Several items from around the blogosphere and the press that were of interest to me this weekend:
The first item is from Westhawk, who points us to an interesting little article from the British magazine The Economist: "The Fog of the New Cold War." The subject is Russia under Mr. Putin, which seems increasingly willing to “cooperate with rogues” as Westhawk puts it, to advance both Russian state interests and the interest of the little pro-Putin oligarchy that runs Russia. Guess who's winning: their gangster-capitalists, or our lawyer-capitalists ?
Then we have Wretchard, over at Belmont Club metaphorically going along with intrepid ABC reporter Diane Sawyer, as she goes to North Korea. Ms. Sawyer meets North Korean school kids, and rapidly discovers that they are a “a world away from the unruly individualism of any American school" and in fact that they are eager to tell you they're the happiest kids on Earth. You don't say ? Drop Dead Gorgeous Diane might as well be a space alien – and she evidently doesn’t comprehend it -- but she is. Anyway, the visitors from Mars are amazed that the Dear Leader's kiddos have no curiosity about an American news magazine, but she discovers that the kids know that Toy Story was produced in “a strange place.” Boy and how.
Meanwhile, back in cloud-cuckoo land. The New York Times reports that a Federal District Judge is presently considering a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against outgoing US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by -- get this – former US prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan who were allegedly tortured at Abu Ghraib and other places. That’s just a total howler. We’re at war with these people, for God sakes. They were in Abu Ghraib and God knows where else because we didn’t just throw them in a ditch and shoot them like Putin’s Russians or the Dear Leader’s North Koreans would have done.
Who are the oddballs here ? On the one hand we have the North Korean kiddos, clearly demonstrating the proper attitude towards their God-Emperor-Dear-Leader and his prison-house country, as kids everywhere in all times have done, like forever; along with the God-Emperor’s Muscovite friends, subjects of the local Don, who are using the state apparatus to enrich themselves, plunder the non-connected, and kill their enemies – a sort of behavior that’s also gone on, like forever.
Then on the other hand we have free-thinking techno-Americans from Mars who can’t believe the Dear Leader’s kids don’t care who Britney is, or about the Tom/Kat marriage; can’t imagine a world in which dissidents are made to glow in the dark; and who see nothing whatever wacko about letting our enemies use our courts to sue the state in wartime ? Tell me which group is certifiable-stark-raving-nuts-crazy ? No wonder we’re losing the war.
Which way’s the wave of the future ? I’m not being totally rhetorical: I have a child, and I’m trying to figure out which way to bet. I wonder if he will be privileged to live in the same cloud-cuckoo land you and I do, gentle reader ? I mean, throughout history, lying, cheating, stealing and killing, plus God-Emperor worship have all been SOP, and there's nothing new or surprising about it.
We American live in the cosseted, comfortable, connected techno-geek media age, and have been uniquely privileged to fence the unpleasantness and squalor of tyranny out. Our astonishment and horror at How the Rest Live is a privilege, not a right, nor something that is, in historical terms, even normal. We are shocked, shocked that poor Mr. Litvinenko died most horribly by (probably) the hand of his state, and that he could have powered our Christmas trees – and the trouble is, we really are shocked.
We seem to be the only ones who don't get it -- and we will continue as a culture, not to get it, as long as our relative material wealth and distance from everything else buys us immunity, and not a moment longer.