Saturday, May 31, 2014

Education or Capital in the 21st Century?

by Santiago Zabala and Creston Davis

In early 19th century new hope for humanity (indeed for the entire planet) emerged on the scene with an explosive force, matched only by that of the cosmic big bang. Only, this "bang" was humanity coming to terms with its own power. In the diremptive mind of the great German philosopher Georg W Hegel self-reflexive power was born: Humanity was not lost in the loss of the divine, but found freedom in conscious awareness of itself -- a happy and terrifying notion that humanity controlled its own destiny.  

And then there was Karl Marx's hope for communism, then Sigmund Freud's subconscious, Friedrich Nietzsche's Uberman and Thomas Kuhn's paradigm shift. It was as if the power of the idea of humanity's self-consciousness - unmediated by any theological abstraction - was an idea too good and a bit dangerous. Perhaps it will be this idea that will launch a 21st century revolt.

After all, the power of critiquing the barbarism of industry, war, and business was left to university faculty, artists, thespians, journalists - who also happen to be more often than not carriers of Hegel's idea. All these have become a marginal voice in this century. Some of them are naive enough to think that if one could only write another book, paint one more image, fill one more column, then the world would suddenly wake up and believe in its own ability to change the course of history in which principles like equality, community, and freedom would lead us into a future of happiness and peace.  

Although the 20th century certainly proved that power, greed, and evil were no match for the virtues of the left, the war between culture and capital has raged on. It is a conflict illustrated well by what Europe is going through presently, as Giorgio Agamben recently pointed out in his essay on the "Latin Empire". Just as the technocrats must be voted out of the EU, so must the univocal logic of capital be dismissed from education.

In the past three decades, the university (the traditional locus of culture) has been bought out by corporations and ownership of global media outlets has been concentrated in the hands of a few, while visual and performing have suffered and declined. The logic of the 21st century has been nothing less than an increasing awareness of an emerging elite of 100 or so individuals who control more wealth than half the world's population.

This logic can only be changed through transforming educational institutions into spaces where the virtues of sharing and working together are taught.

Educating to share

As Thomas Piketty explained in his groundbreaking Capitalism in the Twentieth-First

"When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based."

One of the solutions, according to the French economist, might be a progressive global tax on capital or wealth. Although this solution would require a very high level of international cooperation, it does not mean it should not be pursued, at least from an educational point of view.

This is why it is not difficult to believe in the utility of subordination of higher education to social control and regulation. As Slavoj Zizek explained in his latest book:

"What they really want is simply the private use of reason, as I call it, following Kant, so that universities basically produce experts who will solve problems - problems, defined by society, of state and corporate business. But, for me, this is not thinking. What is 'true' thinking? Thinking is not solving problems. The first step in thinking is to ask these sorts of questions: 'Is this really a problem?' 'Is this the right way to formulate the problem?' 'How did we arrive at this?' This is the ability we need in thinking."

In short, thinking does not solve problems, but rather creates the possibility to understand and change the problems we inherited and must confront.

This is a recipe for a revolt, the likes of which can hardly be imagined. Unless a new form of an old virtue called, sharing (a word nearly as toxic in the US as socialism) is quickly infused in the minds and hearts of many, this emerging revolt will unleash a storm of chaos. For the virtue of a shared commons has neither been taught nor reinforced by an educational system designed to protect the interest of a few at the cost of the many because, as Sarah Kendzior says, "college is a promise the economy does not keep" anymore.  

From the 1980s onward neoliberalism was so hell-bent on a view that the world is, in Hobbes' words, "nasty, brutish and short" that it didn't bother teaching the virtues of a shared humanity that could hold the world together when it was exposed that brutal economic practices cannot provide for basic human needs. In other words, not only is the capitalist outlook destroying basic means of survival (clean water, air, proper shelter, healthy food etc.), but it has also undermined our ability to work together for the sake of survival such that more and more we must rely on these unjust structures of power just to breathe. 

Capital has insidiously undercut the basic priorities of life for humanity from 1760 until today and the stakes are only going to get more and more desperate and spiral into more abusive forms of control turning our planet into framed slums for the overwhelming majority of humanity. One way to short-circuit this monopolistic logic is to create what Jack Halberstam calls "alternative knowledge zones" such as the EGS (European Graduate School) , GCAS (The Global Centre for Advance Studies) and many others, in which the virtues of the left such as sharing, working together, and distributing goods and services are learned and embodied.

This certainly is a better alternative to what many universities have become in the United States (and to some extent, also in some European nations), namely hedge funds enslaving the next generation of the working and middle classes with life-long debt to banks and corporations. 

It is time to invest in teaching the next generation that our survival depends on our own ability to work together and not one the bank accounts of 100 people. The power of working together is worth considering again especially because this possibility may not exist in the next generation.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

North Carolina Republicans Want Felony Charges for Those Who Disclose Fracking Chemicals

Transparency is the least you could hope for if you’re against fracking for energy. If North Carolina Republicans get their way, such transparency could result in a felony.

Three state senators introduced a bill late last week that would charge people with a felony if they disclose what chemicals companies are using to extract dirty energy from shale formations. That might even include the officials who respond to the explosions and other emergencies caused by the dangerous process.

“The felony provision is far stricter than most states’ provisions in terms of the penalty for violating trade secrets,” Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations, told Mother Jones.


“I think the only penalties to fire chiefs and doctors, if they talked about it at their annual conference, would be the penalties contained in the confidentiality agreement. But [the bill] is so poorly worded, I cannot confirm that if an emergency responder or fire chief discloses that confidential information, they too would not be subject to a felony.”

However, Wiseman believes “that appears to be the case” in some sections of the potential legislation.

“It allows for trade secrets to remain trade secrets, it provides only limited exceptions for reasons of emergency and health problems, and provides penalties for failure to honor the trade secret,” Wiseman continued.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is exploring requiring companies to the exact opposite of the North Carolina state senators’ wishes—disclose those trade secrets to the government and the public. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed a prepublication of a proposed law that would not protect the secrets.

“We want to be sure that there is some agency that actually is collecting this information about what is being used in these shale plays across the country,” Deborah Goldberg, a lawyer at Earthjustice, told Salon. “The disclosure we are getting right now is spotty.”

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Worst Ruling Since Citizens United

By Daniel I. Weiner May 13, 2014

Whatever one thinks about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his policies, the decision last week by federal judge Rudolph T. Randa to summarily halt an investigation into alleged campaign finance violations by Walker’s campaign and supporters—and to order prosecutors to destroy all the evidence they collected—was a striking instance of judicial chutzpah. The accompanying opinion (PDF) is laced with ideological rhetoric seeking to undermine many of the remaining campaign finance laws on the books. Even following the Supreme Court’s evisceration of campaign finance law in the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, 

Randa’s ruling is a bridge too far. It should not stand.

2012’s Wisconsin recall election was a $137 million affair. Groups claiming to act independently of any candidate spent more than half of this total, roughly $70 million. Many of them drew their funding from out-of-state “dark money” organizations, which can raise unlimited funds and keep their contributors secret. Under state law, such spending could not be “coordinated” with Walker or another candidate. Whether some of this spending was in fact coordinated—steered at the candidate’s suggestion or with his cooperation—was the question at the heart of the Wisconsin investigation.

Coordination, once the obscure preserve of election lawyers, has become a hot topic. 

In Citizens United, a narrow majority of the Supreme Court took away from federal, state, and local authorities the ability to place limits on how much corporations, unions and other deep-pocketed interests can spend on elections, as long as they don’t coordinate with candidates—based on the fanciful theory that such “independent” spending cannot corrupt politicians. But the Citizens United majority did reaffirm that it’s perfectly constitutional for the government to limit non-independent spending.

Enter Judge Randa. According to him, only spending on ads containing an unmistakable call to vote for or against someone may be subject to restrictions on coordination. In other words, an advertisement a few weeks before the election saying “Defeat Senator Jones because he won’t stand with the troops,” cannot be coordinated with a candidate. But one saying “Tell Senator Jones to stop hurting the troops,” can be conceived, directed, and promoted by Senator Jones’s political opponent.


Climate Change Is Turning Your Produce into Junk Food

by Tom Philpott

Wed May 14, 2014

Higher CO2 levels caused a "significant decrease in the concentrations of zinc, iron, and protein" for wheat and rice.


The results: a "significant decrease in the concentrations of zinc, iron, and protein" for wheat and rice, a Harvard press release on the study reports. For legumes like soybeans and peas, protein didn’t change much, but zinc and iron levels dropped. For wheat, the treated crops saw zinc, iron, and protein fell by 9.3 percent, 5.1 percent, and 6.3 percent, respectively.

These are potentially grave findings, because a large swath of humanity relies on rice, wheat, and legumes for these very nutrients, the authors note. They report that two billion people already suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, "causing a loss of 63 million life-years annually." 

According to the Harvard press release, the "reduction in these nutrients represents the most significant health threat ever shown to be associated with climate change." Symptoms of zinc deficiency include stunted growth, appetite loss, impaired immune function, hair loss, diarrhea, delayed sexual maturation, impotence, hypogonadism (for males), and eye and skin lesions; while iron deficiency brings on fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and headache.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Some Moral Failings Called Depressions

Some Moral Failings Called Depressions

by Pierre Skriabine

Translated by Jack W. Stone

The psychoanalytic clinic refutes any idea of an entity that could be named "depression."

This refutation has today more than ever an ethical urgency, in view of the degradation of the subject to the consumer of so-called "happiness piIIs"1 faced with the obscenity of a psychologizing discourse that covers certain particular sufferings with the non-differentiating cloak of depression, and with the contemporary extension of the term depression which is no more than one of the symptoms of the discontent in civilization resulting from its invasion by the discourse of science and from the precariousness, stressed by Lacan, of our mode of jouissance. It is ethically urgent, finally, because it concerns the function of psychoanalysis in regard to certain effects of regression undergone by medicine and psychiatry, resulting from their progress itself toward science: for if pharmacology works - and it is at times indispensible - it only works on somatic processes, and its effectiveness itself occults what is at issue. The psychoanalytic clinique works on the slope of the cause, which is the province of the subject, and thus accounts for every depression.

Two References

The two major references that orient us in this clinic of depressions, for Freud and for Lacan, bring into play the relationship of the subject with jouissance.

Freud takes up the question in "Mourning and Melancholia."2 Depressive affects accompany the work of mourning, which has for its function the symbolization of the loss of the object and the working of a new distribution of the libido. The end of the work of mourning relieves the subject of the weight of the object, with an effect of elation. But as the subject labors to realize this loss, he experiences some depressive effects. Freud presents this struggle between the ego and the object thusly: either the ego triumphs, through mourning, or the shadow of the object falls over the ego, and there is melancholia. The subject then finds himself identified as trash, as refuse, with an object of a jouissance from which he cannot separate himself, and not as an object cause of desire.

Lacan, in Television, approaches the question of affect with the series: anxiety, sadness, and gay sçavoir. Sadness, qualified, he says, as depression, "is simply a moral failing, a moral cowardice, which is, ultimately, only situated by thought, that is, by the duty to speak well (de bien dire) or to find oneself again in the unconscious, in structure." And he adds: "if this cowardice, as rejection of the unconscious, ends in psychosis, there is the return in the real of what is rejected, of language; there is the manic excitation through which this return becomes fatal.3 In other words, at issue is an escape, a symbolic failing, a renunciation by the subject who gives up on his desire confronted with jouissance, who lets go of the symbolic to give in to jouissance, which affects him in a depressive mode.

Diversity and Structures

These points of reference orient us in the diversity of depressive manifestations reflected by the diffraction of the signifier "depression"4 in the Freudian and Lacanian clinic: mourning, anxiety, inhibition, passage to the act, rejection of the unconscious, melancholia, dereliction, sadness, moral cowardice, self disgust, pain of existence.

The psychoanalytic clinic thus has to account for each of these very different forms of depression by elaborating how each subject is inscribed, with his suffering, in an articulable structure. Let us offer some insights.

Before castration, depression can constitute a form of defence, an attempt at occultation. This, for example, is the choice of the neurotic who, rather than assume his castration, prefers the guilt, the failing, the self-deprecation, as a price for hisdenegration [denial] of the reality of this castration. But when castration does not function for a subject's good, there is, among other possibilities, melancholic depression.

For the hysteric subject, these are the depressive affects which accompany the effect of phallic deflation, when she finds herself, in analysis or outside of analysis, destituted of her position of imaginary identification with the phallus. In a wholly other perspective, she can also wholly utilize depression - as a state over which the signifier is found without hold and without effect - to disempower (mettre en défaut) the master, the master-signifier, the hiding place for the poverty, the impotence of the phallic signifier which the hysteric busies herself at demonstrating.

In a differential clinic, depression can also be referred to the Other, in identification as in alienation. The fall of ideal identifications make appear to a subject his tie with the object a they veiled; and he perceives that what interests the Other is not the ideal but the object itself. The depressive affects this discovery produces are not in any way to be confused with depression as a trait of identification, when a subject is identified with a beloved object found to be another depressed subject from whom he borrows this trait.

Depressive effects can in a very general way be related to alienation: the subject suffers precisely from his status as mere puppet at the mercy of an omnipresent Other. Depression as a defence against being crushed under the weight of this Other translates as a kind of putting oneself out of the service of the Other: the Other no longer responds, the subject no longer associates, no knowledge is worth anything to him, interpretation no longer works.

Jouissance and Depression

The relationship with the object accounts, from another angle for the nature of depressive manifestations. We will develop this approach in what follows, beginning with this question: how are jouissance and depression connected, as appears especially manifest in the contemporary world?

If depression is, as it seems, a modern phenomenon, at least in the extension taken by its signifier from the time of the birth of psychoanalysis, depressive affects have nonetheless always existed, and not only in societies touched by the discourse of science.

Would the speaking-being then be structurally disposed to depression, simply because he lacks - in the signifier and in being - or is this solely the province of the modern subject? Is it not rather in the way of dealing with this lack that the question of depression is brought into play? Does not the subject of lack have in fact two ways of situating his relation to jouissance: acting with this lack, advancing its creative, structuring function, in other words, assuming castration and making himself a desiring subject - the way of desire; or, on the other hand, filling up this lack, finding for himself a stop-gap (bouchon) at the cost of renouncing his desire, of renouncing the pulsional in exchange for an accumulation of jouissance - the path of depression?

If Lacan notes that the subject is happy in all the modalities of his encounter with the object, whether under the sign of anxiety, of sadness, or of gay sçavoir, it is because this object presents the pIus-de-jouir by which the subject is supported, the lost object it seeks in repetition. Is not the sensitivity of subjects, in our society, to the depressive affect, one of the modalities of the encounter with the object, and thus with the jouissant mode, owed to the estrangement and precariousness which characterize, according to Lacan in Television, their mode of jouissance, which henceforth is only situated by the plus-de-jouir"?5

Lacan has taught us that for the speaking-being, simply because it speaks, jouissance finds itself outfitted by the signifier: the corollary of this is the forced renunciation of a jouissance from then on mythic, the sexual jouissance that escapes the defiles of the signifier - a Lacanian formulation of castration. But a residual jouissance continues to pass through language: the puisional jouissance6 that misses the object but bears its mark. This is what Lacan designates the plus-de-jouir, ajouissance in addition (en plus), which fills in the loss and compensates for it.

This plus-de-jouir animates the subject; it is necessary for the turning of the mechanism, Lacan notes in Radiophonie, 7 but there must not be too much of it: if there is, the subject finds himself delivered up to the gourmandise8 of a ferocious superego that requires him to renounce this pulsional satisfaction and thus give up on his desire. This is precisely the source of tile discontent in civilization analyzed by Freud: a "giving up on desire" that does not go without depressive effects. Moreover, the renunciation of the jouissance of the drive required by this superego, far from alleviating this requirement, reinforces it: despite the renunciation, Freud says, desire persists and cannot be hidden from the superego--hence the developing sense of failure.9

Conjoined with this are the effects of a science, which, in its collusion with capitalist liberalism, saps the foundations of the master discourse. This indication by Lacan, which figures particularly in his Note italienne,10 has been developed by Jacques-Alain Miller.11 The subversion introduced by the subject coming into the position of the master has as a consequence the collapse of the regulation of jouissance by the master discourse. The master conceals the plus-de jouir from the subject, thereby creating a barrier to jouissance. This function of guard rail (garde-fou), when disempowered (mise en défaut) by the alliance of science and liberalism, allows the subject to recover the pIus-de-jouir, a pIus-de-jouir itself attained to by this science, which makes the fantasy enter into the real, and in the same movement deregulates it.

Hence the precariousness of our mode of jouissance from here on only situated by a plus-de-jouir, by an unregulated increase. What Lacan indicates, particularly in Television, is that contemporary jouissance, indexed by the bar over the Other, no longer situates itself by castration: with the fall of ideals, it is no longer by the master signifier, which regulates jouissance, thatjouissance can henceforth be situated; it is no longer situated except by a plus-de-jouir reduced to the object of consumption. Nothing more remains for the subject, Miller has noted recently, but his identification as consumer, in the mode: "You have the right to the plus-de-jouir, even if it no longer does you any good."

Certainly, the subject can refuse this plus-de-jouir by making the ethical choice to abstain from despair, as Collette Soler has noted in evoking "those depressed... the anorexics of the year two thousand - those nauseated with the ready made plus-de jouirof their time ." Genevieve Morel reminds us of the term coined by Lacan in L'Envers de la psychanalyse - the word lathouse, to name those objects produced by modern science and the universal power of its formulas: those universal ready made objects - the same for everyone - lodge themselves at the place of the object a for the subject; they constitute a contemporary category, that of the object "ready-to-enjoy" (pret-a-jouir), but have nothing to do with the particularity of each subject's fantasy and of the desire this fantasy supports. These universal objects, bad Ersatz, can only make the void of the drive echo, and create sadness and ennui (all the same, a jouissance). Thus they go hand-in-hand with depression.

Therefore, if the subject chooses to recover this modern plus-de-jouir thus separated from the drive, if he makes this choice at the cost of desire, depressive affects, again, will be the index.

Extracting Oneself from the Universal Stereotype

Here, the superego unveils itself. at the same time requiring the renunciation of jouissance insofar as it is pulsionaljouissance, and pushing us into jouissunce as soon as it can be separated from the drive, no more than a jouissance of a covering over of castration; the commandment of a jouissance of the superego, "Jouis the renunciation of jouissance!" is its paradigm: the renunciation of pulsional jouissance is in fact, in itself, a universal ready-to-enjoy; religion did not wait for science to discover this.

"I have the impression of being in a very deep abyss, I can no longer do anything, places become sad, it pulls me back": this is how a young woman describes the moments of depression and inhibition she never fails to be plunged into by her encounters with a mother who rules her life. A series of dreams show how phases when she is "the life of the party," when she sees herself in a kind of enthusiastic erection, are succeeded by periods of disappointment and depression where, in the depreciated and naive form of inverted masculine genitalia, the feminine organ is figured. She immediately defends herself against tile anxiety that lays hold of her at the opening of the abyss by plugging it up with objects of consumption available in profusion, incapable of restraining herself: bags of cookies, channel-zapped T.V. images, rosewater romances from the Harlequin series, stereotyped, industrialized objects, with which she stuffs herself, and which make her guilty and sad as she gives in to an insipid and lonelyjouissance that freezes her in inhibition.

Contemporary society thus becomes the nest of depression, willingly furnishing the subject with an antiseptic plus-de-jouir, a pure stop-gap for the void of the drive. Renouncing this ready-to-enjoy is the price for any possible access to the risk of desire, and it is what permits the work of analysis.


1. Sigmund Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia" (1915), SE. XIV- 243-258."

2. Jacques Lacan, Television (1973) (Paris: Editions du Seuji, 1973) p. 39. Translator's note: for the sake of~greater precision, I have diverged slightly from the generally excellent translation by Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss, and Annette Michelson in "Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment", ed. Joan Copjec (New York: W.W.Norton & Company, 1990), p. 22.

3. Television, p. 54.

4. Translator's note: pulsional, or pulsionelle, is the adjectival form of pulsion, the standard French translation of Trieb, or drive. In this text, Scriabine refers both to this jouissance pulsionelle and a jouissance de la pulsion. I have translated the latter expression, where it occurs, as "jouissance of the drive."

5. Jacques Lacan, Radiophonie, Silicet 2/3 (Paris: Edilions du Seuil, 1970), p. 86.

6. Television, p. 48.

7. Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents.

8. Jacques Lacan, Note aux Italiens (1974), Ornicar?, 25 (Paris: Navarin editeur, 1982), p.8.

9. Jacques-Alain Miller, Le banquet des analystes (1989-90), lesson of 4/4/90, unpublished course transcript.

10. Eric Laurent and Jacques-Alain Miller, L'Autre qui n'existe pas et ses comites de ethique (1996-97), lesson of December 4, 1996, unpublished except for the meeting of November 20, 1996, in La Cause freudienne, 35 (Paris: Navarin/Seuil, 1997), pp. 3-20.

11. In English in the original.

Friday, May 9, 2014

George Orwell adaptation of I Corinthians xiii

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not money, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not money, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not money, it profiteth me nothing. Money suffereth long, and is kind; money envieth not; money vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. ... And now abideth faith, hope, money, these three; but the greatest of these is money.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Who can control the post-superpower capitalist world order?

In a divided and dangerous world, we need to teach the new powers some manners

To know a society is not only to know its explicit rules. One must also know how to apply them: when to use them, when to violate them, when to turn down a choice that is offered, and when we are effectively obliged to do something but have to pretend we are doing it as a free choice. Consider the paradox, for instance, of offers-meant-to-be-refused. When I am invited to a restaurant by a rich uncle, we both know he will cover the bill, but I nonetheless have to lightly insist we share it – imagine my surprise if my uncle were simply to say: "OK, then, you pay it!"

There was a similar problem during the chaotic post-Soviet years of Yeltsin's rule in Russia. Although the legal rules were known, and were largely the same as under the Soviet Union, the complex network of implicit, unwritten rules, which sustained the entire social edifice, disintegrated. In the Soviet Union, if you wanted better hospital treatment, say, or a new apartment, if you had a complaint against the authorities, were summoned to court or wanted your child to be accepted at a top school, you knew the implicit rules. You understood whom to address or bribe, and what you could or couldn't do. After the collapse of Soviet power, one of the most frustrating aspects of daily life for ordinary people was that these unwritten rules became seriously blurred. People simply did not know how to react, how to relate to explicit legal regulations, what could be ignored, and where bribery worked. (One of the functions of organised crime was to provide a kind of ersatz legality. If you owned a small business and a customer owed you money, you turned to your mafia protector, who dealt with the problem, since the state legal system was inefficient.) The stabilisation of society under the Putin reign is largely because of the newly established transparency of these unwritten rules. Now, once again, people mostly understand the complex cobweb of social interactions.

In international politics, we have not yet reached this stage. Back in the 1990s, a silent pact regulated the relationship between the great western powers and Russia. Western states treated Russia as a great power on the condition that Russia didn't act as one. But what if the person to whom the offer-to-be-rejected is made actually accepts it? What if Russia starts to act as a great power? A situation like this is properly catastrophic, threatening the entire existing fabric of relations – as happened five years ago in Georgia. Tired of only being treated as a superpower, Russia actually acted as one.

How did it come to this? The "American century" is over, and we have entered a period in which multiple centres of global capitalism have been forming. In the US, Europe, China and maybe Latin America, too, capitalist systems have developed with specific twists: the US stands for neoliberal capitalism, Europe for what remains of the welfare state, China for authoritarian capitalism, Latin America for populist capitalism. After the attempt by the US to impose itself as the sole superpower – the universal policeman – failed, there is now the need to establish the rules of interaction between these local centres as regards their conflicting interests.

This is why our times are potentially more dangerous than they may appear. During the cold war, the rules of international behaviour were clear, guaranteed by the Mad-ness – mutually assured destruction – of the superpowers. When the Soviet Union violated these unwritten rules by invading Afghanistan, it paid dearly for this infringement. The war in Afghanistan was the beginning of its end. Today, the old and new superpowers are testing each other, trying to impose their own version of global rules, experimenting with them through proxies – which are, of course, other, small nations and states.

Karl Popper once praised the scientific testing of hypotheses, saying that, in this way, we allow our hypotheses to die instead of us. In today's testing, small nations get hurt and wounded instead of the big ones – first Georgia, now Ukraine. Although the official arguments are highly moral, revolving around human rights and freedoms, the nature of the game is clear. The events in Ukraine seem something like the crisis in Georgia, part two – the next stage of a geopolitical struggle for control in a nonregulated, multicentred world.

It is definitely time to teach the superpowers, old and new, some manners, but who will do it? Obviously, only a transnational entity can manage it – more than 200 years ago, Immanuel Kant saw the need for a transnational legal order grounded in the rise of the global society. In his project for perpetual peace, he wrote: "Since the narrower or wider community of the peoples of the earth has developed so far that a violation of rights in one place is felt throughout the world, the idea of a law of world citizenship is no high-flown or exaggerated notion."

This, however, brings us to what is arguably the "principal contradiction" of the new world order (if we may use this old Maoist term): the impossibility of creating a global political order that would correspond to the global capitalist economy.

What if, for structural reasons, and not only due to empirical limitations, there cannot be a worldwide democracy or a representative world government? What if the global market economy cannot be directly organised as a global liberal democracy with worldwide elections?

Today, in our era of globalisation, we are paying the price for this "principal contradiction." In politics, age-old fixations, and particular, substantial ethnic, religious and cultural identities, have returned with a vengeance. Our predicament today is defined by this tension: the global free circulation of commodities is accompanied by growing separations in the social sphere. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of the global market, new walls have begun emerging everywhere, separating peoples and their cultures. Perhaps the very survival of humanity depends on resolving this tension.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Domination of Eurasian Energy Corridors (2)

The Domination of Eurasian Energy Corridors

Geoffrey PYATT: “The United States is powerfully committed to Ukraine’s success, Ukraine’s democracy, and Ukraine’s prosperity”

Mykola Siruk
3 September, 2013 

Geoffrey Pyatt, the new US Ambassador to Ukraine, had a very active and quite original start in his diplomatic office in Ukraine. Prior to his arrival to Ukraine, he published a video address to Ukrainians in which he emphasized that he would be constantly using social networks for communication. What was more unusual in comparison to, for example, the Russian ambassador, who seizes every opportunity to popularize Russian history, was that the American ambassador said he was studying Ukrainian and was interested in the history of Ukraine. From day one, he has put his words into actions. Pyatt has already visited several museums and even published a video blog after a visit to the Oles Honchar Museum. For Ukraine’s Independence Day, he sang “Chervona ruta” together with the embassy’s staff and posted the recording on the embassy’s website.

“You presented me so gorgeously in your paper. So how could I not take an opportunity. Fantastic, Fantastic, thank you so much.” Such comments he made when The Day had given to himмthe book The Power of the Soft Sign and Route No.1 with our project “101 reasons to love Ukraine.”

“This morning I was glad to see you put doctor King on the front page. I am already learning about your history. I was so interested when I visited the World War II museum. I knew about the Paton bridge but I never realized that Paton bridge – the connection it had to the welding machine that Paton laboratory invented which did electron welding which is what enabled the construction of these long metal bridges. So this is great. I will read this with great interest. Thank you.”

Mr. Ambassador, you’ve said that your top priority is to support Ukrainian people’s European choice and that this will be your “main focus all the way up to the Vilnius Summit.” How can the United States help Ukraine concretely so that the Ukrainian government indeed walks into the door that Europe keeps open for Ukraine, or in other words, Association Agreement is indeed signed in Vilnius?

“Right. Thank you for the question. Thank you for correctly reflecting the priority that I have placed and my government has placed on supporting the Ukrainian people’s European choice. And I would emphasize, to begin with, that my role is to support a decision that the Ukrainian government has made – and the Ukrainian people have made – to move ahead to, as you say, walk through the door that Europe is holding open. It’s notable to me that in a very divided political environment, this is one of the issues on which there is broad agreement across the Ukrainian political spectrum. The president, the various opposition parties all agree that it is important to take advantage of this opportunity which the Association Agreement provides. In terms of what United States can do, I would flag a couple of things. And I hope you noticed the statement which President Obama put out on the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, where he emphasized his support for Ukraine’s European future. So I think what we can do is twofold. One is to contribute to the debate which is taking place here around the benefits of the Association Agreement. And  on this I look forward to working with my European colleagues, but it’s very clear to me that our common hope to see Ukraine developed as a modern democratic prosperous state can only be advanced by progress with the Association Agreement. And that means fulfillment of the conditions that Europe has established. I’ve said before that we see the Association Agreement and we see Vilnius not as an end state but as a marker on the road to building this modern state. I welcome the opportunity to engage with Ukrainian politicians, to engage with Ukrainian society on the benefits that we believe Ukraine will enjoy from signing the Association Agreement and securing the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. In terms of economic growth, in terms of economic opportunity, there would be clear benefits to Ukraine associating itself with the world’s largest economic bloc. Another area where we can help is with your other big neighbors. And in this regard, let me underline that we share the view of our European partners which was annunciated in Brussels that it is simply unacceptable for any country to seek to block or prevent Ukraine from moving ahead towards its European future. We see Ukraine as part of Europe. We want Ukraine to move towards a closer institutional relationship with Europe and I will do everything that I can with my colleagues here at the mission to help advance that objective.”

Numerous articles have been published in Western media recently about Ukraine choosing between the EU and Eurasian Union. You had a meeting with President Yanukovych. Is your impression that he is really pondering this choice?

“Let me say a couple of things. I am going to be very protective of my private conversation with the president and other senior leaders. So I have to be diplomatic about that. But I will say that the president, like other leaders I have spoken with in Ukraine, was very clear regarding the priority that he places on Ukraine’s European choice. But I will also emphasize I do not see the issue as you’ve characterized it as ‘either-or.’ It’s not Europe or Russia. It’s Europe and Russia. And I like very much what Prime Minister Azarov said in his description – and I believe it was in a Cabinet meeting – but I saw a press report of his description of his conversations in Moscow. And he offered a view that in an age of globalization, in an age of global economic connectivity, it is illegitimate and inappropriate for anybody to try to build walls. And I agree completely with the prime minister. I think the way to imagine this is that the Association Agreement will open opportunities to deepen Ukraine’s social economic and commercial ties to Europe, even while preserving the very important historical, economic and people-to-people ties you have with Russia.
Ukraine is in a fantastic position: has a border with four EU member states. It has the opportunity to become the eastern frontier of a large European economic space at the same time that it serves as Europe’s gateway to the Eurasian heartland and Europe’s gateway to one of the most dynamic economic regions of the world which stretches all the way to Shanhai and Vladivostok.
So, I do not think it’s ‘either-or’ – I think it’s ‘either-and,’ it’s  Europe and Russia. But it is very-very important to our vision of Ukraine’s European future that that Association Agreement succeeds.”

These days, as you, probably feel too, there is a fairly tense situation regarding Vilnius. Ukraine, on its part, has not yet fulfilled certain conditions for signing the Agreement, plus Russia steps up its pressure to make Ukraine join the Customs Union. In addition, spy scandal erupted between the United States and Russia. Hence, some experts are concerned that America may “swap” Ukraine for Snowden. And it seems such concerns are not without merit: we have this kind of experience. These were NATO summits in Istanbul in 2004 and in Bucharest in 2008, when Ukraine was denied. Can something similar happen in Vilnius?

“I do not even want to give that question the legitimacy of a serious answer because I do not see it as a serious prospect. The US-Ukraine relationship stands on its own solid foundation. The US-Ukraine relation is based on our strategic interests and our convergent outlooks, and so I would discourage any suggestion of trades-off or compromises in that agenda on the basis of other relationships. And let me leave it at that.”

By the way, since you are studying Ukraine’s history, don’t you think it was the West’s mistake not to grant MAP to Ukraine and Georgia in 2008, which President George W. Bush supported, and he visited Kyiv right before the Bucharest summit?

“I was not part of those discussions. In 2008 I was living in Vienna and I was focused on things like Iran and Syria, working closely with my European partners on that. But I wasn’t part of these discussions in 2008 so really I do not think it would be useful for me to speculate on that. But again, our agenda today stands on its merits. And I am very-very confident of the United States’ commitment to fulfilling the very large ambition that we have for our strategic partnership with Ukraine. And my mission here in Kyiv is to seek to fulfill that ambition.”

We hear calls to live as good neighbors with Russia, and we ourselves would have very much liked to have mutually beneficial relations with the northern neighbor. According to the Budapest Memorandum the United States and Russia are the guarantors of Ukraine’s security. Several days ago President Obama cancelled his summit with President Putin in Moscow and announced a pause in the relations with Russia which hasn’t been observed for quite a while in the US-Russia relationship. What corollaries can this have for our nation?

“I would say two things. Again, I will leave the question of US-Russia relations to Ambassador McFaul and my other colleagues. But I am very-very confident of where we are on US-Ukraine relations. And I can assure you there is no pause in US-Ukraine relations, and in fact what I want to do is to hit fast-forward button, to use your analogy, on the US-Ukraine strategic partnership and I think we have a very good chance to do that as we look towards the Vilnius Summit and beyond.”

What do you think of the article in Den by Edward Lukas “Syria Has Proved That Russia Is not Our Friend” ( article/syria-has-proved-russia-isnt-our-friend)? In this light, how should the West treat Russia?

“I  will leave Russia to my good friend and colleague Ambassador McFaul. I am sorry, it simply is not my place. But what regards Ukraine, I am very confident about the favorable opportunities that we have ahead of us.”

It is known that the US has taken a tough stance on Ms. Tymoshenko – although her case is not that simple. Maybe, as you were getting ready for your Ambassadorial duty here, you attended a Senate Committee hearing in May, where Representative Cohen raised the most high-profile cases from the Kuchma presidency time – those of Gongadze, Yelyashkevych, and Podolsky. It has been reported that criminal cases have been started in Ukraine to pursue those who ordered crimes against the abovementioned individuals. Do you consider pursuing those cases and bringing the culprits to justice important of the development of Ukraine’s democracy?

“Let me say two things. I paid very close attention to the Helsinki Commission hearing that Foreign Minister Kozhara attended. And for the United States regarding the specific issue that you raised of the Gongadze case, I read with interest the interview that Myroslava Gongadze published. And I also have paid very close attention to the wider issue of press freedom in Ukraine. You’ve read my other interviews, so you know that I have said that Ukraine’s democracy and the continued deepening of Ukraine’s democracy is the bedrock of our bilateral strategic partnership. It is the foundation on which everything else is constructed. And in that regard, questions of media freedom and the fact that you have a vibrant media environment in Ukraine is one of the key attributes of our bilateral relationship. So we are concerned about any steps which appear to be reducing the space for media freedom. And we believe that it is important, in cases like the Gongadze case which are of particular concern, that there be a complete investigation. I know also that it has drawn the attention of the OSCE special rapporteur for media freedom who I met with in my office in Washington, probably a little less then year ago now. And I know that she has addressed the Gongadze case as well. But let me emphasize for the United States: our broad concern is with the principle of media freedom, where Ukraine has a good story to tell. And it is important that we sustain and deepen that media freedom.”

Also, connected to the previous question, another one involving Kuchma. In a recently released documentary Battle for Ukraine by famous Russian (and formerly Hollywood) film director Andrei Konchalovsky, Kuchma, remembering the time of the Orange Revolution, says “It’s not me who governed poorly, it’s America who led people out on the Maidan.” What would you say to this?

“I have not seen the film. So I really cannot address it. I would come back to the point for United States and me personally, one of the most inspiring things about Ukraine today is the genuine democracy and the passionate commitment to democratic principles that I have found among the politicians, among civil society, among the journalists. You have the democratic DNA which allows you to build the modern European democracy that we hope for. That is an enormously satisfying and attractive characteristic. And I certainly will work in my tenure here to strengthen and to consolidate that.”

It is great that your support for Ukraine’s aspiration to true energy independence is a priority for you. We welcome the presence of such important companies as ExxonMobil and Chevron which plan to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into shale gas development in Ukraine. But as we know, Russia has extensive experience in countering US plans: for instance, in 2007, Russian task force attempted to influence Czech public opinion, through Czech media, public and political figures, concerning deployment in the Czech Republic of a radar as an element of missile defense. Is the US prepared to face resistance to shale gas projects in Ukraine? Do you see a way out of the situation after the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast Council vote that blocks the permission to develop shale gas there? Has such contingency been foreseen?

“Well, as you saw in my TRK Ukraine TV interview, my view on Ivano-Frankivsk is sign of the healthy status of Ukrainian democracy. It is good that this kind of debates is happening. We have had the same debates is the United States. I am very confident that as these debates continue and as our companies have the opportunity to share with political and civil society leaders what they are prepared to do, what the experience has been in the United States. I think the US experience with non-conventional gas is very important for the decisions that Ukraine will have to make. This has been a game changer in the United States. It has helped us to achieve greater energy independence. It has helped to drive employment in the United States. It has helped to improve the competitiveness of American companies. I am very optimistic that these new energy plays in Ukraine have the potential to do some of the same which would be good for America, but it will also be very good for Ukraine and it will be particularly good for the communities that host these resources. And I look forward to visiting Lviv – I  will be there this weekend. I  will be talking to political leaders. I look forward to hearing their concerns. I will share with them some of the lessons we have learned in the United States. But I know that this is an important decision and I know that this is the decision which has important long term economic benefits. Because what we are talking about here is investments which will pay their benefits over years and years and have the potential to generate – if the resources are found, if the gas is there the way the companies expect, and if the government has the correct policies in place – this could generate jobs and economic growth for decades and decades. So it is in the same way that unconventional gas has been a game changer in America. It has the potential to be a game changer in Ukraine. And I am not afraid of having debate about that.”

You are sometimes referred to as the rising star of US diplomacy, who can get things done, like in the instance with huge commercial contracts. What do you consider to be your success?

“You are very kind to say this. I said in my swearing-in statement in Washington DC and I truly believe this: I am in a business where the most important factor is the people. And my most important responsibility is to lead the very large team of both American and Ukrainian colleagues we have here at the embassy. So, you ask me, where do I think I have been successful? Where I have been successful in the past and will hope to do in my current role is to build a strong team of colleagues all of whom draw on their strengths to advance the strategic objective of the United States.”

What is the most important task or objective that the US Government set for you to solve in Ukraine?

“My most important objective is to fulfill the promise of the US-Ukraine strategic partnership, to advance the three priorities I have talked about: Ukraine’s place in Europe, Ukraine’s energy independence and the deepening of Ukrainian democracy. But all of that happens under the umbrella of the strategic partnership which was launched by Secretary Rice and President Bush’s Administration and was inaugurated by Vice President Biden under President Obama. So it is a framework that the United States has committed to at very highest levels of our government with a strong sense of ambition.”

Can you share ideas about how Ukrainian diaspora in the United States can be encouraged to invest more in Ukraine, and what hampers this?

“Thank you for asking this question. And I would say a couple of things. I see this as helping to strengthen the ties at the people-to-people level between our countries. And our strongest bilateral relationships are those which are focused at the people-to-people level. Our new press spokesperson Yaryna is a perfect example – somebody who has fluency in the language, who has family roots in Ukraine. I see this as helping to build confidence. It helps us to understand better the challenges Ukraine is working through. And also Ukrainian diaspora in America can help you to understand what America’s agenda is here. I am deeply confident that Ukraine has no better friend than America. The United States is powerfully committed to Ukraine’s success, Ukraine’s democracy and Ukraine’s prosperity. And that comes from the people of our country.”

You said you are interested in deeper study of Ukrainian history. Can you tell us what books or textbooks do you use to learn about our history?

“Right now what I am finishing is Bloodlands which is a fantastic and sobering introduction to the incredible violence that was inflicted upon this society first by Stalin and then by Hitler. But also as you read that history you cannot help but be inspired by the resilience of Ukrainian culture, the strength and endurance of Ukrainian culture underneath these various external forces that came across the country. So it is a very dark period of history, a dark period in Europe’s history. But it is important to understand, so I have been working through that.”

Do you know about researcher of Holodomor James Mace, an American who worked at Den and whose studies exposed Holodomor in Ukraine to the world [note – Den daily has a special history section and a professor of history on staff who takes care of it; Den published collections of history essays from this section as separate books].

“I have not read his works, but I look forward to looking into them.”

Den has a special project called “101 reason to love Ukraine” – what do you think of such an undertaking? Maybe you can name a couple of reasons to love Ukraine?

“On people, I should say since we are here at the American Embassy, I can’t help but name Sikorsky who, of course, is somebody from Kyiv, who has made a huge mark on America and American technology. Generally what I have been most impressed by so far is the people. I have had a wonderfully warm reception. You can’t help but be impressed by hospitality, the cultural richness of this society. I count that as a highlight. It is also a beautiful country. I saw that in my second week in the office, when I traveled to Crimea to meet with the President, much of which looks like my home in California. But really I am very interested to travel all over the country and to see the incredible resources and the fantastic people that you have.”

When I have interview with former ambassador John Tefft he told me that he used to get 5 e-mails with you in a day. What have you asked him?

“Yes. Actually I will share a secret. After I have moved out of my house in Washington DC, I was living with my family at a hotel in Northern Virginia. It was the same hotel that Ambassador Tefft was in. So we walked our dogs together and we had lots and lots of conversations. And he impressed upon me the incredibly warm feelings that he has from his time in Kyiv and the incredible importance that he saw behind this particular moment in the country’s history. We, America, have made a 22-year investment in our bilateral relationship with Ukraine. But we are coming up on an incredibly important period now as we look towards the Vilnius summit and the decisions that will be made around the Association Agreement. So, we talked a lot about these issues.”

You’ve said you intend to experiment with various social networks – Twitter, Facebook – and a blog in order to explain American policy and to understand problems and expectations of Ukrainians. Which of the received questions and comments from our citizens strike you most?

“Very-very thoughtful questions. The most inspiring conversations I have had in Ukraine have been with the young people. There are so many impressive inquisitive inspiring young people in this country today. It gives me a great deal of hope about Ukraine’s future. I am focused on the social media: Twitter, Facebook, the videoblog – as a way to better connect with that generation who usually does not read a newspaper – they are getting their information in different ways. Some of the questions are about visas and routine issues. But a lot of them are also about America and what does America seek. I hope you saw the video that we did for Independence Day which has gotten many-many views. But what was so interesting to me was the warmth towards America in many of the comments. But also the questions that emerged in comment strings about what is America’s agenda in Ukraine. And I can be very clear: America’s agenda in Ukraine is to help Ukraine achieve its vision as a modern prosperous democratic European state. A lot of the questions focused around these issues. I am going to answer as many of them as I can – some on video, some just on the Facebook, but we will be very engaged across these different channels.”

Do you agree with Christopher Hill about the role of twitter diplomacy? He recently wrote an article by this name for Project Syndicate.

“I have not read Ambassador Hill’s article, but I will take a look at it. I will be very honest with you. I think sometimes there are not enough characters. Diplomacy, international relations involve long abstract concepts. And sometimes that does not fit well into the characters of a Twitter massage. But if it helps to have direct connection, I will want to pursue it.”

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day