WAR LORDS--If the highest ranking U.S. and NATO military commander in Afghanistan gets his way, America's longest official war could become even more protracted.

Army General John Campbell said in a USA Today article published on Tuesday that he wants to keep the 9,800 American troops currently in Afghanistan there for as long as possible—and is considering asking for even more boots on the ground.  

"My intent would be to keep as much as I could for as long as I could," Campbell told the paper from Kabul.

"Every time I've gone to the president and said, 'I need X,' I've been very, very fortunate that he’s provided that." —Army General John Campbell

The general's comments follow President Barack Obama's October announcement that he plans to reverse his prior pledge to remove all but 1,000 U.S. troops from the country by the conclusion of 2016. Instead, Obama proclaimed that the 9,800 troops will be maintained through most of 2016 and then cut to 5,500 by the beginning of 2017.

Even then, Obama's statement came despite the official declaration a year ago that the war was "over."

But now Campbell plans to ask the president to put off troop withdrawals even further by delaying the reduction to 5,500 troops.

"If I don't believe that we can accomplish the train, advise and assist... the (counter-terrorism) missions, then I owe it to the senior leadership to come back and say, 'Here's what I need,'" Campbell said. "If that's more people, it's more people."

The general expressed confidence that he will get his way. "My job as commander on the ground is to continually make assessments," Campbell said. "Every time I've gone to the president and said, 'I need X,' I've been very, very fortunate that he’s provided that. So he’s been very flexible."

Campbell's comments come as the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan stretches well into its 15th year—and appears certain to extend into the next presidency. While many argue that the Afghanistan intervention is not, in reality, the longest war in U.S. history, it is widely recognized as the most protracted according to the official record.  

What's more, the Bilateral Security Agreement signed in 2014 by the U.S. and Afghanistan locks in another decade of heavy American involvement in the country, including the training, funding, and arming of the Afghan military. The pact also secures immunity for U.S. service members under Afghan law—a highly controversial measure in a country that has suffered civilian massacres by U.S. troops.

The U.S. is planning a military role long into Afghanistan's future despite indications that its long-term intervention and occupation so far has worsened conflict and violence, with the Taliban now showing signs of increased strength.

Meanwhile, Afghan civilians continue to pay the greatest price. In the first half of 2015 alone, United Nations agencies documented 4,921 civilian casualties (1,592 deaths and 3,329 injured).

(Sarah Lazare writes for Common Dreams …where this piece was first posted.)

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

GELFAND’S WORLD--Any year that ends on the news that George Pataki is dropping out of the presidential race can't be all bad. If nothing else, it provides an easy line for scores of underpaid comedy writers. I don't have to write the Pataki line, because my readers are of superior talent and can write their own. Beyond Pataki, we have lots of other things to look back on with a smile. 

We have much to reminisce about. Not only that -- if you were one of the minority who argued that the new millennium actually started on January 1, 2001 instead of 2000 (remember those people?) – then, this December 31, 2015 represents the end of the first half of the new decade. 

I started writing this column on another site a little more than a decade ago. My original subject was the media, in particular the ways it could manipulate public opinion unfairly or inappropriately. At the time, talk radio was a powerhouse of right wing fury, and everybody to the left and center was rendered confused and seemingly powerless to resist. There has been some change in the balance of power since then, but it wasn't through the normal political channels. 

The rise of right wing talk radio was the result of the abolition of something called the Fairness Doctrine, which had required balance in the way controversial subjects were presented by the broadcast media. Without the Fairness Doctrine in force, it became possible for Rush Limbaugh to communicate conservative doctrine for 15 hours a week, each and every week. There was no legal recourse, as there would have been previously. 

The year 2015 is notable for the fact that Rush Limbaugh (photo above) has lost power and prestige. KFI dumped Limbaugh, as did other big city stations. That doesn't mean that talk radio ceased to exist or that it became more balanced. It's still dominated by right wingers, and it still has millions of listeners. 

But something else was going on over the past decade that has made my columns of 2004 and 2005 seem archaic. People got the ability to talk back. They don't talk back to KFI or KABC directly, but they talk to each other. There are millions of people who text back and forth about every conceivable subject. 

In this, the second half of the first decade of the new millennium, communication has become 2-way. Maybe that's an understatement. Instead of 2-way, let's call it multi-way, or million-way. 

Whatever we name it, this open access network of networks that we so inadequately call social media has gone beyond being a subject to write about, much less a story for end-of-the-year columns. It is the basis of our new reality. If we are the fish, then it is now the water we exist in without even noticing or remembering. 

With millions of people reconnecting after decades of being unconnected, and with the birth of millions of online interest groups, how could our society remain the same? Here's one example of what I mean: Back in the first half of the 2000s, liberals recognized the power of talk radio to do them damage, and they debated what to do about it. I can remember long discussions in which the advice was to try to trick the radio station so that you could get on and say something contrary to the usual conservative views. In brief, you were supposed to make up some story to try to sell to the screener (that's the person who answers the phone), and then you could explain why we shouldn't reelect George W Bush. It didn't work very well. 

What's interesting about this reminiscence is that nobody would even think about this tactic nowadays. If you have a disagreement with Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, there is the internet and there is your smart phone. People invented websites and they learned to communicate by Facebook and Twitter. 

The usual response of the curmudgeonly intellectual to the existence of Twitter is to be curmudgeonly intellectual, that is to say, snooty and above it all. But beyond the Twitter followers of Justin Bieber, there is a whole societal revolution that has provided us the counterforce that we were looking for so much in 2005. 

And that's my windup to this half decade. We have much to be thankful for. We have information sources that right the wrongs and correct the lies, and do a better job of it than most newspapers ever did. 

We ought to thank Kevin Drum of MotherJones.com. We ought to thank Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. We even should thank Salon.com, which was one of the first liberal internet sites. It sort of fell by the wayside for a while, but has come back with new talent and dynamic thrust. There is a blog with the unlikely title of Lawyers Guns & Money which does some of the best work in terms of describing how workers are routinely abused not only overseas, but right here at home. We have a collection of blogs that provide scientific rationality in an era of nonsensical gossip about things health related. 

And perhaps you the readers and my writing colleagues, along with me, should tip the hat and lift a cup to Mark Siegel and Ken Draper for CityWatch LA.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on culture and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)

-cw

 

Tags:  

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, there has been a crushing backlash against refugees from the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. A cartoon has been circulating on social media showing a Native American man greeting a Pilgrim, saying, “Sorry, but we’re not accepting refugees.” 

As Americans prepare for one of the most popular national holidays, Thanksgiving, which commemorates the support and nourishment provided by the indigenous people to English refugees seeking a better life free from religious persecution, a wave of xenophobia is sweeping the country.

In the U.S. Congress, no less than six separate bills have been put forward to block any federal funding to resettle refugees from Syria or Iraq, and to empower states to deny entry into their “territory.” Imagine if all of a sudden we had 50 “statelets” creating their own border checkpoints, stopping all travelers, looking for anyone suspicious, i.e., any and all Syrians. So far, 31 state governors have essentially demanded this.

Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback issued an executive order forbidding any agency of state government from cooperating in any way with Syrian refugee support efforts. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have called for a pause in the Syrian refugee program, with the support of Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer.

In Europe, similar policies are being proposed, with an announcement from Poland that it would pull back from the Europe-wide commitment to take in Syrian refugees. Far-right-wing parties in France and Holland have gained traction with their anti-immigrant rhetoric as well.

“It’s both morally reprehensible and factually wrong to equate these people with terrorists,” Peter Bouckaert told us on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. Bouckaert is the emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, and has spent the past few months in the Balkans and Greece, closely monitoring the refugee crisis firsthand. “They’re actually fleeing from the terrorists, and they’ve faced horrors of war in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan. Many of them are coming with their families, trying to bring them to safety and a better future in Europe. And they should be welcomed. They will contribute to our society, and they have a right to asylum,” he said.

While the cartoon of the indigenous man and the pilgrim may be humorous, the crisis is not, and the imagery from the wars and the flight of the refugees is numbing. Bouckaert was one of the first people to share the photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi after he drowned, lying face down on the sand in the Turkish beach town of Bodrum. Last September, the Kurdi family was trying to reach Greece, just a dozen miles across the Aegean Sea. They bought passage on a smuggler’s small boat, which capsized. Aylan, his brother and mother drowned, along with at least two others. The photos of Aylan’s corpse, first in the sand, then being carried by a Turkish soldier, shocked the conscience of the world. “That is still the reality on the beaches of Europe, two Aylan Kurdis are still drowning every day,” Bouckaert said.

{module [1177]}

A core argument by those who would deny entry to Syrian refugees was a passport found at the scene of one of the suicide bombers in Paris last week. It was a Syrian passport, and contributes to the belief that violent jihadists can enter Europe posing as refugees. “That’s exactly why they left a fake Syrian passport at the scene of their attacks, because they would love it if we shut the door on the people who are fleeing their so-called Islamic caliphate,” Bouckaert explained. “Our most powerful tool in the war against Islamic extremism, are our values. It’s not our military planes and our bombs. The only way we can fight against this brutality, this barbarism, is with our values. And if we’re going to shut the door on these refugees, we’re giving a propaganda victory to ISIS.”

And yet, the U.S., French and Russian response to terror is to pummel the city of Raqqa, considered the capital of the so-called Islamic State, but also home to hundreds of thousands of civilians who will now become terrorized refugees themselves. They will follow the millions who have already fled, only to find they have no place to go. Add to that the refugees from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan: people fleeing for their lives from the wars being waged by the United States.

It has been almost 400 years since that first, fateful Thanksgiving feast in Massachusetts. Xenophobic policies like those threatening to shut out refugees from these wars, if allowed to stand, should serve as a shameful centerpiece at every Thanksgiving table this year.

(Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.)

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 94

Pub: Nov 20, 2015

FEARLESS FORCAST--While crises are nothing to cheer about (except for those bottomfeeders who choose to exploit them for personal vendettas or even economic betterment), it appears that 2016 will finally bring about the culmination of bottled-up tensions that have been worsening for approximately 15 years.  And yes, that matches the timeline that began with the crises of the Bush/Gore election and 9/11, and extends to our present day. 

Whether it has roots in the crises brought to our shores and communities (foreign or domestic terrorism) or the red/blue divide furthered either by the Karl Rove gang or the "let no crisis go to waste" gang, our nation is more divided than ever, with income inequality and political/economic empowerment disenfranchising increasing majorities of American subcultures--and inflaming groups of Americans against Americans. 

I frankly wonder (but am oh-so-grateful) that there hasn't been violence in the streets. Perhaps there IS something good about reality TV and Internet distractions, in that they have numbed and distracted us from the decreasing quality of life that is part of our modern American era. 

But the Trump/Sanders Phenomena is NOT borne out of a mere coincidence--and neither are the Tea Party and Occupy Movements.  Even if they're not talking to each other, the peaceful-but-still-angry Americans behind those phenomena and movements still have the rough elements of "I've had it and I won't take it anymore" in common: 

1) Trump has moved forward with embracing the anger of Americans, while Sanders arguably hurt himself by taking the high road.  The GOP is jettisoning its Bush elite family past--despite the Republican establishment's frenzied and cash-soaked attempts to retain Jeb Bush as the annointed Republican frontrunner, but the Democratic Party establishment's embracement of the Clinton elite family might hurt that party in 2016. 

Trump's poll numbers go up, while Sanders, who has been a gentleman in the debates and in his campaigning, have gone down.  Perhaps Sanders is getting savvy with attacking the DNC who is shoving him aside with respect to voter data access but if he doesn't take off the boxing gloves soon, he might just realize that nice guys sometimes finish last. 

Why the need to embrace the anger of ordinary Americans?  Well, it's what we all learn with respect to Customer Service 101:  when a customer is angry (in this case, the average Joe or Jane American), it's kind, empathetic and smart to acknowledge, verify and support that customer's feelings. 

Both Trump and Sanders are getting virtually all their campaign money from small, average Americans, while the opposite is true for both the Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton campaigns.  Wall Street and the 1% are without a doubt supplying most of the funding of Mr. Bush and Ms. Clinton. 

And as former Democratic candidate Jim Webb starts getting his own ire up, and weighs a run as an Independent, it's probably not hard to conclude that there are more than a few pro-woman Democrats who wished Elizabeth Warren had thrown her hat into the ring.  

And perhaps Bernie Sanders will reconsider how nice he should be to his opponent...presuming, of course, he truly wants to win the Democratic nomination for the 2016 Presidential Election. 

Laugh as we might at the large field of Republican presidential candidates, and laugh as we might at the cumbersome Republican debate arrangements, but there might be more than a little sentiment of wishing we had more choices than another Bush or another Clinton.   

At least voters have been appeased by seeing Bush being thrown out of the frontrunner status into the "waiting to step down status"...but there is no appeasement with respect to seeing Hillary Clinton "get hers" the way Bush "got his". 

2) Many--arguably MOST--Americans truly have a "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" frame of mind.  Wages are stagnant if not falling, law-abiding and honorable Americans too often appear to lose out to the inscrupulous elites, and our nation's fabric is as tattered as ever.   

Whether it's Howard Beale from the movie Network, of Howard Jarvis, author of California's famous Proposition 13 taxpayer revolt, we're having a "Howard" moment. 

And if there are those of you who wish we'd heard more of Sanders, and less of Trump, it might give you pause and relief to know that when Bernie Sanders weighed in on wages being too low, Donald Trump did something we rarely see:  he backtracked and clarified that wages and middle-class job opportunities are too low. 

In other words, we do need to hear more from Bernie Sanders (whether you agree with his socialist conclusions, he does have a few solid on-point proclamations we need to hear), and it's interesting to know that he has The Donald's ear.  It's also interesting to know that Trump and Sanders share a few key perspectives, and that they both feel that average hard-working Americans are being rewarded increasingly less for their toils. 

3) Then there's another target for Americans anger:  The Press, who have obfuscated and distracted and confused and spun the news to the point that the average American has a hard time knowing who to trust.  And don't worry about "Fox News" (or "Faux News", as some call it), because Donald Trump and Fox News hate each other as well. 

The revolving door of the largest media institutions (often referred to as the "Mainstream Media") and the White House is slowly dawning on the American public, or at least their mutual and horrible love affair, and it's why Trump's poll numbers go up after each media attack (deserved or not), because while Americans might be leery of Donald Trump, they absolutely HATE the Press. 

And when CNN's Don Lemon got frustrated and angry that his guest didn't decry Donald Trump's recent remarks about Hillary Clinton, because the guest was more focused and disgusted about the Clinton family's history of abusing and belittling women who were mistreated and exploited, it's almost certain that when Don Lemon cut his segment short that it was NOT the guest who "lost" the battle...it was Don Lemon. 

To be sure, there are those who wonder about all this anger, but they're probably the ones who ignore the harsh, hideous reality that the Great Recession of 2007-09 did NOT end, but rather morphed into the Second Great Depression that we are still miserably slogging through.  Maybe the ones who think things are "juuuust fine" and "juuuuust great" are economically or politically favored right now, but they're in the minority. 

Because it's only the Press, and those who still trust it, who think things are actually getting much better. 

4) Even if they don't realize it, the ones still throwing themselves as human shields in front of the current President are appearing as irrelevant as those who--to the end--threw themselves as human shields in front the last President. 

Because when the general election cycle starts after primary season ends, there will be no shortage of ordinary, otherwise tolerant Americans, including Democrats--many of them pro-union--who realize that private sector jobs and opportunities are being smashed while the public sector appears too coddled...and at the expense of the overwhelming majority of taxpayers. 

Because when the general election cycle starts after primary season ends, there will be no shortage of ordinary, otherwise tolerant Americans who won't tolerate the "blame Bush"  message anymore, and will want answers to the complicated relationship Americans have with domestic and foreign Muslims In 2016, there will be many, perhaps most, Americans who hate BOTH Bush And Obama. 

Because when the general election cycle starts after primary season ends, there will be no shortage of ordinary, otherwise tolerant Americans who will raise the cry of exactly when the rights of foreign refugees end, and when the rights of American citizens who will pay for them begin Even the Obama. Administration is starting to expel migrants (who we used to call "illegal" because they were not entering this country legally, and were breaking the law). 

Because when the general election cycle starts after primary season ends, there will be no shortage of ordinary, otherwise tolerant Americans who will wonder why--particularly for those who remember former President Richard Nixon's lawbreaking and wiretapping tendencies with outrage and disgust--our President and his NSA are so prone to spying on our friends, and now even on Congress. 

To conclude: 

1) If there's a silver lining in the cloud hanging over the heads of those who fear a President Trump being elected in 2016, perhaps it's that Donald Trump's political past is NOT with the GOP and NOT with the Democratic Party. It's with the Reform Party of Ross Perot, and the idea of voting "none of the above" appears to actually have a chance of occurring this election cycle (for good or for ill). 

2) But doubt not that anger exists aplenty in our nation, and that it will boil over politically next year.  Whether that anger leads to a new, decades-overdue call for reform that actually happens...is a question that will be answered only in 2017. 

But in 2016, it's all about the anger.

 

 (Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  Alpern@MarVista.org.   He also does regular commentary on the Mark Isler Radio Show on AM 870, and co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

OTHER WORDS--It’s time — past time, really — to name the person of the year. (TIME Magazine does it. Why not me?)

There were many worthy candidates in 2015: the Pope, the Donald, and Luke Skywalker, to name just a few. But only one symbolized the spirit of the year.

I speak, of course, of Martin Shkreli.

For those of you with short-term memory problems, he’s the weasel/drug honcho who bought the rights to a life-saving drug that had been on the market for years, and immediately raised its $13.50-a-pill price to $750 — a 5,000 percent hike.

He said he’d use the extra money for research to develop a life-saving drug of his own, but nobody believed him. He was just doing what a long line of drug company executives do — gouge desperately sick people.

There’s nothing illegal about this, and it’s not even the worst example. Questcor Pharmaceuticals paid $100,000 for an existing drug that treated breathing problems in newborns and raised its price over a relatively short time from $40 a vial to $23,000. New cancer drugs often cost $10,000 a month or more.

Drug companies are allowed to charge whatever they can get away with, so long as they claim they’re using the profits to develop new drugs. They don’t have to actually do it. All they need to do is say that’s their intent. It’s the American way.

What sets Shkreli apart is that making a fortune by cheating people legally wasn’t enough for him. He fancied himself a financial wizard and set up a hedge fund scheme that allowed him to lie, cheat, and steal his way to another fortune. This one was illegal.

The whole thing finally caught up with the 32-year-old in December. The feds showed up and threw him in jail, from which he’s been released on $5 million bail.

Now I’m asking you: Does that make Shkreli the person of the year or what?

The only real surprise is that he isn’t running for president on the Republican ticket as the leader of the Stick-It-to-Sick-People caucus. I’m sure he’d be right up there with Donald Trump in the polls.

If I hadn’t picked Shkreli for this honor, I suppose I’d have been forced to choose the entire GOP slate of presidential candidates. What a hoot they are.

They’ve been fighting for the better part of a year now over who’s the toughest kid on the block.

No sooner does one of them come up with a mean proposal, like building a fence across the southern boundary of the United States to keep out Mexicans, then another says: “Oh yeah? I’d not only build a fence, I’d round up all the Mexicans here illegally and send them back where they came from.”

To which another will say: “I’d not only do all that, I’d make Mexico pay for the fence. Besides which, I wouldn’t let any Muslims in either.”

Which leads another to add, “I’d make the ones already here register and wear name tags.”

Apparently, all that tough talk wasn’t enough, because the last Republican “debate” sounded like a strategy meeting of Mafia warlords.

One of the candidates wanted to “carpet bomb” the terrorists. Another not only wanted to kill all the terrorists, he wanted to seek out their children and kill them too. Sort of a family plan.

All of them agreed that President Barack Obama wasn’t being tough enough and that any one of them would be tougher. At any moment I expected one of them to jump up and say, “Let’s go to the mattresses.”

For all that toughness, no one thought to say an unkind word about the role that unfettered gun ownership is playing in the serial massacres we keep experiencing. Or a kind word about attempts to slow down global warming before it kills us all.

And just think, we’ve got nearly a year to go before the election.

Happy New Year.

(Donald Kaul writes for OtherWords … where this column originated.)

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

NEW GEOGRAPHY--In the aftermath of San Bernardino and Paris massacres, our cognitive leaders – from President Obama on down – have warned Americans not to engage in what Hillary Clinton has described as “a clash of civilizations.” But you can’t have a real clash when one side – ours – seems compelled to demean its traditions and values.

Leaders in America and Europe don’t want to confront Islamic fundamentalism, or other nasty manifestations of post-Western thinking, because they increasingly no longer believe in our own core values. At the same time, devoted to the climate issue, they are squandering our new energy revolution by attempting to “decarbonize,” essentially leaving the field and the financial windfall to our friends in Riyadh, Moscow, Tehran and Raqqa.

Western ethos deconstructed

As the great 15th century Arab historian Ibn Khaldun observed, societies that get rich also tend to get soft, both in the physical sense and in the head. Over the past two centuries, Western societies, propelled by the twin forces of technology and capitalist “animal spirits,” have created a diffusion of wealth unprecedented in world history. A massive middle class emerged, and the working class received valuable protections, not only in Europe and America, but throughout parts of the world, notably East Asia, which adopted at least some of the Western ethos.

The current massive movement of people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia to Western countries suggests the enduring appeal of this model. After all, people from developing countries aren’t risking their lives to move to North Korea, Russia or China. The West remains a powerful beacon in the “clash of civilizations.”

Yet a portion of these newcomers ultimately reject our culture and, in some cases, seek to liquidate it. They do this in countries where multiculturalism urges immigrants to register as “victims,” and not indulge in Western culture, as did most previous immigrant waves. After all, why assimilate into a culture that much of the cultural elite believes to be evil?

Perhaps the biggest disconnect may involve young immigrants and their offspring, particularly students. Rather than be integrated in some ways into society, they are able, and even encouraged, not to learn about “Western civilization,” which is all but gone from campuses, with barely 2 percent retaining this requirement.

The dominant ideology on college campus – “cultural relativism” – leaves little room for anything other than a nasty take on Western history and culture. Many students, whether of immigrant parentage or descendants of the Mayflower, have only vague appreciation or knowledge of Western civilization, making them highly vulnerable to such pleading. They often go through college now with only the vaguest notion of our history, the writings of the American founders, the philosophy of the Enlightenment, our vast cultural heritage or the fundamental principles of Christianity or, if you will, Judeo-Christianity.

This extends beyond religion to the very basics – like respect for the First Amendment – that underpin our social order. Two in five millennials, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, believe the government “should be able to prevent people from saying ... statements that are offensive to minority groups.” A third of millennials opined that government should prevent speech “offensive to your religion or beliefs.”

The media and much of the nonprofit world share this perspective. For all the talk about Rupert Murdoch – the aging last remnant of contrarian journalism – and the Koch brothers, the cultural wars have been entirely won by the far larger, better-funded and protected progressive media and nonprofit establishment. In virtually every part of the West, more traditional values, from the primacy of the family to religion and belief in the efficacy of market capitalism, are being undermined, with increasingly disastrous results.

Psychological deindustrialization

Over a decade ago, the British historian Martin Weiner proffered his theory of “psychological deindustrialization” to explain the decline of the British capitalist class. In Weiner’s estimation, the great 19th century industrial expansion of that remarkable island nation lost its momentum as the scions of the capitalist class lost their taste for manufacturing, preferring the comforts of country estates, the clubby world of London and high-minded charity.

In the West today, the children of the rich, and often the rich themselves, embrace causes, notably climate change alarmism, that work against the whole ethos of progress and mass affluence. Now many of these people – notably in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Hollywood and other centers of absurd wealth – are determined to “save” the planet by regulating and taxing the middle class back to the 19th century. That this effort is led by groups like the Rockefeller brothers, who owe their fortunes to black gold, is ironic, to say the least.

In this intellectual climate, it is no shock that at the recent Paris climate conference, Western capitalism was blamed entirely for climate change. This has sparked the demand for “climate reparations” without a thought that, over the past two decades, this same capitalism has helped a billion people out of poverty, mostly in the developing world.

The blame-the-West-first trend extends well beyond environmental concerns. Disbelief in the system of democratic give and take to address climate change reflects views on a whole set of issues, from feminism and gender to race. No surprise that draconian proposals to address the climate “crisis” often see little need to deal with Congress, legal due process, even free speech.

So, rather than address how to improve the environment without eviscerating our own middle class, we expend enormous energy on peripheral issues like transgender rights, often exaggerated claims surrounding “a war on women,” and whether the lives of African Americans matter more. A writer in a recent article in the New York Times, cogitating on racial privilege, opined, “For me, whiteness is not an identity but a moral problem.”

Such attitudes have been around a long time. It’s been almost a half century since the late Susan Sontag opined that the “white race is the cancer of human history,” for everything from eradicating “autonomous civilizations” and upsetting “the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.” But in 1966, when these views were first expressed, they were in a minority, even on campuses. Today, they have evolved into holy writ.

As such views have become mainstream, it’s not surprising that there is little interest, at least in the culture’s higher circles, in protecting the Western heritage, even when under direct assault. One painful example is the pathetic nonresponse to the gradual genocide being carried out in the Middle East against Christians. Threatened with the abolition of the West’s dominant religion does not seem to motivate mainstream Christians often more worried about the evils of Islamophobia and climate change than mass killings of their own co-religionists.

Long-term implications

A society that no longer believes in its core beliefs cannot prevail against rivals who, although less wealthy and far less technologically advanced, embrace their core ideals. A West that rejects (and sometimes is unaware of) its own heritage cannot overcome those who, for religious or national reasons, have a powerful belief in theirs.

Some people in Western countries are reacting to this abandonment of culture and heritage. Unfortunately, many of them are attracted to demagogues like Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front whose anti-immigrant xenophobia now has potent analogues in countries from the eastern frontier of Poland, Slovakia and Hungry to seeming secure reaches of Scandinavia. Given the cultural dominance of the relativist Left and the post-Christian nature of the culture, none of these movements will likely do more than make noise and inspire “tut-tuts” among the intelligentsia

Ultimately, we can only confront the challenge from authoritarian forces – whether in the Middle East, China or Russia – when we once again embrace our cultural values as important and worthy of protection. Our opponents – and that’s what they are – may be fundamentally weaker than us, but can count on the advantage of belief in their destiny. To save ours, Western culture needs to stay, not be put away.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is also executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The New Class Conflict is now available at Amazon and Telos Press. He is also author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.)

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 105

Pub: Dec 29, 2015

More Articles ...