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Flutuando

02.12.12

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“I can hear the cracking of the ice,”

30.11.12

 

Every country has its own perspective on the second world war. This is not surprising when experiences and memories are so different. For Americans, the war started in December 1941; for Russians, it began in June that year. Most Europeans believe it commenced in Poland in September 1939. But for the Chinese it started in 1937, with the Sino-Japanese war, and many in Spain are still convinced that it began in 1936 with General Franco’s nationalist rising to overthrow the Republic. Some historians extend the conflict further, arguing that it lasted from 1914 to 1945, or even from the Russian Revolution in 1917 until the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989.

(...)

The memory of the second world war hangs over Europe, an inescapable and irresistible point of reference. Historical parallels are usually misleading and dangerous. The threat of economic collapse now is not the same as the threat of Nazism and war. But the current crisis still poses a threat to parliamentary democracy in Europe. It may awaken the nationalist monsters which the European ideal had tried to consign to history.

(...)

We again face the danger of a world depression and we are beginning to see mass unemployment in some countries, especially in southern Europe (see left). Last year, Giles Paxman, the British ambassador in Madrid, pointed out how remarkable it was that despite the terrifying levels of youth unemployment in Spain, there had been an astonishingly low level of social disorder. The demonstrations of the “Indignados,” the young Spaniards who have taken to the streets to protest against austerity measures and unemployment, have been passionate but not violent. His theory is that the memory of the horrors of the Spanish civil war is acting like a nuclear threat in the background. He may well be right. Greece also suffered from a civil war, and although there have been a considerable amount of violent protests in Athens, folk memory is likely to hold the country back from outright conflict.

Surprisingly little has been said in the newspapers about one of the main weights on the Greek national budget: the totally disproportionate spending on their armed forces, swollen by the bogeyman figure of Turkey. One foreign minister revealed in private earlier this year that the Greek armed forces have bought so many Leopard tanks that they can hardly fit them all in along the strip of frontier facing Turkey. The Greek government must be afraid of cutting the defence budget back as much as is needed through fear of another coup. In fact, according to the editor-in-chief of Politiken in Denmark, a senior Greek official privately warned that their army is ready to take over at any moment,

(...)

The euro crisis has been a train crash in very slow motion, accompanied by several years of political and economic denial. The ideology of European unity has been such an article of faith that it has prevented its political establishment from understanding the harsh reality of a wider world. Those arguing for a relaxation of austerity, such as the new French government, are trying to wish into being their ideal international order. One of Hollande’s ministers, Arnaud Montebourg, even calls for “de-globalisation,” as if clocks can be turned back, with tariff barriers reintroduced. Globalisation and the internet go hand in hand.

The left in France dreams of a world in which the bond markets no longer exist to punish over-spending. This defiance of cause and effect is slightly reminiscent of that bankrupt France after the Liberation in 1944 when the Parisian intelligentsia convinced themselves that progressive ideas would triumph over the “filthy money” of the capitalist system. And that in turn was a curious echo of the Grandmaison doctrine on the eve of the first world war, which stated that French élan in a bayonet charge could somehow overcome heavy artillery.

(...)

Just because we in the west have enjoyed a rising standard of living over several centuries, we are deluding ourselves if we try to believe that has somehow become an inalienable human right. Christine Lagarde’s controversial interview earlier this year, in which she said she had more sympathy with sub-Saharan Africa and which caused such fury in Greece, was probably also a veiled warning that parts of Europe may soon face conditions akin to those of the third world. Europe is also much more vulnerable to what one might call the moral crisis of capitalism. That sense of entitlement, of materialistic human rights in social security that has grown over the years, has produced an angry disbelief at any suggestion that this cannot continue and that government spending needs to be cut. At the same time, European populations are reacting against another integral part of the change. In the past, capitalism has always been able to justify its inherent inequalities on the grounds that, however wide the gap, at least the poor were slightly better off. That is patently no longer the case.

(...)

Perhaps the only consolation is that we are living in an ideological vacuum. Europe is not torn between the Manichaean false alternatives of Stalinism and Nazism as it was in the 1930s. But both socialism and now capitalism also appear to have failed. Socialism because it depends on state spending and now all states have to cut back. And capitalism is in crisis, partly because of the self-destructive volatility which Marx identified, but also because the poor are getting poorer for the first time, and thus do not have the means to spend to create growth. Capitalism has also entered a downward cycle because incestuously corrupt dealing in financial centres is now alienating the very mass of the middle class on whom stock markets depend. Some claim that capitalism always manages to reinvent itself, but this time it looks unlikely.


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"This mess we're in"

24.06.12

 

In the spring of 1932, in Compton, California, an unemployed World War I veteran walked out to the farms that still ringed Los Angeles. He offered his labor in return for a sack of vegetables, and that evening he returned with more than his family needed. The next day a neighbor went out with him to the fields. Within two months 500 families were members of the Unemployed Cooperative Relief Organization (UCRO).

That group became one of 45 units in an organization that served the needs of some 150,000 people.

It operated a large warehouse, a distribution center, a gas and service station, a refrigeration facility, a sewing shop, a shoe shop, even medical services, all on cooperative principles. Members were expected to work two days a week, and benefits were allocated according to need. A member with a wife and two kids got four times as much food as someone living alone. The organization was run democratically, and social support was as important as material support. Members helped one another resist evictions; sometimes they moved a family back in after a landlord had put them out. Unemployed utility workers turned on gas and electricity for families that had been cut off.

Conventional histories present the Depression as a story of the corporate market, foiled by its own internal flaws, versus the federal government, either savvy mechanic or misguided klutz, depending on your view.The government ascended, in the form of the New Deal; and so was born the polarity of our politics—and the range of our economic possibilities—ever since.

Yet there was another story too. It embodied the trusty American virtues of initiative, responsibility, and self-help, but in a way that was grounded in community and genuine economy. This other story played out all over the U.S., for a brief but suggestive moment in the early 1930s.

(...)

To say UXA and the other cooperative economies faced challenges is to put it mildly. They were going against the grain of an entire culture. Anti-communist “Red Squads” harassed them, while radicals complained they were too practical and not sufficiently committed to systemic change.

But the main thing that killed the co-ops was the Works Progress Administration and its cash jobs. Those WPA jobs were desperately needed. But someof them were make-work, while the co-op work was genuinely productive.

The co-ops pleaded with FDR's Administration to include them in the WPA. Local governments were helping with gasoline and oil. But the New Dealers weren't interested, and the co-ops melted away. For years they were period pieces, like soup lines and Okies.

Or so it seemed.

Today, the signs of financial and ecological collapse are mounting. We are strung out on foreign debt and foreign oil, and riding real estate inflation that won't last forever. Add the impendingc ollapse of the natural life support system, and the '30s could seem benign by comparison.

In this setting, the economics of self-help are increasingly relevant. The possibility of creating such an economy, though, might seem remote. In the 1930s, there still were farms on the outskirts of cities—family operations that could make barter deals on the spot. Factories were nearby too. Products were simple and made to last, and so could be scavenged and repaired.

(...)

Today's best ideas are often to be found among those rejected in the past. “We are not going back to barter, ”Carl Rhodehamel of UXA once said. “We are going forward into barter. We are feeling our way along, developing a new science.”

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Safety first

09.02.12

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"The End of the Future"

06.10.11

 

 

"Robert Moses, the great builder of New York City in the 1950s and 1960s, or Oscar Niemeyer, the great architect of Brasilia, belong to a past when people still had concrete ideas about the future. Voters today prefer Victorian houses. Science fiction has collapsed as a literary genre. Men reached the moon in July 1969, and Woodstock began three weeks later. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this was when the hippies took over the country, and when the true cultural war over Progress was lost.

Today’s aged hippies no longer understand that there is a difference between the election of a black president and the creation of cheap energy; in their minds, the movement towards greater civil rights parallels general progress everywhere. Because of these ideological conflations and commitments, the 1960s Progressive Left cannot ask whether things actually might be getting worse. I wonder whether the endless fake cultural wars around identity politics are the main reason we have been able to ignore the tech slowdown for so long.
"

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"Something's knocking at the door" -Charles Bukowski

18.11.10

 

 

a great white light dawns across the
continent
as we fawn over our failed traditions,
often kill to preserve them
or sometimes kill just to kill.
it doesn't seem to matter: the answers dangle just
out of reach,
out of hand, out of mind.

the leaders of the past were insufficient,
the leaders of the present are unprepared.
we curl up tightly in our beds at night and wait.
it is a waiting without hope, more like
a prayer for unmerited grace.

it all looks more and more like the same old
movie.
the actors are different but the plot's the same:
senseless.

we should have known, watching our fathers.
we should have knwon, watching our mothers.
they did not know, they too were not prepared to
teach.
we were too naive to ignore their
counsel
and now we have embraced their
ignorance as our
own.
we are them, multiplied.
we are their unpaid debts.
we are bankrupt
in money and
in spirit

there are few exceptions, of course,
but these teeter on the
edge and will
at any moment
tumble down to join the rest
of us,
the raving, the battered, the blind and the sadly
corrupt.

a great white light dawns across the
continent,
the flowers open blindly in the stinking wind,
as grotesque and ultimately
unlivable
our 21st century
struggles to be
born."

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"God created Arrakis to train the faithful."

31.08.10

 

Imagens de Kabul em 1970 e agora.

 

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Europa, acorda!

27.06.10


"I'm not being right-wing," she says. "The people who believe themselves to be on the left, and who defend the agents of Islam in the name of tolerance and culture, are being right-wing. Not just right-wing. Extreme right-wing. I don't understand how you can be so upset about the Christian right and just ignore the Islamic right. I'm talking about equality."

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A unica liberdade que te dão é a do bom senso. Que não é liberdade nenhuma.

01.05.10

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