The Leviathan in the Room

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.

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Plague and the City: of Rats and Men

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.

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Cybernetics of migration in the Covidian Age

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 collusionunderstandably, 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.

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Diesel, gas, and paradox

News surfaced a couple weeks ago that the German government offered to pay the Trump administration up to a billion euros in exchange for lifting sanctions on Nord Stream 2. The whistle was blown by a non-profit called Environmental Action Germany (DUH – Deutschland Umwelthilfe), a member of the Brussels’ based European Environmental Bureau.

DUH was founded in 1975 and is one of the many environmental agencies receiving funding from the EU. It became famous a few years ago, when they spearheaded the legal battle against the German car industry (and the German Federal Government, allegedly protecting them) on account of the Dieselgate scandal. The affair was uncovered in 2015, when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of violation to Volkswagen. As it turned out, the company had been presenting fraudulent emission measurements of its cars to comply with test regulations; the readings in real driving conditions greatly surpassed the toxicity threshold, posing a public health risk.

The scandal led to the investigation of many other giants in the car-making industry, mainly but no exclusively German ones. It also served as a wake-up call to the problems of diesel as combustion fuel, which had wild ramifications: France’s diesel tax, which sparked the still ongoing Yellow Vests movement, is a remarkable example. The legal impulses to curb traffic in big cities, and the meteoric rise of electric car makers, such as Tesla, are other related events. After years promoting diesel, suddenly it had to be completely eliminated. The “economic periphery” of the world was most impacted, whether in the American Mid-West, French provinces, or downton London.

DUH demanded that car makers payed for the modification of all vehicles with excessive emissions, including those already in circulation. The financial burden generated by this proposal would be unacceptable. It would severely cripple the German motor industry, which is the crown jewel of the nation’s export machine and thus an important factor of its positive trade balance in relation to the US. Interestingly, the supply chain of this industry includes as key providers of parts notorious Visegrad bad boys such as Poland, Hungary or Slovakia. The existence of German exports is vital for many Central European economies.

As one of the most powerful nations in the European Union, the interests of Germany as a whole are sometimes conflated with those of Brussels. This is obviously a huge simplification, as can be seen by the facts exposed above. After all, the EU Commission has imposed enormous fines on the same carmakers DUH claims are in cahoots with the Bundesrepublik. The EU’s relation to its discolous Visegrad members has also seen better days, to put it shortly.

In any case, the controversial pipeline, now almost complete, is a perfect example of this complexity of interests so characteristic of EU politics. Nord Stream 2 would double the amount of natural gas delivered from Russia to Germany every year. It bypasses Central Europe, which had a small leverage until now thanks to its upstream position in the Russian gas network. Understandably, countries in the region, Poland and Ukraine especially, are frontally opposed to the project. As is known, the Americans support the Central Europeans in their stance, since they aim to sell Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in direct competition to Russia.

Thus, the scandal: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, of the Social Democrat Party, wrote a personal letter to former US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, allegedly asking to allow “unhindered construction and operation of Nord Stream 2” in exchange for dedicating up to 1 billion euros to fund the import of American LNG. This alternative source of energy is more expensive, as it requires complicated logistics and processing costs. Flooding Germany with Russian gas and American LNG would turn a country known for its massive investment in green energy into a hydrocarbon powerhouse.

The use of taxpayer money to buy the American government’s complacency to this is a significant realignment, especially when done against what apparently are Brussels’ wishes. Gas politics are one of the last bridges between Europe and Russia, especially after this month’s shaming of High Representative of the EU Josep Borrell (another socialist!) by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. If this link is severed, it should not be surprising to see Russia look for friends in other increasingly isolated countries, such as China. Counterintuitive as it is, the US has to favor its trade rivals to prevent the solidification of an Eurasian block. It’s not wise to force all your rivals into the same corner.

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Caviar, marketing, and competition on the Russian Far East

A couple decades ago, European restaurants paid thousands of Euros for a kilogram of caviar. Currently, they manage to get it for a fraction of the price, thanks to the irruption of Chinese producers. Chinese sturgeon bred in fish farms is now of remarkable quality, thanks to improved industrial practices. Consequently, the Asian country now is responsible for 60% of the world’s production.

The processing of this delicacy, though, is often done by European companies with European capital, its unglamourous Chinese origin thus obscured under French-sounding brands. As with the iPhone – designed by Apple in California, assembled in China, talent and refinement are Western, while the sturgeon’s origin is ambiguosly traced to the cold waters of the Amur river.

The People’s Republic of China is heavily invested in the development of Siberia and the Russian Far East, a place of rivalry with the USSR in the days of the Sino-Soviet split, back in 1969. The area is rich and under-exploited, and modern Russia is happy to let foreign powers collaborate in revitalizing its Pacific Coast.

Several international meetings have been taking place lately in regards to the under-exploited district, and not all of them spell good news for China. Narendra Modi’s “Act Far East” policy, is designed in part to counter China in scenarios far from its already tense borders. Japan is also in on the deals, which focus on topics everywhere from energy (especially coal), transport and maritime navigation, healthcare, the environment, and scientific and technological pursuits. The Indian and Pacific Oceans are, surprisingly, very poorly connected, and increasing traffic is a great opportunity for all parties involved to reduce their dependency on the Suez Canal and the Northern Sea Route.

This is relevant, because Trilateral Cooperation also involves de Arctic Region. India already has the Himadri research station in Norway: a key element of its activity is centered on the climatological impact of the North Pole over the meteorology of the Third Pole: the Himalayas. Just like China, India and Japan are permanent observers in the Arctic Council, along 12 other countries. We’ve talked about the parallelisms of the space and Arctic races before, and what they mean to their participants.

The reader might be confused regarding the connections between caviar and geopolitics. Here at the Outpost we just found it poetic. While the rest of Humanity scrambles for the control of the Globe’s last wild regions, Europeans feast on a splendidly engineered and marketed product, recognized worldwide as the symbol of opulent decadence.

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Neo Proletarian Technolords and Dei ex machina

In these times, it has become something of a cliché to criticize the notion of “Rule by Experts”. That is, the expectation that decisions should be taken by the technically prepared, with the Greater Good of the public in mind. The coronavirus pandemic brought this debate to very explicit terms, as policies came to be judged in regards to their relation to current scientific knowledge. The meme of the disconnected, smug elite started to converge with that of the myopic hyper-specialist, oblivious to realities outside his field and prisoner of his abstractions.

In any case, the now-questioned Rule by Experts seems a product of a previous era, in which it seemed that the Technosphere was a refuge of peace and neutrality, far from the stridencies of the National, the Religious or the Ideological. This perception of Technoptimism as a thing of the past is, however, artefactual.

Traditionally, technology is defined as whatever technical means Humans employ to solve a problem. Since solved problems don’t appear as problems anymore, the Technosphere always seems to be at the edge of the Present. We don’t perceive technologies designed to address past problems as technology, but as nondescript objects within our reality of abundance. Thus, primitive technologies such as the knife, the hearth or clothes become trivial in our world of wealth and security.

A pack of matches or a piece of rope lacks the aura of power projected by more advanced technologies with less obvious ways of functioning, such as the Internet or vaccines. Its true significance only becomes manifest in dire and rare circumstances of remoteness, solitude and lack of preparation, such as being stranded in a desert island. Only in the post-apocalypse will we think of subsistence farmers as the embodiment of Rule by Experts. Soothing notes of absolute, rational neutrality will suddenly become obvious in their voices. We’re not there yet, though.

The faith with which our epoch rewards technical solutions is only a particular case of the Technooptimistic phenomenon, in which we believe to have found in it a territory of ultimate neutrality. Everybody can be served by the existence of electricity or ink: compared to ideological or moral discussions, technical problems are marvelously clear and objective. The comfort they provide is understandably seen as a possible road to peace and understanding amongst all of Humanity.

Those too secure in this promise, however, are victims of magic thinking when they expect from technology any capacity for human and moral progress. The I Fucking Love Science™ types, as their previous historical iterations did, naively believe that technology will only be used “in a sociological sense”, to paraphrase Carl Schmitt’s reflections on The Concept of the Political. Precisely, 15th century transoceanic navigation technologies were seen by Spanish missionaries with the same optimism that shined in the eyes of English capitalists when beholding James Watt’s myriad applications for the steam engine. It’s the hopeful spirit that took over the hearts of early nuclear physicists when they learned they could harness the energy of the atom. We all know how these stories end, and it’s not Universal Salvation.

For every “vulgar mass religion” (Schmitt’s words again) expecting paradise come from the Technosphere, an opposite cult often arises. It’s a cult based around the fear of a new Class; of Mass emerging from technological acceleratio, with Revolution in its womb. The Proletariat was born out of the cultural nothingness and void of Capitalist exploitation: a debt owed by Communist revolutionaries to Capitalists, according to Marx himself. Proletarians brought with them total disdain for old sociological and political forms, their answer to total technification.

And what was radio broadcasting for the world if not a more recent iteration of this meme? From the nothingness of World War I emerged the totalitarian radicals of Right or Left persuasion who would set the globe on fire in the 1930s. The fear engendered by these strange, frightening figures, so particular of their time, is nothing but a lack of faith in Humanity’s capacity to use the enormous potential of Technology. It’s exactly the fear expressed by cyberpunk: that “the street will find its own uses for things”. That nothing will work as expected and no Deus ex Machina is just out of frame, waiting to save us.

Once again, here we are. At the edge, in the crisp rim of a new Total Technological Revolution. What are the supposed techlords of Silicon Valley? No lords at all, but a New Proletariat. This generation’s faceless, uprooted Mass, incessantly produced by the world’s STEM programs. The derisive talk of “bugmen” and “yeast life”, with which they are scorned by those who fear them, is not casual. It’s just perfect for the youngest scions of Technoeconomic Acceleration.

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Tsunamis, pranks and uprisings

Sedition is an interesting concept, occupying in most legal systems where it exists a place somewhere beneath open treason and armed rebellion. It means an attempt at overthrowing the government, and in the US it’s punishable with up to 20 years in prison. The word sounds a little bit archaic in English, which is unsurprising since the legislation around it stems from the Civil War Era.

The seriousness of the offense contrasts starkly with the carefree, easy-going attitude of most of the participants on the last Capitol attack, who kept posting barefaced selfies during the whole event, made no attempt at disguising their identity, and, save a minority, seemed to not fully grasp the consequences of their actions. The whole thing seemed to have a performative, oniric quality: protestors were mostly content walking around the complex with confused looks, taking small souvenirs such as pieces of furniture or, infamously, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s shoes. There were no public demands, no symbolic gestures or speeches. After making it to the last level’s boss’ dungeon, the boss was nowhere to be found. No victory screen or end-game credits either.

This attitude is of course symptomatic of the pathologies engendered by abusive consumption of super-stimulant simulacra of reality. Videogames, TV and porn: Ersatz-achievement, Ersatz-drama and Ersatz-satisfaction. Aberrant decision-making molded by virtuality and mass psychology, coming to terms with the rock-solid, real, material power of the State.

After these last days’ digital crackdown on dissenters and deplorables of all kinds, there has been a lot of talk about the possibility of technologically-enhanced, decentralized insurgency, thanks to the advances in secure communications and growing security and privacy culture. The State too is coming to terms with virtuality and the elusive power of an anonymous, rhizomatic revolution. We already published some thoughts about crypto-insurrection here at The Outpost, about a week ago.

There was a very interesting precedent of this kind of uprising not too long ago: in Spain, of all places. An illegal referendum for the secession of Catalonia was celebrated on October 1st 2017. Spanish anti-riot police were rushed into the scene to confiscate the illegal ballots, with chaos, disorder and forceful dissolution of protests ensuing.

The referendum had been instigated by prolific tweeter, magic aficionado and regional President Carles Puigdemont, who had promised to lead Catalonia to Independence through it. Catalan society was divided exactly in half in Spanish loyalists and Separatists, but only the latter turned out to vote and face the police. The confrontation confirmed their bias against Spain’s alleged authoritarianism: Puigdemont called for civil disobedience, strikes across the country and the blocking of all land communications between Catalonia and the rest of the country, which lasted weeks. Loyalists were hostage to the regional administration, overwhelmingly pro-independence.

Success seemed so close. In a live broadcast statement, Puigdemont proclaimed the founding of an independent Catalan Republic on the night of October 27th. A few seconds later, however, he backtracked and declared it to be only symbolic. “Out of a sense of responsibility”, he said. There was simply no legal or material structure to build the new country on, and no foreign support. Believers were devasted; loyalists found it hilarious.

The comical reactions of this anticlimactic moment were recorded for posterity. Puigdemont proceeded to run away to Waterloo, Belgium, hiding from Spanish police. Some members of his cabinet also fled to places like Switzerland or Scotland; others stayed and were immediately apprehended by police for misappropriation of public funds and sedition against the Kingdom of Spain. Nobody acknowledged Catalonia’s independence, contrary to expectations.

The following months were of disillusionment. The plot had been beheaded, and most of those responsible for it were scrambling to avoid jail. Those who could tried to leave the sinking ship. Only the least capable politicians stayed: those whose entire career had been staked on the Cause. Puigdemont, aiming to regain some degree of prestige, talked about establishing a “Digital Republic”, ruled from Waterloo. Living on illegally deviated government funds and donations by activists, he went back to tweeting and conspiring. Rallies for independence became every day sadder and more histrionic, a hobby for fanatic boomers and disaffected weirdos.

The Catalan Republic had been conceived as a Progressive, Inclusive, Cosmopolitan Paradise against Fascist Spain. Carving a new State out of a millennia-old European nation is hard, though. Impossible, maybe, if you lack natural resources, an appetite for armed struggle, and/or powerful friends abroad. Separatist leaders knew this. Yearly rallies ending in family barbecues, are not the substrate from which States are built. It’s impossible to simply meme the Republic into existence.

The strategy had been to provoke hard repression. Separatist leaders had hoped to goad the Spanish government into sending the military to try and stop the coup. A couple corpses littering the streets would have been ideal, granting legitimacy to the struggle and maybe forcing the EU to intervene. The Spanish called the bluff, however, when anti-riot police failed to kill anybody on October 2017. Independence was in dire need of martyrs, and none could be found.

On September 2nd, 2019, seemingly out of nowhere, an anonymous platform with the name Tsunami Democràtic (“Democratic Tsunami” in Catalan) suddenly exploded in Separatist social media. The organization released a manifesto appealing to civil disobedience and non-violent struggle as a reaction against the imprisonment of Separatist leaders. Actions immediately started, consisting mostly on occupying government and financial buildings, hindering communications and transportation services, and hanging posters and signs. Public and private property was joyfully burnt and and destroyed.

The most interesting feature of Tsunami Democràtic, however, was its release of an Android app to coordinate protests. To activate it, users had to use a QR code provided directly by another member, screen to screen. This way, they avoided infiltration by security forces, which had cracked down on allied, grassroots organizations such as Antifa or local CDRs (Committees for the Defense of the Republic). Each member could only invite a limited number of people, making it almost mole-proof.

The app tracked members’ GPS location and had access to their camera and microphone. It was not open source, making impossible to know if the data it collected stayed inside the mobile device, or if it was sent to an external server somewhere else. By sending users personalized prompts about protests in the vicinity, they could join actions in real time. Its spontaneity made it almost impossible for police to react against roadblocks, occupations and riots: actions started and ended everywhere, all the time.

The app was developed on Flutter, a Google UI framework, and built on the software Retroshare, which uses peer-to-peer mesh connections. Its architecture seemed designed specifically to protect its creators’ identity. Nobody knew who planned the events: as an organization, Tsunami remained anonymous. Users were asked to show up at a certain time and place, and there they went, blindly. Members confirmed their arrival to a protest on the app, and checked out after leaving. Options were installed to inform about police presence. When activated, the app transformed the user into a single node within a network of personal contacts that stretched all the way to the anonymous planners of the action.

A fully-fleshed human botnet, according to University of Barcelona professor Enric Luján. For a movement that took pride in defending democracy, the dark core that decided which actions to perform remained inaccessible and unknown to the majority of supporters. The organization’s protocols were extremely vertical, opaque and detached from the local reality. A deterritorialized leadership could issue orders from anywhere; even from outside the country.

The app was so successful that the only thing the Spanish government could do was to shut down the URLs were the app could be downloaded, and ask GitHub to remove it from its software repository. This forced Spain to join the likes of China and Russia, whose governments are among the few to have made this type of request for similar reasons. An indisputable propaganda victory.

The end of Tsunami Democràtic, however, was as anti-climactic as Catalonia’s Declaration of Independence. On December 18th, 2019, a momentous action was announced: “something” was about to happen at Football Club Barcelona’s stadium, and it involved drones. Another Declaration of Independence, this time for real? A call to arms? A bomb? Not at all. Some balloons were released, a few flags and signs here and there. No master plan. No 4D chess. Just a regular, conventional protest at the stadium.

The unimpressive show felt like pouring cold water on the fiery spirit of the separatists. Protests attended, personal risks taken and trash containers burnt for nothing. By January 2020, new actions were announced through Twitter, but were received with extreme disdain by former supporters, and so far have not materialized. Tsunami’s Telegram channel went down from its 400,000 subscribers then, to about 1700 last December.

Spanish agents eventually traced the app’s VPS to somewhere in Bucarest, Romania. An odd place, 3000 km away from the action. No suspects belonging to the technical elite behind Tsunami could be found. Were they from Puigdemont’s milieu? Did the “fool of Waterloo” have some powerful, secret connections after all? The strategy was obviously the work of professionals, and was packed full of doctrine for hi-tech 4th Generation Warfare. It would be fantastic if this had been a massive exercise in real conditions: an immense practical joke, played on millions of hopeful dupes. It is worth to remember in these times, however, that both sides have to laugh for the prank to be funny, and that dying for somebody else’s agenda is very rarely a funny thing.

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Trumpist Crypto-insurrections and pet Hydras

After the storming of the Capitol on January 6th, and the consequences that will inevitably befall on those who took part in them, it seems that Internet regulation and censorship will become more explicit than ever. Nothing new here: since the 90s, the story of cyberspace has been one of normalization and control. In other words, a process of civilization, characterized by the ubiquity of ID verification, fact-checking, and other mechanisms that try to turn the virtual wildlands into a well-managed city. Following up on last week’s post: stratification of the Nomadic smooth space of on-line mythology.

It is ironic that, after four years of Trump as President, the strongest push for decentralization will be catalyzed by the Biden presidency. Twitter accounts have been purged (including The Donald’s), and Regime opponents have been doxxed and deplatformed with Big Tech’s benevolent help. Every participant on the events at Washington DC has been included in the exquisitely curated files of the security apparatus. A lot of them with the redundant, but enthusiastic collaboration of acquaintances who did not approve of said participant’s MAGA temptations.

For the normie insurrectionist, this is not as grim as it sounds. After all, the political potential of the masses has always been a myth. Faced with the slightest threat of persecution, most protestors will go back to posting pictures of barbecues and dogs on Facebook, instead of memes and rallies. Back to caring for family and friends, vacation, the good and simple things in life. The threat of the mobilized mass is always magnified: political engagement can be sustained only for so long.

For a committed minority, though, being repressed is a strong incentive, bringing forth a whole new set of opportunities. Encrypted, usable, collaborative technologies could make for well-managed insurgencies, if wannabe rebels grow out of infiltrated chat apps. Parallel funding systems, potentially clandestine logistics, and enterprise resource planning for right wing coups are all a possibility for a tech-savvy, motivated opposition. The flourishing of an encrypted productivity stack has enormous potential for insurgency.

The problem with insurgencies is that they are rarely spontaneous phenomena, due to the average person’s sanity and risk aversion. The normie is, after all, the product of welfare societies and service economies, where there is a lot to lose and not that much to win. Revolutionary soldiers are bred in the heat factories and foundries, not in the air-conditioned comfort of the suburb. Even then, these soldiers require agitation: the development of class consciousness (and its cousins: race consciousness, religious consciousness, etc.). Educated elites excel at this function, and are sometimes used by State powers to subvert rivals. After all, Lenin’s 1917 train ticket from Zurich to Petrograd was paid by the Kaiser, with the explicit purpose of getting Russia out of the Great War. Smart empires foster foreign regime change all the time.

New technologies can favor decentralized rebellion, but this decentralization has its own downsides. Like the Lernaean Hydra, networks with no discernible center can be almost impossible to destroy or fully subvert. They lack a neuralgic node that can bring down the whole structure when neutralized. This is the problem posed, for instance, by lone-wolf Jihadist attacks in Europe: due to the terrorist’s autonomy, attacks are very difficult to predict and avert. Since Jihadis are usually willing to die for the cause, security forces often can identify and bring down the attacker only when the first casualties are already bleeding on the ground.

But the question is: after dozens of attacks, are Jihadis any closer to making Europe not haram? The answer is, of course, no. Decentralized networks are extremely resilient and difficult to erradicate, but because of their very nature, they also have a hard time focusing and achieving complex objectives, other than producing chaos and mayhem. From the perspective of the EU security apparatus, then, sporadic spurts of random, brutal violence are a reasonable price to pay for solving a political problem. Allowing moderate Islamism a safe and secure structure to prosper within Europe would generate a much bigger challenge for the European globalist modus vivendi. This is precisely the dilemma depicted in Michel Houellebecq’s novel Soumission, and one of the reasons Turkish Islamism is not welcome in the EU, in spite of it being a much more benign alternative to ISIS-style DIY Jihad.

Now, let’s speculate with this possibility: that decentralized dissidence, which is a direct consequence of repression, was actually beneficial to the system as a whole, even when violent. By driving alternative discourses to the fringe of the acceptable, a low-intensity confrontation ensues, protagonized by a relatively innocuous insurgency. The NSA has an estimated 30-40,000 employees. It’s only one of 16 US Intelligence agencies. They can manage an insurrectionist MAGA movement that is not directed by any outside force.

Promoting the decentralization of dissidence makes it a chronic, bothersome, but ultimately non-life-threatening disease to the polity. Sure, some loon might run amok from time to time, but what is to be done? Kick them out so they can organize and come back with a vengeance? Let the cops handle the rebels, says the contemporary mandarin. The thin blue line is not thin at all: domestic enemies, Jihadist or Boomerwaffen, are no match for it. And anyway, in the words of London Mayor Sadiq Khan: terror attacks are ‘part and parcel of living in a big city’.

As a final note, it should be taken into account that almost no other country has the security resources of the US. The software tools of other insurrectionists world wide are universally accessible to them. State capacity, though, varies from place to place, leading to very asymmetric situations for weaker governments. Those who are hoping for a populist insurrection should expect it in the battered fringes of the Empire, and not in the mellow heart of Middle America.

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Smooth and striated space in the decline of Spain: a quasi-theory of Revolution

In 1520, Charles Habsburg inherited from his grandfather Maximilian the Holy Roman Empire, which his successors would in turn inherit until the 1700. During their rule as both Holy Roman Emperors and Kings of Spain, the Habsburgs were generally reluctant to integrate all of their possessions into a single, monolithic political entity. This means that all of their estates preserved their structures, institutions and legal codes. They held all of their many titles separately: King of Castile, King of Aragon and Sicily, King of Naples, King of the Romans, Duke of Burgundy, Duke of Brabant, Count of Barcelona, and so on.

The practical government of every region often fell on the shoulders of specially appointed Viceroys, who ruled on behalf of His Catholic Majesty. This was true especially for the overseas territories that were incorporated into the crown after 1492, and which contrary to common knowledge, were of legal status equal to their European counterparts. The name of “Spanish Empire” is, after all, a modern anachronism: the status distinction between metropolis and colony was not officially sanctioned in any way, and the massive political entity was simply known as Hispanic Monarchy to its contemporaries.

In the somewhat en vogue Deleuzo-Guattarian parlance, the Hispanic Monarchy’s vast lands in Europe were composed of mostly striated space. As explained in Chapter 14 of “A Thousand Plateaus”, striated space is made up of formed and perceived elements, hierarchical and measurable. It’s the organized space of the State, which contrasts with the smooth space of the nomad and the war machine: the realm of possibility, in contrast with striated actuality. Smooth space is occupied freely, as if by water on a surface, without regard for previous barriers and codes. Its archetypal landscapes are the desert, the steppe and the open seas: uncharted land, equally a source of potentialities and a prize ripe for conquest, like the New World discovered in 1492.

Immediately after Christopher Columbus’ finding, a single fief was created in America: the Viceroyalty of the Indies, given to him and his descendants with the adjunct title of Admiralty of the Ocean Sea. It gave the holder authority over the soon-to-be-discovered territories, which were of unproven existence and unknown extension at that point. Talk about potential. The enormity of the continent being discovered led to the addition of two more domains: the Viceroyalty of New Spain (1521), including much of North America, the Philippines and Guam; and the Viceroyalty of Peru (1542), containing most of the South American landmass.

Of course, this space was in fact occupied by indigenous civilizations, which imposed on the land their own codes and rules. The Conquistadores’ ambition, though, saw only a smooth America, and exploratory efforts flowed freely from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, and then beyond, overriding Inca, Maya and Aztec concretions (deterritorialization). The smoothening process prepared the continent for a new striation: one that made it homogenous with the rest of the Hispanic Monarchy (reterritorialization).

The limes between striated Hispanic territories and smooth frontier would only disappear when the continent’s contour was fully mapped, well into the 18th century, with the Bourbons. It was replaced by a different thing altogether: a set of borders between striated structures, in a similar vein to Europe’s intricate system of feudal allegiances, inherited from the Middle Ages. The New World, loaded with possibilities, became another part of the Old World, increasingly becoming subject to its rules and forms. The disappearance of material smooth space would pave the way for a new frontier: the cultural and ideological. This was the Era of Revolution, and the mind became the new home of the Nomad.

The Pacific Northwest was one of the last regions to experience this change. The Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific, a shorter sea route to Asia, became the holy grail of European sailors and explorers. A handful of Russian fur traders had crossed the Bering Strait and reached the Aleutians by the 1740s, making up the only non-indigenous population in the barren Alaskan lands. Spain had a de jure claim over the region since 1493, thanks to Pope Alexander VI’s bull Inter caetera. The claim was unenforceable due to the lack of a real presence, either civilian or military. When news came of the Russian, American and British lucrative fur trade in the area, however, Spain decided to act, quickly building a garrison and launching ships from California to assert its rights.

This action led to the Nootka crisis of 1789, an incident in which Spanish mariner José Esteban Martínez arrested the crews of three British ships trading furs with Canton. The ships had sailed under a false Portuguese flag, and were a private enterprise commanded by James Colnett, of the Royal Navy. Martínez sent Colnett to Mexico to be judged, and forced the Chinese laborers he had brought with him to build a fort in Nootka Sound. Since Colnett was, after all, a British officer, his arrest quickly ruined diplomatic relations between the two powers.

It was all a matter of optics. Britain demanded “satisfaction” for the affront to its flag, while Spain struggled to be seen still as a world power. Threats of war were exchanged, and Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger’s saw his prestige increase as he probed for weaknesses in the Bourbon Family Compact, the alliance between the French and Spanish dynasties. France was at the time in full revolutionary turmoil. Louis XVI still reigned, but wasn’t ready to materialize his vocal support for the Spanish, despite the rampant Anglophobia of the Assemblée nationale.

The affair would eventually become a significant loss of face for Spain, which was forced to concede the British trading and fishing rights, never again trying to assert its sovereignty north of San Francisco. The recently founded United States, which had benefited from Bourbon help during its Revolution, also played a small role in the crisis by not supporting their former allies so as to not get entangled into an European war: a policy that would be maintained until 1918, when the meme of an isolationist America died of old age.

The crisis set a precedent for established settlement as the main source of sovereignty, in contrast to historical legal claims and rights of discovery. It also was a further proof that intra-European territorial competition had gone global in a shrinking world. The smoothness of uncharted territory progressively mutated into the striated actuality of international borders: manageable, countable and tradeable. The State slowly overtook the space of the Nomad. By 1793, the patchwork logic of Europe had been transferred overseas, and Britain and Spain were jointly declaring an ideological war against the French Republic, now completely in the hands of the radicals.

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Rise and fall of Hispanity: a memetic history

The Spanish Crown was created after King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile were united in marriage in 1469. Together, the Catholic monarchs, as they were known, ended Moorish rule in the Iberian Peninsula. They also started the exploration and conquest of the New World, while their European policy allowed for their grandson Charles Habsburg to become not only King of Spain (as Charles I), but also Holy Roman Emperor (as Charles V). Charles V and his descendants became the rulers of the first truly global empire, appending their recently discovered ultramarine possessions to those in Europe.

The Habsburgs revitalized the meme of Universal Monarchy, styling themselves as followers of Charlemagne’s tradition of defenders of Christendom. Consequently, they fought with ardor the Protestant Reformation, favored by many of their subjects in Northwestern Europe. The Spanish campaigns in Flanders, which spanned generations, were a true Forever War that would make the USA’s Middle East engagements seem short in comparison (although this assertion may age poorly). This was the Golden Era of Hispanity, in which arts and letters flourished and the pace of European politics was set to the Spanish cadence.

The Protestant Reformation spawned as a natural (Devil-inspired?) memetic mutation of Catholic teaching. Similar things had happened before, like Catharism, Waldensianism or Neo-Adamism. This time, however, there was a new invention at play: Gutenberg’s movable-type printing press. A mechanic wonder which would enable the orchestration of the first modern memetic warfare operations.

State powers high-jacked natural memetic processes, accelerating them and turning them into a powerful new political-psychological tool. The Dutch and their English allies, as the earliest adopters of this art, completely determined the memetic framing of the conflict for centuries to come, subverting Habsburg influence through anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish propaganda. A Black Legend was born to echo through the centuries, its memes scattered like infectious droplets projected by every Anglo superspreader from Edgar Allan Poe to Monty Python.

Meanwhile, Flanders was piercing a permanent hole in the Spanish royal purse, draining the Crown’s economy from all the gold and silver mined in the Americas. By 1648, the affair had been more or less settled with the Peace of Westphalia, which is considered the basis of the international system of the following centuries, based on State sovereignty. Westphalia marked the decline of the Spanish senior branch of the Habsburgs, which disappeared after the death of Charles II in 1700, having fathered no children and triggering the Spanish War of Succession. It also signaled a change in political culture: the memetic environment in which powers operated would no more be religious universalism, but the more pragmatic raison d’État.

The War resulted in the end of the Habsburg Era for Spain: the dynasty was replaced by Philip V of Bourbon, nephew of Louis XIV the Sun King. Philip V, in very French fashion, tried to unify and centralize all his possessions to build a better, rationalized administration. The sun was setting for Spain, though, and the British Empire of the Waves was rising, fueled by the values of a nascent memeplex: Liberalism.

Spain, now aligned with France by grace of the Bourbons, tried for a century to hinder the advances of the British Crown and its plucky and voracious sailor-merchants, all the while scrambling to regain the territories lost in the War, such as Minorca and Gibraltar. As Catholic absolute monarchies, the alliance of both Bourbon branches was natural, so the Westphalian memetic shift was at first imperceptible. But when the chance came to undermine the British, previous scruples about collaborating with heretics were proved forgotten. The God-centered memetic framework of the 16th century had given place to modern State-centered justifications for foreign policy.

This effort explains the contribution of Charles III of Spain to the American Revolutionary War, which thanks to the privileged location of the Spanish West Indies was as significant and successful as it is now forgotten. The 1789 Revolution in France, however, led to the bloody overthrow of the Bourbons and a blossoming affinity between two wholly new political animals: the United States of America and the Republic of France, adding to cold raison d’État ideological coherence.

Memetic convergence between the two newborn Revolutionary Republics relegated a possible Spanish-American alliance to the dustbin of History. The initial synergies between the Hispanic and the American worlds were conveniently memory-holed by English-language historiography, along with French-Indian War grievances. France would memetically live on as Britain’s main historical rival and America’s number one ally, a link not even Napoleonic rule could sever. Spain, meanwhile, was assigned the trope of Oppressive Decadent Regime, and marked for future destruction.

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