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Guest Post: Hays on From Matamoros to Managua

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

[mark safranski / “zen“]

See the source image

“Jack Hays“. Mr. Hays has considerable experience in a number of political and policy positions inside government and out and shares with the ZP readership our appreciation for history, strategy and other things further afield. Mr. Hays also has extensive time south of the border. He wrote this brief essay elsewhere and gave permission to share it.

From Matamoros to Managua live just under 170 million people. Their societies are coming apart. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily poor — especially in Mexico — though they frequently are. It does mean that for various reasons, be it the stresses of global trends, misgovernance, societal pathologies, historical causes, or beyond, their institutions are failing. It is likely no accident that this comes to pass in the generation after the era of autocratic parties and strong men. The succeeding era of democracy and pluralism is both liberating and rapacious: for many it has exchanged the danger of being killed by the state for the danger of being killed by nearly anyone. What arises in the aftermath is therefore exceptionally violent. It is not unfamiliar in human history: even at the most glorious moment of the Siglo de Oro, everyday Spanish life was also exceptionally violent. But that isn’t the right comparison: what you see in, say, northern Mexico or urban Honduras is less 16th-century Spain than 17th-century Germany — or 21st-century Damascus. It is a terrifying and brutal existence, and people quite rationally flee.

They especially flee when they are trying to protect children they love.

There is nothing — nothing short of murder — that deters flight and migration in those conditions. Therefore, there being still some things we won’t try, the questions arises: what will we try? If we aren’t going to take them in, what do we do?
What are you willing to have America do to stabilize these societies? The probable answer probably includes things like open or preferential trade. It probably includes aggressive engagement with local politics. It probably includes forcible imposition of our own law-enforcement institutions upon theirs. It may even include the use, in some form, of the United States military. None of this is speculative. All of it has happened before. All of it also ended in mostly the same way: there was a desultory clash of arms, the United States demanded certain things of local sovereigns, and events resolved when someone assumed autocratic control of the southern reaches.

None of this is consonant with our postwar models of American behavior. Yes, we are the country that conquered Panama in 1989; we are also the country that was turned away by a mob from Haitian shores in 1994. We are also the country that doggedly tries to inculcate democratic civic norms in places like Afghanistan when a monarch or a warlord would quite suffice. We have an aversion to nation-building and then we do a great deal of it badly.

But nation-building is precisely what is needed from Matamoros to Mexico. It is for their sake, and ours. The task is gigantic, and before the real crisis is upon us — which will involve millions on the move, not mere thousands — we still have time to undertake it. But we think it is about ourselves, we think they can govern themselves, we imagine we have anything more compelling to pressure them with than the things they fled in San Pedro Sula, in Ciudad Mier, in San Salvador, in a thousand over violent corners of an ancient and bloody land. We are wrong on all counts.

We act, or action is forced upon us. So what are you willing to do?

Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern

Monday, April 30th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a quick dip into the news, the Koreas, Gaza and Israel, Tijuana and San Diego ]
.

At the Korean border, axes as weapons:

In 1976, American soldiers guarding the border between North and South Korea were given what seemed like a simple task: trim a poplar tree blocking the view of a United Nations command post within the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, that had separated the two countries since the end of the Korean War.

[ .. ]

But after 10 or 15 minutes, a North Korean officer ordered the tree-trimming to stop. When the Americans refused, the North Koreans sent for reinforcements.

“When they arrived … the North Koreans suddenly attacked, killing the two U.S. officers and injuring four Americans and four South Koreans,” Don Oberdorfer reported for The Washington Post. “Witnesses said the North Koreans used the axes intended for tree-trimming as their weapons.”

The poplar incident nearly started a second war between North Korea and the United States, which launched a massive military operation that involved hundreds of troops, B-52 bombers, fighter jets and an aircraft carrier. It was dubbed Operation Paul Bunyan, after the giant lumberjack of American folklore./>

**

At the Israeli border, death is equal to life?

Say what you will about root causes and immediate ones — about incitement and militancy, about siege and control, about who did what first to whom — one thing is clear. More than a decade of deprivation and desperation, with little hope of relief, has led thousands of young Gazans to throw themselves into a protest that few, if any, think can actually achieve its stated goal: a return to the homes in what is now Israel that their forebears left behind in 1948.

In five weeks of protests, 46 people have been killed, and hundreds more have been badly wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry.

[ .. ]

“It doesn’t matter to me if they shoot me or not,” he said in a quiet moment inside his family’s tent. “Death or life — it’s the same thing.”

**

After 3,000 miles, the American border:

A long, grueling journey gave way to what could be a long, uncertain asylum process Sunday as a caravan of immigrants finally reached the border between the United States and Mexico, setting up a dramatic moment and a test of President Trump’s anti-immigrant politics.

More than 150 migrants, part of a caravan that once numbered about 1,200 and headed north in March from Mexico’s border with Guatemala, were prepared to seek asylum from United States immigration officials.

But in what was likely to be one of many curves on the road, the migrants were told Sunday afternoon that the immigration officials could not process their claims, and they would have to spend the night on the Mexican side of the border.

**

When I was yet a boy, I was sent out with a companion, both of us armed with .303 rifles dating back to World War Zero, to guard the grounds of our school, Wellington College, named for the Iron Duke, from Frank Mitchell aka “The Mad Axeman”, named for his murder rampage, who had escaped a couple of hours earlier from Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane, named for its location and inmates, whose grounds were near our own in the scrublands near Sandhurst, the British West Point, with some sort of common geist haunting the three establishments.

My mild afright patrolling for the Axeman — if I confronted him, should I cry out “Stand and deliver” or “Who goes there”?? — can hardly compare with the terror inspired by North Korean troops equipped with axes..

Nor can my six year term as a boarder at Wellington, where I was once beaten — four, I think, with a bamboo cane — for doing the Times crossword puzzle in preference to my maths homework, possibly compare with the sense of confinement experienced by the Gaza Palestinians..

San Diego beaches, however, I have some little experience of — that’s San Diego beach, US of A to the right of the border wall in the photo above; to the left of the wall, however, it’s Tijuana beach, Mexico — and as Rudyard Kipling might have said, “seldom, if ever, the twain shall meet”.

**

Sources:

  • WaPo, At Korean summit in DMZ, ‘deranged’ ax murders still cast a shadow
  • NYT, For Gaza Protester, Living or Dying Is the ‘Same Thing’
  • NYT, Migrant Caravan, After Grueling Trip, Reaches U.S. Border. Now the Really Hard Part
  • See also:

  • Zenpundit, The Korean border / no border dance
  • Zenpundit, Sunday surprise: thinking of the Koreas, more
  • Sunday surprise: thinking of the Koreas, more

    Sunday, April 29th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — mind drifting, which is how writing so often happens ]
    .

    See how one man becomes two at .40 seconds into this Lumineers video, it’s truly remarkable. In Korea, we need the situation reversed. Maybe the skipping will od it.

    **

    Think also of what is happening to the two persons on this Floyd album:

    South may be to the left, North to the right, Korea-wise.

    How can we avoid this sort of thing?

    Warning: the math says, two into one won’t go

    **

    Wishing you all a peaceable Sunday!

    On the Floyd album: Shine On You Crazy Diamond

    The Korean border / no border dance

    Sunday, April 29th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — an end to war & truce might bring peace ]
    .

    The leaders of the two Koreas did a little ritual dance whereby each invited the other to cross the border into his own territory.

    You can look at Kim Jung-un and Moon Jae-in doing their border-skipping dance at minute 43 on this video:

    If the camera people had been sharper, they’d have been following the leaders in full view, not cutting them off at the knees or waist, so we could see the whole event, of huge symbolic significance.

    **

    One MSNBC commentator aptly described the border as:

    dividing a nation — or two nations — depending how you look at it.

    That’s not only succinct, it’s profound, if you think about it.

    **

    I’ve discussed the issue of liminality — the symbolic importance of borders — in a major post, Liminality II: the serious part, which I recommend as a follow-up to this one.

    It will fill you in with examples — from boot camp to monastic induction, and from the worship of Vishnu to the USS Topeka — of the importance of humility at border crossings.. recommended!

    But let me give you a a souvenir, a reminder — just a taste —

    Limen is the Latin for border, line drawn in the sand, threshold — and the liminal is therefore what happens at thresholds.

    Something pretty remarkable happened as 1999 turned into 2000 — something liminal. And it happened aboard the USS Topeka, SSN-754 (below):

    SAN DIEGO, Calif. (June 23, 2009) The attack submarine USS Topeka (SSN 754) departs San Diego harbor for a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. Topeka, commanded by Cmdr. Marc Stern, was commissioned on Oct. 21, 1989 and is one of seven Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines assigned to Submarine Squadron 11. Topeka was showcased in the recently released movie, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” (U.S. Navy photo by Command Master Chief Charles Grandin/Released)

    Its bow in one year, its stern in another, the USS Topeka marked the new millennium 400 feet beneath the International Dateline in the Pacific ocean. The Pearl Harbor-based navy submarine straddled the line, meaning that at midnight, one end was in 2000 while the other was still in 1999… The 360-foot-long sub, which was 2,100 miles from Honolulu, Hawaii, straddled the Equator at the same time, meaning it was in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Some of the 130 crewmembers were in Winter in the North, while others were in Summer in the South…

    Sitting pretty on the threshold between two millennia, two centuries, two decades, years, seasons, months, days and hemispheres in the recent life of the one earth was an extraordinarily liminal idea — as the two-faced January is a liminal month — and I think illustrates effectively the terrific power of the liminal to sway human thinking

    Navy commanders in charge of billion dollar ships seldom get up to such “fanciful” behaviors!

    But here’s the whole thing: Liminality II: the serious part: go for it.

    **

    Further:

  • NY Times, North and South Korea Set Bold Goals: A Final Peace and No Nuclear Arms
  • NY Times, North and South Korean Leaders’ Own Words in Meeting at the DMZ
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten

    Sunday, October 9th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a long, lazy Sunday post, packed with quirky interest and neat maps ]
    .

    Ten? What’s so special about ten, hunh? Just because you have ten fingers, you suppose that makes ten special?

    **

    One:

    As simple as a map can get:

    worry-line
    Simon Kirby, The Worry Line

    Two:

    As complex as one can get:

    most-complex-ny
    Eric Jaffe, The World’s 15 Most Complex Subway Maps

    And I mean complex, cognitively complex:

    When it comes to information processing, an average person’s “cognitive threshold” is about 250 connections, or the equivalent of roughly eight bits of data, according to the researchers. New York’s system neared that limit, with 161 total connections, and the most complicated two-transfer trip a person could make on the subway exceeded it—clocking in at 8.1 bits. Maps for the Paris Metro (with 78 total connections), Tokyo Metro (56), and London Tube (48) clustered around six bits of information.

    Three:

    Naked:

    naked-map
    Nick van Mead, Can you identify the world cities from their ‘naked’ metro maps?

    The Guardian wanted to know if you could recognize various cities if shown their metro maps without the stations markings.. and i could manage Chicago (above).

    Four:

    Coffee:

    coffee-shop-mapo
    Chris Ward, Coffee Stops

    Sadly, the map is not the territory, or I could get my Java from South Ken while sitting at my desk just outside Sacramento.

    The London Coffee Map, “Coffee Stops,” was designed by Chris Ward, who calls himself “the boss who works from coffee shops.” He recently published Out of Office: Work Where You Like and Achieve More, a best-selling guide to leading a successful working life outside an office building. Apparently, being properly caffeinated is one of his biggest tips. Now you can grab your joe at local London cafes with quaint names like Scooter and Electric Elephant.

    Five:

    Mug:

    I could then quaff it from an appropriately poetical Map Mug:

    50112-greater-shakespeare-map-mug-normal
    Royal Shakespeare Company, Greater Shakespeare Map Mug

    The map here representing affinities between characters in the Bard’s various plays:

    greater-shakespeare-map-rsc

    **

    Interlude:

    — and we’re half way to ten, let’s imagine ourselves at Shakespeare and Co‘s bookstore and cafe in Paris

    shakespeare-co

    **

    Six:

    Calvino

    While we’re on a literary streak, here’s a thumbnail of one of artist Rod McLaren‘s illuminations of Italo Calvino‘s Invisible Cities:

    italo-calvino-mapped
    Rod McLaren, Invisible Cities Illustrated #2: Trude/Ersilia

    The detail here is fantastic, as befits Calvino’s work:

    The diagram, a network of curved lines connecting to every other node on a 6 x 5 grid, has two configurations: if the picture is hung one way up, it shows the “Ersilia configuration” (where the lines are like the threads strung between the buildings of Ersilia); if hung the other way up, it shows that of Trude (where the lines are like a complicated airline route map).

    Ersilia (Trading Cities 4, p78):

    In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city’s life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, or authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain. From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia’s refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.

    They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away.

    Thus, when travelling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of the abandoned cities, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.

    Trude (Continuous Cities 2, p128):

    If on arriving at Trude I had not read the city’s name written in big letters, I would have thought I was landing at the same airport from which I had taken off. The suburbs they drove me through were no different from the others, with the same greenish and yellowish houses. Following the same signs we swung around the same flower beds in the same squares. The downtown streets displayed goods, packages,signs that had not changed at all. This was the first time I had come to Trude, but I already knew the hotel where I happened to be lodged; I had already heard andspoken my dialogues with the buyers and sellers of hardware; I had ended other days identically,looking through the same goblets at the same swaying navels.

    Why come to Trude? I asked myself. And I already wanted to leave.

    “You can resume your flight whenever you like,” they said to me, “but you will arrive at another Trude, absolutely the same, detail by detail. The world is covered by a sole Trude which does not begin and does not end. Only the name of the airport changes.”

    All of which reminds me of nothing so much as Antonio Gaudi‘s model — made of hanging chains — catenaries —

    inverted-model-barcelona

    which when turned upside down provide the structure for his Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona:

    sagrada-familia

    Seven:

    Ghost:

    Meanwhile, back in London, we have maps of the ghost (ie abandoned) London tube stops:

    ghost-stations
    Dylan Maryk, Ghost Stations On The London Underground

    Eight:

    That’s one way to de-clutter the Tube map — show what ain’t there any more.

    Here’s another —

    declutteredtubemap
    Matt Thomason, 150 years of The London Underground

    Don’t ask me what it means — seeing as Hugh Grant gets a station, it’s either gentlemanly or ungentlemanly, I’m not sure which.

    Nine:

    Music:

    I simply didn’t know you’d have to travel this far to get from Dylan to the Beatles:

    london_music_genres_detail
    Dorian Lynskey, in Tufte, Response to London Underground maps

    I mean —

    bob-dylan-john-lennon
    Michelle Geslani, The Beatles and Bob Dylan met 50 years ago today

    Ten:

    I’ve kept this one for last because in some ways it’s the subtlest:

    exhibition-in-borders-we-trust

    It’s the work of architect Jug Cerovic., and on his page In Borders We Trust he offers this conceptual comment:

    Borders are primarily a mental construct.

    Just like a deity, they exist only insofar as People believe in them. Question is however how necessary our belief in their existence is and when exactly does that belief start harming us?

    At which point do borders cease to be a convenient orientation marker, a helpful tool for the comprehension of the land we inhabit, a common identifier for the construction of a shared identity? At which point do borders become a dogmatic limitation to imagination, a terrifying prison for the body and mind, a symbol and support of hatred?

    Borders do not possess an inherent bad or good character, on the contrary they are a malleable concept subject to appropriation and interpretation.

    “In borders we trust” examines the perception, physical manifestation and enforcement of the couple formed by People and Borders focusing on three key areas of the contemporary migration routes:

  • Gibraltar
  • Serbia
  • Levant
  • For this purpose the peculiar relationship between Borders and People is illustrated with a sequence of three distinct maps:

  • Borders without People
  • Borders with People
  • People without Borders
  • This novel perspective of a seemingly familiar representation, with each component of the couple shown separately and juxtaposed to their combined illustration, questions the articulation and pertinence of our present predicament.

    Happily, this is an area that I’ve delved into at some length myself in my earlier post, No man’s land, one man’s real estate, everyone’s dream? — with specific reference to ISIS’ bulldozing of the border between Iraq and Syria, and the Basque country, Euskadi, saddling the French / Spanish border.

    Cerovic has achieved an eminently practical limited version of one of my own grandiose castle-in-air schemes — building a universal graphical mapping system. Cerovic’s version offers us a universal graphical underground / tube / metro mapping system, in the form of his book One Metro World — you still have a couple of weeks to support it on Kickstarter!

    map-app

    **

    Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • And hey, and we’re back at maps — where we started in

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine

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