Russia is not the Soviet Union—what are ‘we’ afraid of?

Over a quarter of a century has passed since the Soviet Union dissolved into its constituent republics, and since its satellite countries in Eastern Europe have declared their independence from Soviet hegemony. Yet many in Europe and the USA are acting as if the Soviet Union still exists.

NATO continues to act as if Russia were the Soviet Union. The European Union continues to challenge Russia’s real and perceived interests in Eastern Europe. Some politicians in the USA are preparing to urge the new president to be ‘tough’ with Russia.

What’s going on? And what are the facts underlying the purported similarity of today’s Russia with the defunct Soviet Union that certain politicians and talking heads are promoting?

How strong was the Soviet Union in 1989 before its dissolution? And how strong is its successor state, Russia?

– In 1989 the Soviet Union was the third most populous country, after China and India, with the USA in fourth place.
– In 2016, Russia was the ninth most populous country, after China, India, the USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, with Japan in tenth place.

– The population of Russia today is about one-half that of the Soviet Union in 1989.

– In 1989, The Soviet Union’s share of World Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 13.5%.
– In 2016, Russia’s share of World GDP was 3.3%

– In 1989, The Soviet Union’s fertility rate (births per woman—all women) was 2.4, comfortably above the population replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. Its population was growing at a rate of 0.8%
– In 2016, Russia’s fertility rate was 1.61, well below population replacement rate. Its population was shrinking at the rate of -0.06%

Here are two charts, one for 1989 and one for 2016, which underly the above statements:

screenhunter_459-jan-02-17-47

I offer questions and ideas for discussion on this and related issues:

1. India seems poised to take the path which China has taken in the last quarter century, in terms of population and economic growth, while the other ‘great powers’ are slowing down in these respects. Why are ‘we’ not afraid of China and India, or at least as much as ‘we’ seem to be afraid of Russia?

2. Is it in the nature of the Russian character and its history as a regional power to expand its influence through the use of raw, i.e., military power?

3. I have seen it asserted that China is not ‘expansionist’ in nature, but rather seeks economic strength, and stability in its relations with other entities.We have not seen India as an expansionist entity, but perhaps Pakistan has a different perspective.

4. All European countries, except France and Iceland, are losing population, even with the recent migration waves from Asia and Africa. Eastern European countries are experiencing the greatest reductions in fertility and population. Perhaps this engenders fearfulness for their respective futures which the peoples project toward more powerful neighbors?

5. All four of these ‘great powers’ possess nuclear weapons. Who should be afraid of whom?

Let’s discuss this…

END

Letter from Poland

I recently visited Kraków, Poland, with nine of my writing colleagues, for a ‘writing retreat’ and some minor tourism.

We arrived 10 November, the day before an important national holiday, National Independence Day…

… a national day in Poland celebrated on 11 November to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, after 123 years of partition by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Empire. (Wikipedia)

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One of the celebrations early on November 11, image taken from our hotel room

In pursuing the tourism, I went to the English language Massolit Bookstore. The fellow at the cashier and cafe desk is interested in the Beat Poets, as I am. He and I struck up a conversation and I promised to send him a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

After returning home, I sent him the poem, along with some personal comments and links to my writing. I received from him a most unexpected response. Here it is:
___

I am happy to read that you enjoyed your stay in Kraków. It is my favourite Polish city and I am happy to have moved here for good. You found it much settled in history and past. The city was lucky, very lucky not to be destroyed much by any war. Even the Communist  regime didn’t crush its beauty and spirit. And seriously, to me Kraków is an escapist city.

In any other Polish city I always feel some destruction. Warsaw was paved to the ground and awfully rebuilt after 1945. Lublin, which I came from is a God-forgotten place suffering from the consequences of a too rapid switch from communism to capitalism. Wrocław, which I lived in is a German town made Polish fifty years ago and still struggling to reinvent it’s identity, a continuing process. Only in Kraków do I feel at home, without all the damage that has been done to this country.

poland-map

I am writing this at age thirty-four, in the generation that grew up seeing the old being replaced by the new Poland after 1989. I was eight when it all happened. My parents would tell me “how it’s been” and why the Regime should “never repeat”. They raised me with this warning. Their parents raised them with the warnings against war. I am happy to notice twenty-year-olds not influenced with this kind of perspective.

My grandfather lost all his family during the war. He never came back to Lviv (today’s Ukraine, yesterday’s Poland). My mother tried to look for our relatives, didn’t meet anyone when she came there. I don’t feel like going there at all. Let past be the past.

This might sound cruel, but… I am sick and tired of war literature, especially the Holocaust kind of literature still being “mass produced” by yet another Jewish person coming to Auschwitz as a part of their “identity trip”. With masterpieces like Ellie Wiesel’s “Night” we don’t need any more Shoah books to understand the trauma.

I spent one year volunteering in Israel, which was a great lesson on complexity and diversity of life in all kinds of meaning. I walked a mile in someone else’s shoes and it was the most precious experience so far.

I came back to Poland and got close to Judaism again. I acted in Jewish theatre groups. I think that if there is any space in which we can work out the demons of all kinds it is art. Only in art and only on the non-personal but emotional and spiritual level of metaphorical language we can “speak with the ghosts.”

Some people now say: “If they chose Trump it means that humankind didn’t learn anything”. Well, a bit overstatement I would say, but I find an answer in Walter Benjamin’s “The Angel of History” essay. He said that all the answers have been given a long time ago and that if there is something like the Messianic times it IS the time of now, and if we can recognise ourselves and recognise our calling in the calling that has been left to us by the late generations to be accomplished, then it means we are doing right at life.

But why am I writing all this actually? Well, I believe life is a journey and I am trying to learn from all the passengers I happen to be travelling with. Sometimes I feel like explaining myself. Maybe that was one of these moments. We, Poles, have an idea of “The Polish complex,” which is an old fear of not being appreciated or never being understood by outsiders. Maybe this is also my complex that keeps me trying to tell this story again and again, come back to past, tell the identity and keep on checking if I have really told “the whole” story…

jakub-wydrzynski

— Jakub Wydrzynski

These Fourteen European Countries are Disappearing

[See end notes for sources, inclusions and exclusions]

These countries are currently losing population (sorted by population growth rate):

screenhunter_453-oct-16-10-05

[Note: Fertility Rate is the ratio of ‘total children born’ to ‘all women’ in a given population. In order for a given population to remain constant (not counting net migration) the ratio needs to be 2.0 to 2.1.]

What can we intuit from correlating these figures with what we see happening in the world today?

Intuition No. 1: Germany needs to increase the number of its permanent immigrants in order to maintain or grow its population, despite that it already has a relatively high net migration rate: 1.5 net new migrants per 1000 population. But, politically, there is currently a movement away from increased immigration which has created a problem for the current leadership of the country. Note that Germany records the highest median age and the largest percent of the population over 64, in the list above.

Intuition No. 2: Greece’s high net migration rate (2.3 per 1000) is barely adequate to keep its population stable. But the ability of Greece to accommodate large numbers of new residents and citizens is problematical, given its current economic distress. What is not known at this point, is the long term effects of the tens of thousands of refugees who have recently arrived in Greece. Despite recent waves of immigration, the age measures for Greece are only slightly under Germany’s.

screenhunter_453-oct-16-09-36Intuition No. 3: The three, small Baltic Sea countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are seriously losing population (0.5% to over 1% annually, currently). Further, their fertility rates are low (1.5-1.6), and immigration from elsewhere is not occurring. What can be the future of these countries if they continue to fade away? [Note: they all share a border with Russia.] Despite different cultures and ethnicities in these three countries, their age measures are almost identical. In that they were dominated and occupied by the Soviet Union, I wonder if there is a uniting thread resultant from this. There are no separate measures available for the entity named ‘Kaliningrad’, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, around one-third the size of the neighboring Baltic States. According to the 2010 Census, its population was 431,902

Intuition No. 4: The neighbor countries of Bulgaria and Romania, like the Three Baltic states, are losing population and are not gaining immigrants. Their current populations are much larger than the Baltics, so it will take longer for them to “disappear.” In that they border the Black Sea, Russians flock to these countries during the tourist season and have bought many properties along the coast. Russians are a palpable presence in these two countries, which unofficially affects national politics. Their net migration rates are only slightly negative, but their fertility rates are very low, below 1.5.

screenhunter_452-oct-16-09-36

Intuition No. 5: Five of the six former provinces of the united Yugoslavia, which have reverted to their former independent states, are losing population: Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The other, Macedonia (not in the above chart), is slowly growing due, apparently, to positive net migration, despite its fertility rate being 1.6. The bottom line: the former Yugoslavia is slowly fading away, as are Bulgaria and Romania, above. [Note: The present day state of Kosovo was, until recently, a province of Serbia. We have no data for Kosovo, other than population: 1,883,0189]. The population of these five seems to be slightly younger than others on this list, but they are not reproducing. Their fertility rates are at or near the bottom of the list.

Intuition No. 6: The remaining two states in the above chart are Hungary and Poland. Both are currently aligned politically to resist immigration from non-European countries. But, unless they reverse this position, they will fade along with the others mentioned here. Hungary’s fertility rate is 1.44 and Poland’s is a very low 1.34.

On the other hand: These 13 countries in Europe are currently growing at an annual rate between 0.5% and 2.0% (sorted by population growth rate):

screenhunter_453-oct-16-10-08

Why are these countries not fading away like the others?

The quick answer is: immigration. The Net migration rates for all are relatively high, ranging from 2.5 in the United Kingdom to 16.3 in Luxembourg. The highest fertility rates are in Sweden and Ireland; the are lowest in Austria, Cyprus and Spain. In the latter three, if their current fertility rates and immigration rates continue, the native born ethnic Austrians, Cypriots, and Spaniards will be in the minority within a lifetime. Is this a problem? I guess it depends on the person viewing the situation. Such things have happened many times in the past, peacefully and otherwise.

Not Reproducing

Only two European countries in the forty studied have a positive fertility rate:

screenhunter_453-oct-16-10-09

I intuit that France is the picture of the future for most European countries. France has had waves of immigration of people from North Africa in the past and, more recently, from the Near East whose birth rates are higher than the indigenous population.

rvxnf4bujdek3kcm2dwdq6jy These people, in my intuition, are responsible for France’s high fertility rate, compared to other European countries. Nonetheless, France’s annual population growth rate of 0.41% is not remarkable or significantly different from other European countries. The non-immigrant residents are reproducing at a much lower rate than the immigrant population. The accompanying chart was for the year 2004, and the ensuing twelve years have seen a significant rise in the immigrants from ‘Asia.’

Iceland seems to be a special case about which I have no useful remarks.

WHY are European countries Not Reproducing?

The answer is given by Col. Robert de Marcellus (Ret.) in an article “Falling Fertility: The World at the Tipping Point,” in the online magazine of the Population Research Institute:

  • The great increase in the number of wives who must work in the paid economy to help support the family due to the loss of the “family wage” concept
  • The increasing cost of raising children
  • High taxation that reduces family disposable income
  • Educational debt
  • Lifestyle changes that increasingly cause luxuries to be considered necessities
  • More years spent by young people in higher education. delaying family formation
  • Older average marriage ages, which greatly reduce wives’ childbearing years
  • Less family support as young couples relocate at a distance from family members

Please read the entire article for a lucid discussion of these and other factors.

My Final Intuitive Statement

The spirit of ‘Europe’ is depressed. Depressed spirits decline to reproduce.

Perhaps there is no more ‘Europe.’ It seems to be an idea, an abstraction, without a basis.

We can point to European Culture, starting from its putative origins in Ancient Greece and Rome, then The Renaissance, then The Enlightenment, and so on—Art, Music, Literature, Philosophy, Science… and the relationship of the Church to any of these.

It seems all a museum now.

The European ‘Union’ is reeling, nationalism on the rise, tribalism more evident.

Popular arts are declining, public figures ever more ridiculous.

BUT…

Perhaps the above is necessary for a rebirth of something more beautiful?

“Without mud, there can be no lotus,” Thich Nhat Hanh, renown Buddhist teacher.

The data are taken from the current listings, by country, in the CIA World Factbook.

I analyzed all countries in Europe (40), not just those in the European Union (28)

I excluded Russia and Turkey, even though some parts of these nation-states are in what is recognized as Europe, geographically.

I excluded five other “European” countries because they are dominated politically and/or economically either by Russia or Turkey: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine.

The Star-Spangled Banner has been our national anthem for eighty-five years; it’s time to change it.

When I was in kindergarten and grammar school, in the early 1940s, we often sang other patriotic songs as well; “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.” I especially liked the latter, and still do. Here’s the first stanza:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Even as five- and six-year-olds we could sing these words from memory. I felt I could actually see the land “from sea to shining sea.” Sometimes we had the printed lyrics and could read and sing other three stanzas, which can be seen here

I have lived fourteen years in Sweden. During this time I haven’t participated in an event where the Star-Spangled Banner has been sung, until I recently attended the high school graduation ceremony of my granddaughter Sydney, in San Jose, California. Something didn’t feel right: “And the rocket’s red glare/the bombs bursting in air” were difficult to utter, although “the land of the free and the home of the brave” still brought tears to my eyes, remembering stories of our founding patriots who pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor“; and, in having known warriors and veterans, some wounded, since World War Two.

ScreenHunter_16 Jun. 11 15.03

Dr. Kevin W. Cosby, Senior Pastor, St. Stephen Church; President, Simmons College of Kentucky

I’ve lived with this dissatisfaction for many decades, but upon watching and hearing Dr. Kevin Cosby speak, on live TV, at the memorial service of Muhammad Ali yesterday, I decided to make public my dissatisfaction and propose a new official anthem for the United States of America.

Dr. Cosby is head of Simmons College and senior pastor of St. Stephen Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He delivered an oration and eulogy which was spell-binding. One of its many elements was a reference to a portion of the third stanza of the “Star-Spangled Banner”:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

This reference, as Rev. Cosby points out, shows how slavery was an accepted social and legal fact at the time of its writing, contributing to the “nobody-ness” of the former Africans who were now in America but recognized as having only three-fifths the personhood of other Americans, as set forth in the original Constitution of the United States. The abolition of involuntary servitude and the granting of full rights under the Constitution for former slaves were not assured until the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, all finally ratified by the states by 1870. (Source)

The words of what was to become, one hundred seventeen years later, our national anthem are from “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, a poem written on September 13, 1814 by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort during the American victory. (Source).

In addition to the anachronisms in the third stanza and throughout our anthem, it is notoriously hard to sing. Professional and amateur singers have been known to forget the words, which is one reason the song is sometimes pre-recorded and lip-synced. Other times the issue is avoided by having the performer(s) play the anthem instrumentally instead of singing it. The pre-recording of the anthem has become standard practice at some ballparks, such as Boston’s Fenway Park. (Source).

As I earlier said, I now live in Sweden. I occasionally hear my new country’s anthem sung (literal translation):

Thou ancient, Thou free, Thou mountainous north
Thou quiet, Thou joyful [and] fair!
I greet thee, loveliest land upon earth,
/:Thy sun, Thy sky, Thy climes green.:/

Thou thronest on memories of great olden days,
When honoured Thy name flew across the earth,
I know that Thou art and wilt remain what thou werest,
/:Yes, I want to live, I want to die in the North.:/
(Source)

(Note: I remain an American citizen).

The first verse reminds me of “America the Beautiful” where the physical vastness and beauty of the land is recognized first. It will be no surprise, therefore, that I now recommend we change our national anthem to “America the Beautiful…  and I already have an endorsement from Ray Charles.

ScreenHunter_14 Jun. 11 14.58

 

Where have the New Citizens to the USA Come From?

Did you notice that I didn’t use the word “immigrants”?

STLI.statueblueskysunbehindtorchThe times are such that this word has taken on a negative connotation for a large number of Americans and Europeans.

The USA remains a remarkable country in that it has, since its beginning, attracted new citizens from throughout the world, and continues to do so. Since the subject is currently of higher than usual temperature in Europe and North America, leading to the promulgation of misleading or misinterpreted information, I was delighted to come across a large official database on immigration from the years 1820 through 2013, a span of almost 200 years. (You can download the file from this link, provided by Metrocosm.)

I summarized the data in the following table, and subsidiary tables not displayed, then created several charts to highlight major aspects of the data.

(for a larger view, right click the table-image to get a drop-down menu from which you can open the image in a new tab).
Table 1Table 2See the Note at the end regarding African immigration.

The greatest impact of immigration on the existing population occurred in the time period 1870 – 1919, when 23 million people arrived from Europe, a number equal to the 21.7% of the population in the United States, 1920. You can review the table to see that, other than the first wave from Europe in 1820 – 1869, the subsequent waves from Europe, ‘North America’ and Asia of were of much lesser magnitude with respect to existing population. [See end note regarding “unauthorized” immigrants]

During the entire 193 years Europe has been the dominant exporter of new citizens to the USA, but this trend is declining. The dominant trend is now emigration from “North America.” This label needs explanation. These are all countries (other than the USA) in the continent, which (officially) includes: Canada, Caribbean, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, ‘Other Caribbean’, ‘Other America’. Here is the detail for these countries.

Immigrants to the USA by Country in the Region North America, 1820 - 2013

Here is a broader perspective on these numbers. During the 193 years studied here, around 75% of documented immigrants came from sixteen countries or areas, with more than 60 identified countries and areas comprising the remaining 25%. These are easily seen in the source document.

Number of Documented Immigrants to USA by Country or Area, 1820 - 2013

The two nations Austria and Hungary were once one nation and, over time, were reported/recorded together, then separately. I have combined all three entities for this study. I combined Norway and Sweden for reasons pertaining similarly to Austria-Hungary.ScreenHunter_437 May. 15 10.26

One final chart to increase our perspective:

ScreenHunter_437 May. 15 10.48.jpg
Depending on one’s point of view, he or she will make conclusions regarding the above data and graphics. I make none, here, but offer the data as a basis for further discussion–which I welcome as responses to this article.

Note Regarding Africa: The official number does not include an estimated 450,000 Africans brought as slaves directly and indirectly to the USA during the times of the slave trade. The first African indentured servants arrived in 1619 in Jamestown (Colony of Virginia), and by the middle of the century the slave trade was firmly established. Congress prohibited the importation of slaves, effective in 1808, but illegal smuggling took place. Slave trade ceased completely sometime during the period between President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 and, finally, with the adoption of the 13th Amendment, 1865.  (Source 1, Source 2)

Note Regarding unauthorized immigrants: The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has estimated that 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the United States in January 2012. In 2012, 52% were from Mexico, 15% from Central America, 12% from Asia, 6% from South America, 5% from the Caribbean, and another 5% from Europe and Canada. (Source).

French Philosopher René Descartes Dead in Stockholm: An Ignominious End

René Descartes is famous for his assertion Cogito ergo sum (“I am thinking, therefore I exist”), or more popularly and pithily translated from the Latin, “I think, therefore I am”.

René Descartes

René Descartes

Descartes was enticed to Sweden at age fifty-three by the young Queen Christina, through their mutual friend, the French Ambassador to Sweden, Pierre Hector Chanut.  In 1646 Chanut corresponded with Descartes, asking him for a copy of his Meditations to give to the Queen. Christina started correspondence with Descartes about hate and love, and eventually invited him to Sweden. Descartes arrived on 4 October 1649. He resided with Chanut, but had to wait till 18 December until he could start giving private lessons to the queen. Accustomed to working in bed until noon, and being of delicate health since a young age, he probably suffered from Christina’s study regime which began early in the morning at 5 a.m. The premises of the nearby royal castle were icy, and on 1 February 1650 Descartes fell ill with pneumonia and died ten days later. (Source)

The Thirty Years’ War between Catholic and Lutheran states and factions in Europe had recently ended. As a Catholic in a Lutheran nation, Descartes was interred in a graveyard at St. Olof’s Chapel, a wooden structure used mainly for unbaptized infants, well outside the center of the city. In 1666, Descartes’ body was disinterred and returned to the building where he died and where the French Ambassador to Sweden lived, as had his predecessor Chanut: 68 Västerlånggatan (Western Long Street) in what is now “Old Town”. (More about the building further below).

Västerlånggatan 68, currently

Västerlånggatan 68, currently

Hughues de Terlon, the French ambassador, was officially in charge of the secretive exhumation and transport of Descartes’ remains to France for proper ceremonial interment. The flesh had decomposed, so all that was left were the bones. This allowed the Ambassador to put the remains in a much smaller box, thus not having to transport a coffin which would bring unwelcome attention, en route, to this enterprise.

The bones were properly blessed by local Catholic officials before being placed in the box, but de Terlon requested the authorities that he might himself be allowed, “religiously”, to take possession of Descartes’ right index finger, the bone “which had served as an instrument in the immortal writings of the deceased”. They granted him this request.

The box was guarded by Swedish military men, at least one of whom removed the skull of Decartes before the box was transported to France. The Swedish family that became the proud owners of Descartes’ skull — how, it is not clear — had it lovingly inscribed with Latin verses celebrating its significance as a souvenir of the beginnings of rationality. Successive owners added their own signatures and inscriptions testifying to their own ‘faith’ in the relic.

(The story of the box of bones and the skull is wonderfully told in the book Descartes Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason, by Russell Shorto, from which parts of the previous two paragraphs are taken.)

Ultimately, after centuries, all the bones except the index finger were reunited in the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris.

In 1774, a new church was erected on the site of St. Olof’s Chapel where Descartes’s remains had lain for sixteen years—Adolf Fredriks Kyrka.  Royal Prince Gustav (who, shortly after, was crowned King Gustav III) of Sweden wanted to honor the philosopher with a monument in the newly built church. The sculpture, rendered in lead, hangs on a pillar to the right of the altar in the church. The cherub unveiling the globe of Truth bears the likeness of Gustav III, the “Enlightenment King”. (Source).

Rene_Descartes_monument_in_the_Adolf_Fredriks_Kyrka_Stockholm_2

The full text on the monument is:

Gustavas Pr. Haer. R. S. (Gustavus Hereditary Prince)
Renato Cartesio (Italian form of René Descartes)
Nat. in Gallia MDXCVI (Born in France 1596)
Mort. in Svecia MDCL (Died in Sweden 1650)
Monumentum erexit (A monument has been erected)
_____________
MDCCLXX (1770)

Gustav III (1746 –1792) was King of Sweden from 1771 until his death. He was the eldest son of King Adolph Frederick and Queen Louise Ulrika, who was a sister of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. (Source)

The house in which Descartes briefly lived still stands in Gamla Stan (Old Town), Stockholm (pictured above). Here is a close up I took of some of the decoration at the entrance:

Facade, Västerlånggatan 68, Old Town, Stockholm

Facade, Västerlånggatan 68, Old Town, Stockholm

This is a red four-story building in Baroque style, called von der Lindeska house, named after the merchant Erik von der Linde, who had built it in 1630. In 1646 the house was sold to Queen Christina , who in 1648 donated the house to her half brother, Gustaf Gustafsson af Vasaborg . The building has a façade in the Dutch Renaissance style. The entry is adorned with the heads of two gods, Mercury and Neptune . On the wall are two cartouches with texts in German, in translation: Everything depends on God’s grace (An Gottes Segen ist alles gelegen); Put your hope in God alone (Auf Gott allein setze die Hoffnung Dein) (Source)

I wonder about the lessons to be learned from the sad ending to this illustrious man and his valuable work. He was only 53, but he had already given the world a way of seeing things which still reverberates between those who prefer faith to reason, and vice versa. A reading of his biography may give an answer to this. Here’s a place to start: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Descartes.

“… at last the world knows America as the savior of the world!”

The words in the heading for this article are those of President Woodrow Wilson, given to an audience in Portland, Oregon, 1919, referencing the USA’s role in the establishment of the League of Nations after the end of World War One, “the war to end war.”

 <<This is the first part of a series on “Democracy”>>


Declaration of War

woodrow-wilson-postage-stampOn April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to seek a Declaration of War against Germany in order that the world “be made safe for democracy.” Four days later, Congress voted to declare war… By the time the war ended a year and a half later, an entire generation was decimated—France alone lost half its men between the ages of twenty and thirty-two. The maimed bodies of millions of European men who survived bore mute testimony to the war’s savagery. (Source)

The Treaty of Versailles, 28 June 1919

After four years of warfare, the conflict ended in Versailles in 1919. It was “peace” for one side, but a “diktat” for the other side. The treaty contained the germ of the causes of a second world war 20 years later.

The negotiations had been difficult. A peace conference had met in Paris since 18 January to prepare the treaty. The Allies alone took part in the debates. But they were not in agreement. France wanted to remove the German danger definitively and bring Germany to its knees. Great Britain, in contrast, wanted to let Germany keep its rank. The United States looked forward to a world pacified with the Society of Nations. Italy wanted the territories promised to it in 1915. The treaty was finally submitted to Germany on 7 May. All Germany’s counter-proposals were rejected and it refused to sign the treaty. On 17 June, the Allies gave it 5 days to decide. Germany finally accepted this “diktat.”

Germany lost 68,000 km² of its territory, including Alsace and Lorraine annexed in 1870, and 8 million inhabitants. Part of eastern Prussia was dismantled to the benefit of Poland which gained access to the sea via the “Danzig corridor”. Germany had to pay 20 billion gold marks in reparation to France. It lost most of its mineral resources and agricultural production. Its colonies were confiscated and its military power was annihilated. Humiliated, Germany aspired for revenge. A new war, which the Allies thought they were avoiding, was soon to be prepared.

After the Versailles conference Wilson claimed that “at last the world knows America as the savior of the world!” [ President Woodrow Wilson speaking on the League of Nations to a luncheon audience in Portland OR. 66th Cong., 1st sess. Senate Documents: Addresses of President Wilson (May–November 1919), vol.11, no. 120, p.206.] (Source)

Almost 100 years later, the USA is still trying make, or at least encourage, the world to be “democratic,” while not explicitly advocating that it be “safe for democracy,” as President Wilson enunciated.

The US Department of State has the job of encouraging the spread of democracy. Immediately below are excerpts from the official sites of the department, all accessible at http://www.state.gov/I warn the reader that he or she will encounter the turgid bureaucratic language of large organizations, of which our government is certainly one, and plead with you not to be discouraged by it. Bland and abstract words and phrases contain obscured meaning. If you are a citizen of the USA, this is your government talking to the rest of the world. If you are not a citizen of the USA, this is America talking to your government and the people of your country. (I color with red font all words in the body of State Department articles which are derivatives of the word ‘democracy’).

ScreenHunter_227 May. 06 10.51

Department Mission Statement

“Shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.” –From the FY 2013 Agency Financial Report, released December 2013

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor leads the U.S. efforts to promote democracy, protect human rights and international religious freedom, and advance labor rights globally.

Democracy

Democracy and respect for human rights have long been central components of U.S. foreign policy. Supporting democracy not only promotes such fundamental American values as religious freedom and worker rights, but also helps create a more secure, stable, and prosperous global arena in which the United States can advance its national interests. In addition, democracy is the one national interest that helps to secure all the others. Democratically governed nations are more likely to secure the peace, deter aggression, expand open markets, promote economic development, protect American citizens, combat international terrorism and crime, uphold human and worker rights, avoid humanitarian crises and refugee flows, improve the global environment, and protect human health.

With these goals in mind, the United States seeks to:

  • Promote democracy as a means to achieve security, stability, and prosperity for the entire world;
  • Assist newly formed democracies in implementing democratic principles;
  • Assist democracy advocates around the world to establish vibrant democracies in their own countries; and
  • Identify and denounce regimes that deny their citizens the right to choose their leaders in elections that are free, fair, and transparent.

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) is committed to supporting and promoting democracy programs throughout the world. As the nation’s primary democracy advocate, DRL is responsible for overseeing the Human Rights and Democracy Fund (HRDF), which was established in 1998 to address human rights and democratization emergencies. DRL uses resources from the HRDF, as well as those allocated to Regional Democracy Funds, to support democratization programs such as election monitoring and parliamentary development.

Over the past quarter-century, a large number of nations have made a successful transition to democracy. Many more are at various stages of the transition. When historians write about U.S. foreign policy at the end of the 20th century, they will identify the growth of democracy–from 30 countries in 1974 to 117 today–as one of the United States’ greatest legacies. The United States remains committed to expanding upon this legacy until all the citizens of the world have the fundamental right to choose those who govern them through an ongoing civil process that includes free, fair, and transparent elections.

Advancing Freedom and Democracy

“We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion and not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities.”  – President Barack Obama

The Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report describes efforts by the U.S. Government to support democracy and human rights in nondemocratic countries and countries undergoing democratic transitions worldwide. The U.S. Department of State submits this report in accordance with the ADVANCE Democracy Act of 2007.

Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies

Tomicah Tillemann was appointed as the Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies in October 2010. In collaboration with department bureaus, Dr. Tillemann and his staff are responsible for helping to develop and operationalize the civil society agenda and strengthen emerging democracies.

One of S/SACSED’s key initiatives is the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. The office also orchestrates engagement with the Community of Democracies and generates strategic partnerships to advance democracy abroad.

Goals

  • To elevate the role of civil society in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.
  • To support emerging democracies as they work to complete successful transitions.
  • To engage multilateral organizations that advance democracy and civil society.
  • To promote the independence of civil society globally.

— (End excerpts from the US Department of State web pages) —

I infer that the USA initiated the formation of “Community of Democracies” to further the mission and goals of the US State Department. Here is about this organization:

Community of Democracies

Our vision The Warsaw Declaration

glowna-box1-communityAccording to the Declaration, these are the core principles and practices that the member states of the Community of Democracies agree to uphold:

  •  The right of citizens to choose their representatives through regular, free and fair elections, with universal and equal suffrage, open to multiple parties, conducted by secret ballot, monitored by independent electoral authorities, and free of fraud and intimidation.
  • The right of every person to equal access to public service and to take part in the conduct of public affairs.
  • The right of every person to equal protection of the law, without any discrimination as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
  • The right of every person to freedom of opinion and of expression, including to exchange and receive ideas and information through any media.
  • The right of every person to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  • The right of every person to equal access to education.
  • The right of the press to collect, report and disseminate information, news and opinions, subject only to restrictions necessary in a democratic society and prescribed by law.
  • The right of every person to respect for private family life, home, correspondence, including electronic communications, free of arbitrary or unlawful interference.
  • The right of every person to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, including to establish or join their own political parties, civic groups, trade unions or other organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to allow them to operate freely.
  • The right of persons belonging to minorities or disadvantaged groups to equal protection of the law, and the freedom to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, and use their own language.
  • The right of every person to be free from arbitrary arrest or detention, to be free from torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment; and to receive due process of law, including to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
  • The right of those elected to form a government, assume office and fulfill the term of office.
  • The obligation of an elected government to refrain from extra-constitutional actions, to allow the holding of periodic elections and to respect their results, and to relinquish power when its legal mandate ends.
  • That the aforementioned rights will be enforced by a competent, independent and impartial judiciary open to the public.
  • That elected leaders uphold the law and function strictly in accordance with the constitution and procedures established by law.
  • That government institutions be transparent, participatory and fully accountable, and take steps to combat corruption.
  • That the legislature be elected, transparent and accountable to the people.
  • That civilian, democratic control over the military be established and preserved.
  • That all human right (sic) be promoted and protected.

glowna-box2-visioningThe Warsaw Declaration acknowledges that democratic development is a process, in which each country is at a different stage- no country has reached perfection, and all should work together to meet these objectives, supporting each other while respecting each other’s sovereignty. The best way to help strengthening these democratic institutions and principles is by promoting discussion, exchanging experiences and identifying best practices, together. This is what makes us a community- we cooperate, learn together, focus on the common values, and encourage each other to uphold these values.

On a practical note, the Warsaw Declaration suggests the ways to achieve these goals: to promote civic education, including education for democracy; to support civil society and independent media; to work with relevant institutions and international organizations; to assist each other in economic and social development, including eradication of poverty; and to collaborate and form coalitions in existing international and regional institutions aimed at the promotion of democratic governance. All these, says the Warsaw Declaration, will help to create an environment conducive to democratic development.

Our mission

The Mission Statement of the Community of Democracies is built upon the democratic values agreed in the Warsaw Declaration (of 2000). The Community seeks to support democratic transition and consolidation worldwide and help bridge the gap between principles of democracy and universal human rights and their practice by assisting societies in the development and strengthening of democratic institutions and values, identifying, alerting and responding to threats to democracy so as to assist states to remain on the path to democracy, supporting and defending civil society in all countries, advancing broad-based participation in democratic governance, and giving a voice to those working peacefully for democracy in all countries. (Source).

Countries not included in the Warsaw Declaration of the Community of Democracies (Several small island states are not included in this list):

ScreenHunter_228 May. 06 11.36

In researching the countries not included in the Warsaw Declaration, the French Republic stood out as unexpected. Here are France’s objections, as reported by the Associated Press, Wednesday, June 28, 2000:

WARSAW, Poland – Upsetting the celebratory mood at a global democracy conference, France excluded itself from a newly formed “community of democracies” Tuesday after skewering other Western powers for evangelizing.

France stunned the other 107 participants by refusing to join them in endorsing a declaration setting universal standards by which mature and developing countries alike can measure their progress – an effort to consolidate the dramatic gains democracy made in the 20th century.

The dispute was largely philosophical and centered on French criticism that the conference was a prod to get non-democratic nations to adopt democracy – a policy French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine on Monday said usually backfires. He cited ineffective sanctions against Yugoslavia and Iraq.

“The bottom line is that in Western countries the thinking is that democracy is like religion and that all you have to do is convert people,” Vedrine told reporters in Warsaw on Monday…

France said it didn’t back the document because it amounts “to a diplomatic pledge for the democratic states to act as a group.” In particular, France objected to general agreement at the conference to convene a caucus of democratic states, possibly at the next meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in the fall.

Such a caucus creates a new bloc, in effect replicating the Cold War divisions by excluding nations who have not yet achieved democracy, said the French ambassador to Poland, Benoit d’Aboville… (Source)

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To end Part One of this series on “Democracy,” I ask these questions of myself and the reader:

  •  Is the US State Department’s mission to encourage the world-wide development of democratic institutions a continuation of the values and dreams of President Woodrow Wilson, or is it something different?
  •  Can the USA successfully export democracy?
  •  Should it?
  •  What is democracy?
  •  Is the USA a “democracy?”

The next article will look at the history of democratic concepts and governments, starting around 500 B.C