To keep true to the spirit of the times, The Outpost is moving to Substack.
Usability has been the main reason for the export.
Stay in touch!
See you at https://theoutpostreport.substack.com
reporting from the outskirts of the Empire
To keep true to the spirit of the times, The Outpost is moving to Substack.
Usability has been the main reason for the export.
Stay in touch!
See you at https://theoutpostreport.substack.com
Planetocracy, a recent discovery, on nuclear fusion and solar system economies: “(…) Going back to my original argument – the large scale behaviour of an extraterrestrial civilisation, as seen from a distance, will be governed by the ergovore i.e. by its fasting growing component, and as explained above solar will always be a faster growing component than fusion. (…)”
Another recent cool discovery, on robotics and linguistics: (…) As a case point very relevant to ideas of robotics and control, there are languages that do not have ways of expressing ideas in local coordinates. Speakers of Guugu Yimithirr only can express locations and events in the context of global coordinates: North, south, east, and west.(…)”
Sonya (supposedly)’s latest installment is as evocative as usual; it’s full of cool links aswell: “(…) Even if I could have known in advance how much I’d change, we’d all end up in the same places, saying the same lines. (…)”
Some #realtalk from Real Life Mag: “(…) Choices in life become “gambles,” as one scrambles to find bits of work or the big payout that would allow one to escape the condition of alienated work altogether, and our knowledge and skills become like assets that we must plan to increase the value of and deploy for high returns as performance in this arena is individualized.(…)”
Good stuff to now about Bayraktar Diplomacy in the reignited Afghan scenario: “(…) Based around small-footprint interventions that seek to maximise both political and military impact at low financial and humanitarian cost, Bayraktar Diplomacy essentially constitutes a new type of warfare that is uniquely suited to the characteristics of modern-day conflicts. (…)”
Despite the meme of the World entering a New Cold War is becoming every day more widespread, the question of who is who is just becoming intelligible. Communists and Capitalists of the last century enjoyed the clarity of formal alliances: NATO, on one side; and the Warsaw Pact on the other. And, to top it off, the starkness of the Berlin Wall: a concrete symbol (pun absolutely intended) the liquidity of our current state of affairs does not provide.
Russian adventurism in its near abroad during Putin’s stay in power has distracted the American Empire for two decades now. Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, Syria… Western mandarins have failed to provide a coherent narrative for this activity: Nostalgic Revanchism? Duginistic Eurasian Manifest Destiny? The rapacious policy of a failing Mafia-State? There might (or might not) be a grain of truth in all of those, but none of these memetic frameworks has the potential to truly mobilize anybody.
And besides, Westerners of the “patriotic” kind won’t be easily persuaded to go die again in places like Afghanistan. If anything, flyover country, red-blooded Americans find it difficult to dislike Mr. Putin’s 007-esque antics. People who admire the likes of Chesty Puller or George S. Patton rarely care much for the values the US Armed Forces are trying to adopt lately.
For today’s news consumer, there’s a more marketable dichotomy between USA and China. The myth of two huge empires always on the brink of apocalyptic destruction resonates deeply in a generation longing for a transcendent conflict. Thucydidean narratives of falling and rising powers make for a clean, easy-to-understand story endlessly (and often mindlessly) repeated by pundits and politicos. It sounds original the first time you hear it and, as with Russia, there might be a grain of truth in it after all.
We love the stories of Athens and Sparta in this blog, too. And, although the movie 300 tried to claim Spartanity for America, it just could not work. Washington DC is just the Constantinople to London’s Rome, and England was always a nation of shopkeepers.
As the Soviet world before it, China has a marginally better claim to the Spartan myth: austere, disciplined, rigid, and proud. The men who fought in China’s 22-year-long civil war and endured Mao’s Long March probably fitted, at least somewhat, the soldier-peasant archetype that made Laconian warriors famous. Is this true for the modern Chinese citizen? Difficult to tell.
What remains true is that Sparta has always fascinated political thinkers, and that political tides have often tried to tap onto its memetic potential – modern China included. There’s something attractive about Sparta’s supposedly competent, trusty, and rigorous nature. And often, this attraction is not only felt by the warrior castes, but also by Brahmins. Love affairs between the intelligentsia and authoritarian regimes are an old tradition, Socrates’ support of Sparta itself being the trope codifier.
There’s something about the cleanliness of discipline, seriousness, and proficiency that appeals to the intellectual. Chinese reputation for meritocracy and for the qualities outlined above has made Sinophilia something of a high-status opinion. Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, as controversial as it appeared, reflected the longings of the American ruling class for a call to excellence.
American-style liberal democracy, with its values of individuality and self-expression, is seen by some as vulgar and complacent at best. At worst, it is perceived as leading to a tyranny of the masses, and a lowest-common-denominator mentality. That the offspring of accomplished, millionaire technolords study mandarin has already become a cliché. Faced with prevalent dysfunctionality, many capable people are ready to welcome their new Chinese Overlords.
Others still see value in the American dream of independence and self-reliance. They believe China’s sclerotic bureaucracy will eventually crumble under its own weight, and think it can’t keep growing without losing its tight grip on its population. In contrast, rugged individualism makes the American system chaotic and inefficient, but ultimately more resilient. Of course, there’s some truth in that, too.
But perhaps, everything is just more of the same. Maybe, just maybe, there’s no Athens and no Sparta anymore, and we are ruled by the same System: a dark accelerating force, pulling from the Future to usher the Age of the Bugman. After all, the Western CEO does not own the company he works in any more than the Chinese party bureaucrat owns his chair. Both survive by managing a small part of a mechanism much larger than themselves, only while certain conditions are met, and usually under an important surrender of personal freedom.
Are forced vaccinations and Facebook thought-police really that different from the Chinese Social Credit System? The joke goes that the Communist Party of China spies and brainwashes on its citizens, but at least they realize it. There was a time one could pretend the West was any different.
There is, as we can see, a kind of convergence between China and the West. We could even say this convergence is more pronounced in Western elites. Is it contempt or envy, what they feel for the Middle Kingdom? Its credentialist system of competent bureaucrats sounds like a New York Times wet dream. Its productive capacity marvels the world. And guess what, despite tariffs and covid, trade is booming.
The real nightmare is to realize we’re not in late Capitalism, but in its early stages. Zooming out, it is possible that we’re in fact seeing the early stages of a global system. The two apparent rivals are in fact two appàratuses of the same organism. A conflagration does not happen because of their mutual dependency, a phenomenon that is well described by everybody, but never explained. Here, we suggest it’s because they are two legs (fins?) of the same Leviathan in the room.
You better believe in Revelations because Salvation is not coming from either side of the Pacific.
Isegoria provides sources on the curious absence of Nepalese famous runners: “(…) Kenya’s long-distance runners live at altitude, David Epstein notes (in The Sports Gene), but some people ask, “If it’s just the altitude, where are the runners from Nepal?” (…)”
Doxometrist interviews Rupert August on the subject of prisons:”(…) You said that prisons are really a waste on every front, a waste of space, a good night watchman and the prisoners skills. You also mentioned that violence can be made useful. That’s your motivation for the improvements to the current prison paradigm. Let me start with this question – any such system needs to fill some border conditions, right? (…)
Palladium magazine provides insight on The Myth of Panic: “(…) Why this fear of panic? What would have been wrong with allowing the public to feel afraid? Contrary to Lightfoot’s reassurances, there was a reason for the citizens of Chicago—and the rest of us—to “be fearful.” Yet leaders on both sides of the Pacific, at both the local and national levels, among both the politicians and the opinion-makers, were determined to keep their people as far away from fear as possible. (…)”
StreetView documenting the pandemic: “(…)The occasional, anticipatory mask is visible behind a de-identifying face blur. Based on the number of people stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, hunched over their phones, texting manically, one assumes these photos were taken during the first week of March, when wealthy Americans began to plan their escape. (…)”
We noticed a little bit late, but here’s an interesting post by Justin Murphy on St Augustine: “(…) The implication is that adopting allegiance to the correct belief-and-practice stack matters more with the onset of the digital revolution than before the digital revolution. Choose correctly and you spiral upward (the City of God), choose incorrectly and you spiral downward (the earthly City). (…)”
Great stuff from Covidian Aesthetics, as always: “(…) Thus is why memes, in the Spinozian sense, are the virus of the attribute of thought; in the same way that real viruses are material contagion for the attribute of extension. (…)”
Niccolo Soldo interviewed Curtis Yarvin last week, possibly at a secluded, secret outpost in Agrigento, Sicily: “(…) People think the Empire is young and has just been born because they are used to all the heinous ways it has violated them in the past. When the GAE starts to penetrate them in some new orifice they are briefly shocked and revolted, but they take the saggy, worked-over state of all their other holes for granted. (…)”
Interesting article on Chinese mercenaries in Africa: “(…) China wishes to maintain a discreet military presence in Africa and avoid at all costs being seen as a new colonial power. The PSCs may be the tool it needs to prevent the defense of its citizens and assets from forcing it into military interventions that, for the time being, remain out of its reach. But it is to be feared that the increase in military aid and private security may lead Beijing to move away from its principle of non-interference. (…)”
Always interesting pearls of knowledge from Isegoria: “(…) I was reading Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution, when the tech billionaire advising the White House asked our protagonist, “Are you familiar with John Gardner?” (…)”
Tundranaut provides this fascinating insight on unplaces: “(…) Kalder contemplates a lost work where he documents America’s parking lots. Not high-drama parking lots with drug deals, gangs, and lost souls who huff solvents, but places “where people left their vehicles behind” in order to “experience somewhere else.” In other words, unplaces, and “transitional zones of nothingness” that constitute neglected corners of the urban landscape… (…)”
Here you can find two (1,2) cool book reviews by EvolutionistX, about the fascinating topic of German-Ottoman collaboration during the Great War: ” (…) With the war finished on the Western Front, the remaining British and French forces so outweighed the small Arab force that they more or less dictated the terms of the settlements with the Ottomans. The Arab troops were helpful for distracting and worrying Turkish troops during the war, but once the fighting was over, their utility was spent. (…) “
Those interested in philosophy should check out James Simpkin’s articles, such as this one: ” (…) Instead, coupling negative capability with Nietzsche’s perspectivism allows Nietzsche’s nihilism to be conceived of as his artistic leitmotif, his jumping off point for his artistic-philosophical project without it actually having to be a statement of fact. (…) “
Beautiful thoughts expressed in Eternal Agriculture by Counterengineer: “(…) The foundation of the Eternal City is the family farm. (…)”
Niccolo Soldo’s Dubrovnik interviews, like this one to Mike Cernovich, are as hilarious as the Kinshasa series: (…) Those who begin revolutions rarely end them. Usually those on the vanguard are executed or exhausted, then the managerial class steps in. (…) Men in general should stop watching mafia movies. Life isn’t Goodfellas or Scarface, and you’re not Don Corleone. (…) “
Justin Murphy presents the bullish case for Urbit, an innovation we have been curious about for some time: “(…) I went through all the objections on Hacker News and many of them boil down to “So it’s just a glorified personal server?” or “You can already do this with X, Y, or Z.” I would reject all objections of this type because what’s crucial is not particular technical affordances but a system that can link technical affordances and a brand that can channel collective social energy into a network effect. (…)”
Yersinia pestis is a Gram-negative, non-motile, stick-shaped bacterium. It enjoys vacationing in damp places, riding fleas, and unleashing God’s Wrath on Humanity. The disease it causes, plague, still holds a remarkable grip on culture as the archetypal deadly epidemic. This is partly due to its severity and spectacular symptoms, but also because during the course of History, it has been the cause of various pandemics, all of them originating in Central Asia and spreading fast to Africa and Europe. It is, thus, the quintessential disease of the Old World: a dark barbarian demon, unleashing periodic destruction over civilization like an inscrutable and violent god.
There have been, at least, three high-impact plague pandemics. The first was the Plague of Justinian, which hit the Byzantine Empire in 541 BC. The disease killed off a good 25% percent of the continent’s population, according to some estimates. It spread quickly through Europe, perhaps thanks to Justinian’s globalization efforts, the Renovatio imperii which sought to recover lost Western Roman territories for a unified Empire. Procopius of Caesarea offers in his Secret History some fascinating anecdotes indicating that epidemics, despotic rule, and a venal public life are nothing new under the sun. Rulers do not rise to the occasion, but sink to their natural state.
As a result of the plague ravaging the countryside, agricultural workforce diminished and the price of grain rose astronomically. When confronted with the low tax revenue caused by the massive death toll, Justinian simply made the survivors liable for the part owed by their deceased neighbors. He also made himself inherit a lot of the victims’ property, a measure we commend Procopius for criticizing.
As plague spread around the Mediterranean basin, geopolitical balances were overturned; the Byzantines, who had been close to reuniting the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, were crippled in their restoration efforts. Although the Mediterranean’s Western shores were finally conquered in AD 554, the reunification did not last long. The Goths, who had been pushed back, regrouped and recovered forces. The New Normality of Germanic rule had been firmly established. The transition from Ancient to Medieval Europe was well underway, a Dark Ages version of the Great Reset.
However historically relevant, Justinian’s plague was superseded by a deadlier pandemic 800 hundred years later. This one is probably the most iconic, and was given a name with enormous memetic potential: the Black Death. It started in 1347 and killed off, according to some estimates, between 30 and 40% of Europe’s population.
It is generally agreed upon that the Black Death’s horrible impact was due, in part, to the urbanization process which characterizes this time period. Political, social and economic stability, coupled with improvements in agricultural technology, had led over the centuries to a rising population, and a blooming urban class that lived of trade and manufacture: the bourgeois. Epidemiologically, large interconnected nodes with many people living in them are a recipe for disaster, and this is exactly what happened. Obviously, crowded towns trading with each other caused the disease to spread faster than it would have in a low-density, poorly communicated wasteland.
According to the Progressive mythology, which apparently bases its knowledge of the Middle Ages on Game of Thrones and Monty Python sketches, the Medieval Period was indeed the Dark Ages™: an era of filth, poverty and religious obscurantism. People died of plague because they slept with rats, didn’t bathe, tried to pray away disease, et cetera. This belief neglects the fact that Medieval Europe inherited and developed Roman bathing culture, with soap being a burgeoning industry. Although truly effective sanitary practices were still far down the road, people were not exactly rolling in faeces either.
In fact, arrogant medical establishments are not a recent phenomenon. Rulers have always been corrupt, and academics have always tended to (wrongly) dismiss common-sense. It was the first generations of University-educated physicians who, in Early Modern times, advised against bathing. According to the scientific reasoning of the time, water opened up pores and allowed foul miasmas to enter the body and bring disease. A delicious irony; but we digress.
The thing is, the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages, of which the pandemic was a critical factor, signalled de implosion of a certain Medieval statu quo. It led to all kinds of strife: social, religious and economic. It changed production relations and political forms, and modified the demographic texture of Europe. People -and power- were transferred from a distributed network based on lord-vassal relations to centralized absolutist courts, located in a handful cities which remain power centers even today.
Although urban centers were hit the hardest by the pandemic in terms of mortality, it was the countryside where changes were felt the most. Lacking manpower, the feudal system entered an unstoppable downward spiral. Many belonging to this old agro-military elite, those who were clinging at the edge of the leisure class, simply disappeared, victims to war, famine, and poverty. The survivors reaped the leftovers, accumulating wealth. Titles of nobility became accessible to the bourgeois, who bought them and became rentiers. The City had finally become the center of power. Great Reset II: Renaissance edition was underway.
As a side note, it is a sobering fact to consider that more time passed between Justinian’s Plague and the Black Death, than between the latter and the Current Year™. History has its patterns: the Black Death most likely originated in China and spread to Europe through Italian ports. For a while, it was hypothesized that it might have been caused not by a bacteria but by a hemorrhagic fever-inducing virus, like Ebola. The theory seems to have been abandoned as of late, and there’s even some evidence suggesting that it may not have come from the Far East, after all.
In any case, the third great plague pandemic did originate in China in 1855, also spreading globally due to improved transoceanic communications. This time it caused more than 12 million deaths, a comparatively low number probably reflecting improved hygienic practices in Western cities. Better than those of the 1340s, that is; 19th century European cities were the nightmarish hellscapes that inspired the likes of Dickens or Dostoevsky, after all. How do they compare to the sanitary conditions of a modern slum in a Third World Mega-City? For now, we leave that as an exercise for the reader to ponder.
Due to the many unpleasantries of the 20th century, many of the effects of the social and political consequences of the Third Great Plague went unnoticed or have been mostly forgotten. The Great Reset (episode 3!) was subtle. It came by indirectly catalyzing the most important historical process of the past 100 years: decolonization. Due to widespread availability of Western medicine, governments worldwide, from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires and from Cape Town to Glasgow, had access to the same measures to combat the disease. The key was found to be not the isolation of infected human carriers, but the elimination of the rodent and flea vectors.
Despite similar approaches, the results accross the world were wildly different. Metropolitan administrations in Europe and the US succeeded. Most colonial enclaves, however, failed to convince indigenous populations to accept lockdowns and other Western practices. In many places, after early backlash, authorities quickly resigned to sit back and watch the epidemic burn itself out. This led to dismal loss of life in places like India or South Africa: the early cracks of the British Empire. The Crown could not protect its subjects, and another nail was hammered in the coffin of the White Man’s Burden.
The lopsided impact of the plague made evident, and perpetuated, the inequalities between the metropolis and its overseas territories. The World Health Organization declared the pandemic over by 1960. By then, new cases were only being declared in what soon would be called the Third World, a fact which has remained true until nowadays.
Plague has always spread to other continents by traveling in its preferred animal reserve: the rat. Actually, any rodent that lives in close proximity to humans will do, but the rat is so linked to Humanity’s vicissitudes, that it has become a symbol of disease, filth, and immorality. Its fast rate of reproduction and tendency to cannibalism and aggression made it a synonym of promiscuity and sin to medieval eyes, and this reputation has not changed much since then.
As ultimate urban survivors, rats have the connotations of a certain ethos attributed to crowded urban life: grey, dirty, anonymous, and corrupt. The connection between them, cities, and a degenerate existence is an ancient, perpetually evolving meme. Interesting iterations range from German folk tales about the Rattenkönig to 1984‘s iconic torture scene or neoreactionary musings on “IQ shredders” and the “rat race”.
Interestingly, this contempt is not made extensive to all rodent house pests. There’s plenty of heroic mice in fiction; rats, though, are almost universally bad news. Mice help trapped lions, rescue orphans, and generally save the day. They are adventurous, cute little creatures, willing to take risks despite their lowly status in the Animal Kingdom. Rats, in contrast, are dirty, brutal, often vicious gangsters. More powerful than their mousely brethren, they appear as a sort of jungian shadow on steroids: tough, cunning, and willing to survive by any means necessary.
Thus, while the Country Mouse is a trope as old as Aesop, rats exist in culture as cosmopolitan, rootless vermin. The Country Mouse highlights the simple virtues of rural life, whereas the Rat lacks any wholesome connections to the land. “City Rat” is not a clearly identifiable meme, but it doesn’t spark any particularly positive feelings. The closest term, Hood Rat, is mostly pejorative according to the Urban Dictionary, with racist connotations added as a bonus.
At the root of this divide, one can find echoes of a reactionary narratives of the Industrial Revolution: that of Ancien Règime farmers who left the countryside to become proletarian factory workers in the Industrial Revolution. The healthy, swarthy complexion of the peasant replaced with the black and the red of coal and tuberculosis. The transformation from farmer to worker was thus portrayed as a degradation, directly leading to the totalitarian devastations of the 20th century. The natural answer is, of course, to “Reject Modernity, Retvrn to Tradition”; Tradition being an ideal past decade somewhere between the 1490s (for hardcore radicals) and the 1980s (for normie redpillers).
These superposed counterpoints of Urban vs. Rural and Rat vs. Mouse, when approached as a dichotomy, remain a solid populist memeplex in societies where this division is stark, such as most Western ones. In 2016, Based Flyover Deplorables against Satanic Coastal Elites is the obvious American example, but there are undertones of this in other contexts, the French gilets jaunes uprising being a particularly notorious one.
More or less explicitly, populist sentiment in economic peripheries all accross the West exemplifies this phenomenon. The definition of “Periphery” being expanded to accomodate not only the heavily subsidized countryside, but (post)industrial wastelands aswell. Forming a newborn Center, supra-state Bureaucracies and multinational corporations have been sharing interests for a very long time. Woke Capitalism is just one of many current iterations, like Big Tech or the Military Industrial Complex.
The looming conflict was obvious to anyone paying attention even before the 2008 financial crisis. In this very prescient article we can see how European “Cosmopolitans” have been worrying for a while about “Nationals”. It was first published in 2000, which makes it older than the Iraq War (2003) and Facebook (2004).
Here at The Outpost, we have already explored some of the characteristics of this Capitalist – Communist vector. Reactionary Socialism and all its ressurrected forms have never been more than a temporary hindrance to this Revolution: a stabilizing force. From this standpoint, the Mouse vs. Rat dichotomy starts to feel a bit outdated. The current state of affairs lends itself better to dialectic models than to such a static comparison.
What would be the model rodent for the next phase in this paradigm? It certainly does not dwell in country cottages nor filthy city sewers. Perhaps it’s something like the Lewis Rat. Docile, crowd-tolerating, disease-prone and sterile. Far removed from its badass ancestors, it lives its life (happily?) in a controlled environment, looking for dopamine hits and unvoluntarily participating in occasional, sometimes deadly drug experiments. The mouse’s bold merit and the rat’s gritty struggle for survival are equally alien to it. Its existence is a simulation, and its fate is always a quickly forgotten death.
It makes sense, then, that in this age of deep fakes and simulacra, we should rely on ersatz-plague as motors for change. The real thing is just too much. SARS-CoV-2 is a relatively mild pathogen, when compared to the Yersinia pestis. The world, however, is now more labile than ever to such disturbances; Covid is an opponent worthy enough.
The Third Plague already had a globalized response when information was still running through telegraph lines. Today’s communications have made planet Earth ridiculously small. The effects of any
released bioweapon lab leak wet market outbreak are felt accross the globe in real time. Thus, coronavirus has become the final ingredient for the engine of Revolution to reach positive acceleration again. It has become a line of flight for the assemblage of Western realities. Soon shifting to the next gear will be inescapable: a new Great Reset, this time named explicitly as such.
What is to be expected? Perhaps Bruce Sterling said it best when he summarized cyberpunk as this: “Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a human being. And we can do most anything to rats.” Luckily, runaway rats do exist. After all, lab leaks seem to be all the rage this days.
A remarkable blog post on the meaning of life: “(…) The stories of our heroes select for meaning – for the kinds of stories that scratch a certain human itch. They project a narrative simplicity backwards onto lives full of false leads, crises and dead ends. They gloss over long periods of despair, the noise of randomness, the elements of chance, and personal and moral failings to tell the story of someone special who carried out a special mission. (…)”
Isegoria, on why there are no biographies of Xi Jinping: “(…) Many people fell for the delusion that China was nominally Communist but sliding inexorably toward greater freedom. (…)”
The case for US Civil Affairs-led Special Operations in Africa: “(…) In the scope of Great Power Competition, SOTF-NWA competes in the under-governed spaces of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger as a part of United States Government efforts to protect our nation’s influence and interests in the face of aggressive expansion by competing nations. (…)”
Cool African story to stick with this week’s apparent theme: “(…) on the 6th of November the two Su-25UBs bombed and rocketed a clearly marked French peacekeeper camp in Bouaké. The resulting tragedy claimed the lives of nine French soldiers and one American missionary, with dozens more soldiers injured. Then, in what can only be described as an act of sheer lunacy, the mixed Belarusian-Ivorian crew of the Sukhois returned to Yamoussoukro airport, which they now happened to share with a very angry bunch of French paratroopers (…)”
An exciting exoskeleton project for ski touring: “(…) We tend to think of wearable robotic devices as complex machines that work best in controlled environments. A snow-covered mountain is hardly the environment one imagines for this technology. The striking imagery pushes the envelope on the potential applications for exoskeletons. (…)”
Following the money that funds our Brave New World: “(…) What the bankers and giant investment funds like BlackRock have done is to create a new investment infrastructure that picks “winners” or “losers” for investment according to how serious that company is about ESG—Environment, Social values and Governance. For example a company gets positive ratings for the seriousness of its hiring gender diverse management and employees, or takes measures to eliminate their carbon “footprint” by making their energy sources green or sustainable to use the UN term. (…)”
On the ubiquity of American Special Forces: “(…) The advent of nuclear weapons, in the 1940s, presented leaders with urgent ethical and strategic imperatives. Defining the purpose of such weapons automatically demanded fresh thinking about the bedrock values of a democracy, the nature of multilateral alliances, the morality of warfare, and the scope of U.S. ambitions in the world. Because of its sub-rosa nature, Special Ops has not compelled the same kind of reckoning—and, in fact, may foster the illusion that a strategic framework is not necessary. (…)”
We somehow missed this great month-old post at Violence Cafe: “(…) The anonymous image-board takes this a step further as identity wholly ceases to be a factor, and mass communication happens at previously unthinkable speeds. Marshall McLuhan’s‘the medium is the message’ is particularly applicable in such a space: Where all voices are equal and constantly vying for attention, the primary incentives are to impress or transgress: sexually, violently, intellectually— ideally a combination of the three (…)”
On Intersectional Imperialism, by Alex Rubinstein: “(…) Glorification of the conquests by Kurdish forces in Syria reached a fever pitch during the Raqqa campaign. One group was established, which now has its own Wikipedia page despite it’s actual existence being dubious, by foreign queer anarchists called the “The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army.” While the historic city of Raqqa was being destroyed to the tune of 70 percent, these feel-good headlines about a supposedly revolutionary and inclusive alternative to statism that the Kurdish fighters and their allies represented dominated the narrative on the left. (…)”
Niccolo Soldo’s African interviews are always hilarious, including this one to Christopher Rufo: “(…) Christopher Rufo is one of these modern outlaws. Initally a documentary maker, his life recently has taken him down another, much more difficult route: challenging the intellectual basis of today’s American elites, that being Critical Race Theory. He has been credited with singlehandedly putting opposition to this trend on the political map by way of influencing President Trump to issue an Executive Order halting its instruction inside of federal agencies. (…)”
Last year marked record numbers of illegal immigrant arrivals to the Canary Islands, Spain’s Atlantic exclave off the Moroccan coast. More than twenty thousand irregular entries occurred, completely overwhelming the system. The last time this happened in such a scale was in 2006, when similar numbers reached the Canarian shores, in an episode known as the Cayuco Crisis, cayucos being the kind of ill-equipped canoe used by immigrants.
In many senses, Spain was a more influential country then than it is now. Prime Minister José María Aznar had joined George W. Bush’s global neocon axis, becoming an enthusiastic ally in the latter’s Middle Eastern campaigns. Post-financial crisis disillusionment and perpetual emergency states were not a thing yet. Global pandemics were only a hypothetical risk, usually ranked beneath terrorism and drug trafficking in the annual security concepts published by Western governments. SARS-CoV1 had been overcome a couple years before: the world was optimistic.
Coronavirus has been one of the main reasons for the current surge on immigration, something not entirely unexpected. After all, many industries have been shattered by lock-downs, and men who once earned a living as fishermen, laborers or menial workers have gone out of work. In the regions of upstream in the migratory process -Senegal, Mauritania, Mali-, often lacking the security nets Western welfare States provide, this has an enormous economic impact. The dismal economic data from Europe doesn’t sound as bad in comparison, triggering the migration wave.
Increased security in the EU’s external borders due to the enforcement of quarantines, however, has completely altered the flow dynamics of immigration. For starters, “hot expulsions” –returning irregulars at the moment they attempt to cross the border– have become nigh-impossible: countries of origin do not take them in anymore. The bureaucratic nightmare of processing the newcomers who could theoretically stay has become much worse, too, due to the administration slowing down. Complying with the dilated time schedules imposed by epidemiological knowledge has clogged the already overflowing Immigrant Detention Centers.
The result: thousands of Moroccan and Sub-Saharan young men now crowd the docks of Canarian small-town harbors, with nothing to do until they figure out a way to enter the Iberian Peninsula and from there scatter around Europe. This is especially relevant, as many of the recently-arrived wish to go on in their journey to countries wealthier than Spain, with more permissive policies and, perhaps, some family members already waiting for them. For many, keeping the borders with France or Germany open is just as important as leaving Africa.
As if the migration-related spike in crime wasn’t enough, in a time were gatherings of more than six people are tightly restricted for health reasons, the uncontrolled mass gatherings of young men does not sit well with the locals. Covid has been added to the list of alleged health risks posed by the arrivals: HIV, tuberculosis, and a variety of exotic infections. Police and other public servants, who have to deal physically with immigrants, often lack means to do so safely, and feel abandoned by the government, which does not provide enough protection equipment and resources.
Nothing new under the sun: unwelcome foreigners and invaders have always been accused of bringing various infectious curses; that’s why syphilis was known as the “French disease” (everywhere but in France). It is interesting to notice, however, that most of the dangerous diseases carried by irregulars living in Spain have been acquired during immigration, or even more likely, after it. The dire conditions in which illegal aliens live –squatted, overcrowded apartments, lack of access to health services– and the marginal activities they often engage in, such as junk scavenging, prostitution and drug use, make them risk populations for HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and the like.
As a curious anecdote, it should be stated that Spain’s HIV prevalence is three times as high as Morocco’s or Algeria’s, and roughly equal to that in Senegal or Mauritania. It’s hard to imagine Islamic values and more restrictive sexual mores do not play a role in this fact. Non-STDs, on the other hand, offer a different picture. The comeback of tuberculosis in Spanish cities is mostly attributable to foreigners, for example, and diseases such as African trypanosomiasis and malaria obviously do not come from France.
In any case, establishment voices trying to dissipate fears about illegal immigration usually highlight the fact that, in Spain, the most likely profile of irregular is that of a 40ish year old Colombian woman working as a household aid. This media interpretation of the facts serves to portray those who criticize immigration policy as bigoted paranoids: middle-aged Latinas and their children are unlikely bringers of diseases or, God forbid, Jihad. And after all, it is true that citizens from African countries comprise less than 10% of irregulars. Compared to South Americans, they are a tiny minority.
African immigration presents nonetheless such distinct challenges that its management deserves special policies. This is due to two connected security issues: the already mentioned risk of infiltration by jihadists, and geopolitical competition in North Africa, which not only involves Spain and Morocco, but also Algeria, France, and of course the American Empire and its runner-ups: Russia and China. Covid and the other diseases, nonetheless, have their own particular role in this game, as atavic bywords of the perils of foreign invasion.
Jihadism is a disruptive force in the Sahel, the strip of semi-arid steppe South of the Sahara that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. There, Holy War is intertwined with local turf disputes and ethnic conflict. Illegal trafficking of goods and people is significant, mostly directed towards the North, and even across the Mediterranean. The Arab Spring didn’t help in stabilizing the region. Libya, formerly a story of relative success, is in shreds and has become the biggest slave market in the continent. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda franchises have been successful in exploiting State weaknesses all over: Mali, for example, has only about 10,000 poorly-armed men to defend an area roughly twice the size of Texas.
The presence of rich resources has made all major players in global politics interested in the Sahel. Oil, gas, gold and even uranium can be extracted from the ground with relative ease. The US officially considers the region as outside its main strategic focus, which is more and more directed towards the Pacific and the South China Sea. The military base it holds in Niger, however, is not going anywhere. It is not minor either, being described by some officials as the largest Air Force construction project in history.
The American stance actually makes a lot of sense in the context of global competition with China: the Middle Kingdom is a strategic trade partner to every country in the neighborhood. It’s also been investing heavily in infrastructure through its famous One Belt One Road initiative. Being far less recalcitrant than its Western counterparts with regards to imposing its own cultural values, China is often preferred as a partner. This involvement requires larger security commitments Beijing is now willing to make.
Russia has also found its way to intervene. Its motives are similar to those of China or the US: accessing the region’s natural resources, selling arms, enlisting UN allies to support its foreign policy, and keeping a finger on the pulse of global Jihad. After all, millions of Russian Federation citizens are Muslims, and Putin is the only major world leader to have fought (and won) a war on his own territory against Islamic Separatism.
Interestingly, Islamic Separatism is the term en vogue to describe homegrown radical Islamism in another country, one with fascinating historical ties to Russia: France. Paris is heavily involved in the region since a war broke out in Mali in 2013, sparking Operations Serval, Éparvier, Barkhane and now Takuba. French activities have been supported by the European Union Training Mission deployed there. Perhaps Macron, with his vision of strategic autonomy, hoped that such collaboration would generate enough inertia to catalyze further integration of EU militaries. This has not been the case so far.
To this day, the idea of a “European Army” seems still quite far-fetched. The interests of the different nations involved are way too different, and their capabilities are too. The French are known as “the Americans of Europe”, being now the only nuclear power in the neighborhood and one of the few to engage in real combat operations, such as the aforementioned. Their adventures South of the Sahara, however, are of meager interest to voters in countries such as Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, more concerned about what’s happening in the Ukraine. Their eyes are in a Biden administration promising higher-voltage tensions in NATO’s (and the EU’s) Eastern flank.
As can be seen, the Empire’s gaze still has time for the Southern Flank, Central European voters be damned. In fact, both fronts are more closely related than it seems. Turkey, the main Black Sea counter to Russia, favors the opposite side in the Libyan theater while defying the US in other fronts. As gatekeeper of the Middle-East, it holds the key to security in the Balkans and even Central Europe, and its relevance to Intermarium politics cannot be overstated.
Meanwhile, American LNG exports have transformed the USA into a direct competitor of Algeria, which supplies hydrocarbons to Spain, Portugal, Italy and Turkey among others. The Algerian oil and gas industry has been heavily hit by the pandemic, spelling political trouble for one of the most socially-burdened countries in the Arab world. a
America has also demonstrated its willingness to apply pressure on the former French colony in other ways. Its recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara has been interpreted as a direct attack by Algiers, which saw in it evidence of Zionist collusion – understandably, since the deal included Morocco’s normalization of relations with Israel. Coincidence? Algeria and Morocco were at war in 1963 and are in the middle of an impressive arms race. Spain has its reasons to be worried by all of this, especially after rumors surfaced that Rota Naval Base in Cádiz was being considered for relocation to Morocco.
What does all of this have to do with illegal immigration to the Canaries and Covid? Well, for starters, the Canarian route, from Morocco to Tenerife, is a (cheaper) alternative to three others: one across the Strait of Gibraltar, a land-based other through Ceuta and Melilla, and a third one across the Mediterranean from Algeria to the Balearic Islands. The surge in arrivals to the Canaries is partly explained by tighter control at these three traditional routes. Broke immigrants and adventurers chose the path of least resistance. The harder a path becomes, the more the migratory flux is diverted to its alternatives.
From this perspective, a different model of immigration starts to emerge. One in the shape of a complex network, a dynamic collection of nodes (harbors) and links (routes) that can be played with. In other words, a cybernetic system which can be regulated and controlled just like any other. In this reality lies an opportunity: by lifting pressure on one route or the other, border authorities can manage the flows of immigrants who have to choose between setting sail from Algeria, from Morocco, or from anywhere else.
Whether anybody is taking advantage of this or not is difficult to say. One thing is certain: throwing money wildly at the problem seems to do nothing to solve it. Machiavellian as it sounds, now that we don’t even blink at lone wolf terrorism, threats of disease can and will be used to amplify the political and media impact of migration waves. As an excuse, they provide the added bonus of facilitating the opening and closing of borders with little backlash. Thus, countries can be quickly flooded with newcomers from upstream in the migration routes, then drained at will by allowing entry through specific ports. Tensions are built and relieved in a localized and precise manner.
κυβερνητική (kybernētikḗ) means “governance” in Greek. While the world’s hoi polloi accumulate at the gates of sinking empires, the great powers (the US, China, Russia) scramble for influence over the vast territories left behind. Meanwhile, second-tier petty kings in Europe and Africa navigate the stormy waters to gain an edge or advance their agendas. Perhaps governments should go back to the roots of the art of governance, and pay more attention to nodes, links, hubs and switches . After all, as the Dutch proverb says: “It is in the roots, not the branches, where a tree’s greatest strength lies.”