Friday, October 9, 2015

The Great Devolution

The Peace of Westphalia (1648) that ended the Thirty Years’ War, inaugurated the modern European nation state system and emerged the era of sovereign states. Not only did the Westphalian system bring relative peace after the chaos of the century preceding it, but the treaty has become the foundation of the modern international system and relations. The Peace of Westphalia has several key principles, which explains its importance and impact on the world today. These are the principle of sovereignty of states, the principle of equality between them and the principle of non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of another state.

DDGD – October 9, 2015

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Editorial Comment

I have been struggling for a while with what to call this period we are currently going through as “a global community of nations”. Is it a second Cold War -- Cold War II: Return of the Improbable & Unnecessary? Is it a new Great Game (now with more graphic violence and gratuitous mass killing)? Is it the prelude to the emergence of a New Westphalian Era (because we really didn’t have enough megalomaniacs the first time around)?

But none of these epithets seem to capture the spirit of the age, an age in which an order that was much “official” and “formalized,” no matter how tentatively,”  than anything we have ever had before, is collapsing long before it fulfilled any of its promises, especially those related to democracy, justice, accountability, and the responsibility to protect civilians from all harm, natural, and man-made. It was at this stage that the term first produced by the American science fiction author, Alexander Jablokov, in his most famous novel, Nimbus (1995), the Devolution Wars, came to mind. Are we going through the era of Great Devolution?

Though my understanding of current developments lead to think of them more as a restructuring process, mostly unguided and, at times, ill-guided, subject to certain objective laws that governs general population dynamics, and the interactions between distinct population groups, be they defined nationally, linguistically, religiously or socioeconomically, I think the term Devolution is far more appealing, and captures enough of the spirit of the age to warrant consideration.

So, welcome to the Great Devolution people, the era where, despite the obviously flawed nature of all our schemes, there will always be enough conspiracy theories and theorists, and enough ideological filths, filth-peddlers, and filters around to keep us all guessing about the “truth” and fighting over our guesses for decades, perhaps even centuries, to come. Come to think of it, perhaps, it should be called The Age of the Great De-Enlightenment. The New Dark Ages – now with far more darkness not so carefully camouflaged under the accumulating pretenses of a know-it-all mentality.

Articles & Commentary

Some think that the Russian move in Syria came as a result of an Iranian suggestion carried by General Qassem Soleimani. Others think that it’s Bashar Al-Assad who turned to Russia in order to balance growing Iranian influence over his regime. Personally, I still hold to the notion that the move came as a result of a Russian initiative which Iran had to accommodate, if they wanted to save Assad and their interests in the region, especially Lebanon, and which Assad, following a pattern of previous overtures, was made to believe was his so he can play along for now, sealing his own and that of his country in the process.

The argument, I am sure, will continue to a while. In the meantime, Russians fall back on old tactics, four of their missiles fall in Iran missing their targets by hundreds of kilometers, and ground operations by Assad loyalists face some setbacks when several tanks and artillery pieces were destroyed in Al-Ghab plain in Hama. On social media, some activists billed this untoward development as an appropriate birthday gift for Putin. He celebrated his birthday on October 7th.

Quote of the Day

"As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: You liberate a city by destroying it. Words are used to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests."
Gore Vidal, Imperial America, 2004

This is a wise observation. The problem with it is that people often apply it to America and Europe, as Gore Vidal himself did, while, in fact, it is far more applicable in connection with autocratic states and societies, where decadence governs all aspects of life with no possibility of correction. Even art gets corrupted, and that is quite the death knell if there ever was one. Wisdom is wise only when it is used objectively and not filtered through our ideological visors; otherwise it is propaganda, a piece of intellectual decadence like any other. Imperialism is built into the fabric of every state, small or large, weak or strong, in fact, it is built into each of us, it’s in our DNA, it’s about power, its misuse and misappropriation. How to manage the tendency to abuse power deeply embedded in us, and in each institution we create? Now, that’s the question we need to answer.


The No-Fly Zone: comments, statements and policies that just make no sense (i.e. they don’t fly)

Well, perhaps, but in exchange for what exactly? What is the U.S. is still in a position to offer to Putin, in Syria or elsewhere, in order to get him to cooperate? Is it something that Syrians can do without? Does the U.S. have a plan on how to get Syrians from all different backgrounds on board with the price, if it involves them? How will that impact Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others? We need these questions answered, or at least to start being seriously considered by our current political leaders. That’s how a real policy can emerge. Everything else is nothing more than sloganeering.

I am not against thinking outside the box, but there is a big difference between thinking outside the box and thinking outside the confines of dictates of reason, ethics and decency, just as there is a big difference between raising awareness in regard to a certain phenomenon, and exploiting it for quick gain. Has the artist organized a photoshoot using migrants as the stars, allowing them to tell their stories and showcase their talents, thus, mixing fashion art and humanism, things would have been much different. The show would have still been controversial for some, for cultural and religious reasons, but it would have received broad support as well for giving some migrants a voice, a face, and perhaps even a path to career.


Video(s) of the Day

FSA rebels destroy a Russian tank. Reports from the ground suggest that rebels destroyed over 20 tanks, and captured 4. But, in private communication, the number was put at “several” tanks and destroyed and 1 tank captured.  

Artistic Delirium

"Barrel Bombs" by Ammar Abdulhamid from "Reflections on Liberty and Revolution Series - a digital deconstruction of Delacroix's famous Oeuvre "Liberty leading the people."


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