The less you care, the better you will do. This has long been the promise of conservative politics on both sides of the Atlantic. People who couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about the consequences of their actions are elevated to the highest levels of government. Their role is to trash what lesser mortals value.This describes the position of almost everyone in Donald Trump’s cabinet. In the UK, I feel it applies, among others, to Jeremy Hunt at the Department of Health, Boris Johnson at the Foreign Office, Priti Patel at international development and now Michael Gove at the environment department: the worst possible candidates are given the most sensitive portfolios.
Israele e Gaza non si stanno affrontando in un’altra guerra né si stanno dirigendo verso un’altra “operazione” o un altro “round”. Questa terminologia è ingannevole e vuole addormentare quel che resta delle coscienze.Oggi si rischia un nuovo massacro nella Striscia di Gaza. Controllato, misurato, non di massa, ma comunque un massacro. Quando politici, funzionari e opinionisti israeliani parlano del “prossimo round”, stanno parlando del prossimo massacro.Nella Striscia non ci sarà una guerra, perché non c’è nessuno a Gaza che possa opporsi a uno degli eserciti meglio armati del mondo, anche se l’opinionista Alon Ben David, esperto di questioni militari, sostiene che Hamas può schierare quattro divisioni. E non ci sarà alcun atto di coraggio (israeliano) a Gaza, perché non c’è nulla di coraggioso nell’attaccare una popolazione indifesa. E, naturalmente, non ci sarà niente di morale né di giusto nell’attaccare una gabbia chiusa piena di prigionieri che non saprebbero neanche dove scappare, qualora potessero.
Britain’s far right is desperate, angry, cornered, and dangerous, as the Finsbury Park atrocity may well show. In just a year, the number of far-right extremists referred to the government has jumped by nearly a third. Social media abounds with frothing far-right fanatics, screaming about betrayal and vengeance. Both Muslims and the left are firmly in their sights – and we urgently need a strategy to deal with it.What’s going on? There are all sorts of reasons for this rise. One part is the decision, last year, by the leave camp to run a vicious and dishonest anti-immigration campaign. This campaign had consequences. It’s not just about how xenophobia and anti-immigration rhetoric was apparently conferred with official legitimacy. Radical rightwingers see Brexit as a national revolution – even if this is not the case for most leave voters – an opportunity to wage a culture war against the social values of the left. Theresa May offered a false premise for her vanity general election – that Labour (which voted to trigger article 50) was attempting to subvert the referendum result. “Crush the saboteurs,” screeched the Daily Mail as the election was called. Such rhetoric from the press – like the Mail’s infamous “Enemies of the people” headline – grants legitimacy to the far-right’s worldview, that their opponents are national traitors and saboteurs. So when the attempt to smash the Labour party disastrously rebounded on the Tories, the radical right apparently became terrified that its version of Brexit – which for a small sliver of the population represents a national rightwing revolution – was imperilled. This fuels the traditional far-right “stab in the back” narrative – that traitors have betrayed the nation.
The extraordinary destruction of a Syrian fighter jet by a US aircraft on Sunday has precious little to do with the Syrian plane’s target in the desert near Rasafa – but much to do with the advance of the Syrian army close to the American-backed Kurdish forces along the Euphrates. The Syrians have grown increasingly suspicious in recent months that most Kurdish forces in the north of Syria – many of them in alliance with the Assad government until recently – have thrown in their lot with the Americans.Indeed, the military in Damascus is making no secret of the fact that it has ended its regular arms and ammunition supplies to the Kurds – it has apparently given them 14,000 AK-47 rifles since 2012 – and the Syrian regime was outraged to learn that Kurdish forces recently received an envoy from the United Arab Emirates. There is unconfirmed information that a Saudi envoy also visited the Kurds. This, of course, follows the infamous Trump speech in Riyadh, in which the US president gave total American support to the Saudi monarchy in its anti-Iranian and anti-Syrian policies – and then later supported the Saudi-led isolation of Qatar.
A puncture can change your life. In Louis Malle’s film Lacombe, Lucien (1974), the young peasant Lucien is rejected by his former schoolteacher who runs the local resistance organisation he wishes to join and then, returning home by bicycle, gets a flat tire. Seeking help in a nearby farmhouse, he finds himself among a band of carousing militiamen, collaborators sworn to eradicate La Résistance. He denounces the teacher, becomes a local boss of the militia, and is finally shot by resistance fighters.This much-quoted moment of chance is the starting point for the book Aurais-je été resistant ou bourreau? (2013) by literature professor and psychoanalyst Pierre Bayard, which translates as ‘Would I have been a resister or a collaborator?’ As historians, and indeed as citizens, we assume that we would have made the right decision during the Second World War, given what we know about its horrors. The myth developed by General Charles de Gaulle in 1944 – that the French overwhelmingly behaved patriotically, rallied behind his leadership, and liberated the country themselves – persuades us that we would most likely have resisted Nazi Germany. A myth, however, is designed to unify a people and legitimate its rulers, not to tell the truth. As a young lecturer at Oxford 35 years ago, I remember looking round my college’s governing body, composed overwhelmingly of conservative middle-aged men, and wondering what they would have done if Britain had been occupied by the Germans. I concluded that most of them would have collaborated.
Avoid like that is terrifying. Prisoner of a morsel of space, you will struggle desperately against occult elements: the absence of matter, the smell of balance, vertigo from all sides, and the dark desire to return to the ground, even to fall. This dizziness is the drama of high-wire walking, but that is not what I am afraid of.After long hours of training for a walk, a moment comes when there are no more difficulties. It is at this moment that many have perished. But in this moment I am also not afraid. If an exercise resists me during rehearsal, and if it continues to do so a little more each day, to the point of becoming untenable, I prepare a substitute exercise—in case panic grabs me during a performance. I approach it slyly, surreptitiously. But I always want to persist, to feel the pride of conquering it. In spite of that, I sometimes give up the struggle. But I do so without any fear. I am never afraid on the wire. I am too busy.
As you’ll have noticed, there’s an awful lot of stupidity afoot in the world. To take the obvious example, consider the principle the journalist Josh Marshall calls “Trump’s razor”, after the philosophers’ rule known as Occam’s razor: when trying to decode the president’s actions, the stupidest explanation you can think of is always likeliest to be true. It’s sometimes argued that we should be grateful for stupid leaders, since at least their stupidity makes life less hazardous: imagine if they were sufficiently focused and clever to implement their worst ideas! But that wasn’t the view of the late Italian economist Carlo Cipolla. In 1976 he published a tongue-in-cheek essay that’s been gaining new attention in the age of Trump. The Basic Laws Of Human Stupidity makes the alarming case that stupid people are by far the most dangerous.Cipolla has a technical definition of a stupid person: someone “who causes losses to another person [or group] while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses” – as opposed to a “bandit”, who pursues selfish gain at cost to others. “Day after day, with unceasing monotony, one is harassed in one’s activities by stupid individuals who appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments,” he writes. Part of the problem is that we assume that certain kinds of people – educated people, powerful people, suit-wearing professionals, people we agree with politically – can’t be stupid. In fact, Cipolla insists, stupidity arises equally in all segments of the population. But the non-stupid never grasp this, so they’re doomed to be surprised, over and over: “Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid people in existence.”
“This is a war against normal life.” So said CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward, describing the situation at this moment in Syria, as well as in other parts of the Middle East. It was one of those remarks that should wake you up to the fact that the regions the United States has, since September 2001, played such a role in destabilizing are indeed in crisis, and that this process isn’t just taking place at the level of failing states and bombed-out cities, but in the most personal way imaginable. It’s devastating for countless individuals — mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers — and above all for children.
Ward’s words caught a reality that grows harsher by the week, and not just in Syria, but in parts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, among other places in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Death and destruction stalk whole populations in Syria and other crumbling countries and failed or failing states across the region. In one of those statistics that should stagger the imagination, devastated Syria alone accounts for more than five million of the estimated 21 million refugees worldwide. And sadly, these numbers do not reflect an even harsher reality: you only become a “refugee” by crossing a border. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in 2015 there were another 44 million people uprooted from their homes who were, in essence, exiles in their own lands. Add those numbers together and you have one out of every 113 people on the planet — and those figures, the worst since World War II, may only be growing.
China’s cardinal foreign policy imperative is to refrain from interfering abroad while advancing the proverbial good relations with key political actors – even when they may be at each other’s throats.Still, it’s nothing but gut-wrenching for Beijing to watch the current, unpredictable, Saudi-Qatari standoff. There’s no endgame in sight, as plausible scenarios include even regime change and a seismic geopolitical shift in Southwest Asia – what a Western-centric view calls the Middle East.And blood on the tracks in Southwest Asia cannot but translate into major trouble ahead for the New Silk Roads, now rebranded Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Once upon a time, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, the Tories filled all of Europe with trepidation. French President François Mitterrand complained to his psychologist that he was plagued by nightmares caused by the British leader and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, as unclassified British documents revealed in late 2016, once preferred to chow down on a cream pie in Salzburg than meet with the British prime minister.Many in the UK thought a bit of fear was a good thing. Fear sounded like respect and influence — and, more than anything, like good deals. But now, after two catastrophic elections in less than a year, that is over. Completely.”The country looks ridiculous,” the Financial Times — not exactly a leftist mouthpiece — wrote recently. Indeed, the party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher has turned into a gaggle of high rollers and unwitting clowns.