Human utility

prekariat.org

prekariat.org

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

There can be said to be two internal structural crises regarding the transformation of the labour market brought by new technologies and the rationalization of the market structure itself. These two crises can be said to be ideological/existential and social. Of these two crises, I will devote this entry to the first, and often overlooked version.

The transformation of labour has meant not only a different environment, but that people – most often from the younger generation – have been forced by the external circumstances to readjust their behaviour, while many of the expectations regarding rights, social obligations, the personal future and the social role of the individual remain the same – which creates a foundation for increased mental fragility and a heightened risk for psycho-social problems.

This problem is mostly prevalent in the developed nations in Europe, North America, Oceania and East Asia, though similar trends can be seen amongst the middle class in the Arab World and the less developed nations of East Asia.

TL;DR summary

  • During the latter half of the 20th century, most western states developed social welfare models that gave broader protection to the people.
  • This was coupled by a period of sustained growth until the 1970’s when the majority of the population attained higher living standards, guaranteed employment and expanded social safety nets.
  • This created room for individualization and for the expansion of lifestyles and subcultures. In a very literal sense, people became liberated from the constraints of survival values.
  • Three generations have grown up under these conditions, and been acclimatised to them.
  • This presents a challenge now when the system is rupturing, and expectations both amongst the political leaders and the various groups of society is not aligned with this rupture.
  • This increases the volatility of the system.
  • It is unlikely a new stable equilibrium within the current socio-economic system can be established, due to exponential and ecological factors.
  • This volatility brings risks but also opportunities.

The age of the Middle Class

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After the Second World War, something happened – which we have come to take for granted now in the western world, but which was unfathomable to the generations who had gone through the two world wars and the Great Depression, namely a period of sustained growth from the late 1940’s until the oil recession of 1973.

This sustained growth happened basically every western country, and transformed the structural composition of the population. Production of consumer goods exploded, farming industrialization led to a sweeping wave of urbanization and sub-urbanization. From economies were only every tenth person had a car, we moved towards economies were one in two adult individuals possessed one.1950s-300x210

Soon, basically everyone owned a car, refrigerator, TV, radio, lawn-mower, stereos, and could afford vacation trips to other parts of the country and even abroad. Of course, in many countries – like for example in large parts of southern Europe and in the United States – there were large swathes of poverty, and stagnating communities as well. For the majority however, things looked increasingly brighter.

And jobs were readily available to anyone willing to have one. Though it was not easy to study at university everywhere, there was no necessity of it, since regular jobs paid enough to sustain a household and generally allow money for other expenditures. Thus, due to the abundance, the culture in western countries was slowly transformed – away from the values of traditional societies.

The new lifestyle market emerged due to and with part-conscious support from the marketing industry, and soon fashion in terms of musical preferences, clothing, brands, experiences and even diets came to be readily applied by the industry, transforming both the economy and the behavioural patterns of the people in the process. While this process can be seen as both emergenet and intentional (to some degree), it is not the focus of our post. The focus rather lies on the fact that three generations of westerners have been individualized.

Individualization

Culture-Map_WVS5

As you can see on this map, the countries seen as building up the core of the western world are all in the upper right corner, and while some (like Ireland and the United States) are more traditional in terms of their values, they too value self-expression above survival. Cultural essentialists love to claim that these values to some extent always have separated the West from other civilizations (not entirely true, they generally sport the origin of western exceptionalism to the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution or the Enlightenment).

However, several distinct transformations happened relatively recent, during the middle to late part of last century.

  • The choice of a romantic partner is moved to a later part in life, and parents and relatives do not any longer generally expect to have a say in the matter. Property and income is less pronounced in the choosing of a partner, though it still indirectly plays a role.
  • Sex is now a recreationary habit, while it before primarily was seen as a way to form a family. Children are no longer seen as an economic investment, but primarily as a way to cement a bonding between two adult individuals (children are also largely seen as an economic burden).
  • The social role of the individual in society is primarily defined by the individual theirself, and that is seen as the legitimate manner in which people define their roles in society.
  • Youths are acclimatised into this thinking through education, where a large part is played (unintentionally perhaps) by the social mores and fashions, and the pecking order organically established on the schoolyard.

I would argue that most of these transformations have been positive, and have served as a liberating force for the individual, who by theirself can make life-decisions that were previously either decided directly or at least largely affected by the expectations of the community. It is however quite easy to see how the struggle for survival creates the foundation for collectivistic values and social mores, while the lack of a need to struggle for survival creates the opportunity for the individual to blossom.

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There are however expectations which individuals in western societies generally are expected to achieve, and are expecting themselves to achieve. In a pre-industrial agrarian society, you are successful if you manage to hold on to what your forebears managed to build. In an early industrial society, you are successful if you manage to build savings to let your children have a better life. In today’s society, however, young people have been accustomed to, are expected to and are expecting themselves to:

  • Earn more than their parents did and receive better-paying jobs.
  • Make good for themselves by having a job and contributing to the economy.
  • Experiencing life and travelling at an early age.
  • Expressing their individuality and attain a sense of “uniqueness”.

These are all laudable life objectives, but the problem is that they are increasingly untenable for young people to achieve, especially in a situation where class differences are becoming more marked, the middle class is stagnating, low-skill jobs are less available due to automatization and the increasing competition of the developing world, high-skill jobs are not increasing in the numbers needed to absorb the increased number of youths with hundreds of thousands in student debt and degrees that lend them jobs on McDonalds.

Not surprisingly, this will cause protracted anger, especially as the system is crumbling more and more under its own self-contradictions.

The existential crisis of the Western Civilization

jeslacasse.com

jeslacasse.com

The social contracts of modern western societies generally entail that people have a right to housing, to food, to water, to electricity (apart from the rights from being exposed to conditions imposed by other humans which are less than desirable). However, these rights have de-facto not needed to be guarded that much since the truth has been that the vast majority of the people in western industrialized societies have been able to guarantee them for themselves due to employment – and those not able to gain access to these life-necessities have most often been caught up by social safety nets that have provided them with what is considered the minimum that an individual could expect from society.

I am not denying the fact that there are those who are destitute and truly homeless, but these are still – luckily – a comparably small group.

In general, the social welfare systems have been dependent on – no matter what country we are talking about – a full employment state, where the revenues are collected through income taxes, and a part of those revenues are redistributed to the part of the adult population that is unable to find work, either permanently or through structural or temporary unemployment. When revenues are not increasing in the same amount as expenditures, then the government must either raise taxes or shrink its obligations. Raising taxes generally reduces the availability for consumption. The prevailing orthodoxy since the 1970’s has generally been tax reductions, since these are presupposed to stimulate the economy by increasing consumption, thereby increasing the amount of readily available jobs.

viewsoftheworld.net

viewsoftheworld.net

Since the population pyramid in most western societies is skewed to the middle, with the largest population share being the bulk of middle-aged citizens and a flattening peak of old people, it is difficult for youths to affect the division of resources with this dwindling resource base, since it is likely that older and more well-connected population segments can negotiate to keep a larger share of the pie, while inexperienced youths find themselves with less and elss opportunities for jobs, housing and education as time passes on.

This has also largely happened, starting already during the 1980’s, and resuming during the 2010’s. Youths are gradually, but at an accelerating pace, thrown into a world that is more ruthless and predatory than that of their parents – of whom many have little understanding or patience for the sense of uncertainty today, instead meaning that youths have become soft like jelly and less prone to work hard and shut up – not realising that it is difficult to even gain a job interview when jobs are scarce and every job has several hundred applicants.

What is problematic is not that youths cannot fulfil their own ambitions, or the ambitions of their parents. It is doubtful if it can be said to be a human right to be successful within the paradigms of consumeristic individualism, and even if it was a right, it is evidently very much on a lower priority than the things that billions of people in the developing world are going through. What is problematic however is when people are living in lives of uncertainty and never know how the next month is going to look like. if they would have to move to another side of the country or if they are getting as many work hours as the previous month.

This is however problematic on a deeper level. If society cannot guarantee housing, income, safety and electricity to all its members, things which are pre-assumed by human rights definitions and national laws, it is putting the democratic concepts of the inclusionary nation-state in conflict with the values of capitalism.

In short, are human beings having an inherent value because of their humanity, or is their worth determined by their economic performance (and them being allowed to performed economically) inside society? Is it human rights that determine human value, or is it human utility, or some combination thereof – and how can we adjust internally in regards to this self-contradiction?

Short-term solutions

basicincome2013.eu

basicincome2013.eu

There are several ways to adjust to this crisis, and at least be able to prolong the social fabric of our societies some more decades than otherwise possible.

  • The shifting of the tax burden to other productive factors, such as capital, land, technology, or to consumption and production, which would mean that the expenses won’t increase (through social welfare) the same way when unemployment rises and revenues are decreasing.
  • The transformation of the social safety net into a simpler model that means that all human beings get money for necessities, without as many control systems to check if they are eligible.

Culturally, there must be changes as well. The awareness that we live in a different society than 1970 has not dawned upon decision-makers in politics, industry and media, especially as the majority of them have not experienced this transformation and what it entails for new-comers on the labour market.

Youths must also adjust their expectations and try to develop their survival skills and understanding of the current system. That does not entail acceptance, and youths must be better to understand the system in order to be able to properly channel their anxiety into the anger necessary to form a movement with political demands. These demands must however not be attached to just changes in how the redistribution patterns are working, but into systemic changes related to the establishment of the post-industrial service economy in the Western world.

However, while the biosphere is slowly collapsed by the joined efforts of humanity, technological development is

A protester carries a petrol bomb during a protest at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011. Protesting high school students hurled rocks and bottles during a rally to mark the third anniversary of the fatal police shooting of a teenager in central Athens. (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)

accelerating, leading to less and less labour hours needed to sustain the same production, meaning that new jobs are not created in the same pace as old jobs are vanishing. Those economies worst affected are those that entered the “High Industrial Age” (1946 – 1973) phase later than the early adopters.

One example is being Greece, which today is in a state of perpetual crisis, that only will deepen as the adherence to the flawed Euro currency system is basically leading to the country relenting what independence it has left in economic matters, and accepting probably this century’s largest redistribution of wealth from the people into the hands of financial capital. This also shows that the current political establishment and the current political paradigm is directed towards protecting the interests of the system before the interests of the people.

Summary

In the western world, technology – which was a liberating force during the previous eras of the Industrial Age – has turned into a factor that greatly upsets the social order and is forcing a change of the expectations that we have been accustomed to have. This does not mean that technological development should be stopped, in fact, technological development must necessarily be consciously utilised in the process of creating an integrated civilization that can monitor the environmental factors of the Earth and allow us to reduce our impact in as intelligent a manner as possible.

However, technology is a destructive force in regards to how it affects both the ways in which social safety nets operate and how the labour market is shrinking of available hours, leading to more competition horizontally and more strained relations both vertically and between generations.

The first thing that youths must realise is this relationship between technological development and the difficulty to land one-self a full-time employment today. Internalization of emotions of guilt, worthlessness and a sense of being meaningless is leading to the collapse of the self and is a certain path to becoming depressed and losing all the will to struggle. However, that it isn’t your guilt does not mean that you do not need to adapt to changed circumstances.

Finally, the Earth Organisation of Sustainability must talk about these issues and try to establish why our alternative is plausible and why it is essential to struggle, not only for the future of individuals, or or humanity, but of the future of our very planet.

On Survivalism

govolontourism.com

govolontourism.com

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

During this century, there will be three major challenges that will undoubtly mean that whatever happens, we will live in a different civilization in a hundred years. These challenges can be summed up as ecology, society and technology, and each of them will serve to shift but also tear our species into differing directions – as well as forcing each and everyone of us to adapt to transformative circumstances.

If you are content with the current society and with its shape, that is bad news. Everything you have prepared for the future of yourself and maybe your family is put into jeopardy, and there is no way to know where we will be in ten years.

On the other hand, if you want to challenge yourself and improve on your skills, it does not need to be bad news, and may in fact be the catalyst that makes you take control over your right to choose your own destiny.

This post will try to connect what many people are finding hard to grasp, namely that what we cause in terms of degradation eventually will have not only indirect but direct and immediate effects on their ability to uphold their daily lives. It will describe what most political scientists today would see as an impossibility in well-developed western societies, but which I argue not only is possible, but also likely – namely a significant loss of complexity.

Or in other words, a social collapse.

The majority of the western world consists of an urban population used to having food, electricity, clean water, warmth and social institutions at least accessible, and for most people provided for what they expect to be their life. Sure, people are expected to commit their work in order to afford a livelihood, but most people are living within safety nets, where the main worries are either how they should maintain their income or if they can manage to become promoted to higher incomes. Yet, people are fundamentally dependent in a western society, on energy, global food transport networks, flowing water and functioning authorities.

If a social collapse occurs, the state will not be able to provide for infrastructure or guarantee safety of transport, and that would leave it to communities to manage themselves and their own affairs. This could create a significant and particular vulnerability in western societies, since westerners generally are not accustomed to be self-sufficient.

Therefore, it is of pivotal importance, especially if the amount of stressors multiply during the course of this century, that subsequent generations of westerners learn how to grow food, produce electricity, build and repair machines and also how to defend themselves.

Even if society does not suffer a loss of complexity, such knowledge and experiences can serve to increase self-confidence and skills which may be utilized both to improve personal well-being as well as preparing the soil towards the transition to resilient and sustainable communities.

Vulnerability

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

You are all familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

Good. What I will argue is that this hierarchy can also be applied onto human societies. Most human societies during history have been constructed as pyramids, where the majority of people were born to give up their surplus in order for security, and in order for elites to experience the three uppermost levels of the pyramid. The rest of the population were left on the bottom two or three levels.

The same can be applied for human beings today, and worse. In most of the world, the state is a corrupt and distant entity which exist to protect the well-being of small elites, while most people are scraping on the barrels from the bottom of society. You all know of the favelas of Brazil, the slums of Monrovia, the destitution on the Indian countryside and the carnage of Syria. For most human beings on Earth, life is brutal.

Western societies during the 20th century reaped the fruits sown by 19th century industrialism and imperialism, and came to invent ways for the state to redistribute wealth from production and economic growth into general safety nets for all citizens, while the economic activities enriched a large middle class. While you who read this blog know that we have built our prosperity on unsustainable foundations and on a socio-economoc system which will destroy itself and the current biosphere, that is not the focus of this post.

Thing is, if security and physiological needs are taken as given, human beings will not learn how to survive, or how to cope when stressors multiply on those fronts. The risk emerges for anarchy to take hold, especially in an increasingly disparate, diverse and unequal context.

During the agricultural era, it was usual that agricultural societies experienced sustained periods of growth, followed by kpw0-i-6f49periods of decline and loss of complexity. Some civilizations, such as the Rapanui and the Mayans, never really recovered from their decline phases, while others – for example on the Eurasian landmass – experienced multiple growth and decline phases. Usually on this blog, we are searching for ecological factors on how to explain decline.

Ibn Khaldun (a North African scholar and political scientist who lived during the 14th century), searched for sociological explanations behind the rise and decline of kingdoms. Since climate measurements and statistics (apart from censuses) were largely unknown, Khaldun looked at the quality of the ruling families of the feudal and despotic monarchies of the Islamic world, and he discovered a pattern.

Usually [according to Khaldun], dynasties emerged from the harsh desert regions of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa and conquered civilized cities, setting up their patriarch as Sultan. As the generations pass by, the barbarian rulers are slowly integrated into the “decadence” of the cities, and become soft, until they are overthrown by another barbarian army/tribal confederation from the deserts.

The lesson from this is that exposure to hardships can ultimately make people superior at survival and adaption, while luxuries and opulence can turn people ill-equipped to deal with challenges. Even if people are alert and skilled, civilized urban life can reduce the ambitions of the individual and of the family into adaption in relations to the expectations of the dominant culture – which in our contemporary case eschews manual labour and views it as inferior to being an office clerk, an architect or a designer (conversely, I remember when I was a young lad and we had relatives who were diplomats visiting us – the diplomat in question could not figure how to equip or start a water hose).

Given that, political scientists – much alike economists – generally assume that advanced industrial or post-industrial societies cannot possibly collapse. They can get worse in terms of their economic performance, or their political liberties. But the thought of the Kingdom of Sweden (for example) turning into a dictatorship, or outright collapsing of the state institutions, is unthinkable. Only swivel-eyed extremists would assume that would be a possibility. The idea seems to be that if our society has reached a particular stage of development, it would most likely continue to improve, democratically and economically, because it has improved since the 1940’s, and if it is suffering a loss of complexity, that loss would be limited.

Of course, there are also political reasons why for example political scientists cannot make a statement indicating that our society can collapse – because that would empower those extremists who seek to overthrow the established order and replace it with their own ideology, and because it will lower the confidence of people in the system. Every system throughout history has been reliant on the myth of its own stability and the notion of an impossibility that it could collapse. It should however be noted that there are different and more sober – or maybe somewhat more paranoid – accessments within the security establishment and amongst military analysts.

Given that, the desire to have largely dependent and docile citizens who live in urban centres to maximise economic activities in the post-industrial service economy can contribute to making us more vulnerable, as well as our reliance on the Ricardian drive to increase the efficiency and growth rate of the economy by replacing local and diversified production with increased large-scale specialisation and dependency on imports. This would for example mean that if trade is disturbed in Europe, many smaller countries would not be able to feed themselves.

Therefore, wise survivalism may serve to increase the resilience and therefore the stability of society, and make people more adjusted and prepared for a transition towards a sustainable society.

The wrong way

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Mostly in the South of the United States, there is a large, predominantly white a semi-rural subculture of “preppers” and survivalists, either alone or organised in militias. This subculture is largely conservative and some off-shoots are even far right or outright national socialist in their outlook. The culture is characterised by:

1) A high degree of individualism; bunkers, escape tunnels and weapon stashes hidden under suburban and rural villas.

2) An emphasis on weapons, with a preference for terrain vehicles and semi-automatic rifles.

3) An emphasis on masculinity and target practice at conventions.

It is needless to say that this kind of culture views other groups with hostile suspicion at best, and as outright malicious at worst. This particular culture is also hostile to the government, to the United Nations and is very much existing in an information reality where environmentalism – even in its least radical form – is really a socialist ploy in order to expand government control.

Even if it wasn’t for it, an emphasis on weapons and martialism will attract the kind of followers that not only are willing to use weapons, but are hoping to use them, as well as increasing the likelihood for conflict. Thus, this form of Militarist Survivalism which is existing in the US is not something which should be held up as a good example or replicated. In fact, it will probably mostly serve to make collapse conditions worse in the long run.

The right way

theurbanfarmer.ca

theurbanfarmer.ca

There cannot be said to exist one right way to organise local communities for resilience, but there exist ways in which to improve situations. Local conditions can vary very much between different places, so different approaches must be taken by local groups in order to increase resilience.

Firstly, the community needs to communicate within itself and with its neighbours, and aim to establish friendly relationships, or if not possible, respectful and equal relationships with its neighbours. It must communicate with local political and bureaucratic authorities and try to establish as much common ground as possible with them. One important emphasis is conflict management and how to reduce the risk that conflicts between social and ethnic groups emerge. I believe that the EOS can play a significant role in such processes locally.

Thus, survivalism is not primarily a matter for the individual, but a matter for the individual within the context of a community. People must learn how to produce their own food and energy, and must form sharing networks and common information pools.

There needs to be an emphasis on knowledge and on what risks and opportunities can emerge when conditions are rapidly changing in the surrounding society, for example if trade is breaking down due to wars or ecological disasters. Routines can then be established and become the basis of exercises that intend to prepare the local community for disturbances.

As much as possible, survival should also be about inclusion, not exclusion. There must be broad values, a focus on solutions, and a high degree of transparency and trust. This also includes an immunity to exaggerations and rumours and a willingness and ability to try to verify information before decisions have been made. There must also be an emphasis on combatting grand conspiracy thinking, but not through control or stigmatisation of opinion. Rather, we must equip both the current and future generations with the means to identify and call out bad generalisations and flawed chains of argumentation.

Summary

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We in the developed world are now standing before a storm, and we are eating ice-cream. The EOS has a deep paedagogic challenge before itself, and we must not only improve our social media presence, but also emphasise how individual human beings and families can be affected by the stress factors caused by the collapse of our socio-economic system and of our environment. However, we must always be sober and eschew alarmism and defaitism – instead providing the people with the tools and with the confidence for them to be able to take control over their situation and establish local and regional resilience and sustainability.

Positive Survivalism is a powerful tool in this regard, but we must at the same time be cautious so we do not preach negative survivalism or contribute to the emergence of groups spreading ripples of destructive memes or messages. We must look to convey ourselves in a manner that can unify communities, individuals and organisations in trust towards the achievement of common goals.

This ability would be essential during the years ahead, when the common trust and strength of our societies can become strained beyond their limits by sudden calamities. The EOS must sow the seeds of cooperation and hospitality and act as a bridge between disparate groups, to unify them in the struggle to save human civilization.

The implications of Brexit

panoramic_cityscapes4

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

From the global perspective, this British election was of profound geo-strategic importance. For many years, a lot of Britons have not felt that membership in the European Union is a part of their cultural identity, and fears of federalism has created a Euroskeptic movement which is larger than in most other large European countries. While this euroskeptic opinion has grown, the United Kingdom has played an important role within the European Union, especially in terms of limiting the federal outreach.

This was especially clear during Blair’s administration, when the United Kingdom could be said to be one of the poles of European cooperation, and the “leader” of both the Northern and Central European member states of the European Union. During the leadership of the Brown and especially Cameron cabinets, the United Kingdom has moved more towards domestic issues, while the Franco-German federalist leadership has been subsumed by a growing German hegemony over the continent.

This shift, caused by the Financial Crisis of 2008, could determine the outcome of the first half of the 21st century, in terms of geopolitics, economics and actually a wide range of other issues, including environmental ones. To return to the subject at hand, Britain is voting on whether or not it should remain a member state of the European Union.

The subject of this article is not so much on the British election as on the effects of a potential no to continued membership in the European community, how it would affect the Trans-atlantic link and the future for treaties like the TTIP, the sovereignty and security of European nations and the future of European federalism, and I will also explore the negative and positive implications of this, and whether what is weighing over.

The Early History of the European Community

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Already during the early 17th century, some scholars proposed the idea of a European Union (as an alternative to the Catholic-dominated and perpetually declining Holy Roman Empire). First in the early 20th century a stable intellectual and meta-political movement formed for the eventual unification of Europe. This “Pan-Europa Movement” was composed of members of the European elites, both conservatives and liberals, nobility and intellectuals, who were concerned both with the current horrors of the First World War, the rise of Soviet Communism and the vision of world peace and a unified Europe. There were also connections to the Esperanto movement and to cultural and literary personalities throughout the European continent.

After the First World War, three things stood clear. While European Imperialism was still secure in Africa, the Middle East and the regions around the Indian Ocean, a big hole had been shot into European identity, which had been connected with the idea of progress. The slaughter of the trenches had demoralized European culture and created a void where many movements competed – sometimes violently – to fill that void.

Pan-Europa did never as a movement penetrate into the working classes of Europe, probably due to being a movement which attracted mainly eccentric nobles, conservative anti-communists, representatives of the liberal intelligentsia (there was an overlap between Pan-Europa and the Esperanto movement for example). I will also briefly note that there was an overlap too many movements which were more or less… odd in their approach, for example Sörgel’s Atlantropa project.

While the Pan-Europa movement certainly did exist, it did not have any lasting impact on any large European political party. And soon, the seeds sown by the First World War erupted in the Second, and Europe thoroughly destroyed itself as a civilization.

In the ruins of the war, the seeds of the Pan-Europa ideas found nourishing soil, as it stood clear that if Europe instead of consisting of mutually antagonistic nation-states, had been organised in a federal super-structure, the Second World War could have been averted. Also, Western Europe had – as a cultural sphere – been reduced to its smallest size since the 9th century, when Charlemagne had ruled.

In 1949-1951, the first steps towards European integration were taken with a very pragmatic approach, the formation of a common steel-and-coal community between six European countries, comprising the approximate extent of Charlemagne’s Empire. In May 1957, the European Economic Community was initiated, between France, West Germany, Italy and the Three Low Countries.

Power struggle: Gaullism vs Euro-atlanticism

Charles de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle

In 1958, France was deeply embroiled in the Algerian Liberation War, and the French Fourth Republic was on the verge of a political collapse. During that crisis, the constitutionally legitime leaders of the country called on de Gaulle to take power and end the war in Algeria. De Gaulle did more than that. He ended the weak Fourth Republic and instituted a Fifth Republic, with stronger presidential powers. He could not turn back the winds of change however, and by 1961, most of the French Colonial Empire had been lost.

To compensate for this loss of direct influence in Africa (it should be noted that France still keeps significant influence in most West African countries), France turned towards Europe in order to strengthen this influence. In this regard, de Gaulle strived to strengthen the EEC, not primarily as an economic but as a political entity, imagining it as a bloc with the potential to challenge both the United States and the Soviet Union. A key part of this continentalist approach was to keep the United Kingdom outside of the EEC, since de Gaulle suspected that the UK would try to reduce the political clout of the EEC and prevent France from dominating the cooperation or to further European integration towards greater federalism. Also, he feared more American influence on the EEC.

De Gaulle’s vision was a Europe “from the Atlantic Ocean to the Urals”, including the Russians but excluding both the Americans and the British. This ran totally counter to the American strategy for a future Europe that could be both complacent and stable, namely “keep the British in, the Germans down and the Russians out”. De Gaulle’s federalism did however end where French nationalism began, and he could not accept the idea of a common European army as a counter-weight to NATO, fearful of losing (control of) the French armed forces the French nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom (which itself had a sagging economy, while being a western country during the greatest growth period in human history) repeatedly sought membership in the EEC, but was repeatedly blocked by de Gaulle. To counter this, and also to create a more liberal form of free trade arrangement, Britain joined up with the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland to form the European Free Trade Arrangement, a structure which never became too influential and which eventually was dissolved in the 1990’s, when half of the EFTA members had joined the EEC.

Britain itself joined the EEC in 1971, after de Gaulle’s death. What blocked French dominance in the EEC of 1971-1993 was not so much American influence through Britain as American influence through West Germany, which was becoming the largest economy of Western Europe. Despite that the Germans accepted to play a subservient role to the French within Europe, they could not rely on France for their strategic defence against the Soviet Union (one cornerstone of French nuclear strategy in the event of a Global Thermonuclear War/Soviet invasion of Western Europe was to nuke the Russians in West Germany as they passed through it). Also, French presidents following De Gaulle were less consistent and in many ways had a weaker position domestically, and could therefore not increase their level of dominance within the EEC or the WEU (an “alternative military alliance to NATO”).

The Third Gulf War and effects on European Federalism

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Institutionally, the 90’s and 00’s strengthened the newly born European Union in a significant manner, from the Maastricht Treaty to the implementation of the common currency to the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. However, politically the Union was immensely damaged by the failure of the common foreign policy during the initiation of the Third Gulf War in 2003, also known as the Iraq War.

During the late 1990’s, there were many strong visionaries in the three major European powers at the time, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Chirac (the then French President) desired European federalism and French elites saw the idea of moving towards a “United States of Europe” as inevitable. Schröeder, the German Chancellor, wanted to establish closer economic ties with the Russian Federation (which at that point still was very weak), while the British Prime Minister Blair desired a “Europe a’la Carte”, where European states themselves could decide on what arrangements they wanted to opt-in or opt-out from.

Chirac’s motivations were political (European federalism to create a Non-American western superpower), Schröeder’s were financial (benefit the German economy by having better trade relations with Moscow, and also probably due to his own personal growing interests in Russia), while Blair’s interests were based partially on protecting his position (Euroskepticism was greater in Britain than on the continent), and maybe also on preventing the foundation of a European Federation or any other arrangement which included the Russians but excluded the Americans. Britain’s interests in this case co-incided with the interests of many smaller North and Central European nation-states, which did not desire French or German hegemony on the European continent.

It is possible that had there been no war, or had Britain not joined the war, there would be (for better or worse) a different EU today. But Britain joined the war against Saddam’s Iraq, together with countries like Poland, Romania, Italy and Denmark, I.E countries which were peripheral in the European Union or which desired less federalism, contra countries like France, Belgium and Germany, which for different reasons saw increased amounts of Federalism as a solution for what they identified as their geopolitical and economic challenges.

The intensity of the propagation for or against the Third Gulf War led to such outrages as the French stating that Poland and the Baltic States “had missed a good opportunity to shut up”, and the US Congress officially renamed French Fries into “Freedom Fries”.

What we tend to forget is that even if the Third Gulf War today is seen as a folly which the US and “the Coalition of the Willing” chose to engage in, by 2007 Schröeder and Chirac were both gone and replaced by more Pro-US-leaning administration. For all what it was worth “New Europe” had triumphed over “Old Europe”, geopolitically-wise, and the result of the Third Gulf War for Euro-American relations was that it was shown that France and Germany had weaker capacity to draw support for their foreign policy within the European Union than the United States. For all what it was worth, Europe had truly become a Europe á la carte, and Blair’s policy had (perhaps through unintentional means) largely become successful.

British Euroskepticism

Euroscepticism-EU

Euroskepticism has been growing at a steady rate in the United Kingdom since the EEC “imposed” the Metric system on the country. Nowadays, those who desire to leave the European Union are leading with 15-20% above those who want to stay.

Blair’s successors, Gordon Brown and David Cameron, have been unwilling or unable to focus as much on the issue of the European Union as their predecessor, and British influence is low (despite the conflict in Ukraine, where Poland, Romania and the Baltic States can rely more on Britain than for example Germany, because Britain has consistently been more skeptical to the resurgence of Russia than continental powers).

Also, the events of the early 00’s are forgotten today, at least in Europe, due to the events of 2008-2010. The Eurozone Debt Crisis left the United Kingdom untouched, due to the UK not being a part of the common currency. The role the UK could or wanted to assume in this crisis was already from the start limited, and having their own economical problems to think of, the United Kingdom became insular and unable to assert the situation in Europe.

The Debt Crisis saw Germany rise up as the main creditor of bankcrupt European states. While this has neither been popular amongst the Greeks or the southern Europeans, it has cemented a financial power-base and thrown more power into the hands of the German chancellor any-time since 1942. I would reject on the strongest the Stratfor notion that the European Union is dead. Rather, the crisis has signified that continental Europe is dependent on Germany, but also that Germany is dependent on the economy of Europe as a whole. This necessitates German management.

The public opinion of the United Kingdom is not noticing the full extent of what is happening, namely that the Eurozone today is forming into what it was designed to prevent, namely German hegemony on the European Continent. The British opinion is too hammered by domestic conflicts today, and it remains a risk that Scotland can leave the United Kingdom.

If the British opinion even exists on the Eurozone debt crisis, it mostly galvanizes around viewing Greece, Italy and Spain as countries with historically irresponsible governments, and the Germans as doing what they could to save the day (most likely, people are also grateful they are not a part of the Eurozone).

Within a few years (if Britain manages to move itself together), there will be political voices that would object on the strongest towards the emergent German hegemony on Europe. Nevertheless, no matter what German, American or British decision-makers want, the German hegemony is an economic reality, and could eventually serve as the basis for a Federal Europe arranged after German geostrategic interests (which ultimately was what Germany intended to achieve in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945).

If Britain remains inside the European Union, they can serve as a counter-weight and stall this development, but if the British public are voting yes to a “Brexit”, they will have rejected all ability to influence the continued process. This does however not move in line with American or British interests, since the American interest has been to prevent or stall the rise of rising powers, while the British interests since the reign of Elizabeth I has been to prevent any single European power from emerging on the continent.

Therefore, unlike what some people are proposing, Britain has an immense role for geo-strategy in the near future.

Positive or negative

archdaily.com

archdaily.com

Only three powers have the potential to dominate the European continent today and achieve hegemony. Those are The United States, Russia and Germany. Out of these three, Germany has the best geographical position in terms of potential economic and political influence (though the worst militarily). A Europe that is in peace and with a low risk for war, will naturally tend to favour a power located where Germany rests.

Right now, the economic crisis of 2008-2010 has shifted Europe a step closer to German hegemony, at the expense of smaller states and Non-Eurozone members. If the United Kingdom chooses to leave the European Union, it would be very difficult for any constellation of powers to prevent a German hegemony. Therefore (my estimation is) David Cameron and Angela Merkel would do their outmost to prevent the Brexit.

Firstly, the United Kingdom would – outside of the EU – naturally gravitate towards the Anglo-American and Anglo-Oceanian powers, and would have a position on par with Canada and Australia visavi the United States.  It would also be isolated from the European continent, and unable to stop the rise of an eventual European Federation under German financial and political control.

Germany, on the other hand – at least under the Merkel chancellorship (and probably within the entire German political establishment) does not want to dominate Europe, and would want to anchor their power in the consent of at least major economies like France and the United Kingdom. A Brexit would move Europe closer to a state which they for political and emotional reasons are finding abhorring.

Ultimately, we must ask ourselves, how would a European Federation under German suzerainty look like and constitute itself?

It is impossible to say. Today’s Germany is not Hitler’s Third Reich, but a democratic federal republic with broad autonomy for the länder (states). One thing which could be said apart from that which is positive, is that Germany (while sadly still being dependent on coal) has a positive track record on energy, and there is a large environmental movement in the country.

Another positive thing with a more multipolar world is that different types of models can be tested through the imposition of differing values on large-societies. A European Federation, free from the more Smithian and Lockean heritage of Anglo-American political values, could value other factors above the free market and above the interests of mega-corporations (which are the top beneficiaries of today’s form of globalisation). One such factor is the environment.

As you know, EOS believes that de-centralization is an essential thing for the establishment of a sustainable civilization. But perfect worlds do not exist, and we must work with models that are realistic should they be imposed on us, and try to find the positive things in the development that we can work through. Therefore, the risk for a Brexit does also signal a trend where Europa and the United States are diverging from one another, which isn’t necessarily an inherently negative thing – at least not from an environmental perspective.

The challenge of this millennium

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(This is the second installment in the new articles collection of the renewed EOS website)

When this article was written, in the first of September 2013, the human civilization had already used up the equivalent of all the biomass produced during this year. For soon to be forty years, we have utilized more biomass than the Earth has renewed for every passing year, which has led to an ever increasing ecological deficit.

 

It is estimated that thousands of unique species are vanishing every year. The CO2 emission rate is still increasing, as new powerplants driven by coal and oil are opened every week. The oceans are stained by floating continents of decomposing plastic materials. Huge areals of pristine forests – the lungs of the Earth – are being replaced with field after field of monocultural crops, often seeped with poisons. Industrial chemicals and heavy metals are polluting our water reservoirs.

 

On an overall basis, natural systems built on interdependent relationships between species, arranged in elaborate, self-sustaining webs of life, are now on an increasing rate being replaced by linear systems, where resources are extracted, transported half-way cross the planet, refined, transported yet again and then sold to consumers.

 

The purpose behind that process is not to improve the livelihood of humanity, to benefit scientific or cultural development, to raise the infrastructure of the world or to explore the stars. Any improvements in these areas are secondary to the two main goals – to sustain a debt-based global monetary system, and to continue to enrich a camarilla of banks, institutions and multi-national corporations.

 

At this point, 1% of Earth’s population is controlling over 40% of the resources of the planet.

 

Over 1 billion of Earth’s seven billion inhabitants are starving, while another 2 billion are undernourished, despite that we collectively are producing enough food to sustain 12 billion people. Instead of seeing that those who are hungry are fed, we deliberately waste, burn and drown mountains of food every week, just so new refreshments can fill up the shelves at the supermalls quick enough, so that we can subsidize dubious industries and uphold an industrialised meat industry which is hazardous and violently repulsive.

 

Some of the proponents of the current system are claiming that whatever wrongs it has, it has managed to give more people than ever before access to education and healthcare, comparing to the lives of hardships suffered by generations during the pre-industrial eras of human history.

 

Yet, that presents a false dilemma. The choice is not between our current system and a 19th century agrarian society. The choice is between this current system and a system which is less wasteful, more sustainable and more humanitarian. There is nothing in “human nature” which compels us to mismanage the planet and to continuously abuse ourselves and underachieve.

 

The choice is between what we are achieving now, and what we know that we can achieve.

 

What we know that we must achieve.

 

The other “uncomfortable” facts that the forces fighting to uphold the status quo have wilfully chosen to ignore, is the fact that with the current rate of exploitation, the current biosphere will collapse at the latter half of the 21st century.

 

Such a collapse will mean a perfect storm of developments that would see the productive capacity of the Earth reduced. This will mean a global depression that very well can sweep aside the collective wealth that humanity has accumulated, leading to unrest on a planetary scale and a reduction of the human being to a  mere struggle for daily survival.

 

Why is it so that we humans, despite that we ought to know better, are destroying 65 million years ago of accumulated biological progress, in order for a mere two and a half centuries of exponential industrial growth? And all that to allow a small fraction of the Earth’s population the sovereignty of most of the productive capacity?

 

Stay tuned.