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.
Last week was back to work after my holidays, never a pleasant experience.
What with one thing and another, I haven’t had time to do much exploring. The weather has turned very warm, and most business buildings have now turned their air-conditioning on.
Stepping out from a frosty air-con environment to feel hot sun and hot air is an experience that suddenly took me back a few years, to when I was delivering training at Nokia in Singapore – though St Petersburg’s air doesn’t have a ‘defining feature’ like the mingled smells of vegetation, incense, and food that I associate with Singapore, or the acrid tang of charcoal that will forever be for me the smell the Wudaokou chuan’r environment in Beijing.
The big event of the week was of course Friday: May 9th, Victory Day – the anniversary of the Second World War. 20 million Soviet citizens died during the war; the overwhelming scale of their loss, and of their overwhelming contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany often isn’t sufficiently acknowledged in the West.
That said, Victory Day turned out to be quite different to what I had expected. I knew there would be military parades; I’ve seen them on YouTube, and I remember from news programs when I was young how Kreminologists would study them carefully to see who was standing where on the podium outside the Kremlin to take the salute, and whether there was any new military technology on display.
So, I had a mental image of a show of military strength crossed with Britain’s Armistice Day tributes: a solemn, restrained day, spent in quiet remembrance.