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Why does the world seem to be in such Chaos?

No wonder some groups feel the apocalypse is near, the world seems to be tearing itself apart nearly everywhere you look.  Why, when world productivity is up, when information technology easily connects nearly all of us, would this be happening?  It seems counter-intuitive so surely the only explanation can be the designs of a higher power to bring all this to an end.

There are, however, other explanations and one of the best I’ve seen has come from my favorite geopolitical intel service, Stratfor.  This is written by Dr. George D. Kaplan. He is the author of Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, which will be published by Random House in March 2014. In 2012, he published The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, and in 2010, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. In both 2011 and 2012, he was chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”  His essay, written for Stratfor and re-publishered here by permission from Stratfor, follows:

——- Stratofr Report “Why So Much Anarchy? by George Kaplan ———————

Twenty years ago, in February 1994, I published a lengthy cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, “The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, Tribalism, and Disease are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of Our Planet.” I argued that the combination of resource depletion (like water), demographic youth bulges and the proliferation of shanty towns throughout the developing world would enflame ethnic and sectarian divides, creating the conditions for domestic political breakdown and the transformation of war into increasingly irregular forms — making it often indistinguishable from terrorism. I wrote about the erosion of national borders and the rise of the environment as the principal security issues of the 21st century. I accurately predicted the collapse of certain African states in the late 1990s and the rise of political Islam in Turkey and other places. Islam, I wrote, was a religion ideally suited for the badly urbanized poor who were willing to fight. I also got things wrong, such as the probable intensification of racial divisions in the United States; in fact, such divisions have been impressively ameliorated.

However, what is not in dispute is that significant portions of the earth, rather than follow the dictates of Progress and Rationalism, are simply harder and harder to govern, even as there is insufficient evidence of an emerging and widespread civil society. Civil society in significant swaths of the earth is still the province of a relatively elite few in capital cities — the very people Western journalists feel most comfortable befriending and interviewing, so that the size and influence of such a class is exaggerated by the media.

The anarchy unleashed in the Arab world, in particular, has other roots, though — roots not adequately dealt with in my original article:

The End of Imperialism. That’s right. Imperialism provided much of Africa, Asia and Latin America with security and administrative order. The Europeans divided the planet into a gridwork of entities — both artificial and not — and governed. It may not have been fair, and it may not have been altogether civil, but it provided order. Imperialism, the mainstay of stability for human populations for thousands of years, is now gone.

The End of Post-Colonial Strongmen. Colonialism did not end completely with the departure of European colonialists. It continued for decades in the guise of strong dictators, who had inherited state systems from the colonialists. Because these strongmen often saw themselves as anti-Western freedom fighters, they believed that they now had the moral justification to govern as they pleased. The Europeans had not been democratic in the Middle East, and neither was this new class of rulers. Hafez al Assad, Saddam Hussein, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Moammar Gadhafi and the Nasserite pharaohs in Egypt right up through Hosni Mubarak all belonged to this category, which, like that of the imperialists, has been quickly retreating from the scene (despite a comeback in Egypt).

No Institutions. Here we come to the key element. The post-colonial Arab dictators ran moukhabarat states: states whose order depended on the secret police and the other, related security services. But beyond that, institutional and bureaucratic development was weak and unresponsive to the needs of the population — a population that, because it was increasingly urbanized, required social services and complex infrastructure. (Alas, urban societies are more demanding on central governments than agricultural ones, and the world is rapidly urbanizing.) It is institutions that fill the gap between the ruler at the top and the extended family or tribe at the bottom. Thus, with insufficient institutional development, the chances for either dictatorship or anarchy proliferate. Civil society occupies the middle ground between those extremes, but it cannot prosper without the requisite institutions and bureaucracies.

Feeble Identities. With feeble institutions, such post-colonial states have feeble identities. If the state only means oppression, then its population consists of subjects, not citizens. Subjects of despotisms know only fear, not loyalty. If the state has only fear to offer, then, if the pillars of the dictatorship crumble or are brought low, it is non-state identities that fill the subsequent void. And in a state configured by long-standing legal borders, however artificially drawn they may have been, the triumph of non-state identities can mean anarchy.

Doctrinal Battles. Religion occupies a place in daily life in the Islamic world that the West has not known since the days — a millennium ago — when the West was called “Christendom.” Thus, non-state identity in the 21st-century Middle East generally means religious identity. And because there are variations of belief even within a great world religion like Islam, the rise of religious identity and the consequent decline of state identity means the inflammation of doctrinal disputes, which can take on an irregular, military form. In the early medieval era, the Byzantine Empire — whose whole identity was infused with Christianity — had violent, doctrinal disputes between iconoclasts (those opposed to graven images like icons) and iconodules (those who venerated them). As the Roman Empire collapsed and Christianity rose as a replacement identity, the upshot was not tranquility but violent, doctrinal disputes between Donatists, Monotheletes and other Christian sects and heresies. So, too, in the Muslim world today, as state identities weaken and sectarian and other differences within Islam come to the fore, often violently.

Information Technology. Various forms of electronic communication, often transmitted by smartphones, can empower the crowd against a hated regime, as protesters who do not know each other personally can find each other through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. But while such technology can help topple governments, it cannot provide a coherent and organized replacement pole of bureaucratic power to maintain political stability afterwards. This is how technology encourages anarchy. The Industrial Age was about bigness: big tanks, aircraft carriers, railway networks and so forth, which magnified the power of big centralized states. But the post-industrial age is about smallness, which can empower small and oppressed groups, allowing them to challenge the state — with anarchy sometimes the result.

Because we are talking here about long-term processes rather than specific events, anarchy in one form or another will be with us for some time, until new political formations arise that provide for the requisite order. And these new political formations need not be necessarily democratic.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, societies in Central and Eastern Europe that had sizable middle classes and reasonable bureaucratic traditions prior to World War II were able to transform themselves into relatively stable democracies. But the Middle East and much of Africa lack such bourgeoisie traditions, and so the fall of strongmen has left a void. West African countries that fell into anarchy in the late 1990s — a few years after my article was published — like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast, still have not really recovered, but are wards of the international community through foreign peacekeeping forces or advisers, even as they struggle to develop a middle class and a manufacturing base. For, the development of efficient and responsive bureaucracies requires literate functionaries, which, in turn, requires a middle class.

The real question marks are Russia and China. The possible weakening of authoritarian rule in those sprawling states may usher in less democracy than chronic instability and ethnic separatism that would dwarf in scale the current instability in the Middle East. Indeed, what follows Vladimir Putin could be worse, not better. The same holds true for a weakening of autocracy in China.

The future of world politics will be about which societies can develop responsive institutions to govern vast geographical space and which cannot. That is the question toward which the present season of anarchy leads.

————– End of Essay ————–

Some might argue that this merely narrates the mechanism by which the “End Times” is being set in motion.  Who knows?  But what is, or ought to be clear is that the world has become a far more dangerous place not a nicer one as was predicted at the “end” of the cold war.  For all of the idiocy and atrocity that transpired as two superpowers used the rest of the world as their pawns against each other, the bottom line was that both realized that a full-on confrontation was not only unwinnable by either side but that it could, with a high degree of probability, leave the planet a wrecked place truly unfit for human habitation.  And, being politically greedy but not stupid, both realized that all it would take is one radical player in one of their puppet kingdoms to do something truly stupid and we would be drawn into such a nightmare scenario whther they wanted it or not.  Remember the Cuban Missle Crisis?

The uncontested result was that the superpowers kept an ultimatly tight rein on their various puppet regimes and forced them to play relatively nice in their own sandboxes.  But that grip that kept us out of World War III was tenuous and maintained only by sometimes brutal authority.  Whine about it all we can as we pretend to some enlightenment and humanity, but the real politic on the ground shows us to be a species exactly as people like Harris and Ardrey posulated: ferociously territorial, acquisitive, and aggressive.

When the Soviet control of the Balkans was lifted, within days ethinic groups that had peacefully coexisted under the iron fist of soviet sponsored dictators, returned to killing each other wholesale.  In Africa and the middle east colonial powers, which had created working governmental infrastructures, granted independence to cultures that begged and fought for it under the assurances they were as good at governing themselves as any of the imperial powers.  The result?  Within weeks the various factions were back to committing genocide and mayhem on each other and the infrastructors collapsed around them.

How can that be?  If, as is passionately argued, all cultures are equally capable of enlightend behavior toward their own and their world, then it can NOT be happening.  But it has… and is still going on.  Kaplan’s essay addressed some of the objective reasons, but if you think about them for a few minutes they are extremely disturbing in their implications.

Is, for example, our much vaunted technical progress that has elevated our standards of living and put us in touch with the world actually an underlying cause of the anarchy and the ruin that will flow from it?  Is our enlightened desire to grant independence and self-determination to people not always a good thing for them OR for us?  Was the often brutal and always self serving actions of the superpowers in controlling their puppets actualy responsible for a quieter and safer world that the one that has resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the cold war mentalities?

If that is true, even in potential, then we would be fored to ask how many other modern concepts that seem so humane, so fair, so proper, so “good” may turn out to have a very keen double edge that will, in the end, swing round and take a chunk out of us in some extremely tender spot and leave us far worse off than before we “got it” about how we should allow any and every behavior and never discriminate between “right” and “wrong” actions or choices?  And worse in today’s environment, it may force us to consider that some of the modern anarchic groups are fanning the flames of actions that will somedy burn us all down, the good with the bad?

To the “modern” progressive mind those are unthinkable possibilities.  So too is the idea that a divine power is unravelling the fabric that holds the world together and worse, He is doing so on purpose.  So what is left?  What is causing it?  That is a critical question and seeking an even more critical answer… at least if we would like NOT to see the world descend inescapably into a state of anarchy that will reduce us back to a far more primitive state and set in motion the horrid future of many negative sci-fi futures.

And given the accelerating rate of decay, we do really need to find some answers faily quickly.

 

 

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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Between Christmas & New Years Eve

San Diego:  Another cold rainy day here in Southern California created, almost certainly according to contemporary theory, by us carbon emitting freakazoids all Hell-bent on destroying the planet and turning it into a huge space desert sort of like Mars except hotter.  According to the logical extension of the theory the continual heat we humans (helped by flatulent cows) generate with our industry and cars will melt all ice caps, flood the coasts and move food production further north until the Rocky Mountains become an island chain like the soon to be submerged Hawaii,  all the while baking the equatorial regions.  Further, since some of the true believers seem to assert that we have already passed the tipping point and the earth’s environment cannot ever — ever — recover on its own for millions of years, the continued heating will slowly turn the planet into a a spherical Sahara and unless the few remnant humans can survive off of lizards and cactii, in a few hundred years we are all doomed.

I’m not worried though;  the other prevalent theory at play is that on December 21, 2012, the world as we know it will all end anyway since the Mayan Calendar’s “long count” ends on that day.  Or perhaps if it ends on that date then December 21 will be normal but December 22 simply won’t happen and we will all awaken to oblivion.  But in either case there will not be time for all of the ice caps to melt.

In any case (and I personally believe neither theory) the scenarios do provide an excellent foundation for some serious thought and introspection.  If, in absolute, undeniable and unchangeable fact we were dead certain that the world would end about 104 weeks from now, that is, if instead of a 2-minute warning all of the human teams on the field got a 2 year warning before the game was over — permanently — how would we play out the game for those last two years? What would gain in importance and what would lose in importance?

How would the accumulation of wealth stack up against the accumulation of friends and relationships?  Would we still feel that at the end for all of us, the one with the most toys wins?  Of what value would be a better car or a bigger house or a nicer suit if in 2 years it would all be wiped away.  Our stuff would not be given to the kids or the pets as a bequest, but wiped away along with the kids and pets and everyone to whom you might wish to leave it.  What value then would it have and to whom?  They say no one yet has said on their deathbed that they wished they had spent more time at the office and less with their loved ones.  What if we all knew to a scientific certainty that on a specific date, our planet would simply vaporize and cease to exist?  What would become important to you when survival was no longer a possibility and therefore not an issue for which to plan.  Would you want to spend more time at the office?

Or…. would your family and your loved ones take on a whole new level of value.  Would you want to try to tie up some of those nagging loose ends of your life, resolve issues with people you’ve knowingly wronged so you could march into the blackness or whatever awaits on another plane with your mind free, your heart clean, and your spirit unburdened by regret for what might have been?  Or would you spend the time in a panic stricken, high stress effort to prolong the inevitable; turning your back on all human comfort to discover the flaw in the theory, error of measurement or equation that would obviate the prediction of disaster?

If you knew that somehow, you could cast some accurate bit of yourself and of the history of your last days out into space and that millennia hence that bit of flotsam would be picked up by a passing craft from another world, how would you like them to think of you?    If you knew that the destruction might send into space bits of debris from all over, some of which might be records of us  humans in our final days and hours, or even that the radio and TV broadcasts beaming into space might someday reach the ears of other sentient beings, how would you want us. the inhabitants of the planet earth, to be seen?  As petty, warring, ego-centric, miserably penurious wretches?   Obviously some individuals will react poorly and try to take advantage of the situation even if there is no real advantage to be taken.  But my question is not to them it is to you… what would YOU do with your remaining time.

The closest analogy we can get is someone with terminal illness knowing about when the end will come.  But that is not an exact match since the world and the lives around them will go on past their time.  For them there are others to worry about, others to try to take care of, the comfort of a continuity that will survive them.  But in our scenario that continuity, at least for this life, does not exist.  The only possible continuity would be a spiritual one of which we know nothing for certain and can only hope or believe somehow transcends this mortal one.  So in the normal sense all continuity for humanity would be lost and our worries for them beyond the specified date pointless.

So my core question is, whether or not the world will end in 2 minutes, 2 years, or 2 millennia, if we all adopted the behavior consistent with it ending no more than 2 years out, could we not make our earth a far better place?   if so then I would propose that as one of our collective New Year’s resolutions for 2011, we resolve to look at life: our lives and the lives of our fellow humans, as if we had but 2 years to continue to exist and see if, in those two years we develop some new habits that would serve us all better just in case, slim chance that it might be to some, that the Mayans simply ended that calendar and had not gotten around to starting another one to follow when the Spaniards brought about their own end which they did not seem to foretell.

They say people won’t change for the better until the “known” becomes worse or scarier than the unknown.  Well, it is hard to imagine a worse “known” that knowing the world will end on a date certain.  So how can we individually change for the better?  Don’t worry about others in this case and in terms of them handling the situation.  Two years is not enough time to correct the world’s woes, not enough time to turn a species’s nature into something completely different, and not nearly enough time to save the downtrodden from themselves.  Many would simply give up; that is, as it is now, a conscious choice; you cannot help them until they chose to make a different choice.     Many would be in denial and go about life as usual; you cannot help them because they too would have made a conscious choice.  Some would spend it in a long party, others in a long prayer session.   But how about you?  If, however, you looked at and researched the science behind the prediction and found it to be unassailable and universally accepted and reinforced (unlike the two theories we are using as a spring board here which, if they share anything, share the same marginal levels of scientific integrity and consensus) what would you do with the remaining two years for you and the rest of humanity?

 

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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