[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] new book by the Yale University Press has just been published. Its title is The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. The author is James Kirchick, a Yale University alumnus, journalist and foreign correspondent, recipient of the Journalist of the Year Award, conservative leaning politically, who however supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections branding Donald Trump as a “brashly authoritarian populist.”
With that as an introduction, I’d like to now proceed to an analysis of the book’s thesis on European democracy by expanding it to American democracy, to demonstrate that in many ways the two may be intertwined and that they may have a common future, for better or for worse, as the case may turn out to be.
I have subtitled my article “Trouble in Paradise” which is also the subtitle of chapter four of the above mentioned book: “The European Union: Trouble in Paradise?” Indeed, there is trouble in paradise but that paradise is called democracy and there is a river that traverses both sides: it’s called the Atlantic Ocean. Their destiny may be intertwined, far more than we care to admit when we declare that it is time to go our separate ways.
Before beginning my own analysis let me provide the readers with the titles of the 8 chapters, the introduction, and the conclusion of the book. It will give the readers a better idea of its import. I recommend it as an eye-opener of sorts to the present predicament of Western Civilization.
Introduction: The European Nightmare; chapter 1: Russia: On Europe’s Edge; chapter 2: Hungary: Democracy without democrats; chapter 3: Germany: The Return of Rapallo?; chapter 4: The European Union: Trouble in Paradise?; chapter 5: France without Jews; chapter 6: Brexit: From Great Britain to Little England; chapter 7: Greece: From Polis to Populists; chapter 8: Ukraine: The New West Berlin; Conclusion: The European Dream.
As mentioned, of particular interest are the chapters on Russia, the one on England, and the one on the EU. They make the point that there is indeed a democracy deficit in Europe which, in tandem with a rising ultra-nationalism, dangerously close to authoritarianism and fascism, is endangering the whole democratic structure built in Western Europe after World War II and culminating with the new polity called the European Union.
And who might be the enemy of the traditional order which has survived for seventy years now? Let’s consider the conspiracy theory called Deep State. As an example, almost chosen at random, let us briefly survey an article which has recently appeared in the daily publication Modern Diplomacy by a US attorney Raul Manchanda with the title: “Deep State Members and their Agents Are Slowly Revealing Themselves.”
It merits mention here that there is presently, prominently lodged in the White House, a security advisor by the name of Steven Bannon, who used to edit the Breibart News, an eminent conspiracy theory publication. He has been amply mentioned and examined at length in other pieces in this publication. What they all have in common is a commonly perceived enemy which they call Deep State.
But what might Deep State be? In the above mentioned article it is conveyed best by its illustration showing the Washington Capital as the tree on top being sustained by its deep roots beneath it. Of course those roots are considered nefarious. If that is in fact the case, the question logically arises: now that the Republican party controls both Congress and the Executive, whom are those roots sustaining? I suppose the logical answer is the present legitimate government of the US, and that’s why they need to be eradicated as enemies of the state or they will corrupt that legitimate and pure state.
In fact attorney Manchanda does identify those roots. They are at the very least: the original Nazi intelligentia, spies brought over by the American elites and privileged classes (Trump excluded, of course, for he is an Andrew Jackson populist), after World War II. Names are supplied: Gottlieb von Braun Rudolph, plus 15,000 others who were supplied with fake identities so that they could establish the foundations of Deep State. So, Deep State is in its origins a Neo-Nazi state. Also Trotsky Communists wishing to establish a New World Order based on intellectual elitism and “Luciferian ideals,” among which “God according to my right” and social engineering (read the social programs which are not fully American). Also, the power to kill and murder at will (read the intelligence agencies that keep the Deep State in power); not to mention the spy agencies, the media, the Federal Reserve.
Finally, Mr. Manchanda goes on, the American people wake up and voilà, Donald Trump appears on the scene as if on a cloud (as we witnessed at the reality show that was the Republican National Convention). Populism is here to save the day. But there are many left-overs, the “useful idiots” and “bastards” who have struck a pact with the Lucifer and are ready to strike back to protect the New World Order established after World War II. They conduct the resistance via Mainstream Media, Face Book, Social Media; hence the massive investigations going on as we speak by Deep State agents on Capital Hill against Trump. A purge may be needed and the sooner the better.
How do we recognize those subversive agents? Manchanda does not hesitate to enlighten us by furnishing 7 telling signs: 1) they wish to start World War III. Their tactic is to demonize peace-loving, non-threatening nations such as Russia, Iran, Syria, China, 2) divide and conquer strategy focusing on divisions and centrifugal forces rather than a united patriotic stance as advocated by Trump, 3) fighting the alternative media (read the deceiving lying media contemptuous of facts) as 4) practiced by the Tweeter in Chief; 5) decoupling Europe from the US by destroying NATO and the Atlantic allegiance, 6) the refusal to abolish the “Luciferin” Federal Reserve Bank, 7) social engineering (the social programs) smelling of socialism, and the manipulation of the judiciary and the courts.
It goes without saying that Alternate State advocates find all the above as conspiracies against the American people, against Human Rights and against the Constitution, as judged by them or some ultraconservative judge, of course. If it all sounds slightly incoherent and deranged, it is. That’s what a pernicious ideology produces when lodged firmly in the human mind. It leads to the denial of facts and reality itself. What elsewhere I have dubbed the reign of Emperor Caligula.
But the most alarming and troubling phenomenon, is not the conspiracy theory itself, which can easily be judged by its own merits and sheer lack of common sense, but what it reveals, when examined carefully, about loyalty to truly democratic ideals, and the anti-democratic authoritarian spirit it reveals. What you have at play is addiction to power and influence parading as populist love of the underprivileged and the powerless. Slogans such as “unpatriotic bastards,” “fake news” “alternative media” “non threatening nations such as Russia, Iran, Syria” give the game away. The ultimate Machiavellian goal seems clear enough: to eliminate democracy as we know it and as implemented after it was rescued by World War II some seventy years ago.
Perhaps this brief review of a conspiracy theory alive and well in the present White House will furnish an initial idea of the present predicament of democracy in the West (on both sides of the Atlantic). We have reached the sorry stage wherein Europe and the US, bastions of democratic values around the world, now have to confront their own demons which they thought they had put to rest once and for all.
The old pathologies and centrifugal forces of rabid nationalism, authoritarianism, territorial aggression, fascism and racism, are menacing the consensus reached after World War II while the present leaders, so called, pursue shallow disingenuous policies such as Brexit, and Moslem bans, even anti-Semitism, and leave the two continents of Europe and North-America open to Russian imperial ambitions out to destabilize, divide and conquer, not so much with the threat of nuclear weapon which could prove self-destroying, but with digital information techniques, considered the new weapon to achieve geo-political parity; a strategy which has found a more than willing ally in Trump and his conspiracy theory minions, beginning with Steve Bannon, who typically advocates the abolishing of NATO and the Atlantic Alliance.
In other words, the liberal world order fought over in World War II and guaranteeing the two continents’ security, is now in serious jeopardy. What did Marx say? “Those who neglect to pay attention to their own history are bound to repeat it.” Marx got it wrong on many fronts, but perhaps on this one he had it right on target. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Trust: Lessons from my Brazilian driver
Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair– Anonymous
Be safe. That’s what we’re always told when we travel. It could be a short drive to another city or a flight to another state. Just be safe.
It’s usually said with about the same emotion as, “good morning”. It’s almost obligatory and carries little meaning. A courtesy. It’s said with a little more sincerity when you’re traveling overseas. The unknown could be dangerous – pay attention, be aware…be safe.
I nod and smile, because what else do you say? What does it really mean to “be safe”? Of course, some things are obvious – don’t go running down the street naked waving a flaming Molotov cocktail in your hand. Check. Keeping your clothes on in public is probably always a good idea. You’re pretty much always safer with clothes.
Don’t hitchhike drunk. Check. Although I did do that once with a friend in Nanjing, China and the friendly (and confused) garbage truck driver picked us up and dropped us off at the foreign student dorms, per our request in broken Chinese. But still, in general, not a good idea.
I generally stifle a giggle at the well-meaning “be safe” when I’m traveling to Asia. For sure, there are incidents against foreigners in Asia; the Abu Sayyaf terrorist incident in the Philippines was shocking. But typically, Americans are much safer in Asia than many large American cities (I’m looking at you Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans). If you accidentally leave your wallet on the table, or your cell phone in the bathroom, most likely a “good samaritan” is not going to turn it into a manager. Being safe means being aware of your belongings, not your actual being.
The urgency to “be safe” was greatly intensified when I told my family, I’m going to Brazil. Be really safe. Like, this time, I mean it.
My dad is a test pilot. When he gets nervous on a plane, I freak: not safe, not safe my brain screams. My husband is in law enforcement, with quite a bit of international experience. Contrary to what you may think, he infrequently tells me to be safe. When he worries, I pay attention. Brazil worried him.
Despite a lifetime of traveling and living abroad, namely in Asia, this is my first time to Brazil. Brazil, more than anywhere I’ve been, including Europe, “looks” like America. Like America, Brazil is an immigrant country. A Multicultural Mecca.
In my attempt to “be safe” I hired a car and a bilingual driver to take me around São Paulo. I hit the jackpot. Before turning 10 years old, Ricardo picked up an English dictionary and taught himself the language. And he didn’t stop there. Given that his Protestant family didn’t believe in TVs he became a voracious reader and spent hours in the library reading political philosophers such as John Locke and Antonio Gramsci. And so it happens that my driver was also a political philosopher of sorts, with a view from the streets (literally) of the Brazilian socio-political landscape.
Everything I learned from my Brazilian driver shed light on the challenges not only in Brazil but also in America and around the world: we have a trust deficit.
There are many similarities between Brazil and the United States, especially in their multicultural heritage, but its geography and history put it on a completely different trajectory.
Brazil’s rugged terrain and lack of viable ports make economic development difficult. As a result, the development necessary to take advantage of Brazil’s agriculture and commodity opportunities needs massive capital expenditures. This higher cost of development meant only the wealthy were involved in setting up towns and plantations. Low-skilled labor was imperative for working plantations, and slavery was the norm.
When slavery was abolished (Brazil was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery in 1888), low-skilled immigration was encouraged and flourished. Brazil’s Gino Coefficient highlights the income inequality and stark division between the rich and poor that continues to define Brazilian demographics, even into the modern era. It is also visible in its high crime rate, giving Brazil the title of Murder Capital of the World. Brazil has the most cities (17) in the top 50 dangerous cities in the world.
Brazil’s geography shaped its economy and in turn, its politics. The wealth disparity and need to develop the interior were components that eventually led to the rise of a military regime in the 1960s. The regime kept order and was able to command the resources for development through force, if necessary. As the interior developed, there were more opportunities for smaller landholders and a rise in the middle-class – the classic underpinnings for political liberalization.
Under these circumstances, in 1985 the military handed over control to the people in an election. In 1988 a new constitution was written. Thirty years of democratically elected governments later, and many of Brazil’s problems remain. The oligarchs – the powerful and wealthy – prevail. Justice usually reflects who you know and is unevenly applied. A string of politicians, including the current President Temer and past Presidents Lula and Rousseff, among others, have recently been implicated in the huge “car wash” scandal.
People are fed up with the corruption. And now, many are looking for a political “outsider” to shake up the establishment.
In this fraught landscape emerged Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro started his career in the military while the military still held power. He is neither a land-owner nor a peasant, and to many, is seen as a “vote for change”, outside of the elite power structure. Sound familiar?
He is the Brazilian Trump.
His fame is growing, and people show up en masse to hear him speak. His focus is a return to law and order in a country that seems out of control. Bolsonaro’s message resonates at a time when there are an increasing number of people nostalgic for the order under the former military government.
Rounding out the similarities, Bolsonaro, like Trump, has been called out for scandalous behavior, which hasn’t dampened his support. In 2014 he told a Congresswoman that he wouldn’t rape her because “she didn’t deserve it”. This is the little quip seen here in the anti-Bolsonaro propaganda picture. Note the cartoonish Hitler‘s tache too.
The allure of more right-wing traditionalists, nationalists and populists is a global trend in a world rapidly changing. Whether due to the growing individualism leading to the breakdown of social cohesion in the United States, the growing anti-immigrant sentiment and the resulting Brexit in England, or the ubiquitous corruption in Brazil, wistful notions of stability and order are endemic.
As these and other like forces continue to restructure the global order–politically, economically and socially – no one gets out unscathed. Perhaps the United States is best able to weather the storm, given its unique mix of geography, strong institutions and resources. The Brazilian economy, however, is largely dependent on high commodity prices and Chinese demand. As structural demand trends downward, and the Chinese face their own internal and external struggles, a variety of crises threaten multiple countries, like Brazil.
Further, a Brazilian characteristic – lack of trust – creates its own challenges. The lack of trust in American institutions is also at an all-time low, but as Ricardo reminds me, the American government was formed by the people to serve the people. In contrast, in the Brazilian system, the people are there to serve the state.
In the current climate, despite disparate trajectories, America and Brazil now share some of the same trust issues. As we explored this idea of trust and our distinct cultural experiences further, we came up with a rough theory. America’s free market capitalist economy generates trust. Although there are many currently disillusioned with capitalism and growing income inequalities, which in part is what is generating momentum in the more “right-wing” camps worldwide, consider the aspect of competition. When there is competition, the markets hold corporations accountable. If a company makes a poor product, it loses market share. In an economy like Brazil, based more on elite relationships than competition for gaining market share, this built-in accountability is lost. Trust never has a chance to develop.
By contrast, trust in America did develop, but to a certain degree, has been lost. However, there is a foundation for trust. The question is, can it be regained?
Despite many factors portending some rough patches ahead, Ricardo is hopeful. He doesn’t have any affection for Bolsonaro, but believes corrective measures are necessary to address inherent corruption – after all, the pendulum must swing in the opposite direction before slowing its cadence to a more sustainable groove in the middle.
The “Trump Trend” (and its European predecessors) is not an isolated event, but rather a reaction to global disorder, similarly affecting countries with diverse geopolitical histories; it is a symptom of our trust deficit and truth decay. Further, different political parties worldwide hold their own claims on the truth, making trust more elusive. Confusing the issue, in an internet era replete with fake news, truth and trust alike have become valuable commodities. Hold onto them.
Finally, levels of trust are generally inversely correlated to crime statistics, so… be safe!
The U.S. Election and its Aftermath
The midterm elections are over, the result … a split-decision. The Democrats will control the House, raising the possibility of an impeachment attempt. The Senate remains under Republican control with their majority increased by one seat. The president reminded us at a post-election press conference that while he could not help in the all too numerous House elections, he did campaign in some of the marginal Senate races with almost universal success. The prospect of a second Trump term now looms large, especially as a Democrat star failed to emerge.
Among the winners for House seats were a record number of women, including New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at 29 is the youngest woman Representative ever elected. Also two Muslim women: Ilhan Omar, a Somali from Minnesota, who will be the first hijab-wearing woman to sit in the House, and Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian, who does not cover her head. It should help clarify for people that hijabs are cultural not religious and often a personal choice. Ms. Tlaib a Detroit native has extended family on the West Bank, who were shown celebrating in some news reports.
For those who expect any serious change in social or foreign policy, a reminder. Ten years ago, Barack Obama was elected and handed a House and Senate also under his party’s control. Did we get a decent health care-for-all bill? Were the banks reined in after causing a world economic crisis by peddling baskets of high-risk mortgage-backed securities and gambling on derivatives? Did we have peace? The answer to all the questions is in effect a negative.
The Glass-Steagall Act repealed by Bill Clinton that led to the disaster, was never reintroduced. We got an anemic version. It had kept us safe for over six decades from the greed of bankers by separating investment banking activities from commercial banking, and therefore preventing banks from gambling with our money.
Instead of peace, Mr. Obama called Afghanistan the good war and sent another 100,000 troops there causing more loss of life and more Afghan refugees. That was not all. He attacked Libya and destroyed the country including a complex water system bringing water from the south to Tripoli.
Libya is in chaos and has recently abandoned any pretext of national government by canceling the December election supposed to have been agreed upon by major factions in the country. Once a magnet for migrant African labor, Libya’s major export has become refugees, its own and the Africans. Europe is inundated as refugees stream in from all of America’s wars: Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and others. It’s worth noting also that the Taliban now control most of the Afghan countryside.
What will the young and newly elected do in Congress? Not much as it takes years to have the seniority to accumulate power. In the meantime, there is the pressure of elections every two years for a House seat, donors and lobbyists chipping away at any idealism, while the relative impotence of a freshman in this new university of intricate rules and procedures becomes apparent.
There is only one way to survive …
Despite Challenges, Venezuelan Migration into Colombia can Boost its Growth
In recent years, almost 2.3 million people left Venezuela to live, mostly, in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, and Chile. In the short term, migration places significant pressures on the provision of services, institutions, labor markets and the social dynamics of the receiving areas, affecting most the vulnerable populations in both the migrant and local communities. However, if the short-term challenges are managed well, migration can boost growth in the long run.
Historically, the firsts countries affected in any migration flow are the closest neighbors. In Venezuela’s case, it is Colombia. For decades, many Colombians moved to Venezuela fleeing the guerilla war. Now, things have turned around: About 45,000 people cross the border from Venezuela into Colombia daily, seeking to earn a living and access to goods and services that are difficult to find in Venezuela.
Colombia hosts the largest number of Venezuelan migrants (1.2 million), 24% of whom are nationals who are returning to their home country. In absolute terms, Bogotá is the city with the largest number of migrants. However, in relative terms, the border areas (Norte de Santander, Arauca and Guajira) are the most affected, with the migrants representing between 2.5% and 5% of the population. These regions have development lags, which limits their ability to absorb migrants.
These are some of the findings of the World Bank report Migration from Venezuela to Colombia: Short- and Medium-Term Impact and Response Strategy, carried out jointly with the Colombian Government with support from the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
According to the report, only 40% of the migrant children are in school, and the migrant population is twice as likely to be unemployed than the local population. The cost of additional public services caused by migration including education, health, water and sanitation, early care, housing support, employment services and institutional strengthening lies between 0.23% and 0.41% of Colombia’s GDP.
However, the report shows that even though the perception of insecurity has increased in receiving areas, crime levels have not increased – and in fact in some cases, they have decreased.
Despite all these challenges, migration can create economic growth for Colombia in the medium and long term due to the increase in investment and consumption derived from it. For every half a million people of working age that migrated from Venezuela to Colombia, the economic growth of the receiving country could accelerate by 0.2 percentage points, according to the report.
Prioritizing the rapid incorporation of migrants and returnees into the job market, mitigating vulnerabilities that can become traps of poverty, and foster a dialogue on local, national and regional politics are key to a successful turnaround.
The Colombian government has responded quickly and proactively, taking a series of measures aimed at facilitating migrants’ self-sufficiency and mitigating impacts in the receiving areas. The government has also facilitated migrants’ access to basic health and education services, which will mitigate the costs of migration in the medium term. Finally, the government has adapted its legal and institutional framework quickly, which has greatly facilitated the country’s response capacity. However, despite Colombia’s enormous efforts, the extent of this migration still requires a greater commitment from the international community.
UN sounds alarm as Venezuelan refugees and migrants passes three million mark
The number of refugees and migrants who have left Venezuela worldwide has now reached three million, the two main United...
Hunger and obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean compounded by inequality
For the third consecutive year, the number of those chronically hungry has increased in Latin America and the Caribbean, while...
Putting the brakes on fast fashion
Fashion revolves around the latest trends but is the industry behind the curve on the only trend that ultimately matters...
ISIL’s ‘legacy of terror’ in Iraq: UN verifies over 200 mass graves
Investigators have uncovered more than 200 mass graves containing thousands of bodies in areas of Iraq formerly controlled by the...
From unemployment to growing cyber-risk: Business executives have different worries
There are significant differences in risk perceptions across the eight regions covered in the World Economic Forum’s Regional Risks for...
South Sudan Need to invest in peace for economic development
The 2017 Global Peace Index (GPI) shows that despite continuing socio-economic and geopolitical turmoil in the world, there are more...
Trust: Lessons from my Brazilian driver
Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair– Anonymous Be safe. That’s what we’re always told...
- Queen Rania of Jordan Wears Ralph & Russo Ready-To-Wear
- OMEGA watches land on-screen in Universal Pictures’ new film First Man
- Experience the Prada Parfum’s Way of Travelling at Qatar Duty Free
- ‘Get Carried Away’ With Luxurious Villa Stays and Complimentary Private Jet Flights
- Westin Hotels & Resorts to Debut in Maldives
Defense2 days ago
Sleepwalking Toward Nuclear War
South Asia3 days ago
The Outcome of Imran Khan’s visit to China
Intelligence3 days ago
Latin Intelligence Broadly Defined: Security and Corruption in South America
Russia2 days ago
Russia’s Growing Clout in Asia Pacific Region
Intelligence2 days ago
The China/Russia Space Threat: Is Star Wars Far Away or On the Horizon?
South Asia1 day ago
Dr. Lotay Tshering Premiership: A new beginning for India – Bhutan foreign relations
Newsdesk3 days ago
First ADB Knowledge Forum Shares Lessons and Innovations for the Future of Development
Middle East3 days ago
The Khashoggi crisis: Saudi Arabia braces for tougher post-election US attitude