domingo, 20 de agosto de 2017

'The civil war lies on us like a sleeping dragon': America's deadly divide - and why it has returned

'The civil war lies on us like a sleeping dragon': America's deadly divide - and why it has returned
The years leading up to 1861 saw polarised politics, paranoia and conspiracy theories. Sound familiar? One of the US’s foremost historians reflects on America’s Disunion - then and now

David Blight
Sunday 20 August 2017 11.00 BST Last modified on Sunday 20 August 2017 18.31 BST

“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1781. The American revolution still raged, many of his own slaves had escaped, his beloved Virginia teetered on social and political chaos. Jefferson, who had crafted the Declaration of Independence for this fledgling nation at war with the world’s strongest empire, felt deeply worried about whether his new country could survive with slavery, much less the war against Britain. Slavery was a system, said Jefferson, “daily exercised in tyranny,” with slaveholders practicing “unremitting despotism,” and the slaves a “degrading submission.”

The founder was hopeless and hopeful. He admitted that slaveholding rendered his own class depraved “despots,” and destroyed the “amor patriae” of their bondsmen. But his fear was universal. “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?” This advocate of the natural rights tradition, and confounding contradictory genius, ended his rumination with the vague entreaty that his countrymen “be contented to hope” that a “mollifying” of the conditions of slaves and a new “spirit” from the revolution would in the “order of events” save his country.

For that republic to survive it took far more than hope and a faith in progress. Indeed, it did not survive; in roughly four score years it tore itself asunder over the issue of racial slavery, as well as over fateful contradictions in its constitution. The American disunion of 1861-65, the emancipation of 4 million slaves, and the reimagining of the second republic that resulted form the pivot of American history. The civil war sits like the giant sleeping dragon of American history ever ready to rise up when we do not expect it and strike us with unbearable fire. It has happened here – existential civil war, fought with unspeakable death and suffering for fundamentally different visions of the future.

Republics are ever unsteady and at risk, as our first and second founders well understood. Americans love to believe their history is blessed and exceptional, the story of a people with creeds born of the Enlightenment that will govern the worst of human nature and inspire our “better angels” to hold us together. Sometimes they do. But this most diverse nation in the world is still an experiment, and we are once again in a political condition that has made us ask if we are on the verge of some kind of new civil conflict.
In one of his earliest speeches, the Young Men’s Lyceum address, in 1838, Abraham Lincoln worried about politicians’ unbridled ambition, about mob violence, and about the “perpetuation of our political institutions”. The abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy had just been murdered by a mob the previous year in Illinois. Lincoln saw an “ill omen” across the land due to the slavery question. He felt a deep sense of responsibility inherited from the “fathers” of the revolution. How to preserve and renew “the edifice of liberty and equal rights,” he declared, provided the challenge of his generation. “At what point shall we expect the approach of danger?” Lincoln asked. “By what means shall we fortify against it?” His worries made him turn inward. “Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined … could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.” Lincoln did not fear foreign enemies. If “danger” would “ever reach us,” he said, “it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Those words were prescient in Lincoln’s own century. But they have a frightful clarity even today. Where are we now? Are Americans on the verge of some kind of social disintegration, political breakup, or collective nervous breakdown, as the writer Paul Starobin has recently asked? Starobin has written a new book, Madness Rules the Hour: Charleston, 1860, and the Mania for War, in which he revisits the old thesis that the secession moment represented a “crisis of fear” that led tragically to disunion and war. Psychologically and verbally, in the comment sections on the internet, and in talkshow television, we are a society, as Starobin shows, already engaged in a war of words. And it has been thus for a long time. Americans are expressing their hatreds, their deepest prejudices, and their fierce ideologies. It remains to be seen whether we have a deep enough well of tolerance and faith in free speech to endure this “catharsis” we seem to seek.

Psychological explanations, however, do not fully explain America’s current political condition. We are in conflict about real and divergent ideas. Are we engaged, half-wittingly, in a slow suicide as a democracy? Are we engaged in a “cold civil war” as one writer has suggested? Or does it feel like 1859, as another expert wondered, with so much rhetorical and real violence in the air? The election, and performance in office of Donald Trump, have many serious people using words like “unprecedented,” or phrases like “where in time are we,” or “we haven’t been here before.” Commentators and ordinary citizens have been asking how or where in the past we can find parallels for our current condition.

For historians, Trump has been the gift that keeps on giving. His ignorance of American history, his flouting of political and constitutional traditions, his embrace of racist ideas and groups, his egregious uses of fear, his own party’s moral bankruptcy in its inability to confront him, have forced the media to endlessly ask historians for help. That moral cowardice by Republicans shows some glimmers of hope; Mitt Romney has just called out President Trump, accusing him of “unraveling … our national fabric” by his coziness with white supremacists, and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee charged Trump with putting the nation “in great peril” by his incompetence and racism.

Sixteen years ago, in the book, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, I made a simple claim: “As long as America has a politics of race, it will have a politics of civil war memory.” Unfortunately, despite many more fine books, as well as conferences and courses taught on the same subject, that prescription seems truer now than ever. The line from the killings of Travon Martin and Michael Brown, through a myriad of other police shootings, and then especially from the mass murder of nine African Americans in Charleston in June, 2015, to the recent white supremacist demonstration and violence in Charlottesville mark a dizzying, crooked, but clear historical process. America is in the midst of yet another of its racial reckonings which always confront us with a shock of events we are, pitifully, never collectively prepared for. Just now we are engaged in a frenzied wave of Confederate monument removals; it is a manifestation of how well-meaning Americans can demonstrate their anti-racism and full of admirable impulses. But this too in all likelihood will not itself prepare us for the next shock of events nor our next reckoning. Hence, we so achingly need to know more history.

All parallels are unsteady or untrustworthy. But the present is always embedded in the past. The 1850s, the fateful decade that led to the civil war, has many instructive lessons for us. Definitions of American nationalism, of just who was a true American, were in constant debate. After the Great Hunger in Ireland the United States experienced an unprecedented immigration wave between 1845 and the mid-1850s, prompting a rapid and powerful rise of nativism. Irish and German Catholics were unwelcome and worse. The Mexican-American war of 1846-48, the nation’s first expansionist foreign conflict, stimulated an explosive political struggle over the expansion of slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 caused a wave of “refugee” former slaves escaping the northern states into Canada, as well as a widespread crisis over violent rescues of fugitive slaves. Indeed, the constant flight of slaves from the South to free states was, in effect, America’s first great refugee crisis. The abolition movement, the country’s prototypical reform crusade, became increasingly politicized as it became more radical, extra-legal, and violent.

At every turn in that decade, Americans had to ask whether their institutions would last. The two major political parties, the Whigs and Democrats, either disintegrated or broke into sectional parts, north and south, over slavery. Third parties suddenly emerged with success like no other time in our history. First the Know-Nothings, or American party, whose xenophobia and anti-Catholicism got them elected in droves in New England in the early 1850s. And the most successful third party in our history, the Republicans, were born in direct resistance to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, championed by Democrats, and which opened up the western territories to the perpetual expansion of slavery. A succession of weak and pro-slavery presidents from 1844 through 1860 either tarnished the institution of the presidency or deepened the sectional and partisan divide.

In 1857, the supreme court weighed in by declaring in Dred Scott v Sandford that blacks were not and could never be citizens of the United States. They had, wrote chief justice Roger B Taney, “for more than a century been regarded as beings of an inferior order … so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” This most notorious court decision legally opened up all of the west, and for that matter, all of the north to the presence of slavery. So discredited was the supreme court among many northerners in the wake of the decision that the Republicans made resistance to the judiciary a rallying cry of their political insurgency. That impulse led to the election of Lincoln in 1860, interpreted by most southern slaveholders, who firmly controlled that region’s politics, as the primary impulse to secede from the union. They believed they could not co-exist in a nation now led by a political organization devoted to their destruction.

By the time of the sectionalized and polarized election of 1860, conducted in a climate of violence and danger caused by John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, north and south had developed broad-based mutual conspiracy theories of each other. They did so through a thriving and highly partisan press, in both daily and weekly newspapers. Both sides tended to have their own sets of facts and their own conceptions of both history and the constitution.

White southerners feared and loathed abolitionists, and now they faced anti-slavery politicians who could truly affect power and legislation if elected. By the 1860 election, pro-slavery interests had developed a widespread theory about a “black Republican” conspiracy in the north, determined on taking hold of all reins of government to put slavery, as Lincoln in 1858 had actually said, on a “course of ultimate extinction.” In the secession crisis, one southern leader after another pronounced against what they perceived as an abolitionist conspiracy against their livelihoods and their lives. William Harris, the secession commissioner for Mississippi, claimed in December, 1860 that Republicans “now demand equality between the white and negro races, under our constitution; equality in representation, equality in the right of suffrage … equality in the social circle, equality in the rights of matrimony.” He concluded therefore, the deep south faced a stark choice: “Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, the part of Mississippi is chosen, she will never submit to the principles and policy of this black Republican administration.”

That Republican party, along with radical abolitionists, advanced an equally potent idea of a “slave power” conspiracy that had grown into a staple of antislavery politics. The slave power, argued northerners, consisted of the southern slaveholding political class; they were obsessively bent on control of every level of government and every institution – presidency, courts, and Congress. The slave power especially demanded control over future expansion of the United States in order for its system to survive. The theory made greater sense with time to many people, since they could see that the slave south, though wealthy, was increasingly a minority interest in the federal government.

No one made this case about the slave power better than the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass. In May, 1853 Douglass gave the slave power clear definition. It was “a purely slavery party” in national affairs and its branches reached “far and wide in church and state.” The conspiracy’s “cardinal objects” were suppression of abolitionist speech, removal of free blacks from the United States, guarantees for slavery in the west, the “nationalization” of slavery in every state of the union, and the expansion of slavery to Mexico and South America.

By 1855, as the Kansas crisis deepened, Douglass saw the slave power as an all-encompassing national plague with “instinctive rapacity,” with a “natural craving after human flesh and blood.” It was a “murderous onslaught” upon the rights of all Americans to sustain the claims of a few. Seeking consensus with the slave power, Douglass maintained, would be “thawing a deadly viper instead of killing it.” He had faith in the “monster’s” inherent tendency to over-reach and destroy itself. “While crushing its millions,” he said, “it is also crushing itself.” It had “made such a frightful noise” with the “Fugitive Slave Act… the Nebraska bill, the recent marauding movements of the oligarchy in Kansas,” that it now performed as the abolitionists’ “most potent ally.” Douglass detected a great change in northern public opinion. Instead of regarding the abolitionists as mere fanatics “crying wolf,” the masses now perceived the evil in their midst and themselves cried “kill the wolf.”

Thus we might see one of the strongest parallels of all between the road to disunion and our current predicament. The rhetoric about the slave power and about black Republicans has a familiar ring today. Millions of Americans on the right who garner their information from selective websites, radio shows and Fox News possess all sorts conspiratorial conceptions of liberals and the alleged radical views of professors on university campuses. Many on the left also know precious little about people in rural and suburban America who voted for Trump; coastal elites do sometimes hold contemptuous views bordering on the conspiratorial about the people they “fly over.” Americans are more than politically polarized; we are bitterly divided about our expanding diversity, about the proper function of government, about the right to vote and how to protect it, over women’s reproductive rights, about climate science, over whether we even believe in a social contract between citizens and the polity. In other words, like the 1850s, we are divided over conflicting visions of our future. Let us hope that we find ways to fight out our current conflicts within politics and not between each other in our over-armed society. From my perspective, we can hope that like the slave power, the white supremacist far right will become its own worst enemy, and after all its frightful noise, kill itself.

As Americans consider the survival of their own amor patriae we might reflect on just how old our story is. We love stories of exile and return, destruction and redemption. When Moses sent the Israelites across the Jordan, he instructed them to put up memory stones to mark their journey and their story. Americans have put up more than their share of memory stones, and are just now living through a profound process of deciding which ones will remain. But as we look deeply into just what our own amor patriae means, and whether it can hold together, we might think hard about what inscriptions we want written on the memory stones of our own times. We might draw one from Douglass in 1867: “We ought to have our government so shaped that even when in the hands of a bad man we shall be safe.”

The author is Professor of American history at Yale University and author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, and the forthcoming, in 2018, Frederick Douglass: American Prophet

A Lisboa ribeirinha do pregão e da varina agora é só dos turistas

A Lisboa ribeirinha do pregão e da varina agora é só dos turistas
Nos bairros históricos de Lisboa, os residentes estão divididos entre o negócio que o turismo gera e a falta de habitação a preços acessíveis

Ana Margarida Pinheiro 19.08.2017

Há dois anos que Natividade luta em tribunal para conseguir manter aberto o Mercado Estrela do Castelo, o único supermercado do bairro, mesmo ali, a 300 metros do Castelo de São Jorge. Tal como muitos moradores da freguesia de Santa Maria Maior, em Lisboa, também ela foi avisada que o edifício foi vendido e que o novo proprietário quer reabilitar o espaço para alojar turistas. “Disseram-me que tinha três meses para fechar o negócio, esvaziar a loja e sair. Querem montar aqui um hotel para o turismo, mas eu vou resistindo”. A luta tem permitido adiar o que no início parecia inevitável, mas com o tempo tem visto os vizinhos abandonarem as casas de uma vida – “e há tantas vazias que podiam ser usadas e estão ali fechadas, a cair…” Não tem dúvidas: é preciso proteger os moradores e afastar os “olhos gordos” de quem vê no turismo a galinha dos ovos de ouro. “Não é o turismo, é este aproveitamento…Devia ser proibido porem pessoas de 80 anos na rua, com tantos edifícios vazios…é um crime”. Aponta o dedo aos políticos e lamenta já não ter do seu lado a frescura da juventude. “Eu moro aqui há 48 anos, nunca vi uma coisa assim. Agora, o meu trabalho serve para pagar as contas”. Apesar de tudo, Natividade não consegue repetir o que ouve os mais radicais dizerem. É que são os euros, os dólares e as libras que estão a gerar novo movimento e a aguentar os negócios. “No fundo, estamos a viver à custa deles, mas também estamos a ser comidos por eles”, resume apressadamente enquanto atende os dois clientes que tem na mercearia. A poucos metros, na Rua dos Cegos, Sónia e Paula começam a preparar o dia que, por esta altura, promete ser agitado. Para já, o restaurante República Portuguesa tem apenas um casal estrangeiro na esplanada. “Aqui, 90% do negócio é gerado pelos estrangeiros, isto se não for 99%”, diz Paula. Sónia anui. “Tem um lado bom e um lado mau, o nosso ordenado hoje depende muito do turismo, mas para quem mora…” É o seu caso. Há mais de 30 anos a viver no Castelo diz que hoje “já só aqui vivem 20 famílias, o resto é turistas”. São hostéis, alojamentos locais e guest houses, muitos a ocupar prédios inteiros, desocupando quem lá mora. “O meu prédio tem três andares, o 2.o andar já é para turistas, o prédio da frente também é só para turistas. O do lado igual”. O que aconteceu aos moradores? “As pessoas que lá viviam morreram, foram postas na rua ou não lhes renovam os contratos. Estão a esvaziar tudo para os turistas”. “Também há muitos velhotes que voltam para as terras e aproveitam o dinheirinho que lhes dão”, acrescenta Paula. Não vive exatamente ali, a sua rua é “um pouco mais abaixo”. Por isso, também é mais resguardada, mas à sua volta as opiniões repetem-se. “Os vizinhos acham todos o mesmo, há zonas onde chega a ser uma invasão. Vêm para aqui para ver o que é típico, mas assim os bairros acabam”, lamenta. “Olhe, já ali à frente” – aponta – “o prédio do canto é todo para alojamentos locais, o edifício abaixo é um hostel, do outro lado da estrada aqueles dois edifícios também são só para turistas, veja são tantos ali nas varandas…” A visão não deixa margem para dúvidas, enquanto o sol vai moendo os que começam a acender os fogareiros nos restaurantes, nos prédios os turistas aproveitam as pequenas varandas para estender as pernas e aproveitar o sol. Há famílias ainda a terminar os pequenos-almoços, muitas toalhas penduradas e quem esteja simplesmente de livro na mão. As ruas do Castelo também estão cheias. Sónia e Paula advertem: “Alfama está pior, Alfama morreu muito”. Seguimos caminho até ao Castelo, antes de rumarmos a Alfama. Forma-se uma fila enorme para os bilhetes, as lojas de souvenirs estão cheias e, as sombras são disputadas pelos que passam e acabam por ficar a admirar o local. Entre os muitos está João Tomé. Mora em Sacavém mas decidiu rumar à capital para mostrar a cidade aos compadres de Saragoça. “Já se notam alguma consequências negativas do excesso de turistas. Por exemplo, nos Jerónimos aquilo é uma vergonha: só filas por todo o lado. E as ruas estão todas sujas. Aquele urinol ali. Acha aquilo bem? É uma vergonha, tudo sujo”. Gael também lá está. Veio de França com duas amigas e ficou numa Pousada da Juventude. Não esperava ver a cidade assim. “Em apenas uma noite vimos tantos franceses…não sei porquê. Há franceses em todo o lado”. Quando sair de Lisboa ainda vai a Aveiro e Coimbra. A visita termina no Porto onde ficará dois dias antes de seguir viagem; ao todo são 8 noites em Portugal. Por Lisboa, o percurso faz-se pelos bairros históricos, para conhecer o que é típico. É também para “sentir o ambiente local” que Maria e as duas amigas com que veio dos EUA escolheram Alfama para pernoitar. Encontramo-las ainda de malas “à espera do host” que lhes vai entregar as chaves do apartamento onde vão ficar. A visita a Portugal vai durar seis dias e reparte-se também pelas praias do Algarve. Para procurar alojamento utilizaram a Internet, onde encontraram “preços acessíveis”. Além disso, perceberam que “havia opções mais baratas do que as tabelas oferecidas pelos hotéis”. A escolha recaiu em Alfama e no Alojamento Local.   Desde 29 de setembro de 2013 que 12 das mais antigas freguesias de Lisboa, e do país, fundiram-se para se tornar uma só. Falamos de Mártires, Sacramento, Madalena, Santa Justa, Sé, Santiago, São Cristóvão e São Lourenço, Castelo, Socorro, São Miguel, São Nicolau e Santo Estêvão. A maioria dava forma aos bairros de Alfama e da Mouraria. Outras duas faziam parte do Chiado e três da Baixa de Lisboa. Apesar desta união, em 2013 não se contavam mais do que 13 mil eleitores naquele espaço. Os Censos de 2011 mostram o porquê: é que a pan-freguesia tinha apenas 10 787 habitações. Destas, 1296 eram habitações secundárias e 3498 estavam vagas ou desocupadas. É na desocupação de grande parte do espaço que o sector do alojamento local se resguarda. É que de acordo com o Registo Nacional (RNAL), Santa Maria Maior conta com 2483 habitações com destino ao alojamento local, menos do que o número de casas vazias. Mas os moradores desafiam os números e denunciam não-renovações de contratos e despejos encobertos nos contratos novos, que terminam, e não têm de ser automaticamente renovados. “Eu tenho uma cunhada que teve de sair e foi um caso sério para encontrar uma casinha aqui no bairro”, relata Maria da Luz, enquanto aproveita o lavadouro municipal do Beco do Mexias para “ganhar mais qualquer coisinha”. Não é contra o turismo, mas já viu os cartazes e os escritos que vão surgindo com maior frequência nas janelas e nas paredes. “A mim não me estorvam, mas é chato porque um bairro tão típico está a ver as pessoas que aqui nasceram e as suas famílias sair para virem para aqui turistas”. Mais abaixo Alice repete: “Eu não tenho medo porque tenho um senhorio muito bonzinho, que já vem do tempo do meu marido. Pago 150 euros de renda e tenho uma casa grande. Mas o resto está para eles. Para aqui já não há nada, isto é só para estrangeiros. Olhe esta aqui em cima também já é, vê a janela?”, aponta enquanto tenta atrair a atenção do que passam com o pregão ‘Olha a Ginjinha. É só um euro!’. Telma não tem a mesma sorte. Com uma renda de 350 euros por um T0 assume que no seu prédio “o 1º andar já venderam e o 2º é para turistas”. “Faço limpeza ali numa casa, que é de um norte-americano. Mas não mora ali, também aluga a turistas”. *com MJB Percorra a galer

Globalização, turismo e terrorismo na Península Ibérica

Globalização, turismo e terrorismo na Península Ibérica

Porquê Espanha, porquê Barcelona? Uma das motivações que vem primeiro à mente é a revindicação do território do Al-Andalus-

19 de agosto de 2017, 12:36

1. Até ao atentado terrorista de 17/8 o Verão em Espanha tinha sido marcado por protestos contra os excessos de turismo — aquilo a que alguns chamavam já uma vaga de “turistofobia”. No caso Catalunha, a questão dos excessos do turismo, do seu impacto ambiental negativo e da descaracterização dos centros históricos das cidades, interligou-se com a questão da independência e identidade catalã e dos protestos contra o capitalismo e a globalização. Arran (literalmente, a raiz), um grupo da esquerda radical independentista da Catalunha, empreendeu várias acções de protesto, contra hotéis, restaurantes, autocarros, etc. em lugares turísticos. Em alguns casos foram misturadas com actos de vandalização. No fundamental, os protestos seguiram o padrão usual das manifestações de contestação à globalização — como, por exemplo, na última cimeira do G20 em Hamburgo, na Alemanha —, ainda que em pequena dimensão e sem confrontos nas ruas com a polícia. Foram replicados noutras partes de Espanha, como nas ilhas Baleares (Maiorca) e no País Basco (San Sebastian, através da Ernai, um movimento independentista basco). Mas tudo isto ocorreu dentro de um quadro usual de contestação político-ideológica no Ocidente e de manifestações de rua.

2. O atentado de 17/8 em Barcelona não resultou desse sentimento de “turistofobia”. Não estamos agora a falar de legítimos protestos contra o capitalismo, nem contra o impacto ambiental e a (in)sustentabilidade do turismo, enquanto actividade capitalista que externaliza custos para a sociedade. Não são essas as causas dos islamistas-jihadistas do Daesh e de outros grupos similares. Nem estamos, também, a falar de protestos na maioria pacíficos, ou de actos relativamente isolados de vandalismo contra bens materiais, como ocorreu nas já referidas manifestações do Arran. Estamos a falar de violência com o objectivo de provocar o maior número possível de mortes e terror na população civil. Um veículo automóvel foi deliberadamente usado no centro histórico da cidade, na Praça da Catalunha e na Rambla, usualmente locais de grande concentração na via pública de habitantes e turistas, para matar indiscriminadamente aqueles que aí circulavam. Provocou mais de uma dezena de mortos e de uma centena de feridos. Numa outra tentativa de acto terrorista, em Cambrils, próximo de Tarragona, a polícia abateu a tiro os presumíveis perpetradores quando estes tentavam galgar o passeio marítimo com uma carrinha.

3. Porquê Espanha, porquê Barcelona? Uma das motivações que vem primeiro à mente é a revindicação do território do Al-Andalus — o qual abrange também Portugal —, pelos grupos islamistas-jihadistas tipo Daesh ou Al-Qaeda. Na sua ideologia radical e violenta o Al-Andalus é um território perdido do Islão que tem de ser recuperado à força. Poderíamos juntar-lhe uma boa dose das justificações usuais. Vão desde as cruzadas até à invasão do Iraque (2003), passando pela intervenção ocidental no Afeganistão (2001) e na Líbia (2011), até às sucessivas derrotas militares e perdas territoriais que tem sofrido o Daesh na Síria e no Iraque. Justificações à parte, o risco em Espanha não é igual em todo o território. É maior nas grandes cidades, como Madrid, onde já ocorreram os mortíferos atentados de 2004 (quase duas centenas de mortos), ou em Barcelona. É também maior no Sul, na zona mediterrânica mais próxima do Norte de África e do mundo árabe islâmico. O Ministério do Interior espanhol usa um modelo probabilístico, para avaliar o risco de atentados, ponderando diversos factores entre os quais a radicalização. A Catalunha — e Barcelona em especial —, já estava no topo das preocupações dos serviços de segurança espanhóis. Em termos de risco, seguem-se a Andaluzia e a região de Valência. A Catalunha tem também a maior concentração de população muçulmana, a maioria com origem no Norte de África — Marrocos em particular —, mas também uma presença significativa de migrantes paquistaneses.

4. Para além de ser uma grande urbe e do simbolismo do Al-Andalus, terá sido a escolha de Barcelona motivada pelo facto de ser uma das cidades mais turísticas do mundo? Provavelmente sim. Uma das razões para o turismo ser um alvo procurado pelos islamistas-jihadistas é a amplificação do impacto psicológico dos atentados. O facto de provocar mortos de diversas nacionalidades projecta, ainda mais, o sentimento de medo, com repercussões em múltiplos países. Assim, um acto de terror que provoque a morte de turistas em número significativo permite amplificar o efeito na opinião pública internacional a fazer a ideologia islamista-jihadista expandir-se. Veja-se o impacto deste atentado em Portugal. Para além da proximidade geográfica — e de Portugal partilhar com Espanha, embora em menor grau, a herança do Al-Andalus —, houve vítimas mortais portuguesas. O "modus operandi" deste acto terrorista foi similar a outros — ao do passeio dos ingleses em Nice (2016), ao do mercado de Natal em Berlim (2016), ou ao ocorrido em Westminster / Londres (2017), entre vários actos de barbárie praticados em cidades europeias nos últimos tempos. Não foi o mais mortífero. Mas foi um atentado particularmente doloroso e assustador para quem vive na Península Ibérica.

5. Há um conflito de valores que a globalização — e o turismo —, com os seus fluxos de pessoas e ideias, tornaram mais visíveis, e, de alguma forma, intensificaram. Esse "choque" está na origem de um outro argumento importante, de tipo moral, para atacar locais onde há grande presença de turistas. Para o Daesh e os grupos islamistas-jihadistas em geral, o turismo é a actividade económica de massas que mais simboliza a decadência moral da Europa / Ocidente. Uma mulher que viaja sem o marido, pai ou irmão; a exposição do corpo feminino; a mistura dos sexos em locais públicos, como piscinas, praias ou outros espaços recreativos; o consumo público de álcool, entre outras coisas, são uma inadmissível corrupção de valores. Os propagandistas da sua ideologia incutem assim, naquilo a que chamam os seus "soldados" — jovens que, frequentemente, se radicalizam por exposição à sua propaganda, seja em contacto pessoal com mentores que os instigam no terreno, seja pela via das redes sociais —, a ideia de que os cidadãos-turistas são alvos "legítimos" para as suas acções de terror.

6. Em Espanha — em particular Barcelona, uma cidade que se vê, a si própria, na vanguarda das artes e liberal nos costumes — há uma cultura dominante cada vez mais secular e imbuída de valores pós-modernos. Não é a dos valores tradicionalistas da família, do casamento, da predominância masculina, etc., típicos das sociedades cristãs europeias no passado (e da generalidade das formas de vida tradicionais). Todavia, em paralelo, vivem aí, cada vez mais, populações tradicionalistas imbuídas de valores absolutos e transcendentais, oriundas de migrações não europeias. É um tradicionalismo fundamentalmente ligado ao Islão, pela proximidade do Sul do Mediterrâneo. Claro que as diferenças de valores, mesmo dos mais profundos, "per se", não implicam violência social e política, menos ainda terrorismo. No actual contexto político internacional, para além das intervenções militares desastrosas dos europeus /ocidentais em conflitos do mundo árabe-islâmico (Iraque, Líbia, etc.), uma ideologia (o islamismo radical), com as suas raízes no Islão, exacerba as diferenças culturais e religiosas, levando-as ao extremo. Procura dar uma causa a jovens, normalmente de ascendência árabe e/ou islâmica, virando o seu descontentamento contra as sociedades europeias onde vivem e das quais, frequentemente, são já nacionais.

7. Num mundo globalizado o turismo vai estar, cada vez mais, sobre pressão, seja pelas boas razões — a preservação ambiental e das formas de vida locais face à tentação capitalista de lucro fácil —, seja pelas más — um alvo do terrorismo. No espaço aberto da União Europeia os fluxos de pessoas, de ideias, etc. circulam com facilidade e rapidez. Até agora, Portugal tem passado ao lado do terrorismo islamista-jihadista, pelo menos no que se refere a atentados. Quanto à sustentabilidade e preservação das formas de vida das populações locais, começa a existir um necessário debate. Para além de ser um país "low cost", o aumento do turismo nos últimos anos pode ser explicado, em parte, pelo sentimento de insegurança que se instalou em países de destino de alguma forma concorrentes (Tunísia, Egipto, etc.), ou países de origem de turistas (como, por exemplo, a França). A tudo isto juntou-se ainda a crise dos refugiados, que teve o seu pico em 2015, e onde a rota do Mediterrâneo oriental e central foi a mais usada — afectou, sobretudo, a Turquia, a Grécia e a Itália. Levou os fluxos turísticos, ainda mais, para a Península Ibérica. Resta saber até quando a "Western Coast of Europe" — slogan de uma campanha turística de promoção internacional da imagem portuguesa —, continuará a ser a excepção de segurança.


sexta-feira, 18 de agosto de 2017


(…) “Ora, foi precisamente o que aconteceu a João Quadros: socorrer-se da esposa negra de Passos Coelho para ilustrar uma acusação de racismo ao líder do PSD é uma contradição nos próprios termos. Ter a vontade de constituir família com uma pessoa de outra raça é o principal atestado de tolerância a favor de Passos.”
(…) “Mas os talibãs do politicamente correto, bem como os críticos de Passos que, vendo-o na mó de baixo, a atravessar o deserto da oposição, aproveitam para malhar mais no senhor, saltaram-lhe em cima, como se o homem da rua não concordasse, deixemo-nos de hipocrisias, com o substrato da afirmação. Não por xenofobia, mas por uma questão de senso comum. Recordo que os imigrantes podem entrar se tiverem "uma promessa de trabalho", o que quer que isso prove. E que o único critério para a expulsão passa a ser a prática de atos de terrorismo. Se, por exemplo, integrar uma organização mafiosa, antes inexistente em Portugal, dedicada ao crime organizado, será tratado como qualquer português. Até pode estar certo, do ponto de vista dos princípios, mas isto convoca um debate e o debate deve fazer-se.”

SEXTO SENTIDO 17.08.2017 às 16h33 Filipe Luís

Não concordo, não gostei e não me revejo no tweet de João Quadros. Mas a falta de gosto, geralmente, não me indigna. O que não perdoo é que um humorista falhe as piadas
À medida que os anos passam, dá a ideia de que a Festa do Pontal, tida como início do ano político do PSD, vai ficando cada vez mais irrelevante. Para contrariar essa ideia - que, aliás, se refletiu no pouco destaque dado ao evento pela imprensa de referência - vamos hoje falar dela. Ou, melhor dizendo, de um aspeto do discurso de Pedro Passos Coelho.

A primeira ideia que fica, é que o homem está com azar. Depois de ter tido uma frase forte e certeira, de verdadeiro líder da oposição, que foi esta - "O SIRESP tem a cara do atual primeiro-ministro" -, o que ficou foi uma ambígua afirmação sobre a nova lei de imigração, em que o líder do PSD defende que não podemos aceitar entre nós "qualquer um".

É verdade que, assim, sem contexto, a frase parece xenófoba. Mas os talibãs do politicamente correto, bem como os críticos de Passos que, vendo-o na mó de baixo, a atravessar o deserto da oposição, aproveitam para malhar mais no senhor, saltaram-lhe em cima, como se o homem da rua não concordasse, deixemo-nos de hipocrisias, com o substrato da afirmação. Não por xenofobia, mas por uma questão de senso comum. Recordo que os imigrantes podem entrar se tiverem "uma promessa de trabalho", o que quer que isso prove. E que o único critério para a expulsão passa a ser a prática de atos de terrorismo. Se, por exemplo, integrar uma organização mafiosa, antes inexistente em Portugal, dedicada ao crime organizado, será tratado como qualquer português. Até pode estar certo, do ponto de vista dos princípios, mas isto convoca um debate e o debate deve fazer-se. Para começar, este critério do "terrorismo versus outro tipo de criminalidade" é uma confissão institucional de que o terrorista não é passível de regeneração, o que contraria o princípio básico do objetivo da reclusão compulsiva, vulgo prisão, que subjaz à Justiça de um Estado de Direito. Por outro lado, por causa do discurso alegadamente "humanitário" dos defensores do politicamente correto é que Donald Trump ganhou na América. Se o mesmo discurso for institucionalizado, como o foi, nas palavras de defensores do establishment como João Galamba, o efeito será o inverso do pretendido - e estamos a criar o caldo de cultura propício ao advento de novos Trumps portugueses. Cuidado com isso, portanto.

Vem a talhe de foice uma referência às reações provocadas por um tweet do conhecido argumentista de humor e intervenção política, João Quadros - curiosamente, neto do ideólogo intelectual do salazarismo, António Ferro, e, como o seu avô, um homem excessivo e controverso. As redes sociais "incendiaram-se" - já não bastavam os incêndios literais... - por causa da frase "e eu a pensar que só havia uma cabeça rapada em casa do Passos". Esta alusão ao cancro da mulher do presidente do PSD é, convenhamos, moralmente temerária e convoca outras discussões, para as quais não teremos espaço nesta crónica, sobre os limites do humor. Temática sobre a qual se têm debruçado muitos estudiosos da História do Humor, incluindo, entre nós, Ricardo Araújo Pereira (RAP), a quem seria curioso perguntar o que pensa sobre este caso concreto. Eu direi o que penso: habitualmente, considero que se pode brincar com tudo - incluindo, ao contrário de RAP, com o meu Benfica. Sobretudo, pensando no sacrossanto princípio do primado da liberdade de expressão que, caso resvale para a calúnia, difamação ou ofensa insuportável, deve ser avaliada pelos tribunais do Estado de Direito e não pelos "indignados do facebook". Mas não concordo, não gostei e não me revejo no tweet de João Quadros - e a minha própria liberdade de expressão permite-me verbalizá-lo... Mas a falta de gosto, geralmente, não me indigna. O que não perdoo é que um humorista falhe as piadas. Ora, foi precisamente o que aconteceu a João Quadros: socorrer-se da esposa negra de Passos Coelho para ilustrar uma acusação de racismo ao líder do PSD é uma contradição nos próprios termos. Ter a vontade de constituir família com uma pessoa de outra raça é o principal atestado de tolerância a favor de Passos. Mais grave do que usar a doença de Laura, é o facto de um argumentista do nível de João Quadros deixar de ter graça.

Poderão dizer-me que a maior parte dos colonos brancos que constituiram família com nativas, em África, não deixaram de ser retintos racistas, mesmo depois de produzirem extensas proles mestiças - ou que, de certo modo, até refinaram o seu racismo depois disso. Mas os contextos são completamene diferentes: estamos a falar de homens cafrializados, que se moviam num ambiente de escassez de mulheres brancas - como certos presidiários heterossexuais com relações homossexuais se movem num contexto de escassez de mulheres... - e se relacionavam com negras de uma forma puramente instrumental. Ora, isso nada tem a ver com o casamento de Passos Coelho nem com a piadola de João Quadros que, desta vez, descredibilizando-se desgraçadamente, apenas pretendeu exercer uma espécie de intolerável bullying humorístico.

Uma história que nos empobreceu e nos envergonha

Uma história que nos empobreceu e nos envergonha
Manuel Carvalho
16 de agosto de 2017, 6:30…/uma-historia-que-nos-empobreceu-e-…

A crónica da morte anunciada da PT é muito mais do que o relato de uma falência ou a história de uma companhia que correu mal. É principalmente uma crónica de costumes. Uma novela, onde a patifaria, a falta de escrúpulos e o perfume da corrupção atravessa diferentes elites do poder económico e do poder político para se abater sobre um país afundado numa grave crise financeira e moral. Tanto como os danos resultantes da destruição de uma empresa inovadora que poderia servir de baluarte à modernização e à internacionalização da economia nacional, a história sórdida da agonia da PT e as movimentações crápulas da maioria dos seus principais dirigentes deixa em Portugal e nos portugueses uma sensação de vulnerabilidade que só o sistema judicial poderá um dia resgatar.
Há muito se sabia que o capitalismo português não passava de um libreto de uma ópera cómica. Há muito que se suspeitava que as teias relacionais entre as elites financeiras da capital e o poder político tinham criado um sistema que se defendia e se perpetuava em relações conspícuas. Durante a tenebrosa era de José Sócrates, essas redes viveram no ambiente ideal para prosperar e perder qualquer laivo de vergonha. O alto patrocínio de São Bento foi para Ricardo Salgado e os seus sequazes mais do que uma autorização: foi um incentivo para que a PT fosse transformada num cadáver onde os abutres pudessem saciar as suas necessidades financeiras.
Tudo aconteceu sem que os reguladores vissem, sem que altos quadros da PT denunciassem, sem que a imprensa se empenhasse em perceber, sem que as instâncias judiciais fossem capazes de antecipar o que estava em jogo. O falhanço da PT, sendo consequência de uma cultura irresponsável, é também o falhanço do país que fomos nesses anos perdidos da primeira década do século.

Perdida a glória da PT, encaixada a destruição de valor, resta exigir que a Justiça faça o seu caminho. Resta também desenvolver mecanismos de vigilância que evitem a repetição de uma vergonha assim. Se houve um mérito no período de ajustamento foi o de trazer para a luz do dia a venalidade e velhacaria que se cultivavam entre os donos disto tudo. Hoje já não há empresas como a PT para extorquir. Esperemos que a denúncia de investigações jornalísticas como a da Cristina Ferreira ou a punição judicial sejam capazes de travar por muitos anos a germinação de redes como as que arrasaram a PT.

Neoliberalism: the idea that changed the world

The long read
Neoliberalism: the idea that changed the world

The word has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human. By Stephen Metcalf

Friday 18 August 2017 06.00 BST

Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over “neoliberalism”: they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism. In so doing, they helped put to rest the idea that the word is nothing more than a political slur, or a term without any analytic power. The paper gently called out a “neoliberal agenda” for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality.

Neoliberalism is an old term, dating back to the 1930s, but it has been revived as a way of describing our current politics – or more precisely, the range of thought allowed by our politics. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it was a way of assigning responsibility for the debacle, not to a political party per se, but to an establishment that had conceded its authority to the market. For the Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK, this concession was depicted as a grotesque betrayal of principle. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, it was said, had abandoned the left’s traditional commitments, especially to workers, in favour of a global financial elite and the self-serving policies that enriched them; and in doing so, had enabled a sickening rise in inequality.

Over the past few years, as debates have turned uglier, the word has become a rhetorical weapon, a way for anyone left of centre to incriminate those even an inch to their right. (No wonder centrists say it’s a meaningless insult: they’re the ones most meaningfully insulted by it.) But “neoliberalism” is more than a gratifyingly righteous jibe. It is also, in its way, a pair of eyeglasses.

Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market (and not, for example, a polis, a civil sphere or a kind of family) and of human beings as profit-and-loss calculators (and not bearers of grace, or of inalienable rights and duties). Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But “neoliberalism” indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals.

Still peering through the lens, you see how, no less than the welfare state, the free market is a human invention. You see how pervasively we are now urged to think of ourselves as proprietors of our own talents and initiative, how glibly we are told to compete and adapt. You see the extent to which a language formerly confined to chalkboard simplifications describing commodity markets (competition, perfect information, rational behaviour) has been applied to all of society, until it has invaded the grit of our personal lives, and how the attitude of the salesman has become enmeshed in all modes of self-expression.

In short, “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.

No sooner had neoliberalism been certified as real, and no sooner had it made clear the universal hypocrisy of the market, than the populists and authoritarians came to power. In the US, Hillary Clinton, the neoliberal arch-villain, lost – and to a man who knew just enough to pretend he hated free trade. So are the eyeglasses now useless? Can they do anything to help us understand what is broken about British and American politics? Against the forces of global integration, national identity is being reasserted, and in the crudest possible terms. What could the militant parochialism of Brexit Britain and Trumpist America have to do with neoliberal rationality? What possible connection is there between the president – a freewheeling boob – and the bloodless paragon of efficiency known as the free market?

It isn’t only that the free market produces a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers – and the losers, looking for revenge, have turned to Brexit and Trump. There was, from the beginning, an inevitable relationship between the utopian ideal of the free market and the dystopian present in which we find ourselves; between the market as unique discloser of value and guardian of liberty, and our current descent into post-truth and illiberalism.

Moving the stale debate about neoliberalism forward begins, I think, with taking seriously the measure of its cumulative effect on all of us, regardless of affiliation. And this requires returning to its origins, which have nothing to do with Bill or Hillary Clinton. There once was a group of people who did call themselves neoliberals, and did so proudly, and their ambition was a total revolution in thought. The most prominent among them, Friedrich Hayek, did not think he was staking out a position on the political spectrum, or making excuses for the fatuous rich, or tinkering along the edges of microeconomics.

He thought he was solving the problem of modernity: the problem of objective knowledge. For Hayek, the market didn’t just facilitate trade in goods and services; it revealed truth. How did his ambition collapse into its opposite – the mind-bending possibility that, thanks to our thoughtless veneration of the free market, truth might be driven from public life altogether?

When the idea occurred to Friedrich Hayek in 1936, he knew, with the conviction of a “sudden illumination”, that he had struck upon something new. “How can the combination of fragments of knowledge existing in different minds,” he wrote, “bring about results which, if they were to be brought about deliberately, would require a knowledge on the part of the directing mind which no single person can possess?”

This was not a technical point about interest rates or deflationary slumps. This was not a reactionary polemic against collectivism or the welfare state. This was a way of birthing a new world. To his mounting excitement, Hayek understood that the market could be thought of as a kind of mind.

Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” had already given us the modern conception of the market: as an autonomous sphere of human activity and therefore, potentially, a valid object of scientific knowledge. But Smith was, until the end of his life, an 18th-century moralist. He thought the market could be justified only in light of individual virtue, and he was anxious that a society governed by nothing but transactional self-interest was no society at all. Neoliberalism is Adam Smith without the anxiety.

That Hayek is considered the grandfather of neoliberalism – a style of thought that reduces everything to economics – is a little ironic given that he was such a mediocre economist. He was just a young, obscure Viennese technocrat when he was recruited to the London School of Economics to compete with, or possibly even dim, the rising star of John Maynard Keynes at Cambridge.

The plan backfired, and Hayek lost out to Keynes in a rout. Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936, was greeted as a masterpiece. It dominated the public discussion, especially among young English economists in training, for whom the brilliant, dashing, socially connected Keynes was a beau idéal. By the end of the second world war, many prominent free-marketers had come around to Keynes’s way of thinking, conceding that government might play a role in managing a modern economy. The initial excitement over Hayek had dissipated. His peculiar notion that doing nothing could cure an economic depression had been discredited in theory and practice. He later admitted that he wished his work criticising Keynes would simply be forgotten.

Hayek cut a silly figure: a tall, erect, thickly accented professor in high-cut tweed, insisting on the formal “Von Hayek” but cruelly nicknamed “Mr Fluctooations” behind his back. In 1936, he was an academic without a portfolio and with no obvious future. Yet we now live in Hayek’s world, as we once lived in Keynes’s. Lawrence Summers, the Clinton adviser and former president of Harvard University, has said that Hayek’s conception of the price system as a mind is “as penetrating and original an idea as microeconomics produced in the 20th century” and “the single most important thing to learn from an economics course today”. This undersells it. Keynes did not make or predict the cold war, but his thinking wended its way into every aspect of the cold-war world; so too has Hayek’s thinking woven itself into every aspect of the post-1989 world.

Hayek’s was a total worldview: a way of structuring all reality on the model of economic competition. He begins by assuming that nearly all (if not all) human activity is a form of economic calculation, and so can be assimilated to the master concepts of wealth, value, exchange, cost – and especially price. Prices are a means of allocating scarce resources efficiently, according to need and utility, as governed by supply and demand. For the price system to function efficiently, markets must be free and competitive. Ever since Smith imagined the economy as an autonomous sphere, the possibility existed that the market might not just be one piece of society, but society as a whole. Within such a society, men and women need only follow their own self-interest and compete for scarce rewards. Through competition, “it becomes possible”, as the sociologist Will Davies has written, “to discern who and what is valuable”.

What any person acquainted with history sees as the necessary bulwarks against tyranny and exploitation – a thriving middle class and civil sphere; free institutions; universal suffrage; freedom of conscience, congregation, religion and press; a basic recognition that the individual is a bearer of dignity – held no special place in Hayek’s thought. Hayek built into neoliberalism the assumption that the market provides all necessary protection against the one real political danger: totalitarianism. To prevent this, the state need only keep the market free.

This last is what makes neoliberalism “neo”. It is a crucial modification of the older belief in a free market and a minimal state, known as “classical liberalism”. In classical liberalism, merchants simply asked the state to “leave us alone” – to laissez-nous faire. Neoliberalism recognised that the state must be active in the organisation of a market economy. The conditions allowing for a free market must be won politically, and the state must be re-engineered to support the free market on an ongoing basis.

That isn’t all: every aspect of democratic politics, from the choices of voters to the decisions of politicians, must be submitted to a purely economic analysis. The lawmaker is obliged to leave well enough alone – to not distort the natural actions of the marketplace – and so, ideally, the state provides a fixed, neutral, universal legal framework within which market forces operate spontaneously. The conscious direction of government is never preferable to the “automatic mechanism of adjustment” – ie the price system, which is not only efficient but maximises liberty, or the opportunity for men and women to make free choices about their own lives.

As Keynes jetted between London and Washington, creating the postwar order, Hayek sat pouting in Cambridge. He had been sent there during the wartime evacuations; and he complained that he was surrounded by “foreigners” and “no lack of orientals of all kinds” and “Europeans of practically all nationalities, but very few of real intelligence”.

Stuck in England, without influence or respect, Hayek had only his idea to console him; an idea so grand it would one day dissolve the ground beneath the feet of Keynes and every other intellectual. Left to its own devices, the price system functions as a kind of mind. And not just any mind, but an omniscient one: the market computes what individuals cannot grasp. Reaching out to him as an intellectual comrade-in-arms, the American journalist Walter Lippmann wrote to Hayek, saying: “No human mind has ever understood the whole scheme of a society … At best a mind can understand its own version of the scheme, something much thinner, which bears to reality some such relation as a silhouette to a man.”

It is a grand epistemological claim – that the market is a way of knowing, one that radically exceeds the capacity of any individual mind. Such a market is less a human contrivance, to be manipulated like any other, than a force to be studied and placated. Economics ceases to be a technique – as Keynes believed it to be – for achieving desirable social ends, such as growth or stable money. The only social end is the maintenance of the market itself. In its omniscience, the market constitutes the only legitimate form of knowledge, next to which all other modes of reflection are partial, in both senses of the word: they comprehend only a fragment of a whole and they plead on behalf of a special interest. Individually, our values are personal ones, or mere opinions; collectively, the market converts them into prices, or objective facts.

After washing out at LSE, Hayek never held a permanent appointment that was not paid for by corporate sponsors. Even his conservative colleagues at the University of Chicago – the global epicentre of libertarian dissent in the 1950s – regarded Hayek as a reactionary mouthpiece, a “stock rightwing man” with a “stock rightwing sponsor”, as one put it. As late as 1972, a friend could visit Hayek, now in Salzburg, only to find an elderly man prostrate with self-pity, believing his life’s work was in vain. No one cared what he had written!

There had, however, been hopeful signs: Hayek was Barry Goldwater’s favourite political philosopher and was said to be Ronald Reagan’s, too. Then there was Margaret Thatcher. To anyone who would listen, Thatcher lionised Hayek, promising to bring together his free-market philosophy with a revival of Victorian values: family, community, hard work.

Hayek met privately with Thatcher in 1975, at the very moment that she, having been named leader of the opposition in the UK, was preparing to bring his Big Idea off the shelf and into history. They huddled for 30 minutes on Lord North Street in London, at the Institute for Economic Affairs. Afterwards, Thatcher’s staff anxiously asked Hayek what he had thought. What could he say? For the first time in 40 years, power was mirroring back to Friedrich von Hayek his own cherished self-image, a man who might vanquish Keynes and remake the world.

He replied: “She’s so beautiful.”

Hayek’s Big Idea isn’t much of an idea – until you supersize it. Organic, spontaneous, elegant processes that, like a million fingers on a Ouija board, coordinate to create outcomes that are otherwise unplanned. Applied to an actual market – one for pork bellies or corn futures – this description is little more than a truism. It can be expanded to describe how various markets, in commodities and labour and even money itself, form that part of a society known as “the economy”. This is less banal, but still inconsequential; a Keynesian accepts this description happily. But what if we bump it up one more step? What if we reconceive all of society as a kind of market?

The more Hayek’s idea expands, the more reactionary it gets, the more it hides behind its pretence of scientific neutrality – and the more it allows economics to link up with the major intellectual trend of the west since the 17th century. The rise of modern science generated a problem: if the world is universally obedient to natural laws, what does it mean to be human? Is a human being simply an object in the world, like any other? There appears to be no way to assimilate the subjective, interior human experience into nature as science conceives it – as something objective whose rules we discover by observation.

Everything about the postwar political culture lay in favour of John Maynard Keynes, and an expanded role for the state in managing the economy. But everything about the postwar academic culture lay in favour of Hayek’s Big Idea. Before the war, even the most rightwing economist thought of the market as a means to a limited end, to the efficient allocation of scarce resources. From the time of Adam Smith in the mid-1700s, and up to that of the founding members of the Chicago school in the postwar years, it was commonplace to believe that the ultimate ends of society and of life, were established in the non-economic sphere.

On this view, questions of value are resolved politically and democratically, not economically – through moral reflection and public deliberation. The classic modern expression of this belief is found in a 1922 essay called Ethics and the Economic Interpretation by Frank Knight, who arrived at Chicago two decades before Hayek. “The rational economic criticism of values gives results repugnant to common sense,” Knight wrote. “Economic man is the selfish, ruthless object of moral condemnation.”

Economists had struggled for 200 years with the question of how to place the values on which an otherwise commercial society is organised beyond mere self-interest and calculation. Knight, along with his colleagues Henry Simons and Jacob Viner, were holdouts against Franklin D Roosevelt and the market interventions of the New Deal, and they established the University of Chicago as the intellectually rigorous home of free-market economics that it remains to this day. However, Simons, Viner and Knight all started their careers before the unrivalled prestige of atomic physicists drew enormous sums of money into the university system and kicked off a postwar vogue for “hard” science. They did not worship equations or models, and they worried about non-scientific questions. Most explicitly, they worried about questions of value, where value was absolutely distinct from price.

It is not just that Simons, Viner and Knight were less dogmatic than Hayek, or more willing to pardon the state for taxing and spending. It is not the case that Hayek was their intellectual superior. But they acknowledged as a first principle that society was not the same thing as the market, and that price was not the same thing as value. This set them up to be swallowed whole by history.

It was Hayek who showed us how to get from the hopeless condition of human partiality to the majestic objectivity of science. Hayek’s Big Idea acts as the missing link between our subjective human nature, and nature itself. In so doing, it puts any value that cannot be expressed as a price – as the verdict of a market – on an equally unsure footing, as nothing more than opinion, preference, folklore or superstition.

More than anyone, even Hayek himself, it was the great postwar Chicago economist Milton Friedman who helped convert governments and politicians to the power of Hayek’s Big Idea. But first he broke with two centuries of precedent and declared that economics is “in principle independent of any particular ethical position or normative judgments” and is “an ‘objective’ science, in precisely the same sense as any of the physical sciences”. Values of the old, mental, normative kind were defective, they were “differences about which men can ultimately only fight”. There is the market, in other words, and there is relativism.

Markets may be human facsimiles of natural systems, and like the universe itself, they may be authorless and valueless. But the application of Hayek’s Big Idea to every aspect of our lives negates what is most distinctive about us. That is, it assigns what is most human about human beings – our minds and our volition – to algorithms and markets, leaving us to mimic, zombie-like, the shrunken idealisations of economic models. Supersizing Hayek’s idea and radically upgrading the price system into a kind of social omniscience means radically downgrading the importance of our individual capacity to reason – our ability to provide and evaluate justifications for our actions and beliefs.

As a result, the public sphere – the space where we offer up reasons, and contest the reasons of others – ceases to be a space for deliberation, and becomes a market in clicks, likes and retweets. The internet is personal preference magnified by algorithm; a pseudo-public space that echoes the voice already inside our head. Rather than a space of debate in which we make our way, as a society, toward consensus, now there is a mutual-affirmation apparatus banally referred to as a “marketplace of ideas”. What looks like something public and lucid is only an extension of our own pre-existing opinions, prejudices and beliefs, while the authority of institutions and experts has been displaced by the aggregative logic of big data. When we access the world through a search engine, its results are ranked, as the founder of Google puts it, “recursively” – by an infinity of individual users functioning as a market, continuously and in real time.

The awesome utilities of digital technology aside, an earlier and more humanist tradition, which was dominant for centuries, had always distinguished between our tastes and preferences – the desires that find expression in the market – and our capacity for reflection on those preferences, which allows us to form and express values.

“A taste is almost defined as a preference about which you do not argue,” the philosopher and economist Albert O Hirschman once wrote. “A taste about which you argue, with others or yourself, ceases ipso facto being a taste – it turns into a value.”

Hirschman drew a distinction between that part of one’s self that is a consumer, and that part of one’s self that is a supplier of reasons. The market reflects what Hirschman called the preferences that are “revealed by agents as they buy goods and services”. But, as he puts it, men and women also “have the ability to step back from their ‘revealed’ wants, volition and preferences, to ask themselves whether they really want these wants and prefer these preferences”. We fashion our selves and identities on the basis of this capacity for reflection. The use of one’s individual reflective powers is reason; the collective use of these reflective powers is public reason; the use of public reason to make law and policy is democracy. When we provide reasons for our actions and beliefs, we bring ourselves into being: individually and collectively, we decide who and what we are.

According to the logic of Hayek’s Big Idea, these expressions of human subjectivity are meaningless without ratification by the market – as Friedman said, they are nothing but relativism, each as good as any other. When the only objective truth is determined by the market, all other values have the status of mere opinions; everything else is relativist hot air. But Friedman’s “relativism” is a charge that can be thrown at any claim based on human reason. It is a nonsense insult, as all humanistic pursuits are “relative” in a way the sciences are not. They are relative to the (private) condition of having a mind, and the (public) need to reason and understand even when we can’t expect scientific proof. When our debates are no longer resolved by deliberation over reasons, then the whimsies of power will determine the outcome.

This is where the triumph of neoliberalism meets the political nightmare we are living through now. “You had one job,” the old joke goes, and Hayek’s grand project, as originally conceived in 30s and 40s, was explicitly designed to prevent a backslide into political chaos and fascism. But the Big Idea was always this abomination waiting to happen. It was, from the beginning, pregnant with the thing it was said to protect against. Society reconceived as a giant market leads to a public life lost to bickering over mere opinions; until the public turns, finally, in frustration to a strongman as a last resort for solving its otherwise intractable problems.

In 1989, an American reporter knocked on the 90-year-old Hayek’s door. He was living in Freiburg, West Germany, in a third-floor apartment in a stucco house on Urachstrasse. The two men sat in a sunroom whose windows looked out on the mountains, and Hayek, who was recovering from pneumonia, pulled a blanket over his legs as they spoke.

This was no longer the man who had once wallowed in his own defeat at the hands of Keynes. Thatcher had just written to Hayek in a tone of millennial triumph. None of what she and Reagan had accomplished “would have been possible without the values and beliefs to set us on the right road and provide the right sense of direction”. Hayek was now cheerful on his own account, and optimistic about the future of capitalism. As the journalist wrote, “In particular, Hayek sees a greater appreciation for the market among the younger generation. Today unemployed youth in Algiers and Rangoon riot not for centrally planned welfare state but for opportunity: the freedom to buy and sell – jeans, cars, whatever – at whatever prices the market will bear.”

Thirty years on, and it can fairly be said that Hayek’s victory is unrivalled. We live in a paradise built by his Big Idea. The more closely the world can be made to resemble an ideal market governed only by perfect competition, the more law-like and “scientific” human behaviour, in the aggregate, becomes. Every day we ourselves – no one has to tell us to anymore! – strive to become more perfectly like scattered, discrete, anonymous buyers and sellers; and every day we treat the residual desire to be something more than a consumer as nostalgia, or elitism.

What began as a new form of intellectual authority, rooted in a devoutly apolitical worldview, nudged easily into an ultra-reactionary politics. What can’t be quantified must not be real, says the economist, and how do you measure the benefits of the core faiths of the enlightenment – namely, critical reasoning, personal autonomy and democratic self-government? When we abandoned, for its embarrassing residue of subjectivity, reason as a form of truth, and made science the sole arbiter of both the real and the true, we created a void that pseudo-science was happy to fill.

The authority of the professor, the reformer, the legislator or the jurist does not derive from the market, but from humanistic values such as public spiritedness, conscience or the longing for justice. Long before the Trump administration started demeaning them, such figures had been drained of salience by an explanatory scheme that can’t explain them. Surely there is a connection between their growing irrelevance and the election of Trump, a creature of pure whim, a man without the principles or conviction to make for a coherent self. A man without a mind, who represents the total absence of reason, is running the world; or at least ruining it. As a Manhattan real estate wiseguy, though, Trump, hey – he knows what he knows: that his sins have yet to be punished in the marketplace.

Main illustration by Bratislav Milenkovic

quinta-feira, 17 de agosto de 2017

Sua Santidade, o Governo

(…) “Durante anos, Portugal viveu debaixo de um impiedoso diktat do pensamento da direita neoliberal produzido em centros universitários como o Instituto de Ciências Sociais e disseminado por uma rede eficaz de jornalistas e colunistas. Hoje Portugal começa a viver debaixo de uma impiedosa rede de vigilância montada pelos intelectuais do Bloco, pelos apparatchiks do PCP e pela intelligentsia socialista que se investiu da missão de purgar as mentalidades dos perigos desviantes. Só se pode falar do Governo e das suas políticas com perfume de incenso e mãos juntas em jeito de oração. Pouco a pouco, foram sendo criados os códigos, as palavras e as frases que podemos dizer e citadas as questões da actualidade que podemos criticar. Quem não o fizer quebra consensos ou faz fretes a obscuras forças nacionais ou estrangeiras. Ou se é a favor do Governo, ou se é “pafiano” ou “troikiano” ou, como agora, entra no “aproveitamento político de tragédias” que estrafega os “consensos nacionais”(…)
Manuel Carvalho

Sua Santidade, o Governo
Manuel Carvalho
16 de agosto de 2017, 7:10

Antes de produzir declarações majestáticas sobre os supostos consensos nacionais em torno de “tragédias como as dos incêndios” para criticar a oposição, o primeiro-ministro devia fazer uma busca no Google. Se o tivesse feito teria evitado esse campo minado pela demagogia que se abre sempre que um líder político se quer fazer passar por santinho. Porque a verdade é que o PS da oposição (e ainda mais o fervoroso Bloco) fez sempre exactamente a mesma coisa que o PSD e o CDS fazem agora em torno dos incêndios: exploram as feridas abertas pela tragédia para desgastar quem manda. Foi precisamente o que fez o actual secretário de Estado das Florestas e então deputado do PS, Miguel Freitas, em Novembro de 2013, quando acusou Governo de Passos Coelho de se “tentar desresponsabilizar” pela falta de uma “estratégia integrada” no combate aos fogos desse Verão que provocaram a morte de nove pessoas e a maior destruição da floresta nacional desde 2005. Foi também o que fizeram o Bloco e o PCP sempre que os relatos dos incêndios subiam de tom e colocavam, como agora, o país em estado de alarme.

Nós percebemos que haja em todo este clima de denúncias da oposição um certo ar de necrotério e na sua estratégia um certo voo de abutre. Nós conseguimos entender as razões que levam tantos militantes do Governo a criticar as televisões pelos direitos dos fogos ou pelo tempo de antena que lhes concedem. Mas era o que faltava que num país democrático que vive um dos seus momentos mais dramáticos em anos se limitasse a cantar em coro a partitura do Governo. António Costa tenta santificar a sua missão e demonizar a da oposição precisamente porque a revelação de sucessivas falhas no combate aos incêndios o incomodam, estragam o seu sucesso na frente económica e obrigam-no a medir a popularidade em “focus group”. Exigir que essas falhas sejam reveladas (como o fez exemplarmente esta semana a ministra da Administração Interna) e discutidas é essencial para escrutinar o Governo e, principalmente, para se exigir a reparação de erros no futuro.

Pedir silêncio quando o Estado falha e o país arde é um absurdo a menos que tenha uma finalidade sub-reptícia: dar argumentos às hostes que defendem com unhas e dentes o Governo. Ou seja, de criar uma narrativa. Já sabemos como isso funciona. É munir os sapadores políticos dos partidos da coligação com uma cartilha: não se pode falar dos erros no combate aos incêndios; não se deve pedir a demissão da ministra; o Governo virou mesmo a “página da austeridade” porque é uma estrela que veio do firmamento para nos salvar da troika; a união de facto entre os partidos da esquerda é uma maravilha da política contemporânea celebrada pelo mundo fora e só rejeitada entre portas por causa da proverbial estupidez e inveja dos indígenas.

Durante anos, Portugal viveu debaixo de um impiedoso diktat do pensamento da direita neoliberal produzido em centros universitários como o Instituto de Ciências Sociais e disseminado por uma rede eficaz de jornalistas e colunistas. Hoje Portugal começa a viver debaixo de uma impiedosa rede de vigilância montada pelos intelectuais do Bloco, pelos apparatchiks do PCP e pela intelligentsia socialista que se investiu da missão de purgar as mentalidades dos perigos desviantes. Só se pode falar do Governo e das suas políticas com perfume de incenso e mãos juntas em jeito de oração. Pouco a pouco, foram sendo criados os códigos, as palavras e as frases que podemos dizer e citadas as questões da actualidade que podemos criticar. Quem não o fizer quebra consensos ou faz fretes a obscuras forças nacionais ou estrangeiras. Ou se é a favor do Governo, ou se é “pafiano” ou “troikiano” ou, como agora, entra no “aproveitamento político de tragédias” que estrafega os “consensos nacionais”.

Desta vez, não é preciso haver um Armando Vara e um José Sócrates a pensarem em planos sórdidos de controlo dos jornais e dos jornalistas para que a luta por um novo pensamento único ganhe fulgor. Com a direita ultraliberal resignada e ressentida com um mundo que tolera a existência de um Governo socialista capaz de cumprir o défice, basta uma dúzia de colunistas de varapau, e, principalmente, uma rede de detectores de falhas da imprensa para que os desvios sejam rapidamente identificados e denunciados. É aí que um erro ou uma omissão dos jornalistas se transformam numa conspiração planeada nos segredos dos bastidores por forças poderosas que ameaçam a “sua” democracia. O que os move não é a saudável exigência por uma imprensa escrutinada, forçada a ser mais exigente, mais crítica e mais servidora do interesse público: é antes a criação de uma suspeita genérica sobre a sua legitimidade. Se há críticas ao Governo ou elogios ao CDS não é por causa do pluralismo: só pode ser por causa de um plano subversivo das forças do mal. Um jornal sarcástico e comprometido como “O Independente” seria, nestes dias, um crime.

Neste campo minado, a direita enterra-se todos os dias. Porque a sua doutrina, as suas fragilidades e os seus erros são presas fáceis para os lobbies da esquerda indiscutível que vai de Pedro Nuno Santos a Francisco Louçã. Porque é incompetente. E porque caiu na tentação de ser do contra por sistema. Quando numa crise tão grave como a actual o CDS e o PSD se limitam a criticar sem serem capazes de produzir uma única ideia, uma só proposta, está quase tudo dito sobre a sua moral para pedir contas. O caso extremo desta política “partisan” aconteceu com a reforma da Floresta, da qual os dois partidos do centro-direita se retiraram para entregar o PS às exigências disparatadas do Bloco de Esquerda. Por culpas próprias e eficiências alheias, o que começa a ser evidente não é apenas a demolição da liderança de Passos ou de Assunção Cristas; é também a própria leitura do passado recente que está a ser reescrita. Não se pode dizer que em 2010 Portugal estava no limiar da bancarrota ou que a austeridade nos foi imposta porque para os novos donos das palavras isso é ou mentira ou submissão ao jogo da direita, do FMI, de Bruxelas ou do capital.

Esta onda que tende a seguir os velhos trilhos dos populismos e das ditaduras, quase sempre iniciados com a apropriação das palavras e a generalização da maldade das “forças de bloqueio”, seja a oposição ou os jornalistas, vem de longe. Mas a militância apaixonada da extrema-esquerda e o poder das redes sociais tornam-na mais forte. Portugal é felizmente uma democracia consistente onde ainda se respira bem. Mas para percebermos onde estamos, é bom apontar o dedo aos que o apontam a cada passo a todos os que falam ou pensam de forma diferente.

terça-feira, 15 de agosto de 2017

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Tagus river at risk of drying up completely

Tagus river at risk of drying up completely

Climate change, dams and diversion bring Iberian peninsula’s longest river, on which millions depend, to brink of collapse

Stephen Burgen
Monday 14 August 2017 15.39 BST

The Tagus river, the longest in the Iberian peninsula, is in danger of drying up completely as Spain once again finds itself in the grip of drought.
Miguel Ángel Sánchez, spokesman of the Platform in Defence of the Tagus, says “the river has collapsed through a combination of climate change, water transfer and the waste Madrid produces.”
The Tagus, known in Spanish as the Tajo and Portuguese as the Tejo, rises in Aragón in northern Spain, passes close to Madrid and forms part of the border with Portugal before flowing into the sea at Lisbon. En route, it is dammed no fewer than 51 times in Spain alone.
But its troubles begin at the headwaters in Aragón. In 1902 a plan was conceived to siphon off water from here and divert it to the Segura river to irrigate farms in the arid southeast in what is known as the Tajo-Segura transfer. Construction began in 1966 and water started flowing out of the dammed Tagus headwaters to the Segura in 1979.
However, the amount of available water was miscalculated and Spain’s cyclical droughts were not factored in. Today only 47% of the predicted water resources exist and levels in the two headwater dams are down to 11% capacity, too low to allow any transfers.
“All of these problems derive from designing a water transfer from the headwaters of a river, overestimating the available resources and joining two areas with similar climate cycles,” says Nuria Hernández-Mora, a founding member of the Foundation for a New Water Culture. “The transfer has served to create social and political conflict and turn the Tagus into one of the rivers in the worst ecological state in the peninsula.”
Siphoning off the headwaters is only permitted when the dams have sufficient water – previously this was just an option, not a guarantee of supply. However, the government recently passed a law that says that as soon as there is a surplus there is an obligation to transfer it, making it impossible to store water to cope with droughts.
The law flies in the face of the European water directive and when an EU delegation visited the Tagus and Ebro rivers last year it issued a highly critical report of Spain’s failure to conform with the directive.
The Tagus’s troubles don’t end with the transfer. Even after about 65% is siphoned to the Segura, it still has to supply Madrid’s 6 million inhabitants, whose inadequately treated waste water is dumped back into the river further downstream. The water from the Tagus is also used to cool nuclear reactors.
The Portuguese complain that Spain is siphoning off water and polluting the river, arguments Spain rejects. In January Lisbon filed a formal complaint with Brussels over Spain’s plans to build a nuclear waste treatment plant close to the river and the Portuguese border.
Spain’s water management has been driven by economics, not environmental considerations, says environmental lawyer María Soledad Gallego. “A river isn’t just a water resource, it has a cultural, social, historic and aesthetic value.”
In terms of water, Spain is living beyond its means. Agricultural demand in the Segura basin has been rising for decades, says Hernández-Mora, resulting in the over-exploitation of both ground and surface water. Water will always be a scarce resource in Spain, she says, and what needs to be controlled is demand.
While much is made of the transferred water being used to irrigate golf courses in arid Murcia, 85% of it is used to grow fruit and vegetables under plastic in that province and neighbouring Almería.

“We need to face reality and deal with the environmental implications,” says Gallego. “In the south-east agriculture is subsidised in the form of water transfers. They depend on there being a water surplus in other parts of the country and so they are always going to have problems. They need to live with the reality of what the Segura and Tajo basins can provide.”