A mad world out there where ever we look
The year 2016 is shaping up as one of the craziest in living memory. And mine goes back to World War II.
That was the opening sentence of this blog a week back, which seems like a very long time ago. Since then I repeatedly had to take a breath to watch another madness unfold. First (Theresa) May-Day in London with the appointment of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. Then the terrible deadly truck attack on Bastille Day in Nice and for the end of the week the attempted coup in Turkey as the overture and excuse (“gift of god”) for the full blown fascist takeover of that formerly democratic country ruled by law.
But for now back to my original line of thought observing the events of the year.
Politics in the USA
2016 saw so far the most remarkable presidential election campaign anybody can remember. In the Democratic Party primaries an unknown self declared “socialist” – in fact just a traditional New Deal social democrat – Senator from the tiny state of Vermont gave the shoe-in establishment candidate with the Clinton name recognition a run for her money. He pulled enthusiastic crowds and filled stadiums with mostly young people being the oldest candidate in the field.
On the Republican side we will this week witness the nomination of a narcissistic buffoon reality TV star and self declared billionaire who never was anywhere near government or political office. He succeeded with xenophobic policies like building a wall and Mexico paying for it, banning all Muslims from the US and registering the ones already there and the slogan “Making America great again”.
However both surprisingly successful candidates tapped into a deep widespread anger and frustration about an American reality after almost 40 years of neo-liberal ideology ruling the country. The foremost US intellectual and activist Noam Chomsky, who in his own words is old enough to remember the Great Depression has never seen so many people so angry. He sees two alternatives for these left behind, frustrated angry people of either turning to progressive policy solutions of the “Left” or to seductive propaganda slogans of the “Right” and again Fascism. The later is a very scary prospect after the experience of the last century, which unfortunately too many have forgotten.
Britain and Europe
This headline we never stopped using during the decades of Britain’s membership in the European Union (EU) really says it all. The British always went to Europe when they crossed the Channel while the French, Dutch and Germans never left it when they went the other way.
The most hilariously accurate depiction of the British government’s attitude towards the EU stems already from the eighties’ sitcom “Yes Minister“.
I do not want to argue about the economic merits of the “Remain” or “Leave” campaigns. I do not dispute the many shortcomings of the EU edifice where the Neoliberals have also taken over for the benefit of the big corporations. Just last week a BBC headline reads “Ex-European Commission head Barroso under fire over Goldman Sachs job” covering the usual revolving door scenario between top politicians and big business.
However the EU won the Nobel Peace Price a couple of years back for a very good reason keeping the peace between European nations for over 70 years unprecedented in history.
Now in the UK a majority instead of seeing some rational way out of their predicament under Neoliberalism have in their anger and frustration also fallen for the lies of the demagogues and the slogans like “Independence Day” to give the elites the fingers and shooting themselves in the foot. We must not call the 52% majority racists but the xenophobic undertones are unmistakable. Just look at the Brexiters’ new best friends on the nationalistic far right all over Europe. Chomsky’s worst case scenario seems to come true in Europe as well.
Refugees, Middle East, Terrorism
The European nations are struggling with the arrival of millions of refugees from Africa and the Middle East. They don’t seem to make the connection between this crisis and their own actions in those regions like bombing the shit out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and others for years and years. Why are the Europeans surprised by the tsunami they caused. The mostly Muslim new arrivals of course lead to an ever more xenophobic reaction by the people struggling economically fearing competition for jobs and resources. These fears are nurtured and exploited by the far “Right”.
To top it all off the world is now witnessing more and more terrorist attacks from Florida to France from Turkey to the rest of the Middle East.
These attacks are one thing. Even more worrying is the default knee-jerk reaction of the Western governments. At a time when not much more was known about the attacker in Nice than his name Mohamed born in Tunisia a French government minister declared that in reaction they would step up the bombing of Syria and Libya. As no evidence of religious fervour or political radicalisation was found it was claimed that it must have happened very quickly. May be it happened on the run-up to the attack when the truck picked up speed before hitting the crowds. Almost a week later we read in the paper that prosecutors admit that for the moment there is no evidence of ideological motivation.
But the damage is done and the bombing will all but guarantee rather more than less terrorist attacks to come.
The fear of terrorism now permeates many aspect of our lives.
I am planning a trip to Europe and from one agent was offered reasonable airfares with Turkish Airlines, which he tried to sell me as the best European airline of 2015 with an excellent lounge at Istanbul. I declined saying that I would not go near it as I would think that any terrorist would have the repressive Turkish regime on top of their to-do-list. A week later the attack on Istanbul airport happened and now the attempted coup. The travel agent is not dismissive of my concerns anymore.
Since the Climate Summit last year in Paris month by month all previous heat records have been broken. This was not unexpected for anyone who takes climate science and science in general seriously. The crazy thing is that nobody who should be dealing with the crisis like our governments seems to take it seriously and start doing something about it. There are either the ‘science sceptics don’t trust experts’ brigade. Or the ‘we don’t want to face the facts and stuff the future generations’ cynics.
Either way nothing is happening on the climate front other than vague promises of future technologies and the magical invisible hand of the market to fix the problem. Some still have the unshakable believe that with our superior brain we will find a solution to the problem just created by that very same brain.
Among all this I got the news that my very first grandchild is on the way. It will be born into this crazy world. Still I am over the moon.
The world gone mad or is it just me ?