: terrorism, drugs, crime, money laundering, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, HIV-AIDS. In Millau, France, José Bové with his “la mal bouffe” gave the go-ahead for the anti-globalization movement.



Global Malaise
If there’s one feeling today that unites people on all continents, it is their shared uneasiness about the state of affairs, both in their own countries and in the rest of the world. That was one of the findings of an international Pew survey in 2002. (1) The more than 38,000 people interviewed were overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the way things were going in their countries. Solid majorities in nearly every country in every region surveyed said they were unhappy with the state of their nation. Their assessment of the state of the world was even more negative.

Two years later the Dutch Socio-Cultural Planning Bureau confirmed that a lot of Dutch citizens – and through extrapolation, a lot of people worldwide – shared the feeling that the familiar environment they had been living in, was disappearing rapidly. And when society changes too fast, feelings of insecurity set in. (2) The strong then tend to cocoon or to withdraw into gated communities, physically separated from the dangers of the outside world. The weaker have no shelter and drop out. And many, just like castaways, grope for new certainties to hold on to: from family trees to New Age, over cults, spirituality, nationalism and – often – religion.

Sometimes these new guiding principles provide for a positive outlook, such as the World Youth Day in Roman Catholicism or the Fethullah Gülen movement in Turkish Islam. But all too often the new certainties have proved to be dangerous life buoys, steering towards a mental wall dividing the world in a protective ‘Us’ and a threatening ‘Them’ , (3) leaving no middle ground, no room for nuances or tolerance.

The religious revival had already started in the 1970s, but it gained enormous traction in the following decades. In 2004, both UNDP and the CIA noted that in the years to come religious identity was likely to become an increasingly important factor in how people define themselves. Both reports mentioned the rise of identity politics: ‘In vastly different contexts and in different ways (…) people are mobilizing anew around old grievances along ethnic, religious, racial and cultural lines (…)’, according to UNDP. Within all major religions, the CIA noted, the same tendency towards radicalization exists, producing a whole new generation of activists, with the same characteristics: ‘A worldview that advocates change of society, a tendency toward making sharp Manichaean distinctions between good and evil, and a religious belief system that connects local conflicts to a larger struggle.’ (4)

In the Muslim world, from Sudan to Indonesia, this translated into a Salafist renaissance, based upon a literalist reading of scripture and holding out the prospect of a return to the seemingly simple world at the time of the Prophet. After the Shiite revolution by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 and the defeat of the Red Army in Afghanistan, Islamism (also called political Islam) made its definite entrance on the international scene. Fringe groups amongst the islamist movements then carried the reasoning all the way down to its extremist end, splitting up the world into Us and Them and disposed to wage jihad, first against the ‘near enemy’, their lapsed fellow-Muslims, and subsequently against the rest of the world, the ‘far enemy’.

In the United States, the literalist reading of the Bible was the inspiration for the revival of Christian fundamentalism and some Christian extremists went so far as to bomb abortion clinics. The religious revival in this country was furthermore accompanied by a real uneasiness about the identity of the nation. It had started in the beginning of the 90s with a passionate debate about the nature of the American nation, which according to some was in peril due to a rising multiculturalist tide in the US. (5) Fifteen years later, in 2006, in a new episode in this debate the Senate decided to formally qualify English as the ‘national language’ of the United States.

In India radical Hindu nationalists attempted to redefine the nature of the nation along the Hindu religious identity and in doing so re-appropriated heroes from a distant past, such as Mother India, Rama and Hanuman. The same goes for the Sikhs, Jewish fundamentalists in Israel, such as the Gush Emunim, and Christian evangelicals in Latin America. In Japan the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which claimed to be associated with Buddhism, poisoned commuters on the Tokyo subway system in 1995?

Western Europe seemed to stand apart from this growing global religiosity – except for migrant communities with a Muslim background. But here a parallel demon popped up: the seemingly inescapable growth of extreme-right and populist right-wing political parties. What links all of these parties in Europe is what they dub the ‘invasion’ of our familiar surroundings by the ‘Migrant’. Having asserted itself in the eighties, the extreme right succeeded in growing further during the nineties, and now appears to have turned into a permanent feature within European political structures. The debate on integration and multiculturalism has been hardening as a consequence. And the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have become the talk of the town.

Global uneasiness is the common source on which the extreme right in Europe as well as religious revival and radicalization in the rest of the world feed. All of them have the same recipe on offer: nostalgia for times gone, simple certainties, distinct scapegoats and simple solutions. They use the same rhetoric: Us-vs-Them, offering an apparent order in a chaotic world. Political forces that capitalize on this, stand to score.


Beacons Adrift
And now for the crucial question: What is the cause of this worldwide discomfort? What has really been happening during the past fifteen years or so that explains this all ? The answer: the beacons that permit individuals to construct their identity have all gone adrift. Identity provides for a sense of togetherness, for certainties and for self-esteem. People need an identity to be able to interact with the others. But one’s identity is not set in stone. We assemble our identity in relation to very specific beacons or reference points surrounding us: the world, the state, the society we live in and finally our individual life story. He, who loses his identity, becomes vulnerable for the sirens’ songs of a lopsided world view.

Profound mutations have shattered every one of these four beacons. Some started to drift earlier than others. But in the past fifteen years the effects of these profound mutations flowed together to form the maelstrom we’re now rafting on.

Mutation and Uncertainty Number One. With the Cold War ending, a familiar and predictable world order broke down. The Cold War with its neat division of the world into two ideological blocs had given people a general sense of belonging. In its aftermath instead of a New World Order, a New World Disorder surfaced. The United States presented itself as the world’s only hope in uncertain times, but the rest of the world dismissed this claim as pompous arrogance of a superpower and rejected it en masse. And now without a pilot in the cockpit of world politics, we seem to be heading for an unpredictable pattern of changing alliances and confrontations with no set rules.

Enhancing the feeling of uncertainty created by the end of the Cold War, a new technological revolution developed, leading the world into a post-industrial era, in which both information technology and biotechnology will have the same impact as the steam engine and electricity in previous industrial revolutions. However, such revolutions always have winners and losers. This time is no different: hyper-competition, job insecurity, increased work floor pressure, marginalisation of unskilled labour, growing inequality. Mutation and Uncertainty Number Two – now in our daily lives, where the apparent predictability of the postwar welfare state is now bygone history.

Globalization turned out to be a third mutation and thus a source of uncertainty. Distances shrank due to revolutionary advances in technology, communication and transport. More than ever before goods, services, capital and people could move freely all over the world – as wheels in a global labour division. But globalization also made everyone dependent on everyone else. Day after day, we now have to face the bewildering complexity of an immense number of local situations. It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees.

And just as times were getting tougher, the polity seemingly withdrew its protective cloak. Mutation Number Four. Labelled neoliberalism, a growing discourse stressed the need for downsizing the state and giving free reign to market forces. As described by Joseph Stiglitz, the world began its love affair with deregulation. (6) Governments claimed that citizens were smart enough to make it on their own. As a consequence, people started to feel as if society existed for the economy instead of the other way around.

Threatened by all these novelties, individuals came to believe that from now on they had to fend for themselves. The Great Stories of the past centuries – the classical ideologies – no longer provided for comfort, since they ware unable to give meaning to a rapidly changing world. People felt alone and abandoned and went looking for something to hold on to. Fear and uncertainty are conducive to a world view framed along an Us-against-Them paradigm, as a kind of surrogate for the lost beacons of our identity. Within societies, new forms of polarization developed, between newcomers and native citizens, between Muslims and non-Muslims. World politics discovered new clashes, between civilizations, between rising and old superpowers, between haves and have-less’s. Mutation and new Uncertainty Number Five.

Amin Maalouf, the French-Libanese writer and novelist has warned against the dangers of such surrogate identities. As individuals we all dispose of a unique identity. This is much more the result of our relations with our contemporaries than it has to do with our inheritance from our ancestors. It is shaped by one’s experiences, one’s encounters and confrontations. Identity thus is always multi-faceted, composed of many elements. Some of these however are more sensitive than others, such as language and religion. When an individual feels threatened in one of these sensitive aspects of his or her identity, this threatened aspect will begin to dominate one’s entire identity. People then tend to look for support by likeminded peers who experience the same feeling of aggression. And this newly created group may then start to behave as a “murderous predator” of the kind we have witnessed in Rwanda, Yugoslavia and the Lebanon. Today’s Zeitgeist makes it imperative, Maalouf urges, to replace the tribal view of our identity by a more complex one. If we fail to do so, globalization may very well result in global tribalism. (7)

Uncertainty is the over-arching common characteristic of today’s world. The newly discovered beacons and the Us-versus-Them paradigm entail the closing of our minds and, as Amin Maalouf warned, the coarsening of politics, both global and local, is the end result we now witness.


Rowing in the Maelstrom
The world appears threatening today. When in 2003 Gallup asked people in 51 countries to rate the international security situation, only 20 percent worldwide rated it as ‘good’. (8) Just over twice as many, 41 percent, rated it as ‘poor’. In every region except West Asia, more people rated the international security situation as ‘poor’ than rated it as ‘good’. They are wrong. Global security is not getting worse. Actually, in lots of different dimensions the world is doing better than it used to do.

Over the past fifteen years the global magnitude of armed conflict has declined, following a peak in the early 1990s. Genocides and large-scale killings have been decreasing in number since 1988. International crises, often harbingers of war, declined by more than 70 percent between 1981 and 2001 and have now reached an all-time low since the end of the Second World War. The number of refugees dropped by some 45 percent between 1992 and 2003, as more and more wars came to an end. Repression and political discrimination against ethnic minorities have declined significantly, coinciding with the dramatic decline in autocratic regimes since the late 1980s.

These are some of the most striking conclusions to be drawn from two studies published in 2005. (9) Other recent research indicates furthermore that international terrorism isn’t the big international threat the media and governments made it out to be. (10) Life expectancy has increased almost everywhere (with the exception of Africa) and child mortality has decreased everywhere (even in Africa). Hundreds of millions of people succeeded in climbing from below the poverty rate, especially so in India and China. And for almost a decade, education has been making great progress everywhere. The world has become a better place for lots of people. (11)

These positive trends are no warrant for unqualified optimism about the future of the world. For indeed, quite a few time bombs are ticking. But if the world has become a better and safer place, then this is due to the efforts of lots of individuals, non-governmental organisations, local and national authorities as well as international organisations.

Why don’t we perceive the world as it really is? Simply referring to the abovementioned mutations, is not entirely satisfying as an analysis. Taken separately, none of the mutations we identified is new, indeed. World orders come and go. Industrial revolutions are old acquaintances in world history. For two centuries the relation between politics and economics has been vacillating between laissez-faire and state intervention. Globalization is a process as old as the hills, having its origin in mankind’s search for expansion and evolving by stop-and-go ever since.

But today’s world is more than usually in transition, since all our reference points – the beacons for our identity – are drifting at the same time. Man cannot deal with chaos. (12) For those who feel insecure, dangers always loom larger than they really are. The world has become less confident, because it’s going through one of its pivotal moments. Pivotal times have existed earlier in history. On closer examination, we will indeed find out that the current maelstrom is not so very different from the one our ancestors lived through a hundred years ago. Those living at the turn of that century than also experienced how riddles suddenly replaced simple truths, writes Barbara Tuchman in The Proud Tower. (13) The same forces, the same symptoms: globalization, migrations, terrorism, social unrest, racism and, yes, the need for scapegoats. Migration is a case in point. Wanted for work but unwelcome as citizens, is what migrants experienced a hundred years ago and what they experience now.

In the middle of the thirties of the twentieth century the Dutch cultural philosopher Johan Huizinga made a similar analysis and described the same symptoms. (14) “There is no doubt that our age has a fever,” he wrote. He painted a picture of a world captivated by pessimism and a sense of global complexity: “From public life to family life a disruption seems to be going on as never before.”

What to conclude from these historical parallels ? The times we’re living in, are not unique. Aldous Huxley can be proven wrong. Indeed, as soon as one is aware of the fact that in earlier times people went through similar experiences as we today, the first step has been set on a journey towards deciphering the world’s complexity and giving the patient the first medicine to lower the current fever.

For those who would like to learn again how to steer and to lead the raft with its castaways into more tranquil waters, three old-fashioned thoughts may come in handy. First, society ís makeable, both nationally and internationally. Each of the big mutations was the result of human decisions. Man can thus correct them as well. Secondly, we need more politics and not less – that is if we don’t want the good of the many to be defeated by the egoism of the few. The present Zeitgeist is steering our society towards segregation and polarisation. Polity must oppose this. And thirdly, don’t ask what society can do for you, but what you can do for society.

To get started, we could decide to ban the word “Them” forever from our daily vocabulary. Cosmopolitans don’t believe in a world divided between Us and Them.

Mon Sep 18, 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous UT said...

Du bist willkommen Again. Ich werde vielleicht heute Abend meine kleine Antwort geben.

I am back to work as of Monday heeawww.

I left a new text called "Homo Sapiens drift", I read it at work (LOL), and I do not agree with some of the statements, and I will write the reasons tonite.

Tschuess!

Mon Sep 18, 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Again said...

ut
Du bist willkommen Again

thanks - and thanks for the second link, was great to read the "European View of Life", and good to read someone who doesn't always hail the "Holy Privatization", because we truly need more dense communication and teamwork in society "if we don’t want the good of the many to be defeated by the egoism of the few"

to Robert and nemo...

i hesitated to reply, simply because - i'm ashamed...

i know so well what you feel, when you look at your voluntarily stupid fellow citizens cheering for blood and pain (of others) like the Romans in the Colosseum, the boors of the Middle Age hot for the next public execution or the Germans yelling for the Total War while betraying their own jewish friends to be able to buy their "cheap" assets by the "Nazi-Ebays"...

it's not only abhorrence and revulsion, it's also shame - to be a part of such a subhuman life...

then i thought how awful it must be see it coming, to see it "in the making", to see it grow and flourish, to see everything die what you love about your own people - how an unbelievable horror it must be not only to analyze it "the day after" but...

no, i can't tell it, but maybe you understand, why i'm ashamed of myself...

Thu Sep 21, 01:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Nemo said...

What a stark difference between the impassioned, thoroughly honest clarity of Hugo Chavez speaking at the UN and the arrogant, insipid lies of would-be "WeltsFuehrer" Bush. Viva Venezuela! Viva Chavez!! And to HELL with the US NeoConNazi Reich -- FREEDOM FOREVER!!!): Chavez Address to the United Nations, by Hugo Chavez [20 September 2006] ==== "... The hegemonic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very survival of the human species. We continue to warn you about this danger and we appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our heads. ..."

Thu Sep 21, 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Nemo said...

'... then i thought how awful it must be see it coming, to see it "in the making", to see it grow and flourish, to see everything die what you love about your own people - how an unbelievable horror it must be not only to analyze it "the day after" ' ==== Again: I understand entirely what you're getting at. For me, it is the realization that the American people -- those who do NOT abjectly support this vile, right-wing junta -- are unlikely to fight for what is legitimately theirs that most unsettles me. I suppose such passivity is largely to be expected as "ingrained" in an urbanized, post-modern society (or aging empire) -- Jefferson expressed the belief that an *agrarian* society was absolutely essential to democracy, and that is something to which, for the most part, we can no longer lay claim -- but it is still immensely disappointing to me. We watch helplessly while a conspicuously immoral, plainly hypocritical government strives to impose its malicious, negligent whims on the entire planet. We watch as the truth is courageouly revealed by others, while our own supposed "leaders" -- "Mafia kingpins" is actually more fitting -- lie with repeated impunity. We remain "law-abiding", while the thugs of the Bush Regime show no such restraint! "Government of the people, BY the people, and FOR the people" appears truly doomed, yet the people themselves, in general, do not react to their own disenfranchisement. Once upon a time, words like "Give me liberty or give me death" roused a nation to action. Now, such sentiments are seemingly relegated to the realm of history alone, as if such "quaint", impassioned pleas no longer hold meaning in "the real world" of today. But in fact, today they are more important than ever. For today we confront a vision of the future comprised of "a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

Thu Sep 21, 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous UT said...

i hesitated to reply, simply because - i'm ashamed...
I am also asshamed of the history of my country I was born in (France). I was born in a city that launched the 1st crusade in "Palestine", and this city went through lots of bad stuffs in History all the way to WWII.

Here is a link about my city:

Le Puy-en-Velay


First Crusade


I went back to work on Mon, but it was horrible, I am on xanax and painkillers and anti-inflamatory. I am recovering little by little, so I don't think you'll see me quite often coz my schedule is loaded with physical rehab before work, during work, and after work. I got lucky to go back to work on time, they had left me 3 weeks to recover before being fired.

Thu Sep 21, 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Courage, mon ami.

Thu Sep 21, 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Again said...

ut
so I don't think you'll see me quite often

don't worry about us - get well soon, that's important...

btw: Robert, how is your son?

Thu Sep 21, 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger Again said...

nemo
Once upon a time, words like "Give me liberty or give me death" roused a nation to action

oh, for me, there are a much more impressive words as symbol for the Old America i truly LOVE...

as i first listened to the old women talking about the occupation powers, how the soldiers looted and marauded, how they lost this old cut glass or that fine meissner porcelain of grandma by the crude and careless men (they usually didn't talk about rapes, but you know what glances mean)...

they talked about the horrors of being occupied with calm faces - you know the common people are used to be mistreated and are often content with being able to survive and protect the children - but as youngster always having lived in peace (and a something defiant youngster, btw) with an active imagination it sounded horrible to me, when your life is destroyed by boots without care - and you know: THAT's how war feels like

and then you hear them silently sigh: "oh yes, we were just doomed to live in the French Zone" and then they talked - with also silent envy - about the lucky ones living in the American Zone, about the "chocolate men"

can you understand what it means - to see that there are victors able to stay decent, which is so unique and human and so completely different to the "biz as usual" of war, where the brute force and violence of the victors tramples on human rights and dignity, where children's life is less worth than some cut glass pieces, women are just goods to be taken and discarded and men have to go with bowed head to be able to survive for the family...

as long, as you don't live in the American Zone...

do you understand what that means? You are child of a nation of mean greedy, violence-loving, self-overestimating people, high and low, capable of the worst and meanest thoughts and acts, you are ashamed of each and every time you have to listen and see it - and then you hear of people of decency and humanity AND strength and power and you start to believe, that everything will turn out alright...

you can start to believe in the future again - and then you learn that America defeated fascism - even at home! With only a few words as turning point

"Have you no decency, Sir?"

words that "roused a nation to action" to get rid off the ruling scum of their society

you can't do anything else then fall in love with such a nation


"Have you no decency, Sir?"

Fri Sep 22, 01:28:00 AM  
Anonymous UT said...

Ah I was going to write a few lines but i hafta go back to werk. Tonite hopefully I'll be able to write :)

Cya

Fri Sep 22, 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Nemo said...

Alas, as regards the Bush Junta, the question "Have you no decency?" has LONG been answered definitively in the negative. Any more, it's merely a process of discovery -- plumbing the *depths* of its collective depravity, exploring the *multitude* of sordid details spawned by the inherent indecency of this "Organized Crime presidency". And the system appears hopelessly broken: *countless* Executive Branch abuses -- many of them outright felonies! -- have come to light over the past nearly SIX years, yet *prosecutions* (or even serious investigations) have been pitifully few and typically misdirected, targeting mere underlings (like Libby) rather than the obvious Mob *bosses* coordinating this Federal racketeering from within the White House: Audit Finds Education Dept. 'Missteps' [AP] ==== A scorching internal review of the Bush administration's reading program says the Education Department ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money how it wanted. ==== The government audit is unsparing in its review of how Reading First, a billion-dollar program each year, that it says has been beset by conflicts of interest and willful mismanagement. It suggests the department broke the law by trying to dictate which curriculum schools must use. ==== It also depicts a program in which review panels were stacked with people who shared the director's views and in which only favored publishers of reading curricula could get money. ==== In one e-mail, the director told a staff member to come down hard on a company he didn't support, according to the report released Friday by the department's inspector general. ==== "They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the (expletive deleted) out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags," the Reading First director wrote, according to the report. ... ==== [So, what's next? Pilfering old ladies' piggy banks?? Oh. Never mind. They *already* stooped to that, via the Medicare "reform" scam! We're dealing with utter SCUM here, the dregs of humanity firmly ensconced in the halls of power.]

Sat Sep 23, 02:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Nemo said...

What we may well have to "look forward to" this November ("Remember, remember ...") -- more of the SAME, strictly as a consequence of the Republikan-rigged E-lection system!: Will the Next Election Be Hacked?, by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. [Rolling Stone] ==== Fresh disasters at the polls - and new evidence from an industry insider - prove that electronic voting machines can't be trusted. ...

Sat Sep 23, 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger Again said...

nemo
Alas, as regards the Bush Junta, the question "Have you no decency?" has LONG been answered definitively in the negative

but fact is, it had worked - long ago, but it had

do you remember how i linked decency and intelligence - and how i defined intelligence? By being able to foresee the consequences of your actions?

they are un-decent, as you said, "definitively"...

AND they are also "definitively" stupid - i found a very interesting source (don't really know what to think about):

The SWISH Report (6)

"an independent consultancy assesses al-Qaida's prospects."

here some really cute quotes (note the objective and impersonal style!)

- In contrast, your opponents - the near enemy of regional regimes and the far enemy of the United States - have a blinkered political vision which operates on much shorter timescales

- We also referred once again to the fundamental point that your strong position stemmed very largely from the policies of your opponents - especially the Bush administration, whose actions were proving deeply counterproductive to their own stated aims. The policies implemented and the outcomes achieved by the US - among them widespread detentions without trial, torture, rendition, and the death of tens of thousands of civilians in Iraq - have all been of great value to you

- Meanwhile, however, we counselled strongly against any definitive sense of success, pointing out that it was the incompetence and stupidity of your opponents that was really paying dividends.

-We also suggested that as the war on terror dragged on, the political leaders of these countries might at last start to take seriously the views of some of the more intelligent western analysts, and that they might therefore identify and act against your vulnerabilities.
We still hold this view; but we also recognise that conditions are even more favourable to you now than six months ago....
At the same time, the United States political leadership is elevating your movement -

- The truly revealing development of recent months is that we have reached a point, five years after 9/11 where no one, but no one, is in control.

Sun Sep 24, 06:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Nemo said...

Again: Many thanks for the SWISH Report link. It's a truly novel approach, and provides genuine food for thought. (I like!) ==== Regarding Joseph Welch's memorable affront, yes, it *did* work (once upon a time) -- or at least a massive shift in public opinion, which included that historic retort, *finally* brought an end to the "anti-Communist" reign of terror in our so-called "land of the free", though numerous people were ruined (or worse), often for no reason at all. But today, few in public office in the US seem to feel compelled to abide by any real standard of decency, nor even to heed the wishes of the people they supposedly serve. The polls have clearly indicated massive discontent for some time now. Yet this government , especially the Executive Branch, obviously doesn't care. (Of course, I suppose, if I controlled an utterly crooked, rigged election apparatus, I too might not care much about "public opinion", though I myself would still care about human decency!) The Republican Party, in particular, more and more resembles merely a self-serving criminal Mob than any earnestly "representative" political organization. Indeed, it seems that the law of the jungle prevails in Washington politics today. Expediency, not decency, has become the prime objective. And as a consequence, I truly believe that this government will not be swayed to reconsider, much less alter, its ways until the people make it *impossible* for their will to be ignored. And since our very elections are highly dubious, our options are few and must necessarily be dramatic. ==== Please don't get me wrong. None of the "bile" I'm expressing is directed towards you or others here. You are all friends. But I perceive a continuing darkness in this country that must be halted. And ultimately, it is up to us. "You don't need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

Sun Sep 24, 05:45:00 PM  

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