Dark Age Watch

What is a dark age?

Sunday, November 26, 2006
What the U.S. Army has learned in Iraq "While U.S. politicians from both political parties spin out their versions of Iraqs that should have been, could have been and just maybe still might be, the U.S. Army has taken on a far more useful project: figuring out why the Bush administration's military plans worked out so badly and drawing lessons for future conflicts." International integration ahead? Humans learn from their mistakes. One should not take a static view of the world. When it seems to be all over, humans have plucked victory from the jaws of defeat too often to count. It is difficult to be optimistic about the current global situation. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure - we should not write off the US hegemon yet.

Turkish protests at Pope's visit "The crowds booed - and shouted slogans such as "Don't come Pope" - as pictures of Benedict XVI were shown on a giant screen in a square in the city suburbs. " International discohesion

How Americans are living dangerously - CNN.com: "We agonize over avian flu, which to date has killed precisely no one in the United States, but have to be cajoled into getting vaccinated for the common flu, which contributes to the deaths of 36,000 Americans each year. We wring our hands over the mad cow pathogen that might be (but almost certainly isn't) in our hamburger and worry far less about the cholesterol that contributes to the heart disease that kills 700,000 of us annually. We pride ourselves on being the only species that understands the concept of risk, yet we have a confounding habit of worrying about mere possibilities while ignoring probabilities, building barricades against perceived dangers while leaving ourselves exposed to real ones." As T S Eliot said, humans cannot bear too much reality.

Smart homes a reality in S Korea: "More than 100 homes offering smart technology have just been built in South Korea and another 30,000 are planned...Each appliance has to be compatible with a system called HomeNet, one of a number of competing systems on offer in South Korea. The choice of service also limits what devices Koreans can buy to hook into the system as each appliance needs to be compatible. " Pro-innovation (Or marketing gimmick?)

Mid-East leaders commit to truce "Israeli and Palestinian leaders have said they are committed to a ceasefire agreed for the Gaza Strip, despite Palestinian rockets landing in Israel." International re-cohesion

Blair 'sorrow' over slave trade "Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he feels "deep sorrow" for Britain's role in the slave trade." International disintegration masquerading as re-cohesion? Edward Said wrote in his book "Orientalism" about the social construction of "the past", and how hegemonic groups tend to "draw a line" under the past at the point where it suits them. Increasingly, however, the distinction is being eroded between what counts as history and what is still a "live" issue. By Said's point, this might be considered indicative of hegemonic retrenchment, as marginalised groups renegotiate what we should consider the past.

Closing the Collapse Gap Dimtri Orlov compares the collapse of the Soviet economy with what he expects is on the cards for the United States. Amongst other things, he thinks that: "Since all housing was also built by the government, it was only built in places that the government could service using public transportation. After the collapse, almost everyone managed to keep their place. In the United States, very few people own their place of residence free and clear, and even they need an income to pay real estate taxes. People without an income face homelessness. When the economy collapses, very few people will continue to have an income, so homelessness will become rampant. Add to that the car-dependent nature of most suburbs, and what you will get is mass migrations of homeless people toward city centers." For more info, see his essay.

Charles joins rebellion over Burberry move to China "PRINCE CHARLES has intervened in a row over plans by Burberry, the upmarket clothing firm, to shut down its Welsh factory with the loss of 300 jobs...Burberry’s image is still centred on its Britishness. Behind the scenes, however, the focus of the company has been shifting to Asia, where the label is growing in popularity." Internal disorganisation

Word on the street ... they’re listening "POLICE and councils are considering monitoring conversations in the street using high-powered microphones attached to CCTV cameras...The devices are used at 300 sites in Holland and police, councils and transport officials in London have shown an interest in installing them before the 2012 Olympics." Internal integration or disintegration? The acquisition of these microphones is being considered at a time when tens of thousands of people continue to live illegaly in Britain.

Saturday, November 25, 2006
Scots split would harm UK - Brown "The BBC's Political Correspondent Norman Smith says Mr Brown's comments come amid mounting fears within the government that the Scottish National Party could be victorious in next May's elections to the Scottish parliament." Internal discohesion? In his speech, according to the BBC, Brown pointed out that 2.5 million people in Scotland have a family in England while 400'000 people who live in Scotland were born in England. (Certain) Proponents of the liberalist school of international relations believe that more travel and expanded opportunities for communication will promote mutual understanding and make the world a more peaceful place. The fact that separatist and secessionist movements are growing in strenght and/or proliferating across the globe raises questions as to the validity of such assumptions.

Rebels 'enter key Chadian city' "Aid workers and residents reported hearing heavy gunfire as rebels approached the city, and small arms fire has been heard in Abeche itself. Correspondents say it is unclear who controls the city, about 700km (440 miles) east of the capital, N'Djamena." African dark age

Security guards to patrol trains "Private security guards will patrol train routes in the north of England in an attempt to crack down on the abuse of rail staff. The move follows more than 300 incidents of abuse and assault on Northern Rail staff so far this year." Internal discohesion-disintegration coupling

Russia sends air defense system to Iran "Russia has begun delivery of Tor-M1 air defense missile systems to Iran, a Defense Ministry official said Friday, confirming that Moscow would proceed with arms deals with Tehran in spite of Western criticism...The United States called on all countries last spring to stop all arms exports to Iran,(...)" International discohesion, at the least

Friday, November 24, 2006
Dying ex-spy accused Putin "Alexander Litvinenko blamed a "barbaric and ruthless" Russian President Vladimir Putin for the attack. Putin called the death a tragedy, but accused his opponents of "political provocation."" International discohesion Get ready for a bumpy ride in the 21st century. See also Cold war shadow disrupts Russia talks.


-Mosques, worshippers attacked

-Six Sunni men grabbed, burned to death leaving a mosque

-Gunmen attack three Sunni mosques in Baghdad

-U.S., Iraqi forces sweep into Shiite stronghold, Sadr City, al-Sadr's group says

-White House calls Sadr City attacks "senseless"
The unusually forceful headline says it all: "out of control" = "international disintegration".

Sikhs head for the barber and turn their backs on tradition: "A growing number of young Sikh men are now unfurling their turbans, shaving their beards and trimming their locks into crew cuts, mullets, spikes and other more exotic coiffures. Nor is the trend confined to the prosperous Sikh community overseas; it is happening here in the heartland of Punjab, and even in Amritsar, home to the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh site." Internal discohesion leading to international cohesion? Breaking down religious and cultural barriers. But see below for the opposite trend.

BA uniform review after cross row To put on a pessimistic, dark-age hat, this could be described as internally discohesive. What we are seeing is not really reassertion of Britain's traditional, civic religion but rather an expression of selfishness and individualism. BA's policy is of long-standing. Uniformed staff were expected to conform to the dress code, not displaying individual jewellery and certainly not putting out messages about private religious beliefs. This lady, though, wishes to do her own thing, and not fit in with the wider spirit of the company to which she belongs. It is all about her right to express herself, not about her duty to get along with others. BA's concern is no doubt where it will all end. Now other women, perhaps claiming that they are pagans, may demand the right to wear all sorts of other jewellery and apparel, supposedly in order to honour their often made-up religious beliefs.

Stormont attack devices defused "The Northern Ireland police chief said "their potential for death, destruction and injury is being assessed" but added they were "fairly amateurish"." Internal discohesion? The coming dark age manuscript suggests that Northern Ireland will lead Europe into a dark age - a prediction that often seems wide of the mark.

Rio turns to Colombia for help in curbing violence "Faced with levels of urban violence often comparable to war zones, South American security chiefs are looking to Colombia as an unlikely saviour...Rio de Janeiro's newly elected governor, Sergio Cabral, recently announced plans to use Colombian security techniques in an attempt to pull the Brazilian city out of a cycle of violence that claims about 6,000 lives each year." Internal disintegration It is not clear whether South America is emerging from a dark age during which its ancient civilisations were annihilated towards some more stable configuration or whether the continend is headed for a large-scale breakdown of social order. At any rate, it does not appear that South America will form a bastion against the west's decline but rather might be carried away in this process.

Fresh claims of Afghan shortages "Sgt Stephen Brown of the Royal Marines has complained his men do not have enough ammunition and equipment, and have to use inappropriate vehicles." International disintegration? Imperial overstretch?

Sri Lanka jets bomb 'rebel camp' "The Sri Lankan military has said it has carried out an air raid on a Tamil Tiger rebel training camp in the north." Internal disintegration

Thursday, November 23, 2006
PM declares Quebec nation 'within Canada': "Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's stunning motion recognizing Quebec as a nation within Canada has reignited a debate over the divisive issue, with some supporters cautiously viewing it as a bold political step while critics described it as a recipe for tearing apart the country." Internal discohesion While the motion is supposed to keep Canada together, the fact that it is needed shows the discohesion that already exists.

EU alcohol ruling cheers traders "Retailers have expressed relief at a European court ruling against allowing consumers to buy drinks and cigarettes online at lower duties from abroad." International disorganisation The EU, in direct contradiction of its avowed purpose, continues to oppose the free flow of goods and money, entrenching vested interests and supporting big government.

Archbishop and Pope admit strains: "'Our long journey together makes it necessary to acknowledge publicly the challenge represented by new developments which, besides being divisive for Anglicans, present serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress.'" International discohesion? Or is it perhaps cohesive to recognise your differences and own up to them. Either way, this pope continues to show that he is nobody's fool.

Baghdad bombings leave 150 dead International disintegration We take no pleasure in this news. On the whole, we do not document every car bomb in Iraq, for it is the long-term, big picture that concerns us. Nevertheless, it is difficult to ignore the evidence of continuing disaster and hegemonic failure.

Afghan drug crop to flood Europe "European cities risk higher numbers of heroin overdoses as Afghanistan's record opium poppy crop floods cities with the drug, the UN has warned." International disintegration Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan, British taxpayers' money was given to Afghan poppy growers, to persuade them not to cultivate the crop. They took the money, and grew poppies anyway. Hegemony by bribery will never work.

Bishops warn students over Christian society bans "The move followed decisions by student guilds and associations at three universities, Exeter, Birmingham and Edinburgh, to suspend Christian groups from membership or use of premises on the grounds that their constitutions or meetings are exclusionary and discriminate against non-Christians and particularly gay people." Internal discohesion? In his essay "the Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism", the German sociologist Max Weber described the relationship between people's affiliation to protestant denominations and the notion of creditworthiness in the USA. While opinions may be divided with regards to Weber's reflections on the protestant origins of modern capitalism, there is little doubt that any society needs a set of ides or guidelines which introduces some measure of calculability into social interactions. Of course, these values change over time and people's actual behaviour has to be seen as an appproximation. In today's culture of "multi-optionalism", there are many examples which suggests that the further relaxation of moral norms, which undeniably had its benefits, is beginning to incur certain costs, which might threaten the stability of the system.

Gunmen raid Iraq health ministry "Deputy Minister Hakim Zamili told reporters by telephone that that gunmen were in positions outside the health ministry building in the Bab al-Muadham area and were opening fire." Internal disintegration

UK is 'European cocaine capital' "Almost 5% of young people in England and Wales have tried the drug in the last year, while use among all adults has almost tripled in the past decade. Use is up more than four-fold for 15 to 24-year-olds in the last 12 years." Internal discohesion Widespread drug use was reported in Ancient China during the time of the Opium Wars and during the collapse of the Inca Empire.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006
India and China 'to double trade' "India and China have pledged to double trade to $40bn (£21bn) a year by 2010 during talks between Indian PM Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao." International cohesion-organisation coupling

Nepal's civil war ends as Maoists, government ink peace deal "Impoverished Nepal entered a new era after Maoist rebels and the government signed a peace deal ending more than a decade of civil war that has claimed at least 12,500 lives." Internal re-cohesion/integration

Civil war in Lebanon "Civil war - the words on all our lips yesterday. Pierre Gemayel's murder - in broad daylight, in a Christian suburb of Beirut, his car blocked mafia-style by another vehicle while his killer fired through the driver's window into the head of Lebanon's minister of industry - was a message for all of us who live in this tragic land." Intern(ation)al disintegration Failures of authority in one part of a connected political system imply a failure of authority everywhere.

China's HIV/Aids cases jump 30% Evidence for China's accelerated decadence? (The "strong" dark age thesis is that China is not going to take over as the hegemon, as some expect, but rather the whole world is going to collapse into a deep dark age, after which anywhere could become the cradle of the next great civilisation. Africa, which is leading the world into the dark age, may one day lead the world out of it.)

Class trip to mosque blocked by parents | the Daily Mail "Headteacher Alex Clark said the religious education tour of Croydon Mosque was no longer "financially viable" after nine out of the 30 pupils were withdrawn, with several Christian parents saying they did not want their 10-year-old child to be exposed to a "religion that was not their own". " Internal discohesion Attitudes hardening. (It seems paradoxical that tolerance of Islam and rejection of Islam can both be discohesive, but anything other than a single culture with strong, monolithic beliefs is discohesive.)

Sexual bullying of teachers 'ignored' "Younger male and female teachers, in particular [are] seen as 'fair game' to some pupils to touch." Internal disintegration-disorganisation coupling It does not sound as though all is well in the nation's classrooms, though it is virtually impossible to evaluate this kind of claim. See also More schools judged 'inadequate'

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Archbishop - terrorism down to poverty - World - Times Online "The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, tonight blamed "economic powerlessness" for causing the frustration that feeds terrorism. He called on world leaders to become like monks and run their countries according to the sixth century Rule of St Benedict if they wanted to wipe out poverty, alienation, terrorism and social deprivation." The archbishop seems to be talking about disorganisation-discohesion coupling. Those who are not economically invested in the current world order have little incentive to wish it to be preserved. The call for a return to sixth century thinking is rather nice, the sixth century, of course, being in the heart of the last European dark age.

India and China 'to double trade' "India and China have pledged to double trade to $40bn (£21bn) a year by 2010 during talks between Indian PM Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao. Mr Hu also said the two sides would continue efforts to solve their long-running border disputes." International organisation and cohesion, perhaps with coupling there

States sign nuclear energy pact Pro-innovation Nuclear fusion work has been going on for over 30 years, with no breakthrough. Will this new initiative be any different?

U.S. is most unfriendly country to visitors, survey says "The survey showed that the United States was ranked "the worst" in terms of visas and immigration procedures by twice the percentage of travelers as the next destination regarded as unfriendly -- the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent....More than half of the travelers surveyed said U.S. immigration officials were rude and two-thirds said they feared they would be detained on arriving in the United States for a simple mistake in their paperwork or for saying the wrong thing to an immigration official." International discohesion Although America still remains a popular destination, the issue here has more to do with the accumulation of long term negative attitudes towards America by that segment of the world's population that travels (generally the more educated and affluent), and especially one would think among educated, and impressionable, university students and other young travelers.

Monday, November 20, 2006
Muslim women debate more rights "Organisers hope to use the event to launch the first international Islamic advisory council for women. Key to this, they say, is advocating greater rights for women while working within the Islamic legal framework." Discohesion? While few people will question the notion that European nations are facing a serious crisis with regards to their cultural identity, Islam is also undergoing a process of change.

Kidnappers seize Iraqi minister "Mr Saffar's kidnap comes less than a week after dozens of people were abducted from the education ministry." Internal disintegration

Drugs 'sub' seized off Costa Rica "The cocaine, with a street value of at more than $90m (£47.5m), was found in a makeshift submarine which could only submerge 2m (6ft) under water." International integration or disintegration? Drug barons resorting to desperate means or the police being outfoxed?

Reading confirms physics closure "Reading University's ruling council has approved a controversial proposal to close its physics department in 2010." Internal disorganisation Discarding scientific insight

Protests as Bush visits Indonesia "US President George W Bush has made a brief but controversial visit to Indonesia for talks with his opposite number, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Hundreds of protesters gathered in Bogor to complain about US foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, though no violence was reported." International discohesion In the 1960s, the US was widely admired around the world.

Woman loses fight to wear cross "A British Airways (BA) employee has lost her fight to openly wear a cross necklace at work at Heathrow. Nadia Eweida, 55, of Twickenham, has been on unpaid leave since her bosses told her she could not visibly wear her cross at the check-in counter." Internal discohesion Delegitimation of traditional culture, or does this imply a backlash? Why has cross-wearing become an issue just now? Mind you, Jesus did not have much time for those who make an overt display of their faith.

NASA mulls Moon strategy - CNN.com "NASA is set to roll out next month a U.S. national strategy for lunar exploration, one that outlines both robotic exploration needs and the rationale for sending humans back to the Moon. The space agency plan is a key component in the response to U.S. President George W. Bush's Vision for Space Exploration -- a call to action that he sketched out in early 2004." Pro-organisation (innovation) The future for humanity lies out in the solar system, and eventually beyond. When we are mining the moon and living and working in outer space, concerns like global warming and peak oil will seem utterly irrelevant. The question is, why the hiatus between the early 1970s and today? Even now, the plans seem vague and unambitious. Will they survive future budget cuts?

Pope prepares to visit Turkey "When Benedict XVI travels to Turkey next week on his first visit to a Muslim country since becoming pope last year, he is unlikely to cloak himself in the downy banner of brotherhood, the way Pope John Paul II did during his sojourn there 27 years ago. Instead, Benedict, 79, will arrive carrying a much different reputation: that of a hard-knuckle intellect with a taste for blunt talk and interreligious confrontation. Just 19 months into his tenure, the pope has become as much a lightning rod as a moral leader; suddenly, when he speaks, the whole world listens...Nobody truly expected Benedict to be a mere caretaker pope -- his sometimes ferocious 24-year tenure as the Vatican's theological enforcer and John Paul's right hand suggested anything but passivity -- but neither did church watchers expect surprises. They generally believed that he would sustain John Paul II's conservative line on morality and church discipline and focus most of his energies on trimming the Vatican bureaucracy and battling Western culture's "moral relativism."...But this year he has emerged as a far more compelling and complex figure than anyone had imagined. And much of that has to do with his willingness to take on what some people feel is today's equivalent of the communist scourge -- the threat of Islamic violence." International cohesion? Or will this turn out to be treated as a provocation?

China’s African Adventure "The I.M.F. forecasts that China’s trade with Africa will top $50 billion this year and could reach $100 billion by 2010. Over the last five years, sub-Saharan Africa’s growth rate has almost doubled, to 5.8 percent from 3 percent; economists attribute much of the increase to trade with China and other Asian countries." International disintegration (More precisely, a new hegemon emerging as the old one declines, so temporary disintegration, leading to re-integration later...at least if China pulls it off rather than prodding the world into a massive conflagration [the old hegemon will not give up without a fight].) The article describes the West's practice of lending money to African nations, and then demanding economic concessions as well as decreased public expenditures on African education and infrastructure to repay the loans when the Africans eventually default. The result: African economic disorganization and poverty. There then follows the inevitable garish charity drives by celebrities from the West's entertainment and political industries who make promises to Africa which are then quickly forgotten: according to DAT all contributing to, and prolonging, the African Dark Age. This is contrasted with the Chinese practice of "mutual investment": the Chinese build out Africa's infrastructure in exchange for natural recourses for which they are willing to pay high prices to secure long term supply. An interesting question is whether China's expanding economic influence in Africa will remain beneficial, whether it can eventually bring some measure of economic stability to Africa, and in the process displace the world's present and perhaps declining hegemon's influence on the African continent.***