Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sticking to Fundamentals

In a recent conversation, someone said: “Now as for the international news, who can possibly make any sense of that?”

This morning I noted, once more, anguish in the media over weak GDP numbers in Europe, with Germany, France, and Italy all showing negative growth. Angela Merkel is blamed and quoted as saying something like: “How long can you keep on going if you spend more than you take in?” That stance of hers is labeled as “austerity”; austerity, in turn, is turning into a four-letter word. But what Merkel is saying makes pretty good sense to me.

My own typical response to such questions is always to look at fundamentals. The comfort to be gained from that is minimal. One can see the picture clearly, but as for “What can be done?” the answer is almost always “Virtually nothing.” And in large part that is because nobody actually wants to look at fundamentals (except perhaps Angela Merkel) or is willing to do anything about it. The phenomena in question are also produced by such huge collectives that “doing something” is largely impossible; even very large collectives, like the United States, lack the means—often because of internal conflicts.

My reaction to the Growth Tremors in Europe are presented briefly on LaMarotte (link). As for the international news—by which the speaker was addressing the ISIS phenomenon in Syria and Iraq and the tug-of-war in the Ukraine—a look at fundamentals once more produces clear but unsatisfying answers. Unsatisfying? Yes. They displease those operating under a delusion that something like Progress is the benevolent penumbra under which civilization is unfolding and that the United States is its leading superintendent.

I’ve yet to see my view of the ISIS problem echoed anywhere. It is that this attempt to establish a caliphate is just another no doubt passing event in a much broader cultural transformation of the Muslim world which would be going on even if Europe had never risen to world power and America had never been discovered. Thus it is an internal cultural battle, akin to a Reformation. A decadent Muslim world is in upheaval. The reason why we are so powerfully drawn to interfere with it is the coincidence that a major portion  of the (slowly disappearing) oil resources of the world are more or less controlled by Muslim countries. Therefore, under the guise of bringing Democracy to the heathen, we are trying to control developments in a region that is impelled by much deeper cultural forces to undergo a major change.

As for the Ukraine, it is simply a fact that Russia will never tolerate what is a fundamentally hostile culture—Western Capitalism—to take a firm footing on its very border—and a border largely populated on both sides by ethnic Russians. Russia’s reaction is quite fundamental. And Russia is large and strong enough—and Capitalism way too distracted—to produce a solution by appeals to abstract principles.

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