FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Political Collapse: The Center Cannot Hold

Photograph Source: A refugee camp north of Goma near the Rwandan border by Julien Harneis – CC BY-SA 2.0

Have you noticed? From Hong Kong to Baghdad, Paris to Tehran, 2019 is shaping up to be, as the New York Times dubbed it, “the year of the protest.” Violent—and often deadly—anti-government protests are breaking out throughout the world in an unprecedented fashion, in rich countries as well as poor, as people everywhere are expressing their anger at corrupt, inefficient, brutal, and unresponsive regimes.

But what isn’t so much in the news is worse—worse enough that they don’t want to tell you. At the moment, there are no less than 65 countries are now fighting wars—there are only 193 countries recognized by the United Nations, so that’s a third of the world. These are wars with modern weapons, organized troops, and serious casualties—five of them, like Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen, with 10,000 or more deaths a year, another 15 with more than 1,000 a year—all of them causing disruptions and disintegrations of all normal political and economic systems, leaving no attacked nation in a condition to protect and provide for its citizens. From 2015 to 2019 more state-based conflicts were engaged in than at any time since World War II, with an estimated 1 million deaths in all.

In addition, there are at least 638 other conflicts between various insurgent and separatist militias, armed drug bands, and terrorist organizations, increasing each year as states fail or collapse completely.

What has made the wars and internal disputes even more egregious as the years go on is that chaotic weather has a direct effect on how societies function. Agriculture, of course, is impacted by higher temperatures, lack of rain, droughts, and wildfires, and crops have failed in many places over the last five years, including North and Central Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, northern China, northern Europe, Argentina, Brazil, Central America, and even parts of North America. The collapse of Syria, for example, and subsequent civil wars were made more devastating if not directly caused by the drought of 2006-2011, in which 75 per cent of the farms failed and 85 per cent of the livestock died. And an official United Nations report in 2019, by 100 experts from 52 countries, warned that things will only get worse, with the world’s land and water resources exploited at “unprecedented rates,” threatening “the ability of humanity to feed itself.”

One obvious consequence, beyond death, famine, disease and starvation, is, as the U.N. report’s lead author says, “a massive pressure for migration,” a desperate attempt to find some refuge and relief when homes have been destroyed and families are uprooted. According to the United Nations, in what I regard as a certain undercount, in 2019 there were 272 million migrants worldwide, up from 258 million in 2017, with the weather in 2019 causing more refugees even than warfare. (The unprecedented crisis at the U.S. southern border in 2019 is only one manifestation of the porous and chaotic collapse of boundaries across the Americas, Africa, and most of Asia.) And meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2018 estimated that more than 100,000 people are simply “missing,” a figure it admits “represents only a fraction” of those who are unaccounted for by any government or organization.

Given the turmoil over wars and immigration threats, it is not surprising that half the world is without coherent government.

Organizations that track these things say that of the 174 covered nations, 76 are in various stages of collapse—that would be 43 per cent—and that excludes a dozen smaller nations that are locked into autocracy and poverty. These include seven completely failed states—Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Venezuela—and another seven that are on the edge—Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Chad, and the Sudan—plus 19 that are in an “alert” category, meaning that some but not all government functions have failed, 15 in Africa and 4 in Asia.

In other words, many political systems in the world have effectively collapsed, people are dispossessed and without governments, and almost everywhere else, including the U.S. and Europe, governments are severely strained and political rifts abound. The vote for Brexit in the U.K., the election of Donald Trump (and the subsequent attempts to overturn it), the turmoil that erupted in December 2018 in France and Belgium, the continued protests in Poland were all examples of the population of developed nations coming to see that the attempt to establish capitalist-led democracies in an internationalist arrangement of benefit to corporate and banking interests just was not working, and a rising segment of what were called “deplorables” in America did not want any longer to be powerless, manipulated, and disdained. These turmoils also demonstrated that the established powers in these countries, especially the U.S. and Britain, resisted all of these attempts to change the status quo and in effect ignored or tried to thwart the popular will (cf. the “impeachment” farce)—the developed world’s form of the failed state. Those fissures have widened as the years have worn on, and as one astute observer, James Kunstler, put it in 2019, “The West is enduring paroxysms of political uproar and disenchantment.”

And here’s something weird that sums it all up. It is the opinion of two recent political scientists that “the state system seems to be failing all over the world,” and they have proposed a new study called “archy” to examine how to grow, maintain, and fund states so as to avert their collapse. No better evidence of the seriousness of the world’s “uproar and disenchantment” can there be when academics need to create a discipline to overcome it.

Yeats summed it up some years ago: “The center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Kirkpatrick Sale’s new book The Collapse of 2020 will be published in January.

 

More articles by:

Kirkpatrick Sale is the author of twelve books over fifty years and lives in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
Walden Bello
Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change
Jefferson Morley
On JFK, Tulsi Gabbard Keeps Very Respectable Company
Vijay Prashad
Standing Up for Left Literature: In India, It Can Cost You Your Life
Gary Leupp
Bloomberg Versus Bernie: The Upcoming Battle?
Ron Jacobs
The Young Lords: Luchadores Para La Gente
Richard Klin
Loss Leaders
Gaither Stewart
Roma: How Romans Differ From Europeans
Kerron Ó Luain
The Soviet Century
Mike Garrity
We Can Fireproof Homes But Not Forests
Fred Baumgarten
Gaslighting Bernie and His Supporters
Joseph Essertier
Our First Amendment or Our Empire, But Not Both
Peter Linebaugh
A Story for the Anthropocene
Danny Sjursen
Where Have You Gone Smedley Butler?
Jill Richardson
A Broken Promise to Teachers and Nonprofit Workers
Binoy Kampmark
“Leave Our Bloke Alone”: A Little Mission for Julian Assange
Wade Sikorski
Oil or Food? Notes From a Farmer Who Doesn’t Think Pipelines are Worth It
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of Vengeance
Hilary Moore – James Tracy
No Fascist USA! Lessons From a History of Anti-Klan Organizing
Linn Washington Jr.
Ridiculing MLK’s Historic Garden State ‘Firsts’
L. Michael Hager
Evaluating the Democratic Candidates: the Importance of Integrity
Jim Goodman
Bloomberg Won’t, as They Say, Play Well in Peoria, But Then Neither Should Trump
Olivia Alperstein
We Need to Treat Nuclear War Like the Emergency It Is
Jesse Jackson
Kerner Report Set Standard for What a Serious Presidential Candidate Should Champion
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Home Sweet Home: District Campaign Financing
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Latest BLM Hoodwinkery: “Fuel Breaks” in the Great Basin
Wendell Griffen
Grace and Gullibility
Nicky Reid
Hillary, Donald & Bernie: Three Who Would Make a Catastrophe
David Yearsley
Dresden 75
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail