Saturday, 14 July 2007

Protests shut down Starbucks in Forbidden City International discohesion Snubbing the hegemon's "soft power"
N Korea 'closes nuclear reactor' International cohesion North Korea is complying with the hegemon (US) - the playing field is un-levelled in the favour of the US and its allies. Another question arises: Does the shutting-down of the reactor imply a serious crisis within the North Korean leadership?
Baby boom times return for Germany "The excitement is understandable. Germany not only pioneered Europe’s downward turn in fertility rates 30 years ago but also has among the continent’s lowest birth rates at 1.34 children per woman and its population is shrinking...“German-speaking countries are unique in having a full generation that has come of age seeing childbearing as abnormal,” says Wolfgang Lutz, the director of the Vienna Institute of Demography. “This has affected the psychology, with a third of young men now saying they never want to have children."" Internal re-cohesion?
Bid to ban 'racist' Tintin book "The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) is calling on high street books to pull a Tintin adventure from its shelves over claims it is racist...A spokeswoman said the book contained "words of hideous racial prejudice, where the 'savage natives' look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles"." Internal discohesion One may agree or disagree with the point made by the CRE that the Tintin children comics are racist. What we from the dark age team are interested in is the continuing process of self-delegitimisation and self-flagellation in Western societies.
Russia suspends arms control pact "The 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) limits the number of heavy weapons deployed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Urals mountains...The suspension is not a full-scale withdrawal - but it means that Russia will no longer permit inspections or exchange data on its deployments." International discohesion Whilst there is no new "Cold War" between the West and Russia, relations have cooled down significantly over various issues in recent years. Russia's ability to effectively influence world events is a mere shadow of what the country was capable of in the past. However, from the view of the mightiest world power, the US, it still has vast potential to cause significant disruption in the world system. See also: Russia rejects plan for Kosovo...Lawmakers Threaten Britain with Retaliation
Airport security costs 'too high' "Costs have risen by 150% since new security measures were brought in after the 11 September attacks in 2001. Security now costs a quarter of major airports'income." International disintegration-internal disorganisation coupling? Western societies have become saturated, their primary aim being to protect what has been achieved in the past. There is an obsession with avoiding death and pain. Some have deemed Western societies "post-heroic societies".
Spain's counterterrorism policy under challenge "The dual terrorist threats, one from at home and the other from abroad, confirm what many political analysts have been saying for a long time: Despite the best intentions of the Spanish government, its counterterrorism policy has not yielded the desired results." Internal discohesion As wealth differentials between the various regions grow, expect separatist tendencies in the UK, Spain, Italy and elsewhere, to increase in popularity and strength.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Russia gives Gazprom right to form armed units "The weapons that Gazprom and Transneft armed units will be allowed to carry under the new law are restricted to hand-guns and pump action shotguns. The law includes no restriction on the number of armed employees...One security analyst said it was already common practice for big companies to have their own armed security units, but their legal status was murky." Internal disintegration? We may remember, for example, that the British East India Company had the right to recruit armed forces and construct fortresses during the expansion of the British Empire into East Asia. Still, the question arises whether some principle of subsidiarity is in operation or whether the state's monopoly of legal force is gradually being softened. Considering the ongoing rise of private security firms across the world, including the massive deployment of military security companies in Iraq, the news from Russia seems to be in line with the trend of mercenaries taking over duties from an increasingly overburdenend state.
Mounting toll in Mexico's drugs war "The very audacity of cartel members moving round the country in military-like formation is itself chilling. It's also a reminder of how far out of control they have become...It is thought as many as 120,000 soldiers have deserted the regular army in the past eight years. Even if a small percentage join the cartels, that's still a lot of guns for hire." A clear sign of internal disintegration The state's monoply of legal force being snubbed. Do not expect South America to turn into a bastion against the rising disorder any time soon. See also: Rebel turf war forcing Colombians to flee
SA violent crime 'unacceptable' "The statistics published by the South African Police Service (SAPS) showed there were 19,202 murders between 1 April 2006 and 31 March 2007, an increase of 2.4%...The number of bank robberies more than doubled and there were also an increase in the number of burglaries and car hijackings. However, there was a significant fall in the number of rapes and common robberies." Internal disintegration Although crime statistics are often known to be unreliable, the continuously frequent incidence of murder in South Africa doesn't bode well for the country's future in an era where almost in every developed country, there is a problem with overcrowded prisons and underfunded police forces. There are serious questions as to the viability of South Africa as a complex economy and society.
Secret list of universities facing collapse "Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act name for the first time 46 institutions which the government feared could collapse even after the introduction of tuition fees boosted university funding." Internal disorganisation ahead While during times of prosperity, education is provided to an ever greater section of the population, in times of retrenchment, it is set to become a luxury.
Pakistan mosque siege intensifies "Heavy bursts of gunfire and explosions rocked the Red Mosque overnight after armoured vehicles moved in.Police also seized control of a seminary several kilometres away, which is run by clerics from the mosque." Internal (dis-)integration

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Airports, shopping centres and Wimbledon locked inside 'rings of steel' "Hundreds of high-profile destinations - rainging from airports to shopping centres - will be subject to "ring of steel" security measures as part of a huge crackdown. The nationwide alert has also seen the rail network flooded with extra police patrols and even the genteel Wimbledon tennis championships have seen concrete blocks placed in perimeter roads." Internal disintegration "The walls going up". For further explanation see post below. On the other hand one might argue that the arrest of a suspect in Australia only a few days after the attempted attacks in the UK are an impressive indication of international integration (i.e.: governments succesfully coordinating their efforts at apprehending dangerous individuals).

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Fortress Olympics - counting the cost of major event security "The scale and scope of threats arraigned against current major events is of an entirely different order to that which faced planners in 1972...The security budgets for both Beijing 2008 and London 2012 are likely to supersede that of Athens 2004, although Athens had a lower security infrastructure base to start with in comparison to a city such as London." Expanding world We believe that such events will eventually cease to be held in the west, due to political reasons and security-related fears. The ever increasing sums invested into security and surveillance are a testimony to the rising disorder and the growing distrust in western societies. It may be worthwile remembering in this context that during the final stages of the Roman Empire, individual households were belted with fortifications - an unmistakable sign that political authority was fragmented and increasingly ineffective. Today, instead of massive walls there are CCTV cameras, barbed wire, metal detectors etc.
International aid workers become targets "Caught in the crossfire, executed in cold blood or simply hounded out of violent regions, aid workers seem more under fire than ever before and their killers are rarely, if ever, brought to justice...In 2006, 85 aid workers — almost all of them local staff employed by international groups — were killed, the most since 2003, when numbers were swollen by a bomb attack on the United Nations' compound in Baghdad that killed 22 persons." Expanding world? The world becoming a more dangerous place? International organisations such as the Red Cross, médecins sans frontières, Oxfam and others can be understood as spearheads of "late" Western "soft power" (i. e. cultural). The fact that they appear to be encountering growing difficulties and outright hostility may be seen as an expression of growing international discohesion and as in accordance with the west's diminishing overall leadership.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Afghans face a loss of health care "The International Committee of the Red Cross recently said it faces a more restrictive environment than it has in two decades of work in Afghanistan. "It's not a conflict where there are clear front lines," said Franz Rauchenstein, the agency's deputy chief in Kabul." Disintegration-disorganisation coupling This is not good news, especially with regard to the ability of the world's leading power, the US to promote order and prosperity on a global scale. It looks as though America's trail of chaos (Vietnam 1975, Somalia 1994, Haiti 1994, Kosovo 1999) continues. See also: Sick, elderly Iraqis living on edge
Colombian lawmakers killed in ambush Internal disintegration low intensity conflict
EU, U.S. to share passenger data "Ambassadors from European Union nations on Friday backed a deal with the United States on the sharing of trans-Atlantic air passenger data that Washington says is needed to help fight terrorism, diplomats said." International integration Trying to roll back the 'forces of disorder'.
South Korean ship missing off Somalia "If is confirmed that the Sea Prince was seized by pirates, it would bring to five the number of foreign vessels held off the Horn of Africa nation in some of the most dangerous waters in the world." International disintegration Somalia continues to lead the world into a dark age. When the Roman Empire declined, piracy saw a rise in the Mediterranean.
Iran fuel rations spark violence "During the night, cars were set alight and petrol stations vandalised while, in the capital, a supermarket and a bank were also attacked." (On a side note) A bit of internal disintegration ocurring here. Revolutions and puclic disorder have often followed after tax hikes (announced by already unpopular governments). That said, a dark age involves a lot more than merely a revolution.
Russians test ballistic missile "Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the missile as a key component of Moscow's future nuclear forces, saying it can penetrate any prospective missile defence system." Pro international disintegration Levelling the playing field, thwarting the US' attempts at establishing a global monopoly of (nuclear) force. See also: Russia begins serial production of Topol-M missile (German)
French unemployed at 25-year low....GERMANY'S REBOUND: Unemployment Falling Fast Internal organisation It will be interesting to monitor the manifestations of the present boom. Will the salaries of ordinary people rise, will they take more holidays and have more money to purchase new kinds of consumer good, will great new industries develop? See also: Britain saving at lowest level since 1960s
Nineteen die in Rio slum battle "Clashes between police and drug traffickers in a slum in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro left 19 people dead, officials have said." Internal (dis)integration The state imposing the rule of law and order or things getting out of hand? It has to be seen what is to emerge from these bloody street battles.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Power line theft leaves South Africa in dark "Cities are being brought "to their knees" by unprecedented pilfering of copper and aluminium cables...The result has been entire suburbs plunged into darkness, thousands of train passengers stranded, and frequent chaos on the roads as traffic lights fail." Disintegration-disorganisation coupling Pilfering of copper cables has been reported in Britain, too, albeit to a less dramatic extent. The World Cup 2010 is to be held in South Africa. Such mass events, which were a hallmark of public life in the west during the last century, require a highly capable technical infrastructure and high levels of public safety. Expect difficulties having to do with our ailing infrastructure to rise over the coming decades. Also expect to see more barbed wire and security installations at railroad sheds, industrial plants, power stations, sewage works etc.
Irish Bank Notes Covered with Cocaine "But as the street price of blow continues to drop, cocaine use has begun to cut across all sectors of Irish society. Indeed, some have argued that legalization of the drug may be the only way to undermine the drug-dealing gangs." Intern(ation)al disintegration The demise of the Inca civilisation and the ancient Chinese Empire tells us that widespread cconsumption of drugs is hardly the sign of an ascending society. Besides, the war on drugs is not the only one the west is losing (the war against world poverty, the war on terror, the struggle for equal schooling opportunities...).
Europe finally unites after agreeing to treaty "European leaders yesterday hailed an agreement on the outlines of a new EU treaty to replace the ill-fated constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters two years ago." International cohesion Whatever the details of the constitutional, legal and administrative issues being discussed and approved of in Brussels - we remain sceptical - not for political but for theoretical reasons - with regards to the long-term sustainability of the European project.
1) A shared common language and identity are essential to the success of any social group. Since the emergence and consolidation of unified nation states in Europe, there has been no further linguistic convergence. Whatever the causes, this process ground to a halt a long time ago.
2) Over the last few decades, there has been a general tendency of states to fragment into smaller political units. The partition of India, the break-up of the former Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia, but also persistent secessionist desires in Italy, Belgium, the UK and in Spain come to mind.
3) Rising wealth differentials within European nations as well as continuing social atomisation and ghettoisation will exacerbate feelings of mutual distrust. While superficially, i.e. in the shape of treaties and declarations of intent, further progress may be made towards a unified Europe, the EU is fundamentally set against the tide of our times.
Muslims get place to pray in Athens "Immigrant groups on Friday opened the first formal Islamic prayer site to operate in Athens since rule by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire ended more than 170 years ago." Internal discohesion implies, amongst other things, the emergence of a multidude of values, attitudes and beliefs in a society. Cohesion may vary and is usually weaker in an urbanised mass-society than within a tribe or clan. However, since in a modern nation state millions are eligible to pensions and welfare services, cohesion can be said to be much more encompassing. Hence, one may identify two components within the process of cohesion/discohesion: the expansion of a given set of values across an increasing space and population and a dilution on the other hand. With regard to western societies, there are many indications that dilution (or, to choose a more neutral term: differentiation) has become predominant.
Clashes in Tripoli leave 10 dead Internal (dis-)integration Low intensity conflict has become an endemic feature in numerous third world and threshold countries since the end of World War II. Although you may see the use of mobile phonces and satellite television in such places, especially in rural regions, substantial progress has been brought to a standstill.
Afghans primed for mortgage revolution "The government is building 20,000 homes - a mixture of apartments, row houses and commercial property - which it plans to mortgage to people. The 2,500-acre township will be called New Kabul." Internal organisation? Evidence that life is improving in the wake of the west's intervention? A new "economic miracle" in the making? See also: Afghans religious about bodybuilding

Friday, 22 June 2007

N Korea vows to axe reactor quickly "North Korea has pledged to shut down its main nuclear reactor promptly and carry out its obligations under the February 13 deal, Christopher Hill, US chief negotiator, said on Friday after a visit to Pyongyang." International integration or internal disintegration ahead? This can be viewed as an indication that, at long last, the pressure applied by the US is bearing fruit (international integration - the US imposing its rules upon others). In accordance with a slightly different interpretation, one could speculate whether the internal conditions in North Korea itself have reached some sort of nadir and that the country's leadership is struggling for its own survival. As a result, even the highly prestigious and costly nuclear weapons programme might be axed - despite the loss of face that this implies - so that foreign gasoline and other vital products will be delivered. If this is actually the case, then the fall of the communist regime could occur fairly soon (internal disintegration).
Pakistan builds third nuclear reactor for bombs: report "Satellite images show work progressing rapidly at Khusab, 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Islamabad, where the other two reactors are sited, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said in a report." Nuclear war The headline implies a further levelling of the global playing field. Once it was the United States which held a monopoly on nuclear weapons. Although America still enjoys an overwhelming lead, other nations, such as Pakistan, are enhancing their capabilities. Since political power on the international level appears as increasingly segmented, nuclear weapons are likely to be employed by state and possibly non-state actors at some stage in the future, not least by the US itself, whose edge in conventional weaponry is gradually declining. See also: France Test Launches Sea-Based Strategic Missile
Toll rising from bullets that rain down on Rio "Businesses and schools in the line of fire have been shuttered. Thousands of children are staying home. Even air travel is affected — domestic jet routes were diverted from Rio's downtown airport when shooting flared up in a slum near Copacabana beach that the planes had to fly over." Internal disintegration Today's megacities in developing countires, such as Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City may be found to be ungovernable as we move towards a dark age. Meanwhile, expect security measures to be tightened continuously in western cities.
Indian Army Commissions BrahMos Cruise Missiles "BrahMos is designed to destroy surface targets flying at an altitude as low as 10 meters (30 feet) and at a speed of Mach 2.8, which is about three times faster than the U.S.-made subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile." International disintegration Levelling the playing field. The days of effortless domination, when it was the Gatling gun against spears and blowpipes, are gone forever.
Scramjet hits Mach 10 over Australia "Aircraft flying at Mach 10 could cut travelling time between Sydney and London to as little as two hours." Innovation (failure) The news may remind us that over thirty years ago the Concorde was commissioned by Air France and British Airways. At that time, many were hoping that supersonic travel would soon become the norm.

Rate Rise Pushes Housing, Economy to `Blood Bath' "The national median home price is poised for its first annual decline since the Great Depression, and the supply of unsold homes is at a record 4.2 million, the National Association of Realtors reported." Intern(ation)al disorganisation ahead? It is impossible to foresee how many loops of organisation, i.e. economic relationships will eventually unravel due to the bursting of the "housing bubble". What seems reasonable to say from a long-term perspective is that the United States' economic potential of today can hardly compare with that of the 1950s and 60s. It looks as though the "booms" are less significant, in the sense that they do not result, in, say, higher salaries, longer holidays etc. for most ordinary people.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Swiss open world's longest land tunnel "The tunnel, which took eight years to build and cost 4.3 billion Swiss francs (US$3.5 billion; €2.6 billion), will trim the time trains need to cross between Germany and Italy from 3 1/2 hours to just under two." Pro-organisation Facilitating transport and travel in Europe.
Sanitation workers fight rising tide of trash "Across the capital, particularly west of the Tigris River, trash is piling. Trash collectors, most of whom are Shiite, refuse to work in the mainly Sunni areas of western Baghdad because of sectarian violence." Internal disintegration-disorganisation coupling Life getting worse in what was seen as an emergent nation 30 years ago.
Scrap metal thieves target churches "Thieves are stripping churches of valuable metals at the rate of more than one church a day to cash in on scrap prices kept high by heavy demand from China." Internal disintegration There is a strong aspect of discohesion to this news, too.
Guatemala mob kills suspected organ thieves "Lynch mobs have killed hundreds of people in the poor Central American country since 1996...Many experts blame the vigilante justice on exposure to violence during the war, combined with a lack of faith in the crumbling criminal justice system." Internal disintegration When people begin to take the law into their hands in a similar fashion in the wealthy nations of the West, one can be certain that the onset of the dark age proper lies not far ahead.
Robberies soar as Italy frees 15,000 inmates "The number of bank robberies has risen nationwide, official statistics say, including a staggering 102 per cent increase in Piedmont, in the north. There have also been marked increases in Veneto (85.1 per cent) and the Marche region (86.9 per cent),...When the amnesty was introduced, Italy's prison population was 62,000; its jails have a capacity of 45,000." Internal disintegration? Crime statistics are often unreliable; nevertheless, what can be said for many western countries is that prison populations have been on the rise for decades and that overcrowding has become the rule rather than the exception.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Drink and drugs fuel rise in teen sex disease "A report, published by the Government’s Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health, says that high rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are related to the culture of drinking and drug-taking among the young." An expression of internal discohesion It may appear paradoxical that the West's ageing societies exhibit an obsession with youthfulness as well as widespread contempt for the elderly. The advertising industry has recognised this and has succesfully managed to manipulate the thoughts, fears and desires of ordinary people to a considerable extent. In turn, the influence of the family and local community on the individual's behaviour has declined. Youngsters are being left to their own devices, adrift and bewildered and without an idea of what their role in society is. It is clear that in every epoch there are advantages and drawbacks. We are not advocating a return to the Victorian age, where the individual was often crushed in order to prepare him/her for his duties in his/her respective class. The question we are interested in is: How will our highly individualist, atomised societies react to a sudden and severe shock in the guise of an economic depression, macro-war etc.?
Economists attack Iran policies "Inflation is said to be at unprecedented levels and that is visible in the shops where many housewives can no longer afford meat or fruit." Internal disorganisation Iran is in for a major political crisis, possibly leading to the expression of secessionist desires in parts of the country. The prediction is based on the observation that the number of political units and borders has increased over the last few decades.
Nine killed by gunmen in Pakistan...Bomb explodes on Philippine bus...Seven troops die in Thai bombing Internal disintegration low intensity conflict has become common in many threshold countries since the end of WW II. It is difficult to view these societies - despite their young populations - as pillars of stability in the foreseeable future and as bastions against a possible dark age.
Cheap alcohol wiping out Russians "The research suggests that despite Russia's economic resurgence in the past decade, it still faces social and health problems, especially in provincial areas." Internal disorganisation The economic reality beyond that of the Moscow stock market, where the success of the oil and gas magnates and weapons manufacturers are depicted, looks bleak. Russia still belongs to the first class carriages in the train heading towards a dark age.
Home of the autobahn losing car buyers "The average age of a car registered in Germany is eight years, the highest since the Association of German Automakers began statistics." Innovation failure You do not have to be a member of some automobile lobby to argue that this trend may be taken as a rough indication of overall societal stagnation. It would be a different matter if Germans were beginning to zip around in hyper-modern, cheap aircraft which would be making cars redundant. Obviously, that's not what's happening.
Palestinians in Gaza nearing civil war "With the violence, the streets of Gazan cities were once again empty of pedestrians and cars. People ventured out to buy food, but only if the markets were in or next to their buildings, and parents fretted that their children might be missing key exams." Internal disintegration One of the main problems in the Middle East is the large (excess) number of young men with time on their hands. See also: Anti-Syrian MP mourned in Lebanon .

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Europe's Invisible Illegals "What's unquestionably real are the numbers: Pakistanis and other South Asian Muslims are entering Europe at record levels. The reasons are many, and cumulative. Driven by poverty at home and sometimes by political oppression, they are drawn to the Continent by the prospect of jobs and freedom and the safe harbor offered by established Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities." "Barbarian" invasion Irrespective of the profound differences between the Roman Empire and the Europe of today, there are structural similarities between the mass migration then and now. While levels of cohesion at the communal level may be higher amongst immigrants, this should not distract us from the fact that their home countries are generally - and perhaps not unlike the Germanic tribes in Roman times - facing much more serious problems having to do with state break-up, economic hardship and crime than the West itself. The bottom line: The adjective "barbarian" is used by us in quotation marks to denote this said differential and not intended as a dismissive remark against non-western civilisations.
US warns Turkey not to invade Iraq "There is an intense internal debate in Turkey about whether Ankara should push across the border to root out guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), based inside the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq." International disintegration ahead? Large sections of the Middle East are rapidly plunging into conditions which can be desribed as the shallow-waters of a dark age. They are characterised by the absence of a complex economy, the inexistence of an efficient and strong central government and by continual warring between different societal factions. Despite the presence of mobile phones and Mercedes cars in the streets, the larger societal current seems to be shifting into the direction of more simple and violent mode of coexistence. See also: "Spengler's" analysis of Iran's dire economic situation (Asia Times online)
Student debts break £3 billion "The figures cast a shadow on the thousands of A-level entrants hoping to start university in the autumn. By the time they graduate, they will face debts of about £30,000, which most will still be paying off into their mid-thirties." Internal disorganisation Life becoming harder. See also: House prices 'will soar to ten times salaries'
Teenagers feel strain of being French "Three successive studies of around 15,000 children reveal that, among young people aged from 12 to 18, 9 per cent of boys and 22 per cent of girls show signs of depression and anxiety - three times the total in 1993...Stress at school or at home is also increasingly leading to binge-drinking in France.." Internal discohesion taking its toll? At any rate, not the signs of a healthy society.
U.S. warship can't stop pirates off Somalia "Saturday's incident underscores growing U.S. military involvement in the Horn of Africa, not just against suspected al Qaeda targets but also against an increasingly violent pirate trade waters off Somalia's coast." International integration or disintegration? Which way will the tide turn?
Gangs of Iraq: military quietly enlisting thousands of active gang members "According to a Chicago Sun-Times article last year, Gangster Disciple graffiti has been spotted all over Iraq. The gang’s initials and main symbol, the six-pointed star, have been tagged on concrete blast barriers, armored vehicles, and even remote firebase guard shacks." Internal discohesion The militaries of the developed world will not escape the process which is moving western societies towards a dark age. The hiring of mercenaries and declining loyalty towards the army are indications that cohesion is diminishing, which in turn doesn't bode well for the army's efficiency at performing its mission.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

In Vermont, nascent secession movement gains traction "Disillusioned by what they call an empire about to fall, a small cadre of writers and academics hopes to...persuade state lawmakers to declare independence, returning Vermont to the status it held from 1777 to 1791." Internal disintegration ahead? We believe that economic difficulties will at some point significantly reinforce what today are comparatively feeble sentiments of discontent with the central government in western societies.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Seven new laws for every day of Blair as PM "The legislatively hyperactive Blair premiership has seen an average of 2,685 new laws introduced each year - a 22 per cent increase on the previous decade under the Tories." Internal disorganisation The problem is not a new one and by no means confined to Mr Blair's period in office. Rather, governments of all political hues have produced, in varying degrees, the same result - "big government". For centuries now, bureaucracies in the West have been growing faster than the respective populations. No measure whatsoever has been able to stop this process and economic productivity inevitably suffers. There is no doubt that some point of reckonning lies ahead in the future. The longer it will be postponed the more severe the eventual crisis of confidence will be, when the gap between capabilities and amibitions has been exposed.
Attacks on U.S. Troops in Iraq Grow in Lethality, Complexity "U.S. deaths have risen sharply in some of Baghdad's outlying regions, such as Diyala province, where Sunni and Shiite groups have escalated sectarian violence and fought back hard against American forces moving into their safe havens." Intern(ation)al disintegration Iraq can be viewed as a test of the resolve of the world's mightiest nation. Should the US eventually fail to provide a meaningful degree of stability in Iraq, then this can be taken as an indication that we are moving in the direction of a more disorderly world.
Murders, robberies drive up U.S. violent crime rate "More murders and robberies in 2006 sent U.S. violent crimes higher for the second straight year, the FBI said on Monday, with the increase blamed on gangs, youth violence, gun crimes and fewer police on beats." Internal disintegration Crime statistics tend to be rather unreliable. Still, the news is all the more sobbering in view of the fact that the US holds one of the world's largest prison populations.
Thai bomb blast kills 11 soldiers "The attack is one of the worst in the region in recent years. Another seven people were killed in a separate incident in Songkhla province, when gunmen fired at local Muslims at a mosque, reports say." Internal disintegration Low intensity conflict rearing its ugly head. More LIC news: Policemen die in 'rebel' attack...'Casualties' in Sri Lanka clashes...More killed in Rajasthan violence...Suicide blast kills Turk soldiers
Grenade attack on Somali convoy...Pirates 'kill' hostage in Somalia...Six Russians kidnapped in Nigeria Internal disintegration African dark age
Politicians Call For Crackdown on Violent G-8 Protesters "Police said that more than 2,000 violent extremists took part in the protests and admitted that the number of officers on the ground was not enough to cope with such large numbers of rioters." Internal disintegration

Friday, 1 June 2007

Cold forces Argentine energy cuts "Argentina has been rationing gas supplies as cold weather blamed for some 17 deaths continues to strain the country's energy system...The strain on the country's energy infrastructure was exacerbated by technical problems at two nuclear power stations." A bit of internal disorganisation ocurring here. We expect more such news for other Western nations as investment investment in infrastructure will become insufficient.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Copper thieves cause havoc for commuters "Soaring global demand for copper is a growing threat to the British railway network leading to a surge in trackside metal theft, police have warned." Internal disintegration-disorganisation-coupling Will (mass) transport in the West become faster, more efficient and safer - as it has in the past - or less reliable and more dangerous amidst shrinking public resources? Of course, the question is meant to be asked over and over again during the coming decades, since we are looking at a long-term process. Another travel-related story: Italy’s finances threaten rail tunnel plan
Yemen buys bombs from everyday folks "Yemen has spent millions of dollars in recent months buying up bombs, artillery, even anti-aircraft guns, from ordinary civilians as part of a crackdown in the Arab country where arms are openly carried." Internal integration? A succesful attempt at establishing a monopoly of legitimate force? Or a desperate effort to get hold of the proverbial tip of the iceberg?
Casualties in Sri Lanka explosion...Seven killed in Assam bomb blast...Dozens dead after Taliban clash Internal disintegration (low intensity conflict)
Swiss move to ban minarets "Members of the right-wing Swiss People's Party, currently the largest party in the Swiss parliament, have launched a campaign to have the building of minarets banned." Internal discohesion The discussion has in fact been going on for quite some time. One could interpret the move by the Swiss People's Party as an attempt at re-cohesion. But no matter whether a referendum will be held or not, and no matter whether minarets will be allowed to be built or not - the reality is that Swiss society, too, is undergoing a fundamental transition (of which the immigration of exotic cultures from less wealthier nations is only one aspect). The result of this process is, as in other Western nations, an ever more fragile cultural identity, more freedom and choices for the individual but also fewer certainties, a higher degree of social complexity and adaptability but - according to dark age theory - at some point also greater vulnerability of the system as a whole to sudden shocks.
US and Iran in landmark talks "It was the first formal, bilateral meeting between the two countries since relations were broken off in 1979." International re-cohesion?

Friday, 25 May 2007

US bolsters Lebanese Army as stand-off continues "The United States intervened directly in the crisis in Lebanon for the first time today, flying six military aircraft carrying ammunition into Beirut to help the country's Army battle against Islamic extremists holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp." International cohesion aimed at preventing further internal disintegration The US is playing an active role in many parts of the world in order to safeguard its interests. Two questions arise from a long term perspective: 1. Are the present interventions effective, is there some benificial economic and legitimatory by-product or is the result more disorder and hostility towards the world's strongest power? 2. For how long will the US be able to continue to intervene on the present scale, in view of the widening contradiction between political ambitions and economic realities (problem of "imperial overstretch") and domestic problems?
Beijing upgrades nuclear arsenal "The Pentagon said China was developing mobile, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles in addition to long-range, submarine-launched ballistic missiles that would be deployed on a new fleet of nuclear submarines." International disintegration Levelling the playing field. The international system is clearly shifting in the direction of a multi-polar system that will be difficult to dominate by one single power. See also: China Launches New Military Satellite
U.S. warships in Gulf for training "In one of the largest, most visible war games America has staged in the Persian Gulf since the start of the Iraq war, two U.S. aircraft carriers and seven other warships cruised near the Iranian coast Wednesday." Wars coming soon? Wars are, unfortunately, a constant in human history. A war does not by itself imply the presence of a dark age, which is characterised by very low levels of cohesion and organisation in addition to a state of general conflict. Such a state cannot be diagnosed for the West. In the Middle East, chaos, disorder and fragmentation is arguably gaining ground - despite the strong involvement of the United States in this region. The wars of the future may tell us something about the West's ability to shape international affairs according to its perceptions. See: See: Iraq and the coming dark age
North Korea test-fires missiles "The US envoy to North Korea played down the significance of the tests, but added that Pyongyang should concentrate its efforts on nuclear disarmament." International discohesion Snubbing the "hegemon" (US). However, the fact that the North Korean leadership has decided to use its nuclear weapons programme in order to negotiate the delivery of fuel might be an indication that the implosion of this government is approaching.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Police spy in the sky fuels 'Big Brother' fears "The country's first police ''drone'' took to the skies yesterday, opening a new era of flying CCTV cameras and adding to concerns about the extent of Britain's "surveillance society"." Internal integration Technology helping political authorities to keep control - or a(nother) tool by which the state aims to compensate for declining social cohesion (unruly behaviour, crime, etc.)?
The wind blows in Naples, and the nose knows "The southern Campania region...has been plagued by garbage crises in recent years. Dumps fill up, and local communities block efforts to build new ones or create temporary storage sites. In 2004, the garbage crisis prompted weeks of protests." Internal disorganisation Simply an anecdotal episode, or an indication that the quality of public services and hygienic standards may be declining? See also: Green light given to empty bins every 2 weeks
Mexican police commander gunned down "Assailants shot dead a police commander in a wealthy Monterrey suburb on Saturday, the latest in a wave of killings of law enforcement officials across Mexico." Internal disintegration The volatile situation in Mexico has become an issue of national security for the United States.
Popularity of early retirement wanes "The bank found that 11 per cent of people in their 70s and a third of those in their 60s are still in some kind of paid employment. The figure is even higher in some places like the US, where 19 per cent of those in their 70s are still working." Internal (dis)organisation(?) in the sense that life in the West is slowly becoming harder again for the ordinary employees (disorganisation - pensioners having to help themselves). In Russia, poverty among pensioners is (still) a big problem. Many choose to maintain a small garden in the back yard in order to get by. From another viewpoint, one can argue that today's western pensioners are healthier and therefore better prepared and more willing to continue to work (pro-organisation).
Thousands flee Lebanon violence "The fighting is the bloodiest internal conflict in Lebanon since the civil war ended 17 years ago. Dozens of soldiers, militants and civilians have been killed in the clashes, which began on Sunday." Interna(tion)al disintegration This is all happening despite the fact that Western nations have stationed substantial forces in or close to Lebanon for the promotion of regional security.
Explosion rocks Turkish capital "Turkey has been hit by bombings in recent years. Some have been blamed on Kurds and others on Islamic militants." Internal disintegration Since there are strong but also heterogenous Turkish communities in many European countries (particularly in Germany), European security services are likely to be monitoring events in Turkey carefully.
Spain sends African migrants home "The European Union's external borders agency, Frontex, suspended maritime patrols around the Spanish islands early last month, when its 2006 mission ended. The patrols are expected to restart within weeks, after the agency receives equipment including planes, helicopters and boats." "Barbarian" invasion, or the West's attempt to halt it. We do not use the adjective "barbarian" to imply any inferiority, and we do not wish to conjure up a polemic image of migration in general, which has been a constant in human history and has many facets. We intend to use the term to describe the mass-movement of predominantly young people from poorer regions to wealthier nations with a more complex economy but lower fertility rates. See also: [US] Senate extends immigration debate

Sunday, 20 May 2007

China pledges $20bn for Africa "China intends to provide about $20bn in infrastructure and trade financing to Africa during the next three years, eclipsing many of the continent’s traditional big donors by a single pledge." International organisation highlighting China's growing influence.
Nuclear cooling towers demolished "Their demolition is part of the decommissioning process at the plant, near Annan in Dumfriesshire, which has dominated the skyline since 1959." Innovation failure? We do not wish to take a political position on the issue of nuclear power. However, one doesn't have to be a narrow-minded lobbyist to agree that nuclear power represents - despite all its drawbacks - a significant break-through in the field of energy generation. Its promotion has, however, over the decades become a cumbersome and often unpopular business in many western countries. Meanwhile, regardless of any advances in energy conservation, wind power and solar cell technology, the West's dependence on hydrocarbons located in politically volatile regions remains high as our energy needs continue to rise. See also: Fearing energy shortage, Thailand mulls nuclear
Bomb hits historic India mosque...Suicide attack on Afghan market...Lebanese troops battle militants...Sri Lanka clash kills '15 rebels'
Internal disintegration low intensity conflict
Ivorian militias start to disarm "Ivory Coast has been split in half by civil war since September, 2002, but there is renewed optimism in the country that the crisis may be ending." Internal integration?

Thursday, 17 May 2007

22 die in Mexico drug gang-police shootout "Twenty-two people, including five police officers, were killed in a gunfight in northern Mexico in the bloodiest clash of a five-month-old government offensive against drug gangs." Internal disintegration Mexico's problems are deeply entangled with larger societal developments in the United States. As demand for drugs remains high, Mexico will continue to act as a conveyor belt between the coca fields in Colombia and cities in the US which in turn will strengthen the criminal economy in Mexico. See also: Armed gang kills Mexican police
Korean boats seized off Somalia "Since the start of this year, there has been a sharp increase in piracy attacks off the Somali coast. Piracy had been brought under control until Ethiopian and Somali troops ousted the Union of Islamic Courts. "

International disintegration When the Roman Empire declined, piracy in the Mediterranean benefited. Within the context of dark age theory, the present situation off various coasts can be interpreted as a reflection of the leading powers' capacity to guarantee the safety of navigation on the high seas (some may point at the USA, others at China). Click on map to enlarge. Source: global security
"Thou shalt not kill our sacred bull, say Hindus "Hindus across Britain are threatening to form a human chain to prevent the slaughter of a sacred bull after it tested positive for tuberculosis." Internal discohesion implies the emergence of a multitude of competing worldviews and values. To be sure, in any society at any time the dominant view is being challenged by some - cohesion is never perfect, indeed too much of it may be harmful, for example with respect to innovation. Returning to the news-story, quite a few British natives are likely to sympathise with the aim of these Hindus while others will oppose them. At any rate, there is no doubt that British society as a whole, and the notion of what constitutes Britain, are changing fundamentally. Such changes can be understood as a part of long term human history. While the Saxon invader may have appeared menacing to the Roman settler in Britannia at the time, today both have been "integrated" into what British people see as their history. A similar process may occur in the future with regards to changes we witness in our societies today.
Russia accused of unleashing cyberwar to disable Estonia "Relations between the Kremlin and the west are at their worst for years, with Russia engaged in bitter disputes not only with Estonia, but with Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Georgia - all former parts of the Soviet Union or ex-members of the Warsaw Pact. The electronic offensive is making matters much worse." International discohesion From a dark age perspective, the news may highlight two aspects: the deteriorating relations between western nations and Russia (intl. discohesion) and the vulnerability of mature, high-scale societies to methods of asymmetrical (cyber) warfare. Scale (see: "terms and concepts") is "the number of distinct actors with whom a given actor comes in contact in a given time interval. It depends on population size, population density and transport and communications technology."
Russia to build nuclear reactor for Burma "Russia’s atomic energy agency, Rosatom, said yesterday that it had agreed to build a nuclear research reactor for military-ruled Burma, which has been branded by the US as an “outpost of tyranny”." International disintegration (levelling the playing field) On the one hand, technological innovation is being promoted in a third world country. Hence, we could register this as a potential move away from a less wealthy and more disorderly world which would constitute a dark age. On the other hand, however, the news illustrates how the monopoly the West (1945: the US) once enjoyed in the field of nuclear power is being eroded. In this sense, the international playing field is becoming more level again.
Fresh militant attack on Nigerian oil fields "Tuesday’s attack was the most damaging on oil facilities in about a year, and brings the total amount of oil shut in to close to 850,000 bpd or almost 30 per cent of Nigeria’s total output." Internal disintegration, with severe effects for the country's temporary economic performance (=disorganisation). In the long run, the functioning of today's complex, fast-moving world economy may be found to be increasingly incompatible with worsening political instability.
War-torn Iraq 'facing collapse' "The briefing paper, entitled Accepting Realities in Iraq [ by the foreign policy think tank Chatham House], says: "There is not 'a' civil war in Iraq, but many civil wars and insurgencies involving a number of communities and organisations struggling for power." Internal disintegration Rome was not built in one day and one should not make a premature judgement. At the moment, though, it looks as if the situation will become worse before it can get better, with negative security implications for Iraq's neighbours.
Korean trains in historic link-up "But Thursday's crossing remains largely symbolic, the BBC's Charles Scanlon says. North Korea has so far only agreed to a one-off test-run...South Korea has agreed to supply it with $80 million (£41m) worth of economic aid for the development of light industry." International cohesion The examples of Britain and Ireland, India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, the break-up of the former Soviet Union and of former Yugoslavia, let alone many African states, suggest that, over the last few decades, the long-standing tendency for social units to increase has stalled. Arguably, there is a counter-movement, one of the most important being the European Union. Moreover, the possiblity exists that NAFTA might lead to some form of overarching governent on the American continent. The train crossing is said to have been primarily symbolic (which is why we didn't label it at as "integration"). Despite this, it potentially represents a move away from discord and fragmentation towards more cohesion and understanding between two political entities.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Violence brings Pakistan full circle "But many believe Saturday's events have shown instead that Karachi may descend into the same pattern of ethnic strife that pitted the MQM's main support group against the others from 1986 to 1996. " Internal disintegration Pakistan is by no means a pacified nation. In many places, such as Balochistan, the state does not hold a monopoly of force. We should remember that it took a long time for the unitary state to assert itself in European nations. It now has to be seen whether this process will be accelerated or rather obstructed by higher levels of scale (technology, modern communications etc.) in today's developing nations.
Taliban's top military commander killed during fighting "Taliban insurgents suffered a grave loss when their top military commander, Mullah Dadullah ... was killed in fighting in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, it was claimed yesterday." International integration? Or merely a drop in the ocean, similar to reports of a new great success in the "war on drugs"?
'Big rise' in tagging crimes - MP "Grant Shapps says one in 40 tagged offenders committed a crime when the project started in 1999, but by 2006 that had jumped to one in nine...Electronic tagging, officially known as the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme, was launched in 1999. Since then, more than 137,000 prisoners have been released under the initiative, which has cost a total of £342 million. " Internal disintegration? Despite the fact that record numbers of young men are behind bars in the UK and others are being "tagged", neither the crime problem in the UK nor the costs to control and administrate it does not appear to be diminishing.
Deadly bombing hits Izmir market "The blast occurred one day before a planned rally by secular Turks in the city against the governing AK Party. The secular opposition blocked the election of the party's candidate for president, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, claiming he had an Islamist agenda. " Internal disintegration To be fair, not too much should be read into such isolated events. However, as for today, low intensity warfare remains a problem in modern Turkey.
Army on alert in Philippines poll "Security officials have said communist rebels are planning to disrupt the vote and thousands of soldiers have joined police guarding polling centres. More than 110 people have been killed in a violent election campaign period. " Internal integration or disintegration? Voting becoming more secure or more dangerous?

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Zimbabweans face power cuts for up to 20 hours a day "We are going backwards. We used to have electricity, water, food and fuel, now we don't have regular supplies of any of those things," said Harare worker Iddah Mandaza. "We will be scavenging for firewood just like back in the rural areas." African dark age
Pakistan progress on Afghan fence "Pakistan says it has completed work on the first section of a controversial fence on the Afghan border aimed at restricting Taleban militants. " Internal disintegration A similar fence is being built by Saudi Arabia to protect it from the impact of Iraq's disintegration. According to our interpretation, both measures are not genuine improvements in the sense that public safety is growing but rather reactions to a worsening security situation.
Koreas agree cross-border train "Military officers from North and South Korea have given the go-ahead for the first train crossing over the heavily fortified border in more than 50 years." International cohesion
Colombian rebels kill nine police "The authorities say it was planted by the Farc left-wing rebel group near Landazuri, 160km (100 miles) north of the capital, Bogota. The policemen were taking part in a mission to destroy coca bushes, which supply the raw material for cocaine, a key source of income for the rebels." Internal disintegration An abundance of natural resources (oil, diamonds, opium, coca...) appears to aggravate what Paul Collier has termed the "economics of civil war".

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Factory Jobs: 3 Million Lost Since 2000 "High-tech industries, where the U.S. is still seen as having the edge, include pharmaceuticals, medical devices and airplanes. But even high-tech industries are facing pressure from imports. The U.S. Business and Industry Council... found that between 1997 and 110 of the 114 U.S. industries it studied had lost ground to imports in the U.S. market." Relative decline implies international disintegration in the long run, i. e. a weakened position of the leading power, the US, as opposed to that of rising powers.
(left: British Grand Fleet 1914; right: USS Stennis and HMS Invincible)
Nigeria militants bomb oil pipelines, Market bomb kills 3 in Philippines Internal disintegration (low intensity conflict)
Northern Ireland begins 'new era' "Northern Ireland's major Protestant and Catholic parties joined together Tuesday to form a power-sharing government, marking a "new era of politics" and an end to three decades of sectarian conflict in the province." Internal cohesion in the sense that both sides agree to refrain from violent means to achieve political ends . One could argue that, on the part of the protestants, there has over the decades been a decline in the very strong community cohesion which in turn has now led to this solution. A downside of very cohesive societies is intolerance and too much of it may stifle creative thought/innovation. For further thoughts on the causes behind recent developments, see comment below (4 May 2007).

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Headscarf war threatens to split Turkey "The battle over the headscarf is not just about religious beliefs. It also represents a clash between a fiercely secular elite, the so-called “white Turks”, and a new urban entrepreneurial class, many of whom came from the countryside. These generally support the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development (AK) party that swept to power in 2002 after an economic collapse." Internal discohesion implies, amongst other things, the existence of competing worldviews, values and ways of life in a society. The success of the secular movement in Turkey has since its inception been closely attached to the country's process of modernisation and the resulting benefits for the population. The country's future will strongly depend on the transformation of its economy (which is still heavily reliant on the textile industry). Civil disorder or a deterioration of the economic outlook in Iraq, Iran and Syria will help Turkey as little as increased drugs production in Colombia or Venezuela helps Mexico.
Minister Plans to Largely Abolish Prison Sentences "Most criminals in the Netherlands should be able to serve their sentence at home in the future. Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin is to introduce house arrest as a new main punishment...The measure is primarily intended to relieve the prisons. The Netherlands has been struggling for years with a shortage of cells..." Internal integration or disintegration? Perhaps it is best to view such news as an indication of discohesion: The state takes reacts by using coercion (attempt at integration) as social institutions defining a common morality (e.g., church, schools) and acceptable behaviour no longer have the influence they previously enjoyed. See also: 3,000 'freed early' to ease prison crowding

Riot alert for Sarkozy victory "The interior ministry said that 8,000 riot police were being placed on stand-by in the suburbs — equivalent to the force deployed at the height of the violence, when 10,000 cars and dozens of businesses were burnt in three weeks of mayhem." Internal disintegration and societal discohesion are forcing the state to mobilise greater resources to maintain law and order in the early 21st century.

Colombo airport in night closure "Officials at Sri Lanka's only international airport have ordered it to be closed at night time following a series of Tamil Tiger air strikes. They say that closure will come into effect from next week." Internal disintegration-disorganisation coupling
Kenya gets US anti-terror funds "The US administration will provide $14m-worth of training and equipment. Kenya is a close US ally in the region - several terror suspects have been arrested in Kenya and sent to Somalia or Ethiopia for questioning." International integration The United States consolidating its influence in Africa.
Brazil to break Aids drug patent "Brazil's president has authorised the country to bypass the patent on an Aids drug manufactured by Merck, a US pharmaceutical giant. The country will import a cheaper, generic Indian-made version of the patented Efavirenz drug." A reflection of international discohesion. Brasil and a growing number of other nations are questioning the west's legal and moral authority (here: patent on an Aids drug) and contribute to the gradual erosion of its economic leadership.
Guns banned from Somali streets "The new mayor of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has banned people from carrying weapons on the streets." Internal integration? The state establishing a monopoly of legitimate force?

Friday, 4 May 2007

UVF to put weapons beyond reach "The UVF is the last of Northern Ireland main paramilitary organisations to abandon violence, with the IRA announcing it was ending its campaign in 2003..." Internal integration During the heights of the "troubles" Northern Ireland was a highly desintegrated territory which required the permanent stationing of British army troops. One of the major causes behind the conflict in Northern Ireland, the economic discrimination of catholic people, is no longer of the same relevance today. Moreover, the economic situation in Ireland itself has improved significantly. Finally, the gradual demographic transition, i. e. the slow disappearance of a large bulge of young, angry men may play a role, too.
Los Angeles mayor shortens Mexico trip after clash "Some 25,000 people marched through Los Angeles on May 1 as part of nationwide protests intended to demonstrate the political might of Latinos and help win amnesty for illegal immigrants." Internal discohesion, in the wake of "barbarian" invasion. We do not use the adjective "barbarian" to imply any moral inferiority, and we do not wish to conjure up a polemic and politicised image of migration in general, which has been a constant in human history. We intend to use the whole term to describe the mass-movement of people from economically poorer regions to wealthier nations, which brings about a profound demagraphic/ethnic transformation in these countries and partly raises cocerns among their populations.
Projectile bomb attacks hit record high in Iraq "The growing use of the projectiles is a major concern for American commanders because the weapons are powerful enough to punch through the heaviest U.S. armored vehicles, including the Abrams tank." Intern(ation)al disintegration Gone are the times, when western nations were able invade far away countries at a low material (and moral) cost. (This sober observation doesn't mean we're longing for the age of western imperialism to return.)

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Uneasy echoes of Berlin in G8 wall "This barrier is transforming the elegant 18th century beach resort of Heiligendamm on Germany's Baltic coast into the tightest high-security zone the country has known for the G8 summit on June 6-8. Access through it will be controlled with airport-style x-ray machines and only those with passes will be allowed in." Internal integration or disintegration? Are Western states succesfully implementing measures to ensure public safety or are they losing the race against threats to open societies? An answer might arise through asking from time to time whether travelling around is becoming easier for the ordinary person or more cumbersome due to security restrictions.
Few celebrations on 300th anniversary of union with Scotland "In Downing Street the protesters will hand in a 20,000-address petition demanding an English parliament... The protest is being organised by English campaign groups to commemorate the 300th anniversary of what they regard as "the death of England's identity, independence, and the English parliament"." Internal discohesion
India eyes 25 million automotive jobs "The metallic noise, the sparks, the industrial smell: here is a good, old-fashioned car factory, the kind whose closures in the West - along with the loss of thousands of jobs - used to spark industrial strife..."In Europe, you see robots," explains plant manager Kevin Whipp.." Internal organisation As the article points out, comparatively little innovation aappears to be involved. Some readers may be interested in the "Luddite fallacy"
Terror attacks increase, says US "The number of attacks in Iraq nearly doubled to 6,630, accounting for 45% of the global total. Iraq alone accounts for nearly two-thirds of all terrorism-related deaths last year. " Intern(ation)al disintegration "A ghost is stalking the corridors of general staffs and defense departments all over the developed world-the fear of military impotence, even irrelevance." (Martin van Crefeld, the transformation of war, 1992)

Monday, 30 April 2007

Bolivia braced for more unrest over gas field "Miguel Angel Guzmán, president of Tarija’s electoral court, said on Thursday that...the Margarita field clearly fell within the bounds of O’Connor province...This disagreement turned violent earlier in the week, when thousands of demonstrators overpowered troops at a pumping station in Yacuiba.." Internal discohesion, We expect to see more and varied examples of this theme during the 21st century, as wealth differentials within nations continue to increase.
Police chief promises change in Nablus "Abdul Sattar Qassem is a professor at Nablus University. He hopes but doubts that the gunmen can be beaten. "They are everywhere," he said in exasperation. "You go to the grocer's, they're there. At the university, they're there, with their guns. They're all over the marketplace." Internal disintegration An underdeveloped economy, no monopoly of legitimate force.
Iraq reconstruction 'not working' "Blaming ongoing unrest and spiralling corruption they said most were falling apart within as little as six months. Faulty plumbing and wiring and looting have reportedly worsened the situation. Corruption amongst Iraqi officials is cited as one of the main causes for the chaos. " Internal disorganisation To be fair, only four years have passed since the invasion. Still, it is hard to imagine that the US' efforts at reconstruction will be as succesful as they were in West Germany and Japan after WW II.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Poland missile plan to raise tensions, Fate of Soviet statue sparks Tallinn riots International discohesion Russia may appear dangerous to those living in its neighbourhood. Yet, compared to, say, the early 1960s when Poland and Estonia were firmly under Moscow's control, the situation has altered considerably. Meanwhile, one could argue that the United States' influence is at an all time high: It has established a firm albeit costly foothold in the Middle East and Central Asia and it is preparing to set up missiles in Eastern Europe, something which would have been unthinkable during the Cold War.
Organised crime wave grips Guatemala "The most visible source of the killings is the rival youth gangs, known as maras, which also operate in Honduras, El Salvador and some parts of Mexico... Even the more conservative government figures of between 20,000 and 50,000 suggest that there are significantly more maras than policemen." Internal disintegration It appears that in many places in Latin America, the illegal economy is almost as if not more powerful than the official economy. Increasingly, the effects of this are being felt in the (southern parts of the) United States and Europe (Spain), where a high demand for drugs persists.
U.S. drug czar's letter: Cocaine prices drop "The drug czar, John Walters, wrote that retail cocaine prices fell by 11 percent from February 2005 to October 2006, to about $135 per gram of pure cocaine -- hovering near the same levels since the early 1990s." International disintegration The "war on terror" is not the only struggle the US seems to be losing.
Independence not just a Scots issue " The idea of independence is a step too far for most here, but many believe that Shetland should have more power. While the young accept that they are both Scottish and Shetlanders, many of the older generation find the very suggestion offensive." Internal discohesion While this particular example may trigger some chuckles, it may also illustrate the trend of growing distrust among the members of larger social entities.
Bomb kills 22 at Pakistani rally "Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao had finished giving a speech at the meeting in Charsadda when the blast occurred, a police official said...The province lies on Pakistan's troubled border with Afghanistan." Internal disintegration
Dip in global pirate ship attacks "Indonesia's decision to bolster the number of sea patrols in its notoriously risky waters resulted in the number of attacks halving since the first quarter of 2006. But the IMB said it was worried by the increasing number of attacks off the coast of Africa." International integration (with regards to East Asia, but not as concerns the coasts off Somalia.)

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Fearful rich keep poor at bay with gated homes and razor wire "The flight into gated communities has also been a feature of post-apartheid South Africa, with the middle classes seeking refuge from crime in what critics dub the "architecture of fear". Internal disintegtion Gated communities and a booming security sector are signs that political authority is fragmenting. The state's ability to provide law and order over its territory as a whole is in decline.
Tamil Tigers in deadly air attack, Fighting rages in north Sri Lanka Internal disintegration
China tops US over Japanese trade "China has overtaken the US as Japan's biggest trading partner for the first time since World War II, the Japanese finance ministry has revealed." Intern(ation)al organisation The United States' advantage is increasingly confined to the military sector.
Shells hit hospital in Mogadishu "Relatives and medical staff ran from the SOS hospital after at least four missiles hit. Casualties are unclear...An estimated 340,000 people have left Mogadishu since February, the UN says." African dark age

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Statement concerning the crisis watch page

The crisis watch site is intended to keep track of evidence for a coming dark age by monitoring signs of disintegration, disorganisation and discohesion in today's world. At this point, we wish to remind readers that the term "dark age" is not to be understood not in the sense of some (quasi-)religious end-time but as

"an extended period of significantly reduced (political) integration, (economic) organisation and (social) cohesion."

However, since some readers appear to have misunderstood the term "dark age", we have decided, for the time being, to rename the successor site of the "dark age watch" into crisis watch.

The difficulty consists in deciding which developments are merely part of a short-term fluctuation and which suggest the kind of larger transformation that might constitute a dark age. For example, an individual car bomb may be a disintegrative event, but in itself it proves nothing about the way history is heading.

It is therefore important to keep in mind the long term context - not just how, for example, a particular war is developping today, but how the ability of leading nations to supply peace to the world compares with the situation fifty or a hundred years ago. When the structural similarities seem striking, attention is also devoted to empires and civilisations in ancient times. Whilst we focus on western societies, we do include news from all over the world in order to collect evidence of trends that could either foreshadow a worsening outlook in the west or counter our working hypothesis (e.g., the hopes of many people with regard to global economic prosperity seem to rest on Asia these days).

The picture is confirmed by correlations between the three categories of change, especially where developments in one area might reinforce developments in another area (e.g. declining social cohesion might have a harmful effect on economic organisation).

The attempt is admittedly open to criticism. Our observations are based on the theory of dark ages which itself might be faulty. Moreover, theories with a vast scope can perhaps too plausibly accommodate a multitude of diverse observations.

The impressionist approach also lacks the quantitative methods and systematic rigour necessary to call the undertaking scientific in the modern sense of the word. Though, to be fair, many of those methods have often failed to generate meaningful predictions within mainstream social science, where they have been extensively applied.

Even so, the characterisation of dark ages is based not on our prejudices but on the way that historians and others write about the past. For example, we consider disintegration (disorder, fragmentation) as an aspect of soccietal decline, not because we ourselves 'like' or 'dislike' such developments, but because historians themselves usually judge disorderly, fragmented societies in a such way.

Of course, individual historians in fact assess the world in different ways. Nevertheless, there is a broad consensus about which were dark ages and which were ages of prosperity and stability, and a general recognition that say rising crime rates and falling incomes denote the less successful phases of a society's history.

The crisis watch site overall tries to imagine how today's events will seem to far-future historians, who will think in terms of the big picture and will not be absorbed by the detail as those of us are who happen to be living through this time.

The bottom line: moral, normative and political statements are neither a goal nor do they form a basis from which we operate.

The difficulty consists in deciding which developments are merely part of a short-term fluctuation and which suggest the kind of larger transformation that might constitute a dark age. For example, an individual car bomb may be a disintegrative event, but in itself it proves nothing about the way history is heading.

It is therefore important to keep in mind the long term context - not just how a particular war is going today, but how the ability of leading nations to dominate and supply peace to the world compares with the situation fifty or a hundred years ago.

The picture is confirmed by correlations between the three categories of change, especially where developments in one area might reinforce developments in another area (e.g. declining social cohesion might have a harmful effect on economic organisation).

The attempt is admittedly open to criticism. Our observations are based on the theory of dark ages which itself might be faulty. Moreover, theories with a vast scope can perhaps too plausibly accommodate a multitude of diverse observations.

The impressionist approach also lacks the quantitative methods and systematic rigour necessary to call the undertaking scientific in the modern sense of the word. Though, to be fair, many of those methods have often failed to generate meaningful predictions within mainstream social science, where they have been extensively applied.

Even so, the characterisation of dark ages is based not on our prejudices but on the way that historians and others write about the past. For example, we consider disintegration (disorder, fragmentation) as an aspect of decline, not because we ourselves 'dislike' such developments, but because historians themselves judge disorderly, fragmented societies in a negative way.

Of course, individual historians in fact judge the world in different ways. Nevertheless, there is a broad consensus about which were dark ages and which were golden ages, and a general recognition that say rising crime rates and falling incomes denote the less successful phases of a society's history.

The crisis watch site overall tries to imagine how today's events will seem to far-future historians, who will think in terms of the big picture and will not be absorbed by the detail as those of us are who happen to be living through this time.

The bottom line: moral, ideological and political statements are neither a goal nor do they form a basis from which we operate.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

In this post, I have left out the title...

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