July 6th, 2005

[BRIEF NOTE] Operation Finlandia

Over on soc.history.what-if, redoubtable Finnish poster Jussi Jalonen has been posting (1, 2) about Finnish author Arto Paasilinna's 1972 novel Operation Finlandia, describing the brutal Swedish-Finnish war of 1977. Jussi's analysis of the novel's plausibility, and suggestions as to how this scenario could be made more plausible still, is compelling. These two threads are interesting in their own rights, and not only because they demonstrate the correctness of Paasilinna's observation in his introduction to Operation Finlandia.

At all times, wars are waged all around the world. Yet somehow we, people of the Nordic countries, consider ourselves to be living in the middle of some golden era of global peace. The wars of today are regional and, thankfully for us, fought far away in the Third World. With this book, I want to spread war to the peaceful North. My primary intention is to show that the propensity for war exists even here, and all that it takes is one small spark to start the conflagration. I want to make it clear that there are absolutely no countries and nations in this world that could not start fighting against each others under suitable conditions.

Is there any reason why there is absolutely no chance that, suitably primed, Canada couldn't become Yugoslavia, after all?
  • Current Mood

[BRIEF NOTE] A Point for Discussion

Yesterday, garmacottar made an interesting comment.

[I]f the US turns Republican, it'll only be good for Canada and Europe.

If it's happening in parts of the states, it's not in others, and the parts of the states it is happening in, are the places you'd never want to live in anyway, rural areas where the population is bleeding out, atracted to the bright lights, freedom and decadence of the big city.

Absent the US going theocratic loony, there is no downside to firstworlders whether the US returns to sanity, or keeps going to Republica. If it keeps going further to the right, it will export many, many productive college graduates, educated folk, more arts than sciences, but plenty of those too. If it pulls out of the world system into isolationism after Iraq, it's all to the good too. Absent actual psychosis, the US is not life threatening to first world countries, and if it goes right, we will have extra catch up time, and the benefits of the good ones their education system produces, while if it returns to the One True way, we can say welcome back.


[BRIEF NOTE] Quick reaction

No, I don't think that the United States will get that bad. Yes, I do think that if it the United States ever became an aggressively expansionistic state with a pro-death ideology, Canada would be lucky to be Czechoslovakia to its Nazi Germany, but more likely, it would be an Austria. (I doubt that it would be a Poland, never mind an Estonia.)
  • Current Music
    David Bowie, "O Superman"

[BRIEF NOTE] What Really Bugs Me About (Some) Americans

Certain elements in the attitude of certain Americans towards Canada annoy me. None annoy me more than the belief that Canada is an artificial nation and that Canadians--or at least English Canadians--are Americans, and should be Americans. I've read this argument most recently at the United North America website, a site that tries to make a case for the annexation of Canada into the United States.

The site's author makes a slighting remark in the FAQ about Prince Edward Island, true.

12. What would happen to Prince Edward Island?

At a measly 2,180 square miles and a meager 139,900 in population, Prince Edward Island (PEI) would likely never be accepted as a full State in a United North America. Arguably, this tiny plot of land should not even be a Province in Canada. PEI while significantly over-represented within the Canadian Parliament would be outrageously over-represented in Congress with two Senators and one House Representative. Therefore, a more reasonable proposal would be to incorporate the island with Nova Scotia and/or New Brunswick. Of course nothing is beyond negotiation.

This is part and parcel of a line of argument to the effect that the origins of English Canada in American settlers and the ongoing vagueness of Canadian national identity means that Canadians are really Americans under a foreign flag and should just admit it. Please tell me why this belief is different in kind from the beliefs of some Serbian nationalists in the early 1990s that Bosnian Muslims and Shtokavian-speaking Croats were Serbs, regardless of what the people concerned say. While you're doing that, let me know how that sort of mindset isn't going to lead you to be angry at those people who deny their obvious membership in your group. This sort of thing leads to Srebrenica.

UPDATE (9:14 PM) : Unintended generalizations cleared up.

[BRIEF NOTE] The Problem with the G-8

Wikipedia's capsule history of the origins of the G-8 is accurate, I promise.

The G-8 has its roots in the 1973 oil crisis and subsequent global recession. These troubles led the United States of America to form the Library Group, a gathering of senior financial officials from the United States, Europe, and Japan, to discuss the economic issues. In 1975 French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing invited the heads of state of six major industralized democracies to a summit in Rambouillet and proposed regular meetings. The participants agreed to an annual meeting organized under a rotating presidency, forming what was dubbed the Group of Six (G6) consisting of France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. At the following year's summit on Puerto Rico, it became the Group of Seven (G7), when Canada joined at the behest of U.S. President Gerald Ford.

Ford, I should add, wanted a country to balance out the Europeans. Since neither the Soviet Union nor China were capitalist economic powers--they were, in fact, hostile heavily armed powers--and Brazil and India and South Korea and Mexico hadn't begun or were just beginning their ascents, Canada was the only choice. The rationale for this is fading, since, taking a look at this chart of GDP measured at purchasing-power parities, South Korea and Spain come in just behind Canada, while among second-tier economies Brazil, Russia and Mexico come comfortably ahead. Arguably, all of these countries are more significant trading powers than Canada: Canada might be a major exporter, but almost all of its trade is with the United States. Compare the more diverse trade flows of the five non-G-7 countries I named. Were Canada to fragment, South Korea would have an excellent case for taking over Canada's membership, owing to its economic heft and respecting the principle of regional parity in representation in the G-7.

What all this demonstrates is that the G-7 is becoming less and less useful as a global economic executive. (The G-8 seems to serve little role apart from that of adjunct body to the OSCE plus Japan.) The continued growth of substantial new entrants into the club of First World countries like Spain and South Korea (and, hopefully, Argentina and Poland within a generation) and the rapid growth of the BRIC powers means that any such executive has to be truly global. It won't be, which is why its importance will doubtless shrink in the coming decades.
  • Current Music
    Björk, "Army of Me"

[LINK] More Disposable and Forgettable Pop Music

I knew of Patsy Kensit as a second-tier British soap actress who had the bad luck to get involved with one of the Gallagher brothers. I didn't know that she fronted a band of her own, Eighth Wonder, or that their big hit single "I'm Not Scared" was written by the Pet Shop Boys. Again, going back to the Pet Shop Boys Commentary site:

In 1987, Neil and Chris wrote and produced "I'm Not Scared" for Patsy Kensit and her band Eighth Wonder, basing it on an instrumental they had written two years earlier with Chris's punning title "A Roma." The resulting track proved a sizeable hit, especially on the Continent. The following year the Boys recorded their own extended and significantly harder-edged version for the Introspective album. The lyrics are somewhat cryptic, but they could well be about (or at least set against the backdrop of) the 1968 Paris student riots, samples of sounds from which are included in the PSB track. (The fact that the b-side of the Patsy Kensit version is a French-language version of the same song lends additional credence to this interpretation.)

On the other hand, it's quite possible that Neil is only using the Paris riots as a metaphor for a troubled relationship and/or the narrator's distressed mindset. The lyrics take the form of an accusatory monologue by one party in this relationship ("If I was you I wouldn't treat me the way you do"), who's trying to bolster his own confidence in the face of many difficulties ("I'm not scared, baby/I'll go anywhere"). Despite it all, however, he asserts his continued interest in the person to whom he's speaking, expressing his wistful desire to read his or her mind. And no, he's "not scared" of what he might learn there. So, at least from that perspective, the song remains hopeful.

I certainly didn't connect between this song, which I somehow managed to download years ago, and the version that they did on their 1988 CD Introspective.

Incidentally, Patsy Kensit apparently disavows her music years. I think I can see why, with her high-pitched thin vocals, the Donna Summer-style orgasmic moans that open the song, and the decidedly overproduced nature of the track. Not that it's bad for what it is, mind, but what it is isn't what one might want to claim.
  • Current Music
    Eighth Wonder, "I'm Not Scared"