Closed!

Closed!

The final steps of my transplantation to Pennsylvania are being taken.

Week 6 – close on the house in North Carolina.

The transplantation process is almost entirely complete. I just need the driver’s license, vehicle registration and voter registration bit. And to get a library card. ūüôā

This home was my castle for nearly ten years, the only real estate property I have ever owned. But it is a relief to be unburdened of it, since it wasn’t so useful hundreds of miles away. My relief was palpable to the notary who stamped the closing papers as I rushed to get them signed and overnighted yesterday.

Thanks, house, for taking care of me through my forties. I hope the new owner finds as much joy in you as I did.

Five Week Move Complete

Five Week Move Complete

Piles of boxes fill my apartment as I contemplate my astounding five week move from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. Here’s how to do it:

Week 1 – Phone interview from NC.

Week 2 – Drive up to PA. Look at apartment. Have on-site job interview. Get job offer. Drive back to NC.

Week 3 – Apply for apartment remotely. Get approved. Arrange for movers. Arrange to sell house to neighbors. Frantically pack.

Week 4 – Movers pick up possessions. Drive to PA. Unload car into apartment. Frustrated by movers not arriving. Snowstorm: job start is delayed. Continue arranging to sell NC house. Movers finally arrive at last minute.

Week 5 – Start job. Sign contract to sell house.

 

All of this was much facilitated by the ease of communication and process workflow that comes with the Internet era, and that the neighbors had their eye on my house. It also helped that so much of my house was packed already because of the Wrath of the Water Spirits. And, of course, that my BFF was waiting in PA to help with stocking the apartment with groceries and then with unpacking.

As the boxes have been opened and items sorted through, I wonder how I accumulated so much junk over the years. Why was I attached to it all enough to pay movers to transport it, instead of giving it away or selling it in NC? Probably because I was rushing and not planning or processing as wisely as I could have. A lesson for the next move. This old stuff has less value now; it feels like it belongs to a dead past. I want to pick at it like a scab, peel it away like dragon scales off of Eustace Scrubb as I emerge into my new life.

Reddit Thread of the Week: Governmental Fight Club

Reddit Thread of the Week: Governmental Fight Club

I have heard it said that the Boomer generation has produced the worst political leadership in American history. Now, when the Boomers came of age in the 1960s, they were aggressive and confrontational, as is well known. 50 years later, they are the elder leaders of our society, but their collective personality traits remain the same – in generational studies we call this “thinking along the generational diagonal.” So the same scrappy, individualistic style they brought to their campus protests in the 1960s, they now bring to high political office. Just think of what the 2016 Presidential election was like for an example. Now we get a daily dose of Boomer scrappiness in the form of Presidential tweets. Younger generations look on, aghast and amused, as you can observe in the reddit thread linked below.

Donald Trump would beat Joe Biden in a fight and make him cry from iamverybadass

 

Today’s Workout Album – Bright: The Album

Today’s Workout Album – Bright: The Album

I find that the soundtrack to the Netflix original film Bright makes an excellent workout album, with its driving beats and heavy hip-hop influence. I also makes me feel firmly planted in the zeitgeist, since it is not even a year old, and is replete with Millennial themes of building community and repairing the broken.

The film itself didn’t impress critics, instead sort of representing everything that Netflix, or streaming in general, is doing to ruin the film industry. Maybe it is just too weird to mash up the fantasy and buddy cop genres – A Game of Thrones meets End of Watch. It is undoubtedly a formulaic action movie, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It was certainly better than The Cloverfield Paradox.

Here is one song from the album (Millennial whoop at 1:36).

My Book and DVD Reviews

My Book and DVD Reviews

I have been creating hobby web pages since a long time ago, and keep at it even though the web itself has moved on. I’m still stuck in Web 1.0, and we have since moved on to Web 2.5 or something like that, and apps are going to kill the World Wide Web any day now anyway, but I still maintain my sites because I enjoy it. So one page I have kept maintaining has reviews of books and movies/TV shows; here it is for you to check out if you’d like:

Steve's Book and DVD Reviews

http://sbarrera.home.mindspring.com/bs/cult/reviews/BSBDRmain.html

 

Strategy Review: Turnings Theory and the Crisis Era

Strategy Review: Turnings Theory and the Crisis Era

In January I posted a series of “Strategy Reviews” where I examined the thinking of several authors who analyzed the state of politics and war at the beginning of this century. These were Thomas P. M. Barnett with the Pentagon’s New Map that divided the world between Core and Gap, Philip Bobbitt and the market state as defined in The Shield of Achilles, and John Robb with his Brave New War fought in a networked world. Each author’s viewpoint provided a way of understanding the tumultuous events of our time.

I would now like to reexamine these interpretations, but from another viewpoint – that provided by the generational theory of William Strauss and Neil Howe. This is a theory that I have been studying since I discovered it in the early 1990s, when I picked up the book 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail? at a book store. That book spoke to my personal experience, and I continued to explore generations by reading the other works of the authors. I won’t expound on the¬†theory to a great degree in this post; you can read a review I wrote here, where you will find links to even more information.

The important thing to know about Strauss and Howe theory for the purposes of this posting is that they identified different social eras called turnings, which are characterized by particular social priorities and proclivities. In the United States of America, we are currently in a Crisis era which began with the financial crash of 2008. Previously, we were in an Unraveling era, which began during the Reagan years.

The Crisis Era

In an Unraveling, society is inward-driven, focused on the individual and loosely regulated. This changes in the Crisis, as a sense of urgency grows over problems which were allowed to remain unresolved in the previous era. Society becomes focused on the community, and more restrictive in what it allows of the individual.

Since the strategists mentioned above are primarily concerned with security and with international relations, we should examine what the implications of the Crisis are in these realms. The main consideration is that, in a Crisis era, society seeks to close itself off and insulate itself from perceived threats. This is apparent, for example, in the crackdown on illegal immigration which began during the Obama administration and continues bitterly into the Trump administration.

Another way in which the United States is closing off is by withdrawing from the rest of the world, changing its posture with respect to international security relations. This began with Obama’s pullback from the wars started by the previous administration, and continues with the more drastic policies of Trump, who has pulled out of international agreements and adopted an overtly nationalist stance for his administration. “America First” couldn’t be a more fitting slogan for a Crisis era.

Trumpism repudiates the idea of the United States as a responsible global hegemon promoting democracy and free-market capitalism – the role the country took on in the aftermath of the Cold War, albeit a role which proved costly, unpopular – and perhaps hopeless. Trumpism also repudiates economic globalization, which came at the price of high-paying working class jobs in the United States. These Unraveling era policies could be labeled the “neo-liberal regime,” which in the Crisis era has become delegitimized. In fact, John Robb specifically describes the Trump victory as rolling back neo-liberalism.

Thomas Barnett acknowledges this fact about Trump’s appeal in his own election post-mortem post. Barnett’s vision of the United States securing peace by maintaining military overwatch while helping to connect the world into a global economy of functioning, developed states, is not suited for the Crisis era social mood. Americans see the problems that grew in the era of globalization, particularly the erosion of the middle class, as no longer endurable. It is telling that both the Trump and Sanders campaigns in 2016 called for reversing trade policies that are perceived to have driven down wages in the United States.

In his work, Thomas Barnett cautioned against the urge to “firewall the Core against the Gap,” instead promoting the idea of greater connectivity among nations. But that was an idea better suited for the Unraveling era. In the Crisis era the desire is to “circle the wagons” and protect what remains of the social order from further collapse. To the political left this means addressing wealth inequality through government largesse (which the right calls socialism). To the political right this means restricting travel and immigration, even to the point of building a wall on the southern border (which the left calls racism). For neither side, however, is the status quo acceptable.

The New Form of the State

So what of the fate of Philip Bobbitt’s market state? According to Bobbitt, it is a form of the state that derives legitimacy from maximizing opportunity for its citizens, not from advancing their welfare. But in turnings theory, maximal opportunity for the individual is a priority of the Unraveling era. In the Crisis era, community takes precedence, hence the return of nationalist rhetoric into politics. So is the nation state, which the market state was supposed to supplant, making a comeback?

John Robb isn’t the only way who sees the market state being rolled backed; in¬†another post, a pseudonymous author argues that the failure of the market state paradigm comes from the agency problem: market state elites have not been looking out for the best interests of the citizens they ostensibly serve. This is indeed a primary criticism of the old neo-liberal regime, particularly from the extreme political right, who would go so far as to call internationalists traitors.

The irony of Trump’s electoral victory, of course, is that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, was arguably a champion of neo-liberalism, and yet she still received more popular votes than Trump in the election. She was, in fact, the second most popular U.S. Presidential candidate in history, after Barack Obama. The accusations that there was meddling in the election, in Trump’s favor, by hackers sponsored by the Russian government, segues into another area covered by our strategists – network warfare.

The problem with dispensing with Bobbitt’s theory of the market state is that, while he missed the fact that social priorities would alter because of generational change, he is probably correct in identifying a new strategic landscape. Assuming that nuclear weapons really have rendered conventional war between Great Powers obsolete (the M.A.D. doctrine), warfare has shifted to the level of network exploitation. The new threat environment is rife with computer hackers and social media trolls. This is no joke – these bad actors can sway public opinion, influencing election outcomes and paralyzing governments, and can radicalize young people in far-away countries, prompting them to commit mass murder. They can even penetrate the computer networks responsible for operating vital infrastructure.

So the state will still need to adapt its strategy for protecting its citizens, in order to maintain legitimacy. The question of what form it will ultimately take remains open. It is particularly unclear in the United States, since the country is so deeply split¬†along partisan lines. Will Trumpism become entrenched, or will the political tide turn against it, as Trump-resisters hope? Either way, turnings theory predicts that the institutions of government will transform. If the “nation state” returns, it won’t have the same form as the nation state of the World War era.

With¬†the United States having abandoned global leadership, there is now more open competition among the Great Powers for determining the best internal order for surviving in the new international strategic environment. Momentum likely favors what Barnett called the “New Core” – the nations which more recently joined the developed world. All bets seem to be on China as the new world leader – though this thinking could reflect the West’s anxiety more than reality.

The old liberal, international regime which attempted to thwart and contain authoritarianism in the previous era has been hamstrung, and authoritarianism is on the rise, even in formerly liberal nations. The international order will continue to break down, as individual nations become more focused on their own affairs. The Crisis era is characterized by a lack of trust, and it is the misfortune of the United States that this includes a lack of trust across the partisan divide.

A new mode of competition over cooperation clearly presents dangers. There is no ironbound guarantee that the late twentieth century paradigm that rendered WMDs for deterrence use only will prevail. There is no sublime, unbreakable bond keeping the United States united. But whatever events lie ahead, it is likely the Crisis era will last at least another decade, and that the world will look much different when we emerge from it. We are on a journey through one of history’s great turning points.

 

The Crisis Era in Turnings Theory Terms

The Crisis Era in Turnings Theory Terms

Here is a quick explanation of the recent political upheavals in Turnings Theory terms. More on this in a future post.

In Search of a Consensus

The Third Turning triumph of capitalism and the global hegemony of the United States culminated in the dominance of the political ideology of neoliberalism. The private sector was favored over the public sector, along with an ethos of diversity and inclusiveness. U.S. elites became globally oriented, and to many it seemed that both major political parties were simply pawns of wealthy corporate interests.

Behind the facade of this New World Order, a Culture War was being fought within American society. Hard lines were drawn on issues like gun control and abortion, as the nation split into polarized opposing camps.

A disastrous war prompted by a terrorist attack soured the country’s outlook on global military intervention. Then a financial crisis precipitated by shady lending practices only exacerbated the sense that elites were simply exploiting the system for their own benefit.

Eight years into the Fourth Turning, a contentious Presidential election led to the downfall of the neoliberal regime and the rise of a new American nationalism, fiercely anti-global and tinged with white supremacy. The opposition entrenched and adopted the language of resistance. It seems a consensus was farther away than ever.

Strategy Review: Brave New War

Strategy Review: Brave New War

In my most recent posts I looked at the strategic theories of two different authors. The first¬†was Thomas P. M. Barnett, who divided the world into functioning, integrated Core states, and their danger-producing opposites, the Gap states. His mantra was “disconnectedness defines danger.” The second¬†was Philip Bobbitt, who divided history into epochs in which different forms of the state ruled. He taught us that the nation state is on its way out, and the new market state is taking its place.

John Robb is an author who actually references both of the previous authors, in his book Brave New War. He springboards off of Bobbitt’s concept of the market state to argue that the nature of warfare has changed, becoming network-focused, and refutes Barnett’s mantra. Basically, in the globally networked world, connectedness defines danger, so good luck finding peace through integration. Better to develop doctrines of fighting networked war.

A war fought between social networks is exactly how Robb portrays the current Crisis Era in American politics. He calls this “open source warfare” in that anyone can participate in an era when the Internet gives individuals powers of surveillance and intelligence gathering that were once reserved for governments. You can follow more of John Robb’s analysis of current events here at his blog.

The Crisis Era in Market State Terms

The Crisis Era in Market State Terms

My last post looked at the strategic theory of Philip Bobbitt, and his idea that we are in an era of transition from the nation state to the market state. Here is how I think he would explain the recent political upheavals.

Birth Pangs Of The Market State

The U.S. victory over the U.S.S.R. marked the end of the nation state era. Even as this final conflict resolved, the new market state was coming into existence, a reaction to the change in the strategic landscape wrought by the very technologies that had allowed the U.S. to prevail – weapons of mass destruction, global communications, and advanced computers.

Where the nation state derived its legitimacy from managing the national economy to advance the welfare of its citizens, the market state seeks to maximize economic opportunity for its citizens while advancing their safety and security. Nationalist economic policy was no longer viable in a world of information overload and superempowered individuals.

The governments of the world are straining as this regime transformation takes place. In the United States, a TV celebrity con artist exploited the anxieties of the public to rise to the office of the Presidency, with a corrupt and kleptocratic agenda that threatens to bring about a Constitutional crisis. The young and fragile European Union is near collapse, and the old alignments, alliances and conventions of the nation state order are in question.

What form will the market state take in the end?