Skinhead Cossacks and juju warriors. Or: What a fine baby! I’ve killed two like him today.

Johnny_Mad_Dog

A female soldier walked up to Janice and admired Logosou. “Oh, what a fine baby!” she cooed. “I’ve killed two like him today.”

Recalling horrors in Liberia

In his 1994 essay “The Coming Anarchy”, Robert D. Kaplan predicted the spread of failing states and societies, a process driven by a combination of political, economic, social and environmental crises. He characterised the outcomes in a memorable phrase: “Skinhead Cossacks and juju warriors”:

Outside the stretch limo [ie the comfortable, guarded lives of the decreasing number of the affluent] would be a rundown, crowded planet of skinhead Cossacks and juju warriors, influenced by the worst refuse of Western pop culture and ancient tribal hatreds, and battling over scraps of overused earth in guerrilla conflicts that ripple across continents and intersect in no discernible pattern—meaning there’s no easy-to-define threat. Kennan’s [Cold War] world of one adversary seems as distant as the world of Herodotus.

In the decades since Kaplan wrote, disruptive forces have gathered momentum and have been joined by newer ones, such as instability in the financial sector. This is the first in a series of posts in which I want to explore the consequences, which I see as being:

1. the recent elections to the European Parliament, the crisis in Ukraine, and a number of other ongoing news stories are all symptoms of the same underlying crisis;
2. globalisation is finished, and the consequences are going to be difficult for Western nations;
3. and as a result, we in the West need to start thinking hard and thinking quickly about how we’re going to manage the fallout of these consequences.

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Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison

My first real understanding of Nelson Mandela’s importance was due to his absence.

It was in 1988, and I was in Johannesburg Central Train Station, having come down to South Africa from my job high in the mountains of Lesotho. In the deep valley where I was living and working, there was no TV or radio reception, so we were starved of news from the outside world. Whenever I got a period of leave, I would devour Time and Newsweek to learn what was going on beyond the valley walls.

On this occasion, I’d hitch-hiked up the N1 motorway, and was staying in the YMCA a short walk away from the station. After dropping my rucksack off, I’d made straight for the newsagent in the station, and was examining Time. This edition happened to have a story about Nelson Mandela (perhaps this one?), which included a picture. Only, the picture was missing – there was just a hole in the page. Not understanding at first, I checked the other copies in the pile. In every one, the picture of Mandela had been neatly cut out.

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