Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

There has been snow coming for two days although not in too large volumes. In all probability there will be a white Christmas. This will be my last post for this year, a year that has been on the whole a good one, as years go by these days.

The large problem here in Europe was the debt crisis obviously. It came a little as a shock for most people that countries starts to risk going bankupt. Someone said that to understand what is happening in Europe these days one should study history. I wonder if this is correct. The situation seems to be quite unique as the world develops right now. Sweden seems to be more and more affected by international events as the interest in national affairs seems to decrease, unfortunately.

Michael Mandelbaum called the times before the financial crisis for a déjà vu of the Woodrow Wilson era with peace, democracy and free markets. Francis Fukuyama's "end of history" now, however, seems to have ended already. I have followed the discussion on the European crisis in The Financial Times this fall and no solution is yet to be found. Frau Nein vetoed the latest suggestions of eurobonds. Fiscal union or not? We shall see.

In the US president Obama has seen some victories now in time for Christmas. Even Afghanistan does not look hopeless any longer. I hope something positive will eventually come out of this endeavor. Christmas is the season of hope even for a Religious Humanist so I wish for the best.


Cultural arrogance?

Michael Mandelbaum, the Christian A. Herter Professor and Director of the American Foreign Policy Program at Johns Hopkins University, writes in his book The Ideas that Conquered the World from 2002: "As such, the Cold War was the setting for a human practice even older, more pervasive, and ultimately more powerful than warfare; and it was this practice, the transmission of culture, that created the world of the 21st century".

What does it mean that the Muslim culture emits suicide bombers? Non-violent persons that walk around until they strike for the transmission of their culture. In the Cold War the cultural transmission of the West--Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets--conquered the world, according to Mandelbaum. In 2002, before September 15, 2008, there was a tug of war between the transmissions between the West and the Middle East. In 2010 this competition is more complicated since the rise of authoritarian state capitalism from China which probably has at least an equal allure to the Middle East.

It is possible that Muslims in Europe has lost some of the respect of the Western culture because of this which will exacerbate problems with terrorism and make proper integration into what we believe is a higher cultural reality. Because of the financial crisis there has been a seemingly diminished self confidence for Western values. The financial crisis has also meant that the US and Europe now have quite different outlooks for how the economy should be conducted.

It is unfortunate that a more detailed discussion of what multiculturalism actually means has not surfaced in Sweden. It is one thing to have immigration with proper integration and another to lose confidence in one own values and dilute them to much with Middle Eastern values. We are involved in a clash of cultures and will eventually have to accept some kind of compromise. This is a battle of ideas and values. This debate is currently acting as a force that splits Europe and works against a fiscal union situation that some people mean is a prerequisite for the survival of the EU.

Therefore there is also a confusion as to what constitute Swedish, European or Western values. Sweden will get a worse deal being only Swedish rather than Western. It would be very unfortunate if Sweden attracted for example preferentially anti-American Middle Easterners.


Potential Suicide Bombers in Sweden?

The program Studio Ett on Swedish Radio has had interviews with people on the topic of a list on 200 or so people of violent behaviors that might constitute potential future suicide bombers. However, it was also said that suicide bombers were not psychiatric cases, ie, they are not on the conventional "suicide ladder" which is used in psychiatry for determining risk for suicide.

In other words we are dealing with some kind of soldier willing to take the ultimate risk for furthering the cause of political Islam. As many wise persons already have pointed out, fear, risk causing the West to protect itself to death and suffocation having radical Muslims laughing all the way to the bodyscan. Anders Danielsson, chief of the Swedish secret police, used this argument for defending himself against a slip in the protection that caused the incidence last Saturday. Personally, I think that we just have to risk occasional suicide bombings. It is impossible with zero tolerance.

Then there is the question of Islam being prone to cause suicide bombings. What is clear is that suicide bombers are very often of Muslim faith. However, they are not necessarily devout Muslims as was revealed in a Gallup poll discussed in August this year. There is a fight right now between Glen Beck and Fareed Zakaria about the notion that 10% of Muslims are radical and sympathize with terrorists. The Economist had data showing that 50% of Palestinians sympathize with suicide bombings a while ago. In my sited Gallup poll 7% of Muslims in 10 Muslim countries thought the World Trade Center incident was justifiable and disliked the US. It is highly probable, however, that among Swedish Muslims the anger directed towards the West is much less.

My question is whether the list of 200 violent persons really is useful? It is a large difference in having an interest in being violent against others and to be willing to perform a suicide bombing. I don't know, but is there not also a new trend of potential suicide bombers not succeeding in their task? The man a year ago with a bomb in his underwear is such an example. This would have the effect of causing fear but not being so unpopular since people do not get killed in large numbers. Such events have an irritating mocking effect.

Studio Ett also brought up a small dispute between the Sweden Democrats and other parties on the content of a discussion planned for January 2011 in the Swedish Parliament as a result of the suicide bombing in Stockholm. The Sweden Democrats wanted to discuss the possible role of Islam in suicide bombings whereas others wanted to discuss also violent groups other than jihadists. Again, the relevant question is who is ready to commit a suicide bombing? I think the Sweden Democrats might have a point. Shunning this problem might just cause the Sweden Democrats to gain a few more percents in voter support.


Does Sweden want a European Germany or a more German Europe?

"Today, a lack of political courage is endangering the euro. Germany is not innocent in this regard. For the first time in decades, German isolation has become a real concern. Now we need a signal that Germany wants a more European Germany, rather than a more German Europe."

The above was published in The Financial Times today by former Merkel coalition partners Frank-Walter Steinmeier, foreign minister, and Peer Steinbrück, minister of finance. In other words the SPD is attacking the ruling CDU coalition by being decisive on Europe. I'm getting a feeling that the future of EU is being decided in a current debate in Germany.

If a state in the US is doing well, my guess would be that others tries to copy their way if the character of their states allows this. This would speak for a more German Europe. However, the above authors argue for a more European Germany? The populace in Germany seems to say that they don't want to pay for others any longer. Interviews advocating this way was recently aired on Swedish television from Germany and the debate turned vicious during the Greek bailout crisis this spring.

Sweden is also a net contributor to EU and a surplus country highly dependent on exports. We lack a debate such as the one in Germany on whether or not we want to stay in the EU or break away. Perhaps because we are not members of the EMU but we are still involved and will definitely be involved now when tighter control and federalization is being performed on the EU.

There has been a continuous debate in the press lately with an overweight on federalization since the original critique of the Euro was that a lack of a political union would make the currency impossible. Wolfgang Schäuble, the current minister of finance in Germany recently said that there will be something like a political union in ten years time. Markets are apparently waiting for a "signal" of political will. How will other countries than Germany interpret such a signal? Is such a signal in reality possible?


Is it possible for a manager, such as the US President, to be a highly moral person?

People write about Obama as a person who is mired in the polarized climate of US politics. He just had to infuriate the left of his party to appease the Republicans in a tax deal.

Today it is possible to select a person earlier and better than before as a highly moral mind. In fact people can be coached through life as to be very "clean". Such people are in their forties today. It has occurred to me that the young present president, without management experience of a governor of a larger state, could have been thus selected. That is, it is judged that morals trump management skills. The Economist wrote that neither Obama nor McCain would have gotten a job in a large corporation.

I admire Bill Clinton a lot for what he achieved during his presidency and his approval polls rose steadily during his tenior, unique for recent presidents. He was a popular president despite the curious incident with Ms. Lewinsky. But it is not this kind of moral slip like, Mona Sahlin's Toblerone, that I'm thinking of when I discuss morals of a manager in action. Hard choices, tough action, wheeling and dealing, threatening, cajoling etc. It so happens that threats are illegal, at least according to Swedish law.

Well, this is just a thought. Or could it be that the mechanism by which moral persons is selected is tainted by immoral minds? It is often said that power corrupts?

Reading the papers in Sweden recently it has been impossible to avoid information regarding the selection procedure of the new party leader for the Social Democrats. Apparently this person should not be selected according to the same fashion as in the American Idol-type contests, says the chairperson of the committee that is responsible for the selection. Last time around, however, the Social Democrats selected Mona Sahlin, who therefore must be regarded as a moral person, since the behind closed door procedure of the party did select her. The problem was that people in the party did not like her. Her approval polls in the last election were very low. Is a highly moral person really that popular? Unless they reach sainthood, other people perhaps feel a little put off by the bliss.

So perhaps it is possible to be a highly moral person in one's forties but what is really needed is a more experienced and revered manager in his fifties, or God forbid sixties.


What is the fight about: Power or The Holy Graal?

Well, seventy years ago Einstein 'insinuated' that science and religion are tight. He famously said: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. As you saw in my last post, he was not pleased with the response to this thesis. The rise of psychology and especially the psychology of religion has made it more feasible to state the same today. It would be of great interest if the various religions fused with science. Because, science is universal.

Fareed Zakaria writes in his book The Post-American World from 2008 that his Ph.D advisor Samuel P. Huntington wrote that modernization and Westernization are wholly distinct. Modernity is generated by industrialization, urbanization, rising levels of literacy, education, and wealth. The Western society, on the other hand, is created by the classical legacy, Christianity, separation of church and state, the rule of law and civil society.

Westernization created something universal for man, science, ie, The Holy Graal. I guess what I have been trying to dissect out of the corpse lately is whether we actually discuss what is really important. Because it is not evident that power will maintain science. The Roman Empire forgot about Aristotle.

A while ago I read in the Swedish press that the soldiers in Afghanistan wondered if what they did was meaningful. It is very difficult to answer this question if you don't analyze the situation top-down. Einstein was a pacifist, so the following might not have made him particularly content but it was important from the point of view of moving the perhaps greatest scientist on Earth out of Nazi Germany. The following was written on September 11 1940, before the US had entered World War II:

A totally disabled veteran of World War I and, as he called himself, a patriotic citizen of the United States of America, wrote from Rochester, New York: "The great leaders, thinkers and patriots of the past who fought and died for free thought, free speech, free press, and intellectual liberty arise to salute you! With the great and mighty Spinoza, your name will live as long as humanity." (From Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer, 1999)

Freedom of thought, freedom of speech which leads to science is what is important. You tell me if our soldiers in Afghanistan are fooled by traitors at home?


Einstein: a platform for his Spinoza inspired pantheism?

In 1940 Einstein had written an article on Science and Religion and the reviewers made him write this rather caustic response according to the book Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer, 1999:

"I was barked at by numerous dogs who are earning their food guarding ignorance and superstition for the benefit of those who profit from it. Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the tolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who--in their grudge against the traditional "opium of the people"--cannot bear the music of the spheres. The wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims".

This is the "golden mean" of the debate of science and religion. As I elaborated on before, I have fused science and religion. Einstein did not do this, despite being rather materialistic in his religiosity. He said: "Though religion determines the goal, science, in its broadest sense, shows the means for attaining this goal". Personally, I don't understand why science cannot have the same goal as religion. It is the same thing.


Trade, science or both as key to the success of our species?

Bill Gates, the Chairman of Microsoft and co-Chairman of the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation, wrote an interesting review of a book on wsj.com last Sunday. The author of the book, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Mr. Matt Ridley, a science writer, makes an argument that trade alone is the most important element in our survival and reproduction thus fueling evolution. Gates does not agree. He claims science must also play an important role. One reason for this is most probably that trade has been everywhere on Earth but science evolved in Europe.

I was not aware of this debate but I had picked up vibes in the Financial Times that economists like to think that prosperity is the only thing that is important for stabilizing a society. This seems to be the general idea in Asia and Russia where freedom is on the back burner. There was a program on the Swedish radio yesterday where a couple of scientists with knowledge about the growth of science in China claimed that the Chinese are aware of the importance of science but, seemingly contradictory, maintains the planning structure on science although they operate with a market economy. Furthermore, however, they apparently experiment with various types of settings for how research group should work. In other words they are not looking for copying the way science performed in the West but instead want to find their own Holy Graal. To be honest there are differences between science performance in the US and Europe as well.

Returning to the title of Mr Ridley's book prosperity has already evolved in the West and it might therefore be important to ask whether or not trade will be less important and science more important in the future? The problem with this idea is that science is probably saturated more or less and is not really possible to increase very much. We have already engaged all people that are available. So unless China develops a new way of conducting science that we should copy we just have to keep going.

Gates also brings up a moral question about what we can do for Africa, since he is investing in aid there. He claims that Mr. Ridley is wrong in assuming that aid is not what Africa needs but growth. Because the West have paid back from the age of colonization with knowledge in health related issues that will have long term positive effects on Africa by lowering the birth rates. I don't know how important this issue is in the competition for raw materials in Africa between China and the West. The Chinese approach is apparently less investing. Hopefully it is not a zero-sum affair. Trade is definitely important in Africa but perhaps science should be built at the same time? Brazil is apparently doing well in agricultural science which focus on the specific climate in question.

Wikileaks compared to FRA?

Den utrikespolitiska hemlighetskulturen är farligare än Wikileaks « Karl Sigfrid: "Den utrikespolitiska hemlighetskulturen är betydligt skadligare än vad Wikileaks verksamhet någonsin kan bli."

If you say that the world should be able to read all what diplomats in the US State Department writes, you might as well extrapolate and say that the world should be able to read all emails that the Swedes write. A while ago there was a debate in Sweden about a government agency, FRA, that might be able to eavesdrop on your communications. Why trust the US diplomatic corps with something the Swedes in general do?

It so happens that I found out that people can, via the internet, access my hard disk on my computer when I have a regular broadband coupling. In other words they can browse my email correspondence if they want and have the access address and the knowledge to do so. The question then becomes do we want this to become general knowledge and do we want full disclosure of all emails of everyone?

I would in this context also suggest a thought experiment. Let us say that it is possible to see what people think, on the internet. Furthermore, it would be possible for people to communicate via thinking. Should it then be possible for all people to monitor these communications? Total disclosure of human thinking and no privacy what so ever.

There might be a very severe risk with the latter scenario. It might represent a more authoritarian political system where people become afraid of thinking or saying certain things. After all, it is different writing a post on a blog for the world and talking with your best friend. The risk is severe because the scientific revolution in our culture might depend on individual initiatives in thoughts. Would we be in the process of creating a world system of authoritarian rule that is stagnating in innovation in such case?