Rays of Hope (extended)
I was in high school when I first started working for the powers that be. A helicopter landed in my hometown, carrying a few mid-level military officers (Brits, Dutch, Germans) that worked for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. The task force had been charged with setting up a base of operations for monitoring the then-recent ‘civil’ war in Yugoslavia. Desperate for local interpreters, the group was directed by the mayor to my bilingual high school – and in turn, the principal summoned me from class to accompany the delegation, who asked if I would be willing to work for them part-time as a liaison/interpreter/office manager as they set up an office in my town.
Over the years that followed, I worked for the OSCE, then for a military contractor that supplied interpreters to the US Army in Eastern Europe theaters of operation. I worked with Army/AF/Marine units. I recruited a classmate to work for AF Intel, saw bored and listless Marines operate drones (then a relatively novel concept) over Bosnia. Worked with an NGO who had come to my country to teach the locals about the wonders of the US stock market. Met NCOs who had been given a choice: 10 years in Federal penitentiary or 20 years in the Army (my friend had the misfortune of being caught boosting 18-wheeler rigs, and refused to name his fence). He became a heavily decorated gunnery sergeant, veteran of Gulf War I, who taught armored cavalry units how to shoot and maneuver throughout Europe.
My country spent a solid 20 years licking the bootheel of its erstwhile official mortal enemies in an attempt to integrate itself better with the EU and ‘Western values’ -- including ascension to NATO and a boatload of (pointless) military spending. This is all the more laughable as at the time, some military analysts calculated that the military could withstand a full assault from the Yugoslav army for about 30 minutes... The days of military viability were centuries in the past. Our markets were dumped with subsidized EU agricultural products, destroying much of the smaller local agricultural producers. Anyone with any skill/talent/language ability fled the country as soon as they gained their (highly respected and good-quality) university degrees to seek work in the UK, Germany, France, etc.. At least a quarter (if not half) of my high school class are now expats. Whenever I go home, all my relatives lament the distance of my domicile, but take great pains to tell me not to consider moving home.
I am writing this sitting at a newly opened outdoor bar in a small village. The proprietor explained to me that he opened this place not really to make money, but to have a business to give to his son and to try to create something new, something different in this sleepy little corner of the country. He was beset at all steps of the way by regional and local bureaucrats, tax officials and petty neighbors/competitors who continually called the cops on him (who apologetically showed up, conceded that nothing was wrong but they were obliged to respond to a ‘resident report’). Denied a building permit for an establishment in a commercial zone, he converted a railroad restaurant car into a bar and installed portable toilets on an empty lot. The long-established restaurant/bar next door closed at 9 (despite its stated hours through midnight), while he still has several dozen guests right now, well past midnight.
The indomitable spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation and a genuine desire to improve the local/regional/national/continental state of affairs is still flickering. The millions of residents who were suckered into Swiss-franc mortgages (due to the massive appreciation of the CHF versus the local currency, EVERYONE is now deeply underwater, forced to squeeze out monthly payments 2x greater than what they thought they signed up for a few years ago) are about to get some relief as Parliament finalized laws forcing the issuing banks to absorb much of the losses.
This is by no means a panacea. The government is still deeply corrupt, nepotistic and continues to run a fiat Ponzi. Its supermajority in congress was achieved in part by promising/granting social benefits, passports and voting rights to nationals living outside its borders (amounting to almost 50% of in-country population). Imagine the US.GOV granting Social Security and voting rights to all Mexican citizens (a little less than half of US population) on the grounds they shared linguistic and cultural bonds with current US citizens. The Prime Minister continues to grossly enrich his family and friends – his son was among the heads of state / world-class athletes / Pope / etc. in attendance at the World Cup finals in Brazil (guy in crimson tie pensively listening to the Putin-Merkel dialogue, flanked by dude in dopey black-rimmed glasses).
BUT. He is also on record declaring that he intends to use his (ill-gotten) powers to realign the country, to seek closer ties and cooperation with Russia, to emulate the models provided by China, Russia and Turkey, seeking independence from the influence of Western (US)-backed interests, lobbying groups and NGOs. He is taking steps to reduce the prevalence of the Free Shit Army™ by reorganizing benefit programs and Social Security. Yes, this was done in part by nationalizing individual retirement accounts. Yes, this still steers government contracts to cronies and connected oligarchs. Yes, freedom of the press is under attack on a daily basis, independent journalism penalized/persecuted. The Central Bank is no longer ‘independent’ (whatever that means) and is now merely a politicized extension of Treasury. But for better or worse, the country is being steered consciously on a course towards a path that is (IMHO) the direction of the future. A course aligned with a vision of ending the hegemony of Western dominance and USD-rule over the entirety of the globe. Lo and behold, there are ever-growing indications that the Eastern powers seek an avenue of economic cooperation outside the USD umbrella, with India and Russia being only the latest pair of bilateral efforts to this end.
What’s my point, you may rightly ask? If this small, relatively insignificant NATO-member and formerly staunch Keynesian lackey can indeed change, and brave the perilous waters of taking on the Fin_Mil_Industrial_Gov complex, there may yet be hope for the rest of Europe, for the rest of the world. I have no idea whether this truly a real ‘exit’ from the current world order. It would not take much for a false flag, or simple ‘ratfucking’ from the various intel agencies (such as recently seen in Ukraine) to derail the nascent reforms underway here. But perhaps, PERHAPS such an approach – if successful – can serve to light the EXIT sign for others. In and of itself, it is insignificant – but what if Baltic states were to one day overcome their deeply rooted (and justified) phobia of Russia? Romania has twice our population, Poland is four times our size. Austria is seeking an audit of gold reserves, the Swiss have a referendum on the docket for gold reserves in the Swiss National Bank. Norway has actual energy resources to bring to the fray, and might eventually like to be paid in something other than linen-rich coupons.
Maybe all of this is merely part of a pre-ordained and centrally orchestrated charade between the ‘Rocks’ and ‘Roths’, as our friend ivars alleges. And we are all forever doomed to be the serfs (knowing or not) of the banker families seeing all and ruling all. Perhaps this is merely a futile gesture of misplaced patriotism, along the lines of Zrínyi and Dobó.
Perhaps we are, indeed, all destined to be ground down between the cogs of the machine – and the best we can hope for is to profit from the even-greater misfortune of our brethren, and to be ‘greater’ slaves among lesser ones. But my lineage and upbringing dictate that I continue to believe in the indomitability of the human spirit. Light will eventually prevail, and victories that seem pyrrhic may topple symbols and thus ideologies.
As always, keep stacking. Choose your battles against the status quo, but choose to battle where possible.
PS: Somewhat (though not really) OT – check out this cartoon-based comparison of Orwell vs. Huxley before it is yet again taken down by copyright protection requests.
Wow. I was a little worried my choice of topic was a little too tangential, obscure and irrelevant. While the following does not prove conclusively that it was NOT, it's still somewhat of a vindication that the next day the same event (Hungarian Prime Minister Orban's manifesto against liberal democracy, delivered as a speech at a Transylvanian university) would be pilloried by both the New York Times, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, the Financial Times and in general the entire MSM conglomerate.
'Hungary’s Mussolini' Vows to Make the EU Member an 'Illiberal State' -- Newsweek
"Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, has just cemented his reputation as the problem child of the European Union with a speech in which he argued that “liberal democratic societies cannot remain globally competitive”. All EU countries are meant to subscribe to a set of values that could broadly be described as liberal and democratic. But Mr Orban suggested that the Hungarian government is now looking elsewhere for inspiration – citing China, Russia, Turkey and Singapore as potential role models." -- FT
"The rise of Putinism" -- WaPo
"The commission could start by reducing the 21.91 billion euros (about $29.33 billion) the European Union has allocated to Hungary to finance infrastructure development from 2014-20. It should also begin proceedings to invoke Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, which allows the suspension of voting rights of a member state that is at serious risk of breaching the values listed in Article 2, including the rule of law, freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. The commission would diminish its credibility if it fails to take steps to sanction Hungary for systematically breaching these values." -- NYTimes
"Orban, who was re-elected in April for a second consecutive four-year term, has clashed with the EU as he amassed more power than any of his predecessors since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, replacing the heads of independent institutions including the courts with allies, tightening control over media and changing election rules to help him retain a constitutional majority in Parliament." -- Bloomberg
The full text of the speech in question can be found here. Some salient points which, despite my reservations about politicians in general, and THIS one in particular, I found interesting:
"Or to go even further, according to an internationally recognised analyst, the strength of American soft power is in decline and liberal values today embody corruption, sex and violence, and as such discredit America and American modernisation. And then the Open Society Foundation published a report – this happened quite recently – in which it analyses Western Europe and makes statements such as the fact that Western Europe is so busy finding a solution to the situation of immigrants that it has forgotten about the white working class. Or the British Prime Minister says that thanks to the changes that have occurred in Europe, many people have become freeloaders on the backs of welfare systems. Or one of the richest people in America, who was one of the first investors in Amazon, claims that we are living in a society that is less and less capitalist and increasingly feudal, and if the global economic system does not change, then the middle class will disappear and, in his words, the poor will go after the rich with pitchforks. And so instead of an economic model that is built from the top going down, we need an economic model that grows from the middle. [...]
What this means is that we must break with liberal principles and methods of social organisation, and in general with the liberal understanding of society. [...] With regard to the relationship between two people, the starting point of the liberal organisation of society is based on the idea that we have the right to do anything that does not infringe on the freedom of the other party. [...A]lthough this is an extremely attractive idea, it is unclear who is going to decide the limits beyond which someone is infringing on our freedom. And since this is not automatically given, somebody must decide it. And since we have not appointed anybody to decide it, what we experienced continuously in everyday life was that the strongest decided. What we continuously experienced was that the weak were trampled over. Conflicts on the acceptance of mutual freedom are not decided according to some abstract principle of justice, but what happens instead is that the stronger party is always right. [...] The principle around which Hungarian society is organised should not be that everything is allowed that does not infringe on the other party’s freedom, but instead should be that one should not do unto others what one does not want others to do unto you. [...]
And so we can safely make the statement that the liberal democracy also proved to be incapable of protecting the community assets that are required for the self-sufficiency of the nation compared and in comparison to the other states of Europe. The liberal Hungarian state was also incapable of protecting the country from falling into debt. [...] It also failed to prevent families from falling into debt slavery. [...]
And so, if we want to organise our national state to replace the liberal state, it is very important that we make it clear that we are not opposing non-governmental organisations here and it is not non-governmental organisations who are moving against us, but paid political activists who are attempting to enforce foreign interests here in Hungary. [...]
It could happen, Ladies and Gentlemen, that in the United States – and I am referring to a piece of news I read yesterday – that in the United States the Senate, or perhaps it was the Senate and the House of Representatives together, decide to impeach the President of the United States for regularly overstepping his sphere of authority. And when I look behind these pieces of news I see that not only do they plan to impeach him, but the President of the United States has already been convicted of overstepping his sphere of authority on several occasions. Imagine what would happen in Hungary if Parliament took the Prime Minister to court for overstepping his sphere of authority and then the court found him guilty. How long could I remain in office, Ladies and Gentlemen?"
There is also a long passage equating the 2008 global financial crisis with the magnitude of changes the world underwent after WWI, WWII and 1990.
Like I said, words are cheap, and granting (quasi)dictatorial powers to an established demagogue has almost without exception led to tragedy. But when the guy sticks his neck out to defend Christian values, attack large multinational banks and supranational bureaucracies, to denounce the downing of MH17 without blaming Russia, I begin to wonder whether he has a sufficiently potent dossier for publication on deposit attached to a dead-man switch. And whether he spends enough on personal protection...
(photo credit: AFP/Economist)