what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Forward to the past - are there lessons from 1911?


The thunder which has rolled round Sofia these past 2 days has fitted my mood – a feeling of Goetterdaemuring as the right-wing fanatics crawl out from under the stones in Europe and the United States and threaten the codes of civilised behaviour.

In 1996 Linz and Stepan produced one of the key texts of "transitology”, drawing on the South American and Iberian experience of democratisation of the 1980s, to help us think about the change process underway in Central and Eastern Europe.
Their aim was to try to identify the conditions which created a "consolidated democracy” – one whose citizens accepted the legitimacy of specific governments (regardless of the scale of their policy disagreements) simply because they believed that the governments had been fairly elected.
Paradoxically, there seem a growing number of right-wing American citizens and representives who no longer share that basic premise; who are so opposed to the notion of public services and taxation that they no longer accept "compromise” as a political tactic. Their bile and spleen is so great that they are prepared to risk a default on their national debt to get their way.

Hours after posting this, I am glad to be joined in my feelings by a Real Economics post. Now these bampots are joined in their challenge to democratic legitimacy by mad northern european gunmen – who have equally made the judgement that their politicians have "sold out”; no longer warrant a civilised response; and therefore should try to take out a political generation. Other groups are also alienated by the direction of modern states.
If I were a Palestine fisherman, faced with this Israeli reponse, I would not be trying a civilised reponse. The pacific responses of Gandhi do not come easy to the "instant gratification” generation!

We do seem back a hundred years – at the point which preceded wars and revolutions. The anarchists and leftists are curiously silent (unlike the early part of the 20th century) and yet it is their agenda which is most comprehensively offended by the developments of the past few decades. I was rereading yesterday Tony Judt’s last political tract and also Susan Strange’s Mad Money (1996) which remains for me the clearest analysis of the decisions (and non-decisions) which have brought the western world to the edge of disaster.

This morning I wandered in the old market near the mosque, synagogue and Orthodox church and was strangely comforted. Poor people – whose disparate cultures (Arab; Turk; Bulgarian) – still brought together to trade, drink (coffee) and smoke.

I was strangely drawn to this painting (by contemporary artist Vladimir Dmitrov) when I saw it earlier this year in a Sofia gallery (my second from the artist). I bought it - and now know why. It makes for a lovely illustration of my theme of "twilight of the Gods".

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