De omnibus dubitandum
9 Nov 2016
It’s been over two years since I last wrote here. Today, I feel I have no other choice but to write again. Call it therapy.
Many on social media proclaim 2016 to be the worst year ever. With the deaths of popular celebrities, a slim majority in the UK opting for economic suicide with Brexit, and now the election of Fuckface Von Clownstick as president of the USA, it seems hard to argue with that.
But I’m telling you, this is just the beginning. It will get worse.
Let’s look at the underlying current causing the Brexit vote in the UK and the Trump vote in the US. It’s an undercurrent that is active in many so-called civilised countries, and it has not reached its peak by far.
This undercurrent of fear and hatred will only prosper, as its legitimacy is seen to grow with these recent democratic outcomes in the UK and USA. Inevitably, we will see the election of more far-right parties to power.
Geert Wilders and his PVV will seize power in the Netherlands. Marine Le Pen’s Front National will win in France. Other European countries will see similar political shifts to the far right.
Aside from their obvious bigotry and regressive policies with regards to many personal freedoms we now take for granted, these parties have something else in common: they are fiercely anti-EU.
In France and the Netherlands and perhaps other EU countries, there will be battles about whether or not these countries should leave the EU. If even one of those countries succeeds and, despite the horrors Brexit is unleashing in the UK, chooses to leave the European Union, the entire European project will collapse.
In the wake of the catastrophic impact this will have on European economies, the far-right parties will continue to blame ‘the other’ for the problems they themselves have now aggravated, and the white working & middle classes will believe them thanks to the aid of vocal partisan media online and offline.
Hatred of minorities will fester and grow. Hate crimes will increase. There will be violence.
This will all be aggravated by the growing impact of climate change. The new right-wing powers in charge across the west are, on the whole, climate change sceptics. Rather than enforce the policies that might prevent the worst, there will be no significant action to fight climate change.
Extreme weather will become the norm. Food crops will be scarcer. Economies will suffer more. Societal pressures will increase further as people want to migrate to those increasingly scarce countries where the climate remains temperate.
As a result, more countries will close their borders. Isolationist policies will prevail as countries act in self-defence, hoard their food supplies, and refuse entry to outsiders.
As the economies of western countries implode, politicians will find any scapegoat they can. More fuel for the fires of hatred and bigotry. There’s a strong likelihood of countries turning towards tangible enemies in the form of other sovereign states, which will increase the chances of armed conflict.
Then, with the EU weakened beyond repair and NATO in no position to act (as the USA under Trump will likely withdraw from NATO and other members fight among themselves), Russia is likely to seize the opportunity and invade the Ukraine properly. They might even reclaim Belarus and some other countries like Georgia.
War in Europe is almost inevitable.
If anything, 2016 has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that the era of Western hegemony is over. In fact, it deserves to die. We deserve to relinquish our place as leaders of the world. It’s time for someone else to become the next Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, Britain, USA… All previous empires have fallen, and so will the West.
We’ve had our time at the front. It’s someone else’s turn.
Who? Probably China. They’ve been quietly getting on with it for the past decades, and are now – ironically – a beacon of political and economic stability. If they’re smart, they will ally themselves with growing powers like India and Brazil to form a new global order to replace the collapsing West.
So it will get worse for us. Much worse.
What can you do? There’s little hope of restraining the forces that are now unleashed. At best, we can hope to weather the storm. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever be as prosperous and safe again in our lifetimes as we were in the mid to late 1990s. We can only endure.
It will eventually get better. It will take decades, but the west will emerge from this darkness that is consuming us. We won’t be around for that, but our children will, and our children’s children.
So don’t give up hope. Keep fighting for what you believe, even if you know it’s a losing battle. Do what you can and what you feel comfortable with, knowing that to speak out against the tide of hate means risking your safety and that of your family and friends.
Most of all, stay civil. Show people their due respect, even if you cannot respect what they believe. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. Be kind. Be generous.
It will get worse. But, eventually, it will get better.
18 Aug 2014
This 15 minute video explains, clearly and concisely, why the current economic model, with human labour at the centre, will very shortly need to be abandoned in favour of an entirely different approach:
In the very near future there will quite literally not be enough jobs to keep the population employed. Automation will reach such levels that whole swaths of the workforce will become obsolete.
As a result, millions of people will find themselves unemployed and, more importantly, unemployable.
Millions of people who will have no income and will depend entirely on welfare from the state. That is of course entirely unsustainable and undermines the foundation of consumption that underlies our current economic model.
Something will have to change. We already live in a post-scarcity society when it comes to food, but foods are not evenly distributed, which is why poverty still exists.
Automation will make a mockery out of any kind of scarcity (thus further undermining capitalist market economics), so we should abandon all economics that depend on scarcity and market forces.
We should embrace our inevitable post-scarcity world and create structures that enable free distribution of goods and services to those who need it.
This is of course a radical departure from how the world works at the moment, and vested interests (i.e. those who thrive in the current capitalist model) will resist with every fibre of their being.
Before things get better they’ll first get much, much worse.
23 Jul 2014
Funny how things matter most to us if they’re close to home.
Hundreds of Palestinians dead in Gaza. Yes, I’m severely annoyed by that.
The UK’s DRIP legislation is an attack on personal privacy. That sure grinds my gears.
Then 298 people die when MH17 crashes in a Ukrainian field. 193 of them are Dutch. 80 are children, and 100 are AIDS researchers.
And I realise that Kübler-Ross model may not be entirely bollocks after all.
My anger was immediate and animalistic, like a vibrant roar in my skull. Primal instincts demanded blood for blood, and I experienced a ferocious sense of frustration that no one was being punished, no one was being made to hurt because of all this.
I knew no one on board MH17. I have no right to experience this loss so profoundly. And yet I do.
Sitting here, 500 miles from Eindhoven, I feel more intensely Dutch than I ever have.
It’ll be a while before I reach the ‘acceptance’ stage. If I ever do.
1 Jul 2014
I’m a huge fan of Peter Watts, which won’t come as a secret to any regular reader of this blog.
Recently Watts got in to an argument with none other than David Brin, one of science fiction’s biggest names.
In a nutshell, this argument as I understand it is about privacy vs transparency. Brin seems to believe that a totally transparent society, where the public can look back at the government agencies that use mass surveillance, will deliver true freedom.
Watts, more sensibly, believes privacy is the answer, and that if we’re unable to prevent ourselves from being watched, at least we could maybe have the option to destroy our data rather than hand it over to the government.
Perhaps counter to expectation, in this argument between Watts and Brin it was Watts who came out on top – at least in my view – because his side of the argument seems much more sensible to me. Transparency only works insofar everyone involved plays on the same level. But the surveillance state has so much more power and so many more resources to bring to bear, that we as citizens – even if we’re allowed to look back, which right now we’re most assuredly not – have very little power over the surveillance state in return.
In the end the people who own the data have all the power. And we don’t own any of it.
Moreover, in the comment section of Watts’ latest blog post on the topic, Brin goes a bit apeshit and devolves in to hysterics, entirely bypassing the arguments Watts is making (politely, I might add) and resorting to childish name-calling.
I never really rated Brin as a writer, but to be fair I’ve only ever read one of his books (and was unimpressed). After this public spat with Watts, I see no reason to ever spend any money on Brin’s output.
Not that he’d care, anyway.
8 Apr 2014
“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”
– Jeff Hammerbacher
19 Dec 2013
I’ve decided I’m a fan of Nicholas Winding Refn.
The Danish film director is a bit of a controversial figure due to the fact his films tend to sit firmly on the ‘obscure, arty, pretentious’ side of the cinematographic spectrum.
I’m usually not the type to indulge in arthouse-type films (heck, I professed my love for that most obscene example of Hollywood-blockbusterism: Transformers 2) but I’ve now seen three of Winding Refn’s films, and I love them all.
My first exposure to Winding Refn’s work was the critically acclaimed Drive, featuring truly superb performance from its lead actors as well as some scenes of brutal, unglorified, unstylised violence.
Recently I caught Valhalla Rising on TV, and its hypnotic mood, surreal plot, and anticlimactic finale, all contributed to a cinematic experience that I enjoyed profoundly. Mikkelsen is astounding in the lead role and manages to captive and intimidate without speaking a single word in the entire film. The film is now sitting near the top of my top 10 all time favourites.
Then earlier this week I saw Only God Forgives, and once again I was mesmerised. At first I thought the film indulged a bit too much in those dialogue-less scenes where the actors brood intensely, but as the plot unfolded I realised those scenes are significant and serve to expose inner turmoil hinted at in later scenes. And the ending is, in typical Winding Refn fashion, entirely un-Hollywood and deeply unsatisfying and, because of that, paradoxically, very much satisfying.
Obscure and pretentious? Yes. Powerful? Very much so.
His style is not for everyone. I do think he’s one of those directors whose output you genuinely either love or hate. There’s not much room for fence-sitting where his films are concerned.
But for me, to date, I’m firmly in the ‘love it’ camp, eagerly awaiting his next cinematic endeavour.
13 Nov 2013
It’s hard to overstate the profound ignorance of the tabloid-reading masses that are responsible for this exceptionally misguided expression of putrid hatred. Unfortunately it’s endemic of a growing trend in the UK to worship everything military and to uncritically accord the armed forces with heaps of respect.
I believe that’s a dangerous cultural phenomenon. The military is not something any country should take a great deal of pride in. A nation’s ability to kill and destroy is not something to boast about. At best, a country should view its military as a necessary evil, something that is an unpalatable requirement for engaging in international affairs.
A country that worships its military is a country that often shows little restraint in flexing that military muscle. In fact, the more a country praises its armed forces, the more likely it is to use those armed forces in the pursuit of their own economical and political goals. That used to be something solely associated with so-called ‘banana republics’, but since the 1950s it’s actually been a staple of western Realpolitik.
Here in the UK, the military is worshipped on a level that borders on a fascist ideology. Even people who are nominal pacifists say that soldiers deserve respect, and that on Remembrance Day we should honour those fallen in service of their country, regardless of the reasons for the war they died in.
I vehemently disagree with that. I do not believe we should separate soldiers’ deaths from the reasons they fought and died.
In fact, I believe we should closely scrutinise exactly why these soldiers were sent in to battle, and pay a great deal of attention to the reasons that are given for that.
Because when we do that, when we analyse exactly why we send armed troops to countries halfway across the planet, we quickly realise that the vast majority of soldiers who’ve died since the end of World War II died for no good reason at all other than to serve the interests of corporate profits and imperialist politics.
If Remembrance Day was purely about commemorating those who died in the first and second world wars, then I’d be perfectly fine with it. But that’s no longer the case. Instead Remembrance Day – and, by virtue of being its symbol, the poppy – has become about commemorating and idealising all soldiers who have died in all modern conflicts.
And that is nothing to solemnly commemorate. In fact, that’s something to get infuriated by. Countless thousands of lives lost because of political egos, corporate oil profits, and international trade rights. And that’s just counting the UK military – civilian casualties are orders of magnitude higher.
‘Defending democracy’ had fuck all to do with most of the wars fought since 1945 – it was nearly all greed and political face-saving.
Those are piss-poor reasons to send young men to their deaths. In fact, any life lost in the pursuit of those sinister goals should come with a powerful backlash against the corporate & political forces that caused it.
But that backlash is entirely absent, of course. Instead the UK population has bought in wholesale to the pro-military hype peddled by the politicians and eagerly supported by a cynical profit-chasing media, to such an extent that even an expression of neutrality – such as not wearing a poppy – is met with outpourings of hatred and bigotry.
That is profoundly sad, and deeply disturbing.