Velvet Hammer

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Today is the 15th anniversary of the beginning of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution. To mark the occasion, former president Vaclav Havel penned a Miami Herald op-ed (annoying registration required) that, among other things, defends the "moral dimension" of politics, warns about economic globalization and government bureaucratization and "mass conformism," calls for overhauling the United Nations, and ends with this to-do list for his fellow Europeans:

Therefore, unifying Europe should set an example for the rest of the world regarding how to face the various dangers and horrors that are engulfing us today.

Indeed, such a task, which is closely tied to the success of European integration, would be an authentic fulfillment of the European sense of global responsibility. And it would be a much-better strategy than cheaply blaming America for the contemporary world's various problems.

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  1. But perhaps the problem is deeper: global corporations, media cartels and powerful bureaucracies are transforming political parties into organizations whose main task is no longer public service, but the protection of specific clienteles and interests. Politics is becoming a battleground for lobbyists; media trivialize serious problems; democracy often looks like a virtual game for consumers, rather than a serious business for serious citizens.

    We also dreamed about a more-just international order. The end of the bipolar world represented a great opportunity to make the international order more humane. Instead, we witness a process of economic globalization that has escaped political control and, as such, is causing economic havoc as well as ecological devastation in many parts of the world.

  2. Geez. Just when you get hope from one paragraph, he does a 180 in the next.

  3. Oh, I don’t know. I think the evils he complains of in the second paragraph quoted are results of those in the first.

  4. “Instead, we witness a process of economic globalization that has escaped political control and, as such, is causing economic havoc as well as ecological devastation in many parts of the world.”

    Globalization that has escaped “political control” is causing “economic havoc,” eh?

    Let’s look at some facts:

    1) The world GDP is on a path to increase by 5% in 2004…that’s a per capita increase of 3.8%;

    2) The per-capita world GDP increase is the fastest in 30 years (and is certainly in the top 20 of 10,000 years of human civilization);

    3) The per-capita GDP increase of 3.8% beats the pants off the 2.3% per year average increase that occurred in the 20th century, which was by far the greatest century in history, in terms of world per-capita GDP growth.

    So I’d say, “Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of globalization!” If this be havoc, let’s have some more.

    P.S. And we’re likely to get more, too:

    http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2004/10/3rd_thoughts_on.html

  5. I agree with JohnS. We should encourage this kind of thinking among the Europeans, even if in small steps. And look at boobies, also.

  6. They’d all be better off if they learned to speak Chinese, I say.

  7. Everybody in the whole wide world would be better off if they learned to speak Chinese, or French, or Italian, or the dialect of the Znugiwnas in the Wishi-Washi hinterland. And they would make yours truely really really rich!

  8. EvilIRS,

    Everyone knows that they make the best porn in Europe. 🙂

  9. Mark,

    I definitely disagree with Havel that globalization in its present form results from a lack of “political control.” Rather, it is the result of political intervention to make overseas investment and trade artificially profitable at the expense of local economies.

    BTW, those GDP figures are almost meaningless. Much of the increase reflects economic activity that was previously conducted through subsistence or simple barter, outside the cash nexus. Because of concerted efforts to displace subsistence farmers, and compel the producing classes to enter the wage labor force, many economic transactions are monetized the previously were not.

    Back in the days of British rule, it was a deliberate policy of the colonial authorities not only to dispossess native people from their land, but to impose poll taxes that would require subsistence farmers to engage in wage labor to raise the tax money. So I’ll bet GDP was soaring back then, too.

    And if we ever have a society where a major part of our needs are met through local LETS systems that operate below the radar of the corporate state, I’ll bet the official GDP figures will start going down again. Here’s to a lower GDP!

  10. Jason Bourne,
    It is true that European porn may be more technically perfect, but aesthetically, it is lacking. Mustachioed Swedish men with bowl-haircuts should not ever be in porn.

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