Thursday, July 25, 2013

Breathless - updated

Norm Ornstein is a sane person, and therefore is a bout de souffle about today's Repugs. Honestly, how can anyone look himself or herself in the mirror today while Republican? Even when you understand why, maybe none dare call it treason, but it sure is cruel and unusual.

Update: Maybe the mirrors are too dusty. Or, more likely, we're on the other side of the looking glass.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Go global

This plea for moderation is well-meaning, but misses the key point. If simply pounding one's six-point fist of values on the table were enough to produce a modern society, today's Middle East would be a very different place.

The underlying problem is that the region has been addicted to a drug -- oil money -- and has to break its habit. Its economy has to make the difficult shift to a multi-industry, global base. Both the Isamists and the legacy dictators are seeking to own the oil money -- this is a boardroom struggle for control of OPEC. Neither is a friend of a more diverse economy, because that requires skills and legitimacy neither possesses or is capable of acquiring. The deeper irony, of course, is that they're fighting to have the best deck chairs on the Titanic -- but that only increases the desperation of their struggle.

The only hope here is for the new generations of the Arab countries to embrace globalization, like their age cohort in Asia and Latin America (and now like those to their south in Africa). This struggle cannot be resolved by one abstraction ("modernism") defeating another abstraction ("traditionalism" or "fundamentalism" or "extremism"). That way "Wars on Terror" lie. Such struggles are inherently irresolvable -- they are struggles between Good and Evil, God and Satan. They are, in fact, built not to be resolved; their subtext is the impossibility of resolution or progress, period. (Adam Curtis shows this kind of meeting of the fundamentalist minds nicely in his famous documentary, The Power of Nightmares.)

Of course, there are problems inherent in globalization. Its critics on the Left believe it to be nothing more than the propaganda of corporatism, and they think that embracing it is just another form of slavery. I disagree. The unreconstructed Marxist Left is as much of a religion, with as cardboard a Satan, as any of these other traditional cults. To become one planet is not inherently corporatist, any more than it is inherently religious or proletarian. If it has an unquestioned belief, it is the belief in the science of complexity, emergence and networks. I'm sure we'll eventually figure out what's wrong with that paradigm -- as we have with those of Ptolemy and Newton. But for now, I'll stick with it, and I'll maintain that the politics and economics it implies are inherently global and inherently liberal and progressive. I'll therefore further maintain that putting chips down on that square -- e.g., embracing free trade... taking a whole-earth view of production, as well as of the natural environment... focusing attention of the emerging global cities of the urbanizing planet... and more -- holds out the best hope for actually building and sustaining modern, tolerant, innovative, equitable societies.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Strange days - Updated

I have no idea how things will play out in Egypt, but one can't help but be struck by the deep strangeness of the military's ultimatum to Morsi. A Middle East country's military is requiring that its Islamic-led government, heretofore a proxy for "the Arab street," "satisfy" the demands of masses of protesters or be ousted.

Update: Again, it's early to draw any conclusions, but the most striking thing in the wake of the coup in Egypt is the absence of major outcry from the Islamic jihadis of the world. I would guess that most Egyptians feel good (or neutral) about the ouster of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood -- in large part because they were shown as not being ready for prime time. They couldn't run a country. But in a hyper-theologized culture, such mundane concerns are secondary. When everything is framed in terms of good and evil, the point is entirely which side you're on. So how come they're not giving up a good geshrei about their side being thrown out? Maybe it's because of factionalism or sectarianism -- and maybe the whole thing will devolve -- perhaps into some species of Sunni-Shiite warfare. Still, I would have expected louder denunciations from around the Middle East.

Update 2: Well, it certainly was early to jump to conclusions. Watch out below.