Categories
Power Dynamics

Falling Apart

Technocracy

In the age of Coming Together

The beginning of the end for neoliberalism

How can we reconcile shifting alliances and growing cultural divisions among parallel communities in the same geographic region on the one hand with the long-term trend of global convergence on the other? We see this at multiple levels. Is the USA reverting to trade protectionism after outsourcing much of its manufacturing base to China? Is the EU leadership distancing itself from the US? More intriguingly, why is Israel courting nationalist movements across Europe while appearing almost neutral in the rivalry between Russia and the USA?

In the old neoliberal world order as it emerged after the demise of the former Soviet Union, the US-centred military industrial complex reigned supreme in all four main spheres of domination:

  • Strategic technology, especially computing and bioscience
  • Culture, mainly via the entertainment and news industries
  • Finance, facilitating the acquisition of strategic natural resources and exerting power of national governments
  • Military might, ability to resolve disputes by force or to destabilise potential rivals should the other means of persuasion and coercion fail.

Without technological supremacy, no power can gain control of the media, banking or military. More important, in an increasingly interconnected world the battle of minds and money matters much more than old-fashioned physical force. Once a country is locked into the global banking system, dependent on trade and abstract wealth generated abroad, military force is not just unnecessary, but often counterproductive.

The US military industrial complex has just suffered one of its worst setbacks since the American withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975. You wouldn't know it if your main source of news is CNN or BBC, but the United States squandered billions on the deliberate destabilisation of Syria with the primary purpose of overthrowing the current government headed by Bashar Al Assad. If the narrative we have heard from the mainstream Western media were remotely correct, i.e. that Assad loyalists are responsible for most death and destruction, then how can they explain the scenes of jubilation as Syrian Defence Forces retake the last enclaves held by Islamic fundamentalist militias? How can they explain that nearly all religious and ethnic minorities in Syria feel safer under Assad than under Al Qaeda, Al Nusra or ISIS? How can they explain that most ISIS fighters were not even Syrian? Yet we really have to ask why the promoters of a purportedly democratic and tolerant multicultural world would back some of the most intolerant religious fundamentalists imaginable?

The NeoCon cabal may still infest the White House, but the new generation of media-savvy American political leaders from Tulsi Gabbard to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have grown tired of bankrolling the Global Police Force or at least being held responsible for proxy war shenanigans in far-flung regions. Donald Trump's unexpected electoral triumph put paid not just to Hillary Clinton's dreams of becoming US President, but to his country's role as the guardian of the New World Order that emerged after the fall of the old Soviet Union.

The North American and European big business classes are fast reorienting their strategy around a new multipolar reality, commanded by a network of Deep State operators with no vested interests in the wellbeing or cultural excellence of any country. The next two decades are likely to see a growing divide between the native working classes who see their interests best protected by compact nation states they can hold to account and the technocratic elites with their armies of middle managers and professional persuaders who aim to guide the masses to their vision of a socially engineered progressive future. In the neoliberal era, which is fast receding, business leaders hoped that market forces alone could regulate consumer behaviour. The hidden hand of free market capitalism would not just produce more fuel-efficient cars and faster computers, but could segment the leisure and education sectors to cater for all variations of hedonism and sophistication. Just thirty years ago it seemed we would all eventually converge on a lifestyle inspired by the ephemeral North American dream of widespread middle class affluence. We can retain the illusion of democracy as long as governments appear to cater for the aspirations of their citizens by providing the core services advanced societies need and ensuring a relative equality of opportunities without interfering unduly in family and community life. As long as malcontents compromise a small and easily manageable minority whose misfortunes can be appeased with social welfare and low-key policing, the majority may retain the illusion of personal freedom. Fast forward to early 21st century Britain and the disconnect between the remnants of the old working classes and the affluent professional elites is all too apparent. On a median salary of just 30K it is practically impossible to get onto the housing ladder within easy commuting distance of the most lucrative cities. You'll spend most of your income on accommodation, transport and utility bills. It's hardly a surprise that more and more young adults live with their parents, which also explains the rise in young people claiming some special vulnerability status to gain access to subsidised accommodation. Some governments have tried all sorts of tricks to hide the scale of worklessness. The first is to encourage most school leavers to go to university rather than learn practical skills as apprentices. Rather than prepare young adults for today's competitive job market, it devalues degrees for all but the most challenging subjects at the best colleges. The second trick is to expand the definition of learning disability to encompass anyone who struggles to some extent with a range of intellectually taxing tasks. The third is to promote part-time and zero-hours contracts that merely supplement welfare handouts and act as a kind of occupational therapy.

The Battle for Self-determination

Opposition to growing technocratic centralisation shares one common denominator: self-determination of communities and private citizens. However, to take back control of our lives, we need to retain some degree of functional independence and bargaining power to handle interactions with other key players. This works at multiple levels. Self-sufficient communities are better able to resist the temptation of succumbing to the economic influence of more powerful organisations as long they retain ownership of their land and maritime resources. As private citizens we have much more bargaining power if we're not expendable, i.e. we do a job that very few others can do. If your sole purpose in life is to behave yourself and not to rock the boat, your life is at the mercy of your supervisors and carers whether or not you technically have a paid job because you offer nothing more than your good will, which may be an admirable trait if combined with other skills that other people need.

We face a choice between dependence on global corporations and acquiescence with myriad agencies of social control or greater autonomy at a personal, family or community level. Today's rebels may be hard to place on the traditional left to right scale, but the one thing most of us share is a desire to redress the balance of power away from emerging technocratic elite to ordinary people, so we can decide how to run our lives as autonomous human beings with free will.

For all its faults, the neoliberal experiment kept alive some positive aspects of regulated capitalism enabling the middle classes to thrive and leading perhaps to the most sustained rate of economic growth and technological innovation since the industrial revolution. Yet it's fast becoming a victim of its own success as growing swathes of the middle classes in the world's wealthiest countries fail to compete as their jobs are outsourced or automated. A mixed economy cannot survive with most of its population reliant on welfare handouts. The populist left wants to tax the tech giants to bankroll their panacea of a universal basic income. Only a fool could believe they'd subsidise our online shopping and leisure pursuits without wishing to control our behaviour and suppress what's left of our personal autonomy.

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

Going with the flow against the Old World Order

Baby Trump Balloon

The affluent professional classes, along with their army of assorted victim groups and infantile self-righteous student types, have set it upon themselves to amplify the mainstream media's disapproval of leading proponents of the old world order of nation states, two-parent families and cohesive communities with shared values. Three weeks ago we saw a large demonstration against the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum with a sea of blue twelve-star flags. Our trendy elitists wanted to vent their anger at those who tricked the English and Welsh working classes into rejecting their beloved European superstate. This week they gathered to oppose a caricature of the US President.

Don't get me wrong, there are many good reasons for protesting the excesses of US imperialism with its endless series of destabilising proxy wars. However, I cannot remember any large demos specifically against the presence of former US presidents with the possible exception of small impromptu protests against George W. Bush. Before Donald J Trump entered the White House global media giants in North America and Europe supported the purported leader of the free world. Now they welcome colourful processions of virtue-signallers opposed not so much to US-led wars, but to the spectre of outmoded nationalism, which rather perversely US foreign policy has done much suppress over the last 70 years. Just over 2 years ago President Obama urged us to support the EU, while his administration armed and funded Islamic fundamentalists in Syria to break up one of the oldest countries in the Middle East.

Alas our motley crew of professional whingers expressed their disapproval of the President's alleged phobias against people of other races, creeds, sexual orientations, gender identities and disability statuses. Most notably they took a stand against his support for strong borders. Yet when Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, visited 10 Downing Street as an official guest of Her Majesty's government, we saw only muted protests. His regime not only jails homosexuals and stones adulterous women, it has singularly failed to accommodate nearby Syrian refugees while bombing North Yemen. By contrast Trump presides over one of the most ethnically diverse and tolerant nations on earth, which, unlike Britain, can truly claim to have been built on successive waves of immigration, but has traditionally expected its new citizens to embrace their new American cultural identity. However, we now live in an age of hypermobility, instant communication and, by any fair historic standards, generous welfare provision. The United States, despite its vast expanses, has a limited capacity for absorbing the tens of millions of immigrants who would love to live the American dream. 350 million US residents still consume more than Africa, India and China combined. The open-borders brigade effectively urge millions of opportunists to bypass legal migration routes, open mainly to talented professionals, and demand access to the US labour market and public services just as big business is investing heavily in smart automation. How are we supposed to tackle climate change and our overreliance on imported goods, if we welcome the mass movement of human beings from regions with relatively low per-capita consumption to countries where most of life's necessities are shipped from hundreds or thousand of miles away to warehouses and supermarkets?

Far from bringing about a more egalitarian and harmonious world, mass migration tends to exacerbate existing social divides creating more competition and rivalry among the underclasses. More important as Robert D. Putnam has amply documented after extensive fieldwork, culture clashes brought about by rapid demographic changes weaken social trust largely to the detriment of the weakest in society.

Ethnic diversity is increasing in most advanced countries, driven mostly by sharp increases in immigration. In the long run immigration and diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits. In the short run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital. New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to 'hunker down'. Trust (even of one's own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. In the long run, however, successful immigrant societies have overcome such fragmentation by creating new, cross-cutting forms of social solidarity and more encompassing identities. Illustrations of becoming comfortable with diversity are drawn from the US military, religious institutions, and earlier waves of American immigration." E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture.

The most successful examples of peaceful and prosperous social democracies are all compact nation states with low levels of migration and a high degree of ethnic conformity (i.e. newcomers have to adapt to their new homeland and not vice versa). Bernie Sanders loves to cite Scandinavia as a model. Of course he meant Sweden, Denmark and Norway in 1970s, 80s and 90s long before mass migration transformed neighbourhoods and led to the creation of parallel communities that barely interact, necessitating an expansion of social surveillance and restrictions on the personal freedoms that Scandinavians cherish. The professional classes have hardly noticed because they have benefited most from recent economic trends. All over Europe the remnants of the traditional working classes are abandoning the social democratic parties that presided over the post-WW2 social stability pact. In Italy the heirs to the old Communist Party rebranded as the Democratic Party who once attracted over 35% of the vote have fallen below 20% in recent polls. The same trend has occurred in Germany where Martin Schulz's SPD has sunk below the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) and in Sweden the Swedish Democrats, which the mainstream media smears as the anti-migration far-right, are now ahead of the Social Democrats in the polls with the affluent professional classes often opting for the Greens instead. The latter group promise a clean and tolerant world devoid of ethnic conflict or extreme inequality. Their only recipe is to tax the very multinationals they claim to oppose rendering us all slaves to the likes of Amazon and Bayer-Monsanto.

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
Power Dynamics

Fakenews Overdrive

BBC Fake News

A mindset pervades the British chattering classes whether nominally on the right, centre or trendy left. One may debate strategy, priorities or even the niceties of ethics, but one may not question the BBC and by extension the other main news outlets and opinion leading institutions. To do so invites immediate ridicule. When I debate online with wishful thinking trendy lefties, they often discount any evidence that does not come from a narrow set of official sources. Essentially nothing is true unless an official fact checker has authenticated it. Not surprisingly, the British government has entrusted the venerable BBC to help impressionable school children spot fake news.

But what if the mainstream media, allied with a vast network of NGOs and psychological warfare specialists, were themselves major purveyors of fake news. At the very least the BBC has an institutional bias in favour of narratives that support the policy objectives of the most powerful corporate lobbies in the UK. This very suggestion is to many tantamount to heresy. Millions of us literally grew up with the BBC and learned to love its abundance of children's programmes, sitcoms, nature documentaries and dramas. Until recently in many households the telly dominated not just the living room, but accompanied family meals and evening relaxation. However, the BBC has long appealed much more to the aspirational and pseudo-intellectual middle classes, while commercial alternatives with their focus on sport and blockbuster movies have appealed more to the working classes. TV news producers know most spectators have a very short attention span. Reports are condensed to show sensational imagery interspersed with short interviews and followed by commentary by professional talking heads and selected eye witnesses. Few have the time or resources to verify whether footage of alleged chemical attacks is real or not. Few will investigate the funding of supposedly neutral humanitarian organisations on the ground. Over the last 7 years most TV viewers will have gleaned mainly that both Assad and ISIS are evil. An allegation gains credibility largely through endless repetition by multiple actors to give the illusion of a consensus. No doubt, most casual BBC viewers believe Bashar Al Assad has repeatedly deployed chemical weapons against civilians. The Syrian government has consistently denied ever using chemical weapons against civilians, and why would it with well-funded Western media operatives waiting to pounce on any hard evidence of such crimes. However, to millions of casual TV viewers such details don't matter. The short version is more war in the Middle East, more bad guys killing innocent civilians and an international community of progressive politicians seeking to punish war criminals on behalf of enlightened human rights activists. The only trouble is we've heard it all before over the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria. Ever since the fall of the former Soviet Union Western intervention has seldom succeeded in bringing about the kind of tolerant, liberal and democratic societies that our leaders promised. They may cite Croatia or Slovenia as success stories, but only after a decade-long civil war and much ethnic cleansing. Slovenia and Croatia succeeded only because they have a well-educated citizenry and an economy integrated with their neighbours, while Kosovo remains a hotbed for drug and people traffickers as well as Islamic extremists.

Naturally any media outlet with a distinctive bias can simply select real news stories that suit its agenda and ignore or downplay those that don't. However, sometimes our ruling elites need to manufacture consent for unpopular policies such as wars or mass surveillance by priming the collective psyche with the spectre of new threats or heinous enemies. Moreover, as the establishment still tolerates alternative media to provide the illusion of a freedom-loving democracy, it has to counter all challenges to its narrative.

Let us be clear no government can wage war without collateral damage or unintended civilian casualties, even if it can claim ethical superiority over its enemies or the war itself can be justified in terms of legitimate self-defence or to prevent atrocities on a much larger scale. The Middle East has long been riven by deep ethnic and religious conflicts, exacerbated by a problematic transition from centuries of Ottoman rule through temporary colonial occupation in the aftermath of the First World War, the artificial redrawing of the geopolitical map, overdependence on oil exports and a hundred years of heavy-handed meddling by the major Western imperial powers. No Middle East rulers have ever succeeded in emulating the kind of relaxed and tolerant liberal society that emerged in Western Europe after the Second World War. Back in the 1960s it may have seemed that Middle East would follow in the West's footsteps as the younger generation embraced more liberal values and cultural exchanges among the professional classes brought the civilisations closer. Alas the daydream of a better tomorrow did not last long. By the late 1970s the Lebanese civil war was in full flow and the autocratic Shah of Iran failed to contain resurgent Islamic fundamentalism with much appeal among the country's growing underclasses. While Western European countries succeeded at least partly in extending prosperity and opportunity to the downtrodden working classes through a blend of regulated free market economics and social welfare, a growing proportion of the Middle East's teeming masses were left behind while many in the educated elite fled to the West. In this context Syria remained a rare exception keeping alive the secular pan-Arab dreams of Egypt's former leader, Gamel Abdel Nasser, but in doing so the Baath administration had to suppress the lure of Islamic fundamentalist fuelled by foreign intervention. Most of the state-sanctioned atrocities attributed to what the BBC invariably calls the Assad Regime occurred in the late 1970s and early 80s at a time when the USA and UK trained the Mujahideen to counter the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Tolerant liberal democracies cannot thrive in the midst of civil wars with a complete breakdown in mutual respect and social trust. Neither can they flourish in a country with rapidly changing demographics without a sense of shared identity. The bleak reality many principled antiwar activists often to fail to recognise is the illiberal nature of Islam itself or rather its inability to follow Christianity by embracing the liberal enlightenment and individual freedom, preferring instead complete submission to holy scriptures. Many Muslim majority countries seemed destined to follow the West as late as the 1980s, but many have reverted to a more doctrinaire interpretation of Islamic teachings, leading to a widening gulf in mean fertility rates between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Strict Islam champions collectivism and fails to reward diligence, creativity and personal responsibility. Unsurprisingly for decades the best and brightest from Islamic world have migrated to the West to escape the very religious extremism that is now growing in Muslim enclaves across Western Europe and parts of North America. Yet Western interventionism has not so much failed to stymie the growth of regressive Islam as it has positively fuelled it or as in the case of Afghanistan, Libya and Syria bankrolled it via Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrein.

The intellectual elites have long feared populism or mob rule, except when they can appeal to common emotions to persuade the public to back a rebranded elite. They believe commoners are too simple-minded to understand the complexities of macro-economics and long-term planning. In most elections we vote mainly on emotions. Thus the Great British public has traditionally favoured death penalty and strict immigration controls, but generally opposed military interventions that do not serve to defend national sovereignty. The only war since 1945 which enjoyed overwhelming public support in the UK was the 1982 reconquest of the Falkland Islands. Most Britons supported the first Gulf War in 1991 following Iraq's short-lived occupation of Kuwait, but mainly because the media presented it as a simple case of standing up to brutal dictators. Tony Blair attempted to rebrand military adventurism as humanitarian peacekeeping. However, as successive missions in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya failed to yield the liberal panacea we had been promised, except a façade micromanaged by supranational bodies and NGOs, the Western public grew sceptical. A recent poll suggested as few as 25% of UK voters supported the recent airstrikes against Syria and I very much doubt many have the time or inclination to access alternative media or watch the much-maligned Russian news channel, RT.

Strange Alliances

It's a funny old world where leftwing antiwar activists, including those traditionally critical not only US Imperialism but of Israeli power, fall victim to the kind of censorship they believed reserved for rightwing zealots. Britain's hate speech laws have been used both against elderly Christians opposed to the perceived LGBTQ+ agenda and against Muslims critical of Zionism. Likewise anyone who counters the dominant Western narrative on Syria (that Assad and Russia are to blame for most atrocities and human rights abuses) is pretty much classed as Russian bots or Assad apologists, often likened to obnoxious Holocaust deniers. It hardly matters that the Islamic militias that the US and UK funded to overthrow Assad hate both Jews and Christians or that many on the new right, such as Katie Hopkins or Tommy Robinson, admire Israel. If you're a devout Muslim you could fall foul of hate speech laws for voicing your disapproval of homosexuality. Likewise if you're gay you could be arrested under the same legislation for criticising a religion that abhors your lifestyle. Indeed the only way not to get into trouble is to internalise a Guardianesque worldview of endless progress towards a better more tolerant tomorrow, in which not only do gays and Muslims love each other, but both are united in their condemnation of antisemitism and fully support the benevolent global institutions that seek to replace nation states with a fluid mosaic of vibrant ethnically mixed citadels. While the new expression of globalised multiculturalism has many colours and flavours, it only tolerates a very narrow worldview that trivialises genuine cultural differences in the name of postmodernist social engineering. Countries exist to help us reconcile these differences peacefully. If you want to listen to Beethoven's 5th Symphony at 3 o'clock in the morning, that's fine as long as you respect my need to sleep or enjoy alternative music. Hence we have houses with soundproofed walls and may use headphones to isolate sounds that others may not wish to hear. Your house, your rules. My house, my rules. The same is true of any civic spaces we have to share with our neighbours and fellow citizens. If you want to engage in activities that may infringe on the welfare, security or liberty of others, you should seek a special secluded venue with its own set of rules and customs. Just consider an activity as anodyne as smoking. From the late 19th century right through to the mid 1980s, Western societies displayed an amazing tolerance for this vice. Indeed it often seemed impolite of self-righteous non-smokers to deny smokers an opportunity to indulge in their carcinogenic habit. Then as anti-smoking campaigns began to resonate with the wider public , more and more public spaces became smoke-free. While in the 1960s, when adult smoking rates peaked in Britain and elsewhere, the non-smoking minority had to endure great discomfort in many workplaces and on public transport, today smokers are treated as pariahs forced to bear bad weather outdoors and even forbidden from lighting up in parks or in the vicinity of public buildings such as schools and hospitals. As long we can openly debate the pros and cons of anti-smoking measures in the best interests of all members of society, I don't see a problem. The debate helps us resolve conflicts between collective responsibility and personal freedom, e.g. you may enjoy the freedom to smoke, but are you prepared to pay for your additional healthcare needs and afford others their freedom to breathe fresh air? The point is free speech inevitably includes the right to offend people who partake in practices you may not like. We couldn't ban smoking in 1960s because it would upset around two-thirds of adults. If I rant and rail against selfish motorists, many could take offence. In a perfect world we would all get plenty of exercise and travel by the most energy-efficient and environmentally means, but in practice people have to get to work on time, deliver goods and want to lead their lives to the full.

The true irony of the current situation is that social conservatives, often supportive of their country's armed forces, and leftwing antiwar activists, often dismissive of the plight of war veterans are both victims of political correctness. Some may lament that political correctness forces us overlook underlying biological differences between men and women, while others are more concerned with war propaganda. Life is certainly easier if you recycle the current orthodoxy that nation states are outmoded, Russia is a meddlesome bully, the European Union is a force for good and Muslims wish to live in peace and harmony with the Western LGBTQ+ community. But to believe the polar opposites of this *Guardian-esque *fairytale worldview would be equally misguided. In a complex and technologically interdependent world we have to find peaceful means to reconcile our differences. I'd rather do that through fierce and open debate with divergent sources of information than suppress intellectual freedom. If history is any guide, the alternative to free speech is not a utopia of perfectly synchronised like-minded progressives, but a complete breakdown in social trust leading inevitably to violence and more authoritarian means of people management.

Categories
Computing Power Dynamics

On the Brink of War again

#Fakenews may soon kill millions as the liberal enlightenment gives way to corporate mind control

Barely a month after Donald Trump replaced Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and appointed John Bolton as senior national security advisor, we stand yet again on the brink of a major military showdown between NATO and an emboldened Russia. Except this time the Eastern Bear has forged strategic alliances with Iran and China and enjoys greater popularity on the ground in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East than the US and its regional proxies, chiefly Saudi Arabia and Israel. Just five years ago such a confrontation would have been unthinkable. Russia may have expressed dissent with US-led military adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, but it was powerless to act unilaterally. When two million Britons marched against the upcoming invasion of Iraq in late February 2003, Russia Today did not even exist. Indeed the West believed Vladimir Putin would follow in Boris Yeltsin's footsteps to give global big business and Russian oligarchs free reign to exploit the country's copious natural resources. We got our news from alternative media, mainly based in North America or Europe. John Pilger remains one of the few mainstream anti-militarist journalists with decades of war-zone experience to appear occasionally in the Guardian or on the BBC. Many of us agreed with former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, that the war basically about oil. We may have disagreed about the scale of crimes attributable to deposed dictator, Saddam Hussein (though few would absolve him of the kind of state-sanctioned brutality common to most Middle East countries), but observers concur that the US-led occupation has contributed significantly to the region's destabilisation with the proliferation of Islamic fundamentalist militias under the guise of Al Qaeda, ISIS or Al Nusra. While the US State Department blamed Al Qaeda for the infamous 9/11 attacks, they seemed happy to arm their close allies in Libya to topple Gaddafi only 10 years later. Since 2011 the US and UK have not only directly funded Syria opposition militias, they have trained their very own agitprop outfit the White Helmets, set up by former British Army officer and mercenary James Le Mesurier. They masquerade as first responders, but work almost exclusively in rebel-held zones. Their focus is not so much on saving lives as on atrocity re-enactments and photo-opportunities with face-painted children such as the infamous boy in the back of an ambulance, Omran Daqneesh, who came to symbolise the victims of Syrian air force attacks. However, only a few months later after the Syrian government had recaptured Aleppo he appeared alongside his family on Syrian TV decrying the rebel militias.

Ever since the start of the conflict the main Western media outlets have consistently portrayed forces loyal to the Syrian government as the bad guys and ill-defined maze of rebel militias known initially as the Free Syrian Army as the good guys. Bellicose politicians have repeatedly reminded us how Assad is responsible for far more deaths than the opposition, but only if we include the total death toll of a previous Muslim Brotherhood uprising that the Syrian government successfully suppressed in the late 1970s and early 80s. It's almost impossible to keep an accurate tally of deaths attributable to rebels as they can just attribute all deaths to real and alleged air strikes. However, Syria's two and half million Christians have been the worst affected by Islamist Jihadis intent on eradicating all infidels.

Just as the British public began to doubt the BBC's narrative on the Skripal poisoning case (both alleged victims of a lethal nerve agent are amazingly alive), we are being fed more disinformation about purported chlorine or sarin gas attacks in Eastern Ghouta. Why would Assad authorise the use of chemical weapons when his forces were the on verge of defeating their enemies, the head-chopping militias armed by Saudi Arabia? What strategic advantage would Assad have in the age of instant communication? None. It would be a massive own goal. He would have committed the very act that the Western media has long associated with him and would serve to justify immediate reprisals from the US Air Force? Whatever crimes Bashar Al Assad may have committed, he is undoubtedly a smooth operator and gifted strategist. Yet as Donald J Trump resorts to threatening Russian forces in Syria with brand new shiny missiles via Twitter, Assad focuses on rebuilding Syria from the rubbles of the last 7 years of intensive warfare. Astoundingly Boris Johnson's new hawkish persona wins the approval of the guitar-strumming Butcher of Baghdad. Despite his early flag-waving phoney patriotism, arch globalist Tony Blair will probably go down in history not as the man who defeated Saddam Hussein, but as the architect of the breakup of the United Kingdom. If the British regime follows Trump's neocon cabal into a conflagration with Russia, Iran and China which is very likely to lead to a humiliating military defeat as any US-led ground troops would face overwhelming opposition from ordinary Syrians, it may well trigger the breakup of the United Kingdom, destroy Britain's status as a soft power and stop Brexit in its tracks. If World War Three starts, expect alliances to change fast as an ethnically modified Germany realigns with Turkey and Emanuel Macron's France lends his support to John Bolton's vision of regime change, emboldening Islamic fundamentalists both in the Middle East and Europe. If you want endless bloodshed and ethnic cleansing, you may welcome more airstrikes. If you want peace and stability, boycott the organs of war propaganda!

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

The Day the World Turned Dayglo

Disinformation

Confusion in an era of instant disinformation

To capture the current state of uncertainty that pervades both global socio-economic instability and cultural decay succinctly is no mean feat. Teenage rebellion is a rite of passage at a critical period of transition in our lives, an interlude between childhood innocence and adult responsibility when we question the powers that be and often challenge parental authority. We pose our elders a simple question: What kind of world did you create for us? and more to the point: How am I supposed to navigate a social rat race with its contradictory messages and emotive provocations? In short What is the purpose of life?. In the not too distant past we would soon overcome our adolescent existential crises as we assumed new responsibilities as conscientious workers, mothers and fathers. The purpose of life is life itself, the continuation of our species, our family, our culture and hopefully incremental improvements in our quality of life. However, in an age of rapid technological transformation, our adolescent hiatus now extends well into our 30s or even 40s. I sometimes recall the mood of my own teenage years as cultural continuity gave way to a new era of mass consumerism, family breakdown, atomisation and job insecurity. We naively believed punk rock bands screaming their disaffection with mainstream society would challenge elitism and empower the masses to take back control from greedy capitalists. Alas they were just marketing tools that served to drive a wedge between generations and subvert traditional support structures. Yet whenever I wrestle with a paradox and try to make sense of contradictory news sources, somewhere in the back of my brain I hear echoes of the dissonant punk chorus of X-Ray Specs "œThe day the world turned dayglo". Yet the late 1970s seem a relatively tame era when despite the trappings of modernity, incipient cultural decay and excitement about the coming computer revolution, we had not completely lost touch with human nature and divergent philosophical perspectives could be openly debated.

Before the advent of the Internet, we could either follow an organised political faction who would filter objective reality for us or we could engage with the great university of life by reading the works of important thinkers whose ideas had been shaped not by dogma, but by practical experience. If most people retain some power of critical thinking and share some core ethical values, bad ideas will fail in open rational debate because their consequences are truly evil, because they're incompatible with human nature or rely on fanciful, but dodgy science. However, in an atomised society with obsessive surveillance of politically incorrect speech, patently biased mainstream media reporting at odds with people's daily experiences and a tangled web of unofficial counterpropanda, bad ideas can proliferate because they cannot be challenged in an open, rational and empirical way. I'm inclined to think that online videos claiming the earth is really a flat disc or that the moon landings were staged are some kind of social experiment. From the isolation of your bedroom connected to the outside world only via social media and surrounded by a synthetic backdrop of housing schemes, shopping malls, office blocks, warehouses, hospitals, schools and prisons, one can believe almost anything, especially when official narratives reveal so many internal inconsistencies. In the end, our analysis of evolving news stories depends more on whom we trust most than independent analysis of conflicting sources.

How do we know that tightly controlled media and strict censorship sow the seeds of distrust? Just ask anyone who experienced life behind the Iron Curtain. The more the government limited the range of permissible opinions and smeared dissidents with accusations of fascism or treason, the more ordinary people distrusted official media outlets and sought means to clandestinely listen to foreign radio stations or smuggle in banned books. Many would pretend to go along with the system, but behind closed doors in the privacy of their own homes they'd voice dissent. However, in such environments it is easy to fall victim either to counterpropaganda from rival superpowers or to planted disinformation campaigns designed to entrap dissidents, e.g, setting up bogus anti-semitic groups recycling Nazi-era propaganda that would still resonate with some anti-Soviet dissidents in the 1950s and 60s. Stalinists would love all their opponents to behave just like stereotypical Nazi sympathisers to justify their coercive means of corrective political re-education. Likewise today's globalists would much prefer all troublesome dissidents to be either rightwing extremists, an epithet often applied to social conservatives whose views would have been conventional wisdom until recently, or Islamic fundamentalists.

Our instinctive hunches may very often be right, but sometimes embarrassingly wrong. Would I stake my political reputation on the assertion that Boris Johnson knowingly lied about the Skripal poisoning incident ? I'd need good evidence to challenge such claims in the midst of Putin-bashing hysteria. It is just possible that the Russian secret services may have wanted to eliminate a former double agent, but it's also highly likely that the British establishment is spreading disinformation again to pursue a hidden policy agenda. As most of us have limited time to corroborate primary news sources, a much better approach is to compare contentious claims that were made ten or twenty years ago with what turned out to be true. Often only snippets of the truth reach us through mainstream media and usually long after the original claims have served their purpose. Did Tony Blair lie about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Maybe, but a narrow focus on this one claim deflects our attention from a much larger game plan. It's possibly one of the few cases where the establishment has begrudgingly admitted its deceptive claims. However, if you dig deep enough, many of the one-sided claims made about the Rwandan killing fields, the Balkan civil war, Iraq, Libya and more recently the Syrian quagmire turn out to be either fabricated or twisted to suit the dominant narrative of the time.

The Social Media Rabbit Hole

For a variety of personal reasons I've steered clear of intrusive social media platforms, and that means mainly Facebook, much preferring peer-to-peer messaging, though no doubt Skype eavesdrops too. I do tweet, but seldom reveal personal details that could either embarrass me or get me into serious trouble, although if I had millions of followers my account may well have caught the attention of Twitter's thought police by now. Social media provides a platform to keep in touch with friends and family, but also connects you with hundreds of millions of other potential virtual friends, who may recommend products, services or ideas. A simple example of Facebook's business model is product endorsement. Why would you recommend one product over another? Maybe some people have well-informed predelictions based on firsthand experience and technical knowledge, but more often than people recommend merchandise because they might win a prize or wish to express their short-lived joy about owning a trendy gadget. Marketers have long known that loud, brash or in-your-face advertisements can put off large segments of their potential clientele, but what if your new friend with whom you've enjoyed a few brief chats and has an endearing profile picture recommends a product. Research shows peer pressure is often much more effective than traditional advertising. So what if your new friends do not just recommend products, but contentious causes, involving concepts, ideas, analysis and scientific data that you have not yet had either the time or inclination to investigate? Would you support a cause just because your charming new virtual friend has endorsed it?

Online campaigning platforms like 38 Degrees, Avaaz and Change Dot Org are theoretically open to anyone who wants to struggle against injustice, but in my experience their bias is overwhelmingly in favour of universalism and social engineering, i.e. a borderless utopia controlled by large worldwide organisations. Superficially, they favour many campaigns associated with the traditional green left. I've signed and promoted a few campaigns myself on things like TTIP and the Monsanto-Bayer merger because I instinctively oppose any policies likely to empower big business. However, these outlets have also run campaigns calling for the Daily Mail to be banned from colleges and public transport or for the BBC not to let Nigel Farage appear on Question Time again. They've run numerous campaigns on letting more refugees and economic migrants move to the UK and elsewhere in Europe, against organisations accused of hate speech and most disturbingly many of their campaigns against the horrors of war recycle mainstream propaganda on complex conflicts in the Middle East. Would I sign a petition calling for Malala to win the Nobel Peace Prize? Maybe. She seemed a nice girl and I totally abhor the Taliban's treatment of women, but her rise to fame, supported by many bellicose politicians, helped justify ongoing NATO intervention in Afghanistan. But could I be duped into supporting Bana, the 7 to 9 year old social media expert and technical whiz girl from Eastern Aleppo? Sorry, I don't buy that version of events, especially as the Syrian civil war only escalated after the US and UK started funding anti-government militias. However, I'm a natural cynic. I tend not to fall for propaganda from powerful lobbies, but today we live in an era of shifting alliances and disinformation overload. Gone are the days when the BBC and CNN could set agendas on foreign policy initiatives. Their grip on the global collective psyche has failed to recover in much of the world since their logistical support for destabilising US-led military adventures. Worse still, the BBC has lost much credibility with conservative public opinion due to its conspicuous promotion of identity politics, globalisation and epistocracy, i.e. rule by an intellectual elite.

The Cambridge Analytica Delusion

First off I'm beginning to think that neither the Trump phenomenon nor Brexit (the awful term coined for the unexpected outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum) hindered corporate globalisation at all. Trump had three selling points: Stronger borders, greater protectionism and an end to pointless wars that do not protect the American people. His slogan was Americanism, not globalism and it appealed especially to rednecks and blue collar workers from the Rust Belt. Yet now with Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and John Bolton as senior security advisor, the Trump administration is firmly in the hands of bellicose NeoCons. Despite all the rhetoric about temporary travel bans for jet-setters from 7 countries accused of exporting terrorism, Congress failed to approve Trump's much trumpeted border wall. As for trade protectionism, Trump's proposed tariffs against Chinese, Japanese and European manufacturers are much lower than those enforced during the Reagan era. We used to think US Democrat or British Labour leaders would be more bellicose because they could more effectively deflect dissent. Now Trump supporters have inadvertently reinvigorated the military industrial complex at a time when US economic power is waning. Likewise the British government has effectively negotiated a deal with the EU that addresses none of the key concerns that 17.4 million leave voters had, while cleverly driving a wedge between generations, regions and social classes. The ruling elites can now blame Brexit or Russia for anything that goes wrong, while doing little to stem migratory flows or social alienation, banning social conservatives from entering the country, locking up Youtube pranksters, remaining in full regulatory alignment with the EU and even letting them access our fishing waters. The subtle point many observers have failed to get is that we the people do not own the land we call home. Banks, big business and the government do.

So did a bunch of cybernetic whizkids use social media and clever artificial intelligence algorithms to sway the vote to the outcome that the establishment appeared not to want? Yes, but so what? So did the Clinton campaign in the US and Remain campaign in the UK, but midway through these campaigns millions of ordinary voters grew tired of the uninspiring marketing spiels emanating from the establishment media. In the run-up to the EU Referendum, I saw much more proactive persuasion from the well-funded Remain camp. The frequency of these videos seemed to track my online behaviour, which varies from technical sites, to mainstream media and several alternative media outlets. For a while leave campaigners seemed much more active on social media, but largely because they were the challengers rather than the incumbents. The Cambridge Analytica scandal has the advantage of appealing to impressionable Guardian readers, but also empowers government to regulate the Internet with the tacit support of the wishful thinking chattering classes. The establishment's answer to the Brexit rebellion appears to be a rebranding of UK PLC's relationship with the EU Commission and greater control over social media.

Recent community guidelines enforced by the main social media outlets have almost exclusively targeted what we may class as social conservatives and nationalists as well as a few rogue racial supremacists and outright nutters. The existence of the latter justifies the suppression of the former. They're getting worried because a few channels such as Infowars, Stefan Molyneux, Paul Joseph Watson, Jordan Peterson and Gad Saad, to name but a few, have attracted large audiences to challenge the logic of postmodernism, sometimes known as Cultural Marxism. People are slowly but surely cottoning on to the emerging reality that agendas like transgenderism or the abolition of nation states are not just wild ideas championed by a few maverick academics, but are actively promoted by well-funded NGOs deeply entrenched in government and often bankrolled by the same evil corporations that the anti-establishment left used to hate. No wonder people are confused.

Addendum

This morning SumOfUs.Org sent me another mailshot urging me to support their campaign to censor the Internet by getting major retailers such as Amazon to boycott Breitbart. Let me quote their missive:

Nearly 2,600 advertisers pulled out of the white supremacist news site famously known as Trump News. Amazon is one of the last major advertisers on Breitbart, the site formally operated by hate-leader and Cambridge Analytica colluder Steve Bannon. meeting for us to share our concerns!

This is guilt by association and insinuation, a reaction to memes spread at great expense by the mainstream media. Any outlet telling the truth about the migration crisis will be targeted, while the British State spreads lies about nerve agent attacks and bellicose NeoCons take over the White House. Yet SumOfUs.org is more concerned with protecting their NGO friends who have colluded with people traffickers.

Categories
Power Dynamics

Destabilising Europe

Guardia Civil clash with voters

What's going on in Catalonia?

I seldom comment on unfolding events before I can establish some basic facts and investigate all the forces at play. I woke up this morning to a twitter stream showing violent clashes between the Spanish Guardia Civil and unarmed Catalan citizens attempting to vote in the region's independence referendum. I think Mariano Rajoy's central government have not only seriously misjudged the public mood in Catalonia, but their heavy-handed and morally indefensible actions will backfire massively. Recent polls suggested only 40% supported full independence, but now that percentage must be much higher. Despite a recent influx of newcomers from the Middle East and North Africa, Spaniards from other regions form by far the largest minority and many Catalans are descendants of earlier waves of migration from Spain's poorer regions. While the Catalan language was suppressed under Franco, since the late 1980s it's been the main language of instruction in state schools. Indeed parents have to explicitly request Castillian Spanish medium instruction. Yet Spanish is still the most widely spoken home language (According to Wikipedia 47.5% speak Spanish as their main tongue versus 44.3% for Catalan). Catalonia is undoubtedly Spain's richest region with its highest per capita income. As a result it subsidises poorer regions such as Andalucia and Extremadura and some estimate to the tune of €16 billion a year.

Back in the mid 1990s I witnessed the rise of the Northern League (Lega Nord) in Italy. Their leader, Umberto Bossi, ranted and railed against Southern Italians. For a few years it seemed the North, known as Padania, may very well have severed ties with Italy's boot. I lived in provincial Veneto where most residents still spoke the local dialect, Veneto, which many considered a language in its own right. Veneto has as much claim to independence from Italy as Catalonia does from Spain. The Venetian Republic lasted until 1796 before being split into two regions under Austrian rule. Italy did not unite until 1871. By contrast Catalonia has been in a union with Castille since Ferdinand II of Aragon married Queen Isabella I of Castile in 1469. However, the governments and legal system did not merge until the aftermath of the War of Succession in 1714, just 7 years after Scotland joined the United Kingdom. The Kingdom of Aragon covered a much larger territory comprising modern communities of Valencia, Aragon and the Balearic Islands as well as Sardinia, Sicily, Naples and briefly Athens. All fascinating stuff, but why would the Catalans want to secede from Spain now if most real economic power lies with multinationals and the EU?

Some may prefer to jump on bandwagons and support the side that appears to have popular momentum behind it. If you supported the rebels in Kosovo, Libya or Syria, you may be surprised to learn US and UK agencies and proxies armed and funded them all. Our media told us pretty much who the good and bad guys were. The problem here is that no country, region or ethnic group today lives in a bubble, except for a few isolated tribes. Self-determination may be a fine ideal in theory, but in practice smaller countries without substantial natural resources have to bow to the diktat of large corporations and superstates. The only apparent exceptions are city states with highly educated citizens like Singapore that serve as financial hubs.

In 2014 I had mixed feelings towards Scottish Independence. In an ideal world I'd have a loose federation of countries and regions within the British Isles. The UK has three main downsides. Most of its population lives in England, its economic activity is concentrated in the South East and it has a thorny imperial legacy. To me Scottish independence would have made sense in the 1970s if the country could have invested its oil wealth in a new high tech economy, while supporting its traditional farming and fishing communities. Alas today's SNP proposes independence within the EU, which essentially means transferring decision-making powers from London to Brussels. Worse still, Scotland exports more than 4 times more to the rest of the UK than it does to the EU27 (the EU post-Brexit). For me the strongest argument in favour of Scottish Independence was the SNP's opposition to Trident nuclear missiles and some aspects of US-led military adventurism. Honestly, with falling proceeds from North Oil the Scottish economy is a basket case, heavily reliant on subsidies from central government and on trade with England.

Catalonia, by contrast, can just as easily trade with France and other European countries as it can with the rest of Iberia. A rump Spain would lose more than a separate Catalonia. However, there's more to life than short-term economic expediency and other problems are looming on the horizon for Catalans. In a world of independent nation states, it would be fairly easy solve the Catalan question. Catalonia could become an independent country for most matters just like Portugal, but join an Iberian Federation to cooperate on strategic infrastructure, environemntal and security issues. Sadly we live in an asymetric world dominated by supranational entities. Only 6 weeks ago, Islamic terrorists killed 13 civilians and injured 130 in Barcelona's renowned La Rambla district. Catalonia has the third highest concentration of Muslims in Western Europe, an estimated 6% of the population and growing through immigration and higher fertility rate. The vast majority are first or second generation immigrants. Paradoxically Catalonia was only briefly part of al-Andalus, the Arabic name given to Iberia under Muslim rule.

While many Catalans are not happy about subsidising their brothers and sisters in Southern Spain, their politicians are fully signed up to the EU project and favour large-scale migration from North Africa and elsewhere. The current President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, heads the Catalan European Democratic Party, which belongs to the same ultra-federalist ALDE group as EU evangelist Guy Verhofstadt. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group wants to see a pan-European army, a unified fiscal regime and continent-wide harmonisation of most other domains of governance such as welfare, healthcare and even education. In an era of open borders, Catalan independence would be a pyrrhic victory. No sooner would they gain greater fiscal autonomy from the rest of Iberia, than they would end up subsidising the rest of Europe while accommodating larger transient communities of North Africans and Middle Easterners. They may well have to speak less Spanish, but more Arabic and Pidgin English. An independent Catalonia within a volatile European Union would not be more Catalan, only less Spanish.

However, the attitude of other European leaders may seem rather puzzling. Yesterday, Emanuel Macron urged Catalonians to support Spanish Unity, a rather odd position for a Frenchman committed to a federal Europe and mass migration. The BBC initiallly presented both sides of the debate. This rather reminds me of the beginning of the Yugoslav civil wars in the early 1990s when the BBC World Service would air many voices in favour of Yugoslav unity. Let's not forget in both world wars, many Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians and Kosovars had sided with the occupying Axis powers against the Allies. Yet by the mid 1990s the main US, UK and other Western European media outlets had overwhelming anti-Serb bias. Today, the Spanish government is portrayed as neo-Fancoist and certainly the antics of its Guardia Civil have done little to dispel that reputation. The real question has to be why the Spanish government thinks it can get away with such violent intimidation in an era of live video streaming ? They have either mishandled the situation in acts of extreme incompetence or they have been led to believe they have the full weight of the international community behind them as remarks from the UK's Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, might suggest.

Technically the Catalan referendum contravenes the 1978 Spanish constitution that does not allow any region to secede without the explcit consent of all Spaniards. It would be like having a UK-wide referendum on Scottish independence. More intriguingly, recent opinion polls have shown support for Catalan independence is only around 40%. If Spain had simply allowed a Catalonia-only independence referendum, with a free and fair debate on both sides, it could well have won as so many Catalonians have relatives in other parts of Iberia. As it is their actions may yield the very outcome that will damage ordinary Spaniards most, separation, the empowerment of the EU and demise of viable nation states.

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.