Monday, July 25, 2016

Welcome to the Age of Chaos. No, Sorry, There's No Going Back.



People mention it all the time even if they can't quite put their finger on it. Something's up. Definitely. Stuff is going wrong in every direction. Too much change. Too fast. Can't keep up. Why?

Donald Trump, Brexit, the Nice massacre, ISIS, Recep Erdogan, the steady decline of liberal democracy making way for the era of the oligarchs. Guess what - it's all connected. It is the face of the Age of Chaos and it is well and truly upon us.

I came to this realization from a number of online courses I took these past few years on subjects such as global food security, climate change and warfare in the 21st century. It wasn't quite Road Warrior-grade dystopia. Not quite. Then again.

Last week The Globe's Mark MacKinnon captured the essence of our new reality in an essay, "It's All Connected." It's an important piece and I urge you to read it. A brief sampling:


A “period of instability” is upon us, historian Margaret MacMillan told me this week, one that has parallels to the pre-war periods of the 20th century that she’s written acclaimed books about.


...Those cheering Brexit in the U.K., and welcoming a state of emergency in Turkey, were the ships that were supposed to be lifted by the rising tide of globalization, a promise that proved cruelly incorrect. They are now finding satisfaction in defeating their ruling classes, the people who believed those countries, and the world, were theirs to rule.

It’s the same live wire that connects an Islamic State-inspired attack in Europe to a racially motivated shooting rampage in the U.S. The perpetrators are – almost always – those who felt they have very little left to lose in their lives. The cause they choose is almost a footnote to their act of anarchy.


...Our societies are fracturing into tribes. In the U.K., it’s Leavers versus Remainers. In Turkey, the failed coup has cleaved society into Erdoganites and Gulenists (after the movement accused of supporting the failed putsch). Almost everywhere, lines are being drawn between immigrants and the native-born. Black and white. Us and them.

And the tribes are turning on one another.



...What was most shocking about the recent spate of headline-seizing events – and deeply unsettling when you consider them as a chain – was how no one seemed to have seen any of it coming.

The pollsters and pundits predicted Britain would vote, by a comfortable margin, to remain part of the EU. The attack in Nice succeeded in part because many French police were given the Bastille Day holiday off after being on high alert through the country’s month-long hosting of the European soccer championships. Turkey’s intelligence services only detected something might be amiss a few hours before tanks starting moving towards Istanbul’s bridges and airports.

And six months ago, nobody thought Donald Trump stood a chance of becoming president of the United States.



...Radicals thrive when governments can no longer meet the standard-of-living expectations of their citizens, Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, told me.

“The world seems to have reached a critical point in terms of creating a large enough pool of ‘losers’ – those who lost out on globalization, who lost out on technology, who lost out on free trade – to create the undercurrents of this instability.”

Meanwhile, the U.S., which Mr. Ulgen said lost much of its global authority during the twin disasters of the Iraq invasion and the 2008 financial crisis, is no longer willing or able to play the role of global policeman. From afar – as street violence escalates and Mr. Trump is crowned the Republic Party’s candidate for the White House – American-style capitalism and democracy no longer looks like a model worth pursuing.

In other words, the old world order has come unglued. Globalization led and regulated by the U.S. is now considered a failure. People around the world are seeking the safety of their tribes.


Welcome to the Age of Chaos. It's your new "normal."

UPDATE:

Chris Hedges writes on a similar theme today.



...Europe, especially EU countries on the fringes of the union, is devolving into proto-fascism. The Hungarian strongman Prime Minister Viktor Orban has destroyed his country’s democracy. Neofascist groups are gaining strength in France, the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Greece.

These movements are rabidly xenophobic, racist, Islamophobic and homophobic, and they demonize immigrants and brand internal dissent as treason. When they take control they rely on ruthless internal security and surveillance systems—Poland has established 11 intelligence agencies—to crush dissent. They seek their identity in a terrifying new nationalism, often, as in Poland, coupled with a right-wing Catholicism. They preach hatred of the outsider and glorification of obedient and “true” patriots. This lurch to the right will be augmented in Poland later this year with the establishment of an armed militia of more than 30,000 whose loyalty, it seems certain, will be to the ruling party.

“If you are a Pole, you should be Catholic,” said Stasinski. “I’m not. So for some, I’m not a Pole.”



...“It’s the same right-wing populist melody as in the United States,” said Stasinski. “Isolationism becomes appealing. Maybe there is something rotten in human nature. Maybe we are selfish people who don’t care about the other. Maybe this story about how we are Christian and altruistic is rubbish.

“There is a fear that grows from ignorance,” he said. “These parties manufacture and strengthen this resentment against those they allege are privileged and the powerful, as well as the European Union. They say these forces can’t tell us what to do. They say the nation-state should organize societal living, not global institutions. They say things are out of control. They say there is no real democracy. This leads to the mental and physical militarization of the society. The demagogues promise security. You are safe with us. We care about you. We care about your family. Chauvinism defines public discourse. We are a proud people. We are a proud nation. We don’t accept that other nations can humiliate us. The government devoted a hundred million zlotys to create a special foundation to defend Poland’s good name.”


“There is no such thing as human nature,” Janicka said to me. “Human nature is culture. It is a product of education. When you construct an educational system and a public discourse where there is an almost total lack of critical, analytical thinking, where you refuse to strengthen individual human beings capable of autonomous judgment, human beings aware of their experiences and feelings, responsible for their deeds and relationship to the other, you destroy what is fundamental to an open society. It becomes exclusively about collective image, meaning collective narcissism. Liberal pluralism from this perspective is viewed as moral relativism or nihilism. There is a clash in Poland between the formal and legal frame of liberal democracy and the majority dominant culture.

6 comments:

Kirby Evans said...

What is always strange about such events is that a large portion of those who have lost out on the supposed benefits of globalization etc., seem to simply want to bring to power a different set rich elitists to rule in the interests of what is essentially the same group of billionaires just with a different name and face. People like Boris Johnson and Trump will follow the same kinds of Neo-liberal policies and people will wonder why nothing changed.

The Mound of Sound said...


Discontent is readily harnessed by populists who are quickest to recognize and seize the opportunity. Resentment is easily manipulated and channeled as people are swept up into movements. Later they usually find they were had, betrayed, but by that time it's too late.

Toby said...

For years, extreme traveler and columnist, Pepe Escobar, hasreferred to the United States as "the Empire of Chaos." Here's an example:

Words US 'thinkland' dare not speak


Lorne said...

As a retired English teacher, the current state of the world you outline here, Mound, is familiar to me through what we used to call dystopian literature. Like all good literature, those books extrapolated trends the writers had detected. Clearly, these times are a testament to their perspicacity.

The Mound of Sound said...

The military has a term, "force multiplier," used to identify qualities or other factors in a weapon or technique that may magnify its effectiveness on the battlefield. The idea is that 2 plus 1, when combined properly, can produce 5.

I worry how this era of chaos may impact the other challenges looming this century. I've made no secret of my intense concern with doing something, anything, everything possible to restore and reinforce social cohesion. Chaos and the reversion to tribalism plainly erodes cohesion, herding individuals into camps, turning one against the other. It's a despicable, even diabolical game that le Pen and Trump, Orban and Erdogan play at the expense of their own peoples.

Anonymous said...

Add Liz May to that list.
The UK seems to be going down hill really fast.

TB