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Afghanistan: The Graveyard of Materialism

flagsMake no mistake about it, President Biden’s humiliating Afghanistan scramble is one of the defining moments of the 21st century. The ramifications of this inevitable yet disastrously mismanaged climbdown will ripple across the globe for decades to come, reshaping the international order and ushering in as yet unknown alliances and rivalries.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Centre attacks, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the much-lauded War on Terror has been an ignominious failure for the West.

What has all this squandered blood and treasure really taught us?

For one, we really should have seen the warning signs long before now. The failures in Iraq, Syria and Libya were hardly subtle hints as to how this would all end, yet still the Western liberal democracies persisted. Just a little more money, just a little more freedom, just a few more rights enshrined in law and all would be well. Just one last push…

The sudden outpouring of introspection within our political class confirms that the jig is up and we can’t just return to business as usual. Even Tony Blair has been forced to admit that nation building with a bomb in one hand and a pallet of cash in the other has been an abject disaster. Such a naively reductionist view of our human world has left us poorer, at greater risk and more insecure than we were on that bright September morning two decades ago.

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Outstretched hand

All the World’s a Virtue Signalling Stage

Outstretched hand It’s hard to find a more perfect convergence of culture, media and politics than the recent One World benefit concert to support the beleaguered World Health Organisation. Luminaries like Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder and Elton John have all given their time (and presumably some of their own money) to help plug the funding gap left by Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US taxpayer funding. In one way it’s a refreshing change to see our entertainment and business elite putting their hands in their own pockets rather than trying to guilt the coins out of ours; although how much of this sudden flowering of philanthropy was a knee-jerk reaction to what the diabolical Dorito Man just happened to be doing at the time remains debatable.

Given the increasing criticism of the WHO for failing to carry out its core function of protecting the world’s health while carrying water for Communist China, one might reasonably think that savvy celebrities (or their managers) would want to steer clear of that potential minefield. But no, they fell over themselves to publicly declare their unqualified support for an increasingly discredited globalist order. I suppose their behaviour makes sense when you consider how they and their friends have been the primary beneficiaries of the current status quo.

We shouldn’t be surprised really, because the last four years have proved beyond doubt that our business and cultural elites are steadfastly incapable of learning anything. If they were capable of learning at least a little, they wouldn’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I’m sure Einstein had something to say about that.

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Alphabet letters

Our Alphabet Soup is Rotten

Alphabet lettersDonald Trump’s threat to freeze World Health Organisation funding has sparked a flurry of press interest and comment from around the globe. Not surprisingly, these hot takes on the situation range from “orange man bad” on one side of the aisle to “4-D chess” on the other. In fact, neither of these knee-jerk responses teaches us anything useful as they miss a much bigger and far more revealing picture

Whatever you might think of the President’s current attitude to the WHO, taking a step back to gain a wider view shows that far from being some Trumpian outlier, questioning the legitimacy of the WHO is in fact part of a wider pattern of dissent. The sense of weariness, disenchantment and growing hostility towards the alphabet soup agencies entrusted to run international affairs with no direct democratic mandate is now palpable, especially here in the West. Everywhere we look, nationalism is on the rise as once unimpeachable institutions are revealed to be rotten with corruption, incompetence and shameless self-interest.

This shouldn’t be surprising really, as Oscar Wilde pithily pointed out how bureaucracies primarily exist to meet their own needs and only secondly to execute the functions they were designed to carry out.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look.

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Dice on stock prices

EU Solidarity was a Fair Weather Fantasy

Dice on stock prices“Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall.” Varys of Lys

So now we know. Now we know for certain that when the chips are down, Brussels has neither the authority nor the inclination to act when it really matters. Right across the continent, borders are going up and countries are looking to their own institutions for answers and action to combat the Coronavirus threat.

The current crisis has finally exposed the myth of European solidarity for the dangerous fair-weather fantasy it always has been. As Italy and Spain struggle to cope with the spiralling crisis, their calls for medical and financial aid from Brussels have effectively come to naught. Despite decades of tall talk about being stronger together, this crisis has revealed that the EU’s obsession with ever closer union was only ever driven by a pathological lust for raw political power. When the chance finally arrives to put these lofty ideals into action, both Brussels and EU member states are nowhere to be found. Platitudes about solidarity lie trampled in the dust as countries pull up the drawbridge and leave the stragglers to fend for themselves in a display of self-interest that will not soon be forgotten by Italy, Spain and many others across the continent.

In fairness, it’s only natural for nations to look to their own security in a situation like this, and it would be foolish to criticise them for acting in the best interests of their citizens. Still, it’s very telling that in times of real crisis, the most enduring and efficient power structure remains the much maligned nation state, not the EU, the UN, the WHO or any of globalism’s impotent alphabet institutions.

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The Joker

Joker (2019)

The JokerIt’s rare for a film to achieve full memetic status when it’s first released. It usually takes quite a while, sometimes years, for many different layers of expression and commentary to reveal themselves within a truly memetic movie.

Not so with Joker.

Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of rage, despair and insanity is both uncomfortable to endure and yet completely enthralling. Watching Arthur Fleck choke on the uncontrollable, maniacal laughter he tries to suppress is mesmerising as we witness two personalities battling for supremacy inside the same tortured mind. Trapped in a hopeless cycle of stupefying medication, vapid counselling and grinding despair, it’s only a matter of time before Arthur finally snaps and the monster within can no longer be contained. Indeed, it is Fleck’s acceptance of the Joker as his true identity which is one of the deepest and most disturbing aspects of the entire screenplay. Arthur Fleck has known nothing but unhappiness, exploitation and alienation; while the Joker is a carefree, brutal and remorseless predator.

Joker is both created by and reflected in the oily, grimy and hopeless city that Fleck and the other residents of Gotham are forced to endure day in and day out as each cycle of decay, promised renewal and abandonment is worse than the last. Arthur Fleck is ground under by the grey, garbage filled vista he cannot escape, while the Joker is perfectly adapted to his environment; finding joy in every dirty puddle and wreaking his vengeance on a world that first conceived and then shunned him. The psychotically violent clown is familiar to us all as Frankenstein’s vengeful creation, re-imagined for our modern world of medicated conformity and vicious social stratification.

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