Monday, December 5, 2016

Islam is the rock on which the liberal order broke?

I don't have time for a long post, but I wanted to ask this question (triggered by this article about "Global Democracy in Danger") and then maybe this will become a longer blog post.

Back in 1992, Fukuyama wrote his (much maligned, frequently misunderstood) book about the End of History and had this to say:

What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such.... That is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

People jumped on him for all sorts of reasons, but I don't remember any broad feeling that the Western liberal project had failed. Its most visible Western critics at that time tended to be postmarxists and postmodernists, whose entire existence (from their university appointments to every detail of their lives) was itself an appendage of Western liberal democracy and had no meaning outside of that system, and whose real-life ability to bring down Western liberalism appears insignificant (i.e., if and when it falls, it will not fall to these clowns).

More "real-life" opposition came from the "Confucian authoritarians" (or postmarxist fascists, or whatever you want to call them) in China (and in smaller but influential exemplars, like Singapore). But while these groups had power, they had no great legitimizing ideology. They are only winning as long as they provide more and more goods to more and more of their people. And even while they do so, their people are watching "Friends", picking up liberal memes and dreaming of making Shanghai "better than Manhattan". It is hard to say this was a coherent ideological opposition.

Internal opposition did come from people who rejected liberalism more deeply. But currents like Great Russian Fascism or illiberal Western ideologies (from the "almost inside the Overton Window" Pat Buchanan to Christian identity folks and a few hundred actual fascists) was always there ,but was also treated as a fringe affair. Triumphant liberal ideology had internal divisions, weaknesses (including the above-mentioned defection of many university trained intellectuals to postmodern/postcolonial/critical theory etc) and lacunae, but no serious competitor; The way of thinking that puts humanity, rationality, freedom and the individual at the center of the world and includes memes (not necessarily unique to it, not necessarily derived from first principles, but aggregating in a recognizable meme-complex) like legal equality, secularism, democracy and human rights, was so dominant it was taken for granted.  These were the legitimizing ideas that all modern states at least paid lip service to. Democratic socialism, by the way, is just another variant of this post-enlightenment meme complex; even Marxist socialism is a variant of the same (Marxist revolutionaries, for example, idealized the same memes of equality, liberty and rights, but claimed that mainstream liberal Democracy failed to match its ideals, was a sham, etc.).

The place where this whole meme-complex really hit a solid rock was in the Islamic world. It was not immediately apparent that this was so. Many Western post-enlightenment ideals were popular among the Westernized intellectuals of the postcolonial Muslim world. But the grip (and even the personal commitment) of these intellectuals was shallow. This was not immediately apparent to liberal contemporaries (and frequently, even to themselves; it is doubtful whether someone like Jinnah ever really understood the illiberal nature of his demand for Pakistan for example). The difference between Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals,whether in the third world or the first, could be seen as one of degree; i.e. non-Muslim intellectuals too had older loyalties and identities that belied their liberal ideals, but the difference of degree was always in the same direction, and it was significant enough that the quantitative difference can be seen as a qualitative difference; more on this some other day).

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lt Gen SK Sinha

From our regular contributor, Dr Hamid Hussain

Lieutenant General ® Srinivas Kumar Sinha (January 1926 – 17 November 2016)
Hamid Hussain



Lieutenant General ® Srinivas Kumar (S. K.) Sinha passed away on 17 November 2016.  He was member of a generation of Indian officers who joined Indian army during the Raj. He spent a long and successful army career and after retirement spent three decades writing about military affairs.

Monday, November 21, 2016

President Trump. The unknown unknowns..

First published at 3quarksdaily.com

Trump has been elected President. Having participated in a week-long social media freakout to deal with this shock (a fact I did not recognize about myself until a couple of days ago), I have some thoughts and I would like to put them out so that I can be enlightened by feedback. It is the only way to learn.

Very qualified people have written some good pieces already about the why and the how. I am posting links to them below, along with some random thoughts about the articles. They are not the whole story (what is?) but I think all these articles are must reads. My own comments are more like invitations to tell me off, or tell me more...

After these links and comments, I sum up my own thoughts and end with some questions.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Stephen Bannon Speaks..

Postscript: There is another Bannon profile in (of all places) The Hollywood Reporter that is worth a look. The man is serious. And he thinks he is Thomas Cromwell. Which is interesting, because some of you may remember that Cromwell was beheaded. By Henry the VIIIth, the king he so loyally served.

Buzzfeed has an article that consists of the verbatim remarks of Stephen Bannon at a Vatican conference in 2014. Since this was pre-Trump, these are not filtered for the presidential campaign (though some of them may still be filtered the way all ideologues filter their public pronouncements keeping "the cause" in view).

These remarks are interesting. That he is totally committed to a global war with Islam is no surprise. But I urge you to read the rest. And comment. Some of you will no doubt agree with his elite-bashing (and/or his Islam bashing), but there is a lot more in there. And he is now senior adviser to the US president. The worldview is definitely at odds with prevailing Western opinion, but is it "thick enough" and does it overlap enough with reality to stand on its own? and what happens if you try to put it into effect?

What do you think?

I think he is wrong on several simple matters of fact, not just on ideology (which i find wrong in any case). The notion of a historic Judeo-Christian West that has stood as one against the Islamic tide for centuries is just bunk. Judeo is a new apellation and he knows it. Christendom, yes, Judeo-Christian, certainly not. Which makes you think that he may have some nasty surprises up his sleeve for the Jews. But since he is focused on first smashing the Islamic threat, he will probably be good to Israel, for now. Those Jews who regard weak-minded liberal Western Jews as traitors (or at least, as softies) may be happy to embrace him. For now. Like Stalin did with Hitler, both parties can think "I am using him, for now, to become stronger". One party will of course turn out to be wrong. But all that is speculation. It may be that he is genuinely ignorant and really does think "Judeo-Christian civilization" has been bravely fighting Islam for 1400 years. We will see.. (Whatever his own inner beliefs, the Alt-Right he has promoted is not shy in its attitude towards Jews...if you check out the Alt-Right sites, you may find their obsession with ovens and trains less than reassuring).

His whole theory about the only right kind of capitalism being "Judeo-Christian" seems shaky to me as well (though in this case he may not know it; i.e. these may be his sincere beliefs) but I will let experts comment. In fact, the whole banks and crony capitalist issue I will leave to the better informed. I dont think that is the scary part.

The notion that "strong nations make good neighbors"is high grade, class A bullshit and he likely knows it, but who knows. He may not be that well informed. And his notion that Putin and the West can join hands in a grand White Christian alliance to first beat the shit out of Muslim barbarians is also bunk. Putin would much rather eat the Baltics, the Ukraine and maybe even Poland before he seriously starts any extermination campaign in the Stans.

China and Japan get no significant mention.

India gets approvingly cited for electing Modi, but in the greater scheme of things must surely prepare for Christianization if team Bannon wins the war (when push comes to shove, would you expect Bannon to stand with the Evangelicals or with Hindu nationalism? Do the math). Interin calculation is another matter. See Stalin and Hitler above. Some in India will no doubt see possibilities in the medium term. I don't because I think this is a flaky worldview that will damage the USA and the current system and not build anything better. India still needs the current system to grow in. Thats just my opinion.

Overall, the current world system is to be trashed. In the melee that follows, what civilizations have the coherence and the strength to fight it out. And who wins? is a less violent reform possible? Is HE a less violent reformer?
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I still hope (and even expect) that we will not go too far from the current (irredeemably corrupt?) system, but here you have it: the senior adviser to Donald Trump, President Elect. President Elect IN the current system.

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Chunks of his remarks pasted below. The original is at Buzzfeed. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

President Trump

How can you not say a few words :)

Some are just question (not rhetorical questions, I am genuinely curious about some of them)

1. Trump managed to convince rustbelt voters that they need to stick it to the system. They did.

2. But now that he will be President, what will his achievements be? Can he get more done than the existing establishment? it is conceivable, but it is not likely. These same voters may not back him next time around.

3. I am willing to buy some sort of Hayek-ian argument about what revives an economy, but Trump was not making that argument. In terms of economics, trade etc, what will he do that will revive the American rust-belt?

4. Which of the apocalyptic visions will come true? Will Russia get Ukraine and the Baltics? will Muslims in America get it worse than African-Americans? Will Trump nuke some country in the Middle East? and so on..

5. Trump has some instincts that are more humane than those of the Republican establishment. For example, he thinks poor people should not die on the streets and maybe they should get medicaid. But he will not be king. He will be president with the SAME Republican House and Senate as before, with a narrow electoral victory behind him. Why would he be able to somehow carry out a revolution? Isnt it more likely that he will mostly end up with the same corrupt, security-statist, police-prison-prosecutor based ripoff that the Republican half of the ruling elite have been practicing for years?

6. On the other hand, he WILL have some freedom to change things in foreign policy. Harder line against Muslims, almost certain. But will Russia get to expand its empire? What about China? India? Pakistan?

6. What lesson will the liberal elite learn from this? If any..


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Last picture dedicated to my millennial friends who thought Hillary is the Wall street candidate and at least if Donald wins, the rich will get a bit of their comeuppance :)

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"dark men in mien and movement, flashing in their mocking mirrors the obscure soul of the world, a darkness shining in brightness which brightness could not comprehend.” (James Joyce, Ulysses)

PostScript: Cathy Young on surviving the Trumpocalypse
The Reason also has a theory about the role of PC culture.

btw, I seriously believe ALL leftists and liberals will do well to stay away from left-liberal social media and journalism for one week. Things will get better for them (and for everyone else) :) Really, the mutually reinforcing freakout is ridiculous (especially since some of the "intellectual elite" assisted in bringing this about through their own "woke" bullcrap)

PPS: The PC culture post from reason (see above) has triggered some pushback. My response:

I dont think that this one thing (political correctness) caused her to lose. It was just one factor. But it WAS a factor. I only know of universities through my kids and from social media etc, but it does seem that the better liberal universities have limitations on free speech (including, but NOT limited to insults and smears) that seem to exceed what can be considered reasonable. Beyond any formal restrictions (which also exist) there is a definite social pressure to conform to ideologies that are self-evidently true to their inventors and fans (as all ideologies are) but that seem laughable to outsiders. And you are not supposed to laugh. This pressure not to laugh can be oppressive. Like triggered students themselves, other modern people also tend to make a big deal of such subtle and almost immaterial "oppressions". It is a two way street..
btw, If i was writiing this article I would not stress PC as such, but the relentless race-baiting ("White privilege" being its mildest form, "performativity of Whiteness" type "academic studies" being its apogee) and the mirror-image stylized (and frequently fake or tendentious) history and cultural studies that are taken for granted as the default truth (just like their mirror image "White man's burden" themes were taken for granted 150 years ago)....all this has made it easier for White racism to make a comeback among decent people (it never went away among the indecent ones). All of which is just one part of why Hillary lost.

btw, if you think i am completely off base, do read Lena Dunham. 

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Listen from 3-30 mark onwards (btw, I dont think Bernie could have won, but we will never know)