Summary: Recent events, such as the Greek election and the speeches of GOP congressmen, suggest it was premature to declare the “end of history”. As the post-WWII era ends, each day brings forth new developments from the basement of humanity’s collective mind and soul. We must wait to judge, but such political developments suggest that so far what’s emerged are monsters.
- An introduction
- Greece, the latest example of Europe’s turn to extremism
- America, what was extreme infiltrates the mainstream
- For more information
(1) An introduction
It has long been one world. Social, political, and economic trends emerge across the developed nations, denying the existence of borders, varied cultures and languages. For a powerful analysis of one such period see Three New Deals by Wolfgang Schivelbusch, “Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939”. In many ways three (4, including Japan) different revolutions, but with profound commonalities.
Now a similar cycle may have begun. Across the world nations are ruled by two opposed but like coalitions, together defining a narrow zone of solutions — together blocking alternative paths. That works during prosperity, generating confidence in national leaders. But the crisis that began in 2007 has no visible end, and each passing month weakens the developed nations. Slowly people turn to the political extremes for solutions. Unfortunately, most leaders on the extremes are crazy (usually in a non-clinical way).
This probably will not end well.
(2) Greece, and Europe’s turn to extremism
While voters in America whine that their political machinery requires too much effort to work, votes in Europe have taken bold steps. The pro-EU parties having discredited themselves, voters move to create a new Europe. Greek voters flock to the extreme Right …
Parties must exceed a 3% threshold of the vote to be represented in Greece’s parliament. In the last general election in 2009, Golden Dawn received only 0.29%. It has seen its support jump as a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment has spread in financially devastated Greece. Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos said his party had delivered a blow against the country’s corrupt leadership.
“They slandered us, slung mud at us and shut us out of all the news media – the TV channels of the corrupt elite – and we beat them … The day of national revolution by the Greeks has begun against those who are selling us out and looting the sweat of the Greek people.”
Golden Dawn campaigned hard against illegal immigration, and its supporters have been blamed for a recent spike in inner-city street attacks against mostly Asian immigrants. The party’s supporters, routinely seen intimidating immigrants in run-down parts of the capital, wear black shirts, and its emblems resemble Nazi insignia. … Referring to immigrants, Golden Dawn’s campaign slogan in TV ads was: “Let’s rid this country of the stench.”
… Golden Dawn says Greece should reject its bailout commitments and write off its debt. “No one should fear me if they are a good Greek citizen. If they are traitors – I don’t know,” Michaloliakos said. Flanked by two muscly aides, he later told a news conference:
“Those who betray this country – it’s time for them to be afraid. We are coming. … We will fight to free Greece from the global loan sharks, for a Greece of dignity and independence, and for a Greece that is not a social jungle with all these millions of illegal immigrants that were brought here.”
—“Golden Dawn: leader of far-right party lashes out at Greece’s ‘traitors’“, Associated Press, 6 May 2012
… and to the extreme Left as well:
Pasok appears to have lost second place to the Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza, which roughly tripled its share of the vote to 15.5%-18.5%. Syriza could end up forming a government if New Democracy fails to do so within 3 days.
The parties Syriza represents include the Coalition of Left Movements and Ecology and a revolutionary-Marxist group called the Internationalist Workers’ Left. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras recently explained that while the group isn’t set on leaving the euro, it will put an end to Greek “sacrifices” that serve only “oligarchs, the plutocrats, big capital.” But Syriza wasn’t the only surprise winner on Sunday. The KKE Communist Party also did better than expected with 7.5%-9.5%.
— “The New Greek Extremism“, Wall Street Journal, 6 May 2012 — “Voters are giving up on the political mainstream in Athens”
The results of this election suggest discord among partisans. None with enough strength to act boldly. None with clear and realistic ideas how to pilot Greece though this crisis to safe waters.
Update: for a brief and cogent look at the election results see this note by Harris Mylonas (Asst Prof of Pol Sci at George Washington U).
(3) In America, what was extreme infiltrates the mainstream
Our leaders increasingly advocate extreme, even evil, policies. For today’s example see “Congressman Endorses Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing for Palestinians“, Robert Wright, (senior editor), The Atlantic, 5 May 2012:
In a Washington Times op-ed, Rep. Joe Walsh, a Tea Party Republican from Illinois, unveils his new plan for solving the Israel-Palestine problem:
(1) Make the occupied territories part of Israel;
(2) Give Palestinians who live in those territories “limited voting power” in the new, bigger Israel that they’ll have suddenly become residents of. (Walsh doesn’t define his euphemism, but no doubt the idea is that Jews get one-person-one-vote and Palestinians get something less, so that Israel can remain a Jewish state.)
(3) Palestinians who don’t like having “limited voting power” can move to Jordan.
There are, of course, people who say that Israel already practices apartheid. Their argument: Israel has ruled West Bank Palestinians for 45 years, shows no signs of ending the occupation (and indeed keeps expanding the settler population), and doesn’t let these Palestinians vote in Israeli elections even though Jewish settlers in the West Bank do get to vote. The counter-argument is that, since the West Bank isn’t part of Israel, the policies that prevail there can’t make Israel an apartheid state. Joe Walsh’s plan would end the argument once and for all, making apartheid official Israeli policy.
As for whether this plan would also constitute ethnic cleansing: Well, when you
- tell members of an ethnic group that the land they live on is being given to another nation;
- tell them that neither they nor their descendants will be allowed to vote in that nation’s elections, even though next-door neighbors of a different ethnicity can;
- tell them that the only way to avoid this fate is to go to another country–yeah, I’d call that ethnic cleansing, at least of a “soft” variety. (The harder variety, involving physical intimidation, is already practiced by the more extreme settlers — with little success thus far, though it could no doubt work in powerful synergy with Walsh’s subtler approach.)
Offhand, I don’t recall a member of Congress in my lifetime saying anything so grotesquely at odds with American ideals about ethnic relations and for that matter basic human rights. Will the Anti-Defamation League denounce Walsh? Will the American Jewish Congress? Will AIPAC have anything to say about the congressman whose strongly pro-Israel views its newsletter approvingly highlighted? If not, why not?
Unfortunately there are many more examples.
(5) For More Information about American politics
Articles about America’s evolving political system:
- “The Difference Between “Obomney” and “Robama” Is Only Skin Deep“, Washington’s Blog, 20 April 2012
- “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem“, Thomas E. Mann (Brookings Institute) and Norman J. Ornstein (American Enterprise Institute), op-ed in the Washington Post, 27 April 2012
Posts about American politics:
- Lilliput or America – who has a better way to choose its leaders?, 19 November 2008
- More about the tottering structure of the American political regime, 17 August 2009
- The breakdown of the American political system, pointing to a new and better future, 2 February 2010
- Programs to reshape the American mind, run by the left and right, 2 August 2010
- Which political party will best protect our liberties?, 10 September 2010
- Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations, 1 September 2010
- Polarization and hot rhetoric conceal two similar political parties. Will we ever notice?, 29 October 2010
- We have the leaders we deserve. Visit McDonald’s to learn why., 30 October 2010
- The good news: America’s politics are neither polarized nor dysfunctional. That’s also the bad news., 16 November 2011