Speaking from my privileged First World perspective, our, meaning the United States’, response to the Syrian war has always been a very conflicting and troubling issue for me.
Poor me, right, when there’s somewhere around 500,000 Syrians dead and over 10,000,000 displaced.
Poor me, indeed.
But since all pain is relative, all I can do is acknowledge/empathize with/pray for the atrocities external from me while focusing on finding some way to mitigate or at least reconcile with the conflicts and turmoil internal to me.
WITH SO MANY THREATS TO WORLD PEACE AND THE INTERNATIONAL ORDER
The rise of China
The decline of the United States
The vulnerability of Western alliances
The emboldened and hostile rogue nations
The turmoil caused by the Arab Awakening
The horror and ruthlessness of the Mexican Drug Cartels
The collusion between terrorist and transnational crime networks
The lawlessness and weaponization of cyberspace
The advancements in nano, bio, and quantum technologies
The cognitive awakening of robots
The corrupted and inept societal institutions
The oligarchical hegemony
The decimated middle class
The blight of generational poverty
The depleted potable water supplies
The destructive weather patterns
The rampant pandemic viruses
And all the rest of the rot…
IT TOOK ONLY ONE UNFORESEEN EVENT TO OBLITERATE THE ORDER AND INCITE CHAOS AND DISASTER ON A GLOBAL SCALE
Whether China is or is yet to be, or if it even wants or wants not to be a superpower are not the important questions to me. One way or the other, the answer is or will be yes. An important question for me is, how will China manage its increasingly powerful role in the world while also managing the consumption requirements of its increasingly demanding and aggressive population.
Of course, controlling the flow of information — internet censorship, for example — within and without of the country, will be key to its strategy of ascent to the highest heights of global power. But even censorship and governmental intimidation and societal manipulation will serve little purpose when the country’s water wells run dry from its hyper-industrialization and the ongoing desertification of large swaths of the country. When this happens we can certainly expect an explosive rise in the price of global food commodities. And as we’ve seen in our very recent past, when food prices rise beyond the reach of the least affluent, tempers rise right along with them.
And when tempers rise…
Resource Wars are inevitable, and I foresee China opening up the first major front in the assault.
Exactly when this will all happen?
Now, that is the question.
Look it up, folks. It’s all out there.
Scary stuff, for sure.
But scary as it is, it’s all delectable fodder for the imagination of the author intent on creating a world of horrific dystopian proportions and perfection…
The Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced next week and the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the odds makers are making noise for the usual suspects.
Of course we all know it’s all just a guessing-game (as most gambling is) as to who will win, a game depending on the author and scholars who make up the selection panel, and, unfortunately, the international politics at play.
That said, still it’s fun to guess. Here are some of the odds:
Haruki Murakami is the favorite at 5 to 1 Joyce Carol Oates is at 12 to 1 Philip Roth is at 16 to 1 Thomas Pynchon is at 25 to 1 Don DeLillo is at 33 to 1 Richard Ford is also at 33 to 1 Cormac McCarthy, Salman Rushdie, and Bob Dylan are all at 50 to 1
I don’t think I’ve ever read a winner before he or she had been announced (or too many thereafter, either). My reading list is way too full of dead authors that I’m supposed to read so it’s darn near impossible to find time for the living ones I’m also supposed to read.
But I have read many on the list here and I personally like Oates (at least she’s interesting on Twitter — but I’d guess her chances are diminished somewhat since a woman was chosen last year).
However, when considering this list along with the politics du jour, I’d have to go with Murakami, even though (especially since?) they have recently awarded an Asian writer, Mo Yan from China, which was highly politicized.
But the recently aggressive China and somewhat recently humbled (the past couple decades anyway) Japan have been going at it pretty good lately, so this might be a chance for the Nobel Prize pickers to stick it in China’s government’s eye again.
Unfortunately, I have no idea if there are any contending Ukrainian, Iranian, Uighur, or any other writers from politically sensitive countries.
But, I’m looking forward to finding out who the winner will be…and the sure-to-come guilty letdown I’ll get when I realize it’s yet another writer I have never read.
I wonder if I would have the courage to stand up to a government like China’s as Ai Weiwei has. Heck, I don’t even have the guts to spell out the word “fuck” in the title of this post so I highly doubt it.
There is much ado in the news about China’s Wen Jiabao, the supposed People’s Premier, accumulating a massive fortune, for both himself and his extended family, while serving within the highest ranks of China’s government.
Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister’s relatives — some of whom, including his wife, have a knack for aggressive deal making — have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.
No one is surprised by this, right? I mean, when in history has there ever been an authoritarian, non-transparent government where its leaders — and often…well, usually…okay, you’re right, always…those close to the leaders — did not become fabulously wealthy as a result of their position within the government?
Without a doubt, Western-style democracies are far from perfect; and, without a doubt, many politicians and government officials within these supposed transparent governments have amassed huge, unknowable, amounts of cash because of their positions. Still, at least we who live in countries governed by democracies, with our right to vote and with our freedom of speech, have a semblance of a notion that we can contain the corruption. Whether it’s true or not is debatable, but having a semblance of a notion is better than having none at all.
In my view, nothing demands the guarantees of freedom more than how one chooses to express his or her relationship with life. Some choose to express this relationship through song, through the pen, through spirituality, through art. There are so many choice ways to express oneself that no matter how hard oppressive forces try to oppress these expressions of life, and they will try very, very hard, they will always and ultimately fail. Freedom can never be truly or completely oppressed.
Oppressive governments like China, Iran, and Syria, among many others, are spending billions to censor the internet from their populations; and other governments like Pakistan, that one might not consider to be in the same oppressive category as China and the others mentioned, are also focused on internet censorship as well, mostly for religious purposes.
But as these governments find new ways to oppress, internet freedom advocates, find new ways to circumvent the oppression. Unfortunately, those seeking access to the internet usually are not as well funded as those seeking to oppress.
Just as it funded free speech initiatives like the Voice of America during its Cold War with the Soviet Union, the United States spends large sums of money each year to fund internet freedom advocacy groups who provide the proxy tools and other technology to help those in need circumvent the government firewalls.
However, like just about every other important issue the United States is facing, its massive debt is putting the internet freedom initiative in peril. At a time when the demand for the initiative is at its greatest — the demand is so huge for the proxy tools that, without additional funding to increase speed and access, its current capability is overwhelmed — cuts to the program are inevitable.
In the coming months and years, how will these cuts affect the censored and oppressed, and especially those fighting for their lives in places like Syria where their information campaign, a campaign that relies primarily on twitter and youtube postings, is crucial to making and keeping the world aware of their very real struggle for freedom?
In Gary Shteyngart’s SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY, the state of the union is dire. The country is bankrupt and so are its morals and values. It is at war both abroad and at home with itself. Its fall from grace and global dominance is near complete. Its citizens are vacuous, intellectually dead, and have ceded their free will and persona’s to ubiquitous technological devices and the killer apps that power them.
While this may sound like a description of the America of today with its battered and disaffected citizenry, insane debt and out of control spending, and an even more insane and dysfunctional political environment that is preventing any type of resolution to any of its problems, we don’t know exactly when all of this is happening except that it is sometime in the near future.
Within the midst of this dystopian future is love-stricken Lenny, a shlumpy, less-than handsome, middle-aged romantic, first generation Russian, lover of his past-its-prime-and-glory city, who still reads those anachronistic, smelly pressed wood pulp things with ink-stained letters called books, attempting to court Eunice, a vibrant, young, superficial first generation Korean beauty who is repulsed by nearly everything about Lenny–he is old, naïve and weak, he has the face of a battleship, and the smell of his dirty old books make her ill–and who consumes her time and mind by shopping and live streaming on her all-consuming apparat.
Theirs is an unstable and unbalanced love affair that seems destined to collapse, as does just about everything important in Lenny’s life: we see America’s empire collapsing and the corpornation of China’s rising; we see the rule of law collapsing in his city as contractor military forces impose martial law in an effort to contain and control veterans returning from the war with Venezuela who are protesting and plotting against what’s left of the government because they have not received their promised combat pay; we see the collapse of his professional a life because he, a man more comfortable in second hand clothes and who still enjoys long, slow walks through Central Park, just cannot meet the rigors and sales quotas associated with having to sell Kurzweilian-like, eternal life plans to rich elites. Things look pretty grim for poor Lenny.
Things look grim because Super Sad True Love Story is a grim, despondent story; but fortunately for us, the readers, Shteyngart is a talented writer who tells the story in clever, humorous ways that take some of the sting out of its biting, bitter message…but not all of it.
I recommend you read Super Sad True Love Story, if not for its creative, literary value, then for its glimpse into what might become if we don’t soon figure out a way to work together in a common interest of saving our country from becoming a super sad true story of collapse and ruin.