Are We Heading Toward Global Autocracy, Ecological Collapse, Political Malaise?

29 Jun



What follows are preliminary reactions to both the BREXIT vote and the world according to Trump, but also a commentary on the related alienation of large segments of the public that are being badly served by both the established elites and their demagogic adversaries. The failures of neoliberalism, the successes of digitization, the scourge of random violence, and more broadly, the dilemmas posed by late modernity are among the root causes of this global crisis of legitimate governance, which is deepened while being mishandled by unprecedented ecological challenges, extremely irresponsible geopolitical leadership, and a variety of ultra-nationalist backlashes against the encroachments of economic globalization.



Imagining the World After the Cold War


After the end of the Cold War there were various projections that tried to anticipate the likely future of the world in broad interpretative strokes. Three of the most influential conjectures by three prominent American authors received attention in the public sphere: those of Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, and Robert Kaplan.


Fukuyama challenged conventional political imagination with his provocative claim that with the collapse of the Soviet version of state socialism and the triumph of capitalist liberalism the world had reached ‘the end of history.’ It was also somewhat dubious that Fukuyama validated his views by reference to the Hegelian contention that history is made by the march and interplay of ideas rather than through the agency of material forces. In this respect history came to a supposedly glorious end because there was no grander possible political vision than that of market-based constitutionalism, epitomized by the American political system. Even the most casual observer of the global scene must have noticed the befogged Western optic through which Fukuyama saw

the world.


Huntington, no less provocative or biased, although less comforting for the West, anticipated a ‘the clash of civilizations’ as the sequel to the Cold War, especially stressing the confrontation between the liberal West and the non-West or simply ‘the rest.’ His suggestive emphasis was on blood-soaked fault lines between states, civilizations, and peoples associated with Islam and the Western polities descending from the Enlightenment tradition as it unfolded in Europe, taking root in North America and elsewhere.


Kaplan, also punctured the Fukuyama triumphalist tone of geopolitical serenity, by writing of ‘the coming anarchy,’ the breakdown of order at the level of the state. His views were shaped by perceptions of decolonization leading to ungovernable and essentially non-viable political spaces, particularly in Africa where he regarded many of the post-colonial states as incapable of achieving minimum order within territorial space.


25 years later it appears that each of these authors saw part of the elephant, but none of the three managed to capture this imposing animal in its majestic totality. Fukuyama was importantly correct in positing market-driven liberalism as the hegemonic ideology of the global future for decades to come, and especially so with respect to the ascendancy of the transnational private sector as shaped by financial flows in a borderless world. The universalization of the liberal international order was devised by and for the West after World War II with the overriding goal of avoiding a return of the Great Depression and retaining as many of the benefits of colonialism as possible in the aftermath of its collapse. This globalizing arrangement of economic and political forces proved robust enough to generate sustained economic growth, as well as to crowd out rivals, thereby making itself into ‘the only game in town.’ That this phase of globalization was grossly uneven in the distribution of benefits and burdens was generally overlooked, as was its predatory character as viewed from the perspective of the economic losers.


At the same time, the idea of reaching an endpoint in history even if conceived in Hegelian terms of ideas seemed rather absurd, if not grotesque, to many from its moment of utterance. Given the ideological assault on modernity that has been mounted from the perspective of religion, drawing into question secularism and rationalism, the liberal vision was indeed being challenged from a number of angles. In this regard, transnational terrorism viewed in isolation is a less radical repudiation of Fukuyama’s blueprint for the future than are the various associated challenges to Westphalian territorial sovereignty that have been mounted by Islamic leaders, articulated clearly by both Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama Bin Laden. Both insisted that the territorial sovereignty was not the primary legitimate basis for political community, and indeed put forward less convincing claims to political community than were the organic identities that had been shaped by centries of religious and civilizational traditions and devotional practices.


ISIS added its own version of this world order stance in a less reflective modality. Its leaders gave voice to the view that in the Middle East, in particular, armed struggle was undoing the harm done a hundred years earlier. ISIS bluntly repudiated the territorial legacies and authority of the Sykes-Picot Agreement that in 1916 had carved up the Ottoman Empire to satisfy British and French colonial ambitions. Such European hubris had cast the region adrift by creating governance zones that were, at best, artificial political communities that could only be held together by the iron fist of state power, which if removed would lead to chaos. The effect of giving over the fate of the peoples to the mercies of European colonial powers fractured the natural community of Islam and did away with the more ethnically constituted units (or millets) established by the Ottoman Empire. It is hard to be confident about whether the peoples of the region as of 2016, if left free to choose, would prefer the distortions of imposed Westphalian states or opt for boundaries that better reflected the existential sentiments and values of the current national majorities among those living in the region.



The Unexpected Appeal and Rise of the Reactionary Right


Perhaps, more fundamental in its implications for the future, is the shifting ground shaking the foundations of the edifice of ideas and interest upholding neoliberal globalization. That the ground is shaking has been revealed for most crisis deniers by the surge of populist support that allowed Trump to crush a wide field of Republican presidential aspirants with mainstream party credentials. This astonishing outcome has been strongly reinforced by the electrifying vote by Britain in June 2016 to exit the European Union, so-called BREXIT, and what that portends for Britain, the EU, and even the world.


We can also throw into the new mix the Sanders Phenomenon, essentially a youth revolt against what the man from Vermont kept calling ‘a rigged system’ good for the 1%, horrible for the other 99%, and especially for the bottom 40-60%. We will not grasp the full meaning of what has occurred for years to come, and surely the November 2016 American presidential election will either be a restorative moment for the established socio-economic order or a death warrant portending that radical, most likely disruptive, change is on its way. Should Hilary Clinton win, especially if she wins decisively as even most of the Republican leadership fear and some even wish for, it will quiet some of the voices on right and left calling for change, but only temporarily, and this is the point as the roots of the crisis are far deeper than this or that election or referendum result.



An Establishment Out of Touch


What strikes me most forcefully, aside from these unexpected outcomes, is how out of touch liberal, urban elites seem to be with the sharply alienated mood of the populace as a whole. This first struck me while visiting Cairo in the months after the overthrow of Mubarak in early 2011 when Egyptians across a wide spectrum welcomed change, and were naively expecting the political transition to be managed according to the will of the people by the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces. The political analogue to this trust displayed by the leaders of the uprising in the military wing of the former oppressive regime was the widespread expectation that Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League and once the Foreign Minister under Mubarak e would overwhelm opponents in the promised presidential elections.


Many in Cairo voiced their personal doubts about Moussa’s suitability, complaining of his complicity with the prior regime and wondering whether he had a genuine willingness and capability to push through a liberal agenda of national reform and manage an economic program that offered some hope to the poor and marginalized Egyptian masses. What representatives of the Cairo establishment and even its critics didn’t disagree about was the near certainty of a Moussa victory in the scheduled 2012 presidential elections because no other candidate had comparable name recognition or possessed elite credibility. As it turned out Moussa, despite his acceptability to urban elites, ended up with less than 12% of the vote in the first round, disqualifying him from competing in the second and final round of the electoral process that surprisingly pitted an undisguised Murarak loyalist, Ahmed Shafek, against the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi. There has been much commentary on this sequence of developments, but what I want to stress is how out of touch the Cairo policymakers and media were with ‘the people’ of Egypt, especially the poor and those living around the country outside the two urban centers of Cairo and Alexandria.



Losing it in America


The utterly unanticipated success of Trump, Sanders, and BREXIT left those who earn their livings by telling us what to think and what will happen in an apparently shell shocked. Because policy wonks can lose their relevance quickly, and maybe their jobs, if they are honest enough to dwell upon their mistaken judgments, they tend to shift the conversation to what these unexpected developments tell us about the vagaries of mass public opinion. They continue to write with the same old assurance and command over details, articulating anew as (un)knowingly as ever their views about what is to come, earning them invitations to influential talk shows and the like. They have no shame. At this moment the prevailing wonk consensus is that Trump cannot possibly win in the national elections next November, and will probably lead the Republicans to a devastating national defeat leaving the party discredited even among its most faithful followers. This scenario has become the latest American version of the liberal wet dream.


What is so far missing, or almost so, from the public discourse is a soul searching assessment of why the underclass anger, why the magnetic appeal of political personalities who are ‘outsiders,’ and why the loopy defensiveness and seeming irrelevance of those who speak softly, wrongly supposing that the voice of reason and moderation will win out. Even now there is little discussion of how best to account for this ‘revolt of the masses,’ why it is happening now and not earlier, as well as what can and should be thought and done.

Sanders alone pointed to the relevance of acute inequality as discrediting the prevailing political order and what the two political parties were offering the American people. He was sensitive to social dislocations caused by this inequality being closely linked to the declining real incomes of the middle classes and the poor. He also recognized that such a downward spiral is further aggravated by a dysfunctionally expensive health system, intolerable burdens of student debt, and a bipartisan willingness to sacrifice the fundamental wellbeing of workers in a deindustrializing America on the altar of free trade. In effect, Sanders was putting before the American people a sharply critical diagnosis of the ills besetting the country together with a laundry list of social democratic correctives.


Trump, despite being himself a major economic predator, has enjoyed this surge of fanatical backing due to his diabolical talent for blaming ‘the other’ for the failures being experienced by large disaffected sectors of the American people. From this paranoid standpoint it becomes almost logical to threaten China with a trade war, to bar all Muslims from entering the country, and to build a high wall that keeps illegal Latinos from coming across the Mexican border as well as getting rid as rapidly as possible all those who managed to enter illegally in the past, and to accomplish this massive dispossession through the medium of cruel and indiscriminate deportation. All of this negativity is given a smiling face by the catchy, yet vauous, Trump slogan “to make America great again.” Such a heartwarming slogan makes Trump into a kind of political alchemist transforming the base metals of xenophobic negativity into the glow that will follow from recovering a lost never existing American positive exceptionalism, which if decoded simply promises to restore a social order presided over by white men.



The Global Landscape

Looking around the world is a disquieting complement to myopic readings of these potentially earth shattering recent developments as happening only in Anglo-American political space. What seems evident is that there are throughout the planet converging trends reflecting some widely shared societal grievances coupled with a mood of disillusionment about the purported achievements and promises of democratic forms of governance. It is difficult to recall that after the Cold War a major aspect of American triumphalism was the confidence that the political embrace of American style democracy (what was then being called ‘market-oriented constitutionalism’) would spread to more and more countries in the world, and that this trend should be welcomed everywhere as an irreversible sign that a higher stage of political evolution had been reached. Bill Clinton liberals were forever talking up ‘enlargement’ (the expanding community of democratic states) while subscribing to the tenuous and vague claims of ‘democratic peace’ (the Kantian idea that democracies do not make war against one another).


Later George W. Bush neocons more belligerently pushed ‘democracy promotion,’ being impatient or distrustful of leaving the future to the workings of internal political dynamics and the flow of history. They held the geopolitically convenient, yet totally ahistorical, belief that military intervention would be popularly received as a liberating gift even by peoples newly freed from the shackles of European colonialism. In 2003, this commitment to coercing a democratic future was put into practice in Iraq, failing miserably and in an incredibly costly manner. Again what should be a cause for reflection is the misperception of the historical circumstances by the American establishment. This belief is abetted by the accompanying false assumption that if democracy is formally established, ex-colonial societies will docilely accept a prolonged foreign occupation of their country while continuing to endure high levels of chronic unemployment and mass poverty, a situation inflamed by national elites wallowing in luxury, having often gained their wealth by rapacious levels of corruption, rewards for serving the foreign occupiers and associated representatives of global capital.



‘It’s the System, Stupid’


If democratization seemed the wave of the global future as seen from the perspective of the 1990s there are now different horizons of expectation that darkly dominate the political imagination with a blending of fear, rage, and despair. What has so far emerged is a series of drastic political moves in a diverse group of countries that is cumulatively leading national governing processes in inward-looking authoritarian directions. Each national narrative can offer its own plausible explanation of such developments by focusing on the particularities of the national situation without paying much attention to external factors.


Yet the fact that such diverse countries share this experience of diminishing democracy and increasing authoritarianism suggests that wider systemic factors are at play. To some extent, this disturbing set of developments is disguised in the constitutional societies of the West where these trends are being validated by popular forces, that is, in full accord with the discipline and legitimacy of what might be understood as procedural democracy, that is, free and fair elections as supplemented by rivalry between political parties, a seemingly free press, referenda, legislation, judicial action, and executive initiatives that appears respectful of the constraints of the rule of law. These authoritarian outcomes should be interpreted mainly as failures of substantive democracy as obscured by the persistence of procedural democracy. This reality is beginning to be perceived by large portions of the population, especially those struggling with poverty, joblessness, and declining standards of living, although it is not articulated by reference to the substantive shortcomings of contemporary democracy. What makes this context so confusing is this tension within democracy between its procedural and substantive dimensions.


These substantive democratic failures of equity and performance are not generally experienced by those leading comfortable lives even if unlike earlier generations, expectations about the future at all levels of society are far less hopeful than during the last decades of the 20th century. Gone are the days when it was widely believed that children would almost certainly fare better than their parents. Those who are experiencing this sharp downturn in expectations are just now awakening to insist upon answers, and the easiest place to find them is through scapegoating. In this regard, the influx of foreign cheap labor is believed, and not always inaccurately, to exert downward pressures on wages and cause disquieting increases in the local crime rate. It also tempts many to regard the present challenges to homeland security as the work of ‘Islamic radicalism,’ while the widening gap between rich and poor is depicted as a mixture of corruption and free trade that pushes jobs out of the country to foreign labor markets with low wages, weak or no unions,lax safety and environmental regulations, and bribery as a way of life.


Although this shift from democratization to autocratization is being mainly experienced as a national phenomenon or as a series of distinct national dramas, the systemic aspects are crucial. An essential part of the socio-economic mixture of causes is the replacement of human labor by machine labor, a process that is accelerating via automation, and likely to increase at a geometrical pace for many years to come. As a result, a new source of chronic unemployment affecting all classes is occurring. Another aggravating feature results from migration flows escaping from war torn regions or from ecological collapse brought about by climate change. Further, the rise and manipulation of transnational terrorism and counterterrorism gives priority to the security agenda, lending support to a vast expansion of state police powers at the expense of societal autonomy and personal freedom.


What such developments portend is the presence of large numbers of desperate people within most national spaces who are blocked in their search for a decent life, are made to feel unnecessary and unwanted or treated, and are regarded as a burdensome democratic surplus by the established order. All that most of these persons want is social change and a recovery of their sense of societal worth, creating a frightening vulnerability to the siren calls of demagogues. Such a pattern is already visible on the global stage, although it tends to be blurred by relying on this still dominant optic of state-by-state developments that suppresses the reality of systemic pressures, and diverts attention from the kind of radical political therapy that is needed.


Current global trends exhibit two equally devastating approaches, which are in some settings combined. The most prevalent tendency is to mandate the state to impose order at any cost involving increasing levels of coercion, reinforced by intrusive surveillance, seeking its own legitimacy by claiming fear-mongering alarmism and through scapegoating of immigrants, Muslims, and all outsiders, those ethnically and religiously ‘other.’ A complementary tendency is associated with the demagogic arousal of populist masses that also mandate the state to carry out similar kinds of order-maintaining policies. In effect, the somewhat more cosmopolitan middle is being squeezed between the elites seeking to withstand anti-establishment politics and the aroused masses eager to smash the established order. Both sources of anti-democratic pressure favor closing borders, building walls, and deporting those whose very existence assaults nativist conceptions of the nation.


As previously assessed, procedural democracy is not currently much of an obstacle in the face of various populist embraces of proto-fascist political appeals that is offering aspiring demagogues a field day. The advocacy of extremist, simplistic, and violent solutions to complex problems is on the rise, and yet we should know that the present agenda of concerns cannot be effectively addressed until a structural analysis is acted upon and the neoliberal underpinning of the status quo is significantly adjusted. A correct political diagnosis would emphasize the alienating shortcomings of substantive democracy given the degree to which neoliberal capitalism is seen as responsible for accentuating inequality, corruption, and downward standards of living for the majority leaving many without adequate material security as it relates to employment, shelter, health, and education.


Overall as the world confronts such challenges as climate change, diminishing biodiversity, and nuclear weaponry that are cumulatively threatening humanity with catastrophe, this emergent reality of global autocracy may be the worst news of all.

28 Responses to “Are We Heading Toward Global Autocracy, Ecological Collapse, Political Malaise?”

  1. ray032 June 29, 2016 at 5:49 am #

    IN the Beginning was the Word……………. Reading all your words and the fundamentals and visions behind them, in my view and understanding, they confirm these words I have been increasingly posting recently in The Washington Post and other information outlets.

    Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
    Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten.
    Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped treasure together for the last days.

    Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by FRAUD, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

    You have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; you have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
    You have condemned and killed the just; and he does not resist you.

    Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. (implied regime change of the 1% ruling this world for thousands of years)

    Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
    You also be patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws nigh.
    James 5

    Brexit is only the latest indicating trend of this unfolding Revolution/Revelation!

    And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
    For ALL NATIONS (no exceptions or exceptional Nations) have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth (The 1%, Religious Leaders, Presidents, Prime Ministers, CEOs and other IDOLS of the People) have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are made rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
    And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues.
    For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities………………
    And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buys their merchandise any more:
    The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
    And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
    Revelation 18
    (It’s the Economy, Stupid!)

    • Gene Schulman June 29, 2016 at 8:54 am #

      The above is no revelation, Ray. It has always been thus.

      • ray032 June 29, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

        I can’t argue that Historical Truth, Gene.

        Remember Christ saying, ‘Hardly ever will a rich man enter the kingdom of heaven’ and many other similar thoughts and related subjects Christ taught? Christ doesn’t prevent them, but God has given all people free thought and free will. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

        ‘You cannot serve 2 Masters. Either you will love one and hate the other; or serve one and neglect the other. You cannot serve God and money’ is another thing Christ teaches.

        The Scripture also lets it be known God will let mankind follow it’s own follies and foibles until a Time when God says, Enough!!! This world is at that point TODAY. Most people know it and sense it, even if they can’t identify it as GOD!

        The title of this article is “Are We Heading Toward Global Autocracy, Ecological Collapse, Political Malaise? I think this is exactly where we are heading because a vainglorious people can’t see beyond their nose.

        In my view, the majority of people haven’t changed much at all since this exchange between the LORD and the Devil 3520 years ago, when the Sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came among them.

        ‘Where are you coming from, Satan?’ the LORD asks?

        ‘From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it’ was Satan’s reply.

        The Mass of People in the earth are still on that path to these very Days.

      • Gene Schulman June 29, 2016 at 11:40 pm #

        It does no good to be born again, Ray, if you can’t bring anything new to the table.

        Prof. Falk may see through the glass darkly, but at least he sees clearly.

      • ray032 June 30, 2016 at 5:32 am #

        Well Gene, isn’t this interesting? You use a scripture as old as the ones I cited to fault me for using old scriptures.

        When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
        For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but THEN shall I know even as also I am known.
        And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love
        I Corinthians 13:11-13.

        The part that is new is the Revelation we are at the fulfillment of all things. I am at the ‘then” future part, these days, face to face with the Truth!

        The Trump and Bernie Presidential candidacies, and even Clinton is chiming in are all about this part of that old James 5 writing cited above, including the Brexit vote! Only the wilfully blind would not see that.

        “Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by FRAUD, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.”

        What is relatively new, as related to those old scriptures from 1900 years ago, is this record from 1976, declaring humanity and this world is approaching the Climax of History as the title of this article asks?

  2. Björn Lindgren June 29, 2016 at 10:36 am #

    Again, Richard, thanks for good descriptions, perspectives, comment and insights.

    Yes, the world system falls apart.

    When talking with people, to make my point very clear, I often conclude:

    “The global financial capital and the military-industrial-surveillance-mercenary-parliamentary-complex, together with media industry, and supported by our own lifestyle, now destroy democracy, economy, industry, work, welfare, the social core, language, education, ecology, animal and plant species, climate, and landscapes. In its wake comes poverty, unemployment, racism, structural and open violence, war, and death.”

    This is my concise description of the current trajectory and its projection into the future, based on intuition and good hypothesis about reality. Intellectually pessimistic, indeed.

    But this dark outlook, also contains reasons for optimism and seeds of liberation: most people I talk with agree with my description; most people don’t believe in the “system”. In other words, the coast is free!

    The important question is if we have integrity to stand on our own feet, and stay uncertain in uncertain times, and not adhere to self-mutilating ideologies and strong leaders, i.e. the fascist exploatation of our unconscious darkness?

    A necessary prerequisite for this is that we trust our perfectly legitimate norms, values, perspectives, and goals – which we already practice among family members, relatives, friends, and in social life (equality, equity, mutual aid, democracy, cooperation), but are neglected and supressed in the hierachies that constitute much of modern societies and states.

    Another prerequisite is that we leave political spin and pr., fragmented “news”, and media industry, and entertainment, and begin to talk with each other. It is crucial to lift up our worries and dreams, and begin to think of and plan for the kind of community and society we would like to live in.

    My point of departure is a lifestyle that could exist and express itself in small villages, self-sufficient in energy and food, making a participatory democracy and production possible. Also enjoying more culture, social life, psychological insight, and deep religion – fileds where we can expand endlessly without destroying the world.

    While the current leadership of a world falling apart, doesn’t even ask for the possible, (example: a new Helsinki conference), but order even more nuclear submarines, austerity, growth, consumption, control, the great task, handed over to us, is indeed to ask for the impossible, and realize ourselves together with others, in the deepest and broadest sense.

    Johan Galtung, Norwegian peace researcher, has visited such little village, Marinaleda, in Spain (“Marinaleda: A Concrete Utopia” by Johan Galtung, Editorial Nº429, Transcend Media Service, 23 May 2016).

    Cheers, Björn Lindgren

  3. Paul Larudee June 29, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

    Excellent and important analysis, Richard. Probably worth mentioning that the autocracy is not monolithic and that it can be even more destructive for that reason. Forget zero sum equations. The neoconservative movement pursues negative sum goals if they hold the prospect of less loss for our side than for the other.

    In fact, destruction has become a dominant pursuit in the culture of the neoconservative movement, which is allied to the major economic, media and political powers. A sure way to advance among these arrogant bozos is to offer a plan for death, devastation and misery on some foreign shore in order to project American power (as long as Israel likes the idea).

    How did we come to this?

    • Fred Skolnik June 30, 2016 at 12:14 am #

      How did we come to insert Israel into every discussion on this website? It seems to me that certain people are walking around with a monumental obsession with Israel in a way that no normal person would be obsessed with any other country on the face of the earth, not with truly genocidal nations and not with the world’s greatest violators of human rights. Can you imagine anyone responding to an entry like the one above by standing up and chirping away: “And by the way, Sudan …” or “Iran” or “Russia” or “China.” It is this that arouses the suspicion.

      As a postscript to your remark in your BDS post, Prof. Falk, that “What is not acceptable is to engage in these provocative efforts to discredit and punish the proponents of BDS, and to threaten adherents with punitive pushback as happens when tenure is abrogated or steps are taken to brand activists by name as targets for vilification and intimidation,” let me say that this is precisely what BDS supporters are doing, only with far more violence:

      “When Ami Ayalon, former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service and currently a left-wing pro-peace activist, began his talk in a small room on the UK campus on January 20, protesters set off fire alarms, broke a window, threw chairs and physically assaulted a female attending the talk as they screamed abuse” (from the Jerusalem Post).

      I’m surprised that none of you picked this up or the dozens of other reports of similar incidents on campuses all across America and Britain. In addition to its heedless and vicious efforts to undermine Israel’s economic and academic life, the BDS movement is becoming more and more violent, so it is a little disingenuous if not entirely hypocritical to complain about the “provocative” actions of Israel’s supporters. This is what I mean about challenging and exposing your biases and misreprsentations. You are perfectly aware of the violence being directed against visiting Israelis and supporters of Israel on American campuses and elsewhere by the BDS movement and choose to conceal it in your rhetorical barrages and imply that the “provocative efforts” are one-sided, and this speaks directly to your honesty.

      • ray032 June 30, 2016 at 6:00 am #

        Fred, obviously you refuse to see these things for what they are, but the moral IDF shoots immobile, incapacitated Palestinians in the head.

        “How did we come to insert Israel into every discussion on this website?”

        Israel is a re-creation from the Jewish part of the Bible. Those who claim to be God’s Chosen have to live it, walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

        Can you be 100% sure what you call Jew hate, is not the Eternal, Almighty God of the Jews, using Gentiles to chastise Israel. Read what the Jewish God records what will happen to God’s people if they break the Covenant in Deuteronomy 28, over 3400 years ago. It’s harsh!

        Are you 100% sure the great Jewish Prophet Isaiah, 800 years later, was not prophesying about the re-created Israel of Today by these words:
        Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD has spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
        The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel does not know, my people do not consider.
        Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
        Why should you be stricken any more? you will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
        From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.

      • Fred Skolnik June 30, 2016 at 8:24 am #

        Well, ray, this Chosen People thing really gets to you, doesn’t it? Is that why you resent Jews?

        As I once wrote, the soldier who shot the terrorist will be tried and sent to prison. No one is going to name streets and squares after him as is the case with Arab terrorists who blow up Israeli women and children in buses and restaurants.

        If I were you I wouldn’t be too proud of ranting like a maniac on streetcorners and having restraining orders issued against you. As Nietzsche wrote about people like yourself: “Impudent rabble! They dare to compare themselves to the prophets no less …

        … one had better put on gloves before reading the New Testament. The presence of so much filth makes it very advisable. I have searched the New Testament in vain for a single sympathetic touch; nothing is there that is free, kindly, open-hearted or upright. In it humanity does not even make the first step upward — the instinct for cleanliness is lacking…. Only evl instincts are there, and there is not even the courage of these evil instincts. It is all cowardice; it is all a shutting of the eyes, a self-deception. Every other book becomes clean, once one has read the New Testament …” (“The Antichrist”)

      • Paul Larudee June 30, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

        Israel is not a country like any other. It was imposed upon the existing inhabitants without their consent and with the intention of expelling them and stealing their land and their nation. For what? To create a nation of immigrants defined by racial/religious/ethnic characteristics that exclude the existing population. Zionism is a racist, genocidal and kleptocratic movement. Its maintenance requires oceans of blood. When it ceases to exist, a major cause for death and destruction will be gone.

      • Fred Skolnik June 30, 2016 at 10:14 pm #

        Dear Paul

        The Jews came from Judea, including the Jews dispersed in Europe. The Arabs came from Arabia, conquering the Land of Israel in the 7th century in a rampage of rape, murder, and forced conversion while obliterating the national identities of the people it conquered. In the 20th century, both the Jews and the Arabs made a claim to sovereignty in the Land of Israel. When there are rival claims of this kind they can only be resolved through negotiation, mediation or war. The Jews accepted mediation in the absence of negotiation, that is, a UN resolution that gave them sovereignty in part of the Land of Israel. The acceptance of this resolution did not entail the displacement, replacement or expulsion of a single Arab. The Arabs rejected it and chose war. Those who are citizens of Israel enjoy greater economic and political freedom than Arabs anywhere in the Middle East and would not consent to live under Arab sovereignty for all the money in the world, and perhaps you should ask yourself why instead of throwing around the dirtiest words you know.

      • Richard Falk July 1, 2016 at 12:12 am #

        I am not blocking these comments of yours despite framing your substantive remarks
        with personal insults usually at the beginning and end. Why don’t your consider dropping
        this feature of your participation here. Those who disagree with you would listen better
        and respect you more. As it is you gain nothing but activating an impulse to respond in kind.

        Best, Richard

      • ray032 July 1, 2016 at 6:46 am #

        You are so very much like Nietzsche, Fred, as indicated by the preface of his Anti-Christ rant; ‘ Very well, then! of that sort only are my readers, my true readers, my readers foreordained: of what account are the rest?–The rest are merely humanity.–One must make one’s self superior to humanity, in power, in loftiness of soul,–in contempt.

        A philosophical treatise by Friedrich Nietzsche. Published in 1895, a few years before Nietzsche went mad.

        And like Nietzsche, Fred, you are quite mad! With your usual deflection, you won’t even acknowledge my comment had no “Christian” verses, but “Jewish” scriptures from the Torah and Tanach.

        FYI, the only description of Anti-Christ in the Bible is anyone who denies Christ IS COME in the flesh.

        I AM THAT I AM
        February 1, 2014

      • Gene Schulman July 1, 2016 at 8:17 am #

        Dear Richard,

        I no longer have any desire to pay attention to Fred’s version of Israeli history, It is the usual twisted hasbara narrative that one runs into regularly. So whether you block him or not leaves me indifferent. He is correct in one respect though; Ray’s constant quoting from the New Testament. I find that as offensive as, if not more than, Fred’s narrative. You can block both for all I care. I don’t read either. They merely take up space on the blog.

        Regards, Gene

    • Björn Lindgren June 30, 2016 at 5:01 am #

      Hi Paul,

      How did we come to this? A complete analysis and answer to this question cannot be short and focused on one or two causes.

      However, one essential cause of this system running amok, is that ever since the 17th Century, almost all instutions, organizations, authorites, contries are build according to a hierachigal military model.

      In its time, this model was progressive. Before the Enlightenment, prison, mental hospital was a pit in the ground. In a limited sense, the military model was disciplining and liberating.

      But the general, or CEO, on top has all the power but no contact with reality, while the soldiers, or workers, at the bottom, have full contact with reality, but no power. This makes it clear, that this kind of power is the product of a assymetric cooperation between the powerful and the powerless.

      By now, it is also well documented, that hierachies make it possible for psychpaths to climb to the top and grab power. Psychopaths can be highly competitive, charming, efficient, extremely keen and brutal when negotiating, and the have no feelings or moral, because they cannot have it.

      Now, when the world is extremely centralized in hierachies, extreme dysfunction follows.

      Again, a conclusion from Johan Galtung’s prognosis for the US: “The Coming Decline and Fall of the American Empire”: in the last phase, the system contains so many contradictions that what ever one tries to do, nothing happens.


      These days we can see the same tendency in European Union, which also is unable to reform its neoliberal (financial) agenda.

      The good thing about the Brexit is that the American Troyan horse, UK., now leaves the EU, which makes space for Merkel/Germany/Deutsche Bank to make a peaceful agreement with Russia, a country that, apart from the nuclear weapons, only have a military capacity to occupy one of the small Baltic states.

      Both Russia and Germany have experienced war in their countries, and still are motivated to avoid still another disaster.

      With Hillary “Queen of Chaos” Clinton as president, a nuclear attack on Iran?

      It is important to understand how we came to this, but it is even more important to deal with the question how to use this window of opportunity and take another step away from financial capitalism, hierachy, and dominance.

      Cheers, Björn Lindgren

      • ray032 June 30, 2016 at 10:07 pm #

        Hierarchy and dominance?

        Obviously, that does not apply to the Spirit of this letter:
        To him that overcomes, will I grant to SIT WITH ME IN MY THRONE, even as I ALSO OVERCAME, and AM set down with my Father in his throne.
        He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.
        Revelation 3:21-22

        I can’t imagine a better image of power sharing, if one believes by Faith!

  4. ray032 July 3, 2016 at 10:38 am #

    Richard, along the themes of this article, I read a report in The Jerusalem Post this am, prompting this comment.

    “The people of this material world are acting this out Spiritual Vision in OUR GENERATIONS.
    And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.

    For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth (Religious Leaders, the 1%, Presidents, Prime Ministers, CEOs, and other IDOLS of the People) and of the whole world, (the rest of humanity) to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. (already underway between Judaism, Christianity and Islam)
    Behold, I come as a thief. (when you least expect it)
    Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
    And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
    Revelation 16:13-16

    I have no idea how it happened, but when my comment did appear, my personal interpretations of the letter in brackets was gone following this “and out of the mouth of the false prophet.’ (false beliefs about G_d in Judaism, Christianity and Islam)

    The default position of the comments is ‘Sort by Best.’ To see my comment, you have to change that and sort by ‘Newest.”

    I never noticed it before this morning, but among all the commentators, I am the only one The Jerusalem Post has labelled as an ‘Influencer.” The only other label for the minority of the other commentators is ‘Leader.”

    No apologies to Gene for using New Testament scriptures. The Truth will be known.

    • Gene Schulman July 4, 2016 at 1:04 am #

      “Truth is beauty, beauty is truth.” The new testament scriptures, nor the old, for that matter, are either.

      • ray032 July 4, 2016 at 3:14 am #

        Therefore is Judgment far from us, neither does Justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.
        We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.
        We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for Judgment, but there is none; for Salvation, but it is far off from us.
        For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;
        In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.

        And Judgment is turned away backward, and Justice stands afar off: for Truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

  5. Fred Skolnik July 3, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    My apologies too:

    “The Christian concept of God—God as the deity of the sick, God as a spider, God as spirit—is one of the most corrupt concepts of God that has ever been attained on earth. Maybe it represents the low-water mark in the evolutionary ebb of the godlike type. God degenerated into the antithesis of life, instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yea! With God war is declared on life, nature, and the will to life! God is the formula for every calumny of this world and for every lie concerning a beyond! In God, nonbeing is deified, and the will to nonbeing is declared holy!” (“Twilight of the Idols”)

    • ray032 July 4, 2016 at 3:26 am #

      Fred, this message is from The Eternal – Nietzsche is dead!

      The claim has been made that Nietzsche spoke against Christianity as much as he did against Judaism. The problem is that he also spoke in favour of Christianity as much as he did in favour of Judaism. In Beyond Good and Evil, he writes:

      “Jesus said to his Jews: ‘The law was for servants–love God as I love him, as his son! What are morals to us sons of God!’” (BGE, 164)

      Later, he glorifies “the Christian in the ecstasies of the cross” as a manifestation of “the painful voluptuousness of tragedy.” (BGE 229) In The Gay Science he exonerates Jesus Christ as a single ray of sunshine over the gloomy Jewish landscape of the wrathful Jehovah (TGS 137). In Human, All Too Human, in the section “Signs of Higher and Lower Cultures,” he upholds Christianity as a source of high culture: “We owe to Christianity, to the philosophers, poets, and musicians, a superabundance of deeply agitated feelings, the hot flow of belief in ultimate truths, which Christianity, especially, has made so wild” (HATH 244)

      • Fred Skolnik July 4, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

        With all due respect, ray, I don’t think you have actually read Nietzsche but have managed to find soneone on the Internet who attempts to Christianize him by quoting him partially or out of context: Here is HATH 244:

        “To Christianity, to the philosophers, poets, and musicians we owe an abundance of deeply emotional sensations ; in order that these may not get beyond our control we must invoke the spirit of science, which on the whole makes us somewhat colder and more sceptical, and in particular cools the faith in final and absolute truths; it is chiefly through Christianity that it has grown so wild.”

        And further:

        “Christianity, on the other hand, oppressed and degraded humanity completely and sank it into deepest mire: into the feeling of utter abasement it suddenly flashed the gleam of divine compassion, so that the amazed and grace-dazzled stupefied one gave a cry of delight and for a moment believed that the whole of heaven was within him. Upon this unhealthy excess of feeling, upon the accompanying corruption of heart and head, Christianity attains all its psychological effects. It wants to annihilate, debase, stupefy, amaze, bedazzle. There is but one thing that it does not want: measure, standard (das Maas) and therefore is it in the worst sense barbarous, asiatic, vulgar, un-Greek.” (Human-All-Too Human, 114)

        And further (from the “Antichrist”):

        —I offer a few examples of the sort of thing these petty people have gotten into their heads—what they have put into the mouth of the Master: the unalloyed creed of “beautiful souls.”—

        “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Mark vi, 11)—How evangelical!…

        “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea” (Mark ix, 42).—How evangelical!…

        “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire; Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark ix, 47).—It is not exactly the eye that is meant….
        “Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mark ix, 1.)—Well lied, lion!

        “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For…” (Note of a psychologist. Christian morality is refuted by its fors: its reasons are against it,—this makes it Christian. (Mark viii, 34).—

        “Judge not, that ye be not judged. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew vii, 1).—What a notion of justice, of a “just” judge!…

        “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Matthew v, 46).—Principle of “Christian love”: it insists upon being well paid in the end….

        “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew vi, 15.)—Very compromising for the said “father.”…

        “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew vi, 33).—All these things: namely, food, clothing, all the necessities of life. An error, to put it mildly…. A bit before this God appears as a tailor, at least in certain cases….

        “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.” (Luke vi, 23.)—Impudent rabble! It compares itself to the prophets….

        “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (Paul, 1 Corinthians iii, 16).—For that sort of thing one cannot have enough contempt….

        “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (Paul, 1 Corinthians vi, 2).—Unfortunately, not merely the speech of a lunatic…. This frightful impostor then proceeds: “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”…

        “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe…. Not many wise men after the flesh, not men mighty, not many noble are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (Paul, 1 Corinthians i, 20ff.).—In order to understand this passage, a first-rate example of the psychology underlying every Chandala-morality, one should read the first part of my “Genealogy of Morals”: there, for the first time, the antagonism between a noble morality and a morality born of ressentiment and impotent vengefulness is exhibited. Paul was the greatest of all apostles of revenge….

  6. ivanhe1958 July 6, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    Richard, thanks for your wise and insightfull essay. Paradoxically, many of the replies to your text go a long way of proving your point. So much hatred and stubborness from these commentators. So little humility and respect. Made me rather sad.

  7. Kata Fisher July 7, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

    A general note:

    One thing I have noticed to be problem is that folks like to curse each other’s mind or convictions of their conciance – while not wanting to be accursed.

    What I saw here and on Mondoweis – I never did before in my entire life.

    On contraversial things – contreversal also can be noted to mean “O’ you/thy are so incredible that you can’t evn handle to hear and bear with some of the truth” be it spiritual or natural.

    This is prety harsh – but I feel that evryone is grown up and grown ups can handle harsh criticism of the truth (even the harshness of all lies) – but they best get ahold of understanding of that revenge what IS NOT in the Spirit of the Gospel and according to the Gospel: Matthew 7:6.

    Ocasionaly we may misinterpret the way Scripture and Apostolic Writings compiled are preserved, passed down and are intepreted – but you shall never aim to intepret and represent what is written down and preserved by Fist few generation/s of the Church Apostolic – if you are not in one and the exactly the same order of the Church/ Sacrament and Spirit that Church Apostolic was.

    That is the first and most most important human thing that you shall not do – or wish to do. The Law of the Spirit will beg you not to do it.

  8. Che B Aluaye October 11, 2016 at 6:52 am #

    I read most of your article with interest and also learned a few things.
    Just to disclose, I am not a US citizen in fact I have never visited and have no desire to. I am a citizen of a close US ally however and I have closely followed US policy and politics for many years. As a media professional, I can see spin and disinformation a mile away. This allows me, I think anyway, a pretty realistic and reasonably objective view of events.

    The point where I think this article was let down, is in your description and assessment of Trump. There has been an unprecedented and, I believe to some extent, co-ordinated media campaign to vilify and discredit Trump. On top of this is an equally pernicious media campaign of disinformation, spin and distraction that ensures that practically no positive message or serious debate gets through to the public.

    I will say that Trump, as a non politician, has a habit of saying things that feed into or can be easily distorted to confirm this negative narrative. And from what I see, this is where the arguing starts (about what he did or didn’t say) which effectively ends any rational debate. When you realise that this is the intended result of the campaign I described above, any intelligent person should put aside their views and their tendency to react in favour of discussing the core issues that Trump stands for.

    Objectively, Trump says the the US is bankrupt. For several decades the only thing of significance built in the US is the enormous government debt. With public infrastructure decaying, the US maintains a massive and disproportionate armed forces and intel framework. These are indisputable facts and the core reason why you are directed to be outraged at Trumps latest verbal mess instead of debating the serious issue of why the US crumbles and the wealth gap widens, while spending trillions on the unproductive defence industry.

    It’s my objective opinion that the very success of Trumps campaign has had a significant effect that every US citizen should be aware of. It has prompted those who benefit from the US being structured in the current form to hit the proverbial panic button. The most clear example of this is how, from an almost standing start, there has been an exponential increase in fearmongering, demonisation, and agressive rhetoric directed at primarily Russia but China also. With the threat of a possible change of arrangements under Trump, the first reaction of the US military and intel is to make the world a more dangerous place.

    You know, one of the (many) reasons Obama came from nowhere to win his first election was the realisation that Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton makes the US look like a criminal racket run by two families. Bush made sure nothing would change while in caretakers hands by emptying the treasury with the bank bail outs. Of course the Clintons were compensated for this inconvenience by multi million dollar speech fees and outright donations from the banks. Of course none of this scenario could possibly be true!
    But seen from outside it’s not hard to imagine that some may believe such a tale.

    So now, finally a complete outsider, someone who can communicate for television, who has held pretty much the same platform for 20 years, and they campaign for fundamental change. Trump will stop the Clinton Bush thing, stop the debt, stop the spiralling defence budget, stop antagonising Russia and China. And the reaction from the beneficiaries of the current unsustainable structure is to scream to high heaven and demand he quit the race.

    Try to get past the fog and debate the serious issues. Don’t be fooled in believing anything you are being fed by mainstream media. Like what you hear about Syria, Russia, Putin, it’s all lies designed to stop you from seeing the truth and stop you having a debate about yours and and your countries future.

  9. Jeanne August 8, 2018 at 3:38 pm #

    Thank you very much for this article. I think incredibly important contribution towards understanding where we are and where we are heading. Jeanne Gallo


  1. Richard Falk: Are We Heading Toward Global Autocracy, Ecological Collapse, Political Malaise? - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics - July 12, 2016

    […] By Richard Falk By arrangement with Richard Falk […]

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