Saturday, July 23, 2011

So it does seem to be a madman

The tragedy in Norway is awful and near-incomprehensible, wih the death toll now over 90. It does seem to be a lone madman, although it is hard to see right now where he could get enough high explosive to shatter downtown Oslo.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Maybe we won't be noticed

Wikileaks cables say Norway's intelligence services have been complacent about terrorism.

We still don't know for sure who carried out the attacks. It could yet be a mad loner. I doubt it. The attack likely means no one can simply assume they are safe, though, no matter how progressive they are. The home city of the Nobel Peace Prize committee is strewn with debris.

Too much of the western response to terror has been to talk softly - and hope terrorists attack someone else. As if terrorists care about how well-meaning you are. There was a story a few weeks ago about the Taliban strapping a bomb to an eight year old girl. At some point we must realize we are dealing with people who have an entirely different way of thinking than we do.

It is not that the underlying liberalism of the west is wrong, that foundational liberalism of our societies that is much deeper than any party differences. It is just quite rare in human history. Most people who have ever lived do not see the world that way. We forget that, vainly hoping the world will mirror our own reflection.

Attack in Norway

News has been coming in in the last two hours of the terrible attack in Oslo. It is hard to believe such an assault can happen in Scandanavia. After years of taking off our shoes at the airport in the US, or spot-checks entering the subway, the risk of attacks is always lurking at the back of our minds in New York like a low buzz of static.

But now a major attack instead happens on a bright summer day in downtown Oslo, an ocean away from our expectations in every sense.

At this stage the most likely perpetrators are Al- qaeda or related entities.

Politicians and media are always quick to say that we should not overreact to such an attack, that the terrorists "have won" if we change in any way. But the most fundamental purpose of the state is, as Max Weber told us, the monopolization of legitimate violence - precisely to stop acts of violence by hostile entities like this. To contain the forces of violence and disorder, not make up excuses for inaction.

The state is supposed to stop a sanguinary state of nature, or the sight of rubble and broken glass on its main streets. If it cannot protect its citizens then its legitimacy is damaged. The underlying social contract means this cannot be violence seen as something to be just endured passively, like thunderstorms. If citizens cannot walk their own streets without fear, they ae not citizens. There is no freedom for anyone if ordinary citizens shudder in their houses or fret at boarding a train.

Hello World!

This is my first test post from a coffee place in New York. It is a fiercely hot July morning.

I am starting this blog because the world is changing so fast in such complex ways it is hard to keep up. People are floundering amidst economic change.

Which people and organizations are doing interesting things to adjust to the revolution in the economy? How will people make a living? How can people find opportunities when the whole nature of the economy is changing?

There is plenty of ideology out there, of course, much of it mildewed and stale. Plenty of business ideas and consumer fads and creative destruction - failing media, declining finance, disappearing middle-skill jobs.

The old industrial economy is disappearing. The new economy offers genuine new possibilities - but the news is dominated by financial crisis and unemployment. The destuction seems to overwhelm the creativity, at least in economic terms.

Maybe we have come to the end of an economic era.

Where is the new growth, the new things to do, the new practical ways to find a better way to live? It is time to stop being passive victims of change and find ways to make it a permanent shift to a better way of life.