It’s become an unlikely YouTube hit. No, not sneezing pandas or puppies on skateboards…but Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges talking on C-Span for three hours about the triumph of the corporate state, the failure of liberals, the over-reaching of US empire, the cost of war, climate change, Christianity, the Occupy movement…everything really! Quite a performance. Posted online in January and it already has a quarter of a million views. Difficult to turn off once you start watching.
Herman Van Rompuy is thinking positive. He is staring into his mirror each morning, and repeating to himself: ‘I am a strong, confident, powerful currency. I am A TIGER!’ He’s so positive, he’s sent out a hefty tome called The World Book of Happiness to 200 world leaders, with this extraordinary letter. I’m quoting from the letter he sent to Barack Obama:
Dear Mr President Barack
I am very happy to present you with this copy of The World Book of Happiness…with my best wishes for a ‘Happy New Year’ but also with my request to you as world leaders to make people’s happiness and well-being our political priority for 2012 [um…what about preventing the catastrophic collapse of the euro? No?]
Positive thinking is no longer something for drifters, dreamers and the perpetually naive. Positive Psychology concerns itself in a scientific way with the quality of life. At stake are not only the happiness and well-being of individuals, but also those of groups, organisations and countries. And above all, in today’s global world we can all learn from one another. It is time to make this knowledge available to the man and woman in the street….
People who think positive see more opportunities, perform better, possess greater resilience, take more often correct and sound decisions [sic], negotiate better, have more self-confidence, maintain better relations, take greater responsibility, have more trust placed in them and so on. In short, they give more hope to others because they can experience it themselves. In order to release this positive energy, people need oxygen. Society can offer this oxygen. Positive education, positive parenting, positive journalism and positive politics play a crucial role here. This oxygen we can also create ourselves by a balanced existence or a religious or philosophical rooting.
[I love this paragraph. My favourite line is ‘to release this positive energy, people need oxygen’, though I also like the idea of ‘a religious or philosophical rooting’ – ‘rooting’ is a slang Australian word for shagging].
Why not address women and men from all angles of their multiple intelligence? [Why not indeed!]...By addressing men and women who are on a growth path, we all become better and happier people. We then do not turn every incident into a trend and every anecdote into a general truth. [You’ve lost me Herman]. As a consequence our governing will stimulate self-knowledge, reflection, sense of responsibility and commitment.
Positively inclined people see everything in its right proportions. [etc etc for a few more sentences.]
Happy New Year!
Herman Van Rompuy
Chairman of the European Council
Woohoo! I love his cheery upbeatness in the face of chaos. And quite a plug for the book itself. The author, another Belgian called Leo Bormans, blogs excitedly: ‘Will Barack Obama and Angela Merkel in the near future read in the World Book of Happiness before going to sleep?’ You betcha Leo!
Now, a cynic might suggest Herman is reminiscent of the conquistador hero of Werner Herzog’s movie Aguirre Wrath of God, who dreams of ruling over new empires while monkeys swarm over his sinking raft. But that’s a cynical thought. Think positive. Think Belgian. Find a happy place!
Here’s a piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal Europe about six months ago, about the effect of the internet on Russia’s stagnant politics:
In November 2010, Leonid Parfyenov, a well-known Russian journalist, took to the stage at a black-tie Russian television awards dinner. Visibly nervous, he embarked on a 10 minute critique of everything that was wrong with Russian media. The bravest print journalists are targeted with impunity, he said, while reporters on state-owned television are “no longer journalists, but rather state employees who worship submission and service”. No state television channel transmitted his remarks.
State control of television news is a core pillar of the so-called managed democracy that Vladimir Putin has built since he became president in 2000. As Mr. Parfyenov said in his speech: “News and life in general are categorized as [either] suitable or unsuitable news for television.” The state directly controls most of the national channels, and is suspected indirectly to control many others.
However, while television remains the main source of news for 80% of Russians, the internet is rapidly catching up. Internet penetration is soaring in Russia and it is a median that the state has little or no influence over. Social networking is on the rise and websites like Facebook and Twitter are becoming hugely influential forms of communication for more and more Russians. Continue reading
I was dismayed to read the Telegraph’s account of the Foreign Office’s forward planning for the collapse of the eurozone. Apparently, ministers are telling embassies to expect riots on the continent, and a flood of British citizens heading home for Blighty, in tubs and dinghies and pedalos. There was cheeriness from the FT’s Wolfgang Munchau as well, who wrote on Monday, in an upbeat piece called ‘The Eurozone only has days to avoid a collapse’:
If the European summit could reach a deal on December 9, its next scheduled meeting, the eurozone will survive. If not, it risks a violent collapse. Even then, there is still a risk of a long recession, possibly a depression.
The Guardian’s political blog tells me the Treasury is already ‘hard at work’ on a contingency plan:
They are losing sleep over fears of a run on the banks in Italy and some of the other troubled eurozone members. This is what one Treasury source told me: “The five to midnight scenario will be a run on the banks in Greece, Italy and Portugal. Spain is fine. There is already a drawdown from banks. But we haven’t got to a run on the banks yet.” [Why is this official so confident that ‘Spain is fine’?]
So what will happen if the unthinkable occurs and the eurozone does collapse? I’d like YOU, the well-informed Global Dashboard community, to tell me, so I can prepare in my London bunker.
Here are my rash predictions:
1) The further rise of far-right nationalist political parties and xenophobia towards immigrants. You’re already seeing this happen in Greece.
2) The Russian government exploits the power vacuum. I’m not saying Russian tanks will be rolling down the Champs Elysees anytime soon. But one of the main ‘points’ of Europe, it seemed to me, was to act as a collective bargaining bloc with Russia, and as a collective buffer against Russia’s imperialist ambitions. What happens when that buffer disintegrates? Keep an eye on the EU’s eastern border next year, particularly Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia.
Any other predictions?