Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Great Retreat from Moscow



From the Blog "Kelebek" by Miguel MartinezPosted on 

Miguel Martinez was born in Mexico and is presently living in Florence, Italy. He is a polymath and a polyglot, interested in history, politics, culture, literature, and much more. His blog is titled "Kelebek", "butterfly" in Turkish. In this post, Miguel takes the retreat of Napoleon's armies from Moscow as a paradigm for the present conditions of society, and of "the Left" in particular. We are retreating, but nobody seems to have realized that and "Le Pen's Grenadiers will not reduce the distribution of wood or food, no matter how cold it will get." The post is written from an Italian perspective; for the non-Italian reader it may help to know that Matteo Salvini (described as leading "paratroopers" in the post) is the leader of the extreme right "Lega Nord" Italian political party. The boldface and Italics sentences are in the original. Translated and slightly adapted by UB.



by Miguel Martinez

On Sep 14, 1812, Napoleon entered Moscow.
It was the culmination of his Empire which had never reached such an extension in the Eastern Europe. It was also one of the rare occasions when a foreign leader had managed to occupy the Russian Capital, a feat that would never be repeated again.

So, simply by growing, Napoleon destroyed everything he had built and he caused the death by freezing of some 400,000 of his devout soldiers.

It is difficult to find a better example today of the destiny of the West.
A commenter to the Kelebek blog, Mirkhond, writes about the French elections:
“Unfortunately, the growing impoverishment of ever larger sectors of the European society surely doesn't help in generating trust for the Left who appears to be worried only about gay marriages. That gives space to Le Pen and others like her.
It is a diffuse kind of reasoning that reveals, and at the same time masks, a truth.
Let's start from what goes wrong when a single person makes a mistake. We can say, "Renzi didn't understand...."
But "the Left" is composed by millions of people in a whole continent. They don't make a mistake, they are the victims of history.
Let's go back to the image of the retraite de Russie.

Let's try to see it in this way.
The Left redistributes. It redistributes what capitalism plunders from nature, from the rest of humankind, and from future generations. Ayn Rand and other aficionados of universal destruction wrote brilliant criticism of the parasitic nature of the Left.
We haven't yet arrived to the showdown, but are already in the deflating phase of this immense bubble. More or less everyone today, except perhaps in India, where they still have to understand the point, would underwrite the simple statement, "I think my son will have a worse time than me"

In short, we have to manage the Retreat.
The Retreat is not a prophecy. We have been doing that for decades (many mark 1974 as the decisive date, but the concept is enormously complex). Not surprisingly, these are the same decades of the disorientation of the Left everywhere in the world.
Now, in the Retreat, there is little to redistribute, except for medals - Even Napoleon had coined medals expressly to remember the Retreat:

Not by chance, the principal activity of the Left today is the redistribution of medals. Be careful not to use the term "negro", try to free an Italian prisoner in Turkey (and how many Tunisian prisoners are there in Italy, for whom nobody says anything?). Scream because on Facebook someone said something unpleasant to someone else, celebrate because a multinational hires as manager a paraplegic lesbian.
Plenty of people go wild for these things as if the problem were the lesbian girl and not the multinational. These hysterical reactions make the Left feel important and these hysterical people feel that they are defending the Western values. It is a game that makes everyone happy. 
On a more serious plane, there is the nationalistic proposal. The rest of the world may well retreat, we won't. We will keep following the path of progress, developing, building factories, being 20th century, in short.
Le Pen's Grenadiers will not reduce the distribution of wood or food, no matter how cold it will get.

This proposal is not without a certain logic, at least until we keep believing in growth, progress, and the bubble. And since the Left cannot cast doubt on these absolute truths, their reactions become as neurotic and irrational as those of the Right. 
But if instead we were to doubt these very assumptions, we would immediately see the limits of the answers given by Le Pen's grenadiers, Salvini's paratroopers, or Trump's Marines 

16 comments:

  1. Yes, I think he's spot on. To sum up a part of that viewpoint of the left would be, I think, "multiculturalism". Unfortunately, when those on the Right complain about "multiculturalism" they have just as little clue as the left in regards to what the word "multiculturalism" authentically means. Since the word "culture" comes from the Latin "cultura" -- to cultivate plants and/or animals -- this would imply, in short, that authentic multiculturalism would be about multiple methods of cultivation, which means local forms of agriculture and so in turn local cultures. This is obviously important in a time of peaking energy supplies. But instead we scream about being for superficial differences ("multiculturalism") or against them (virulent nationalism).

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    1. But instead we scream about being for superficial differences

      I think that most leftists, like me, would be screaming that superficial differences should not determine whether people are treated fairly. The concentration on "identity" in "identity politics" is simply to emphasize that, regardless of how people identify themselves, they are to be regarded as equal under the law.

      Multiculturalism may have its etymological root in plant cultivation, but I think its current meaning is related to tolerance of people from other cultures or even better, the celebration of the diverse ways that people interact with each other and the natural environment to create an adaptive and functional culture. Tolerance for different cultures is a hallmark of progressivism. I will be sorry to see it disappear completely.

      Yes, we may be retreating from such concepts as universal human rights and the dignity of all people, regardless of culture, but even though such a retreat may be a result of the inevitable crumbling of civilization, it is nothing to look forward to.

      Tribalism and the conflict it causes may be the wave of the future, but I think even the most virulent nationalist will eventually wax nostalgic for these past few decades of relative peace, prosperity and general goodwill.

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  2. Well, I believe that politicians know the problems, but that there is some kind of "omerta" if I may use that word. Each time that a government talks about "renewable energy" or "climate change", I hear "peak oil". The main argument is that a quick win which would be reducing car's motors power is never suggested, but houses insulation seems to be the major solution regarding climate change. Big motors are not an issue regarding peal oil because cars don't have a long lifetime and because public transportation are always more or less an alternative. I even believe that Trumps hesitations about Paris agreement are related to peak oil, that America also needs some preparation.

    Best regards,

    Etienne

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  3. @Joe

    "The concentration on "identity" in "identity politics" is simply to emphasize that, regardless of how people identify themselves, they are to be regarded as equal under the law. "

    This is a valid point: the right-wing critique ("why do you insist on homosexual marriage?") falters when we ask the right-winger, "why do you insist on forbidding Jim and Jack from signing a paper saying they share a house?"

    However, there are also other matters here.

    The first is the insistence on individual rights, with a total denial of community rights: in Italy, communities as such have no rights whatsoever, all they can do is express themselves as "private" actors. I'll leave it there for the moment, but it is an important issue.

    The second is the insistence on state power: everybody "calls on the police", whether it's to "stop homophobic jokes" or to "ban the Gay Pride march"; and in order to call on the police, everybody has to play the victim: this is equally true on the right ("reverse racism!" "Muslims oppress women!" "immigrants are bad tough males!" "Catholics are oppressed by gay marriages!").

    Third, the reciprocal victim game has taken the place of any other form of discussion. To quote Italian politics: a politician's stand on climate change matters nothing, what really matters is whether or not he made some slightly derogatory comment about somebody else on Twitter.

    Even truly important issues are "individualised": "my right not to have polluting cars under my house" versus "my right to drive where I want". No room for the destruction of life on the planet in a discussion like that.

    There is no justification for people who want to deprive others of their individual rights; however, the real issues of our times are enormous, and thinking only of individual rights completely silences them.

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  4. @Joe

    "Tribalism and the conflict it causes may be the wave of the future, but I think even the most virulent nationalist will eventually wax nostalgic for these past few decades of relative peace, prosperity and general goodwill."

    A good point, but I think something is missing.

    1) The "past few decades of relative peace" etc. are simply the peak of the great energy bubble (I am not saying "peak oil"; I am speaking of times of expansion, when there seems to be something for everybody, and we aren't paying the costs yet).

    It is not that "bad ideas" are around. It is that the great energy bubble is over. We can takes sides on how to ride the decline, but not about the decline itself.

    2) I don't fully agree with the use of the word "tribalism", which gives the idea of a self-organised community.

    In many parts of the Western world, people are doing the opposite: they are looking on the State to help them keep a decent level of living, while the rest of the world is sinking. Which means relying on all the "modern" energy of the state, police, big industry, infrastructures, prisons, the army, the school system, the welfare system, the force of the law. It is anything but "tribal".

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  5. Reading this excellent article and the thoughtful responses made me realise we've probably passed peak self-actualisation, as in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

    If the unmet needs of increasing numbers of people is what effectively gives rise to Trump, Brexit, mass immigration and societal destruction (Venezuela) then surely that must give rise to a tipping point where the latent power of masses of needy people - who by Maslow's logic will no longer be contributing to any reasoned solution that does not provide them with the relief required to satisfy their basic needs - will overcome the diminishing numbers of people sufficiently high up Maslow's pyramid who are willing and able to provide enough resource to maintain the status quo.

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    1. Indeed. Once the complexity of civilization is no longer supportable, "needy people" will need to worry less about their persona and more about their physical needs at the base of the hierarchy. It remains to be seen what will happen when those physical needs aren't met, but I suspect there will be two general responses; some folks will endure their suffering quietly and stoically, others will riot. Both of those responses have been common throughout history. It is the transition from abundance to famine that is most problematic.

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  6. The analogy of the late Napoleonic France and the present left is excellent, coining medals is what they do (hereby committed to memory!). However, many on the other side - defensive nationalism is a phrase I have come to appreciate - are not as sanguine as the author here may imply. We recognize that hard times are coming, and that the global trade and supply lines we depend upon will shrink or vanish, and that that can happen fast. So it's a question of being prepared, and not having an ethnic guerilla war on top of all the other problems. In their hearts I think many of Le Pen's voters think this way, but a professional politician obviously has to gloss the message

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  7. More from this excellent author, please! Is it possible to publish in Spanish?

    I believe that Napoleon gave out reports leading his subjects to believe that the loss of almost his whole army was nothing very much - I have never seen that medal before, very illuminating.

    He said, did he not: 'I have lost an army. It is nothing. I shall raise another!'

    We are losing a civilization, as its energy fades away: we will not raise another.

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    1. Yes, Miguel is great! I'll post something more by him, maybe tomorrow

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    2. Ah.... about translating into Spanish, I think Miguel would be happy about that. But you should ask him directly in a comment on his blog at http://kelebeklerblog.com/

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    3. @Ugo

      Thank you!

      I have been admiring Ugo for years, and now he translated an article of mine!

      Re Spanish, I am afraid not, my Spanish has degenerated over the years in Italy :-)

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  8. @tarjei

    "However, many on the other side - defensive nationalism is a phrase I have come to appreciate - are not as sanguine as the author here may imply. "

    I like the phrase too, it explains the issue and I agree with everything you say in your comment.

    I was talking mainly about the notion of redistribution, basic to the Left, but I certainly don't believe the way out is a "strong Nation State".

    Michel Bauwens has a clear, convincing thesis on the modern world, based on the trinity of capital-state-nation http://jfsdigital.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/S6.pdf, I suggest you take a look.

    The real problem is how to "be prepared". There is no blueprint, of course, ideally everybody should have his/her own strategy.

    For me, it means doing what I can so the local community, in the place I live, can be resilient, sustainable, fair and free. It won't save the world, but it is more fun than complaining :-)

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  9. @Anonymous

    "If the unmet needs of increasing numbers of people is what effectively gives rise to Trump, Brexit, mass immigration and societal destruction (Venezuela) "

    I very much agree with your approach, putting such very different things together.

    Venezuela is an interesting case: Chavez replaced a robber-baron way of getting money out of Americans buying oil to drive their cars, with a redistributive way of doing so. Great, and I suppose nobody could have done better under the circumstances.

    The problem is that he was unable to identify an alternative to getting money out of Americans buying oil to drive their cars.

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  10. Except at that time the Russian capital was St. Petersburg. Lenin moved it to Moscow to avoid White forces, and because it was a bit closer to his hometown still named after him even to this day.

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  11. Left is a fraud, Right it's also...

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Who

Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)