Geopolitics > Ideology

George Friedman places recent US-Vietnam engagement within the history of balance-of-power diplomacy going back to the 1960s, in order to make a simple but compelling point. US relations with the USSR, China, and Vietnam have been only trivially inflected by ideological differences:

… look at the whole story and see how little ideology matters. The entire story is one of three Marxist regimes hostile to each other, and a Western capitalist regime using that hostility to balance the power. […] From the point of view of geopolitical analysis, the unimportance of ideology in all that happened is clear. The importance of the nation-state, regardless of its official ideology is equally clear. None of these four nations behaved as their ideology demanded. All behaved as their national interest did. […] This is why I find geopolitics an enormously more important method for understanding the world than beliefs and principles. These may matter in personal life. But the Marxism that defined Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Leonid Brezhnev – and they were very much believers – could not resist geopolitical imperatives. And therefore, the president of the United States went to a Marxist country and set the stage for arming it. This should not surprise us.

Quotable (#165)

As this indignant but not entirely uninformative article suggests, the disorienting characteristics of the current conjuncture stem in part from the submerged lineages feeding into it:

Of special interest [to the Extropians] were science fiction, cryogenics, cryptography, anonymous digital cash, nanotechnology, the Singularity, artificial intelligence, mind-uploading, smart drugs, immortality, cybernetics, robotics, and how much the Government sucked.

A suggestively prophetic set of interests, surely? Even to those who hate all this stuff with a passion.

One further (highly topical) snippet from The Awl piece:

A sacred cypherpunk tenet was “cypherpunks code,” as in they actually implemented these things, and worried (or not) about any consequences later. This is where PGP and TOR came from — and eventually what became Bitcoin and Wikileaks also came out of that list. Thiel’s mantra, “Don’t Ask For Permission, Ask For Forgiveness,” as widely adopted now in SV start-up culture, is just an updated take on “cypherpunks code.” It’s the same impulse, to circumvent existing structures through technology (break shit), and worry (if you do at all) about the consequences later. The very staunch Libertarianism that is so alive in Silicon Valley now has this long, odd pedigree.

Quotable (#164)

A hole in ethnography:

Dares, in the sense of “I dare you,” are widespread in human culture, and children start daring each other in early childhood. It is not clear how universal the phenomenon is; “risk-taking” is on Donald Brown’s list of human universals, but not dares specifically. Cross-cultural work is lacking, though I have found descriptions of daring from Brazil, India, the Netherlands (in sign language), and Indonesia, as well as the United States and many parts of Europe. As far as I can tell, no one has written The Sociology of the Dare or even The Economics of the Dare, except in passing on some other topic. Empirical work is sparse, though luckily there is some detailed qualitative work from over a century ago. There is, as far as I know, no Journal of Dare Studies. …