Nationalism Is a Farce That Ends in Tragedy

Karl Marx famously began The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte by observing that Hegel “remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice.” Hegel, and by implication Marx, was wrong. The uniqueness of circumstance and the individuality of actor mean that history does not, and cannot, repeat itself. But sometimes historical conditions and attitudes do recur, albeit in modified forms. More arresting is Marx’s comment that history repeats “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Today the farce being played out in the United States is plain for all who care to witness it. The historic tragedy that the farce obscures is harder to discern, and portends the resurgence of conditions and attitudes that in the past have led to disaster.

The “Mass Man”

Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated

Writing in the 1920s, the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset chronicled the assent of the “mass man” in the cultural and political life of Europe. Ortega did not equate the masses with the working class any more than he associated the elite with civility and decorum. An attitude of mind, rather than class affiliation or identity, distinguished the mass man. Simply put, Ortega argued that the mass man lacked the intellectual and spiritual discipline necessary either to exercise power or to safeguard tradition. His was a commonplace, pedestrian mind that remained dull and inert until animated by some external stimuli that quickly provoked a compulsion to act. Unwilling to engage in rational debate, to apply the rules of logic to disagreements, to acknowledge external judgments, or even to recognize the existence of other points of view, the mass man “is satisfied with thinking the first thing he finds in his head.” He has no ideas as such, but can only express his “appetites in words.” Fearful of diversity and incapable of tolerating, or even of apprehending, distinctions, the mass man embraces a deadening conformity and “crushes… everything that is different, qualified and select.” Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated. Such intellectual and spiritual vulgarity, Ortega reflected, had brought to the vanguard a type of man without precedent in the long history of Europe, a man who “shows himself resolved to impose his opinions” by coercion and force without giving due consideration either to evidence or reason.

Ortega lamented the assertion of this right to be unreasonable—the “reason of unreason” to use a phrase from Don Quixote. Obedient to no authority, the mass man “feels himself lord of his own existence.” He refuses to challenge himself to improve. He places on himself no demands of any kind, but instead “contents himself with what he is, and is delighted with himself,” regarding his “moral and intellectual endowments as excellent [and] complete.” The man of true excellence, by contrast, appeals always to a transcendent standard. If none exists, or if he can no longer access those that served in the past, he must invent a new one, which is more severe, arduous, and exigent. Discipline is the commanding principle of his life, and he is forever dissatisfied with himself, striving always to attain the lofty ideals that he has established. Ortega linked the rise of the mass man with the emergence of syndicalism on the left and fascism on the right. Both movements revered action and violence, ultimate expressions of the barbarism into which European civilization had descended. Yet, the lineage of such brazen enmity and resentment is even more venerable.

Illiberal Nationalism and Racial Hate

In their political offensive against socialism and democracy, many European statesmen, generals, aristocrats, entrepreneurs, clergymen, and intellectuals had, by the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, found in nationalism a convenient doctrine to electrify and exploit the masses. Until after the Revolutions of 1848, nationalism had been a liberal initiative. Liberal nationalists, such as the Italian Giuseppe Mazzini, sought to create a Europe composed of free and independent states each peopled by free and independent citizens. During the second half of the nineteenth century, nationalism severed its relations with liberalism and became the incubator of dictatorship and war.

Militant nationalists rejected the emphasis on individual liberty in favor of national unity. Determined to achieve or to restore national greatness, they assailed parliamentary government for breeding division and spreading discontent. They accused minorities and foreigners of contaminating the purity of the nation, and persecuted them in an effort to rid the land of such afflictions. Displays of military prowess came to symbolize the vigor of the national spirit and the resolve of the national will. Rather than an instrument of compromise, a vehicle for reconciling differences, or a means to solve problems, politics blundered into a spectacle of emotion, permitting nationalists to transform the nation into an object of worship and to reprove any critique of their persons or their programs as illegitimate and traitorous. Political opponents became enemies of the people and the state. Each nationalist triumph lured Europeans further into a dream world, increasingly estranged from reality. In time, Ortega wrote, they came to prefer this “fictitious existence suspended in air.” As early as 1902, the German philosopher Friedrich Paulsen warned not only of the threat that nationalism posed to the peace of Europe but also of the danger it presented to the traditions of rational thought, moral conduct, and humane sentiment:

A supersensitive nationalism has become a very serious danger for all the peoples of Europe; because of it, they are in danger of losing the feeling for human values. Nationalism, pushed to an extreme, just like sectarianism, destroys moral and even logical consciousness. Just and unjust, good and bad, true and false, lose their meaning; what men condemn as disgraceful and inhuman when done by others, they recommend in the same breath to their own people as something to be done to another country.

With growing fanaticism, nationalists saw themselves and their countrymen as a heroic people with a unique history and culture that was distinct from, and better than, those of the inferior “races” whom they had every right to conquer and to dominate.

During the twentieth century, anti-Semitism became the most virulent expression of the radical nationalist worldview. The myth of the diabolical Jew illustrated Georges Sorel’s insight that people are unified by their hatreds and stirred by their passions. Although a champion of the proletariat, Sorel, like the radical nationalists, insisted that the appeal to myth (for Sorel it was the myth of the general strike) inspired heroic action and offered simple, clear, and persuasive explanations for circumstances that were otherwise tortuous, mystifying, and often frightful. Myth afforded not the opportunity for thought, analysis, or contemplation, but performed instead as a call to arms. Long before the Nazis perfected the technique, the sensational polemics issued against the Jews became the standard method of propaganda by which nationalists advanced their mythic deceptions and aroused the masses.

The Cruel Illusion

They dispensed with civility and truth. They came to mistrust ideas and to despise intelligence

Those who embraced such positions were impervious to rational inquiry. On the contrary, they had abandoned reason and made superstition, fear, and hatred vital components of political life. They sought not so much to fashion a new civilization as to destroy the old one, believing that the rules and standards of society had subjected them to a terrible violation of their rights. “Primitives in revolt,” as Ortega characterized them, they had inherited a comparatively prosperous and stable world, while remaining unaware of, and perhaps indifferent to, the effort required to create and sustain the many advantages from which they benefitted. As a consequence of their grievances and their ignorance, they could forsake any and all obligations to their fellow human beings. Like perpetual children, they yearned to be free to exercise the rights and privileges that they thought they deserved, which the unworthy, the unrighteous, and the unjust had so cruelly denied them.

They imagined that life was easy and bountiful, or that it ought to be. When they found themselves toiling under grave limitations, deprived of the things to which they believed justice entitled them, they looked for someone to blame. In their determination to assert themselves and to exercise power over others, they forfeited intellectual and emotional maturity. They dispensed with civility and truth. They came to mistrust ideas and to despise intelligence. They negated morality, adopting whatever expedient served the interests of the moment and enabled them to justify actions for which there could be no justification. Whether they considered themselves revolutionaries or reactionaries, they became consumed by partisan zeal. The nineteenth-century German historian Theodore Mommsen concluded that those bewildered but uncompromising souls routinely dismiss:

logical and ethical arguments… They listen only to their own envy and hatred, to the meanest instincts. Nothing else counts for them. They are deaf to reason, right, morals. One cannot influence them.

Mommsen likened such a disposition of mind to a terrible disease for which medicine had no cure.

That many Europeans during the 1920s and 1930s, including the well-educated and the well-born, found such attitudes congenial proved ominous for the future of civilization in the West. It revealed how acquiescent the mind is to false but emotionally gratifying doctrines, recounting what by then was already the sad, old story of how easily decent persons can sink into corruption, decadence, and barbarism. Farcical this narrative may have been. But if the historical drama played out in Europe during the early twentieth century began as farce, with actors pretending to catastrophe because they did not really expect it to happen, it was a farce that ended in tragedy.

Reprinted from The Imaginative Conservative


Mark Malvasi

Mark Malvasi is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. He teaches history at Randolph-Macon College.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.


The Nuclear War That Almost Was and the Man Who Prevented It

Yesterday, Trump spoke in front of the United Nations and declared that, if necessary, the United States would do “what it needed to do” to protect itself against North Korean threats.

Standing on the floor of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump stated:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.”

This isn’t the first time Trump has threatened North Korea with the prospect of nuclear war. Just last month, he promised to “unleash fire and fury” against the country, which had just launched its own ballistic missile over neighboring Japan. Since then, tensions have been mounting.

But as the two countries move closer to the brink of nuclear war, the world is about to celebrate the 34th anniversary of the nuclear war that almost was.

Apocalypse Almost

Stanislav Petrov was working the overnight shift on September 26, 1983 when he inadvertently saved the world from nuclear war.

The heightened tension between the two global superpowers made the decision forced on Petrov even more grave.

As a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Defense Forces, Petrov was tasked with monitoring the country’s satellites, looking for possible nuclear weapons launched by the United States. There was nothing particularly unusual about this shift until the alarms began to sound at dawn.

The alarm had indicated a warning that America had launched five nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. And it was Petrov’s job to sound the alarm that would initiate a retaliation before it was too late.

“The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word ‘launch’ on it,” Petrov remembered.

Earlier that same month, the Cold War had further escalated after the USSR had shot down a Korean commercial airliner that had flown into its airspace. The incident resulted in the deaths of 269 people including a United States Congressman from Georgia, Larry McDonald.

The heightened tensions between the two global superpowers made the decision forced on Petrov even more grave.

Petrov recalled:

“There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike. But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time, that the Soviet Union’s military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay. All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders — but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan.”

Countless Lives Saved

Petrov hesitated because he had a gut instinct that something was off. This technology was still fairly new, and he was sure it had some kinks to be worked out. In his training, he was taught that any strike from the U.S. would most likely come as a full-fledged attack. Yet, the satellite system was only showing a handful of missiles. This hardly constituted all-out warfare. What if the satellite was incorrect? Was he willing to call in his superiors and start a nuclear war over a system error?

On the other hand, if the monitors were correct, Petrov only had 20 minutes to act before the missiles struck. After a torturous internal debate, Petrov decided not to act in haste. He quickly checked to see if the satellite had malfunctioned, causing it to report a false launch.

He soon discovered that there had in fact been an error and no missiles had been launched at all.  

If Petrov had simply sounded the alarm for his superiors, as he was trained and ordered to do, there is a good chance counterstrikes would have been launched on behalf of the USSR and the world may not be as it is today.

Commenting on this historic event that almost was, arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis told NPR:

“[Petrov] just had this feeling in his gut that it wasn’t right. It was five missiles. It didn’t seem like enough. So even though by all of the protocols he had been trained to follow, he should absolutely have reported that up the chain of command and, you know, we should be talking about the great nuclear war of 1983 if any of us survived.”

The New Cold War

Petrov passed away in May of this year, avoiding having to witness America’s current flirtation with nuclear war.

The escalation between the United States and North Korea builds by the day.

Aside from the Cuban Missile Crisis, the September 26th incident was the closest the United States had ever been to a nuclear war — until now.

The escalation between the United States and North Korea builds by the day. As each president continues to taunt the other, either by showing off military might or dishing out childish insults, the world gets closer to the possibility of nuclear war: one that could also involve the nuclear arsenals of China, even Russia. Unlike Petrov, neither world leader has taken a moment to fully think this through. A nuclear war is in absolutely no one’s interest.

The US government has been ratcheting up tensions with nuclear Russia over Ukraine and the Middle East and with nuclear China over North Korea and disputed islands in the South China Sea. As relations between nuclear powers deteriorate, incidents like what happened on September 26, 1983 become more likely. We’re all alive today because a man like Stanislav Petrov was the one on duty that day. Will we be so fortunate the next time? What if a more obedient and “by the book” officer is at the helm the next time a system malfunctions or a message is miscommunicated when nuclear stakes are on the line? As a BBC article reported:

He says he was the only officer in his team who had received a civilian education. “My colleagues were all professional soldiers, they were taught to give and obey orders,” he told us.

So, he believes, if somebody else had been on shift, the alarm would have been raised.

Petrov was ominously right when he said, “…they were lucky it was me on shift that night.”


Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter is an associate editor at FEE. Brittany studied political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in Constitutional studies.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

What’s the Connection Between Climate Change and Hurricane Harvey? 

As Hurricane Harvey slipped back offshore of Texas and then like a pinwheel spun back over to Louisiana and is now moving further inland on a northeast trajectory, questions are already being asked: Is this storm unprecedented? Are there telltale signs of climate change?

Sorgente: What’s the Connection Between Climate Change and Hurricane Harvey? – Union of Concerned Scientists

Germany’s Dirty Secret: Climate Activists Take Aim at Europe’s Largest Coal Industry | The Nation

Amid a growing anti-coal movement, thousands of masked protesters in hooded white jumpsuits block Germany’s coal infrastructure.

Sorgente: Germany’s Dirty Secret: Climate Activists Take Aim at Europe’s Largest Coal Industry | The Nation

Avaaz – Impeça que a floresta Amazônica vire um deserto

A conta chegou e Temer está pagando os votos que comprou da bancada ruralista: o desmate de 433 campos de futebol no coração da Amazônia pra dar espaço à pecuária, mineração e madeireiras! Assine agora e vamos freá-los:

Sorgente: Avaaz – Impeça que a floresta Amazônica vire um deserto

We thought the Nazi threat was dead. But Donald Trump has revived it 

The US president’s praise for the Charlottesville racists has broken a precious and necessary taboo, says Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland

Sorgente: We thought the Nazi threat was dead. But Donald Trump has revived it | Jonathan Freedland | Opinion | The Guardian


di Marco Cinque

Scusate se siamo fuggiti
dalle guerre che voi nutrite
con le vostre stesse armi

Scusate se ci siamo avvelenati
con i rifiuti tossici sotterrati
dalle vostre potenti industrie

Scusate se avete dissanguato
la nostra terra, deprivandoci
di ogni possibile risorsa

Scusate la nostra povertà
figlia della vostra ricchezza
dei vostri neo-colonialismi

Scusate se veniamo massacrati
e disturbiamo le vostre vacanze
col nostro sangue invisibile

Scusate se occupiamo
coi nostri sudici corpi
i vostri centri di detenzione

Scusate se ci spezziamo la schiena
nei vostri campi di pomodoro
schiavi senza alcun diritto

Scusate se viviamo nelle
vostre baracche di lamiera
ammucchiati come bestie

Scusate per la nostra presenza
che causa ogni vostra crisi
e non vi fa vivere bene

Scusate se le vostre leggi
non sono abbastanza severe
e molti di voi vorrebbero la forca

Scusate se esistiamo
se respiriamo, se mangiamo
persino se osiamo sognare

Scusate se non siamo morti in mare
e se invece lo siamo, scusate ancora
l’impudenza d’avervelo fatto sapere.


****Notizie dal deserto****

da un post di Filippo Miraglia

Molto interessante l’audizione del direttore dell’ufficio dell’OIM nel Mediterraneo, Federico Soda, per capire come funziona il trasferimento, cioè l’esternalizzazione, delle nostre frontiere verso altri Paesi, in particolare dall’Africa.

Si parla di un calo consistente degli arrivi dal Corno, in particolare da Somalia ed Eritrea. L’Eritrea è uno dei Paesi da dove arrivano da anni migliaia di giovani in fuga dal regime di Isaias Afewerki. A fermarli, la polizia di un altro dittatore, Omar Al Bashir, alla quale la nostra polizia fornisce assistenza tecnica e logistica, formazione e strumentazione.

Gli eritrei che arrivavano in Italia erano più di 40 mila nel 2015. Sono dimezzati nel 2016 e quest’anno, sostiene il direttore Soda, diminuiranno ulteriormente. Insomma la strategia di bloccare le frontiere di paesi africani di transito verso l’UE e l’Italia, impedendo alle persone di fuggire da regimi dittatoriali internazionalmente noti, affidandosi ad altri dittatori, funziona. Tutti soddisfatti. A parte le vittime di quei dittatori e la nostra Costituzione. Ma questo è irrilevante.
Dopo il “successo” sul Corno d’Africa, adesso l’attenzione del nostro governo, con l’aiuto convinto dell’OIM, si concentra sulla rotta occidentale verso la Libia, dalla quale proviene quasi l’80% delle nazionalità che arrivano in Italia, secondo Soda. È la che si sta costruendo un “muro nel deserto” che fa deviare le rotte trasformando il Sahel in un cimitero di migranti.
In Niger l’OIM gestisce 3 centri di dissuasione e rimpatrio, aperti, per convincere i migranti a rientrare nel Paese d’origine o a rimanere nel paese centroafricano. Nel 2017 sono stati più di 3 mila i “rimpatri volontari” da Agadez e Niamey, l’obiettivo è di arrivare a 6 mila. 5 Mila i migranti rimpatriati dalla Libia e puntano ad arrivare a 10/11 mila entro la fine dell’anno. Hanno anche “salvato” circa 700 persone nel deserto nigerino.
L’OIM stima che in Libia siano presenti 400 mila migranti, che però dichiarano in maggioranza di essere partiti con destinazione finale proprio la LIbia e non l’UE o l’Italia.  I centri di detenzione in Libia sono più di 30 e quelli ai quali ha accesso l’OIM (circa 20) sono in pessime condizioni e, secondo Soda, andrebbero chiusi.
Tuttavia OIM riceverà 18 milioni di euro dall’Italia per migliorare le condizioni dei centri di detenzione (2 milioni), per attività di stabilizzazione del sud (8 milioni) e per rimpatri assistiti (8 milioni).