Monday, December 31, 2018

Ruminations 83(5) (On the Games Peoples Play): Looking Back on 2018 in Epigrams and Aphorisms

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2018)

The year 2018 is ending with the great rifts opened in 2016, and exposed in 2017, now acquiring a greater urgency and show and revealing the power of its consequences. Global divisions have become more acute, even as these reflect in turn the even more acute rifts within both great and small global actors--states, societies, religions, civil society, and enterprises.

2018 is rich with rift events.  This was the year of America First and the Belt and Road Initiative.  It was the year of great rifts among allies--especially the great family of post World War II Anglo-European allies--and of growing compatibility among rivals. This was the year of the exposure corruption--in  which  Latin American corruption brought down the government of Perú and the President of Brazil. Corruption swirled around the highest levels of the United States and of China. It was the year of great social transformation spurred by revelations--of sexual improprieties, and of policing and race in the United States. It was a year in which the U.S. President continued to serve as lightening rod  and the international order was upended. But it was also a year in which Brexit appeared to invite failure. But all of this seemed like a build up to resolutions that lie beyond 2018.  In the end, 2018 might be understood as a year of stage setting  

With no objective in particular, this post and a number that follow provides my summary of the slice of 2018 to which I paid attention through epigrams and aphorisms. It follows an end of year  tradition I started in 2016 (for those see here) and 2017 (for these see here).  

This is Part 5 (On the Games Peoples Play). Share your own!

Ruminations 83: 2018 in Epigrams and Aphorisms
Part I (On education and knowledge).
Part 2 (On Systems).
Part 3 (On the Things that Divide and Join Us).
Part 4 (Markets and Politics)
Part 5 (On the Games Peoples Play)

1. Meetings of people who do not mean what they say exactly is farce; meetings of people who never say what they mean with people who think they mean what they say is tragedy.
[("The sparks appeared to begin to fly after Pelosi characterized the possibility of a shutdown as a "Trump shutdown."According to an aide in the room, Pelosi said she was "trying to be the mom" in the meeting with Trump.  "You can’t let him take you down that path," Pelosi said, according to an aide in the room. "But the fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his." . . . In the statement, Sanders called the meeting a "constructive dialogue." She said the President was "grateful for the opportunity to let the press" into the meeting."Major disagreement remains on the issue of border security and transparency," the readout read.") Trump spars with Schumer and Pelosi in Oval Office meeting; Transcript of the heated meeting between Trump, Pelosi and Schumer]

2.  Constitution making should not be left solely to the elites; invariably, however, elites develop a sort of proprietary relationship with such projects, even as they desperately seek to encourage and manage popular participation.
[(The leaders of the Cuban State, like many other leading groups around the world in comparable circumstances, have announced its commitment to encourage popular review and commentary of its project of constitutional revision for the Cuban Republic. Such review and commentary is to be broadly encouraged not just from Cubans living within Cuba but also those resident abroad. It is with that in mind that I will make available popular commentary submitted to the state organs or otherwise published during the course of the public commentary around the debates in Cuba (and elsewhere among Cubans abroad) to the 2018 draft Constitution.) Recursos del constitucionalismo cubano/Cuban Constitutionalism Resources: Primeros Commentarios del Pueblo/Initial Popular Commentaries; CubaConstitution 

 (Pix Credit HERE (Photos of the Paris “Yellow Vest” Riots)

3.   Radical engagement from the underbelly of the political order is rarely taken for what it is.
[("Youths torched and vandalized scores of cars in the Swedish city of Gothenburg and surrounding towns and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Tuesday the disturbances looked organized “almost like a military operation. . .  It was unclear what triggered Monday night’s unrest but Sweden has seen a rise in violence in areas with high unemployment and other social problems and the incident echoed rioting in the capital Stockholm in 2013”)  Youths in Swedish towns burn and vandalize scores of cars; ()

4.  If everything is white privilege, then at last the color element of hierarchy is again put in its place;and again color is eviscerated form analysis
[("It remains that the key difference between the French Guiana protesters of 2017 and their metropolitan counterparts of 2018 is of course one of status. For most of its history, French Guiana was a distant colony, whose indigenous population was cobbled together from Amazonian tribes, marooned slaves and convicts. On the other hand, historians will note that since the French Revolution, rural France has been the backbone of the République — always rebellious but also fiercely republican and egalitarian. That France does not take lightly to be administered like a distant colony by the government. Some might even call that republican, if not white, privilege.") To understand the Paris ‘yellow vests’ riots, look to French Guiana]

5.  There are other states which serve as a dress rehearsal for the American conversation about citizenship and residence; but it appears only the American conversation has significance.
[("India has effectively stripped four million people in Assam of citizenship, sparking fears of mass deportations of Muslims from the northeastern state. But authorities assured that those who could not make it to the draft list will not face "immediate deportation or be arrested". People will be given time to file for corrections, Indian officials said. . . . The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power on the promise to expel the so-called "illegal foreigners" and protect the rights of indigenous groups.") What's next for the 4 million stripped of citizenship in India?].

6.  Society has again sought to construct its gods in its own image; but it remains to be seen whether they will be able to control their gods this time around.
[("In a sense, a curious transformation emerges from the efforts to use law and conventional administrative regulation as a means of constraining and shaping AI, and AI related systems of management. Law, in this context, becomes much more remote--it is transformed from a first to as second order regulatory device.  That is, law becomes most useful (and the administrative regulations through which it is amplified and made enforceable) as a means of constructing operational systems, rather than as the basis for the set of direct command that its objects must obey.  Law increasingly is best used to constitute systems rather than to serve as the means for operationalizing systems once constituted through meta-legal documents (constitutions, etc.).") Eckpunkte der Bundesregierung für eine Strategie Künstliche Intelligenz/Key points of the Federal Government for an Artificial Intelligence strategy As of 18 July 2018]

7. Territoriality based regionalism is an artifact of the 20th century; but there is much that connects states caught between global giants and their new era initiatives; thus is born new era economic regionalism. 
[("The other countries in the deal were undeterred by the US’s withdrawal. Even without the US, the new pact will be among the largest multilateral trade deals ever enacted . The CPTPP countries include 14% of world GDP. Beyond just lowering trade barriers between the countries, the deal also includes greater protection of intellectual property rights—a part of the deal the US fought for—and provisions to increase minimum labor standards for workers in participating countries") The huge new Pacific trade deal has gone into effect without the US]
 8.  Statues are at their most influential at the time they are erected and at the time they are torn down or removed; it is only at those moments that they serve as the hand puppets of others.
[("The removal of Mr. Nagy’s statue is part of a broader push by Mr. Orban to resurrect Hungary’s right-wing authoritarian past, said Peter Kreko, director of Political Capital, a Budapest-based political think tank and consultancy. “It’s the re-establishment of the symbolic politics of the Horthy era,” Mr. Kreko said, adding that the restoration of public areas around Parliament to reflect their appearance between the two world wars was a sign that the country’s political leadership was seeking to build on Admiral Horthy’s heritage.") Hungarians Fume as Statue of Former Leader Is Downgraded]

9. The 20th century was one in which the world renounced "unequal treaties" and imperialism; the 21st Century will have to confront the meaning of equality within global production chains.
[("And then the port became China’s. Mr. Rajapaksa was voted out of office in 2015, but Sri Lanka’s new government struggled to make payments on the debt he had taken on. Under heavy pressure and after months of negotiations with the Chinese, the government handed over the port and 15,000 acres of land around it for 99 years in December.")How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port].
10.  Even states have learned to make the masses laugh despite themselves when they substitute agit-prop for politics.
[("Bravo. One has here at least a marvelous piece of agit prop that serves the interests of all of those invested in it. But does it do anything else? For that we must wait and see. But what is clear is that even the most compelling bit of agit prop can be turned on itself. Visual agitprop is an invitation to engage with image the way one used to engage with words. In both cases ideas may be produced. But the marvelous image that the Germans produced can take on a life of its own from the moment it is liberated. In this case, some of these interpretations may actually do the Germans more harm than good--not with one's allies, but precisely with those who need to be influenced. ") Picture and Communique: Agit Prop at the G7]

   11. Warfare has in effect become a misnomer for the fusion of techniques of competition and conflict, and the modalities of engagement in actions that protect and extend the interest of institutions with the power to access these tools.
[("The governmentalization of the private sector and the privatization of the state have created an environment in which the classical distinctions between war and competition, and between state (public) and enterprise (commercial or private) interests becomes effectively meaningless.  But most importantly, the logic of economic globalization--and with it regimes of free movement of goods, investment and capital (and more problematically people) have changed the playing field for states and other rising governance actors. ") The Affair of the Sonic Weapons Attack Goes Global--From Cuba to China in the Emerging "Big State" Era of Global Trade and Relations]

12. History and memory  remind us of the tension between the history of the collective and the memory of the self; the one a foundation of mass solidarity, the other the solidarity of the self.   
[("Yet as that generation dies, and its memories with them, D-Day assumes more the character of history than of memory, of the recalled experiences of others rather than of a memory of the self in time. And history can be a very seductive tool. ") Ruminations 78: Reflections on the 74th Anniversary of D-Day; Memory, Remembrance and Recollection]

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