Thursday, November 15, 2012

ON THE AVENUES: Idiot wind.

ON THE AVENUES: Idiot wind.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

America’s recently concluded election campaign proved yet again that we seem incapable of bipartisanship, but in one significant “absentee” sense we stand as one: Americans seldom pay the slightest attention to developments elsewhere on planet Earth – otherwise known as the place we all inhabit – until the moment our troops are headed to an isolated place stuck somewhere on the face of it.

Perhaps understandably, the campaign was ripe for fervent exclamations of American exceptionalism, birther lies, varied white male minority fictions, and numerous other USA-centric arguments about local matters on our own side of the planetary street. A discussion about the global economy and our place in it, contrasted with the advancing merits of localism and self-sufficiency, might have made an interesting topic for reflection. Unfortunately, apart from shared China bashing, it’s a discussion that didn’t occur.

It’s a given that we know almost nothing about emerging nations like Brazil, India and assorted locales in Asia. The African continent is just as mysterious to us now as it was when Kurtz sailed up the Congo, except for Libya’s current voguish usefulness as opportunistic right-wing propaganda, and who cares if a few tiny South Sea island sandbar principalities are swept away by rising tides?

Amid the political arm wrestling, we’ve missed plenty of noteworthy news items from abroad. Seeing as I’m a Europhile, I’ll focus there.

Most of what we’ve heard about Europe lately has been focused on the woebegone, profligate Greeks, and the pressing question of whether German taxpayers eventually will pay for recalibration even as the cradle of democracy emaciates itself back to fiscal rectitude. Paul Ryan will note that there is little interest on the continent as to Greece’s prospects for re-establishing an economy pushed back to the Stone Age by austerity – save for the unions and leftists marching as this column is being written.

Meanwhile, France elected a dangerous ideologue who genuinely is a socialist, as opposed to so many misbegotten right-wing caricatures of Barack Obama. François Hollande possesses a crazed tendency to speak about justice, workers’ rights and quality of life issues, and financial markets tremble in fear, lest the contagion spread from the Élysée Palace to a fast food chain outlet in the exurb outside Dubuque.

But give me Pere Hollande over Papa John, any day.

The former Soviet Union (now called “Russia” to everyone not named Mitt Romney, who evidently remains a devotee of hoary John le Carré novels) admittedly remains a cornucopia of governmental and societal dysfunction, with Vladimir Putin flipping job titles more often than Romney’s 2012 platform planks. Nowhere in the former USSR is everyday life worse than Belarus, where a one-party dictatorship has created its own super-majority by brutally suppressing dissenting voices, and enforcing political conformity the old-fashioned way: Job by job, block by block, school by school.

Any resemblances to beet-red Indiana, in the context of former Civil War states on the Union side gone Southern-fried totalitarian, are purely intentional.


These are small beer compared to a resurgence of European regionalism during these recent recessionary years, something we all might examine more closely, especially in the aftermath of Obama’s climactic re-election, as the tone of dispatches emanating from the American Right increasingly resembles those of South Carolinians following Abe Lincoln’s presidential victory in 1860.

You’re probably already aware that Belgium’s Flemish and Wallonian cultural and linguistic halves have been teetering on the edge of divorce for many years. Northern Italians see themselves as productive, modern and superior to the Mafioso-ridden southern provinces, and periodically make noises about splitting.

Spain for the Spanish? Not exactly, because many Catalonians fancy Barcelona as the capital of a Catalan free state.

While these continental peoples speak different languages and remain obscure to Americans, who generally speak only wretched English, there exists an example of an independence movement far closer to home in terms of white cultural legacies.

It’s Scotland.

Surprised? Don’t be, because the Scots will be holding a referendum on independence in 2014, and this is not a cultural autonomy proposal, but one that could enable full blown status as a separate country, following in the footsteps of Ireland a century ago, sans violence (we certainly hope).

Yes, the devil remains firmly ensconced amid future details, and each of these cases is different from the others. A full inquiry would be merited, and perhaps some day I’ll have time to do the necessary research. The overarching point, at least to me, is this: As people living in these places actively contemplate the implications of possible independence, few if any are advocating migration out of the larger, inclusive European Union. Flanders, Wallonia, Catalonia, Northern Italy and now Scotland are proclaiming blessed freedom … and future membership for themselves in the EU.

Talk about hedging one’s bets: A Scotsman eager to retain more of what remains of his North Sea oil wealth, so as to shield it from the grasping claws of Westminster, is not proposing to abandon the dreaded redistribution of wealth made possible by the EU. He’ll have his haggis, and eat it, too.


Perhaps this is why my eyebrow keeps arching as I hear the embittered voices of GOP voters screaming the secession word as they plot vengeance on demographic trends they regularly reject. It’s been surreal from the very outset, all these presumably “real” Americans turning back to the Confederacy’s dubious business model after all these decades, and only a considerable degree of weird, post-modern karma helps to explain why after several hundred thousand males, most of them white, died to preserve the Union and free the slaves, their ancestors now insist they’d be happy in opting to re-marginalize – in effect, oddly, to enslave themselves in a new “homeland” that would be the dumbest, fattest and most superstition-ridden imaginable.

Me? I’m delighted to discuss the prospects for their departure, but only after today’s new breed of secessionist recognizes that because it is they who seek to exit the federal structure, they’re the ones who’ll be forfeiting onerous government “handouts” like social security.

Military installations? I’ll be needing those back, as well. You keep telling me you’re armed to the teeth, and that’s fine, because you’ll not be keeping the jets. Remember to take plenty of shotguns when you defend your subsidized oil in the Middle East; them Hummers, they’se guzzlers for sure.

How many new secessionists will persist in D-I-V-O-R-C-E proceedings when it becomes clear that their own pensions are dependent on the combined weight of a modern industrial nation – you know, the manifest American destiny they cited by rote whenever challenged, right up until November 6, 2012, when the all-powerful God formerly on their side instead endorsed a solid victory by the Kenyan Islamic, and now, belatedly, their fortress turns out to have been not so damned mighty in the first place?

Of course, today’s secessionists are bluffing, pure and simple, although their clamor causes me to wish the nation had more wind turbines.

Energy sufficiency. That’s the thing, eh?

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