Freeze Peach | Corona death, civil unrest, Reddit revolutions, and other happy endings
Phew. For the first time in 2021, nothing tragic or noteworthy happened. You know, like how the UK on Tuesday surpassed 100,000 corona deaths, and like how on Wednesday, the US topped 400,000. Elsewhere, India cut internet access to hunger-striking farmers in New Delhi, where violent police clashes continue over new agriculture laws. Riot police break up demonstrations in Russia in support of Putin challenger Navalny. A woman in Myanmar does aerobics in front of a military coup. Reddit Rebels hunt Wall Street wolves Robin Hood-style. Biden's eerie 'silent' first week in office. Snow sliding pandas go viral, but being Chinese, they're communists, so bad pandas.
The UK has a new mutant strain of nationalism that has been gaining traction for some time. Yet, the realities of Brexit appear to have only exacerbated these trends, giving legitimation to some bizarro nationalist jeering (and cheering). The furore over the UK-EU' vaccine wars' has revealed a long-standing resentment between the two, notably the EU's reaction to being outmaneuvered on the UK's vaccine procurement capabilities. Thursday's European commission will give national regulators power to refuse exports, meaning the EU could scupper millions of vaccine doses from entering the UK.
Triumphalist headlines slathered in Union Jack wrapping paper aren't too far off "WE HOPE EU ALL DIE OF BUREAUCRACY" and "FINE, WE'LL GIVE YOU OUR VACCINE SCRAPS, BUT WE'RE ANNEXING FRANCE AS A HOLIDAY HOME," writes this witty Guardian columnist.
Calm down, children; people are dying.
But really, what are the consequences of neo-Brexit nationalism? Can it set a nation on a perilous slide? Apparently, yes.
Tweeter Sophia Collins wrote: "I don't actually need my fridge to be a UKIP advert," as she posted a block of butter wrapped patriotically in the Union Jack. The tweet was aimed at British supermarket chain Morrisons, sparking a lively Twitter debate.
Question: what recourse do people have when their Morrisons branded Salted British Butter is nothing but an advert for UKIP?
Another question: has Britain's flag fetish gone too far?
Apart from New Zealand, almost every Western liberal democracy has failed its societal mandate to protect its citizens from the worst of the pandemic's ravages. Meanwhile, bumble-Boris-barbie-blonde-Johnson, the UK's Prime Minister (lol!), apologized last Tuesday for his country becoming the first country in Europe to surpass 100,000 COVID deaths. Wow.
But it was his "apology" which smacked of "Look, old bean, I'm sorry if I offended you" that hurt the most—authentically insincere is an apt description. Like this Wikipedia page dedicated to a list of players who have scored 10,000 or more runs in Test cricket, Johnson tops the list of leaders who have achieved 100,000 or more deaths in Test COVID.
Watch this detailed timeline again to see where he lied, didn't care, and or bumbled his way to this awful yet avoidable situation.
In the US, the story is slightly different. Well, maybe an incy-wincy bit more worse than the UK. At a world-beating 447,000 (reported) COVID deaths this week, the planet's freedom and democracy death star started the whole thing oh so confidently.
Why, though, didn't they save the world just like in the movies?
Thanks, Rihanna. Glad you asked. Maybe coz...
Also, Rihanna, the core problems of any liberal democratic order are rooted in the almost unavoidable outcome of unchecked corruption through crony capitalism, leading to plutocracy, which represents the decay of the perceived principles of liberal democracy.
The storming in Delhi on January 26 marked a release of tensions between the Modi-led Indian government and working-class farmers. They have been protesting against these agricultural reforms since August 2020, though they began a hunger strike to make their point as of Tuesday.
The farmers are protesting for the fair treatment of their community. Still, the pandemic has shown all of us the double-headed nature of economic policies favoring wealthy elites, where essential workers suffer the most. Follow this thread:
And so, for a right-wing demagogue populist like Modi, footage of farmers clashing with police going viral is not a good look.
"Best quell the fuckers with heavy-handed internet crackdowns," he thought.
"Because, well, this is my democracy, and I'm free to do what the hell I want," he reasoned.
"And if they're not happy about it, they can bloody well vote for me in the next election," he concluded.
On Wednesday, the Financial Times led with the sentencing of Russian nationalist opposition leader Alexi Navalny amid mass protests. He received three-and-a-half-years for violating the terms of a suspended sentence after recovering from poisoning last year.
Talking about the persecution of Julain Assange, Navalny had this to say about the case:
"The main goal of this trial is to scare a huge number of people. That's how it works—they jail one person to scare off millions," he said.
Ok, he wasn't referring to Assange specifically. Still, some Twits were quick to draw comparisons between Western pundit culture's uncritical support of Navalny on the one hand, and the deafening silence of Assange's trial by detained torture on the other.
And just who is Aleksei Navalny, anyway?
On Tuesday, a Myanmar woman did her aerobics class as military tanks rolled into town in what has been popularly described as a "coup."
Watch the odd scene here:
As the Western journalist and pundit class fawn apoplectically that a "democratic" figurehead in SE Asia should be deposed, one has to appreciate the geo-glocality of the situation.
The Myanmar "coup" is not entirely an insult to Disney Democracy. It is a nuanced situation that requires a deep understanding of the undercurrents beneath the over-simplifications.
The above Tweet/article by American political analyst Andrew Korybko offers a detailed breakdown of what is going on behind the scenes.
Essentially, the Tatmadaw decided to impose a year-long state of emergency in response to the refusal of the former ruling National League for Democracy to investigate the military's accusations of fraud stemming from last November's contested elections.
Technically, military intervention is in legal alignment with Article 417 of Myanmar's 2008 Constitution. Strategically, Myanmar is a geopolitical flashpoint for Quad countries trying to scupper China's Belt and Road projects in Burma.
But of course, as if by mechanical clockwork, the core blame lies with China.
Bespectacled Late Show comedian Stephen Colbert weighed in on Reddit duped Wall Street investors this week, accusing them of "being all for unfettered capitalism – unless you lose!"
Two weeks ago, the situation began when professional investors started banking on a drop for GameStop's stock. But a Reddit community known as WallStreetBets encouraged one another to buy GameStop stock, causing its value to increase spectacularly.
So, what's going on?
The Reddit Rebellion consists of amateur investors (young Millenials and Gen Zers stuck at home who don't have money) who realized if they all got together and bought up as much GameStop stock as possible, the short-sellers or hedge funders (vulture capitalists who contribute nothing to society and who bet on the failure of companies and who were making billions of dollars in profits as the American public and small businesses got destroyed during the pandemic) would then have to buy stocks themselves to compensate for their lost positions.
This sent the stocks surging, and the amateur investors made lots of money while the ledgefund boys lost tens of billions of dollars. An online version of Occupy Wall Street, if you will. Giving the finger to the man, if you will.
Here's Colbert congratulating all the newly minted Reddit millionaires:
It would be foolish to underestimate the cultural, political, ideological dimensional shift of people coming together without any social bonds – politically, racially, culturally, religiously – to rebel against financial elites using the available methods.
They say the Quiet Revolution is not an event but an advent.
But. And there's always a 'but' in this imperfect world.
The Reddit Rebels experienced anti-democratic suppression illustrating that the American Dream, the shining city on the hill, and the myth of a democratic free market, was, in fact, profoundly unfree.
Firstly, the Robinhood trading app they relied on blocked their trades because their behavior hurt the hedge funders, including, Citadel, which owns Robinhood. In a sort of finance version of cancel culture, suddenly, they couldn't buy stocks anymore.
Secondly, the Biden admin responds without a response because, lo and behold, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen received $810k in speaking fees from the same Citadel firm that bailed out the loser hedge fund in the GameStop affair.
The White House then used identity politics to paper over the apparent corruption, applauding the moment the first female VP swears in the first female US Treasury Secretary.
But don't worry, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says Yellen is "monitoring the situation." No doubt, as we breathe, they are writing up new laws on "Outsider Trading."
Besides raising class consciousness, the censorship and suppression that Reddit investors have experienced remind us of how the US itself prevents targeted "non-aligned" nations from trading with one another and even engaging in the world financial system. Hi, Iran, Venezuala.
What's that AOC? We can't hear you through the loud din of factual evidence.
It's always good to end the week with a human interest story.
But being Chinese, these cute commie Pandas were FACT stolen from Tibet for Panda Diplomacy.
Till next week, adios.
As he would refer himself, J.B. Browne is a half "foreign devil" living with anxiety relieved by purchase. HK-born Writer/Musician/Tinkerer.