Categories
Computing

The Destabilisation Game

Urban warfare

How warmongers and open-borders activists collude to disrupt viable societies

If you have a romantically humanitarian worldview, you may well welcome all policies that seem to help other people in need and oppose all actions that may either harm or hinder others. An idealist would resist all wars, abhor all violence and accommodate all victims of military repression and socio-economic upheaval, receiving refugees and economic migrants with open arms.

Such extreme altruism rests on a Rousseauian interpretation of human nature, i.e. that we are all good at heart and only corrupted by an oppressive system that concentrates power in a few hands and pits one group of people against another. Its antithesis is the Hobbesian view that we are mainly self-interested and can, if left to our own devices, resort to savagery to further our selfish ends. I believe the truth lies somewhere in between, but one thing remains certain: civilisation affects human behaviour and some civilisations are much more violent or coercive than others.

Alas we are a socially competitive species. We don't just strive to better ourselves, but to win a competitive advantage over others. We see this behaviour at play in mate selection, in creative pursuits that require strong motivation and in our desire to gain influence over others. However, we can only live together peacefully if we fully respect each other's personhood and agree to a set of a ground rules to resolve conflicts. This begs the question: to what extent do we need the supervision of coercive authorities to maintain social order?

While opinion leaders may appeal to our idealism and emotions, in the real world ordinary people appear powerless to change the course of events. We may yearn for a harmonious world free of the deep-seated rivalry that once divided us, but such a paradise remains little more than a pipe dream. On the burning issues of military adventurism and mass migration we have four camps:

  1. Pacifists oppose all wars and all borders, i.e. infantile leftists or anarcho-communists.
  2. Jingoists always support wars against rogue regimes, but expect their governments to keep them safe by enforcing strict border controls, i.e. many rightwing nationalists or Trumpian neoconservatives.
  3. Extreme interventionists support military interventions against the perceived enemies of progress, but also welcome the erosion of national borders and transfer of power to superstates, i.e. globalists such as American neoliberals, European federalists or the likes of Hillary Clinton, Tony, Blair, Angela Merkel and Emanuel Macron.
  4. Non-interventionists oppose most wars, but still want borders to protect their way of life and cultural traditions, i.e. most ordinary working people.

Proponents of the first position clearly live in cloud cuckoo land. National borders are just one of many barriers between different groups of people. The biggest divider between us remains the power of wealth to control our access to private property. While an unemployed Portuguese woman can hop on a bus and travel within the Schengen zone to the wealthier regions of Northern Europe without ever having her passport checked, the intervening landscape is replete with countless other manmade barriers denying us access to buildings and land. I can't just turn up at a five star hotel and demand access to a vacant room because I have nowhere else to stay. I need to prove my ability to pay the going rate. Sure, in an ideal environmentally sustainable world without extremes of poverty and opulence, we may not need border checks at all, just as people in safe neighbourhoods do not feel the need to lock their premises at night. Do I lock my front and back doors because I distrust my neighbours or assume all passers-by are ill-intentioned? Of course not, I do so because in an imperfect society burglars may take advantage of my vulnerability.

The other three options have many nuances, but the real contrast lies between conservatives and interventionists. Pragmatically most governments of affluent countries need to maintain social order at home and may acquiesce to the demands of their more conservative citizens to keep their towns and cities safe from the worst excesses of gangland violence that plagues bustling metropolises across the developing world. Likewise many European governments seek to distance themselves from unpopular US-led wars to maintain trust with the general public. This gives us the illusion of a diversity of opinions among political leaders and national governments. It may seem that some politicians talk about the dangers posed by terrorists and foreign dictators, while others are concerned with helping those displaced by wars. It's a truism that if you don't want refugees in your country, you should oppose the arms sales and wars that caused so many to flee these war-torn regions.

I now think it's too facile to lay the blame for the endless wars and social dislocation in much of the developing world on Western military interventions alone. Most migrants who have fled to Europe with the help of people smugglers and aid agencies do not come from regions directly affected by recent US-led wars. Moreover, many civil wars rage in regions where the main Western powers have been more noticeable by their indifference, allowing some analysts like neocolonialist historian Andrew Roberts to suggest that we need more not less proactive intervention to stabilise Africa and the Middle East. It's hardly a coincidence most new low-skilled migrants (i.e. not those who could easily obtain a work visa) come from regions with a high fertility rate and a fast rate of urbanisation. People tend not to flee stable communities unless they are no longer able to fend for themselves or are enticed by promises of untold riches in faraway cities. Rural Africans experience their biggest culture shock when they move to a big city where they are likely to meet many other itinerants, not when they later decide to move another city in a more affluent country with a more advanced welfare system.

War is not the only cause of death and destruction. Environmental mismanagement is a much bigger killer. Moreover, many technological solutions, such as better sanitation, modern medicine and higher agricultural yields through irrigation and fertilisers, may lead to other problems further down the line like rapid population growth and an exodus of young adults to large cities. If the economy fails to provide most men of working age with gainful employment without a social safety net, many will turn either to crime or fanaticism, hoping for salvation through submission to a political or religious cult. Just as the professional classes in the affluent West embrace green solutions to meet the challenges of the coming century, Africa's upwardly mobile middle classes embrace mass consumption with a verve reminiscent of the swinging 60s.

Many of us have theorised that Western powers intervened in the Middle East mainly to gain control of the oil supply, but demand for this oil is growing faster in China, India and Africa as their car ownership approaches European levels and within the next ten to twenty years most vehicles will be electric anyway, reliant more on the availability of lithium and abundant cheap electricity than on the price of crude oil. However, we will need massive infrastructure to power billions of vehicles, robotised manufacturing facilities, domestic appliances, air conditioners, hospital equipment and other machines essential to our high tech way of life. Whether we bedeck deserts with giant solar panels or invest in next generation nuclear fusion reactors, only large corporations will have the resources to build and maintain such phenomenal infrastructure further reducing regional independence. Billions of urbanites are already at the mercy of remote organisations responsible for their energy, water and food supply. People may protest, but are powerless to challenge the hegemony of tech giants. If even oil-rich Venezuela, which used to be self-sufficient in food, cannot develop the technology to gain functional autonomy from big business, there is little hope for countries like Nigeria or South Africa whose restless populations are demanding a bigger slice of the global cake.

If neoliberal lobbyists really cared about people in the third world, they'd promote greater self-reliance to minimise the kind of sudden cultural and demographic change that can destabilise societies and trigger internecine conflict. They see the destabilisation of previously viable societies not as a threat to world peace, but as an opportunity for yet more intervention. So it should come as no surprise that many of the same global actors lobbying for more humanitarian wars, which tend to empower local militias and create more refugees, also welcome mass migration, not as a temporary side effect of environmental mismanagement, but as a desirable end in and of itself. The same players also seem quite happy to witness social dislocation across many European and North American cities. The spectres of Islamic fundamentalism, gang violence and rightwing extremism serve to justify more surveillance and a clampdown on free speech, while divided communities only empower social workers to engineer new identities detached from our cultural heritage.

Flag-waving nineteenth century imperialism has now morphed into progressive globalism coopting trendy social justice activists as its missionaries, but supported by the same banking cartels and industrial behemoths that once bankrolled Western colonialism. Once the middle classes of the home countries of the great empires may have enjoyed some economic privileges and cultivated a sense of moral superiority over the apparently less civilised peoples of their colonies. By contrast today, outside a few safe havens of general opulence and social stability, the whole urban world has become an occupied territory that nobody can truly call home.

Categories
Computing Power Dynamics

We cannot stop wars unless we tackle their causes

Police keeping

How greed, distrust, decadence and unsustainability engender conflicts

Most of us agree wars are best avoided, but we have long debated whether and when they can ever be justified. In theory at least, we can assert the right of all communities to self-defence against incursions and conquest, but in practice life is seldom that simple, as outside forces may easily manipulate disaffected insurgents with well-founded grievances for their own ends. Today most nation states seldom fight wars for territorial gain in the way European and Asian powers regularly did until the mid 20th century. In an increasingly interdependent world national governments play second fiddle to corporate lobbies, supranational bodies and borderless banks. As migratory flows have grown rapidly in an age of job insecurity and international commuting, regional identity has waned especially in our more cosmopolitan cities. Why spend billions of pounds to defend the right to self-determination of around 2000 Anglophile Falkland Islanders, when the ethnic composition of towns and cities across the British Isles and the rest of Western Europe is changing at a rate not seen since the mass people movements of the Second World War? Why invade a country if you can just move there, buy up properties and take over entire neighbourhoods? While global superculture with its familiar brands and transient communities often imposes itself on a backdrop of distinctive historical landmarks and geographic surroundings, we may ask if the blurring of national borders will end military conflicts, set in motion a new era of intensified internecine conflicts policed by transnational militias or trigger heightened superpower rivalry? After two decades of decline following the fall of the Soviet Union, military budgets in the world"™s main jurisdictions show a marked upward trend. However, the world"™s most active military powers do not seem very concerned with the defence of their own people, but rather with global peace-keeping and counter-insurgency operations.

The progressive narrative holds that enlightened superpowers may intervene to restore peaceful coexistence and protect human rights in more backward regions. Recent boundary changes in the Balkans occurred only after the Yugoslav federation went bankrupt and the wealthier republics of Slovenia and Croatia seceded. Most fighting took place in the contested regions of Slavonia, with a large Serb minority, Bosnia-Hercegovina and most notoriously in Kosovo. While the civil war rekindled old wounds dating back to the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian empire and the shifting alliances of Croat, Serbian and Bosnian militias during the First and Second World Wars, its main victim was national sovereignty as NATO assumed a peacekeeping role in the Bosnia and Kosovo while Slovenia and Croatia integrated with the European Union widening the economic gap with their southern neighbours. Other border disputes since the collapse of the former Soviet Union relate more to superpower rivalry than to aspirations of national aggrandisement, e.g. the Russian annexation of Crimea merely reflected the will of most Crimeans, who had only been part of Ukraine since 1954 and only divorced from Russia since Ukraine gained independence in 1992. With over 17 million square kilometres of land, the Russian federation hardly needed more living space and the region"™s key port of Sevastopol was only of limited strategic value to counter a massive US military presence in the Black Sea region. The backdrop to this dispute was the westward expansion of the EU and NATO through an association agreement with the Ukraine, a borderland whose eastern half had been part of the Russian Empire since the 17th century and before that was split between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Cossacks (Zaporozhian Sich) and Crimean Khanate under Ottoman rule. Ironically today ordinary people value nationhood more in Eastern Europe and Russia than in Western Europe, where it has fallen out of favour among the chattering classes, except when secessionist movements as in Scotland or Catalonia can help undermine larger nation states whose integrity stands in the way of global convergence.

Social Stability and Peace

Idealists may well oppose all wars, no matter how evil the enemy may be, while simultaneously expressing their love of all peoples and all cultures, no matter how oppressive or depraved they may be. However, our desires for greater prosperity, social justice and tranquility have often motivated us to support the military endeavours of our ruling classes or to unite behind freedom fighters. Like it or not, today"™s world would look very different without the legacy of Western imperialism, the industrial revolution and the liberal enlightenment. While the industrial revolution led to the growth of entrepreneurial capitalism and the abolition of slavery, it is also helped create the sophisticated infrastructure that have enabled such widespread prosperity.

To most of us peace does not just mean an absence of state-sponsored military conflicts, but freedom from the scourges of state repression and violent crime. We can think of peace as a state of social harmony where we resolve disputes without resorting to acts of coercion against individual liberty. We can only approach this ideal when we moderate our desires to goals we can attain without depriving others of their livelihood or personal space. Violence may ensue when we perceive that another group of people have denied us of our material and spiritual wellbeing and we have no other means to better ourselves through education and hard work.

Without innovation, we would still be fighting over finite resources with a much lower human carrying capacity. In some ways we still fight over access to life"™s necessities. For millions in the world"™s most densely populated arid regions of the Middle East, North Africa, Australia and the Southwestern United States, potable water has become a scarce resource, often only available as a packaged product. With widespread unemployment and limited welfare provision, price rises of staple foods and fuel can trigger social unrest that fanatical insurgents can easily exploit for their own ends or to empower rival superpowers. In previous ages if a region"™s population grew beyond a level that the local environment could reasonably sustain with contemporary technology, most people would simply die through malnutrition, disease or warfare. Today"™s youngsters have two other options. They can either emigrate to wealthier regions or demand more foreign aid or corporate taxes to subsidise technofixes, shifting social problems to the opulent countries most economic migrants choose and transferring responsibility for their environmental adversity away from local leaders and personal responsibility (i.e. only having as many children as you can feed unaided) to external powers, whose influence we could best describe as neocolonial. If you can only feed, house and clothe your people with the aid of large multinationals, foreign banks and NGOs, you are not independent at all. China is now by far the largest investor in African infrastructure projects. While local leaders gain their share of the proceeds, they train pitifully few local technicians preferring to rely on their own engineers.

A low-level civil war has been raging in the mainly Muslim regions of Northern Nigeria against infidels (non-Muslims) since around 2011. It only reached the Western public"™s attention when Boko Haram abducted 276 school girls in the town of Chibok, Borno State. While many observers have focused on the spread of Islamic extremism, another factor is the country"™s high fertility rate alongside widespread unemployment and a mass exodus of the fittest young adults to the country"™s sprawling conurbations and abroad. Many philanthropists hoped that better education and sustainable local business development could guide Nigeria towards the kind of social democracy that emerged in Western Europe in the latter half of the 20th century. Alas desires for larger families and consumer products, especially cars, have thus far trumped the impetus for greater engineering excellence and more sustainable technological solutions, i.e. more solar panels, greater use of bicycles, better public transport and smaller families. This begs two questions: Who is responsible for solving Nigeria"™s developmental woes or how can we both meet the people"™s expectations for a more prosperous future and ensure social stability? It all depends what we mean by we? Do we mean external powers such as UN agencies, charities, tech giants and foreign governments seeking to gain influence over Africa? Or do we mean the Nigerian people taking responsibility for their own future and living with the consequences of their decisions? Some would still blame the legacy of colonialism and the dominance of foreign multinationals in the country"™s lucrative petroleum sector. Yet one startling and easily verifiable fact stands out. At Independence in 1960, the country had just 40 million inhabitants. Yet despite the Biafran civil wars of the late 60s and occasional famines in the arid north, the population has grown to around 200 million not because women are having more babies but because more babies are surviving into adulthood and beyond.

Instability breeds conflict

While I still believe greed, envy and vindictiveness are the ultimate drivers of violence, in complex societies unsustainable development leads to greater coercion, whether in the form of state repression, heightened surveillance, militarism, violent crime or gang fights. When society can no longer foster prosperity and social stability through responsible management of a shared environment and high levels of communal trust, it will inevitably resort to more overt means of social control. When advanced people management techniques fail, social unrest ensues and the administrative classes have little choice but to suppress the personal liberties of the great unwashed masses. These days only the affluent professional classes can afford to buy more private space.

However, high tech societies with largely unarmed and welfare-dependent citizens need not resort to the kind of overbearing brute force that the great dictatorships of the 20th century had to deploy against insurrections long before most young adults were immersed in social media and online entertainment. The biggest threats to today"™s ruling classes are not drug addicts, low-life gangsters or even remorseless terrorists, whose actions conveniently serve to justify more intrusive surveillance, but the politically aware skilled working classes, whose expertise our rulers still need, but whose conservative beliefs may stand in the way of the kind of progress that our elites envisage. What the managerial classes fear most are not troublesome malcontents, but intelligent, conscientious and independently minded workers with families and strong roots in their local community. That may explain partly why many employers prefer a smaller number of well-remunerated technicians working over 40 hours a week, than investing in training more specialised staff so they can spread the burden. They want to limit the number of well-connected mission-critical operators who could challenge their hegemony. As we rely more and more on smart automation and lucrative jobs require forever higher levels of analytical intelligence, expect the captive disempowered welfare classes to grow. This transition to a subsidised consumer economy, where people are paid for their acquiescence rather than any real work, will affect military strategy too. A hyper-dependent populace, engrossed by social media and online entertainment, is much easer to control through non-violent means, e.g. psychotropic drugs, operant conditioning and financial incentives.

The future of warfare depends on the success of the global convergence project, which would eventually lead to the disappearance of practical cultural and economic diversity, with lifestyle homogenisation in locales as diverse as Beijing, Istanbul, Lagos, Berlin or New York City. In such a scenario, the workless classes would have little to fight over except access to the bounties of tech giants. Cities may still have different climates and landscapes, but each would have similar mixes of submissive consumer classes, social supervisors and technically literate professionals.

Sadly I don"™t share the optimism of many leading proponents of a borderless utopia with universal basic income for all. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the relative economic decline of the United States, the inability of Western military alliances to tame the Middle East, the failure of the European multicultural experiment with parallel communities and Africa"™s delayed demographic transition could all destabilise a fragile peace in the prosperous world. While Western elites focus on the perceived Russian threat, they are playing with fire in the Muslim world.

If you want social tranquility in a relatively free and fair society as much as I do, then you should not just campaign against military adventurism, but identify the causes of future conflicts. Bad environmental management and unsustainable rates of cultural and demographic change pose by far the greatest threats to world peace.

Categories
Power Dynamics War Crimes

The trouble with Zionism and Islamism

Demo against perceived Islamophobia

I wish we could wish away any historical or geopolitical controversies related to Jews or Muslims and all live together in peace and harmony. As it happens, for many years Jews, Christians and Muslims managed somehow to reconcile their differences in countries like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq where today Islamic fundamentalism threatens religious minorities.

As I write the world is undergoing technological and cultural change at such a rapid rate that makes it hard to foresee the future trajectory of human civilisation over the next couple of generations. Yet just as artificial intelligence colludes with nano-robotics to supplant human workers and biotechnology conspires to render motherhood obsolete, many remain obsessed with time-honoured theological disputes over allegiance to religious cults. Let us be in no doubt to discuss either Islamism or Zionism is to invite ridicule.

How can we interpret our modern world through the ideological lenses of Islamism and Zionism? This narrow obsession with the Jewish and Islamic questions can lead to some odd alliances that transcend the traditional left versus right split with severe implications for intellectual freedom.

One may rationally analyse the power of international cabals over traditional societies. If we look at the most influential movers and shakers in media, banking, literature, science, politics and academia, it's hard to deny that some ethnic groups are much more prevalent than others. For instance of 892 Nobel prizes awarded as of 2017, 201 or 22.5% went to Jews, despite being only around 0.2% of the world's population. Likewise Sikhs exert disproportionate influence on Indian business and administration.

We may also objectively study the causes of the current conflict between the Zionist State and Palestinian peoples and attempt to sift through a sea of claims and counter-claims about heavy-handed Israeli suppression and Islamic terrorism. I've listened to both sides of the debate. I shared a flat with three Palestinians in Italy and my former Jewish landlady in North London kept complaining to the BBC and the Independent whenever they highlighted Israeli war crimes. I know the arguments off by heart. The Palestinian version is that the Zionists stole their land and created an apartheid state in all but name, using American and European (mainly German) money to build new Jewish settlements in territories assigned to the Palestinians in 1948. The pro-Israeli version is that Palestinian Arabs are Jordanians who can easily move to any of the surrounding Arab countries, while Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organisations who want to drive Jews into the sea. However, this tittle tattle ignores two other indisputable facts. First Israel is about the same size as Wales and even if we add the Palestinian territories its total land area is still just 28,000 km2. Second the population of this combined area has grown from just shy of 2 million in 1948 (with 800,000 in Israel proper) to 13 million today, that's 7.7 million in Israel proper and 4.9 million in the Palestinian territories. Yet much of the land is semi-arid or desert. It's only through the miracles of modern irrigation and trade that Israel not only feeds its people, but is now a net food exporter. Life is much tougher for most in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but in part due to overcrowding and larger families. The fledgling Jewish state was built on two historical injustices, the expulsion of around 700,000 Palestinians from its newly assigned territories and, of course, the Nazi-era genocide of European Jews. By no stretch of imagination does the latter justify the former, however hard some revisionist historians try to blame Palestinian collaborators, such as the former Mufti of Jerusalem Al-Husseini, for the Nazi Holocaust, as one could just as easily highlight the 1933 Haavara agreement between the Zionist Federation of Germany and the new National Socialist regime. The classic mistake many part-time historians make is to blame ordinary people for the machinations of their ruling classes or for atrocities in far-flung lands over which they have no control. Some Arab Palestinians may well have sympathised with the Axis powers for the same reason that some Irishmen did, on the misguided grounds that my enemy's enemy must be my friend. Nonetheless the current demographic reality of the former British mandate precludes an easy solution that can please all parties concerned and guarantee lasting harmony. Unless all parties concerned are prepared to compromise, I do not foresee an easy solution that does not inconvenience a large section of Israeli / Palestinian inhabitants.

Why should Western bystanders care about the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories or the proliferation of Islamic fundamentalism any more than many other prickly disputes around the world? How did this small plot of land become an ideological battleground between rival factions of anti-Zionists and fanatical friends of Israel. It's a cause cèlébre that somehow manages to unite anti-imperialist leftwingers and Muslims against Israel-firsters, who now include not just influential American Neocons, but many social conservatives. Much of the new right across North America and Europe is avowedly pro-Israel. Geert Wilders, Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson have all expressed their unconditional support for the Jewish State and have condemned Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organisations. Benjamin Netanhayu was not only the first head of state to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the US presidential electoral college, but has fostered close relations with prominent social conservative politicians in Eastern Europe such as Viktor Orban.

The Holy Land conflict acts as a proxy among shifting alliances. Few are really interested in the plight of Palestinians or the protection and self-determination of religious Jews in a hostile world. Of greater interest to me has always been the influence of leading Zionists on international politics and their role in fomenting endless internecine wars in the Middle East and further afield. Of note is substantial collusion between Saudi Arabia and the Israeli government, both staunch allies of the United States. If Israeli leaders really wanted to secure a prosperous Jewish homeland living in peace with its neighbours, why would they arm and train the most fanatical Islamic fundamentalists? Just as US-led military adventurism does not serve the interests of ordinary working class Americans, covert Israeli support for Islamic militias in Syria actively imperils Orthodox Jews in Israel with nowhere else to go, while affluent global Zionists with dual nationality can easily relocate. How odd it must seem that the latter group are now befriending proponents of the growing nationalist counterculture. Back in the day many on the real far right, by which I mean those who openly sympathise with the fascist or national socialist dictatorships of the mid twentieth century, would oppose Zionism, sometimes seeking common cause with Islamists. Indeed a propensity towards Shoah revisionism often served as a litmus test for far-right thinking as country after country banned denial of Hitler's death camps. More important than the tragic historical episode itself, which sadly we cannot undo, is the exploitation of its memory to justify modern wars or stifle rational debate on key scientific and historical issues. Today's Judaeophobic right has shrunk to a hardcore of Third Reich nostalgics mainly found in a few areas of Eastern Europe such as Lithuania and Western Ukraine where the memory of Stalinist betrayal and ethnic cleansing lingers on. The Soviet Union invaded the Baltic Republics as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Fast forward 70 years the German intelligentsia not only champions a federal European Union with the eventual dissolution of traditional nation states, but has welcomed a massive influx of Muslim newcomers with very different views on morality and twentieth century history.

Why people choose to believe one version of history

In a perfect world we would critically analyse all historical and current events in a cool, calm and collected way. Yet we tend to decide many key controversies on emotions rather than with any regard to facts on the ground, which are often complex or open to multiple interpretations. How many people died the US kill during the Vietnam war or indeed how many did it murder during its occupation of Iraq? It all depends how we count and attribute deaths.

How political factions squabble over the Semitic Question

  • The old far right, sympathising with twentieth century fascist regimes, often sided with Muslims as the enemy of their enemy and attempted to downplay the industrial scale of Nazi crimes.
  • The new populist right usually sides with Israel against Islamic expansionism as they want to defend the concept of compact nation states built on ethnic identity and shared cultural norms.
  • The old left defended the rights of all oppressed peoples to self-determination and often sympathised with the Zionist cause, viewing Israel as a bastion of social democracy.
  • Since the 1967 six day war the radical left has usually opposed the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and its role in supporting or driving US foreign policy. Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle sets forth an exhaustive critique of Israeli foreign and domestic policy, but still advocates a two-state solution with a Jewish homeland as envisaged in the 1947 partition of Israel and Palestine/
  • The far left have openly sided with radical Muslims in their principled opposition to the very existence of Israel as a Jewish ethno-state. This takes two forms. One championed by some anti-Zionist Jews, such as Gilad Atzmon, foresee a united secular Palestine/Israel where Jews, Muslims, Christians and Atheists live together happily in peace. Others just want a complete Islamic takeover of the Levant. Some on the fringes of far left have internalised a radical critique of Jewish power and, like many Islamists, call into question the orthodox narrative of the Shoah.
  • Most Muslims denounce Israeli suppression of Palestinian self-determination, yet seem much less concerned about the plight of other Muslims living under repressive Islamic regimes. Divisions within the Muslim diaspora seldom adhere to the traditional Western left / right paradigm. The views of many radical Muslims may vehemently oppose US and Israel imperialism, while espousing a regressive ideology antithetical to the values of the liberal enlightenment.
  • Most Jews support Israel and often its wider neoconservative foreign policy agenda, i.e. instinctively distrusting Israel's enemies and ignoring its frenemies such as Saudi Arabia. However, many Jews do not, most notably Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein in the US or the late Gerald Kaufman in the UK. By contrast ultra-Zionist attitudes are prevalent among much of the new populist right in North America and Europe. You're much more likely to see blue and white Star of David flags at rightwing rallies these days than swastikas.

If you don't have close ties to the region, you may well project your own insecurities and prejudices onto the dispute in the same way as many Scottish nationalists may wish for any team but England to win in the World Cup. Yet one big question remains unanswered in the age of global convergence. Why do some influential Jewish billionaires, such as George Soros, support open borders with so much zeal, while Israel continues to enforce strict immigration controls? Here many make a fundamental error of analysis, conflating the interests of powerful international elites with those of plebeians with strong ethno-religious affiliation. Today we witness a battle between the unrooted professional classes or anywheres, who can easily move as long as they find accommodation within a secluded neighbourhood and stay in touch with other like-minded professionals, and the rooted somewheres, who often find their neighbourhoods and wider social support networks utterly transformed by rapid waves of mass migration, a thesis that David Goodhard has popularised in his recent book A Road to Somewhere.

Categories
All in the Mind Computing Power Dynamics

The Emerging Age of Absolutisms

What do corporate globalism, Islamic fundamentalism, communist idealism and neo-fascist romanticism all have in common besides being abstract isms? If you look at their attitudes to the key ethical questions of our age, their notional position on the left-right spectrum or their virtuosity in the public mind, they may appear at variance or even diametric opposites. Communists may wish to abolish private property, while neoliberal corporates may want to stick a price tag on everything from childcare, healthcare, hygiene, clean water to fresh air and open spaces. Communists and neoliberals may welcome gay rights and non-traditional families, while fascists and Islamists may enforce heteronormativity by severely punishing digression from an official view of sexual morality. What unites these ideologies is not their exact interpretation of human morality, justice and freedom, but their advocacy of a universal belief system, the notion that we are collectively progressing on a way road to a better tomorrow. They represent variants of collectivism, defined as allegiance to large companies (corporatism), to a monotheistic religious cult (Islamism), to an egalitarian ideal that does away with private property and competition (communism), or to the resurrection of a historically successful civilisation associated with a specific national community (fascist romanticism). Each of these absolutisms expects its denizens to adapt their behaviour to the needs of economic growth or social development, rather than to serve the best interests of their family or close-knit ethnic community, which have historically been our primary motivators. Put another way, these belief systems beseech us to worship different gods, be it big business, Allah, the vanguard party or one's mighty fatherland.

Blasts from the Past

Some academics have predicted that given current demographic and cultural trends within the Muslim diaspora, much of Western Europe and parts of North America may become part of a global Caliphate. Like communism and neoliberalism, Islam has universal ambitions. However, it relies on technology developed mainly in the non-Muslim world to feed, clothe and accessorise its growing army of followers. Should our current society collapse due to cultural decadence and a growing concentration of power in a technocratic elite, Islam may be poised to fill the void, but I doubt our current ruling classes would be very happy about handing over power to a technically illiterate theocracy. whose inability to deliver the goods, i.e. manage an economy that can satisfy their people's needs and desires, would lead to a never-ending cycle of civil wars just as we see in much of the Islamic world today. However, the spectre of Islam may serve other purpuses that suit the interests of our leading multinationals, who now need compliant consumers and malleable participants in social engineering experiment more than dependable workers. The growth of culturally incompatible parallel communities empowers the state to monitor every aspect of our lives lest we transgress.

The demographic transition of the West from mainly white European Christian countries to multiethnic, multiracial and multifaith societies has already begun to trigger a backlash from nostalgic nationalist or conservative opposition groups, aiming at least to slow the rate of cultural change. This can lead to strange alliances between those more concerned about the decline of family values among the native populace, mainly Christians, and those who fear the influx of migrants with divergent cultural backgrounds may reverse the liberal gains of recent decades on women's and gay rights. To explain the cognitive dissonance of the progressive alliance that embraces both Muslim immigration and trangenderism, critically thinking conservatives have coined the term regressive left, i.e. wishful thinkers who turn a blind eye to widespread sexual abuse within the growing Muslim communities while dismissing working class natives as low-information voters at best and knuckle-dragging racists at worst. Unlike Europe, the USA has maintained two important intellectual traditions, the libertarian right and small-government conservatism. Both groups are often critical of US foreign policy and crony capitalism. Libertarians may oppose welfarism, but support individual liberty and alternative lifestyles, e.g. favouring the legalisation of narcotics. Their attitude may overlap with some conceptions of anarchism. American Conservatives want to redress the balance of power away from central governments and large corporations to families, community organisations such as churches and small businesses. While conservatives support their country's right to self-defence as good patriots, they oppose military adventurism abroad unless they can be persuaded a foreign country poses an immediate threat to national security. However, both of these groups are now often labelled as alt-right or even far right for their politically incorrect views on welfare, immigration or sexuality. Growing sections of American working class now identify more with conservatives than with cosmopolitan liberals. We see a similar pattern across Europe too. The real divide is no longer left vs right, but conservatism vs radicalism. The multifarious strands of the traditionalist opposition disagree about which aspects of our cultural heritage we should conserve. A tiny minority of Americans and Europeans sympathise not with inclusive and philanthropic liberal traditions, but with negative nationalism and/or white supremacy, i.e. the notion that some ethnic or racial identities are not only superior to others, but have a right to subjugate and suppress other ethnic or racial groups they consider inferior. Some may sympathise with defunct dictatorships, downplay or deny their crimes or wish to resurrect racial segregation, all requiring state intervention and restrictions on individual liberty at odds with either social conservatism or libertarian capitalism, which have many African Americans such as Thomas Sowell or Ben Carson in their ranks. However, today's power brokers have long abandoned European ethnocentrism or Anglo-Saxon cultural hegemony in favour of a multicoloured universalism.

I suspect our social planners and business leaders view anachronistic white nationalists in the same way as they view regressive Islamists, i.e. a bunch of useful idiots whose feelings can be easily manipulated and whose spectre serves to justify more censorship, surveillance and social conditioning. The Trump phenomenon pandered to a mix of social conservatism and American exceptionalism. The perceived threat of gun-toting hillibies and latter-day apartheid supporters serves to justify more surveillance and counterbalance the threat of radical Islam. I can't help but notice how YouTube now interjects short videos against both Islamic extremism and Far-right extremism before videos critical of globalisation and/or Islam. Are the authorities worried I may join ISIS or a tiny Neo-Nazi sect of Hitler admirers or do they want to suggest that any alternatives to their narrative means siding with unpalatable genocidal extremists?

Capitalism morphing into Corporate Communism

For many decades we've largely bought the myth that the system we have is a mix of liberal democracy and free market capitalism because whatever its flaws it has afforded us not only the fastest rate of technological innovation ever experienced, but the illusion of greater personal freedom, which is something we all yearn for alongside good health, security and social bonding. Today freedom is often mistaken for indulgence in commercialised activities, but such synthetic escapism is only made possible by technology we cannot fully control. A long-haul air passenger is at the mercy of sophisticated jet propulsion engines and aircraft guidance systems. A motorist relies not only advanced automotive technology, but on an extensive road and fuel delivery network as well as on coordinated traffic management. You may loathe big oil or oppose nuclear power, but how are we going to generate all the energy we need to facilitate our modern high consumption lifestyle? Moreover, demand is rising as millions of people in what we used to call the Third World now want to emulate the materialistic lifestyle they see via a multitude of media, observe in the wealthier suburbs of their cities and hear about from friends and relatives who have moved to Europe or North America. Just as billions seek to live the American dream, millions of low and medium-skill occupations are being automated. No sooner have hundreds of thousands of new immigrants gained temporary employment Uber cab drivers undercutting traditional taxi drivers in cities as diverse as London, New York or Paris as Uber itself, once a great proponent of relaxed migration controls, announces plans to phase in driverless cars. It's only a matter of time before many other mundane jobs that involve a degree of mental and physical dexterity beyond the capabilities of first generation domestic robots give way to smart automata. As time goes by, I forecast only three categories of remunerative jobs will remain outside low-tech backwaters:

  1. Research and development
  2. Social monitoring
  3. Persuasion (consultancy, change management, awareness raising, marketing, entertainment)

All three overlapping sectors of human enterprise will require either an exceptionally high IQ or outstanding talents. This effectively means within the next generation (usually around 25 to 30 years) only a small minority will pursue competitive careers to boost their status and/or income. Underemployment is the one problem that laissez-faire capitalism cannot address. Unless capitalism, albeit with large conglomerates and substantial state intervention, can motivate most of its economic participants, it will implode as the workless masses fail to respond to its incentives.

Universal Welfarism

Now, more and more big business leaders are coming out in favour of universal basic income, which could transform most adults from active participants in a competitive economy to passive consumers and guinea pigs in a giant social engineering experiment. In reality most citizens of Western countries struggle to compete in the labour market and the hundreds of millions of third worlders aspiring to the American way of life may never get a chance to earn a living. Currently in the UK you have to earn more than 35K a year on average to contribute more in taxes than you consume in services. The maths is not that hard. Public spending stands at a whopping 780 billion for the year 2016/17, that's 23 thousand per worker in direct and indirect tax. Yet the average wage is still around 28K. That means most workers are already subsidised and rewarded more for compliance or good behaviour than actual work that really contributes to society. The range of jobs available at the lower end of the salary scales becomes more absurd by the day. Rather than serve customers at checkout tills, shop assistants now monitor automated checkouts. Soon rather than stacking shelves, supermarket workers will monitor shelf-stacking robots. More and more work not only in customer relations, but in the mushrooming awareness raising business. That's right, people get paid for promoting a concept or a lifestyle option rather than a tangible good or service. Expect this number to grow as the boundary between voluntary political activism and subsidised lifestyle evangelism blurs. Who could seriously believe that the likes of Oxfam, Save the Children or Medicins sans Frontiers are funded mostly by voluntary donations from cash-strapped private citizens? Who decided to use their finite resources to hire ships to facilitate mass migration from Northern Africa to Europe, often against the wishes of local authorities on the ground. Well-funded NGOs have been caught colluding with people traffickers within Libya's coastal waters, effectively acting as a ferry service under the pretext of saving lives. To understand the scale of the problem before us, just consider the population of Nigeria alone is rising by 4 to 5 million a year and is projected to hit 300 million by 2036, almost entirely due to a high fertility rate that has not fallen in line with a massive decline in infant mortality and an equally impressive rise in mean life expectancy. Worse still Nigeria is now a net importer of food and domestic demand for energy is growing faster than the proceeds of its substantial but finite oil reserves. It may soon be unable to sustain its increasingly urbanised citizens. Could we not better empower Africans by promoting sustainable development through lower fertility rates? There are two ways to attain these ends. One is through more military interventionism, e.g. meddling in the many civil wars erupting in countries under significant environmental stress or forcing local governments to implement the LGBTQ+ agenda. The other approach is simply to leave these people alone and let them find their own route towards a more sustainable future, but without us relying on their natural resources. Unfortunately, isolationism and protectionism have earned a bad name. Simple leaving the Middle East and West Africa to rot in their own environmental nightmare will not prevent civil wars and human misery, but it may stop such mayhem spreading to the more stable societies of Western Europe and North America, thus preserving the liberal traditions we hold dear and setting an example for others to follow. Besides coercion is not necessary to transition from high to low birth rates. Most European countries now have fertility rates below replacement level as the relative cost of raising a child rises. As we adapt to a future where only highly educated professionals can earn a living through their own endeavours, why would we have more children than we can reasonably nurture? If we rely on the State to bring up our children and inculcate in them new cultural values at odds with our instincts, why should we bother having children at all?

https://www.youtube.com/embed/gEPdOZbyzbw

Communism for the Masses and Liberalism for the Elite

If you ever aspired to democratic socialism, the last 40 years have been very disappointing, as mainstream social democratic parties have embraced big business and the USSR collapsed. Nothing ever seems to change unless banking cartels and tech giants want it. Have they concluded that the masses can no longer compete in the free market?

It saddens me to admit it, but I once hoped capitalism would give way to anarcho-communism, a patchwork of egalitarian communes in a utopian world devoid of armies and extreme concentrations of wealth. In my naive adolescent mindset the Soviet Union, the People Republic of China, Cuba and North Korea were at best deformed workers' states and at worst despotisms antithetical to the kind of laid-back sharing society I envisaged. Ironically the only viable examples of communalism have always sprung from close-knit and culturally homogenous communities, i.e. people who share an elaborate set of ethical rules and customs. Once such societies grow beyond a basic level of complexity and have to accommodate a wider range of cultural backgrounds and social attitudes, they inevitably have to adopt more coercive means to maintain social stability. Yet if such societies fail to grow out of their rudimentary forms, they will inevitably fail to develop the technological means to improve people's quality of life and to correct the cruel injustices of mother nature. Ever since the industrial revolution, no system has succeeded in raising people's material living standards more than capitalism. Even China abandoned its Maoist command economy to embrace state-managed capitalism. Today, the State accounts for a larger share of the economy in most of Western Europe than it does in China. Yet as corporate cartels behave more like governments via their NGOs and transnational organisations, we may soon see a merger between the Chinese and European models with democracy reduced to little more than choreographed consultation exercises. Competition will work on two levels. The professional elite of technical whizz-kids, scientists, social planners, media executives and entertainers will continue to compete and lead parallel lives in a liberal bubble with exclusive access to secluded resorts and gated neighbourhoods. Meanwhile the masses reliant on UBI (universal basic income) will be rewarded for their compliant behaviour. Some may attain relative privileges by acting as model citizens, while others will be relegated to a closely supervised life in an urban jungle of interconnected megacities. Those who fail to comply, especially those whose dissident ideas attract a following, may be treated as sufferers of mental disorders. The hate speech laws now being enforced in countries as diverse as Canada, Turkey, Germany and China, could effectively disable you as a citizen in our basic income panacea. Just imagine the option of either repenting one's conservative views on the sexual dimorphism of human beings or having one's bank account deactivated and access to social housing and employment denied. This dystopian future is no longer just a fanciful science fiction, but a reality the Pentagon is preparing for.

Categories
Power Dynamics

Disturbing Scenarios of the early 21st Century

Bury Park, Luton

Could globalisation trigger regressive ethnocentrism and religious hatred?

In a paradigm shift over the last 30 to 40 years, the establishment media in most Western countries now openly embraces not just globalisation and the gradual dissolution of traditional national boundaries, but also rapid cultural change via social engineering. However, until recently most national leaderships pretended to care about their countries, their citizens and their traditions to retain their people's trust and preserve social stability.

Back in the day rebels would oppose the imperialism or military adventurism of their rulers. We rightly associated wars, exploitation and oppression of subjugated peoples with expansionist nationalism. Some of us felt so disgusted with the crimes of our ruling elite that we would support their enemies or wish for the dissolution of our nation state into smaller regions of a larger continental superstate. Much of the European Union's philosophical appeal among the continent's trendy professional classes rested on its apparent disassociation with previous colonial empires. Yet in the early 21st century it's not so much the working classes who want to abolish their countries, as national elites who are now so enamoured with globalisation that they see their country as a mere anachronism and only pay lip service to its cultural heritage to placate conservative opinion.

Today school students learn about the horrors of, wait for it, nationalism. often seen alongside religion as the root cause of all evil. As discussed in previous posts we should contrast negative nationalism, which seeks to impose itself on rival ethnic identities, from positive nationalism or patriotism, which implies pride in the cultural heritage and collective achievements of one's wider community. In this sense negative nationalism is a precursor to imperialism, which has now morphed into globalism. We find many of the descendants of the same business classes who championed British imperialism in the 19th century and embraced Americanism in the mid 20th century are now the keenest advocates of globalism, often at odds with more conservative or protectionist movements at home. The worst examples of 20th century mass murder came not from small to medium-sized countries minding their own business, but from expansionist regimes that believed either in their civilisational supremacy or sought revenge for perceived past injustices. Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's People's Republic China, both responsible for millions of avoidable deaths, were not compact nation states, but regional powers with a globalist outlook that openly suppressed traditional expressions of ethnic nationalism. Even isolationist regimes such as Pol Pot's short-lived Democratic Kampuchea came about as a reaction to competing expansionist imperialist and ideological forces in the region. Pol Pot received funding both from China and later from the US State Department. His regime could only seize control due to the power vacuum created by US bombing of the Vietcong (Vietnamese National Liberation Front) camps in Eastern Combodia. Admittedly a cocktail of supremacist ethno-nationalism and military might can engender murderous regimes, as we saw in Nazi Germany and Japan. However, one may also argue that they only resorted to genocidal barbarity because other means of commercial and political expansionism had failed. The problems here were military adventurism and ethnic supremacism, not national pride. The British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian and Dutch empires were also responsible for their fair share of mass murder and ethnic cleansing, mostly of defenceless peoples who failed to write their own history books to counter the dominant narrative of civilising the world.

The workers' movement has long championed internationalism, i.e. solidarity and cooperation among independent nations with different cultural traditions and mores. One of the most famous gestures of true internationalism was when British and German soldiers ceased hostilities over Christmas 1914, exchanged gifts and reportedly played football. The truce highlighted the reality that it was not their war. Ordinary working people had little or no say in their country's foreign policy or military planning and had to rely on biased newspapers for information about unfolding events in other parts of Europe and the Middle East. Most supported the war due to their instinctive loyalty to their fatherland, a concept alien to many young Europeans who prefer vaguer appeals to abstract social justice and non-judgmental universalism. A hundred years ago our rulers urged us to fight for our country, now the descendants of the same power elites want us to welcome the transformation of our countries into mere regions of a fluid global superstate. Some still imagine the ruling classes as a reactionary cabal of nationalist aristocrats and religious leaders eager to prevent the fraternisation of a global working class yearning for a new tomorrow free of oppression or petty ethnocentric divisions. This is little more than 19th century fiction. In reality the upper classes have always been more universalist in outlook. The Great War of 1914 to 1918 saw intimately related European Royals on different sides of a dispute over the carving up of the former Ottoman Empire and the remapping of Eastern Europe. Ever since power has shifted to the bankers, oligarchs and state bureaucrats, who strut the world stage and often pose as progressive and environmentally conscientious liberals. Forget the waning influence of British Royalty, the real movers and shakers of the next century will be today's mightiest business leaders and multibillionaire technocrats in the guise of familiar jeans-clad rockstar tycoons such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Tim Cook or Mark Zuckerberg or even Britain's very own small-time billionaire aviator Richard Branson. These guys are all globalists, not old school nationalists by any stretch of the imagination.

Rebels against Post-modernism

Today's intellectual dissidents are seldom those calling for faster global cultural convergence. That prize belongs to what we may call the loony fringe of overzealous cheerleaders and idealists whose vitriolic loathing of their countries and traditions can be easily manipulated by global bankers who view national democracies with disdain. Instead the rebels of the early third millennium seek to warn us of the creeping authoritarianism of our ruling elites and of the cultural decay of our liberal societies. Naturally their main points of reference are the historically successful and prosperous nation states of the 19th and 20th century with their focus on civic culture and a mix of familial and social responsibility built on traditional values that evolved gradually through trial and error over many generations. While negative nationalism may have led to the revanchist neo-imperialism of the Japanese Empire and Germany's short-lived Third Reich, positive nationalism produced the social democratic mixed economies of Western Europe, North America, Japan, South Korea and Australasia. Most of the relative freedoms and rights we now take for granted evolved in nation states. Each country had a national debate about contentious issues as diverse as abortion, the legalisation or criminalisation of dangerous narcotics, nuclear power or euthanasia. Naturally people may reach different conclusions on these issues and live with the consequences. If a Muslim country wishes to force all women to wear a veil in public, that's their business. A globalist may seek to change such practices through military interventionism rather than by setting an example of more enlightened dress codes. If a cultural habit is bad for its practitioners, they will soon learn by comparison with neighbouring countries who take different approaches. Superior cultures, especially those that have stood the test of time, tend to expand more through emulation rather than conquest or imposition. We may reasonably debate whether the British needed to colonise India and much of Africa to spread our technical expertise, language or customs. Would the Indians and Africans not have found other ways to learn from our scientific discoveries and innovations without being colonised? Indeed many would consider the Christian culture that Britain spread in the 19th century to much of the non-European world both backward and supremacist. One only needs to read the annals of George Bernard Shaw's Fabian Society to learn how many envisaged the British Empire would morph into a Federation of the World.

Rebels vs Conformists

Today's critical thinkers can easily attract derogatory labels such as misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, Islamophobes (which my spell checker has just underlined), transphobes, right-wingers, conspiracy theorists, fascists or, if all else fails, Nazis. At the recent #welcomeToHell protests against the Hamburg G20 summit, Antifa black block activists asked reporters if they were, wait for it, Nazis before proceeding to beat them up. Such epithets are mere insults devoid of any connection to real historical events, as if modern dissidents are as obsessed with a short chapter in central European history as the authoritarian left seems to be. Unless you submit to borderless universalism and systematic social engineering, you are purportedly on a spectrum of reactionary perspectives that include sympathy for a defunct dictatorship.

By and large dissenters react to overwhelming bias from the mainstream media, academia and corporate lobbyists. Anxiety grows when empirical first-hand experiences diverge from the sanitised versions of reality that our mainstream media feeds us. When the media and other vehicles of indoctrination suppress key aspects of objective reality, some of us begin to ask questions. That doesn't mean we always come up with the right answers. It's easy to get sidetracked by focussing only on circumscribed issues or viewing the whole world through a narrow prism. This is precisely the tactic that clever social policy marketers deploy. They emphasise a perceived problem, e.g. depression in pre-school children, and present a solution, e.g. early psychiatric screening. If we focus on that problem alone without reference to wider society, the solution may sound reasonable especially if marketed as a mental health checkup. Likewise dissidents may view today's social problems entirely through the prism of Islamic fundamentalism or Israeli involvement in recent Middle East wars. These phenomena are based on mere observations of a tangled web of events that cannot be fully understood in isolation.

Islamocentrism

Twenty years ago Islamic fundamentalism seemed a side issue, confined to a few regions of Central Asia and Middle East with a few followers among the Muslim diaspora in Europe. The US and UK had long funded some radical Islamic sects, most notably Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Afghanistan's Mujahideen to counter Soviet influence before 1991 and secular pan-Arabist regimes later. As an opponent of Western interventionism in the Middle East, I soon became acquainted with the prickly Israeli / Palestinian issue and the role of the Zionist lobby in shaping US Foreign Policy. On demonstrations against military intervention I naively viewed Muslims as allies in the great battle against US imperialism and Western cultural decadence. Islam does have a few merits, such as its condemnation of gambling and interests on loans. Some interpretations of the Quran reveal an appeal to universal love and social solidarity akin to Christianity, but in practice modern Islamic societies exhibit extreme materialism, internecine violence, misogyny, child marriage, polygamy and castigation of homosexuality. For many years I wilfully turned a blind eye to these oppressive aspects not only of austere Wahhabism, but a wider unreformed Sunni and Shia Islam.

Before the 1980s many Muslim societies had experienced a rather swift cultural enlightenment. One can still view films of Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon from the 1960s with women wearing revealing dresses, jeans or short skirts just like their contemporaries in the West. Cultural attitudes seemed to differ little from those in Christian countries with a comparable level of economic development. An Afghani acquaintance of mine recounted her experiences as a student in 1980s Kabul before the Mujahideen took over. Educated women could aspire to careers in medicine and scientific research. A decade later the Taliban had forced all Afghan women to wear burkas in public and prevented girls from attending school. Yet these austere practices masked the sexual slavery of young women and little boys behind closed doors. Meanwhile I revisited the nondescript municipality of Luton where I spent my teenage years, only to notice the small Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities once concentrated in Bury Park have become the most visible ethnic group. Women now wear burkas in the town's large Arndale shopping centre. Many long-established pubs have closed to match the town's changing demographics and most of the people I knew from the late 70s have relocated either to nearby market towns or further afield. In little more than 30 years the Muslim community has gone from fewer than 5% of the population to over 50% of under 25s. Nobody really cared that much about Luton, but if you read the liberal press you may be under the false impression that the widely vilified and allegedly rightwing Tommy Robinson exaggerated the scale of the problem facing Luton's parallel communities. While once Lutonians would boast of their Irish, Londoner, Regional English, Scottish, Caribbean, Italian, Greek Cypriot or Indian heritage, today the real divide is between Muslims and everyone else. In the late 70s I eagerly attended Anti Nazi League demos and Rock Against Racism gigs to protest against the antics of few white racists and the short-lived popularity of the National Front (an ex school mate actually joined this organisation). I would read reports of white skinheads deliberately targeting defenceless black and Asian kids. In real life a mixed gang of English and West Indian lads beat me up once, but a I didn't let this isolated incident counter the narrative of pervasive white racism that essentially transferred the guilt of British colonialists onto working class youngsters in post-imperial Britain. None of this rapid demographic transformation would matter if everyone shared similar values and a comparable level of cultural integration. Today Luton's most tightly integrated community adhere to Islam. Everyone else is an outsider or infidel.

Media hysteria means little unless it tallies with lived experience. On my return to Greater London in 2006 I became aware that phenomena I had previously dismissed as mere teething problems of a multicultural Britain had begun to sow deep seeds of division. The rose-tinted view of Cool Britannia that I would read in the Guardian and Independent or see in BBC or Channel 4 documentaries seemed at odds with the harsh reality of ethnically cleansed neighbourhoods interspersed with unaffordable gentrified estates. Alarm bells started to ring when Guardian columnists expressed greater outrage over Daily Mail sensationalism than verified accounts of Pakistani rape gangs. That Daily Mail readers would tarnish all Muslims with the same brush seemed to concern Guardian columnists more than the fate of thousands of mainly white teenage girls treated as sex slaves. Some of us actually care about the truth. The mainstream liberal media now used the same techniques of diversion and subterfuge that served to justify Western intervention in the Middle East to suppress the unfolding reality of the kind of social disintegration that could lead to civil war. Some of us recall the Guardian's anti-Serbian bias in the Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s. In the final analysis the death count was fairly even split among the belligerent sides. The Serbs were the bad guys, while the Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians were mere victims of Serb aggression. The Guardian devoted thousands of column inches not to objective reporting of a complex conflict, but to slandering dissenters who failed to toe their line that the Serbs initiated most violence, going so far as to describe playwright Harold Pinter as an atrocity denier for opposing the 1999 NATO airstrikes over rump Yugoslavia. We now see the same vitriol against those who protest against some of the less salutary side effects of Britain's multicultural experiment. The English white working class have in effect become the Serbs of the current decade. The liberal media either ignores likes of Shazia Hobbs and Anne Marie Waters, or it associates them with alleged far-right activists. That the former is a mixed race Glaswegian and the latter an Irish lesbian and former Labour activist is of little interest to the regressive left, their critique must be ridiculed.

State-sanctioned ethnic cleansing

The concept of multiculturalism appeals to me on many levels, not least because I've long loathed the creeping homogenisation that is rapidly displacing traditional cultures that evolved gradually over countless generations. I would liken real cultural diversity with an insurance policy. If one culture succumbs to dysfunctional decadence, others can correct its ways by seeking inspiration from more successful societies. If a universal culture results in unsustainable degeneracy or extreme totalitarianism, the repercussions are by definition global in nature. However, the peaceful coexistence of diverse cultures is not the same as a deliberate policy of mass movements of divergent peoples or as Douglas Murray would put it the transformation of a country into an airport terminal. Indeed airport-grade security is steadily infiltrating shopping centres, office blocks, colleges and other public venues, just in case some deranged loners or radicalised extremists unleash their hatred on innocent bystanders.

Cognitive Dissonance

The cognitive dissonance of the liberal media is so strong that they fail to acknowledge that the spread of Islamic fundamentalism into the West could destroy the very progressive liberalism they claim to cherish. It could do this two ways. If Douglas Murray, author of the Death of Europe, or Boualem Sansal , author of 2084: The End of the World, are right, then radical Islam will eventually replace modern Western society except perhaps in a few isolated havens of tranquility populated by affluent liberal elitists. However, technological developments will likely preclude such an extreme outcome. Some Islamic leaders may be shrewd businessmen and ruthless political strategists, but they will rely on technology developed by mainly European, North American and East Asian engineers, bioscientists and programmers to placate their growing army of adherents. Countries like Sweden or Germany can only provide generous welfare to economic migrants if they can leverage their collective brainpower to generate excess wealth. The Islamist strategy is solely predicated on conquest by migration and a higher fertility rate and will ultimately fail if their offspring cannot contribute in any meaningful way to wealth generation. A much more likely scenario in my view is that the spread of dysfunctional subcultures and parallel communities will only empower the technocratic elite eager for pretexts to expand surveillance and limit free speech.


What Is Social Engineering

A Web search for this term may define it only in its more recent application in the context of information security where it may refer to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. This is obviously not what I mean. I refer instead to a combination of social policies, spending priorities, media conditioning, educational bias and commercial incentives that affect human behaviour, social interaction, our identity and sense of self. Architecture, town planning, wealth distribution, transportation, advertising, information technology and schooling are all factors that governments and big businesses can engineer to modify human behaviour. It's not necessarily a bad thing if such policies and their likely implications are openly debated. However, influential pressure groups can easily manufacture consent for radical policy initiatives by focussing on a narrow set of perceived social ills. Other forms of social engineering appear to respond to market forces or popular demand, e.g. pervasive fast beat piped music in shopping malls, leisure centres, offices and now even in some schools and libraries.

The key question is whether policy planners and corporate executives were aware of the psychosocial consequences of their initiatives, e.g. did the expansion of welfare state, especially the provision of generous child benefits to single parents, lead to the demise of the two-parent family as the cultural norm? Some would question the morality of those who even dare to ask such questions? Others would either seek alternative explanations or would welcome the decline of traditional family structures.

Categories
Power Dynamics War Crimes

Another Day, Another Attack

British and Saudi Royals

How the British Foreign Policy Elite favoured its short-term commercial interests over the long-term security and wellbeing of its citizens.

Just in case you haven't read the news. Seven people were killed and 48 others injured in a van and knife attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, in which three suspects were shot dead by police. The perpetrators chanted This is for Allah. This comes just 12 days after an attack at the Manchester Arena with 22 fatalities and dozens more casualties.

When will we finally admit it? We can only enjoy the relative freedom to walk the streets of our cities in safety unperturbed by random terrorist attacks or oppressive policing, if first we manage our social environment sensibly and second we all share values of common decency and mutual respect. The fiction we prefer to believe is, despite many teething troubles, we are somehow all embarking on a new era of universal peace and love, breaking down barriers that once divided us and opening our hearts and minds to humanity's wonderful diversity. I agree cultural diversity may often be an asset because there's more than one way to interpret the world around us or organise complex human societies. The reality is too many of us are competing in a global rat race to acquire a bigger slice of the wealth created by a handful of global corporations to further our own subculture (whether it's postmodern narcissism or Islamic fundamentalism), genetic lineage or just satisfy our whims and fancies. In short, we may preach one-world love, but we practice selfish indulgence, which naturally lets others, smarter or more influential than we are, manipulate our desires and prey on our weaknesses.

Many wishful thinkers (a hackneyed epithet, I know) simply want to have their cake and eat it. They want to benefit from the wonders of dynamic, vibrant and fluid multicultural societies (which are really converging on a consumer monoculture) and a growing economy with plenty of technological innovation, yet complain when a few misfits spoil their party with acts of the vilest hatred imaginable. Whatever crimes our rulers may have committed, one can hardly blame carefree youngsters enjoying a pop concert, performed incidentally by an artist who has supported pro-refugee charities, or late night revellers in one of Europe's most ethnically diverse cities. The attackers did not care if you read the Guardian or Daily Telegraph, if you support open borders, if you oppose the Syrian government, if you hate Vladimir Putin, if you favoured gay marriage, marched against the Iraq War or dutifully displayed refugees welcome signs. To indoctinated Jihadis, you are all just infidels and will suffer the same fate as Orthodox Christians in Syria and Egypt. These attacks have grown in intensity over the last five years with hundreds of deaths every month and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.

Let us face the ugly truth. Islamic fundamentalism is by any measure one of the most illiberal, intolerant and regressive ideologies that has ever cursed our planet. Its respect for human life and real cultural diversity is comparable in every way to Naziism. Yet today's self-declared anti-fascists, who in Britain organise under the banner of Hope Not Hate, prefer to march against fringe Little Englanders, UKIP or anyone else who supports stronger immigration controls, wishes to preserve traditional English, Welsh or Scottish culture or just uphold the kind of liberal values we had adopted by the 1960s and 70s in the face of Islamic fundamentalism and state-enforced suppression of intellectual freedom. If Hope Not Hate and antifa really wanted to combat totalitarianism, they would march against Islamic extremism rather than appease it.

Establishment Complicity

Our government's reaction to these attacks has always been the same: to restrict everyone's freedom and privacy. It took Prime Minister Theresa May just 12 hours to announce higher levels of Internet surveillance. So we all have to have our social media and private electronic correspondence monitored just in case we express sympathy for proscribed organisations or even for political causes opposed to our rulers' vision of globalisation. I honestly do not buy the theory that Western governments want to impose Islam on Europeans and North Americans. If Islamic fundamentalism colonises the West, as Francophone Algerian writer, Boualem Sansal, foretells in his recent apocalyptic novel 2084: The End of the World, it could in my view only occur due to a systemic collapse of Western civilisation, which continues to spread in the form of mass consumerism and rapid technological innovation in most of the world. If Saudi Arabia represents a threat, it does so with weaponry we sold them and with the proceeds of our addiction to its abundant cheap oil, which just happens to lie under their sand. If there were easy alternatives to fossil fuels, our energy companies would have adopted them decades ago. Indeed Norway and Japan have already converted most of their cars to hybrid or all-electric engines, but that transition will only partially relieve our dependence on petrochemicals. The Middle East quagmire and the emergence of radical Islam or Wahhabism is a direct consequence of decades of US, UK, Israeli and to a lesser extent French foreign policy in the region.

Naturally the affluent elites can always buy greater seclusion from the masses and the kind of internecine urban warfare that inevitably follows the breakdown of social stability, especially in locales with divergent ethnocultural communities. The last adjective implies a difference in ethnic background and/or in cultural identity. One's ethnicity is largely transmitted through one's parents and upbringing, while one's cultural identity, such as religious affiliation or adopted lifestyle, tends to be much more fluid.

Deliberate Destabilisation

There are two ethical justifications for military interventions abroad. One is to defend your own country against foreign aggression. The other, known as humanitarian intervention, is to prevent mass murder or obscene human rights abuses. For most of our history, our rulers have presented these rationales as defence of the fatherland and spreading our superior civilisation. Thus the British Empire saw its role as civilising primitive tribes and backward societies. Yet these pretexts have a very bad track record as the outcome of one allegedly defensive war can soon justify another war, whose rationale depends on a selective interpretation of objective reality. While we can certainly cite examples where the bad guys, i.e. the side with the most repressive or murderous regime, lost (e.g. the defeat of Nazi Germany), there are countless others where the winning military power is so dominant from a cultural and technological standpoint that it can rewrite history to fit the narrative it wishes its new citizens to believe. Europeans did not conquer the Americas and Australasia in order to liberate the native peoples of those continents, but to expand their mercantile empires and colonise new resource-rich land.

As Britain transitioned from a colonial power to a modern European state, its foreign policy elite had to find a new role as mere vassals of a larger US-centred corporate empire. Yet the UK continued to exert considerable influence in the post-colonial era. The Foreign Office and secret services had acquired a good deal of expertise in forging strategic alliances with ethnic or religious factions with a grievance against their new governing authorities. This was especially easy in the many artificial states created by post-colonial planners or in the case of Iraq, hastily drawn on a map as the victors of WW1 carved up the former Ottoman Empire. The Foreign Office's has for the last 60 odd years endeavoured to make the world safe for big business and thereby to capitalise on Britain's post-imperial influence on one hand, while destabilising any regional powers that threatened the supremacy of global corporations. In a complex world, this is no easy task especially when you're competing with rival powers such as Russia, China or India or even settling scores with allies like France (e.g. UK support for the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front to embarrass France over its previous support for the deposed Hutu-led Rwandan government).

Since the late 1990s the Blair, Brown, Cameron and now May administrations have presided over two policy areas that favour Britain's commercial and geopolitical interests over the security of its own people.

  1. Interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria have not only destabilised those countries, they have unleashed a large migratory wave from a region with a high birthrate and serious environmental challenges. If humanitarian intervention had been successful, we might expect the migratory tide to ebb.
  2. Relaxed immigration controls from the Muslim countries with easier family reunions. Official immigration restrictions may have seemed rather strict and even unfair on a personal level (the liberal media loves to cite examples of Australian or US citizens whose work visas have expired despite being married to UK nationals), but in practice a well-organised army of migration lawyers manage to circumvent most restrictions, so the UK's Muslim population has continued to grow both through new immigration and a high fertility rate. Vast swathes of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford, Luton and many other towns and cities across the country now have Muslim majorities who live as parallel communities. The so-called liberal media has tried its level best to downplay the scale of creeping ethnic cleansing, but I've experienced its reality first hand. Many state schools in these voluntarily segregated districts have no non-Muslim pupils at all. Worse still, Islamic schools, often funded with Saudi money, have proliferated in our larger cities. For all the talk of multicultural harmony and integration, communities have grown apart as the traditional settled communities vote with their feet and move to outlying suburbs and satellite towns. Yet to many globalists, even to mention this problem is tantamount to racism.

However, the complicity of our ruling elites goes much deeper. British secret services have long colluded with Islamic extremists to destabilise unfriendly regimes. Mark Curtis, author of Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam, has detailed how the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, and his father were members of a Libyan dissident group, covertly supported by the UK to assassinate Qadafi in 1996 . This is a very funny way of combatting religious extremism and fostering social harmony in a tolerant multicultural world. Many now yearn for the days when London cafés only served eggs, bacon and chips with a cup of tea, but at least you could identify common criminals.

Categories
Computing Power Dynamics

Would a sane Commander in Chief ever deploy Nuclear Weapons?

nuclear bomb

The British Parliament is about to vote on the renewal of the country's US-built and US-controlled nuclear missile shield. In case you didn't know, these nuclear warheads are launched from submarines based in Faslane on the Firth of Clyde, just 20 miles from Glasgow, Scotland.

I've long realised pacifism, while an ideal we should all aspire to, is not a viable option in a dangerous and grotesquely unequal world. Pacifism makes as much sense as open borders without any police surveillance. It might work once we have overcome the dark sides of human nature and established a truly egalitarian and peace loving society in which not only do we all care for each other, but we all trust each other. If you can justify self-defence and accept the need for public institutions to protect us, you have to recognise we need some form of defence, especially in the wake of recent terrorist attacks and attempted coups d'état.

The biggest threats to the security of the British people do not come rival superpowers intent on destroying our infrastructure and killing millions of people, but from unstable militias and unhinged local despots who retaliate against UK involvement in military operations in their neck of the woods. Britain is a prime target of foreign aggressors not because we have failed to destroy their power bases, but because our government's actions in supporting US and NATO interventions has greatly destabilised much of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. A major military power such as Russia, with vast territory of its own, would have little reason to attack the British Isles, unless we became directly involved in a future conflagration with Russia over Ukraine. In such a scenario, were Russia to deploy nuclear warheads against a densely populated country, without the military and economic might for total world domination, the fallout would permanently shatter its international reputation and almost certainly invite disastrous military and/or economic retaliation. In a globally connected world destroying your customers' countries doesn't make much sense unless it&rrsquo;s the only way to gain control of mission-critical resources only available there in abundance.

A quick look at military spending figures for 2015 reveals a changing world. With the notable exception of the United States, which account for over 40% of the global military spending, the countries with the most successful economies have rather modest defence budgets. Even Russia, with around 145 million, only spends 10 billion more than the UK. Most of its military budget is invested in land forces and a large personnel of 771 thousand. Russia is also surrounded by US bases in Eastern Europe, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Japan. Of greater concern should be Saudi Arabia's massive $88 billion defence budget.

Rank Country $ Billion
1 United States 597.5
2 China 145.8
3 Saudi Arabia 81.8
4 Russia 66.5
5 United Kingdom 56.2
6 India 48.0
7 France 46.8
8 Japan 41.0
9 Germany 36.7
10 South Korea 33.5
11 Brazil 24.3
12 Australia 22.8
13 Italy 21.6
14 Iraq 21.1
15 Israel 18.6

Source: Wikipedia: List of Countries By Military Expenditures

What would happen if some madman launched a nuclear attack against us

While NATO's military planners may be fixated with Russia, the real threat comes from an unstable Middle East, especially in the event of a popular uprising in Saudi Arabia and the ascension to power of an anti-Western regime allied with countries such as Pakistan and possibly Iran. They might, at least until the development of viable alternatives, hold the world to ransom through their control of cheap oil, and fight regional wars of conquest just as Saudi Arabia is currently engaged in bombing campaigns in Yemen. However, any nuclear strikes against European cities would kill hundreds of thousands of Muslims too. Nuclear weapons are useless against strategic military targets, unless such targets are conveniently located in remote sparsely populated regions. Indeed to be effective a nuclear attack would have to annihilate enemy territory. A large superpower, like the USA, could wipe out a geographically constrained enemy, albeit with cataclysmic human consequences, but a small militias linked to an ad-hoc state such as Daesh would only succeed in killing people before inviting immediate retaliation against an ill-defined target. A nuclear strike would be the ultimate act of extreme terrorism that no sane commander in chief of a stable country would contemplate even in the event of nuclear attack on their territory, by which time the damage would have been done. The only logical defence would be an advanced anti-nuclear defence shield that could intercept and destroy nuclear warheads before they reach major population centres. Our priority would be to minimise human deaths and neutralise the enemy. Oddly the huge projected £100 and 200 billion budget for the new Trident system over 30 years would be much better spent on more intelligent satellite reconnaissance and surface to air missiles launched from existing submarines but without nuclear warheads. Mail On Sunday columnist Peter Hitchins supported Trident in the cold war days when most of us on the left opposed it, but he rightly says now "To spend all your money of a nuclear weapon for a war that won't happen is like spending all your money on insurance against alien abduction and then neglecting to insure your self against fire and theft."

Deterrence theory relies on convincing your potential enemy that you'd actually deploy your warheads, which would have no tactical advantage. Nuclear weapons are good at two things: mass destruction and complete humiliation. It's what the US did to the Japanese towards the end of Second World War. They could only get away with it because of their massive technological and economic superiority. That's no longer the case. Nuclear war would lead to mutually assured destruction. Keeping nuclear weapons only encourages rogue states from following suit.

Categories
Power Dynamics

In Defence of Red Ken

Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London and Labour MP, is back in the news for having allegedly misinterpreted a politically sensitive chapter of the 20th century. John Mann MP, an avid supporter of all recent US-led wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, accused Mr Livingstone of rewriting history by suggesting Hitler's National Socialist Party supported Zionism. Yet the historical record is clear on the broad collaboration between Zionists and Nazis in the early and mid 1930s. On many other subjects Red Ken has had a rather liberal interpretation of reality, bending it to suit his left-leaning globalist agenda. While Red Ken has embraced the capital city's ethnic diversity, he has had to please two rival constituencies of support, which I will for sake of simplicity call Global Zionists and Islamic Fundamentalists. A greater challenge was reconciling the imperialist and theocratic views of these influential factions with broader social justice, anti-war and environmentalist ideals. Indeed I would argue a narrow obsession with Nazi Germany and the Palestinian/Israeli conflicts blinds us to a much deeper understanding of the far-reaching socio-environmental changes that have occurred over the last sixty years. The United States arms not only Israel, but has a very special relationship with Saudi Arabia too.

Global Zionists are not merely concerned with Israel or even with the Jewish community, but with geopolitics subservient to a US / Israeli axis of power. Part and parcel of this worldview is the continued need for proactive military intervention in many strategic regions of the world to superimpose governments friendly to their global vision. Other variants of Zionism merely advocate a Jewish homeland living in peace with its Arab neighbours. I don't know why these complex issues should concern British politicians. One of the main justifications for the establishment of the State of Israel, the 1947 expulsion of half a million Palestinian Arabs and continued Jewish migration to Israel is of course the memory of the Nazi Holocaust of European Jews. The basic narrative that Western media has promoted since the end of the Second World War is that the defeated Nazi regime represented an absolute evil and thus all world powers should collaborate to thwart the reemergence of National Socialism, whenever recalcitrant nationalism raises its anachronistic head. Every single recent military intervention has been justified in these crude anti-fascist terms. Hilary Benn's December 2015 speech on British participation in the bombing of Syria is a classic case in point, evoking the glories of the infamous Churchill / Stalin / Roosevelt pact against Nazi Germany (conveniently forgetting the Molotov pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany only 3 years earlier and widescale Anglo-American economic cooperation with Nazi Germany before and during WW2) and thus placing extreme faith in one's own ruling class to spread peace and democracy rather than sow the seeds of more discontent. All recent wars share one common thread. They enjoy the support of global Zionists, including those who pose on the humanitarian left, while Islamists usually oppose US / Israeli machinations and often disagree with orthodox interpretations of the murky events that accompanied World War Two. Here I emphasise usually because the US, UK and Israel have often supported Muslim fundamentalists such as the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria, and most notoriously the autocratic Wahhabist kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

While Ken Livingstone has usually opposed recent US-led interventions, in 1998 he supported NATO's bombing of the former Yugoslavia because the alleged victims of Serb ethnic cleansing were Muslim Albanian Kosovars. In truth the Serb minority had been shrinking for decades and in the aftermath of the NATO-imposed truce Orthodox Christian Serbs were forced to either leave Kosovo altogether or retreat to a few tiny enclaves. Moreover, only a naive fool would deny the disproportionate influence that the Zionist and Islamist lobbies hold over British, European and North American political discourse. Had Ken Livingstone chosen to downplay Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's role in the 1918–21 genocide of Armenians, I suspect few mainstream politicians or media pundits would have cared.

Far be it from me to leap to the defence of Ken Livingstone on anything, not least on his support for the anti-democratic European Union and unbalanced mass migration. I recall welcoming his radical policies of the early 80s when, as leader of the then Greater London Council, he slashed public transport fares in a large city with notorious traffic congestion. The GLC's Fare's Fair policy led to 10% decline in car usage in 1982 and let's not forget with a much lower population than today of around 6.3 million (now 8.5 million and growing). This policy was famously overruled by the Tory-dominated House of Lords before the GLC was abolished altogether. Ken Livingstone is basically a Euro-Communist. He passionately believes greater globalisation and interdependence can unleash the forces of progress towards a more peaceful, prosperous and equitable future. Yet as Mayor he oversaw a widening gap between rich and poor, spiralling property prices and a growing legion of international commuters with few roots in the city alongside a rising Muslim population, who now constitute his party's most loyal voters.

May I suggest Global Zionism and Islamic Fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin. They both seek to impose their dogma on a largely borderless world. They both support mass migration, the displacement of native peoples and the undermining of traditional nation states with a few notable exceptions such as Israel that may continue to select its immigrants on strict ethno-religious grounds. More important they both need each other to spread fear, destabilise traditional social structures and to impose draconian surveillance that liberal Westerners would customarily oppose. More disturbingly, the trendy left regularly turns a blind eye to overtly misogynist practices within Europe's growing Muslim communities.

Britain needs a common sense party standing up for ordinary people born and bred in this country, most of whom are neither Jewish nor Muslim, advocating both social justice, environmental responsibility and long-term socio-economic stability. We once called it the Labour Party. It has now become little more than a pressure group of naive no-borders campaigners, illiberal social engineers and warmongering Blairites posing as anti-fascists. We need an alternative to rampant corporatism and over-reliance on free trade and banking. Moreover, we need a political movement focussed on empowering ordinary people by letting us develop the high-tech skills we will need tomorrow rather than being a mere outlet for Chinese robots.

Categories
All in the Mind Computing Power Dynamics

Our Emerging Brave New World

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Mental Health Mantra

If you believe vocal lobbies, we can never devote enough resources to tackle our ongoing mental health crisis. Politicians of all hues like to champion the rights of mental health patients to better care. They try to score points on the perceived lack of funding for mental health services. The subtext is that we should treat mental health just like physical health and it is thus the business of healthcare providers not only to check your blood pressure and heart rate, but to analyse your state of mind.

Unlike physical health, mental health is highly subjective. What kinds of moods and behavioural patterns are so dysfunctional or antisocial that they merit the proactive intervention of third-party supervisors whether in the guise of counsellors, social workers, psychiatric nurses or psychologists. This paternalistic approach raises many questions about personal independence and freedom. Until recently we just assumed that happiness is mere expression of satisfaction with life. Yet it is hard to detect any correlation between prosperity and happiness, except in a looser relative sense. Above all people need security, a sense of belonging and some love and affection. We often substitute ephemeral pleasures of temporary stupefaction or indulgence for true contentment gradually won through hard work. The abundance of consumer goods and a generous welfare state have jointly undermined the great art of delayed gratification and replaced it with a sense of entitlement that can often create an emotional void and an insatiable demand for more and better.

It seems only fair to care for vulnerable members of our community. If we were talking about paraplegics, everyone would understand why their disability, paralysis of the lower body, merits some help from the rest of us. Indeed with assistive technology most paraplegics can lead fruitful lives. However, few would choose to be cripples and most would welcome medical breakthroughs to help them walk again. If the incidence of paraplegia were to double every twenty years, we would seriously have to address the root causes for society relies on the able-bodied to assist the physically disabled. If we are unable to look after ourselves unassisted, we inevitably depend on the goodwill of others to act in our best interests. Our personal freedom is ultimately limited by our dependence on others for our basic needs. These days few of us could be truly self-sufficient, unless we adapted to a humble existence as subsistence farmers, so a paraplegic is only relatively more at the mercy of external agencies than your average able-bodied citizen. Arguably a talented cripple able to work remotely as a writer, designer or programmer may contribute more to society than an able-bodied drug-addict who cannot hold down a menial job. However, by promoting the concept of mental ill-health we greatly widen the range of people unable to fend for themselves without intrusive help.

Subjective criteria

Who exactly decides who is and who is not mentally fit? What criteria do we apply? If you can only run a hundred metres before running out of breath, are you physically disabled? Of course not, though you may be relatively unfit and should probably get some more exercise. Your doctor would probably advise you not to overdo it and set simple attainable goals and slowly adapt your lifestyle. However, if you fractured your spine in a horrific workplace accident, you may well lose control of your legs and suddenly countless everyday tasks like getting dressed or going to the bathroom become almost impossible to accomplish without some help. You are not simply unfit, but genuinely disabled. A disability, by its customary definition, prevents you from accomplishing essential life-sustaining tasks. It is not a relative handicap. If you're tone-deaf, but able to speak and understand a human language, you are not disabled, but just have a relative weakness in one facet of human creativity. Musical aptitude is certainly a nice to have and arguably gives you an advantage in natural selection, but many tone-deaf people have led fruitful lives without requiring any special help. Tone-deafness is also a rather relative concept as are relative intellectual deficits in mathematics, literacy or dexterity. While we may debate the causes of our relative strengths and weaknesses, modern society relies on functional and intellectual diversity. We cannot all be playwrights, musicians or comedians, but society would be dull without artistic creativity. However, it would cease to function without farmers, builders, engineers, plumbers, toilet cleaners or nurses. We can only relax and have fun once we have provided all infrastructure, food, clean water, shelter and other amenities essential to comfortable human existence. Technological progress and societal pressures have redefined our concept of comfort. Recent technological and economic trends have revealed two paradoxes. First automation and globalisation have displaced millions of manual workers, increasing competitiveness and lowering wages at the bottom end of the labour market. Second as material living standards have risen our emotional well-being has not. Greater labour mobility may have boosted the economy but it has led to greater job insecurity at a time when most women and men are expected to participate in the financial economy. Our personal worth is no longer measured by the roles we play in our family and community, but by our utility as a player in a dynamic consumption-driven market economy. Since the 1970s in much of Western Europe we've seen a gradual shift from practical trades to abstract tertiary sector roles involved in endless lifestyle and product promotion as well as the micromanagement of every aspect of human interaction. The UK now has more social workers than farmers, more accountants than carpenters and more IT recruiters than software developers. Yet we all need food, furniture and mobile communication. As we lose touch with the fruits of our endeavours, we begin to lose our sense of purpose in life other than the mere acquisition of money as a means of ersatz self-validation.

Not only is employment less secure, but human relationships are more volatile and communities more fluid and transient than ever before. By most measures material living standards have never been so high, but people are not only more indebted, but in the absence of paid employment or welfare payments only a few pay cheques away from financial ruin with little means to survive in the wild.

Extreme interdependence

Our current obsession with mental health is the result of extreme interdependence. A quick glance at the commonest professions in the UK reveals a rather disquieting picture. Fewer and fewer workers have any direct relationship to the production and maintenance of essential goods and services, excepts as managers, sales personnel or hauliers. In the UK over six million are employed in mainly administrative roles, some requiring some limited technical expertise or prior hands-on experience, over 3 million are employed in sales, marketing and business presentation, with only 300,000 employed in farming and fishing and around one million in manufacturing, but the biggest growth sectors are personal care and surveillance. The last-named sector encompasses not just policing, but social work and psychiatric services. An ageing population and technological innovation can partly explain this phenomenon, but not entirely, especially as older people are now fitter and many can live independently well into their 80s. A growing proportion of working age adults require assistance as a result of a learning disability, mood or personality disorder.

The Human Spectrum

Until the mid 1980s psychiatric disorders only referred to extreme cases of dysfunctional behaviour. Much of the literature on the relative merits of psychotherapy or pharmacological treatment relates to individuals who posed a direct threat to themselves and/or to wider society. They accounted for under 1% of the general population and as therapeutic care improved most could rejoin the community as normal citizens. Psychiatry had been tarnished by its association with authoritarian regimes, not least in Nazi Germany where schizophrenics were euthanised alongside the mentally handicapped, but also extensively in the Soviet Union where dissidents were routinely treated in psychiatric institutions. Freedom meant above all the freedom to be yourself, to be the master of your feelings and to act an autonomous player in a wider social reality. Of course personal behaviour is regulated by social mores and a fine balance between rights and responsibilities that we learn from our family and community. However, as we gained more free time, we could unleash our individuality and creativity in more expressive ways. Not surprisingly many of the mental ailments now falling under the broad umbrella of mental illness were first observed among the professional classes. The working classes were until recently too busy working to indulge in the kind of fantasies that would preoccupy early psychotherapists. Alcohol remained the main release valve for emotional insecurity and deviant behaviour was either managed within the community or treated as criminality.

To gain greater public acceptance, psychiatry needed a complete rebrand. As the age of self-centred narcissism deepened its roots in North American society, people became more preoccupied with their moods and feelings. New Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors such as fluoxetine, also known as Prozac, proved a huge marketing success. By the late 1990s taking mood-enhancing medication had not just become socially acceptable, they had helped blur the boundaries between a normal range of human emotions and psychopathy. Meanwhile concerned parents and teachers began to refer boisterous children unable to pay attention in class to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder with a seemingly tailor-made drug, methylphenidate better known as Ritalin. In the same period we saw a rapid rise in the diagnosis of hitherto rare neurological disorders on the autistic spectrum. This craze for psychiatric labelling spread to Europe, usually accompanied by awareness-raising campaigns. Psychiatry had now donned the clothes of the progressive left championing the cause of sufferers of these new labels and thus creating new victim groups demanding special treatment. More and more young people began to contextualise their problems in terms of a psychiatric diagnosis.

Marketing Personality Disorders

The more troublesome behavioural disorders that would have merited a psychiatric diagnosis did not lend themselves to marketing, but only to occasional awareness raising initiatives. Nobody could claim pride in psychopathic madness or subnormal idiocy. However, people can be persuaded to claim pride in geekishness, hyperactivity, obsession, sudden mood swings or certain learning challenges if celebrities share some of these traits. Indeed many high-profile media personalities have publicised their diagnosis with OCD, bipolar disorder, ADHD, Aspergers' Syndrome and even learning disabilities. These traits may have their challenges, but also their advantages especially in creative professions. Other past and present luminaries have been posthumously diagnosed. Albert Einstein is claimed to have suffered or benefited from Asperger's Syndrome. It's even been claimed that multibillionaire IT entrepreneur, Bill Gates, has this syndrome too. As the mental health industry widens the diagnostic criteria for personality disorders, we begin to uncover traits common in almost all of us. Excellence in any endeavour is impossible without focussing on the task at hand. It's thus absurd to claim that a special interest in a circumscribed subject is any way pathological. It may be relatively dysfunctional if it prevents us from doing more important things essential to our wellbeing, but we would have made little technological or social progress if some people had not dedicated their professional lives to specialist subjects that few others understand. Our complex high-tech society depends on hyper-specialisation, but as noted elsewhere, most specialists are involved in various aspects of communication, administration and supervision rather than in the hard science that makes our modern lives possible. By promoting the concept of neurological diversity, the authorities can now treat different groups of people in different ways.

Inevitably, some readers will feel a little confused. Most of us have friends or family members who face significant personal challenges. You may have had episodes of emotional distress yourself. Indeed one may argue if you have never experienced sorrow, rejection or isolation, you have led a very sheltered life and will probably struggle to understand the real-life experiences of most members of our society. Should we help an anorexic girl starving herself to death for fear of becoming morbidly obese, a severely depressed teenager confined to his bedroom or a troubled young man plotting to save humanity from a contagious virus by killing his next door neighbour because he works in a pharmaceutical testing laboratory? Of course, but we need to understand the true causes of such seemingly illogical behaviour, e.g. is the rise in eating disorders related to our obsession with perfect bodies, advertising, size-zero models and media obsession with obsesity?

Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons

In Aldous Huxley's prescient vision of a distant technocratic future, humanity had ceased to procreate naturally and was socially and biologically organised in 5 distinctive castes, ranging from high-IQ but potentially moody Alphas to low-IQ but happy Epsilons. However, everyone took pride in their own cast identity rather than fret about their relative social or intellectual status. In Huxley's Brave New World every aspect of life from conception to death was micromanaged and any psycho-social tensions were managed by the wonder potion, Soma (Sanskrit for he body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche) and recreational sex. Today's Soma takes various forms. Besides obvious analogies with anti-depressants and other psychoactive drugs, the mass entertainment business and recreational stimulants play an important role in managing the general population, turning us into compliant consumers and loyal team players rather than awkward free agents. Increasingly political opinions at variance with the neoliberal globalist orthodoxy are associated with maverick personal types, i.e. rather than tackle a philosophical viewpoint head-on, the new establishment will parody it and insinuate that proponents of such views suffer from some form of paranoid delusion. Democracy thus serves no longer to reflect the true will of citizens, but to manage different groups of people in order to manufacture consent with political agendas promoted by powerful lobbies.

Joining the Dots

We should view the neuological categorisation of human beings alongside other trends for cosmetic surgery, assisted fertilisation, gender reassigment and the potential for artificial intelligence to empower the technocratic elite. Now under the pretext of combatting childhood depression and/or bullying, the authorities feel empowered to subject all children to mandatory mental health screening, while simultaneously encouraging non-traditional family structures, facilitating fertility treatment, now available on the NHS irrespective of relationship status and heavily subsidising mothers going to work, even if their earnings are less than equivalent cost of childcare. All these phenomena remove children from traditional biological families and transfer responsibility for their socialisation away from parents to corporate institutions. Natural variations in human behaviour are analysed in detail to identify individuals that fail to respond to mainstream socialisation and psychological conditioning techniques and may thus become, in the authorities' eyes, troublemakers.

Concern about mental health, while often well-intentioned, provides the ultimate pretext to expand the surveillance state. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Categories
War Crimes

Rewriting History: The Myth of the Good War

Planned Berlin to Baghdad Railway

As we mourn the deaths of millions of young Europeans in a futile dispute between rival empires, British, French, Russian and American leaders perpetuate the myth of a simple battle between good and evil, freedom and tyranny, democracy and dictatorship. Yet without the deep scars left by the blood-stained aftermath of the Great War, much of Europe would probably not have endured revolutionary uprisings, which soon gave rise to much more grotesque expressions of tyranny in the form of Fascism, Stalinism and most catastrophically Nazism. Many younger people could be forgiven for believing Herbert Asquith, Winston Churchill and Lloyd George took the British Empire to war in order to defeat not just Prussian adventurism, but all the horrors later associated with Nazi Germany. Yet the Germany of 1914 was as democratic as Britain or France. Not only did Germany have universal male suffrage before the UK (which excluded not just all women, but also millions of poor men from the electoral franchise), it had the world's largest Social Democratic party and best organised labour movement. Far from being a beacon of social enlightenment, despite its wealth and intellectual talent, the United Kingdom still ruled over hundreds of millions of colonial subjects in the Indian Subcontinent and much of Africa. Openly racialist ideas justified the supremacy of small white minorities and local elites in most colonies. How could one country that had fought a long string of wars in locales as diverse as South Africa, Afghanistan and India lecture another with a much smaller sphere of influence and only a fledgling colonial empire? Just 44 years earlier Britain seemed quite happy for its ally Prussia to humiliate its long-time imperialist rival France, by first seizing Paris and imposing its terms for peace with the transfer of much of Alsace and Lorraine to the newly formed German Empire. Only 55 years earlier in the infamous Battle of Waterloo, the British army under the command of the Duke of Wellington had helped Prussia defeat Napoleon and thus contain Britain's main maritime competitor as well as the dominant continental European power. For much of the 19th century Germany, not France or Russia, had been Britain's main ally on the continent. Britain supported the creation of the new Belgian state out of the southern Netherlands Provinces and French-speaking Walloon region to limit French ambitions more than those of Prussia. Indeed the British Royal Family descended from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. In 1914 King George V's government effectively declared war on his cousin Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Standard schoolbook history usually emphasises the assassination of the Habsburgian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which the Austro-Hungarian government blamed on Serbia, a small slavic state rising from the ashes of an Ottoman Empire in rapid decline. Sandwiched between the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, Serbia naturally sought alliances with Russia and France. However, let us not forget France and Britain had temporarily joined forces with the Ottoman Empire to contain an expansionist Russia in the 1853–56 Crimean War.

In the century prior to the outbreak of the 1914-18 Great War, Britain had supported Prussia against expansionist France, France and the Ottoman Empire against expansionist Russia, before letting Prussia curtail the European influence of Napoleon III's resurgent Second French Empire. Why would Britain now side with Russia in its quest to gain a foothold in the Balkans via Serbia over the assassination of a foreign royal. While the German Empire had gained Alsace and Lorraine to the west and chunks of former Poland to the east, the Russian Empire had gobbled up the rest of Poland, the baltic states north of East Prussia and Finland as well as all the former Caucasian and central Asian Soviet republics that gained independence from the Russian Federation in 1991. Germany's main competitor in rapidly industrialising Central and Eastern Europe was Russia, who had in turn formed an alliance with its main competitor, and former occupier to the West, France. Britain, although now eclipsed by Germany and United States as an industrial power, had reached the pinnacle of its imperial power. Did it really matter if Germany settled a few scores with a despotic Russian Empire and once again put France in her rightful place as a medium-sized Western European nation? Could Britain not act as a mere mediator between Russia, the Ottoman Empire, France, Austro-Hungary and Germany. After all, it had both opposed and joined forces with all these empires to suit its imperial interests. As for neutral Belgium, it had just overseen the slaughter of as many as 10 million Africans in the Congo Free State, while over half its European population would sooner reunite with the Netherlands than fight dirty wars in the service of Belgian colonialism.

However, Germany was certainly not blameless. It had been too eager to settle scores and strike preemptively against France via Belgium. Its military leaders sought to expand their geographic reach through their industrial power at a time when most of the world had already been carved up, except for one lucrative region whose recently discovered abundant fossil fuel reserves would enable unprecedented economic expansion later in the century. Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany had begun the construction of a ground-breaking Berlin to Baghdad railway, just as American and British geologists working for the Anglo-Persian Oil Company discovered black oil at Masjid-i-Sulaiman in the mountains of north-western Iran. Not surprisingly, though conquering the Middle East was never mentioned either as a pretext for war, much of Britain's military operations over the following four years took place not in continental Europe at all, but in Mesopotamia.

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For more read: The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain's Rush to War, 1914 by Douglas Newton