Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Prof. Samuel Huntington wrote one of the most (alas) prophetic books of the last century:  The Clash of Civilizations. This brilliant projection into the looking-glass suggested the difficult reconfiguration of the familiar world order.  His premonition that "cultural" communities were going to replace former post- Cold War blocs has been confirmed by facts, for all to see. Maybe he did not foresee to what extent those agonizing blocs were also going to fray themselves from the inside, adding  home-grown existential fatigue to the external hybrids that are laying siege.

America's benevolent hegemony (Francis Fukuyama) is no longer.  Yesterday's "grand idea" is now downgraded to a "country", like any other almost, but becoming less desirable by the hour. Its attractive drive has been neutralized by an indigenous right-wing coup, that favors a self-centered, dystopian and basically pessimistic algorithm.  Places other than the US do not fare much better, if the rise of neo- Colbertism and of a nefarious populism is taken into consideration. Indeed, places, countries, no-man's lands, institutions, which were deemed "flood free" are now at the mercy of rising waters. America is no longer at the crossroads, as Francis Fukuyama suggested. It is in free-fall since the 2016 takeover.  Europe and the Middle East do not fare better but are mere nuisances. They follow "band aid" policies, which hide, delay and seldom solve. Europe is no longer a project, it is a repair shop. The Bandung spirit was swapped in favor of the short-term interests of ersatz dictators.  Butchery by proxy, often done in the name of "the One who has 99 names," spreads from Manila to Khartoum. Hence the threat is two-fold, on one hand, tension resulting from painful reconfigurations, on the other, insecurity because of the rift of national consensus.

If the West has lost a higher purpose, the former G77 has lost its cohesion and its claim for a higher "reboot". In between, the Chinese and the Russians follow a strict path of cultural (and strategic) recuperation, which appeals in the West to the Steve Bannon (Le philosophe ringard ) strand of thought. He is able to infiltrate and corrupt thought and means of many who, posing as disenchanted elites, never got over the Obama years, accused of having waged a war against the Commandments of white Western thought. Bannon is no Sartre or Marcuse. Nor is he a charlatan. He remains an American "salesman", unloved but driven. He is indifferent to the "pursuit of happiness" and chooses a place where he does not have to compete with the allure of comity. He respects everything about pluralism other than its uses (paraphrasing Amor Towles.)

Great events lead often to major contributions in the world of creativity. They echo, correct, lament, confirm the strength of the anti-cyclones. Today the shock between negatives does not warrant an easy peak in macro creativity. No Tolstoy or Victor Hugo  appears who could suggest a codex that might arrive at a reckoning of sorts. Maybe painters like Richter and Basquiat come close to understanding the current zero-sum game. No Spielberg will touch the competing requiems of the current days.

The Arabian face-lift dislodged the "spring." The Tour de France totally marginalized the EU makings in Brussels. Boris Johnson puts on his make-up for his Mad Jester entree on the world stage...  Is that where we have ended up?

Still numerous books are published, the French don't have enough cafes to seat their competing philosophes,  the airport-like craze for neurotic architectural reference, dear to Arab and other high-fliers (good for the Jean Nouvel ateliers) flourishes. The new soulless Manhattan Hudson Yards made sur mesure for the rich and for Asian shoppers are bringing China's "new look" to the neighborhood. One used to say:  "This will pass ". Will it? The future shouldn't belong to the handbag.

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