Islamismo radical, Alt-right e populismo de extrema-direita como reacções à globalização e à perda de significado

Scott Atran, “Alt-Right or jihad?”:

It was religious philosopher Søren Kierkegaard who first discussed ‘the dizziness of freedom’ and the social disruption that it creates. Seizing on the idea in Escape from Freedom (1941), humanist philosopher Erich Fromm argued that too much freedom caused many to seek elimination of uncertainty in authoritarian systems. This has combined with what social psychologist Arie Kruglanski calls ‘the search for significance’, propelling both violent jihadists and militant supporters of populist ethno-nationalist movements worldwide. In the wake of these forces, we see what psychologist Michele Gelfand describes as a ‘tightening’ of political cultures, featuring intolerance of behaviours that differ from the norm. Thus, in our recent fieldwork with youth emerging from under ISIS rule in Mosul, we find that although ISIS may have lost its state, the Caliphate, it hasn’t necessarily lost allegiance among the people to its core values of strict religious rule and rejection of democracy. As one young man put it: ‘Sharia is God telling you what to do … Democracy is humans causing wars and distrust. To be free to do whatever you want leads to many problems and divisions and corruption in society.’

(…).

From jihadis in Europe to white supremacists in the US, people most susceptible to joining radical groups are youth in their teens and 20s seeking community and purpose. The attraction of community is especially keen where there are sentiments of social exclusion or community collapse, whether or not accompanied by economic deprivation. It is a sense of purpose that most readily propels action and sacrifice, including a willingness to fight and die – especially when that purpose is perceived to be in defence of transcendent values dissociated from material costs or consequences.

In our studies across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, we find that when membership in a tight community combines with a commitment to transcendent values, the willingness to make costly sacrifices will rise. The idea is to encourage devoted action for the sake of absolute values that fuse community and purpose.

This applies to the alt-Right as well. Just look at Patrik Hermansson’s undercover investigation of the extreme Right for the anti-racist group Hope Not Hate. Like recruiters who seek to bring in people from the larger Muslim community through cultural mixers and gatherings and then nudge them towards jihadi values, the alt-Right aims ‘to bring the [white] mainstream towards us’, as far-Right Scottish YouTube vlogger Colin Robertson put it, by avoiding the stereotypical ‘race hate’ line, and by relentlessly focusing on what Aryan Nations portrays as ‘a spiritual-based, numinous way of living’.

(…).

Fearful of the chauvinism and xenophobia that fed two world wars, many Western leaders and press simply denounce national identity or cultural preference as ‘bigoted’ or ‘racist’, and show an ostrich-like blindness to pan-human preferences for one’s own. This leaves the field wide-open for the offensive of white-nationalist groups of the alt-Right, or the far-Right’s less overtly racist alt-Light defenders of ‘Western culture’ against the onslaught of Islam, globalism, migration, feminism and homosexuality.

So how might we intervene? At the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where I presented some of our research findings, I had the impression that most people in attendance thought that the recent surge of jihadism and xenophobic ethno-national populism were just atavistic blips in the ineluctable progress of globalisation that were destined to soon go away. That to me was the most worrisome feature of Davos, whose denizens basically run the world (or try to). Few there seemed willing to change their policies or behaviour. They seemed to view the left-behinds of the dark side of globalisation as simply losers that might be given a handout when artificial intelligence and robots deny them any chance for a decent living.

(…).

At the very least, we must embed ourselves within actual communities to understand which approach may work best. A necessary focus of this effort must be youth, who form the bulk of today’s extremist recruits and tomorrow’s most vulnerable populations. Volunteers for al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and many extreme nationalist groups are often youth in transitional stages in their lives – immigrants, students, people between jobs and before finding their mates. Having left their homes, they seek new families of friends and fellow travellers to find purpose and significance. The ability to understand the realities facing young people will determine whether the transnational scourge of violent extremism continues and surges or abates.

Habermas sobre Macron, Merkel e o futuro da União Europeia

Jürgen Habermas, “What Macron Means for Europe: ‘How Much Will the Germans Have to Pay?’“(destaques meus):

When looked at dispassionately, though, it is just as unlikely that the next German government will have sufficient far-sightedness to find a productive, a forward-looking answer when addressing the question Macron has posed. I would find some measure of relief were they even able to identify the significance of the question.

It’s unlikely enough that a coalition government wracked by internal tension will be able to pull itself together to the degree necessary to modify the two parameters Angela Merkel established in the early days of the financial crisis: both the intergovernmentalism that granted Germany a leadership role in the European Council and the austerity policies that she, thanks to this role, imposed on the EU’s southern countries to the self-serving, outsized advantage of Germany. And it is even more unlikely that this chancellor, domestically weakened as she is, will refrain from step forward to make clear to her charming French partner that she will unfortunately be unable to apply herself to the reform vision he has put forth. Vision, after all, has never been her strong suit.

(…).

She too is fully aware that the European currency union, which is in Germany’s most fundamental interest, cannot be stabilized in the long term if the current situation – characterized by years of deepening divergence between the economies of Europe’s north and south when it comes to national income, unemployment and sovereign debt – is allowed to persist. The specter of the “transfer union” blinds us to this destructive tendency. It can only be stopped if truly fair competition across national borders is established and political policies are implemented to slow down the ongoing erosion of solidarity between national populations and within individual countries. A mention of youth unemployment should serve as example enough.

Macron hasn’t just drafted a vision, he specifically demands that the eurozone make progress on corporate tax rate convergence, he demands an effective financial transaction tax, the step-by-step convergence of the different social policy regimes, the establishment of a European trade prosecutor to ensure that the rules of international trade are adhered to, and much, much more.

(…)

It is this self-empowerment of European citizens that he means when speaking of “sovereignty.” When it comes to identifying steps toward institutionalizing this newfound clout, Macron points to closer cooperation in the eurozone on the basis of a joint budget. The central and controversial proposal reads as follows: “A budget must be placed under the strong political guidance of a common minister and be subject to strict parliamentary control at (the) European level. Only the eurozone with a strong and international currency can provide Europe with the framework of a major economic power.”

By demonstrating the pretense of applying political solutions to the problems facing our globalized society, Macron distinguishes himself like few others from the standard fare of chronically overwhelmed, opportunistic and conformist politicians that govern day after day with little in the way of inspiration. It’s enough to make you rub your eyes: Is there really somebody out there who wants to change the status quo? Is there really someone with sufficient irrational courage to rebel against the fatalism of vassals who unthinkingly kowtow to the putatively coercive systemic imperatives of a global economic order embodied by remote international organizations?

(…).

More than anything, though, political parties agree that European issues are to be carefully avoided in national elections, unless, of course, domestic problems can be blamed on Brussels bureaucrats. But now, Macron wants to do away with this mauvaise foi. He already broke one taboo by placing the reform of the European Union at the heart of his election campaign and rode that message, only one year after Brexit – against “the sad passions of Europe,” as he said – to victory.

That fact lends credibility to the oft-uttered trope about democracy being the essence of the European project, at least when Macron says it. I am not in a position to evaluate the implementation of the political reforms he has planned for France. We will have to wait and see if he is able to fulfill the “social-liberal” promise, that difficult balance between social justice and economic productivity. As a leftist, I’m no “Macronist,” if there is such a thing. But the way he speaks about Europe makes a difference. He calls for understanding for the founding fathers, who established Europe without citizen input because, he says, they belonged to an enlightened avantgarde. But he now wants to transform the elite project into a citizens’ project and is proposing reasonable steps toward democratic self-empowerment of European citizens against the national governments who stand in each other’s way in the European Council.

As such, he isn’t just demanding the introduction of a universal electoral law for the EU, but also the creation of trans-national party lists. That, after all, would fuel the growth of a European party system, without which the European Parliament will never become a place where societal interests, reaching across national borders, are collectively identified and addressed.

Fase de rescaldo

A agora ex-ministra da Administração Interna já não tinha condições para continuar no cargo há, pelo menos, 4 meses. Era inevitável que saísse do Governo, embora não seja despiciendo referir que foi necessário o Presidente da República intervir para António Costa se submeter ao que já era mais do que evidente. Mas agora, independentemente da dança das cadeiras no Governo, o que importa é saber se o Primeiro-Ministro vai tornar a reforma do dispositivo de prevenção e combate aos fogos uma prioridade nacional, alocando os recursos que forem necessários para evitar que se volte a repetir algo que possa assemelhar-se ao que aconteceu no passado fim-de-semana e em Junho. Agora que veio a chuva, esperemos que não se limite a mudar pouca coisa para que, na essência, fique tudo como está e para o ano haja mais do mesmo, como vem acontecendo há já cerca de 40 anos. Quanto mais não seja, e como Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa deixou patente no seu discurso, para assegurar a sobrevivência do seu Governo – algo que parece motivar o Primeiro-Ministro muito mais do que considerações éticas, sobre o interesse nacional ou a respeito das funções primordiais do Estado.

Vergonhoso

O discurso proferido há pouco por António Costa é absolutamente vergonhoso. A total falta de empatia, a incapacidade para a assunção de responsabilidades, a ausência de um pedido de desculpas aos portugueses por, em larga medida, terem sido deixados à sua sorte nestes últimos dias e pelos disparates ontem proferidos por membros do seu governo e por ele próprio, a repetitiva remissão para o relatório da comissão técnica independente sobre a tragédia de Junho deste ano, tudo isto é absolutamente deplorável. António Costa mostrou não ter qualquer sentido de Estado e que a reputação de politiqueiro lhe assenta como uma luva. Se dúvidas houvesse a este respeito, bastaria atentar no resumo de Gabriel Silva dos erros e responsabilidades directas que o Primeiro-Ministro teima em não assumir. Tudo isto vindo de um Primeiro-Ministro que afirma agora que “Depois deste ano nada ficará como dantes”, quando a sua proposta de Orçamento do Estado para 2018 não deixa adivinhar qualquer mudança estrutural no dispositivo de prevenção e combate aos incêndios. Como acontece há já cerca de 40 anos e como o próprio António Costa afiançava ontem, para o ano há mais, infelizmente.

Até quando abusarão da nossa paciência?

À hora a que escrevo este texto, registam-se 31 mortos nos incêndios de ontem, número que deverá continuar a aumentar. Quatro meses depois da tragédia de Pedrógão Grande, poucos dias após a publicação do relatório que evidencia as falhas graves que originaram esta tragédia – em resposta ao qual, a Ministra da Administração Interna, Constança Urbano de Sousa, diz que não se demite – e no dia em que o Secretário de Estado da Administração Interna, Jorge Gomes, afirmou que “Têm de ser as próprias comunidades a ser proativas e não ficarmos todos à espera que apareçam os nossos bombeiros e aviões para nos resolver os problemas. Temos de nos autoproteger, isso é fundamental”.

Já nem falo nas consequências políticas que deveriam ser retiradas de tudo isto, da liderança da Protecção Civil por boys incompetentes, da gestão política com o objectivo de manter a popularidade de António Costa e de segurar a Ministra no cargo, da total ausência de conhecimento por parte da Ministra e do Secretário de Estado em relação à forma como vivem as populações no interior rural do país e como combatem os incêndios com os meios escassos que têm à disposição, da redução de meios de combate aos incêndios em resultado da compartimentação deste combate em várias fases, da desorientação e falta de coordenação dos meios existentes, do escandâlo que é o SIRESP, enfim, de tudo o que contribui para o que estamos a viver.

Apenas questiono, considerando que ano após ano se repete este flagelo, que as condições atmosféricas propícias a estes incêndios se registam ao longo de metade do ano, que ao Estado compete garantir a segurança dos seus cidadãos, até quando continuarão os políticos a ignorar a necessidade de estabelecer um dispositivo integrado de prevenção e combate aos incêndios florestais altamente profissional, especializado e em funcionamento durante todo o ano e a tempo inteiro? O que é que ainda terá de acontecer para que isto constitua uma prioridade nacional?

Do declínio do projecto liberal ao regresso da política no PSD

Santana-Lopes.jpg

A saída de cena de Passos Coelho abriu espaço no PSD para um eventual retorno da política ao centro da acção do partido, especialmente se for Santana Lopes o novo líder escolhido pelos sociais-democratas.

O anterior Primeiro-Ministro tem uma formação académica em economia e herdou uma situação política de crise em que as questões económicas e financeiras predominavam sobre quaisquer outras. Ademais, a sua ascensão à liderança do PSD e, posteriormente, do Governo, ficou marcada por uma atmosfera intelectual e política de acolhimento de um projecto político liberal que, em boa parte, passou dos blogs e de alguns meios académicos para o PSD. À semelhança de Passos Coelho, muitos dos que o rodearam e apoiaram neste projecto são formados em economia ou engenharia e as suas actividades profissionais passam, em larga medida, pelo ensino e investigação nestas áreas ou pelo meio empresarial.

Tal como Passos Coelho, muitos destes liberais acreditam ou acreditavam na narrativa alemã de imposição da austeridade como forma de expiar os pecados cometidos por governos anteriores e pelos próprios portugueses que teriam vivido acima das suas possibilidades e que, por isso, deveriam ser castigados. Escusando-me de abordar neste texto o confronto entre as duas narrativas durante a crise do euro e a errada receita da austeridade excessiva em que os merkelistas, passistas e muitos outros acreditavam, aos leitores interessados nesta temática recomendo a leitura deste artigo de Paul De Grauwe ou deste de Jay Shambaugh, em que fica patente que o caso grego é singular e o seu diagnóstico foi erradamente alargado a outros países.

Ao longo dos últimos anos, a receita da austeridade foi perdendo muitos adeptos em várias instituições internacionais e países – mesmo enquanto o Governo de Passos Coelho ainda estava no poder e acreditava em ir além da troika. Ademais, quando chegou ao fim o período e o plano do resgate financeiro a que Portugal foi sujeito, o Governo composto pelo PSD e CDS mostrou não ter qualquer outro plano norteador da sua acção.

Após as eleições legislativas de 2015, a solução encontrada por António Costa, a chamada geringonça, provocou uma alteração estrutural no sistema político português e remeteu Passos Coelho para a oposição. Ao longo dos dois últimos anos, a estratégia oposicionista de Passos Coelho passou essencialmente por anunciar, num tom catastrofista, que as políticas de António Costa e Mário Centeno irão levar-nos novamente a uma situação económica e financeira periclitante. Com excepção da dívida pública, os indicadores económicos têm contrariado as previsões de Passos Coelho. É certo que a conjuntura internacional continua a favorecer a nossa economia, embora devamos estar atentos à forma como o próximo governo de Merkel se irá posicionar e relacionar com Macron a respeito da reforma da União Europeia, bem como ao impacto que o Brexit terá no funcionamento futuro das instituições europeias. Mas também é certo que António Costa e Mário Centeno transmitem a imagem de que as finanças públicas estão sob controlo, apesar do aumento da dívida pública, e que as políticas do actual governo têm favorecido o crescimento económico. Claro que vários políticos e comentadores afectos ao PSD procuram reivindicar os bons resultados para o anterior Governo, mas independentemente do que for verdadeiro a este respeito, é o actual Governo que está no poder e, por isso, muito facilmente consegue reclamar para si os louros do recente crescimento económico. Ademais, se com o anterior Governo, de acordo com Luis Montenegro, a vida das pessoas não ficou melhor mas o país ficou muito melhor, com o actual Governo as pessoas sentem melhorias reais nas suas vidas, que se traduzem no aumento dos seus rendimentos.

Ora, como ensinava Maquiavel – e aqui limito-me ao papel de observador, não emitindo qualquer juízo de valor sobre o que se segue – em política é a verdade efectiva das coisas que importa, são as consequências que devem prevalecer na tomada de decisão (ou na terminologia de Max Weber, a ética da responsabilidade deve preponderar sobre a ética da convicção), e são os resultados reais que importam aos cidadãos. Porque, citando O Príncipe, “Nas acções de todos os homens, e mormente dos príncipes, em que não há um tribunal para onde reclamar, olha-se é ao resultado. Faça, pois, um príncipe por vencer e por manter o estado: os meios serão sempre julgados honrosos e por todos serão louvados, porque o vulgo prende-se é com o que parece e com o desenlace das coisas.” Daí que Maquiavel, segundo José Adelino Maltez, seja “acima de tudo, o teórico do «homem de sucesso», do vencedor efectivo e não daquele que apenas tem vitórias ditas morais.” Nesta perspectiva, é fácil perceber quem é o homem de sucesso na contenda entre António Costa e Passos Coelho.

Um dos principais erros em que Passos Coelho e muitos liberais portugueses incorrem é a crença na distinção de uma realidade objectiva e única, que se impõe às ideologias e à política e que, alegadamente, eles conseguem discernir. Não explorando sequer os complexos problemas filosóficos da realidade e da verdade, creio ser útil complementar os ensinamentos de Maquiavel com a distinção de Harold e Margaret Sprout, no domínio das relações internacionais e da análise de política externa, entre o psychological milieu (ou meio psicológico) e o operational milieu (ou meio operacional) dos decisores políticos. O primeiro é o meio conforme é percepcionado pelo decisor, influenciado pelas suas crenças e vieses cognitivos, sendo o meio mais importante na formulação de decisões, ao passo que o segundo é o meio conforme este realmente é, no qual as decisões são executadas. A existência de incongruências entre os dois meios pode levar a más decisões e péssimos resultados. Parece-me que a incongruência entre o meio percepcionado por Passos Coelho e o meio operacional explica o fracasso da estratégia oposicionista insistentemente praticada.

Centrando-se esta estratégia meramente nas questões económicas, Passos Coelho e os seus apoiantes acabaram por se ver reduzidos à crítica ao crescimento da dívida pública e tornaram-se incapazes de gizar uma estratégia de oposição que permitisse combater o Governo de António Costa em várias frentes e eixos de acção política. Esta incapacidade parece-me resultar dos seus parcos ou nulos conhecimentos e interesses relativamente a outras áreas do conhecimento além da economia. Na realidade, a maioria dos liberais portugueses pouco ou nada tem a dizer de interessante, com autoridade e além dos seus dogmas ideológicos e da doxa plasmada em artigos de jornal e conversas de café,  sobre o exercício do poder político (querem um Estado mínimo ou, alguns, mais extremistas, a dissolução do Estado) e sobre temas como, a título exemplificativo, a representação política e a reforma do sistema eleitoral, a administração da justiça, o mundo do trabalho e as relações laborais (acreditam que os empresários são vítimas dos trabalhadores e do Estado), as políticas sociais (são para substituir pela caridade), a educação ou a saúde (só deveriam ser prestadas por privados), ou a política externa portuguesa que tem de enfrentar os desafios colocados pela reforma de uma União Europeia confrontada com o Brexit.

Por tudo isto, estou em crer que o projecto liberal que teve na liderança de Passos Coelho o seu pináculo em termos de exercício do poder político continuará em declínio e que, se Santana Lopes ascender à liderança do PSD, a oposição deste partido ao Governo de António Costa será decisivamente norteada por critérios políticos e a sua acção política global marcada pela formulação de um projecto político alternativo para o país – algo que Passos Coelho manifestamente não tem.

Gritar à toa

Sonho com o dia em que a diferença salarial média entre homens e mulheres se inverta em favor das mulheres e o número de mulheres em cargos políticos e públicos e de direcção no sector privado seja superior ao dos homens. Primeiro, porque, embora se trate de uma realidade em que gostaria de viver, especialmente considerando que durante a esmagadora maioria da história da humanidade as mulheres foram e continuam a ser discriminadas de formas abjectas, repulsivas e sem qualquer justificação, perceberíamos todos que nem assim se conseguiria ultrapassar falhas características da cultura de cada corpo político. Segundo, e mais importante, porque deixaríamos de assistir ao chinfrim que os guerreiros pela igualdade de género a todo o custo teimam em produzir vociferando os seus preconceitos ideológicos assentes numa concepção profundamente errada da condição humana e numa compreensão débil dos fenómenos sociais, decorrentes do racionalismo construtivista. O que não quer dizer que, entretanto, não encontrem outras causas a que possam dedicar os seus esforços. Afinal, o racionalismo construtivista talvez nunca tenha tido um solo tão fértil como as hodiernas sociedades demo-liberais onde, infelizmente, a política da cartilha ideológica se sobrepôe à política enquanto conversação e acomodação de diferentes perspectivas. Como canta Samuel Úria numa belíssima crítica à primeira, Repressão!/ Repressão!/ Grita-se à toa/ Qualquer causa é boa num refrão.

Da violência política

Niall Ferguson, “There’s more than one side to the story”:

I do not remember Biden, much less his boss, tweeting “There is only one side” after any Islamist atrocity. On the contrary, president Obama often used his considerable eloquence to make just the opposite point. In his speech following the 2012 Benghazi attacks, he even went so far as to say: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” as if there were some moral equivalence between jihadists and those with the courage to speak critically about the relationship between Islam and violence.

Last week one of the chief executives who repudiated Trump, Apple’s Tim Cook, announced a $1 million donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Yet that organization earlier this year branded Ayaan Hirsi Ali (full disclosure: my wife) and our friend Maajid Nawaz “anti-Muslim extremist.” That word “extremist” should be applied only to those who preach or practice political violence, and to all who do: rightists, leftists, and Islamists.

Trump blew it last week, no question. But as the worm turns against him, let us watch very carefully whom it turns to — or what it turns turn into. If Silicon Valley translates “There is only one side” into “Censor anything that the left brands ‘hate speech,’” then the worm will become a snake.

No Delito de Opinião

Hoje, a convite do Pedro Correia, contribuo para o Delito de Opinião com um post sobre a incapacidade crónica para debater civilizadamente de que sofrem alguns académicos que, por defeito, deveriam ser intelectualmente humildes, honestos e pluralistas e fomentadores da civilidade.

A inexperiência de Trump é péssima para os EUA e o Ocidente

Aaron David Miller e Richard Sokolsky, “Trump is a Bad Negotiator”:

Granted, international diplomacy is a lot tougher than cutting real estate deals in New York, and there’s still a lot of time left on the presidential clock to make Trump great again. But half a year into the Trump era, there’s little evidence of Donald Trump, master negotiator. Quite the opposite, in fact: In several very important areas and with some very important partners, Trump seems to be getting the short end of the proverbial stick. The president who was going to put America first and outmaneuver allies and adversaries alike seems to be getting outsmarted by both at every turn, while the United States gets nothing.

(…).

Let’s start with the president’s recent encounters with the president of Russia, a man who admittedly has confounded his fellow world leaders for nearly two decades. Apparently without any reciprocal concessions, the world’s greatest negotiator bought into Russia’s plan for Syria, where U.S. and Russian goals are in conflict; ended America’s covert program of support for the moderate Syrian opposition, then confirmed its highly classified existence on Twitter; and had an ostentatious one-on-one meeting with the Kremlin strongman at the G-20 dinner, sticking a finger in the eye of some of America’s closest allies. It’s bad enough to give Putin the global spotlight he craves while accepting Russia’s seriously flawed vision for Syria. But to do so without getting anything in return gives “the art of the deal” a whole new meaning. Trump’s failure to hold Putin accountable for Russian interference in the presidential election is the most egregious example of putting Russia’s interests first and America’s interests last, but it’s hardly the whole of the matter. There’s no other way to put it: Trump has become Putin’s poodle. If it weren’t for Congress, public opinion and the media, Trump would be giving away more of the farm on sanctions, Russian aggression in Ukraine and other issues that divide the United States and Russia. That’s not winning; it’s losing.

Provavelmente, o mais patético líder político contemporâneo

Durante a última campanha eleitoral nos EUA, foram surgindo muitos apoiantes e acólitos de Donald Trump que, de certa maneira, se assemelhavam aos apoiantes de Obama que acreditavam que o primeiro presidente americano negro seria uma espécie de enviado divino com a missão de resolver todos os males no planeta. Claro que o entusiasmo pueril em torno de determinados líderes políticos (numa linguagem weberiana, alguns podem ser classificados como carismáticos), assim como a diabolização de outros, fazem parte da essência das campanhas eleitorais. Passada a campanha, quando o eleito é confrontado com a realidade política da governação, muitos dos seus eleitores acabam, inevitavelmente, por ver as suas expectativas frustradas, ao passo que muitos dos seus detractores, mesmo que não o admitam, acabam por perceber que o mundo não acabou e que a vida continua. Como ninguém está imune a este tipo de emoções, uma certa dose de pessimismo é, portanto, uma saudável recomendação para quem prefere afinar pelo diapasão da temperança. Por isto mesmo, não acreditei que Trump fosse um anjo ou o diabo, preferindo aguardar para ver no que resultaria a sua presidência. Quem tem acompanhado a política americana ao longo dos últimos meses reconhecerá que talvez fosse difícil fazer pior, salvando-se, no campo da política externa, como honrosa excepção, a mensagem que enviou à Rússia e à China por via do ataque lançado contra a Síria. Mas após o polémico episódio de há uns dias, em que Trump tweetou um vídeo de si próprio a esmurrar alguém com o logo da CNN no lugar da cabeça, estou convencido de que, embora não seja um anjo nem o demónio, Trump será, provavelmente, o mais patético líder político contemporâneo, um adolescente que, para mal dos EUA e do mundo, se encontra no mais poderoso cargo político existente.

Do excepcionalismo americano

David Frum, “The Souring of American Exceptionalism”:

America’s uniqueness, even pre-Trump, was expressed as much through negative indicators as positive. It is more violent than other comparable societies, both one-on-one and in the gun massacres to which the country has become so habituated. It has worse health outcomes than comparably wealthy countries, and some of the most important of them are deteriorating further even as they improve almost everywhere else. America’s average levels of academic achievement lag those of other advanced countries. Fewer Americans vote—and in no other democracy does organized money count for so much in political life. A century ago, H.L. Mencken observed the American “national genius for corruption,” and (again pre-Trump) Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index ranks the U.S. in 18th place, behind Hong Kong, Belgium, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany—never mind first-place finishers Denmark and New Zealand.

As I said: pre-Trump. Now the United States has elected a president who seems much more aligned with—and comfortable in the company of—the rulers of Turkey, Hungary, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines than his counterparts in other highly developed countries.

That result forces a reshaping of the question of American exceptionalism.

“Why was the United States vulnerable to such a person when other democracies have done so much better?” Part of the answer is a technical one: The Electoral College, designed to protect the country from demagogues, instead elected one. But then we have to ask: How did Trump even get so far that the Electoral College entered into the matter one way or another?

Thinking about that question forces an encounter with American exceptionalism in its most somber form. If, as I believe, Donald Trump arose because of the disregard of the American political and economic elite for the troubles of so many of their fellow-citizens, it has to be asked again: How could the leaders of a democratic country imagine they could get away with such disregard?

Da incapacidade crónica para assumir responsabilidades

Se considerarmos os problemas do SIRESP recentemente revelados, nomeadamente, a cláusula de exclusão de responsabilidade da empresa que gere o sistema caso este falhe aquando de situações de emergência – que terá tido a anuência de António Costa, Ministro da Administração Interna que assinou o contrato em 2006 -, o relatório de 2014 da KPMG, solicitado pelo governo de Passos Coelho, que identificava várias falhas no sistema, e, no que diz respeito em particular ao que se passou no incêndio em Pedrógão Grande, o vergonhoso jogo de vários organismos que procuram atribuir culpas uns aos outros e não se responsabilizam pelos seus próprios erros e problemas, concluímos que não só ninguém fica bem na fotografia, como estamos perante indivíduos com uma mentalidade infantil no que concerne à assunção de responsabilidades – só falta dizer, como as crianças, que “foi sem querer”.

Todos os anos Portugal é assolado por incêndios. Todos os anos os políticos se lamentam, mas pouco ou nada fazem para mudar esta situação. Desta feita, morreram 64 pessoas, muitas das quais devido a terem sido encaminhadas para uma estrada que deveria ter sido cortada. O Estado falhou naquela que é a sua principal incumbência, proteger os seus cidadãos, ninguém quer assumir responsabilidades pelas falhas e erros e o pior é que, provavelmente, no próximo ano continuaremos a ver milhares de hectares do país a arder. Tudo isto é absolutamente vergonhoso.

Lobbying em Portugal

Não sou adepto daquele estafado provincianismo que acha que o que se faz lá fora é que é bom e tem de ser importado para Portugal. Mas neste caso, basta olhar para as realidades de Bruxelas, Londres ou Washington para compreender que um regime de transparência na actividade de representação de interesses seria um saudável desenvolvimento que melhoraria a qualidade da nossa democracia. Bem, portanto, o CDS, o PS e o PSD. Já os “argumentos” de BE e PCP são de uma pobreza atroz.

Populismo, demagogia e democracia

Pierre Manent, “Populist Demagogy and the Fanaticism of the Center”:

As a term, “populism” is indisputably marked with discredit and denunciation. The populist orientation is often said to have a “passionate,” “extreme,” or “irresponsible” manner and tone. But its content, too, is never credited with the characteristics of reason, moderation, and responsibility. The term “populism” denotes an orientation, a political opinion, or certain orientations or political opinions, which are discredited and denounced. What opinions, what orientations? They can vary widely, and it is possible to distinguish them according to their basic political polarity, a populism of the Left or extreme Left, and a populism of the Right or extreme Right. It is important, however, to understand that the common substantive of populism tends to prevail over these opposing qualifiers of Left and Right. Even if this effect is not desired, it at least follows from the use of the term. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is thus effectively placed in the same boat as Marine Le Pen, which displeases him greatly. (Here, despite the axiological neutrality that ought to rule political science, I cannot help but sympathize with Jean-Luc Mélenchon.) By classifying these two political leaders under the same heading, this grouping effectively clouds the political landscape to the point of rendering it incomprehensible.

We encounter, then, the following difficulty. How is it possible that a notion which seems to have become indispensable for the understanding of political debate tends rather to make it confused and indecipherable? Does this notion indicate the new reality of those who are thus labeled, or is it not rather a product of the new political intention of those who use it? If the notion of populism can cover political orientations as distant as those of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen—if it thus has the power to prevail over the opposition between the Left and the Right, and even between the extreme Left and the extreme Right—it is because powerful forces intend to reconstruct the political landscape no longer around the opposition between the Right and the Left but between populism and . . . what? We do not know yet, but since “populism” is pejorative and implies discredit, we will say “respectable” and “accredited” politics.

These powerful forces intend to reconstruct the political landscape around the opposition between populism, which we can still describe as Right or Left, and respectable politics, which can still retain its versions of Right and Left. When I speak of the intention of these powerful forces, I do not refer to any sinister plot to give new names to things that have not changed, or to any plot to deceive good citizens. The situation has doubtless already changed enough so that the effort to pit “populism” against “respectable politics” is not merely possible in theory, but already has real purchase. The ability of the Right/Left polarity to organize and describe political life is now likely much weakened.

We can, however, already remark on the difference between how the Right/Left polarity and the populist/respectable polarity see political life. The Right/Left polarity attributes an equal legitimacy to both poles. Even if each of these halves claims full political legitimacy and doubts the legitimacy and occasionally even the simple morality of its opposing half, the system itself is based on the equal legitimacy of the two halves or the two poles, with an uncertainty or a gray zone represented by the extremes (extreme Right or extreme Left), whose democratic legitimacy is always suspect. The new mode is characterized by the unequal legitimacy of the two poles or the two halves: populism as such is tendentiously illegitimate, while “respectable” politics is tendentiously the only legitimate politics.

It seems to me that we have not sufficiently noted to what extent this new mode is actually new. The distinctive feature that the democratic and liberal order used to have as its foundation was the equal legitimacy of the majority and its opposition. The new order now imposing itself more and more upon us rests on the contrast between legitimate opinions and illegitimate opinions. The point deserves to be examined further, but it already seems clear that with this transformation, we have started to pass from an order built on confrontation between equally legitimate opinions to an order relying on confrontation between legitimate opinions and illegitimate opinions, between political orthodoxy and heresy. If this were true, then we would be in the process of departing from democracy as it has thus far been known.

O poder prejudica o cérebro

Jerry Useem, “Power Causes Brain Damage”:

Lord David Owen—a British neurologist turned parliamentarian who served as the foreign secretary before becoming a baron—recounts both Howe’s story and Clementine Churchill’s in his 2008 book, In Sickness and in Power, an inquiry into the various maladies that had affected the performance of British prime ministers and American presidents since 1900. While some suffered from strokes (Woodrow Wilson), substance abuse (Anthony Eden), or possibly bipolar disorder (Lyndon B. Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt), at least four others acquired a disorder that the medical literature doesn’t recognize but, Owen argues, should.

“Hubris syndrome,” as he and a co-author, Jonathan Davidson, defined it in a 2009 article published in Brain, “is a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.” Its 14 clinical features include: manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence. In May, the Royal Society of Medicine co-hosted a conference of the Daedalus Trust—an organization that Owen founded for the study and prevention of hubris.

I asked Owen, who admits to a healthy predisposition to hubris himself, whether anything helps keep him tethered to reality, something that other truly powerful figures might emulate. He shared a few strategies: thinking back on hubris-dispelling episodes from his past; watching documentaries about ordinary people; making a habit of reading constituents’ letters.

But I surmised that the greatest check on Owen’s hubris today might stem from his recent research endeavors. Businesses, he complained to me, had shown next to no appetite for research on hubris. Business schools were not much better. The undercurrent of frustration in his voice attested to a certain powerlessness. Whatever the salutary effect on Owen, it suggests that a malady seen too commonly in boardrooms and executive suites is unlikely to soon find a cure.

O impacto do Brexit em África

Carlos Lopes, “Africa’s Stake in Brexit”:

By far the most significant impact of a “hard Brexit” for Africa would be felt in the financial services sector. In negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government will be seeking to ensure that the City of London retains its place as Europe’s premier financial center. But even if May fails, London-based financial institutions could simply pull up stakes and decamp to continental Europe. Africa, however, could suffer as a result.

For example, the strengthening of the African banking sector in recent years – including the expansion of cross-border banking activities – has been made possible in part by innovative fintech (financial technology) products developed in London. Cutting-edge finance solutions used to modernize institutions like Standard Bank, Africa’s largest bank, depend on the expertise housed at UK-based institutions. If Brexit weakens London’s role as a financial center, the collateral damage for Africa would be measured in diminished investor confidence, gaps in banking services, and interrupted networks and processes. The financial innovation engine, in other words, could grind to a halt.

A weaker UK financial-services sector could also lead to a dearth of talent with knowledge of African markets. That could hurt UK-African trade more broadly. Unfortunately, Britain may be more important for Africa’s future in this regard than vice versa. With less than 5% of Britain’s trade deficit tied to Africa, the continent is not likely to be near the top of the UK government’s current preoccupations.

Diplomatic ties could be damaged, too, if a more inward-looking UK closes its doors to African travelers and students seeking to enroll in British universities. In short, the historical, political, and economic ties strengthened over decades could fray as UK-EU negotiations move forward.

But the risk Brexit poses to Africa should not be overstated. For one thing, trade isn’t the backbone it once was in the relationship. Only a small number of African countries are vying for access to the UK market, whereas many are looking to conduct more trade with one another.

Africa is learning to stand on its own in other ways, too. Since 2000, total annual aid to Africa has averaged $50 billion, while tax revenue during the same period grew from $163 billion to an astonishing $550 billion. The increase in FDI inflows, access to sovereign debt, and sharp expansion of migrant remittances have all contributed to a shift in the revenue base away from commodities. And African leaders are today busy establishing new alliances with their neighbors, improving business environments, and collaborating on industrialization projects.

Quando o partidarismo se sobrepõe ao interesse nacional

Jamelle Bouie, “Who Needs Rule of Law?”:

Just one of our two parties is interested in checking this president’s abuse. The other, the Republican Party, is indifferent, content to tolerate Trump’s misconduct as long as it doesn’t interrupt or interfere with its political agenda. What defined Thursday’s hearing, in fact, was the degree to which Republicans downplayed obvious examples of bad—potentially illegal—behavior and sought to exonerate Trump rather than grapple with Comey’s damning allegations about the president. Sen. James Risch of Idaho, for example, pressed Comey on his claim that President Trump had asked the then–FBI director to drop the investigation into Flynn, suggesting that—because Trump didn’t give a direct order—we ought to ignore the clear subtext of the president’s statement. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma described Trump’s actions on behalf of Flynn as a “light touch.” Other Republican committee members, like Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and John McCain of Arizona, steered the conversation toward the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Still others, like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, defended Trump’s actions, blasting leaks to the press as efforts to undermine his administration.

Republican committee members were aided in all of this by the official organs of the GOP, which treated the hearings as a distraction—a partisan frivolity driven by Democrats and the press. “Director Comey’s opening statement confirms he told President Trump three times that he was not under investigation,” said a statement from the Republican National Committee that recommended a strategy of deflection. The RNC additionally argued that “Director Comey lost confidence of both sides of the aisle, and the president was justified in firing him.” House Speaker Paul Ryan, commenting on the procedures, defended Trump’s potentially illegal behavior as the mistakes of a novice. “He’s just new to this, and probably wasn’t steeped in long-running protocols,” he said.

(…).

James Comey’s sworn Senate testimony, both written and spoken, is evidence of one political crisis: A president with little regard for rule of law who sees no problem in bringing his influence and authority to bear on federal investigations. The Republican reaction—the effort to protect Trump and discredit Comey—is evidence of another: a crisis of ultra-partisanship, where the nation’s governing party has opted against oversight and accountability, abdicating its role in our system of checks and balances and allowing that president free rein, as long as he signs its legislation and nominates its judges.

Americans face two major crises, each feeding into the other. Republicans aren’t bound to partisan loyalty. They can choose country over party, rule of law over ideology. But they won’t, and the rest of us will pay for it.

Os liberais (no sentido norte-americano do termo) são tão intolerantes quanto os conservadores

Matthew Hutson:

So who’s right? Are conservatives more prejudiced than liberals, or vice versa? Research over the years has shown that in industrialized nations, social conservatives and religious fundamentalists possess psychological traits, such as the valuing of conformity and the desire for certainty, that tend to predispose people toward prejudice. Meanwhile, liberals and the nonreligious tend to be more open to new experiences, a trait associated with lower prejudice. So one might expect that, whatever each group’s own ideology, conservatives and Christians should be inherently more discriminatory on the whole.

But more recent psychological research, some of it presented in January at the annual meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), shows that it’s not so simple. These findings confirm that conservatives, liberals, the religious and the nonreligious are each prejudiced against those with opposing views. But surprisingly, each group is about equally prejudiced. While liberals might like to think of themselves as more open-minded, they are no more tolerant of people unlike them than their conservative counterparts are.

Political understanding might finally stand a chance if we could first put aside the argument over who has that bigger problem. The truth is that we all do.

Entrevista de Jeffry Frieden sobre a crise do euro

Jeffry Frieden a explicar coisas fáceis de entender sobre a crise do euro e o futuro da União Europeia. Não vi esta entrevista muito divulgada por cá e compreende-se porquê: à esquerda é mais fácil continuar a acreditar na narrativa sobre o malvado ultra-neo-liberalismo, ao passo que à direita é mais fácil continuar a acreditar na narrativa dos trabalhadores do norte contra os preguiçosos do sul, dos responsáveis contra os irresponsáveis que só gastam dinheiro em copos e mulheres, que serve os interesses alemães.