All posts by Augmented Ether

Russia is the house that Vladimir Putin built – and he’ll never abandon it, by Dmitri Trenin

Source: The Guardian

hen Vladimir Putin was asked about his job, two years after becoming master of the Kremlin on New Year’s Eve, 1999, he said something about being a hired manager elected by the Russian people for a term of office. When he is asked about his job now, he calls it “fate”. Yesterday saw thousands joined the biggest since anti-government demonstrations in many years to protest against Putin and his prime minister/protégé Dmitry Medvedev.

Even so the Russian people, Putin is above all a symbol of stability after a decade and a half of turmoil that included the misguided and botched reform of the Soviet communist system; its abrupt end and the sudden advent of freedom that often looked like a free-for-all; the painful dissolution of the Soviet Union; market reforms, often dubbed “shock without therapy”; virtually instant crass inequality; the end of ideology and the collapse of morals.

Putin was appointed by Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first president, to be his successor, but he earned his stripes by taming the oligarchs, bringing to an end the seemingly endless war in Chechnya, breaking the backbone of the once powerful Communist party and marginalising liberals. He recreated the traditional Russian system of hierarchical government. The state that had been privatised by the high and mighty could now strike back, reasserting its awesome power.

In much of what he was doing, Putin responded to the paternalistic demand of the bulk of the Russian people who had not particularly succeeded in the post-Communist era. Not only did he genuinely win elections, which under his rule became a means of confirming people in power not replacing them. He also cracked the code of staying in power in a country that had rejected both his predecessors, the once widely popular Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. When faced with the choice, early on, to go with the elites – including the intelligentsia – or with the ordinary people, he chose the latter.

Putin understood that to rule Russia he had to stay genuinely popular with “the masses” and from time to time crack his whip at the elites: a “good tsar” reining in the greedy “boyars”. Popularity ratings are important: to rule effectively, one needs at least 60% support; to rule comfortably, 70%. Approaching 50%, however, which is totally fine in the west, is fraught with the dangers of civil strife in Russia. Thus by his own personality, his public actions and attitudes, Putin managed to confer legitimacy on the Russian state in the eyes of the vast majority of the population.

‘It is unlikely, however, that Putin will leave the stage even in 2024.’ Photograph: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Putin has restored Russia’s status of a great power, lost with the Soviet Union. He first tried to fit Russia into an enlarged west, as a senior ally of the US in Nato and a close partner of the EU within a “greater Europe”. When his efforts failed, he steered Russia away from the western orbit, rebuilt the country’s military power and used it to protect Russian security interests in Ukraine – as he saw them – as well as to project force outside the former empire, to send the message to the world that Russia was back in play. Publicly and resolutely, he stood up to US global dominance.

Seen as disruptive in the west, Putin has struck a conservative tone at home. He allowed economic reforms in his first term, and later tolerated talk of modernisation, but his method of governance is essentially bureaucratic. Putin is both a capitalist and a statist. He understands the power of the market but is also wary of it, keeping the state always at the ready to step in and reassert control. He has reduced former oligarchs to obedient servants ever so keen to oblige him. He has seen his old friends rise to riches knowing that he can rely on their unquestioning loyalty – the one quality Putin appears to value particularly highly. The question about Putin’s own wealth misses the point – above a certain threshold, money turns into raw power, and in these terms the Russian president has few, if any peers.

An autocrat with the consent of the governed, Putin has preserved the essential personal freedoms that the Russian people first earned with the demise of the Communist system. People can worship and travel freely; Facebook and Twitter are essentially unrestricted; there are even a few tolerated media outlets overtly in opposition to the Kremlin. Political freedoms, however, are more tightly circumscribed, so as to leave no chance to potential “colour revolutionaries” or politically ambitious exiled oligarchs. For the bulk of the population, this matters little; the relatively few activists have a choice of taking it – or leaving.

Putin once described himself as Russia’s top nationalist. He has also proclaimed patriotism to be Russia’s national idea. On his list of values, the Russian state features at the very top. Since day one as president, he has been following Yeltsin’s parting request: “Take care of Russia.” The Soviet Union was one of Russia’s historical names, and so it’s little wonder that, to Putin, its downfall was a great catastrophe. His basic frame of reference is Russia’s rich history. Once Putin quipped that there was no one in the world worth talking to after the death of Mahatma Gandhi. Indeed, he talks with many, but he truly keeps company with Russia’s past rulers: tsars, emperors and party leaders. He is just the latest in a long line.

Having no peers in the land and very few abroad is a heavy psychological burden. One needs to look to a much higher authority. To Putin, however, religion is more than a personal matter. Christian Orthodoxy, in his view, is a spiritual and moral guide, the essence of Russia’s unique civilisation, and without it the country’s history and its classical literature and the arts cannot be fully understood. To Putin, the “Byzantine symphony”, an alliance of the state and the established religious organisations, first among them the Russian Orthodox church, is the core of national unity.

Next year, Russia is due to hold its presidential elections. Virtually everyone expects Putin to run, and no one has any doubt about his victory. The only question is how many people will come to the polling stations, and how many of them will vote for Putin. The Kremlin is now shooting for 70% in both cases. This fourth term in the Kremlin – fifth, if one counts Putin’s regency during Dmitry Medvedev’s stint – may be Putin’s last, not so much because he will turn 72 after the next six-year term expires, but rather because he was loth to change the constitution previously.

It is unlikely, however, that Putin will leave the stage even in 2024, after nearly a quarter of a century in power: his job is in fact a mission that will not be done as long as he is active. His challenge in the long term is to pass on leadership to a new generation of Russia’s leaders, and make sure that this works. Right now he is busy identifying people, most of them in their 40s and even 30s, who might form that group. Some have already been appointed to senior positions as ministers, governors, or other high officials. All will be tried and tested and given tasks to fulfil. Putin himself, a father figure to his proteges, would then become a pater patriae, or, to use a Singaporean formula, a president mentor.

It is much too early to pass final judgment on Putin. He has kept the country in one piece and restored its global status. He continues to be a formidable figure, and is always ready to surprise. He has made a deep impact on his country. It is Putin’s Russia – largely because he is Russia’s Putin.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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AFGHANISTAN – AS ONLY LOVE COULD HURT, by Andre Vltchek

Notes From A Broken Land

Text and Photos: Andre Vltchek

WINTER

Village in the North destroyed during the war

It is now winter in Kabul, end of February 2017. At night the temperature gets near zero. The mountains surrounding the city are covered by snow.

It feels much chillier than it really is.

Soon it will be 16 years since the US/UK invasion of the country, and 16 years since the Bonn Conference, during which Hamid Karzai was “selected” to head the Afghan Interim Administration.

Almost everyone I spoke to in Afghanistan agrees that things are rapidly moving from bad to rock bottom.

Afghans, at home and abroad, are deeply pessimistic. With hefty allowances and privileges, at least some foreigners based in Kabul are much more upbeat, but ‘positive thinking’ is what they are paid to demonstrate.

Historically one of the greatest cultures on Earth, Afghanistan is now nearing breaking point, with the lowest Human Development Index (2015, HDI, compiled by the UNDP) of all Asian nations, and the 18th lowest in the entire world (all 17 countries below it are located in Sub-Saharan Africa). Afghanistan has also the lowest life expectancy in Asia (WHO, 2015).

While officially, the literacy rate stands at around 60%, I was told by two prominent educationalists in Kabul that in reality it is well below 50%, while it is stubbornly stuck under 20% for women and girls.

Statistics are awful, but what is behind the numbers? What has been done to this ancient and distinct civilization, once standing proudly at the crossroad of major trade routes, influencing culturally a great chunk of Asia, connecting East and West, North and South?

How deep, how permanent is the damage?

During my visit, I was offered but I refused to travel in an armored, bulletproof vehicle. My ageing “horse” became a beat-up Corolla, my driver and translator a brave, decent family man in possession of a wonderful sense of humor. Although we became good friends, I never asked him to what ethnic group he belonged. He never told me. I simply didn’t want to know, and he didn’t find it important to address the topic. Everyone knows that Afghanistan is deeply divided ‘along its ethnic lines’. As an internationalist, I refuse to pay attention to anything related to ‘blood’, finding all such divisions, anywhere in the world, unnatural and thoroughly unfortunate. Call it my little stubbornness; both my driver and me were stubbornly refusing to acknowledge ethnic divisions in Afghanistan, at least inside the car, while driving through this marvelous but scarred, stunning but endlessly sad land.

KABUL

One day you and your driver, who is by then your dear friend, are driving slowly over the bridge. Your car stops. You get out in the middle of the bridge, and begin photographing the clogged river below, with garbage floating and covering its banks. Children are begging, and you soon notice that they are operating in a compact pack, almost resembling some small military unit. In Kabul, as in so many places on earth, there is a rigid structure to begging.

After a while, you continue driving on, towards the Softa Bridge, which is located in District 6.

Where you are appears to be all messed up, endlessly fucked up.

You were told to come to this neighborhood, to witness a warzone inside the city, to see ‘what the West has done to the country’. There are no bullets flying here, and no loud explosions. In fact, you hear almost nothing. You actually don’t see any war near the Softa Bridge; you only see Death, her horrid gangrenous face, her scythe cutting all that is still standing around her, cutting and cutting, working in extremely slow motion.

Again, as so many times before, you are scared. You were scared like this several times before: in Haiti, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, Iraq, and Peru, to name just a few countries. In those places, as well as here in Kabul, you are not frightened because you could easily lose your life any moment, or because your safety might be in danger. What dismays you, what you really cannot stomach, are the images of despair, those of ‘no way out’, of absolute hopelessness. Lack of hope is killing you, it horrifies you; everything else can always be dealt with.

People you see all around can hardly stand on their feet. Many cannot stand at all. Most of them are stoned, laying around in rags, sitting in embryonic positions, or moving aimlessly back and forth, staring emptily into the distance. Some are urinating publicly. Syringes are everywhere.

There are holes, deep and wide, filled with motionless human bodies.

First you drive around, photographing through the cracked glass, then you roll down the window, and at the end, you get out and begin working, totally exposed. You have no idea what may happen in the next few seconds. Someone begins shouting at you, others are throwing stones, but they are too weak and the stones just hit your shoulder and legs, softly, without causing any harm.

Then a bomb goes off, not far from where you are. There is an explosion in the 6th District, right in front of a police station. You cannot see it, but you can clearly hear the blast. It is a muffled yet powerful bang. You look at your phone.

It is March 1st, 2017, Kabul. Later you learn that several people died just a few hundred meters from where you were working, while several others perished in the 12th District, another few kilometers away.

The smoke begins rising towards the sky. Sirens are howling and several ambulances are rushing towards the site. Then countless military Humvees begin shooting one after another in the same direction, followed by heavier and much clumsier armored vehicles. You are taking all this in, slowly; photographing the scene, and then snapping from some distance a monumental but still semi-destroyed Darul Aman Palace.

And so it goes.

Continue reading AFGHANISTAN – AS ONLY LOVE COULD HURT, by Andre Vltchek

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Letter from Tehran: Trump ‘the bazaari’, by Pepe Escobar

Source: Asia Times

The Iranian Parliament just hosted its annual conference on Palestine and, among the dignitaries – that included Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani – and the 700 foreign guests from more than 50 countries was Asia Times columnist Pepe Escobar.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei speaking at the international conference on Palestine in Tehran. Photo: Asia Times.

he art of the deal, when practiced for 2500 years, does lead to the palace of wisdom. I had hardly set foot in Tehran when a diplomat broke the news: “Trump? We’re not worried. He’s a bazaari”. It’s a Persian language term meaning he is from the merchants class or, more literally, a worker from the bazaar and its use implies that a political accommodation will eventually be reached.

The Iranian government’s response to the Trump administration boils down to a Sun Tzu variant; silence, especially after the Fall of Flynn, who had “put Iran on notice” after it carried out a ballistic missile test, and had pushed the idea of an anti-Iran military alliance comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan. Tehran says the missile test did not infringe the provisions of the Iran nuclear deal and that naval drills from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, which began on Sunday, had been planned well in advance.

I was in Tehran as one of several hundred foreign guests, including a small group of foreign journalists , guests of the Majlis (Parliament) for an annual conference on the Palestine issue.

Not surprisingly, no one from Trump’s circle was among the gathering of parliamentarians from over 50 nations who attended the impressive opening ceremony in a crowded, round conference hall where the center of power in Iran was on display; Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani.

Khamenei proclaimed that “the existing crises in every part of the region and the Islamic ummah deserve attention”, but insisted that the key issue remains Palestine. The conference, he said, could become “a model for all Muslims and regional nations to gradually harness their differences by relying on their common points”.

Khamenei’s was an important call for Muslim unity. Few in the West know that during the rapid decolonization of the 1940s and 50s, the Muslim world was not torn apart by the vicious Sunni-Shi’ite hatred – later fomented by the Wahhabi/Salafi-jihadi axis. The Wahhabi House of Saud, incidentally, was nowhere to be seen at the conference.

Hefty discussions with Iranian analysts and diplomats revolved on the efficacy of multilateral discussions compared to advancing facts on the ground – ranging from the building of new settlements in the West Bank to the now all but dead and buried Oslo two-state myth.

On Palestine, I asked Naim Qassem, deputy secretary-general of Hezbollah about the Trump administration’s hint of a one-state solution. His answer, in French; “One state means war. Two states means peace under their conditions, which will lead us to war.”

As with most conferences, what matters are the sidelines. Leonid Savin, a Russian geopolitical analyst, claimed that Russian airspace is now all but sealed with multiple deployments of the S-500 missile defense system against anything the US might unleash. Albanian historian Olsi Jazexhi deconstructed the new Balkans powder keg. Muhammad Gul, son of the late, larger-than-life General Hamid Gul, detailed the finer points of Pakistan’s foreign policy and the drive to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pyongyang was also in the house. The North Korean delegate produced an astonishing speech, essentially arguing that Palestine should follow their example, complete with a “credible nuclear deterrent”. Later, in the corridors I saluted the delegation, and they saluted back. No chance of a sideline chat though to go over the unclear points surrounding Kim Jong-nam’s assassination.

Blake Archer Williams, a.k.a. Arash Darya-Bandari, whose pseudonym celebrates the “tyger tyger burning bright” English master, gave me a copy of Creedal Foundations of Waliyic Islam (Lion of Najaf Publishers) – an analysis of how Shi’ite theology led to the theory of velayat-e faqih (the ruling of the jurisprudent) that lies at the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Every time I’m back in Tehran I’m impressed with the surprising number of open avenues for serious intellectual discussion. I was constantly reminded of Jalal Al-e Ahmad, the son of a mullah born in poor south Tehran who later translated Sartre and Camus and wrote the seminal Westoxification (1962).

He spent the summer of 1965 at Harvard seminars organized by Henry Kissinger and “supported” by the CIA. He pivoted to Shi’ism only toward the end of his life. It was his analysis that paved the way for sociologist Ali Shariati to cross-pollinate anti-colonialism with the Shi’ite concept of resistance against injustice and produce a revolutionary ideology capable of politicizing the Iranian middle classes, leading to the Islamic Revolution.

That was the background for serious discussions on how Iran (resistance against injustice), China (remixed Confucianism) and Russia (Eurasianism) are offering post-Enlightenment alternatives that transcend Western liberal democracy.

But in the end it was all inevitably down to the overarching anti-intellectual ghost in the room; Donald Trump (and that was even before he got a letter from Ahmadinejad).

So I did what I usually do before leaving Tehran; I hit the bazaar, via a fabulous attached mosque – to get reacquainted with the art of the deal, the Persian way.

That led me to Mahmoud Asgari, lodged in the Sameyi passage of the Tajrish bazaar and a serious discussion on the finer points of pre-WWI Sistan-Baluchistan tribal rugs from Zahedan. The end result was – what else – a win-win sale, bypassing the US dollar. And then, the clincher: “When you call your friend Trump, tell him to come here and I’ll give him the best deal”.

Pepe Escobar wrote his The Roving Eye column for Asia Times from 2000-2015. His books include Globalistan (2007), Red Zone Blues (2007), Obama does Globalistan (2009), Empire of Chaos (2014) and 2030 (2015).

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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Conversation: West in Revolt

I have to say that its not often that a guest speaks in good broad strokes that really sum up the situation. Few have the knack for such astute commentary.

Joaquin Flores does a great job for speaking for democracy and people power, it is interesting to see the contrasting view from team Britain in this Cross Talk.

Living in New Zealand, a very British colony, I can see parallels in the thought process; The notion that politicians – who have demonstrated for decades their dishonesty,debauchery and corruption- are the only way to deliver democracy is astonishing. Kiwis display the same sentiment as well, despite being devastated by their politicians from all parties for 30 years.

Joaquin is spot on when he says that saying that people are incapable of deciding on major issues is akin to being in the same boat as the elite.

However, it must also be acknowledged that Marcus Papadopoulos is also correct in pointing out the hastiness of putting important decisions to vote, lack of information and ill informed decision making by the people. He is also right on the brexit issue being complex and points out the little known realities of working class Liverpool receiving EU funds as torries starved them etc.

The solution, though, needs to be more referendums, more democracy, more transparency and more education of reality and not a curtailing of the right to determine ones own path by handing that right over to the cesspool of politicians.

Mohsin Siddiqui

#CrossTalk #Elites #West #Brexit #Revolution #Referendum

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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Conversation: The Four Kinds Of Dystopia – Which One Is Yours?, by Darren Allen

Source: Zero Hedge

The twentieth century saw four basic visions of hell on earth, or dystopia.

These were:

Orwellian. Rule by autocratic totalitarian people, party or elite group, limitation of choice, repression of speech and repression of minorities, belief in order, routine and rational-morality. Control by enclosure, fear and explicit violence. Violent repression of dissent (via ‘the party line’). Erotic physicality and sexual freedom suppressed via control of sexual impulses. Control of thought by explicitly policing language (Orwellian Newspeak).


Huxleyan 
Rule by democratic totalitarian systems, excess of choice, limitation of access to speech platforms, assimilation of minorities, belief in emotional-morality, ‘imagination’ and flexibility, and control by desire, debt and implicit threat of violence. No overt control of dissent (system selects for system-friendly voices). Erotic physicality and sexual freedom suppressed via promotion of pornographic sensuality and dissolution. Control of thought by implicitly enclosing language within professional boundaries (Illichian Newspeak, or Uniquack).

Kafkaesque Rule by bureaucracy. Control of populace via putting them into writing, forcing people to spend free time on bureaucratic tasks, thereby inducing tractable stress and the schizoid, self-regulating self-consciousness (anxiety about low marks, unlikes, official judgements and the like) that bureaucratic surveillance engenders. Generation of a system which structurally rewards those who seek an indirect relationship with their fellows or who, through fear of life, seek to control it through the flow of paperwork.

Phildickian Rule by replacing reality with an abstract, ersatz virtual image of it. This technique of social control began with literacy – and the creation of written symbols, which devalued soft conscious sensuous inspiration, fostered a private (reader-text) interaction with society, created the illusion that language is a thing, that meaning can be stored, owned and perfectly duplicated, that elite-language is standard and so on – and ended with virtuality – the conversion of classrooms, offices, prisons, shops and similar social spaces into ‘immersive’ on-line holodecks which control and reward participants through permanent, perfect surveillance, the stimulation of positive and negative emotion, offers of godlike powers, and threats to nonconformists of either narco-withdrawal or banishment to an off-line reality now so degraded by the demands of manufacturing an entire artificial universe, that only hellish production-facilities, shoddy living-units and prisons can materially function there.

The reader can decide for herself under which of above we currently struggle to eke out a life worth living. I would like to suggest that all modern societies are both Kafkaesque and Phildickian with either a Huxleyan or Orwellian overarching framework; modern, western, capitalist societies tend to be basically Huxleyan (HKP) and pre-modern, eastern, communist countries tend to be basically Orwellian (OKP).

The reason why ideological managers (academics, film directors, journalists, etc) prefer to have two (or more) dystopian systems is that it makes us seem like the goodies and them the baddies. Communism is to blame for their foodbanks and breadlines, but capitalism has nothing to do with ours (or vice versa). Sure our masses have the same miserable lives as theirs, reel under the same bureaucratic insanity, stumble around the same shoddy unreal worlds, and witness the same catastrophic destruction of nature and beauty as theirs do, but at least we’ve got democracy! / at least our families stick together! / at least the trains run on time! / at least GTA 9 is coming out soon / at least the Olympics will cheer us up (delete as appropriate).

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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Conversation: “AURORA”, An Interview with Author Andre Vltchek

 

“AURORA”

Interview by Italian magazine Antidiplomatico with the author, Andre Vltchek

Q: Please tell us about your recently published book, “Aurora”.

A: Aurora is my latest novel. It is short, but emotionally charged and ‘outrageous’. It breaks many taboos, especially those regarding Western, particularly European culture. You know, so many people have this fetish about European culture being refined and superior to other cultures of the world. I actually don’t think it is, after living in Asia and Latin America for many years… But anyway, in my “Aurora” I also show how this – Western – culture can indoctrinate, brainwash, and destroy.

Q: Only the culture itself, or also the European cultural institutions?

A: Precisely, both! The two main protagonists of “Aurora” are: the German-speaking head of a huge European cultural institution, which is based in an unidentified Southeast Asian country (although many would guess that it is Indonesia), and his antagonist: a lady, a great local artist who literally escaped from her country to Venezuela and there married a revolutionary painter and a muralist. Her name is Aurora.

Hans G is not only the head of a cultural institute; he is also an intelligence officer, as well as a propagandist who uses ‘art’ and the funding of local artists for clear political motives: to depoliticize the country where he is based, to keep it obedient, ignorant, and passive.

Q: Aurora confronts him. How?

A: She does. She sees clearly what Hans G. (and his ‘culture’) is doing to her country. She challenges him. She humiliates him publicly… I don’t want to reveal the entire plot of my novel here… But for Aurora, the main reason for returning to her country is to find out the truth about her sister, who used to be another prominent progressive artist, but who was kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered, mainly by those who were there to ‘promote’ that great European culture!

Q: There are Mozart, Brecht and others appearing throughout your book…

A: In the past, but also during these days, some of the greatest European musicians, writers and painters were actually thoroughly destroyed and prostituted by the elites and by the Church. They were forced to produce technically brilliant but content-wise pathetic and toothless kitsch. Mozart and Brecht, sitting in a bar in an ancient Chilean city of Valparaiso, are discussing the past, the art, although they are mainly remembering that important encounter of Hans G with Aurora, which Mozart actually witnessed, as a ghost. In a way, both Mozart and Brecht are co-narrating “Aurora”.

Frankly, “Aurora” is easy to read, but structurally it is a multi-layered novel, short but conceptually complex.

Q: It is also full of dark humor. How difficult is it to address such serious topics while still making your readers laugh?

A: For me, humor is always essential. I use it in all my writing, in fiction, non-fiction and in the theatre plays. People don’t only want to be ‘educated’ and reminded about the pitiful state of the world: when they read a book, especially a novel, they want to feel, to laugh, to cry, to be alive.

I think that any good fiction can really revolutionize the world; it can also show the reality, much more so than fact-based non-fiction works. That’s why the Western regime makes sure to neutralize, to depoliticize literature, poetry and cinema – because that’s where the inspiration, rebellion, and courage really have their homes. The regime doesn’t bother to censure most of the non-fiction work: because most of the dry and fact-based work would never truly manage to move a critical mass of people, it wouldn’t send millions to the barricades. Only true art can: novels, poetry, and great music. Western art is now hibernating. We have to wake it up, and do it very quickly!

Q: Do you have any plans to publish Aurora in Italy or in other languages besides English?

A: No concrete plans as yet, Aurora was only very recently published in English. But of course I’d love to have it in various languages. If publishers out there would really dare to touch such dynamite, then really why not?!

*

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary novel “Aurora” and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and  Fighting Against Western Imperialism. View his other books here. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

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Age of Anger, by Pepe Escobar

source: Asia Times

Every once in a (long) while a book comes out that rips the zeitgeist, shining on like a crazy diamond. Age of Anger, by Pankaj Mishra, author of the also-seminal From the Ruins of Empire, might as well be the latest avatar.

Think of this book as the ultimate (conceptual) lethal weapon in the hearts and minds of a rootless cosmopolitan Teenage Wasteland striving to find its true call as we slouch through the longest – the Pentagon would say infinite – of world wars; a global civil war (which in my 2007 book Globalistan I called “Liquid War”).

Mishra, a sterling product of East-meets-West, essentially argues it’s impossible to understand the present if we don’t acknowledge the subterranean homesick blues contradicting the ideal of cosmopolitan liberalism — the “universal commercial society of self-interested rational individuals” first conceptualized by the Enlightenment via Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Voltaire and Kant.

History’s winner ended up being a sanitized narrative of benevolent Enlightenment. The tradition of rationalism, humanism, universalism and liberal democracy was supposed to have always been the norm. It was “clearly too disconcerting,” Mishra writes, “to acknowledge that totalitarian politics crystallized the ideological currents (scientific racism, jingoistic rationalism, imperalism, technicism, aestheticized politics, utopianism, social engineering)” already convulsing Europe in the late 19th century.

So, evoking T.S. Eliot, to frame “the backward half-look, over the shoulder, towards the primitive terror” that eventually led to The West versus The Rest, we’ve got to look at the precursors.

Smash the Crystal Palace

Enter Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin – “the first of many ‘superflous man’ in Russian fiction,” with his Bolivar hat, clutching a statue of Napoleon and a portrait of Byron, as Russia, trying to catch up with the West, “mass-produced spiritually unmoored youth with a quasi-Byronic conception of freedom, further inflated by German Romanticism.” The best Enlightenment critics had to be Germans and Russians, latecomers to politico-economic modernity.

Two years before publishing the astonishing Notes from the Underground, Dostoyevsky, in his tour of Western Europe, was already seeing a society dominated by the war of all against all in which most were condemned to be losers.

Dostoevsky: Society dominated by the war of all against all in which most were condemned to be losers.

In London, in 1862, at the International Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, Dostoyevsky had an illumination (“You become aware of a colossal idea … that here there is victory and triumph. You even begin vaguely to fear something.”) Amid the stupor, Dostoyevsky was also cunning enough to observe how materialist civilization was enhanced as much by its glamor as by military and maritime domination.

Continue reading Age of Anger, by Pepe Escobar

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Secular Wahhabis: Descent into chaos

Actress Lindsay Lohan with Sultan Erdogan and “moderate rebel” PR sensation Bana the kid.

I have been at pains to reconcile my ambivalent feelings on the happenings in our world, alas,I have come to the conclusion that they are a manifestation of what plagues us as human beings rather than a personal identity crisis to resolve. After all, we are talking of a post identity politics reality regardless of the fact that the masses in their pussy hats continue to be dictated about reality via the telly.

As a brown Pakistani Muslim born and raised in Saudi Arabia, it is absolutely surreal to see the world through the eyes of the “me” that once was. It is astonishing. I am the troubled one? I am the pitied one? Am i finally being recognised as the persecuted one? Has the consciousness of the west finally awoken? Really? Am I to rejoice now?

Surveying the flurry of emotions on display, I feel as if I my kin have been heard. Will they finally have a trial for the drone pilot that wiped out a whole wedding celebration in Pakistan? Or will the children maimed receive new prosthetics instead of the used ones from coalition countries? Yes, it is that cynical.

Will someone finally be accountable for the war crimes carried out by the US under Obama? Under Clinton? or Bush?

“No, no, silly boy, heavens be damned, no” a voice tells me in sarcastic laughter. “Have you really gone mad now? Have they finally convinced you that you matter?” it goes on in abject disregard for the “me” that once was.

One of many events across the country galvanising Muslims.

Here “I” stand, though, having moved, shifted, transformed or rather travelled far afield from the “me” that once was. I do not pray anymore, I do not observe the religious holidays, I do not observe the rituals and I most certainly do not identify as a Muslim. So, am I to be afraid or not ? Once we stop identifying with ideologies the distance allows us to escape a lot of the emotional lures of the narrative being played. I see the truth of my reality; A pawn like the rest of you with your faiths,beliefs,identities and dream-like realities. Identity politics is a mindset that has locked in the participants into a perpetual loop of despair.

Trump or no Trump, US fascism has been alive and well since 1945, accelerated since 1989 and has never been stronger. Fascism permeates our daily lives, it is at our places of learning, our places of exercise, our places of residence, our entertainment spots and in our societal exchange. It is an invisible guest in our daily discourse. It is the alienation of ourselves from our kin, our fellow man and our environment. Everything must be calculated, it must be costed, must be accounted for and prescribed. It must be measured, it must be dictated and legislated.

Poster reads: Donald Trump is a Dog.

Somehow the infinite possibility of how existence can manifest itself is not valid. It must be held accountable! We shall do things a certain way, in a certain fashion, with certain rules and consequences. I am talking of the rules in our lives that come from an unknown and manifest through the drones of people who will accept without question what is enforced from the halls of power.

Yet, Trump is the new fascist? Really? It just started 10 days ago apparently! Hallelujah!

These protests have nothing to do with freedom, liberty, recognition of Muslims or of values. When your spokespersons are George Soros and Madeline Albright, you have to look at what you are so upset about. You are being played like a violin.

My Pakistani friends are galvanised, the news papers are dishing out headline after headline. Is Pakistan next on the list is the question on everyone’s mind? The Empire and its mouthpieces are plenty and their blind adherents many. It was “Ok” for the smooth talking black Jesus to bomb 7 Muslim nations, have a global assassination program and arm terrorists. But it is an uproar with pussy hats to have an immigration vetting process from unstable – save Iran, probably on the list to appease some establishment elements – countries.

Do not get me wrong, I am not in anyway condoning anything. I am in no way endorsing Trump. But I am calling a spade a spade. This has nothing to do with values, freedom or respect. This fiasco of immigration has everything to do with the globalist establishment using every card up its sleeve to continue the Military Industrial Complex and its aim of global domination by hook or crook. The Saker has given a good recap on the stakes here, the Deep State is out for blood and it is not backing down. The Attorney General has now come out and challenged the President as well. Edit: Has been fired already. The headlines go too fast these days.

Decades of tyranny was apparently “A-Ok Double Thumbs Up” by the liberal left, as long as it was sugar coated with the right politically corrected vocabulary. And now we are to fear someone who has never held public office, has not been knee deep in the blood of innocents like the entire establishment.

A friend told me of “historic” protests at airports and how he probably should have gone. I replied by saying that they were only “historic” in how they are working towards a colour revolution at home after countless ones abroad and that it is better for him to not get involved. “Colour Revolution? What do you mean?” was the response. A discussion ensued and I did what we all do time to time for the ones we hold dear; Give them an ultra condensed recap of geopolitics, Soros, Deep State and so forth. “You must be listening to Alex Jones and his conspiracies” came back the reply.

Another Muslim friend told me how he cannot trust a president beholden to Putin – the dictator- under threat of sex tapes being released. Yes, he believes that.

There is a chasm of knowledge omitted from the discourse that the vast majority of Americans are being actively engaged in. Without knowing how politics, manipulation, propaganda and Deep State works, they are hopelessly lost. They are ripe for the picking. This is a grass roots movement for them and they are all the more willing to cheer on the “revolution” from their smartphones.

Muslims are an easy recruiting ground for the liberal fake left, they have been traumatised for decades, have been the victims of US aggression, have faced back clashes in their own communities from right wing elements edged on by politicians and now finally they are being told that they are going to be singled out for more persecution. This time they have CNN, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and all the vampires in between giving them a platform. This is not coincidence, this is not by chance but instead by design. They will be used like cannon fodder and discarded once Black Jesus is restored to the throne or civil war ensues.

This is a Secular Wahhabi revolt, a new breed very aptly described by Andrew Korybko.

Imperialists are masters of creating ethical. moral juxtapositions that perplex, that rip apart emotional cords in the masses, drive them to hysteria and in the thick of it they take reins of their emotions and play them to their hearts content.

It is a sad sight to behold.

Can human intellect rise above the machinations of the 0.0001 % ?

Mohsin Siddiqui
Freethinker

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/OlsenZiddigy
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AugmentedEther

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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CPEC AND THE 21ST CENTURY CONVERGENCE OF CIVILIZATIONS, by Andrew Korybko

Source: Katehon

The current century presents a plethora of strategic opportunities for Pakistan, provided that Islamabad knows how to pluck the low-hanging fruit and take the initiative. The steady development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is making the country ever more attractive for a wide variety of international partners, some of which have traditionally been aligned with Pakistan, and others which are entirely new and unprecedented. No matter which of the two categories these states fall under, it’s evident that they’re all interested in taking advantage of this game-changing series of infrastructure projects.

Never before has China had a reliable overland trade corridor to the Indian Ocean, and this in turn opens up a wide range of options for the People’s Republic and its economic partners. Moreover, the eventual completion of CPEC will allow Russia and the landlocked states of Central Asia to more easily conduct commerce with the broader Indian Ocean Region, thereby leading to the creation of previously uncharted trade routes which will invigorate each set of partners and profit the irreplaceable transit state of Pakistan. In terms of the bigger picture, each crisscrossing network of economic connections in one way or another is expected to pass through Pakistan by means of CPEC, thereby empowering Islamabad to leverage its crucial geostrategic position in pursuit of its national interests.

The convergence of so many diverse civilizational actors – including Europeans, Russians, Turks, Arabs, Iranians, Chinese, and Africans – in one state is made possible by Beijing’s One Belt One Road vision of global connectivity as manifested through CPEC, and it accordingly allows for Pakistan to mediate over a dialogue of civilizations in the 21st century. This is a pivotal role of the utmost importance and highest responsibility, and it has the very real potential of transforming Pakistan from a regional leader to a hemispheric Great Power within the next decade. This analysis will thus explore the way in which this grand strategy can be actualized, sequentially describing the overall concept, the various civilizational-connectivity channels, and the challenges that Pakistan can expect to face.

Concept

Abstract:

The economic attractiveness of CPEC serves as an irresistible magnet for all sorts of various actors to utilize its infrastructural connectivity in facilitating their trade objectives, whether it’s enhancing bilateral trade with China such as the EU, Mideast, and African states may naturally be interested in, or in acquiring a convenient outlet to the Indian Ocean such as what Russia and the Central Asian republics desire. The convergence of so many civilizational forces in Pakistan will propel the South Asian state to worldwide importance by gifting its leaders with the impressive potential to serve as the common middle ground between each of them, both literally in terms of CPEC connectivity and figuratively as it relates to the broader dialogue of civilizations concept.

The latter objective is wholly dependent on the former, meaning that Pakistan is unlikely to bring together a wide array of hemispheric interests and actors if the CPEC project isn’t completed or is severely undermined after the fact. Conversely, the completion of CPEC will enable Pakistan to do just that, which thus propels the country’s significance to global heights. The second and largest part of this research will describe the different connectivity channels that CPEC opens up between Pakistan and the rest of Afro-Eurasia, but at this point a lot more needs to be said about the grand strategy behind this exciting endeavor.

Once CPEC becomes fully operational, Pakistan will unofficially become China’s most important gateway to the rest of the world. Although the People’s Republic currently engages in a staggering amount of trade with each of its countless partners, the vast majority of this is conducted via maritime routes which traverse the bottlenecked chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca and the contentious waters of the South China Sea, both of which are uncomfortably vulnerable to an American blockade or similar sort of interference in the event of a conflict between the two Great Powers. It’s mostly for this reason and due to the foresight of Chinese strategists that Beijing decided to pioneer an overland trade route to the Indian Ocean through CPEC, relying on its decades-long and all-weather friendship with Pakistan in order to make this a reality.

Continue reading CPEC AND THE 21ST CENTURY CONVERGENCE OF CIVILIZATIONS, by Andrew Korybko

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