Monday, November 2, 2015


The news is not just bad, it is worse than that, a repeat of the bad turning into worse.  Nothing is what it looks like.  This fall is a repository of frustrations and grievances. The sceptical observers have many reasons to lament and too few to rejoice.  One ends up being tempted to hide in some obscure Marienbad-type of spa and read Proust until exhaustion sets in...but the "ostrich way" is not "Swann's way".

Seen in and from America, most events or personalities "in the news" appear in denial or frankly grotesque.  The European refugee crisis is tragic. It is also dangerous. It is getting worse by the day and might well end up reversing the still fragile equilibrium in the EU. Preferring to ignore that there are no bad sheep in this advancing "diverse" human wave is naive.  The EU commission and the member states look pitiable.

While Syria risks running empty, the slaughter continues in prime time. The United States has lost its grip and the unwelcome are taking over from the amateurs. President Obama sticks to his mantra of "dumb wars" and allows himself to be reduced to an "invited" party. Washington has no coherent strategy for the Middle East. After having broken the region under President George W. Bush, it is unable to repair it under President Obama.

The US incursion in the Chinese blue seas looked more like some juvenile prank than a strategic confidence-building measure directed at the US allies in the region. President Xi Jinping is not a person to be deterred by such a timid approach.

The US secretary of state tours the "Stans" at the moment and will make sure that larger ambitions do not collide with short-term interests. So much for human rights (again), so close to the heart of this administration.

President Putin remains demonized while he actually acts rather rationally filling the gaps or taking advantage of opportunities where he sees them. The US is an obliging partner in this (provisory) reversal of influence.

The US presidential election campaigns are in full-swing. Republicans gather around the Christian pew while Mrs. Clinton tries to hide her liaisons dangereuses.  The hysteria of a right- wing fringe, who seem to have walked straight out of Salem, only ends up helping her where it counts, in the Electoral College.  Jeb Bush sulks. Trump entertains. Rubio tries to shed his baby face persona. Carson looks and sounds often quietly paranoid. Cruz is busy being pro-life, pro- God, pro-Texas boots, pro-noise.  I forgot the others who are drowning in the Iowa gravy. The Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision torpedoed the spirit of what the Founding Fathers in America had in mind. Elections are no longer fought, they are bought.

The President is mostly absent. I bet he is not reading Sun Tzu's Art of war.  One gets a vague sense of ennui in the country at large which might well become indifference. The captain is not on his post. The White House looks almost off-limits. Here, as is the case in Europe, the life-line between leaders and opinion looks close to the breaking point.

The West is becoming a beleaguered concept.  Its enlightenment values are under siege, from the mostly ultra right wings of parties and countries as well as from a disorderly, sloppy immigration quagmire. The German chancellor has it generally right, but in this case her brushstrokes painted too large.  It is one thing to support the refugees and to bring humanitarian order into the chaos.  It is another to choose to remain blind to the many moral, economic, and social transformational consequences which might lead to a future clash between secularism and an imported theocratic mindset. The wound in the Mediterranean needs to be cauterized indeed but not at the expense of the cause, which remains unattended for too long.

This is a bitter autumn.  In 2022 we hope to celebrate Queen Elisabeth II's platinum Jubilee, rightly so. I hope there will be enough time left before her carriage becomes a pumpkin (Halloween oblige).

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