Monday, March 30, 2020

A Farewell to The Merry Widow...


Legend has it that the amaryllis - the stunning red flower we've come to associate with the holidays - began as a shy, timid nymph. Amaryllis fell deeply in love with Alteo, a shepherd with Hercules' strength and Apollo's beauty, but her affections were unrequited. Hoping that she could win him over by bestowing upon him the thing he desired most - a flower so unique it had never existed in the world before - Amaryllis sought advice from the oracle of Delphi.

Following his instructions, Amaryllis dressed in maiden's white and appeared at Alteo's door for 30 nights, each time piercing her heart with a golden arrow. When at last Alteo opened his door, there before him was a striking crimson flower, sprung from the blood of Amaryllis's heart. With this romantic - albeit tragic - tale as its beginning, it's not surprising that today the amaryllis has come to symbolize pride, determination and radiant beauty.

Once, when I wandered in the woods alone,
an old man tottered up to me and said,
“Come, friend, and see the grave that I have made
For Amaryllis.” There was in the tone
Of his complaint such quaver and such moan
That I took pity on him and obeyed,
And long stood looking where his hands had laid
An ancient woman, shrunk to skin and bone.

Far out beyond the forest I could hear
The calling of loud progress, and the bold
Incessant scream of commerce ringing clear;
But though the trumpets of the world were glad,
It made me lonely and it made me sad
To think that Amaryllis had grown old.
-Edwin Arlington Robinson, "Amaryllis"

Amarilli, mia bella,
Non credi, o del mio cor dolce desio,
D’esser tu l’amor mio?
Credilo pur, e se timor t’assale
Dubitar non ti vale
Aprimi il petto e vedrai scritto il core
Amarilli è il mio amore.
-Caccini

Ciao, cara mia! Solo il bene muore giovane!

What Should a Federal Pandemic Prevention Policy Look Like?

Dave Roos, "Why the Second Wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu Was So Deadly"
The first strain of the Spanish flu wasn’t particularly deadly. Then it came back in the fall with a vengeance.

The horrific scale of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic is hard to fathom. The virus infected 500 million people worldwide and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims— that’s more than all of the soldiers and civilians killed during World War I combined.

While the global pandemic lasted for two years, the vast majority of deaths were packed into three especially cruel months in the fall of 1918. Historians now believe that the fatal severity of the Spanish flu’s “second wave” was caused by a mutated virus spread by wartime troop movements.

When the Spanish flu first appeared in early March 1918, it had all the hallmarks of a seasonal flu, albeit a highly contagious and virulent strain. One of the first registered cases was Albert Gitchell, a U.S. Army cook at Camp Funston in Kansas, who was hospitalized with a 104-degree fever. The virus spread quickly through the Army installation, home to 54,000 troops. By the end of the month, 1,100 troops had been hospitalized and 38 had died after developing pneumonia.

As U.S. troops deployed en masse for the war effort in Europe, they carried the Spanish flu with them. Throughout April and May of 1918, the virus spread like wildfire through England, France, Spain and Italy. An estimated three-quarters of the French military was infected in the spring of 1918 and as many as half of British troops. Luckily, the first wave of the virus wasn’t particularly deadly, with symptoms like high fever and malaise usually lasting only three days, and mortality rates were similar to seasonal flu.

Interestingly, it was during this time that the Spanish flu earned its misnomer. Spain was neutral during World War I and unlike its European neighbors, it didn’t impose wartime censorship on its press. In France, England and the United States, newspapers weren’t allowed to report on anything that could harm the war effort, including news that a crippling virus was sweeping through troops. Since Spanish journalists were some of the only ones reporting on a widespread flu outbreak in the spring of 1918, the pandemic became known as the “Spanish flu.”

Reported cases of Spanish flu dropped off over the summer of 1918, and there was hope at the beginning of August that the virus had run its course. In retrospect, it was only the calm before the storm. Somewhere in Europe, a mutated strain of the Spanish flu virus had emerged that had the power to kill a perfectly healthy young man or woman within 24 hours of showing the first signs of infection.

In late August 1918, military ships departed the English port city of Plymouth carrying troops unknowingly infected with this new, far deadlier strain of Spanish flu. As these ships arrived in cities like Brest in France, Boston in the United States and Freetown in west Africa, the second wave of the global pandemic began.

“The rapid movement of soldiers around the globe was a major spreader of the disease,” says James Harris, a historian at Ohio State University who studies both infectious disease and World War I. “The entire military industrial complex of moving lots of men and material in crowded conditions was certainly a huge contributing factor in the ways the pandemic spread.”

From September through November of 1918, the death rate from the Spanish flu skyrocketed. In the United States alone, 195,000 Americans died from the Spanish flu in just the month of October. And unlike a normal seasonal flu, which mostly claims victims among the very young and very old, the second wave of the Spanish flu exhibited what’s called a “W curve”—high numbers of deaths among the young and old, but also a huge spike in the middle composed of otherwise healthy 25- to 35-year-olds in the prime of their life.

“That really freaked out the medical establishment, that there was this atypical spike in the middle of the W,” says Harris.

Not only was it shocking that healthy young men and women were dying by the millions worldwide, but it was also how they were dying. Struck with blistering fevers, nasal hemorrhaging and pneumonia, the patients would drown in their own fluid-filled lungs.

Only decades later were scientists able explain the phenomenon now known as “cytokine explosion.” When the human body is being attacked by a virus, the immune system sends messenger proteins called cytokines to promote helpful inflammation. But some strains of the flu, particularly the H1N1 strain responsible for the Spanish flu outbreak, can trigger a dangerous immune overreaction in healthy individuals. In those cases, the body is overloaded with cytokines leading to severe inflammation and the fatal buildup of fluid in the lungs.

British military doctors conducting autopsies on soldiers killed by this second wave of the Spanish flu described the heavy damage to the lungs as akin to the effects of chemical warfare.

Harris believes that the rapid spread of Spanish flu in the fall of 1918 was at least partially to blame on public health officials unwilling to impose quarantines during wartime. In Britain, for example, a government official named Arthur Newsholme knew full well that a strict civilian lockdown was the best way to fight the spread of the highly contagious disease. But he wouldn’t risk crippling the war effort by keeping munitions factory workers and other civilians home.

According to Harris’s research, Newsholme concluded that “the relentless needs of warfare justified incurring [the] risk of spreading infection” and encouraged Britons to simply “carry on” during the pandemic.

The public health response to the crisis in the United States was further hampered by a severe nursing shortage as thousands of nurses had been deployed to military camps and the front lines. The shortage was worsened by the American Red Cross’s refusal to use trained African American nurses until the worst of the pandemic had already passed.

Medical Science Didn't Have the Tools

But one of the chief reasons that the Spanish flu claimed so many lives in 1918 was that science simply didn’t have the tools to develop a vaccine for the virus. Microscopes couldn’t even see something as incredibly small as a virus until the 1930s. Instead, top medical professionals in 1918 were convinced that the flu was caused by a bacterium nicknamed “Pfeiffer’s bacillus.”

After a global flu outbreak in 1890, a German physician named Richard Pfeiffer found that all of his infected patients carried a particular strain of bacteria he called H. influenzae. When the Spanish flu pandemic hit, scientists were intent on finding a cure for Pfeiffer’s bacillus. Millions of dollars were invested in state-of-the-art labs to develop techniques for testing for and treating H. influenzae, all of it for naught.

“This was a huge distraction for medical science,” says Harris.

By December 1918, the deadly second wave of the Spanish flu had finally passed, but the pandemic was far from over. A third wave erupted in Australia in January 1919 and eventually worked its way back to Europe and the United States. It’s believed that President Woodrow Wilson contracted the Spanish flu during the World War I peace negotiations in Paris in April 1919.

The mortality rate of the third wave was just as high as the second wave, but the end of the war in November 1918 removed the conditions that allowed the disease to spread so far and so quickly. Global deaths from the third wave, while still in the millions, paled in comparison to the apocalyptic losses during the second wave.


A New Hope...?

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The COVID19 Survival Guide

Slavoj Žižek, "Slavoj Zizek’s Covid-19 lockdown survival guide: Guilty pleasures, Valhalla Murders & pretending it's just a game"
To deal with the mental pressure during the coronavirus pandemic, my first rule is it’s not a time to search for spiritual authenticity. Without any shame – assume all small rituals that stabilize your daily life.

Let me begin by a personal confession: I like the idea of being confined to one’s apartment, with all the time to read and work.

Even when I travel, I prefer to stay in a nice hotel room and ignore all famous attractions. A good essay on a famous painting means much more to me than seeing this painting in a crowded museum. But I noticed this makes it worse, not easier, for being now obliged to confinement. Why?

Let me repeat the famous joke from Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka: “‘Waiter! A cup of coffee without cream, please!’ ‘I’m sorry, sir, we have no cream, only milk, so can it be a coffee without milk?’”

At the factual level, coffee remains the same coffee, but what we can change is to make the coffee without cream into a coffee without milk – or, even simpler – to add the implied negation and to make the plain coffee into a coffee without milk.

Is this not what happened with my isolation? Prior to the crisis, it was an isolation “without milk” – I could have gone out, I just chose not to. Now it’s just the plain coffee of isolation with no possible negation implied.

Invisible threats are most terrifying

My friend Gabriel Tupinamba, a Lacanian psychoanalyst who works in Rio de Janeiro, explained this paradox to me in an email message: “People who already worked from home are the ones who are the most anxious, and exposed to the worst fantasies of impotence, since not even a change in their habits is delimiting the singularity of this situation in their daily lives.”

His point is complex but clear: if there is no great change in our daily reality, then the threat is experienced as a spectral fantasy nowhere to be seen and all the more powerful for that reason. Remember that, in Nazi Germany, anti-Semitism was strongest in those parts where the number of Jews was minimal – their invisibility made them a terrifying specter.

Tupinamba further noticed that the same paradox held for the outburst of the HIV crisis: “the invisible spread of the HIV crisis was so nerve-wracking, the impossibility of rendering ourselves commensurate with the scale of the problem, that having one’s passport ‘stamped’ /with HIV/ did not seem, to some, like too high a price to pay for giving the situation some symbolic contours. It would at least give a measure to the power of the virus and deliver us to a situation in which, already having contracted it, we could then see what sort of freedom we would still have.”

The moment the spectral agent becomes part of our reality (even if it means catching a virus), its power is localized, it becomes something we can deal with (even if we lose the battle). As long as this transposition into reality cannot take place, “we get trapped either in anxious paranoia (pure globality) or resort to ineffective symbolisations through acting outs that expose us to unnecessary risks (pure locality).”

These “ineffective symbolizations” already assumed many forms – the best known of them is US President Donald Trump’s call to ignore the risks and get America back to work. Such acts are much worse than shouting and clapping while watching a soccer match in front of your home TV, acting like you can magically influence the outcome. But this does not mean we are helpless: we can get out of this deadlock before science will provide the technical means to constrain the virus.

How not to give in to paranoia

Here is what Tupinamba says: “The fact that doctors who are in the frontline of the pandemic, people creating mutual aid systems in peripheral communities, etc., are less likely to give in to crazy paranoias, suggests to me that there is a ‘collateral’ subjective benefit to certain forms of political work today. It seems that politics done through certain mediations – and the State is often the only available means here, but I think this might be contingent – not only provides us with the means to change the situation, but also to give the proper form to the things we have lost.”

In the UK, more than 400,000 young healthy people volunteered to help those in need – a good step in this direction.

How to avoid mental breakdown

So what about those among us who are not able to engage ourselves in this way – what can we do to survive the mental pressure of living in a time of pandemics? My first rule here is: this is not the time to search for some spiritual authenticity, to confront the ultimate abyss of our being. Without any shame – assume all small rituals, formulas, quirks, etc. that stabilize your daily life.

Everything that may work is permitted here to avoid a mental breakdown. Don’t think too much in long terms – think of today, what you will be doing till sleep. If it works, play the game of Life is Beautiful (the movie): pretend the lockdown is just a game in which you and your family freely participate with the prospect of a big reward if you win. And, if we are with movies (if you have some free time for them), gladly succumb to all your guilty pleasures: catastrophic dystopias, daily life TV comedy series with canned laughter like Will and Grace, YouTube podcasts on the great battles of the past. My preferences are dark Scandinavian – preferably Icelandic – crime series like Trapped or Valhalla Murders.

However, this stance doesn’t reach all the way – the main task is to structure your daily life in a stable and meaningful way. Here is how another of my friends, Andreas Rosenfelder, a German journalist from Die Welt, described in an email to me the new stance towards daily life that is emerging: “I really can feel something heroic about this new ethics, also in journalism – everybody works day and night from home office, making video conferences and taking care of children or schooling them at the same time, but nobody asks why he or she is doing it, because it’s not any more ‘I get money and can go to vacation etc.’, since nobody knows if there will be vacations again and if there will be money. It’s the idea of a world where you have a flat, basics like food etc., the love of others and a task that really matters, now more than ever. The idea that one needs ‘more’ seems unreal now.”

I cannot imagine a better description of what one should shamelessly call a non-alienated decent life – and I hope that some of this stance will survive when the pandemics will hopefully pass.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Virus Maths, How Misleading Are It?

What a Single Death in Your Area can Tell You About the Possible Number Of People Infected

Friday, March 20, 2020

On the Road to Communism

-Slavoj Zizek, "Biggest threat Covid-19 epidemic poses is not our regression to survivalist violence, but BARBARISM with human face"
The impossible has happened and the world we knew has stopped turning around. But what world order will emerge after the coronavirus pandemic is over – socialism for the rich, disaster capitalism or something completely new?

These days I sometimes catch myself wishing to get the virus – in this way, at least the debilitating uncertainty would be over. A clear sign of how my anxiety is growing is how I relate to sleep. Until around a week ago I was eagerly awaiting the evening: finally, I can escape into sleep and forget about the fears of my daily life. Now it’s almost the opposite: I am afraid to fall asleep since nightmares haunt me in my dreams and make me awaken in panic – nightmares about the reality that awaits me.

What reality? Alenka Zupancic formulated it perfectly, and let me resume her line of thought. These days we often hear that radical social changes are needed if we really want to cope with the consequences of the ongoing epidemic (I myself am among those spreading this mantra). But radical changes are already taking place.

The coronavirus epidemic confronts us with something we considered impossible. We couldn’t imagine something like this to really happen in our daily lives – the world we knew has stopped spinning around, whole countries are in lockdown, many of us are confined to one’s apartment (but what about those who cannot afford even this minimal safety precaution?) facing an uncertain future in which even if most of us survive an economic mega-crisis lies ahead…

What this means is that our reaction should also be to do the impossible – what appears impossible within the coordinates of the existing world order.

The impossible has happened, our world has stopped, and now we have to do the impossible to avoid the worst. But what is that ‘impossible’?

I don’t think the biggest threat is a regression to open barbarism, to brutal survivalist violence with public disorders, panic lynching, etc. (although, with the possible collapse of health and some other public services, this is also quite possible.) More than open barbarism I fear barbarism with a human face – ruthless survivalist measures enforced with regret and even sympathy, but legitimized by expert opinions.

Survival of the fittest

A careful observer easily noticed the change in tone in how those in power address us: they are not just trying to project calm and confidence, they also regularly utter dire predictions – the pandemic is likely to take about two years to run its course and the virus will eventually infect 60-70 percent of the global population, with millions dead.

In short, their true message is that we’ll have to curtail the basic premise of our social ethics: the care for the old and weak. In Italy, for instance, it’s already been proposed that if the virus crisis gets worse, patients over 80 or those with other heavy diseases will be simply left to die.

One should note how accepting this logic of the “survival of the fittest” violates even the basic principle of military ethics which tells us that, after the battle, one should first take care of the heavily wounded even if the chance of saving them is minimal. (However, upon a closer look, this shouldn’t surprise us: hospitals are already doing the same thing with cancer patients).

To avoid a misunderstanding, I am an utter realist here – one should plan even medicaments to enable a painless death of the terminally ill, to spare them the unnecessary suffering. But our first priority should be nonetheless not to economize but to help unconditionally, irrespective of costs, those who need help, to enable their survival.

So I respectfully disagree with Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben who sees in the ongoing crisis a sign that “our society no longer believes in anything but bare life. It is obvious that Italians are disposed to sacrifice practically everything — the normal conditions of life, social relationships, work, even friendships, affections, and religious and political convictions — to the danger of getting sick. Bare life — and the danger of losing it — is not something that unites people, but blinds and separates them.”

Things are much more ambiguous: it DOES also unite people – to maintain a corporeal distance is to show respect to others since I also may be a virus bearer. My sons avoid me now because they are afraid they will contaminate me (what is to them a passing illness can be deadly for me).

Personal responsibility

In recent days, we hear again and again that each of us is personally responsible and has to follow the new rules. The media is full of stories about people who misbehaved and put themselves and others in danger (a guy entered a store and started to cough, etc.). The problem here is the same as with ecology where the media again and again emphasize our personal responsibility (did you recycle all used newspapers, etc.).

Such a focus on individual responsibility, necessary as it is, functions as ideology the moment it serves to obfuscate the big question of how to change our entire economic and social system. The struggle against coronavirus can only be fought together with the struggle against ideological mystifications, plus as part of a general ecological struggle. As Kate Jones, the chair of ecology and biodiversity at UCL, put it, the transmission of disease from wildlife to humans is “a hidden cost of human economic development.”

“There are just so many more of us, in every environment. We are going into largely undisturbed places and being exposed more and more. We are creating habitats where viruses are transmitted more easily, and then we are surprised that we have new ones,” Jones said.

So it is not enough to put together some kind of global healthcare for humans, nature should be included into it – viruses also attack plants which are the main sources of our food, like potatoes, wheat and olives. We always have to bear in mind the global picture of the world we live in, with all the paradoxes this implies.

For example, it is good to know that the lockdown in China because of coronavirus saved more lives than the number of those killed by the virus (if one trusts official statistics of the dead): “Environmental resource economist Marshall Burke says there is a proven link between poor air quality and premature deaths linked to breathing that air. ‘With this in mind’, he said, ‘a natural – if admittedly strange – question is whether the lives saved from this reduction in pollution caused by economic disruption from Covid-19 exceeds the death toll from the virus itself. Even under very conservative assumptions, I think the answer is a clear yes.’ At just two months of reduction in pollution levels he says it likely saved the lives of 4,000 children under five and 73,000 adults over 70 in China alone.”

Triple crisis: medical, economic, mental

We are caught in a triple crisis: medical (the epidemic itself), economic (which will hit hard whatever the outcome of the epidemic), plus (not to underestimate) mental health – the basic coordinates of the lives of millions and millions are disintegrating, and the change will affect everything, from flying to holidays to everyday bodily contacts. We have to learn to think outside the coordinates of the stock market and profit and simply find another way to produce and allocate the necessary resources. Say, when the authorities learn that a company is keeping millions of masks, waiting for the right moment to sell them, there should be no negotiations with the company – masks should be simply requisitioned.

The media reported that Trump offered $1 billion to Tübingen-based biopharmaceutical company CureVac to secure the vaccine “only for the United States.” The German Health Minister Jens Spahn said a takeover of CureVac by the Trump administration was “off the table”: CureVac would only develop a vaccine “for the whole world, not for individual countries.” Here we have an exemplary case of the struggle between barbarism and civilization. But the same Trump had to invoke the Defense Production Act that would allow the government to ensure that the private sector can ramp up production of emergency medical supplies.

Earlier this week, Trump announced the proposal to take over the private sector. He said he would invoke a federal provision allowing the government to marshal the private sector in response to the pandemic. He added he would sign an act giving himself the authority to direct domestic industrial production “in case we need it."

When I used the word “communism” a couple of weeks ago, I was mocked, but now “Trump announces proposals to take over the private sector” – can one imagine such a title even a week ago?

And this is just the beginning – many more measures like this should follow, plus local self-organization of communities will be necessary if the state-run health system is under too much stress. It is not enough just to isolate and survive – for some of us to do this, basic public services have to function: electricity, food and medicaments supply… (We’ll soon need a list of those who recovered and are at least for some time immune, so that they can be mobilized for the urgent public work).

It is not a utopian communist vision, it is a communism imposed by the necessities of bare survival. It is unfortunately a version of what, in the Soviet Union in 1918, was called “war communism.”

As the saying goes, in a crisis we are all socialists – even the Trump administration considers a form of UBI – a check for $1,000 to every adult citizen. Trillions will be spent violating all the market rules – but how, where, for whom? Will this enforced socialism be socialism for the rich (remember the bailing out of the banks in 2008 while millions of ordinary people lost their small savings)? Will the epidemic be reduced to another chapter in the long sad story of what Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein called “disaster capitalism,” or will a new (more modest, maybe, but also more balanced) world order emerge out of it?

Monday, March 16, 2020

Slavoj Zizek, "What I Like About the Coronavirus"

from Spectator
We are meant to discuss Žižek’s upcoming book of essays, A Left That Dares to Speak Its Name, which the 70-year-old says is an easier read than the majority of the books he has written in the past five decades.

But Žižek is far more eager to talk about the COVID-19 coronavirus.

‘Europe is approaching a perfect storm,’ he says, before asking whether I’d seen ‘that stupid movie about that fishing boat?’

‘The movie with George Clooney. It was called The Perfect Storm. You know what’s the definition of “perfect storm”? When calamities, like a tornado here and storm there, unite and then their unification multiplies their effect,’ he explained. ‘I think that Europe is now approaching a perfect storm.’

One of those calamities, according to Žižek, is the coronavirus.

‘I don’t get it, even what’s happening here. All official proclamations begin with, “No cause for panic, don’t panic”, and then all that they tell you is reasons to panic,’ he said, before noting that both the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus could cause severe damage to Europe.

‘If you add to this a possible new wave of refugees you get the perfect storm, and I think that Europe is so weakened that it will not be able to react in a unified way, and that’s what I mean when I say coronavirus gives a new chance to communism,’ he said. ‘Of course, I don’t mean the old-style communism. By communism, I mean simply what the World Health Organization is saying. We should mobilize, coordinate, and so on…like, my God, this is a dangerous situation. They’re saying this country lacks masks, respirators, and so on. We should treat this as a war. Some kind of European coordination…maybe even wartime mobilization. It can be done, and it can even boost productivity.

‘What I mean is that it is possible to keep the good sides of capitalism, but nonetheless, through a coordinated state, social effort to mobilize. Not just with coronavirus, this is needed with other ecological crises, refugees and so on.’

What about politics on the other side of the Atlantic? On the 2020 Democratic nomination race, Žižek says, ‘My longstanding analogies are fully confirmed by recent events. Isn’t it absolutely clear that the message of the Democratic party establishment is, “better Trump than Bernie Sanders”?

‘I noticed how on the one hand you have this, let’s call it, “electability problem”. The Democratic establishment is saying Bernie Sanders is too extreme and so on and so on, but my God, that’s how Trump got elected!’ he continued. ‘I mean this line of reasoning that “play safely, stay in the middle if you want to be elected”, no longer works.

‘We have a large socialist movement which gained a serious foothold in United States politics and in the mainstream, and this is incredibly important to be visible there as a serious option.’

Žižek goes on to claim that the Democratic party and Republican party mainstream are becoming ‘indistinguishable’, pointing to billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s brief presidential run as a recent example.

‘If the Democratic establishment were to make a decision at gunpoint as it were — Trump or Sanders — they wouldn’t say, but de facto they would have preferred Trump. So I think, politically, there is the irony.’

According to Žižek, President Trump is too passive. A flaw he cites as being behind the United States’s decision to pull out of Syria, which Žižek described as ‘one of the most catastrophic things that Trump did’.

‘He sacrificed the Kurds,’ Žižek said. ‘The main victims. Everybody wants to screw them. I have full sympathy with the Kurds. Not so much with the Kurds in the north of Iraq, who are more conservative, but the Kurds in the southeast of Turkey and northern Syria.’

‘Trump opened up with unilateral withdrawal, a new situation where basically the two partners there are now Putin and Erdogan, and it’s clear what’s the target of both of them…to ruin Europe. European unity. People even didn’t notice that a similar thing is happening now in Libya. Russia is moving in, supporting one side, Turks supporting the other side in the civil war, and then they are making the deals.

‘I think that this is all coordinated. How this tension threatens Europe with new waves of refugees, which if — now it will sound horrible for a leftist — but I think that the new wave of refugees in Europe means a total ideological, political catastrophe. I am for more refugees…but four years ago when there was the first wave, it should have been done in an organized way. The way — this chaotic way — means that it will not only be Hungary and a couple of other populists. Populists will simply gradually take over Europe, and we should never forget what strange alliances we get here.’

To Žižek, Putin’s Russia and Erdogan’s Turkey are part of a ‘new Axis’ which, due to European passivity, ‘can always blackmail Europe’ through both oil and refugees.

‘I’m just shocked at this passivity of Europe,’ he declares. ‘We pay Turkey €6 billion if they help the refugees. I thought this is a disgusting compromise, but
OK. Then, the time that we had four years of relative peace should have been used for Europe to mobilize not against the refugees, but to change the situation there…of course, Europe should receive more refugees, but this is not the solution.

‘The wealthiest countries there…Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Emirates. They’re simply not receiving any immigrants. Why Europe? Why not Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Emirates? Rich, wealthy countries. It should have been easy for them to receive.’

On the ‘populist left,’ Žižek, is skeptical, claiming they prefer to ‘write wonderful books about why things went wrong’ than get their act together.

‘I would like to have a modest, realist left which has positive proposals of what to do. Like, OK, to talk frankly, we cannot obviously step out of capitalism. How to deal with it?’ he said, adding that the populist left needs to work out ‘how to use capitalist mechanisms’.

Žižek, says that ‘the rise of Trump and populism signals the end of this old liberal centrist consensus’.

‘The majority is disappointed by it and we cannot simply return to it. That’s why all around Europe — Le Pen, AfD, and so on — all around we have this populist revolt,’ he declared, before encouraging the left to ‘do what Trump did on the right’.

‘I remember when Trump began, people thought he was too divisive. No! That’s how you win!’ he says. ‘Hillary lost because Hillary tried to play this game. “We must move more to the center”,…the moral majority, the silent moral majority. I think the left should appropriate this. The left’s strategy should not be, “we are radical, we provoke, we use dirty words in public”…I think that the left, to reinvent itself, should present itself in this way. If by postmodernism we mean obscenity, irony, inconsistency, fake news and so on, then Trump is the ultimate postmodern president, and I think that the left should shamelessly begin to scream, “no, we address not just some fringe group, we address normal, modest, impoverished everyday people”.

‘The left should also stop this obsession with it’s this LGBT minority, that minority, and so on and so on. I think that this obsession with different lifestyles, minorities, is ultimately just a maneuver to avoid the big economic problem.’

‘Class struggle is returning,’ Žižek proclaimed, noting that ‘the two surprising mega hits of the last year’, Joker and Parasite, are ‘both movies about class struggle’.

Whether the digital age will help workers in the class struggle, however, is an ‘ambiguous’ question on Žižek’s mind.

‘On the one hand, internet, of course, opens up the new space of immediate social coordination. You can reach millions instantly,’ he explained. ‘On the other hand, here Julian Assange enters I think.’

‘We are gradually becoming aware to what degree the control of internet, who will control the digital space? It’s one of the big battles today…I think this digital space is not simply either good or bad. It’s just one domain of struggle.’

I ask him about Nick Land and the increasingly popular philosophy of accelerationism, which starts from the idea that capitalism and technology should be sped up in order to precipitate social change. He doesn’t seem to know about Land but he says: ‘What I see good in accelerationism is that I don’t buy this idea that you can oppose global capitalism through some kind of local traditional resistance. Some of my Latino American friends claim we should return to ancient tribal traditions and so on and so on. No. I still remain a Marxist here. You have to go through radical capitalist modernization. There is no way back.’

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Doing right by forgotten American heroes of the Merchant Marines

from the NY Post
United States Merchant Mariners suffered the highest rate of casualities of any service in World War II. According to one estimate, one of every 26 mariners died and as many as 8,000 perished in total — while more than 600 became prisoners of war without the protection of prisoner-of-war status.

In long overdue recognition, President Trump has now signed into law a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to those United States Merchant Mariners who served as the fourth arm of our national defense during World War II.

These valiant civilian mariners provided the unbroken pipelines that got America’s domestic production to its fighting forces and allies overseas, providing equipment, fuel, food, assorted commodities and raw materials to every corner of the globe and every theater of war.

Statistics alone don’t capture the sufferings of our merchant mariners, who struggled to survive in crowded lifeboats or on flimsy rafts among flotsam in thick oil slicks. During the war, more than 800 vessels were sunk.

Nor do mere numbers capture the parched lips and swollen tongues from lack of fresh water in the burning tropical sun or the frozen limbs of those adrift in the North Atlantic and Barents Sea.

While the brutality of Nazi Germany’s U-boat attacks left many abandoned at sea to their gloomy and lonely fates, these doomed mariners may have been lucky compared to those trapped in the engine rooms of their sinking ships. In the chaos and fog of war, men faced scalding steam from ruptured boilers and steam lines as damaged hulls raced to inevitable crashes with the seabed.

These brutalities on the high seas claimed not just seasoned mariners but also our very youngest. Over the course of the war, 142 United States Merchant Marine Academy students were lost at sea while training aboard ships, giving it the sobering distinction among the nation’s five service academies as the only one to have a battle standard.
One of those lost was young engineer cadet Edwin O’Hara. On Sept. 27, 1942, O’Hara’s ship, the SS Stephen Hopkins, came under attack from two German commerce raiders. Despite being massively outgunned, the United States Merchant Mariners chose to fight these surface vessels. A vicious bombardment left the Hopkins dead in the water and aflame, with the crew manning its lone 4-inch gun dead.

To help save lives, O’Hara rushed to man the gun alone, fired its remaining five shells, and scored hits on both German vessels. As his crewmembers escaped on life rafts, O’Hara went down with the ship.

For his bravery, he was posthumously awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award for Merchant Marine personnel, while his name also adorns the United States Merchant Marine Academy’s main athletic building.

The awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal, so richly deserved and so long overdue, must not just celebrate the heroism of a branch of service too often lost in the shadows of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force.

This Gold Medal should also serve the greater purpose of bringing attention to a branch of service that continues to be largely neglected.

Today, as the United States military continues to rely on its merchant-marine fleet to move its supplies around the world, fewer than 200 of the world’s 40,000-plus large, oceangoing commercial vessels fly the American flag. A declining number of US commercial vessels means fewer US-flagged ships and possibly fewer US-credentialed mariners available for sealift in times of emergencies.
Foreign competitors know full well that one way to impair the US armed forces is to attrit in contested waters the number of US-flagged merchant ships and crews.

Let this Congressional Gold Medal not only celebrate some of the most unsung heroes of World War II; let it also reawaken our interest in promoting US-flagged ships and credentialed merchant seamen and strengthening our shipyards and broader defense industrial base.

Such a result would be a truly lasting tribute to those World War II merchant mariners who defended freedom then and a broad salute to our future merchant mariners who will defend us in the tomorrows to come.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Rene Girard

Happy Pi Day!

On March 14, 1879, Albert Einstein is born, the son of a Jewish electrical engineer in Ulm, Germany. Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity drastically altered man’s view of the universe, and his work in particle and energy theory helped make possible quantum mechanics and, ultimately, the atomic bomb.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology has often mailed its application decision letters to prospective students for delivery on Pi Day. Starting in 2012, MIT has announced it will post those decisions (privately) online on Pi Day at exactly 6:28 pm, which they have called "Tau Time", to honor the rival numbers pi and tau equally.
For double the Pi fun, checkout this year's decision release time...

Friday, March 13, 2020

Will the Virus... 2020's New Super Villain...

...become the Joker who Proves All of Our Enlightened Heroes, Fools?
What ever happened to "In God We Trust?"

Thursday, March 12, 2020

COVID-19

A significant number of infectious diseases display seasonal patterns in their incidence, including human coronaviruses. We hypothesize that SARS-CoV-2 does as well. To date, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by SARS-CoV-2, has established significant community spread in cities and regions only along a narrow east west distribution roughly along the 30-50 N” corridor at consistently similar weather patterns (5-11 degrees Celsius and 47-79% humidity).
Source
Today's latest USA stats or here.

I'd Prefer Not to...

-Slavoj Zizek, "Global communism or the jungle law, coronavirus forces us to decide "
As panic over coronavirus spreads, we have to make the ultimate choice – either we enact the most brutal logic of the survival of the fittest or some kind of reinvented communism with global coordination and collaboration.

Our media endlessly repeat the formula “No panic!” And then we get all the reports which cannot but trigger panic. The situation resembles the one I remember from my youth in a communist country: when government officials assured the public that there is no reason to panic, we all took these assurances as clear signs that they were themselves in panic.

It’s too serious to lose time with panic

Panic has a logic of its own. The fact that, in the UK, due to the coronavirus panic even toilet paper rolls have disappeared from the stores reminds me of a weird incident with toilet paper from my youth in socialist Yugoslavia. All of a sudden, a rumor started to circulate that there was not enough toilet paper in the stores. The authorities promptly issued assurances that there was enough toilet paper for the normal consumption, and, surprisingly, this was not only true but people mostly even believed it was true.

However, an average consumer reasoned in the following way: I know there is enough toilet paper and the rumor is false, but what if some people take this rumor seriously and, in a panic, will start to buy excessive reserves of toilet paper, causing this way an actual lack of toilet paper? So I better go and buy reserves of it myself.

It is even not necessary to believe that some others take the rumor seriously – it is enough to presuppose that some others believe that there are people who take the rumor seriously – the effect is the same, namely the real lack of toilet paper in the stores. Is something similar not going on in the UK (and also in California) today?

The strange counterpart of this kind of ongoing excessive panic is the total lack of panic where it would have been fully justified. In the last couple of years, after the SARS and ebola epidemics, we were told again and again that a new much stronger epidemic is just a matter of time, that the question is not IF but WHEN it will occur. Although we were rationally convinced of the truth of these dire predictions, we somehow didn’t take them seriously and were reluctant to act and engage in serious preparations – the only place we dealt with them were in apocalyptic movies like Contagion.

What this contrast tells us is that panic is not a proper way to confront a real threat. When we react in panic we do not take the threat too seriously. On the contrary, we trivialize it. Just think at how ridiculous the excessive buying of toilet paper rolls is: as if having enough toilet paper would matter in the midst of a deadly epidemic. So what would be an appropriate reaction to the coronavirus epidemic? What should we learn and what should we do to confront it seriously?

What I mean by communism

When I suggested that the coronavirus epidemic may give a new boost of life to communism, my claim was, as expected, ridiculed. Although it looks that the strong approach to the crisis by the Chinese state worked – at least it worked much better than what goes on now in Italy, the old authoritarian logic of communists in power also clearly demonstrated its limitations. One of them was that the fear of bringing bad news to those in power (and to the public) outweighs actual results – this was apparently the reason why those who first shared information on a new virus were reportedly arrested, and there are reports that a similar thing is going on now.

“The pressure to get China back to work after the coronavirus shutdown is resurrecting an old temptation: doctoring data so it shows senior officials what they want to see,” reports Bloomberg. “This phenomenon is playing out in Zhejiang province, an industrial hub on the east coast, in the form of electricity usage. At least three cities there have given local factories targets to hit for power consumption because they’re using the data to show a resurgence in production, according to people familiar with the matter. That’s prompted some businesses to run machinery even as their plants remain empty, the people said.”

We can also guess what will follow when those in power note this cheating: local managers will be accused of sabotage and severely punished, thus reproducing the vicious cycle of distrust… A Chinese Julian Assange would be needed here to expose to the public this concealed side of how China is coping with the epidemic. So if this is not the communism I have in mind, what do I mean by communism? To get it, it suffices to read the public declarations of WHO – here is a recent one:

WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week that although public health authorities across the globe have the ability to successfully combat the spread of the virus, the organization is concerned that in some countries the level of political commitment does not match the threat level. “This is not a drill. This is not the time to give up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops. Countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades. Now is the time to act on those plans,” Tedros said. “This epidemic can be pushed back, but only with a collective, coordinated and comprehensive approach that engages the entire machinery of government.”

One might add that such a comprehensive approach should reach well beyond the machinery of single governments: it should encompass local mobilization of people outside state control as well as strong and efficient international coordination and collaboration.

If thousands will be hospitalized for respiratory problems, a vastly increased number of respiratory machines will be needed, and to get them, the state should directly intervene in the same way as it intervenes in conditions of war when thousands of guns are needed, and it should rely on the cooperation of other states. As in a military campaign, information should be shared and plans fully coordinated – THIS is all I mean by ‘communism’ needed today, or, as Will Hutton put it: “Now, one form of unregulated, free-market globalization with its propensity for crises and pandemics is certainly dying. But another form that recognizes interdependence and the primacy of evidence-based collective action is being born.”

Global coordination & collaboration necessary

What now still predominates is the stance of “every country for itself”: “There are national bans on exports of key products such as medical supplies, with countries falling back on their own analysis of the crisis amid localised shortages and haphazard, primitive approaches to containment,” Will Hutton wrote in the Guardian.

The coronavirus epidemic does not signal just the limit of market globalization, it also signals the even more fatal limit of nationalist populism which insists on full state sovereignty: it’s over with ‘America (or whoever) first!’ since America can be saved only through global coordination and collaboration.

I am not a utopian here, I don’t appeal to an idealized solidarity between people – on the contrary, the present crisis demonstrates clearly how global solidarity and cooperation is in the interest of survival of all and each of us, how it is the only rational egotist thing to do. And it’s not just coronavirus: China itself suffered a gigantic swine flu months ago, and it is now threatened by the prospect of a locust invasion. Plus, as Owen Jones noted, climate crisis kills much more people around the world than coronavirus, but there is no panic about this.

From a cynical vitalist standpoint, one would be tempted to see coronavirus as a beneficial infection which allows humanity to get rid of the old, weak and ill, like pulling out the half-rotten weed, and thus contributes to global health.

The broad communist approach I am advocating is the only way for us to really leave behind such a primitive vitalist standpoint. Signs of curtailing unconditional solidarity are already discernible in the ongoing debates, as in the following note about the role of the “three wise men” if the epidemics takes a more catastrophic turn in the UK: “NHS patients could be denied life saving care during a severe coronavirus outbreak in Britain if intensive care units are struggling to cope, senior doctors have warned. Under a so-called ‘three wise men’ protocol, three senior consultants in each hospital would be forced to make decisions on rationing care such as ventilators and beds, in the event hospitals were overwhelmed with patients.”

What criteria will the “three wise men” rely on? Sacrifice the weakest and eldest? And will this situation not just open up space for immense corruption? Do such procedures not indicate that we are getting ready to enact the most brutal logic of the survival of the fittest? So, again, the ultimate choice is: this or some kind of reinvented communism.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Dedalaus and the Minotaur

This is a preparatory sketch by Rubens for the pictorial decoration of the Tower of La Parada in Madrid commissioned by King Philip IV.

Daedalus, who is here depicted with his architect’s tools hanging from his belt, was in Greek mythology a skilful craftsman commissioned by Minos the king of Crete to create the labyrinth to contain the Minotaur, a creature which was half man and half bull. As a penalty for its defeat by Minos, Athens was for many years required to pay a tax in the form of delivering numerous young men to be devoured by the monster, until one, the hero Theseus, managed to kill it.

Post-Modern Meta-Narratives, Left on Right

Matt McManus, 'Slavoj Žižek, Viktor Orbán, and Understanding “Post-Truth”'
“This does seem to be occurring in the academy, as the contemporary academic stars of critical theory such as Alain Badious and Slavoj Žižek tend to be hostile to the extreme skepticism of post-modern theory.”

Introduction

There is much to appreciate in Gabriel Andrade’s recent piece criticizing the notion that we live in a “post-truth” era. Andrade acknowledges that I “have a point” in my contentions about post-modern conservatism. However, Andrade contends that my position is somewhat overstated—in that things are generally getting better rather than worse. Here he invokes Steven Pinker’s well-known defense of progress in Enlightenment Now. Andrade goes on to say that if there is a cultural tendency to embrace “post-truth,” it is more prevalent on the political left than on the political right. He invokes a number of well-known radical left theorists, who embraced skeptical positions to back up this case. Here, I will quote Andrade at some length:
“Richard Rorty, Paul Feyerabend, Jacques Derrida, and many, many more held similar views. The Left—not the Right—loves these thinkers. A bow-tied young Republican is highly unlikely to quote Derrida; it is, in reality, the dreadlocks-wearing activist, who is far more likely to bid farewell to truth.
These aforementioned intellectual figures have had a more unnoticed (yet, at the same time) more profound influence on the disregard for truth in our times. They are the professors who keep telling us that objectivity does not exist because claims about the world are always mediated by power. They are the ones who advise students not to refute a particular claim but, rather, to say that because the person who makes that claim has a particular identity, then that claim cannot be taken seriously.

With such disregard for truth, we must come to admit that fake reports on Breitbart are actually the chickens coming home to roost. The fake news of right-wing media may be the leaves, but the intellectual Left is the trunk and the roots of that monstrous tree.”

This objection is well-put and does follow organically from my linking of post-modernism to contemporary conservatism ala Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán, and such. In the remainder of this piece, I will discuss my justification for this position in more detail. I have decided to invert Andrade’s ordering by discussing the point about left-wing theory and truth before moving on to arguing for the prevalence of a post-truth society. This is because I think that much turns on the need to distinguish between post-modern skeptical theory (and its undoubted impact) and the more general cultural condition of post-modernity diagnosed by a number of commentators

The Skepticism of Post-Modern Theory

One key distinction we need to make is between post-modernism as a theory and post-modernism as a cultural condition. Post-modern theory is—put very crudely—a distinctive form of epistemic skepticism, which emerged in the 1960’s in the works of thinkers such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and so on. Generalizing broadly, post-modern thinkers were skeptical of “meta-narratives,” which suggested reality and morality could be explained within a single theoretical framework. Instead, they stressed the pluralism of ways of apprehending and knowing the world, often critiquing efforts to assimilate or discredit forms of knowledge that contradicted the logic of standard meta-narratives such as Enlightenment progressivism, Marxism, or Christianity. By contrast, interpreting post-modernism as a culture entails very different commitments. Figures like David Harvey, Fredric Jameson, and Wendy Brown agree that neoliberal post-modernity is characterized by the breakdown of standard accounts of truth. Indeed, they go further than the post-modern theorists by insisting that this is not just a philosophical point; everyday people are beginning to adopt skeptical attitudes towards the validity of tradition, faith, and uncritical scientific rationalism. But the analysts of post-modern culture insist that this is not something to celebrate uncritically. Indeed, many of them saw post-modern culture as a kind of apathetic resignation to the inequities of the present.

This distinction clarifies an objection to Andrade’s argument. I firmly agree with him that many post-modern theorists promoted various forms of skepticism that we should reject. In the long run, this is ultimately true for progressives, who must put forward constructive arguments to be convincing. Post-modern theory—like all forms of skepticism back to Socrates—was of tremendous value in loosening calcified certainties that warranted deeper interrogation. It also helped to create political space for the inclusion of groups who were marginalized by dominant meta-narratives—the moral panic surrounding homosexuality based on a conservative reading of the Bible being a prominent example. However, ultimately, I do share Andrade’s distaste for any theoretical position that does not sincerely put forward general principles for dispute, continuously evading the burden of moral judgement. Ultimately, progressives would be better served by taking what is best in post-modern theory and moving on. This does seem to be occurring in the academy, as the contemporary academic stars of critical theory such as Alain Badious and Slavoj Žižek tend to be hostile to the extreme skepticism of post-modern theory.

Conclusion

However, this does not mean we do not reside within a post-modern culture that is generally becoming more skeptical towards meta-narratives. The reasons for this are complex but relate back to the profound socio-economic, political, and technological transformations of neoliberal society—themselves a continuance of the declining faith in truth Nietzsche diagnosed as far back as the 19th century. To give just one example-elaborated on in my piece “The Rise of the Right Wing Outrage Machine,” the shift towards consuming information via digital media had serious negative consequences. On the one hand, people were able to access more information than ever before. On the other, much of this information was presented in a streamlined and flat manner, distilling complex subjects in to five-minute soundbites often delivered with one sided intention. The point, as Neil Postman observed in his prophetic work Amusing Ourselves to Death, was for information to be entertaining and easy to digest, rather than challenging and provocative. When an entire society begins to consume information in this manner, the consequences are easy to predict.

What I call post-modern conservatism arose in this environment, in part, through being fed a steady diet of one-dimensional, hyper-partisan material—presented by the right-wing media. Pundits encouraged listeners and readers to adopt a skeptical attitude towards rationalistic sources of epistemic authority associated with liberalism and progressivism—since these appeared to undermine faith in traditional values and authority. This was an easy sell because—as the history of conservative critiques of reason from de Maistre through Oakeshott and Robert Bork shows—conservatism can readily turn hostile towards rationalism under the proper conditions. When politicians like Trump castigate over-educated elites for promoting fake news (or Viktor Orbán forces out the Central European University), they appeal to the skepticism of post-modern conservatives eager to dismiss facts and arguments, which undermine they convictions. Trump himself is an eminently post-modern figure, purveying not so much untruth or dishonesty as what philosopher Harry Frankfurt would call bulls—. What distinguishes bulls— from untruth is a liar is aware he is telling falsehoods; in some sense, the liar knows and respects the truth by consciously obscuring it. By contrast, a bulls—er perceives reality as largely subject to their whims and says whatever is necessary to get what he wants. The bulls—er has no interest in facts or truth, seeing them as irrelevant to the pursuit of power and influence. As Karl Rove said, when criticizing the “reality based community,” a bulls—er believes that he can, “create our own reality.” Unfortunately, reality is a pretty real thing and has a way of kicking back at those who so disrespect it.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Courtesy of Der Spiegel and Google Translate

- Slavoj Zizek, "When Corona Meets the Putogan Virus"
The Corona epidemic and a new refugee crisis fueled by Russia and Turkey could be a devastating force. Populists and racists rub their hands

A perfect storm is when an unusual combination of different factors leads to an event of great violence. The individual forces then together produce an energy that is much greater than if only the individual parts were to be summed up. The term was popularized by reporter Sebastian Junger, who in 1997 told the story of a weather situation over the North Atlantic that only occurs every hundred years - a high pressure area that came from the Great Lakes, met a storm over Sable Iceland and collided with Hurricane Grace, which came from the Caribbean. In 1991, this led to the disappearance of the fishing boat "Andrea Gail" without a trace in the ocean.

Because it spreads all over the world, the coronavirus pandemic is often said to be in a boat in its dealings with it. There are, however, a lot of indications that the "Europe" boat in particular could suffer the fate of "Andrea Gail". Because three storms are approaching the continent and could combine their destructive power.

The first two are not specifically European: firstly, the Corona epidemic itself, the quarantine, the suffering and death it will bring. And secondly, the economic consequences that it already has and will have. Europe will already be more affected than other regions of the world. The European economy is stagnating and is also very much connected and dependent on the rest of the world.

But to these two storms comes a third: Speaking in the picture of the disease, we can call it the Putogan virus. It is directly related to the new explosion of violence between Turkey by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Assad regime, which is directly supported by Vladimir Putin's Russia. A conflict for which both sides are exploiting the suffering of millions of refugees.

When Turkey began to bring thousands of immigrants to the Greek border, Erdogan justified the measure on humanitarian grounds: his country could no longer cope with the growing number of refugees. This apology, however, is downright breathtakingly cynicism: Turkey itself is part of the Syrian civil war and is therefore partly responsible for the fact that people have to flee. Now the Turks want Europe to relieve them of some of the burden, that is to say, to pay the price for this reckless policy. The sham solution agreed by Russia and Turkey in their negotiations, that both parties should ensure peace on their side and otherwise remain calm, has collapsed. This does not change the fact that Russia, like Turkey, is still in an ideal position to put pressure on Europe: both sides control an important part of Europe's oil supply - and the influx of refugees. They can use both to blackmail Europe.

Sometimes Putin and Erdogan are opponents, then allies again, then again opponents. But no one should be fooled by this deadly dance: both are part of the same geopolitical game - at the expense of the Syrian people. And not only do they have no interest in the suffering of the Syrian people. Worse still, both take advantage of it. Putin and Erdogan are so similar that they can be put together into one figure: Putogan.

It would be a mistake to ask who bears the greater responsibility for the suffering in Syria: Erdogan or Putin and Assad. They take nothing and should be treated for what they are: war criminals who destroy a country in order to achieve their goals. And one of their most important goals is to weaken a united Europe. They are doing all this at a time when a global epidemic is looming, so cooperation is even more urgent than usual. In fact, there is only one place where these men belong: before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The problem when you're dealing with a situation where three storms are approaching: they can become a perfect storm. A new wave of refugees, such as Turkey's, can have catastrophic consequences in times of Corona. So far, the coronavirus has not been linked to refugees and migrants - if there was racism, it was because the threat of the epidemic was associated with the Asian other. But if that happens, when the refugees are connected to Corona - which will inevitably happen, there will be corona falls among refugees, just think of the living conditions in the refugee camps: something better can be done for European populists and Racists don't happen at all. At last, they will be able to back up their demands for closing borders on scientific, medical grounds. Those who try to find a human-friendly solution to the crisis will face panic and fear. In a speech, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has already hinted at this: Hungary could become the model that Europe will follow.

In order to prevent this disaster, Europe must try something impossible: it must rapidly increase its capacity to act. Germany and France, in particular, must coordinate closely. And then Europe should act. Against the blackmail by Putogan, for the refugees.

Gregor Gysi recently said a remarkable sentence in a televised debate. One panelist insisted that the misery of the Third World was not his problem, that he bore no responsibility for the poverty of these countries. Instead of helping foreign countries, we should spend our money on solving our own problems, the well-being of our citizens. Gysi's answer was: if we do not take responsibility for the poor in the Third World, then these poor will come to us. This may sound cynical to some ears. But it is appropriate to the current situation. Abstract humanism, which always appeals to European generosity and a bad conscience to somehow be complicit in the world's problems, will not change anything. In the face of a perfect storm, more is needed.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Welcome to My Hypoocrisy

He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars: general Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer, for Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars.
- William Blake

I think I wear my hypocrisy on my sleeve. I would never say I'm not a complete hypocrite.
- Bo Burnham

Monday, March 2, 2020

Islamic Taboos - Against Multiculturalism

...but is it "dogmatic progressivism"?

Is Bernie simply a "dogmatic progressive" or is he more revolutionary than a Marxist purist?