Monthly Archives: November 2015

When will we learn that war is complete idiocy?

“When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?…”

129 brutally killed in Paris: western media on fire. 43 brutally killed in Lebanon: the usual short notices in our media. 1,000,000 killed in Iraq: the root of the evil seldom mentioned.

Bernie Sanders cursed in church during Saturday’s Democratic candidate debate by saying that ISIS was created by the Iraq war, although it should be self-evident for anyone with an IQ above 30. It means that only top level reactionary pundits, journalists and politicians can ignore such a clear fact. Sanders’ outspoken view on this topic may very well be what disqualifies him as a candidate for the Democrats (if not all his other less housetrained opinions do). Implicitly he says that the Paris massacres can be put on Bush’s and Blair’s account (as war criminals).

When will we learn? For 500 years European powers have sought to subdue the entire world with military power. Initially these immoralities may have had some profitable effect for Europe. Assets of all kinds – technology, raw materials, slaves – could be stolen and enrich the masters of the world. At the same time the subdued countries could be withheld, their often superior products banned from competition by trade barriers and their own cultures undermined from within.

If this immoral behavior once could be said to work – for us – that is since long not true. The conquered colonies back then had no weapons that matched ours, which was the decisive factor, but that’s not how it works today. We can no longer intimidate people with threat and use of violence: they can hit back in all kinds of ways, and they do. If we don’t rise above this imperialist thinking once and for all, we can look forward to perpetual massacres from all sides: a mutual suicide and destruction that will end our era as masters of the world.

As we are pathologically fixated on killing as a means to achieve power, a country such as China is conquering the world behind our backs with peaceful and constructive methods, such as trade deals and all kinds of contribution to development, not least important infrastructure projects.

The Chinese cannot be intimidated. Their prime principle of foreign policy is non-interference in other countries internal affairs. When the West someday reaches the same level of political maturity, war will become a rarity.

Until then we have to sit with jaws dropped and watch our profit fixated business leaders and their bought politicians handle a dysfunctional economic system which funnels obscene wealth to a few at the expense of the majority and their need of fair living conditions and a decent society.

Capitalism kills – even the middle class

This year’s Nobel laureate in economics[1], Angus Deaton (and his wife Anne Case, not to forget) has published an interesting study on mortality among white Americans compared to other groups and nationalities. Their astonishing findings can be illustrated in one single picture:

white americans

Sources: Anne Case and Angus Deaton; PNAS

Immediate reasons behind the soaring death rate among white Americans are self destructive behavior patterns such as alcohol and drug abuse, or direct suicide. As an explanation on the next level Paul Krugman[2] suggests existential despair.

Krugman points to the similarities between this US experience and the plunging life expectancy in Russia after the capitalist revolution in the 1990s that claimed ten millions lives, mostly men in productive ages (a catastrophe we have mentioned repeatedly on these pages). Two American scholars, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, have described the post-communist mortality in The Body Economics: Why Austerity Kills (Basic Books, 2013). The following picture shows life expectancy from birth for men in USA and Russia:

Life expectancy

Source: Stuckler & Basu (2013)

The Russian experience in the 1990s was really dire. Multi-millions of jobs disappeared. Many of the small and medium-sized “mono cities”, with usually just one dominant factory, simply closed down, leaving abandoned and crumbling buildings and remnants of retired citizens behind. Men in productive ages couldn’t bear it and accounted for most of the ten million who just disappeared for ever.

Astonishingly similar in Russia and US are the causes of death. In both countries alcohol and drug abuse play an important role, together with suicide. In Russia also other diagnoses soared, such as myocardial infarction among young men, otherwise rare. Stuckler & Sanjay mentions “social stress” as a syndrome underlying the deaths. Many men seem to have an innate pride, requiring that they are able to support themselves and their families. Bereaved every possibility to fulfill this task they appear to lose the purpose of life.

Deaton & Case conclude that the absolute level of despair isn’t the decisive factor behind the self destructive behavior. Instead they suggest that the middle-aged whites in America have “lost the narratives of their lives”. It seems to be more a question about the distance they have to fall when they exit from a higher altitude. Or in Krugman’s words: “we’re looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true”.

Krugman again: “If you believe the usual suspects on the right, it’s all the fault of liberals. Generous social programs, they insist, have created a culture of dependency and despair, while secular humanists have undermined traditional values.” It’s exotic for a Swede that there are influential conservatives in the United States who believe the unbelievable, reject the obvious and denounce reason; more so that they dominate the Congress and threaten to capture the presidency; and are doing so supported by billions of dollars from the corporate sector. In the most powerful nation that ever existed! The world must take a deep breath.

 

Notes:

[1] This is an honor to mention only when one thinks the Prize Committee has made a decent choice. Otherwise it’s an affront to Nobel that the Swedish National Bank instituted this prize in his name for something that perhaps Nobel, like many of us, wouldn’t even call a real science.

[2] In a recent New York Times’ column.