Wednesday, August 31, 2022

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV

Gorbachev was not unlike Sisyphos. He tried to roll the Russian boulder up the hill of democracy only for it to roll down.

He was a complex figure but was more able to alter appearance than reality. At the end he lost control of both. He was certainly aware of the Soviet Union's bankruptcy but might have underestimated the structural inertia of Russia, which remains for a large part in a permanent lockdown, whatever history's aberrations might recast at the top.

He was not helped by the Schadenfreude in the West. The Perestroika could have benefited from a larger measure of tact. Russia stands for a lot of things but it is never small. 


Monday, August 29, 2022

THE COMING WINTER OF DISCONTENT

EU leaders can be seen running, bothering, cajoling just about anyone who is willing to listen. The Commission preaches, the Council is stuck. If Ukraine doesn't lose, the EU does. Putin was able to achieve a larger, still unfolding consequence, the unstoppable disarray in the West, mostly in Europe. 

If future developments remain unclear, the Russian Federation might achieve a more ominous alternative for short-term gains in Ukraine--a structural weakening of Western Europe. The talk about NATO and Western awakening sounds hollow when the bills can no longer be paid. The approaching winter will downgrade resolve and cohesion. The energy Armageddon will certainly derail peoples' sympathies and give Putin some new weapon of mass destruction in the form of a medieval plague that will corrode heart and will. 

The US is yet again the only trustworthy force Ukraine can count on. The EU parades the Ukrainian flag in Brussels' main square, big deal. There is no Winston Churchill around, who predicted it all, even then. Russia's times of enlightenment  are short-lived. When they occur, they shouldn't be ignored. Neither should one lose a warranted sceptical appreciation regarding their sustainability.

There is some talk in the EU regarding the need for a Zeitenweide , mostly in military matters. All good and well but one knows too well that in the long term we are all dead. Europeans had better face the music. The coming months require social engineering, hard truths and biting living conditions. Governments still look unable to enter into an intelligent dialogue with their constituents. The talks around energy appear to happen in a black hole. Instead of considering an EU Marshall Plan, Europeans appear stuck in a repair shop. In Russia they burn gas for their pleasure. In Ukraine David humiliates Goliath, who will try to win the alternative war by destabilizing Europe. Let there be no mistake, worldwide opportunists rule.

Qatar's soccer folly will deprive Ukraine of its pole position in the world. The grit will hold, the fans will be duped and Putin might as well drop by. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

THE JOINT COMPRENSIVE PLAN OF ACTION REBORN?

The Trump administration killed the former 2015 nuclear deal with Iran for the simple reason that it was President Obama's achievement. The same happened with Asia, Cuba and was attempted on health care.

It looks as if a new deal might be in the making. The same partners (permanent members of the Security Council + Germany and the EU) appear to be close to arriving at an agreement with Iran. Teheran demands guarantees for the survival of a deal, in case there is a change in the US administration. 

Iran is a most unpleasant partner. It can therefore be expected for any agreement to be unpopular. Israel will be sceptic. The Republicans will be on their "isolationist" best. The Democrats will be divided and President Biden will have again a hard sell.

This important matter has also to be weighed on a different scale. The accumulation of flash points everywhere risks getting out of control. Accidental but predictable after-shocks--inflation, shortages, social unrest, i.a.-- can further destabilize a world order in shambles. One might like it or not, but the new plurality of players in the world requires that the established stockholders meet and talk, other than in Skype. Too many conflicts and distortions everywhere require an urgent hands-on approach. If the Iran deal comes true it might encourage the great powers to rediscover some merit in "issue compartment" preferably to "issue  metastasis," 

Of course the proof will be in the nuclear pudding but l'app├ętit vient en mangeant.


Monday, August 15, 2022

SALMAN RUSHDIE

The attemped murder of Salman Rusdie proves again the enduring strength of mass frustration. His book resulted in the Fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeiny. It is a rather  boring read. It is ironic to observe that all the criticism came from a creed that is mostly uninterested in any literature other than the obliged Koran. Furthermore, the now infamous Satanic Verses make for painful reading and do not ad or substract much regarding the prophet's general perception. The small additions are low in calories. Christ, Jefferson or Louis XVI  received their shares of Hineinintpretierung without creating bonfires.

Sometimes the generally controled mind of the ordinary Muslim appears to be deconnected from reality, unable to accept some enlightement. It hoards resentment. Even in the more advanced Muslim societies, made for CNN or soccer, there remains always a form of religious totalitarism. Any form of tolerance is linked to an ulterior motive. 

The Talibans are the extreme version of this mindset but their adherence to a mothballed set of rules is also shared by many, from Indonesia to Morocco. The disguise of a political/econnomic leadership, that wants to pass for "modern", should not hide perverse shortcomings regarding governance, human rights or distribution of wealth. Islam can be manupulated into a refuge for the overwhelming mass of alienated individuals. Their Friday prayers are spontaneous and not just a parenthesis for the "influencers" who follow the ritual and pocket the wordly goods.

Rushdie and a few others laid bare the inconveniences of this religious canon which was never able to adjust, correct or reinvent itself. Islam stands because it refuses any form of interpretation. It might disguise itself but it remains basically monolythic.

Believers are mostly genuine. The generosity shown during Ramadan is exemplary. The tabous remain, unfortunately. Sunnis and Shia stand in opposition like Catholics and Protestants before. It is time to realize that outdated theological arguments are out of place in the algoritm handbook of today. This does not come easy. Ulster shows how hard it is to battle prejudice.

Rushdie paid the price for defending, in other words, the pertinence of Foucault's pendulum. The Muslims should grieve less and remember more. They might read Amin Maalouf. After all Amazon still supplies where the bookshops close.

Rushdie will be back, with his irony intact...

Friday, August 5, 2022

VICTOR ORBAN THE TERRIBLE.....STILL IN THE EU ?

The Goulash King was in Texas. The prophet of MAGA Euro-style spoke in front of Trump addicts and served his dish of right wing B.S. He aired a confused creed wherein anti-semitism, ethno purification a la Gobineau and reactionary slurs prevailed.

The audience loved it. This clown is an embarassment for the European Union. There is no longer an excuse for letting this man have and eat his poisonous cake in the midst of Brussel's fine fleur of democracies. It is bad enough to let Poland get away (for now) with is LBGTQ free zones, because of the support it provides for Ukranian refugees. Letting Hungary free after repeated outrage is not acceptable. The Commission and the Council have the moral and political duty to take a stand. 

The EU must act quickly if it does not want to veer into yet another moral Munich mode. If it chooses to turn a blind eye to the actions of this new Miklos Horthy incarnate,  it might as well put its Brussels headquarters up for sale. Hungary was Hitler's lapdog. It looks as if Orban is seeking a new master, too. He had better be shown the EU exit, then go for some Trump/Putin dating site on the web.


DE STANDAARD OVER TERRASSEN IN BELGIE : VERDOVING > BELEVING

Inderdaad anders dan in Parijs of Italie bv. zijn de terrassen hier lelijk en gewoon smakeloos, bijeengetimmerd voor een steenweg esthetiek....

Thursday, August 4, 2022

NANCY PELOSI : " A MAD TEA PARTY"

The US House speaker is a character. She went to Taiwan over the objections of many. As could have been expected, China is livid. It is impossible to predict if its bite will match its bark.

The Unites States are bound by the Shanghai Communique wherein they adhere to the One-China policy. This commitment is vague enough to still allow for some form of ambiguity regarding Taiwan's future, under the umbrella of a peaceful resolution.

Since the Mao-Nixon historic meeting, China reinvented itself as a major player in world affairs. While Taiwan is an economic powerhouse, China's shadow looms large worldwide. Taipei is diplomatically isolated. Beijing does not tolerate any form of encroachment in what it considers to be its own. Hence the anger regarding Ms. Pelosi's rather modest stop-over. China can be very pragmatic, as long as its claims are secured but it is a difficult partner as soon as its resolve is questioned (Tibet, border dispute with India, the South China Sea, Hong Kong, the Diaoyutais).

This American-made Iron Lady knows all too well that her Taiwan stop-over will meet with some form of retaliation. Beijing might repeat the Quemoy scenario or go for a more hard line move. When Chinese lose face, hell can follow.

China starts to consider the United States as a deterent that is weakened. The "2 against 1" nightmare senario that Kissinger wanted to avoid at all cost is a reality now, after the Xi/Putin idyll this year.  On the other hand the personal and economic interplay between the Chinese on both sides of the Straits shouldn't be underestimated.

Ms. Pelosi bet that Beijing's anger would refrain from going too far in testing the pax americana in the Pacific. She is probably right and the coming Chinese pyrotechnics might be nothing but a very ominous show of force after all. Still, in a world on edge, it might be appropriate for the major powers to find a way to talk to each other again, in a better format than Skype.



Monday, August 1, 2022

TOMORROWLAND

Over three week-ends, Tomorrowland in Belgium brought together hundreds of thousands of people to share a frenzy in some overwhelming decors worthy of Star Wars.  Disc jockeys presided over waves of dancing or better, moving processed bodies. This "UN of Shakers" looked like a frenzy of flags and shaved armpits...the Woodstock survivors could not believe their eyes...and ears.

This costly extravaganza was without soul or merit, but the perfect organization, control, security and service were awesome. The event was chic-light, sect-like, an induced false feeling of belonging, to what? It was neither left- or right-oriented and appeared like a gigantic Euro or dollar rave.

The machine was formidable but in the end, it was nothing more than yet an other obituary for illusions gone. The coronation of the priest/disc jockey indicates how deep the fall is. This was no Coachella (where there is room for talent). It felt like a successful  post-transplant party, all wires, few scars, and a mild euphoria until the next edition. Even the bodies missed sex appeal. They looked displaced and maybe they were just that, a post-sex Generation X, desperately seeking the algorithm they lost on the way to the parking lot.