China 3

“… as Xi Jinping turns China from a one-party state into a one-man imperium, everything matters. No detail is too small to sweat. No sympathetic politician too obscure to ignore. With opponents, Xi demands a gangster’s respect by unleashing retaliation out of all proportion to the original offence. China explodes at trivial examples of opposition a stable superpower would have the self-confidence to ignore.

… the Czech politician Zdeněk Hřib … discovered when he became mayor of Prague in 2018 that the city had committed itself to supporting Xi’s one-China policy, as part of an apparently harmless twinning agreement with Beijing. Hřib abandoned the policy because he was a liberal who did not agree with forcing Taiwanese people into a communist state against their wishes. In any event, he thought it ridiculous for a central European city to take a position on conflicts in the far east. China reacted as if he had declared war. It banned cultural contacts. Czech oligarchs with Chinese interests hired hack journalists and PR shills to attack him. Miloš Zeman, who was then the Czech republic’s Trumpian president, warned him and Prague of ‘unpleasant consequences’.

Today it is Lithuania’s turn. China is blocking imports and threatening multinationals with punishments if they do business with the tiny Baltic country, solely because it trades with Taiwan.

We should bother …”

aus: Nick Cohen: No friendly politician is too obscure for insecure China, not even Barry Gardiner. The Guardian online, 15.1.21, im Internet.


16/01/2022 (2:28) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“A whole new spectrum of dating behaviour has evolved on ‘the apps’. Habits that, while now common, are still odd things to do.

Someone might seem very interested but then ‘ghost’ or ‘orbit’ (which means they stop replying to messages but still engage with your social media content, liking your posts and photos); or tell obvious but seemingly unnecessary lies; another person might read ‘the riot act’ on a first date, sternly laying down their terms for how the relationship should progress; and there are endless stories about dates reacting bizarrely, even menacingly, if rejected. …

I did my own share of things which probably ended up being discussed in pubs. … I did it because I could get away with it. We didn’t know anyone in common. Who would he tell? …

A new book, The New Laws of Love: Online Dating and the Privatization of Intimacy, by Marie Bergström, … illuminate[s] a culture where dating is often so detached from their wider social network that the idea of mixing the two evokes panic. …

Many of the women she interviews say they prefer to use apps for casual sex and relationships to avoid judgment from their peer group. … ‘it is discretion rather than sexual assertion’ that makes these apps popular.

Meanwhile, the men she interviews frequently reveal themselves to hold startlingly conservative views about female sexuality. One says that when an attractive woman on Tinder propositioned him for a one-night stand he was so taken aback that he started ‘hallucinating’.

Bergström’s ‘privatization of intimacy’ doesn’t seem to have made dating any better. I realised too, while reading, that there is a strange, uncomfortable public side to all of this not covered in the book. It is now common for people to share screenshots of messages from strangers on dating apps on social media for public disapproval … I’d surely rather be gossiped about for sleeping with someone from my uni course.”

aus: Rachel Connolly: Apps promised a sexual revolution but they have just made dating weird. The Guardian online, 28.12.21, im Internet.


29/12/2021 (2:21) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::

Corruption 2

“All that is required for a corruption-friendly ecosystem to prosper is for those in power to have such a strong mandate that they can start assailing political norms without fear of punishment.

There is an Arabic expression that warns against the perils of an abundance of wealth: ‘Loose money teaches theft.’ Britain has the dubious honour of being the home of the loose money of the global rich, facilitating its movement through secret offshore companies, setting up entirely legal means to profit from these opaque transactions.

Taking liberties in office tends to work the same way. Loose power teaches corruption … That loose power broadly requires three further conditions to trigger misconduct – a craven or cowed press, a lack of what is seen as a viable political alternative and a large section of the public made quiescent, either through apathy or tribalism. Sound familiar?

Welcome to the global community of those living under corrupt governance. The good news is that you are not alone. The bad news is that, once corruption starts to set in, it becomes very hard to reverse. It becomes (this will also sound familiar to you), ‘priced in’ to people’s expectations of the political class, even institutionalised.

People in those other countries – the ones you more easily associate with corruption than your own – will explain the subtle evolution: what was before a furtive cash bribe that you needed to pay for a government stamp becomes an official fee that you are handed a nice crisp receipt for. What was before an outrageous grab of power from a democratically elected government becomes a legal process blessed by an election …

The unprincipled will not be shunned but enriched and honoured. The press will contradict what you have seen with your own eyes. Conspiracy theories will begin to flourish because everyone is in the business of making up narratives, so the truth becomes a matter of spinning and selling the most convincing lie. … It will begin to exhaust your sense of outrage and warp your sense of right and wrong.

Eventually what will begin to settle is a sense that you as an individual have no control, no matter how many freedoms – voting, protesting – you feel you can exercise. Those rights will feel like levers that aren’t connected to anything. And so you give up. The main political emotion I grew up with in the Middle East and north Africa was not that of suffering oppression, but of jaundice – a sort of cultivated cynicism that protected us against the despair of life under regimes that stole from us and then remade the rules in their favour.

I have felt this creeping up on me in the UK. It is an impulse that I recognise in the continuing support for the Conservatives, or the tepid resistance to them despite their proven malpractice, their endless scandals, their failure to deliver on what were once considered basic criteria for governments: that the state does everything it can to protect its citizens’ lives in a pandemic, and that most people’s material circumstances get better with time. Once the state withdraws from that role of honest broker and facilitator, the result is a fatalism: we must carry on and make do with what we have. …

Corruption in Britain lives in plain sight; it even follows the rules. We may not be Russia, but we don’t need to be for us to be in trouble. ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,’ Tolstoy wrote. The same applies elsewhere – every corrupt political system is corrupt in its own way. The end result, the collective unhappiness, is the same though.”

aus: Nesrine Malik: I have lived under corrupt regimes – the cynicism stalking Britain is all too familiar, The Guardian Online, 8.11.21, im Internet


08/11/2021 (11:12) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::

Britain 2

“… At the age of 13, after prep school, Cameron and Johnson progressed to Eton. I went on to Radley College near Oxford. The exact school picked out by the parents didn’t really matter, because the experience was designed to produce a shared mindset. They were paying for a similar upbringing with a similar intended result: to establish our credentials for the top jobs in the country. …

It is noticeable, and often noticed, that something immature and boyish survives in men like Cameron and Johnson as adults. They can never quite carry off the role of grownup, or shake a suspicion that they remain fans of escapades without consequences. They look confident of not being caught, or not being punished if they are. …

One of the first things we learned – or felt – at prep school was a deep, emotional austerity, starting from the moment the parents drove away. … We lost everything – parents, pets, toys, younger siblings – and we could cry if we liked but no one would help us. So that later in life, when we saw other people cry, we felt no great need to go to their aid. The sad and the weak were wrong to show their distress, and we learned to despise the children who blubbed for their mummies. The cure was to stop crying and forget that life beyond the dormitories and classrooms existed. Concentrate instead on the games pitches and the dining hall and the headmaster’s study. By force of will we made ourselves complicit in a collective narrowing of vision. …

This wasn’t healthy. In her 2015 book, Boarding School Syndrome, psychoanalyst Joy Schaverien describes a condition now sufficiently recognised to merit therapy groups and an emergent academic literature. The symptoms are wide-ranging but include, ingrained from an early age, emotional detachment and dissociation, cynicism, exceptionalism, defensive arrogance, offensive arrogance, cliquism, compartmentalisation, guilt, grief, denial, strategic emotional misdirection and stiff-lipped stoicism. …

We adapted to survive. We postured and lied, whatever it took. Abandoned, alone, England’s future leaders needed to fit in whatever the cost, and we were not needy, no sir. We could live without, and we convinced ourselves early that we had no great need of love, in either direction. Acting like a grownup meant needing no one.

Discouraged from crying out for help, frightened of complaining or sneaking, we developed a gangster loyalty to self-contained cliques, scared to death of being cast out as we had been from home. …

From the teachers we learned about mockery and sarcasm as techniques for social control … George Orwell, during his time at prep school, remembers being ridiculed out of an interest in butterflies. The banter that day must have been immense. Nothing was sacred, and once we found out what another boy took most seriously we were ready to strike, when necessary, at its core. Our most effective defence was therefore to act as if we took nothing very seriously at all. We learned to stay detached …

At school we tried not to feel foolish, angry, loving, stupid, sad, dependent, excited or demanding. We were made wary of feeling, full stop. By comparison, children not blessed with a private education must be fizzing with uncontrolled emotions and therefore insufferably weak. … – in the documentary Public School the boys casually refer to “the lower orders”, as if to a species difference, reptiles considering insects. In our isolation we learned that we were special. Everyone else was less special and often stupid – school was where we went, aged eight, to learn to despise other people. … As Orwell doubles-down in Nineteen Eighty-Four: “The proles are not human beings.” … We laughed at anyone not like us … later making us insensitive as witnesses to all but the most vicious instances of discrimination. Everyone who was not us, a boy at a private boarding school from the late 70s to the early 80s, was beneath us. …

In earlier generations, Orwell and others like him were exposed by war and other calamities to a seriousness that grew their stunted selves and tempered the isolated and ironic cult of an English private education. They were goaded by events into compassion, so that sooner or later, Orwell believed, even in ‘a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and silly’, England would brush aside the obvious injustice of the public schools.

The wait goes on. …”

aus: Richard Beard: Why public schoolboys like me and Boris Johnson aren’t fit to run our country. The Guardian Online, 8.8.21, im Internet.


08/08/2021 (18:18) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::

Asian Values

“Last year, ‘Asian values’ became the one-stop explanation for the success of countries such as China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam in controlling the virus. The west, many insisted, had paid for its individualist ethos by having populations refuse to obey the authorities, fail to wear masks or observe lockdowns.

Except that it has not quite turned out like that. … Tokyo is in its fourth lockdown and Covid cases are still rising sharply. … Less than a third of the population has been vaccinated and only a minority trust Covid vaccines. The only other nation so sceptical of vaccines is another east Asian country, South Korea. … All this puts a dent in the claim that Asian countries are particularly trusting of authority and exhibit a herd-like obedience.

Meanwhile, in Britain, 96% trust Covid vaccines. The supposedly highly individualist population has throughout the pandemic desired more restrictions than the government imposed. … Such attitudes are not peculiar to Britain. At the beginning of the pandemic, most European nations were highly supportive of lockdowns and other restrictions on personal freedoms, much to the surprise of the authorities. Trust in vaccines has increased in most European nations, including in France where, for historical reasons, there has been greater hesitancy. …

Far from there being a simple east/west divide, the global picture is messy in terms of attitudes, policy and outcomes. East Asian countries have disappointingly low vaccination rates, but the numbers of Covid deaths also remain low. Britain has a very high proportion of vaccinated people, but the numbers of deaths are very high …

This messiness reflects the fact that both responses to Covid-19 and the outcomes are the products of many factors. One reason many east Asian states were initially better prepared for Covid was their recent experience of similar diseases, especially Sars. …

Much of this complexity gets ignored in the drive to look for simple categories through which to view people and events and for simple divisions with which to explain the world. Many cultural developments in east Asian countries, from Seoul’s club scene to Japanese subcultures, belie the ‘conformist’ tag. Or consider that in comparing China and Taiwan the fact that one is authoritarian and the other democratic matters more than the fact that both have Confucian traditions. Ignoring that distinction allows many to portray authoritarianism as Confucianism. Nor is Confucianism the only philosophy in east Asian countries – it is simply the one with which western observers are most familiar.

Similarly, the idea that one can simply distil ‘western values‘ into individualism is as misleading as imagining that ‘eastern values’ are synonymous with conformity. …

Perhaps the most depressing consequence of the east/west myth is the belief that one can have only one or the other: that one can either be socially minded or believe in individual freedoms. The fallout from this kind of zero-sum thinking has been the distortion of ideas both of freedom and of social-mindedness. On the one hand, ideas of freedom and rights have been increasingly associated with the right and trivialised. When the refusal to wear a mask becomes seen as a heroic celebration of individualism, there is something deeply confused about the notion. Meanwhile, many sections of the left seem to have forgotten the importance of freedom to those who least possess it and have come to view community-mindedness as the imposition of greater restrictions.

There are clearly cultural differences between nations but to frame such differences in terms of ‘east v west’ is to ignore the reality. If the pandemic has revealed anything about values, it is that east and west are still struggling to work through the relationship between individualism and community-mindedness.”

aus: Kenan Malik: Can Covid death rates be reduced to a clash of values? It’s not so simple. The Guardian Online, 8.8.21, im Internet.


08/08/2021 (17:27) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::

Brexit 3

“There is a simple reason why Boris Johnson and European leaders failed to find common ground over Brexit at last week’s G7 summit. They are not even talking about the same thing.

For the British prime minister, Brexit is a matter of national character that cannot be described in legal documents. For continental politicians, legal texts contain the true meaning of a project that only exists in the real world as a set of rules to be implemented. To Johnson, the withdrawal agreement was a single-use tool for levering himself out of a tight spot. For Brussels, it is the chamber into which Britain levered itself.

That difference will continue to cause friction because it is not a misunderstanding. Johnson knows that legal arguments over the Northern Ireland protocol favour the European position. He chooses not to care. To concede on the principle that any part of the UK is subject to European regulatory standards – the compromise he signed to avoid a land border on the island of Ireland – would be to admit that a portion of sovereignty was conceded in the negotiations.

That would be a stain on his self-image as the man who made a clean break from Brussels. He finds confrontation more appealing, not least because he expects it to achieve more than compliance. Whether that is true depends on how you define achievement.

Johnson’s calculation doesn’t prioritise peace in Northern Ireland. … If Northern Ireland is on fire, any insistence from Brussels on maximum implementation of rules on sausage imports will look callous and disproportionate. …

That technique will not do much for Britain’s reputation abroad, but Johnson’s mind rarely strays far from his domestic audience, to whom he will explain that everything is the EU’s fault. His party and most of the media will endorse that interpretation, as it always has done. …

When Johnson’s critics say he must be held accountable for Brexit, they use that word to mean the process and cost of severing ties with Britain’s neighbours and losing frictionless access to their markets. That is the remainer definition, even when used by people who accept there is no remain cause left to fight. When Tories say “Brexit” they mean it in the wider sense of a cultural revolution, sustained by belief and national pride. …  The project’s goals are too abstract to be attainable in any economically useful sense – there are no new jobs in the sovereignty-manufacturing sector – so momentum is maintained by always reimagining and refighting the old enemy. …

This is the long tail of Brexitism – a political mode that has its genesis in the referendum but has evolved into something much wider. Its defining feature is the flight from complex reality to symbols and fantasy. …

Theresa May was broken by the attempt to divert the frothing stream of leaver demands down narrow channels of responsible statecraft. Her successor declared such restraint unnecessary, and then appeared to prove the point by getting a Brexit deal done. The trick was to sign the treaty without intending to honour it.

All who serve in the current cabinet have signed up to the Johnsonian code of conduct that makes evidence and truth subordinate to the performance of boosterism. … Real-world government is a sequence of arguments over what is available on current budgets and, if more cash is needed, who will pay. …

Brexit is not really a destination but a state of mind. It is not something that government can do, but a way of deferring all the things government should be doing but would rather not contemplate. …”

aus:  Rafael Behr: British politics is still drunk on Brexit spirit, and Boris Johnson won’t call time. The Guardian Online, 16.06.2021, im Internet


17/06/2021 (2:10) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::

Britain 1

“Part of the English disease is our readiness to ascribe our national disasters to questions of personal character. But the vanities of posh men and their habit of dragging us into catastrophe have much deeper roots. They centre on an ancient system that trains a narrow caste of people to run our affairs, but also ensures they have almost none of the attributes actually required.”

aus: John Harris: Britain’s overgrown Eton schoolboys have turned the country into their playground. The Guardian online, 2.5.21, im Internet.


02/05/2021 (23:49) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“Once, authoritarian states were symbolised by the Soviet Union, which was seen as lumbering, clumsy and sclerotic. Now, the model is China, which is nimble, strategic and fast. ‘The question is,’ said Biden, ‘in a democracy that’s such a genius as ours, can you get consensus in the timeframe that can compete with autocracy?'”

aus: Richard McGregor: Biden and Xi talk of a clash of civilisations. But the real shared goal is dominance. The Guardian online, 2.5.21, im Internet.


02/05/2021 (23:41) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“… de schijnbaar objectieve wereld van de universitaire rankings. Steevast staan de Britten en de Amerikanen erin op kop. … Vreemd, want mochten de Amerikanen superieur intelligent zijn, dan hadden ze Donald Trump niet tot president verkozen.”

aus: Rik Torfs: Waarom ik een lokale tripel niet zou willen missen. Knack, 29.11.17


26/02/2021 (16:36) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::

Revolution 4

“‘I always wanted successes in the near term, and with experience I’ve come to the conclusion that real successes need 25 years,’ he says. ‘Take a country like Ukraine: it had a number of revolutions, and they each failed, and now you had a free and fair election,’ he says …

In the 2004 Ukrainian election, exit polls conducted by a Soros foundation showed a very different result to the official count, and Viktor Yanukovych, who had ‘won’ the first vote, was forced to concede. He came back to power in 2010, before being toppled amid violent clashes in 2014.

These revolutions, Soros says, were inevitable but not sufficient. ‘Dictators, if they are successful, always go too far, because there are no checks and balances to stop them… The point comes where people who have been cowed into obedience rebel, and there’s a revolution. Revolutions generally don’t succeed. You need to develop institutions, which is what open societies are all about.’ In the past, Putin has blamed Soros for sparking unrest – something he denies, but in a qualified manner that would hardly reassure the Russian president. ‘It was the people of the country who rebelled,’ he says. ‘And I enabled them to do it by various steps that the foundations took, like reliable exit polls.’ It is this approach that has so exercised his critics: few authoritarians would feel threatened by the distribution of mosquito nets or emergency food supplies; but the funding of critical media, legal aid NGOs and minority rights advocacy groups is a different matter.”

aus: George Soros: ‘Brexit hurts both sides – my money was used to educate the British public’ Interviewed durch Shaun Walker, The Guardian online, 2.11.19, im Internet


07/12/2020 (0:03) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::
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