Institutions and Competition

Brexistentialism for useful innocents

July 28, 2016

The alleged “existential crisis” has been linked to the populist upheaval that drove a simple majority of Britons to vote to leave the EU.


The Telegraph, The Guardian, CNN, Money, and social media say that's what we should believe, and that thet “existential crisis” exists among Brexiteers in Great Britain too.


Just ask new Tory foreign secretary and super Toff, Boris Johnson, who just last year (born in the USA, BoJo was a dual national) renounced his US citizenship in an unsuccessful attempt to become Prime Minister. 

But is all this consternation (Boris Johnson) and Machiavellian mendacity (Michael Gove) spawned by Brexit really indicative of existentialism, or an existential crisis touching the hearts and minds of a 500 million strong market that treats people as units of human capital instead of as human beings?


Considering that existentialism, as a category of understanding, has evolved from the study of religion and philosophy-- far from the retributive world of hard power and realpolitik-- one should think not.


After all, it can be argued that existentialism is just a cobbled together movement of philosophers, academics, churchmen and writers.


The terms “existental” and “existentialism” did not even exist during the lifetimes of Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Heidegger, and Nietsche. 


Western media plays the Putin blame game

 In a world where Superman, Batman and Jason Bourne represent truth, justice and the American Way, to more and more young Americans, Washington public diplomacy assets have tagged Russian president Vladimir Putin as the leader of a plot to use Brexit as a tool to destabilize the EU.


The Express in London and Foreign Policy are saying that Brexit represents a victory for Putin. This view has been echoed by Fox News, by Garry Kasparov writing in The Guardian, and by former U.S. Ambassador Micheal McFaul.


Not a very good trust builder for two nations who have pledged to work together to combat extremism.


Existentialism, a product of Nazi-occupied France

In fact, academic existentialism did not evolve into an “ism” (or an “academic brand”) until 1944, in Nazi-occupied France.


It emerged because Hitler's censors are known to have overlooked works by the likes of Gabriel Marcel, Jean-Paul Sartre and others, allowing works like “No Exit” to be performed and/or published.


Add to that a little postwar help from the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom and “existentialism” was en vogue in the intellectual salons, theatres and chic cafes of the Left Bank. 


One of the elements of “existentialism” that was attractive to the CIA and its efforts to shape the cultural architectecture of a downtrodden, war torn Europe via the CCF was “existentialism's” emphasis on individualism, and the individual's struggle for meaning in life.


It served as a tool to counterpoise the struggles and machinations of populist, socialist and other collectivist movements like, for example, communist and socialist syndicates (labor unions)


Some of these activities were supported by the security services of the Stalin regime during the era of french communist strongmen Waldeck-Rochet and Jacques Duclos.  


It is well documented that during and after his Stalinist period, French communist intellectual Jean-Paul Sartre is known to have found the terms “existential” particularly abhorrent and did what he could to dissociate himself from promoters and camp followers of "the movement."


As the Guardian points out, Sartre went so far as to formally reject being named Nobel Laureate for Literature in 1964 for his “existentialist” novela “No Exit” (Huis Clos, first published in Nazi-occupied France in April, 1944).


But as the story goes, his letter of rejection was not considered official by the Swedish Academy because... it is arrived too late.


Albert Camus, who was awarded and accepted he Nobel Prize for Literature was another annointed "extentialist" who was not comfortable with the tag.  Storytelling about these "existentialists" abounds.


Existentialism interpreted by a prominent American professor. No realpolitik please.

In his 1974 book “Existentialism,” Robert Solomon notes the existance of an “existential attitude” which he further defines as a the individual having the feeling of being perplexed, confused, or otherwise disoriented when confronted with a seemingly meaningless and/or absurd world. You can learn more about academic existentialism from professor Solomon's academic lecture series on You Tube.  Solomon mentions in his lecture series that he credits Sartre with creating the concept of existentialism in 1944.  Many would challenge that.


John Kerry and the "near existential" refugee crisis

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference back in February, U.S. Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry called the refugee crisis a “near existential crisis” that threatens the security of Europe, and urged Britain to remain part of the European Union. 


That didn't happen. Refugees and immigration issues continue to fuel Brexit and a similar movement in France, where Kerry has longstanding family connections.


But the conflicts in Syria and the Middle East, Africa and Southern Asia that produce refugees, and asylum seekers, and Jihadis have more to do with religious extremism, cults of personality, and messianic visions of the world than a walk along Heidegger's fabled Philosopher's Way in the Heidelberg hills or ivory tower talks about the meaning of life.  


 For the world of Islam, existentialism as we know it, simplistically in the West, does not exist. And since Islam can not relate to the psychic pain of the near existential crisis,  some factions in Islam continue to exploit it; refugees will continue to drive the Brexit crisis and raise the stakes in the same.


From No Exit to No Brexit-

Efforts to facilitate Britain leaving the EU will likely develop into a long drawn out process that will last for decades and create bigger bureaucracies in London and Brussels to service the "leave" process. This coming at a time where other issues are competing and even crowdfunding to obtain scarce funds.  Would Goldman-Sachs even consider issuing "Brexit Bonds" to fund the transition;)


Then too, extremist terror activities are unlikely to quiet down, and funds must be allocated to cover security costs in the UK, Western Europe, and Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the Phillipines, Turkey, Norway, Sweden and the United States, among others.  A perfect storm for fans of defense driven econmic growth.


The longer the "leave" negotiations slog on, smart people like Tory Chancellor Phillip Hammond of the "stay" faction may have gained enough influence at home and in the capitals of Europe to make Brexit a No Brexit. 


If that happens, Western media assets can't blame Russian president Vladimir Putin or Republican presidential candidate Donald Trumpt. It's just Brexistential reality;)

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