Toxic Nationalism Or Natural Reaction?Politics / US Politics Dec 26, 2012 - 12:48 AM GMT
THE RENTACROWD LIBERALS SAY
In a recent 'Wall Street Journal' opinion piece, Robert Kaplan wrote: "Western elites believed that universal values are trumping the forces of reaction. They wax eloquent about the triumph of human rights, women's liberation, social media, financial markets, international and regional organizations and all the other forces that are breaking down boundaries separating humanity". He went on to say this is great for producing Me Tooism - but only for elites - on a global scale. Calling nationalism and national identity "regressive and exclusivist", Kaplan then sheds liberal tears for what happened to the hoped-for liberal western smartphone-enabled 'revolution' that Western journalists thought was happening in Cairo, Tunis, Benghazi and other Arab capitals nearly two years ago, at the start of 2011.
For Kaplan this was simply a problem of Westerners identifying with like-minded, educated, well-fed and employed "elites" and then mistaking these minuscule elites for the population at large. Soon, we can try comparing these two groups in society, comparing the elites with the "population at large", in countries such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland - and in Asia. Brushing aside the inevitable reaction to rampant liberalism as "sectarian and exclusivist" is only too easy for the rentacrowd liberals — and a sure way to miss out on the forces which are mightily and rapidly reshaping the future.
Defenders of an undefined "liberal market-oriented revolution", like Kaplan, now claim to be dismayed by Egypt and the Middle East offering a panorama of sectarianism and religious, ethnic and political divides. Forgettting this is a centuries-long process in the Arab world, but was pushed below the surface for a few decades by local dictators kept in place by Western democratic politicians using taxpayers' funds to shower the strongmen with weapons, the rentacrowd liberals now cry their alarm at Egypt's Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, the military and the Muslim Brotherhood all developing and extending their power structures. Facing them, as Kaplan and others, such as Hillary Clinton while Secretary of State deplored, their opponents have only their iPads, widgets and spontaneous street be-ins to protest against an Islamist and Nasserite, religious and nationalist ad hoc regime, which is emerging. Already in hock to the IMF, its economy failing faster every day and unable even to maintain natural gas exports to earn hard currency to stem the country's huge deficits, we can add.
FREEDOM'S JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE
When the Western-controlled, financed and armed dictators fell, and will fall elsewhere in the Arab world - even if this pops up oil prices for a while - the first reaction in the liberated countries has unleashed not only the quest for individual identity but, a lot more important for the outside world, the freedom to identify with national, community, religious and blood-based solidarity groups. Hosni Mubarak may have been on first name terms with a host of bagmen and swagmen from the West, from Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi to Angela Merkel and Barack Obama, but for the Cairo Arab street these were all parasitic foreigners feeding off the nation. The religious or ethnic appartenance of the foreign parasites came in lower, on the Arab street dislike scale. That is one signal lesson of the Arab Spring.
Only dimly perceived at this time, but powerfully rising, the same or a similar process is now operating in Asia. For Western liberals this is "troubling and regressive" nationalism, the same rejection of the same one size fits all Neoliberal laisser-faire globalized economy, that the Arab street also had forced down its throat - and spat out the poison. Since 2008, at the latest, the claim that Neoliberal mindwarp is the one way ticket to economic paradise can only provoke a scornful laugh.
Based on rampant consumerism, inequality and injustice, and nothing else, the fast emerging alternative of nationalism and common identity seems young and vibrant to Arab and Asian masses, the same way it seemed to Westerners in the 19th and 20th centuries. To be sure, we know what nationalism-plus-liberal economic laisser faire produced in the 1930s: the Great Depression and war. But this is the Western model. Nationalism has no need for liberal laisser faire, it is not take one, and get the other one thrown in free. Things do not have to repeat the way they did when the West ruled, and thought it owned, the world.
Rather slowly, Western media is waking up to what is happening in Asia. The continent is in the midst of a feverish arms race, featuring the purchase or development of every possible advanced weapons system, including nuclear, but also including submarines, aircraft carriers, warships, the latest fighter jets and ballistic missiles. China, having consolidated its land borders in a process that has taken well over 150 years and first needed the Marxist-based foundation of a single national unified state, is projecting its air, sea and missile power into what it regards as the "blue national waters" of the South China and East China seas, outfacing Japan.
Japanese nationalism, but for different reasons, is also rising rapidly. Slipping out of its theoretically or formally "pacifistic" consitutional shell, Japan has rediscovered nationalism as a default option. It firstly needed 20 years of Neoliberal No Alternative muddle through decline, and rotting of the economy, but it arrived at this default solution. The Japanese navy now boasts roughly four times as many major warships as Britain's Royal Navy. Other regional countries, all of them countries supposedly "dedicated to market economy growth", and nothing else, are moving the same way. Starting with nuclear-armed India and its massive weapons programmes, countries as far flung as both Koreas, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore have all embarked on nation-defending arms development. Only fools, and wistful rentacrowd Western liberals can for a moment pretend that Asia is living in a post-national market-only age.
LOCAL SCALE NATIONALISM
The process can downsize, with dire results as we are now witnessing, and have been witnessing in Syria for nearly 2 years. The fundamental dispute is not about Islam, ideology or moral philosophy - and has nothing to do with the diktat of liberal economics which hands over 95% of the wealth of a country to 1% of its population, blows up its banking system in a deluge of debt and fiat money, and proclaims Austerity For Ever for 65% of the population. The struggle is more basic, much more human, and entirely historical. The fighting is about who gets to control what space on the map. In Syria the Alawites, Sunnis and Kurds are in a fierce territorial contest over power and territory as much as anything which concerns ideas. Amongst this, Bashr el Assad is merely the leading and nastiest warlord among many.
Letting nations fall apart because "the market" says there is no alternative and "we" dont need nations any more is a dangerous game - and it can come home to roost with a real vengeance. Nationalism is alive and thriving across the Arab world and Asia, and it is idiotic to cry crocodile tears about this turning away attention from the supposedly heroic task of creating "the squeaky clean economy".
Backtracking to the 1990s and the Defeat of Communism, also known as the collapse of the Russian-dominated and financed Soviet Union, we cannot be surprised that - inside Russia - Vladimir Putin's nationalism is a large factor in his high popularity. His nationalism is geographical determinism, to him even if it is "neo-imperialism" to Westerners: Putin intends recreating buffer states in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, as in the old Soviet Union. The basic reasons for this feature the age old paranoia of Russia being easily invaded across its flat, tank-friendly plains and low mountain ranges, lik the Urals which provide little resistance to invaders.
Western elites and their faithful servants and scribes, the rentacrowd liberal thinkpiece writers, hope that if somehow free elections happened in Russia, Putin might be replaced and his foreign policy might change. A new and weak central power in Russia elected on a hairsbreadth 51/49 vote, no doubt "dedicated to the liberal economy", would wring its hands in anguish as nationalism morphed into anti-Muslim race riots, skinhead anarchism and neo-Nazi "post Gothics" with rings in their noses and a broken bottle in their hands. The Western liberal No Alternative model, what.
The European Union has at one and the same time a disastrous record of neoliberal pseudo "freedom" for banksters and fraudsters, thieves and charlatans, and attempts to squash or eradicate nationalism "because of Nazi Germany and the 1930s Dpression". Deliberately less-covered by the smug and self-censoring Western media, the Union is weakening every day as a surfeit of Neoliberalism rammed down the throats of 500 million people has produced exactly what it should produce: outright rejection. The resurgence of nationalism and the quest for communal identity - which for rentacrowd liberals is the same thing as a resurgence of extremism - is operating now, today, in countries as diverse as Hungary, Scotland, Finland, Belgium, Spain, Ukraine and Greece. True to its liberal-bent and support for fake liberal causes like the great global warming scam, the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee awarded this year's prize to the European Union because the Union "is making a statement" against this (nationalistic) trend. Norway, of course, has refused to join the EU because each attempt to do so by its liberal-minded political and corporate rulers is flatly rejected by voters. For as long as democracy lasts, of course. Liberals pretend they are deomcratic, but despise democracy.
BACKTRACK TO THE REAL WORLD
Fascism and Nazism, which we can call hyper national movements that were produced by liberal economic fads and foibles first destroying the economy, are unlikely to reappear in Europe at least, but the age "federal convergence" in Europe is finished. The basic reason is that "market diktat" is a poison that ruins the economy, and ruins any "humanitarian quest" like building great federations of well-fed, well-housed, employed and educated, satisfied nations - which the liberal economy cannot do.
Letting things rot - which is exactly what "laisser faire" means - is the sure an certain opening of Pandora's Box or jar, with guaranteed bad surprises for the liberals. These only become bad for everybody when things are allowed - or forced - to go on rotting. The very founders of laisser-faire, Francois Quesnay and his well-known young acolyte Adam Smith found out all about the ultimate and final stage of Liberalism - the French revolution of 1789, in the first 6 months of which about 25 000 persons were guillotined in public, only in Paris. Step aside, Bashr el Assad!
Doing nothing is a great doctrine for the lazyminded and those who are already well off or wealthy, but is not the answer for us in the real world. The supposed "epic battle" between total human and social integration in a unified civil society basedd on market liberalism, and separation of society into more natural and autonomous self-regulating parts - called "exclusion, racism, religious extremism" by the rentacrowd liberals - is a battle that has already been lost. The fake call of The Great Market is of no interest to the vast mass of human beings, even less so than the latest gadget iPhone or hamburger topping. The great mistake of Western elites, for at least the last 25 years has been to imagine they have a Magic Solution, in the shape of a Magic Economy based on the ramblings of quacks and charlatans dating back more than 220 years.
In the current and unfolding, unwinding scene we must expect chaos. Weak democracies will replace collapsing dictatorships and autocracies - but the collapse of The Great Market which was always virtual and never existed - is the real gamechanger for the Western elites and their anxious, servile scribes and rentacrowd intellectuals.
By Andrew McKillop
Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights
Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012
Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.
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