By Larchmonter445 for the Saker Blog
Early on in the introduction to “Raging Twenties”, Pepe Escobar points to the change, the disruption that confronts the Established Elites who for 30 years ruled the globe with a free hand: “The Empire we have been taught to accept as a fact of life is irretrievably losing its leadership position—and will have to deal with much pain implicit in the acceptance of an increasingly multipolar world.”
Escobar’s concept from “Raging Twenties” that impressed is: “We are all being carried forward through the tides by a harpooned whale, with no idea how, where, or when our journey ends. Like Melville’s Ishmael, we’ve got to stay cool as we relentlessly fight the winds of fallacy, fiction, fraud and farce that the expiring system manipulates non-stop.”
This is the vision of Pepe’s book “Raging Twenties”, a volume of works dedicated to the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on people, governments and world affairs, especially the macro world economy.
Escobar is a man of many journeys, an adventurer, explorer, mapper and story-teller. For decades he has traveled the capitals of the globe and trekked the backroads of the third and fourth worlds more than any writer in our lifetime.
His professional vocation is understanding the human condition and transmitting via his writings that understanding of facts, people, events and situations. He has a unique quality to absorb information he personally gathers, demonstrating his grasp of geopolitical, philosophical and historical context, from ancient to modern.
Focusing on this decade, the “Raging Twenties”, a collection of Pepe’s definitive prose, is a “voice-over” that narrates the change in our world from a single-polar hegemon to a multi-polar world order in the time of a pandemic. He teases apart the complexities that often are unknown, misunderstood or misconstrued. His “voice” is pleasing though authoritative, yet instantly familiar. Writing that talks, as if it were an audio track, is his style.
“For the first time in two millennia, China is able to combine the dynamism of political and economic expansion both on the continental and maritime realms, something that the civilization-state did not experience since the short expeditionary stretch led by Admiral Zheng He in the Indian Ocean in the early 15th century. Eurasia, in the recent past, was under Western and Soviet colonization. Now it’s going all-out multipolar—a series of complex, evolving permutations led by Russia-China-Iran-Turkey-India-Pakistan-Kazakhstan.”
Escobar is a man comfortable in any of the five civilizations on Earth. He moves easily in the West, China, Russia, India or Iran, and most parts neighboring these giant cultures. He presents his narratives, tales of his travels and meetings in differing performances. Escobar has mastered four story-telling voices–philosopher, court jester, mystic, historian. He moves through these presenters seamlessly, embellishing his writing with intellectual depth and artful illumination.
In Chapter 8, “How the Riddler may teach us to fight a disease”, we perceive the Philosopher investigating the nature of our universe through the eyes of Heraclitus, the Riddler. “In his heart of hearts a contemptuous aristocrat, this master of paradox despised all so-called wise men and the mobs that adored them. Heraclitus was the definitive precursor of social distancing.”
“Heraclitus was a Taoist and a Buddhist. If opposites are ultimately the same, this implies the unity of all things. Heraclitus even foresaw the reaction we should have towards COVID-19: ‘It is disease that makes health sweet and good, hunger satiety, weariness rest.’ The Tao would approve it. In the Heraclitus framework of serial cosmic recycling, disease gives health its full significance.”
The Court Jester authors Chapter 5, entitled “We are all Stoics now”. Imagine a Court Jester flowing with Stoicism as pop culture in Ancient Greece. Pepe brings it to you. Escobar marks the first punk in History, Diogenes the Cynic. “It’s enlightening to know that the upper classes of the Roman empire, their 1%, regarded Zeno’s insights as quite solid, while—predictably—deriding the first punk in History, Diogenes the Cynic, who masturbated in the public square and carried a lantern trying to find a real man.”
He follows the transition from Greece to Rome as the ideas of the Stoics migrate over the centuries and better suit the Roman minds of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, the trio we view as role models of Stoicism.
“The Stoics were very big on ataraxia (freedom of disturbance) as the ideal state of our mind. The wise man cannot possibly be troubled because the key to wisdom is knowing what not to care about.”
Have you ever read such a ‘take’ on Stoics, Cynics, Epicureans, Humanists, and Skeptics? Pepe ties it into the impact of the pandemic.
“Perhaps the ultimate Stoic secret is the distinction by Epictetus between things that are under our control—our thoughts and desires—and what is not: our bodies, our families, our property, our lot in life, all elements that the expansion of COVID-19 now put in check.”
“What the postmodern world retains from the Stoics is the notion of resigned acceptance—which makes total sense if the world really works according to their insights. If Fate—once again, Zeus, not the Christian God—rules the world, and practically everything that happens is out of our hands, then realpolitik means to accept “everything to happen as it actually does happen”, in the immortal words of Epictetus. Thus, it’s pointless to get excited about stuff we cannot change. And it’s pointless to be attached to things that we will eventually lose. But try selling this notion to the Masters of the Universe of financial capitalism.” You can hear Pepe’s laughter.
“So, The Way—according to the Stoics—is to own only the essentials, and to travel light. Lao Tzu would approve it. After all, anything we may lose is more or less gone already—thus we are already protected from the worst blows in life.”
As with each of the personas of Pepe we perceive in his collected work, he changes from one to another in mid-flight. The Court Jester can be seen and felt throughout “Raging Twenties”. Just take a tour of the Chapter Headings and the section sub-headings. Pepe does floor gymnastics, handstands and backflips, cartwheels and tumblesaults with terminology and labels. That big Escobar smile and hearty chest laugh abound: “Remember Pax Mongolica”, “The Sirens and La Dolce Vita”, “The Westlessness Myth”, “East is East, West is More”, “Barbarism With A Human Face”, “Enter The Triad”, “The City In A Time of Plague”, “Show Me Your Fragility”, “Barbarism Begins At Home”, “Flying Dragon, Crashing Eagle”, “Blake Meet Burroughs”.
The modern Mystic is with us in Chapter 10, “How Confucious, Buddha and The Tao Are Winning This War”, as well as the anchor chapter, “Eurasia, The Hegemon and the Three Sovereigns”. The Mystic appears most definitely in Chapter 25, a retrospective column Pepe chose to explore the digital ether that has wrapped around our brains. “Kim No-Vax Does Darpa” is a trip back into the early days of AI,3 research financed by Darpa, the teat that nearly all US computer scientists sought to suck. Reading this nostalgia spotlights the many dead-ends of US technology that generated the perverse present High-Tech Silicon Valley feudalism.
Travel with the Mystic to Venice, Chapter 3, “The Sirens and La Dolce Vita”. Pepe floats in Venice waterways to retrace selected steps with Ezra Pound. In “The Cantos”, we find The Sirens, sculptures that represent to Pound the beautiful culture, a time and place of the best which preceded a time (the present) of tawdry cheapness. The Mystic smoothly elides into “La Dolce Vita”, the Fellini film, that epitomizes the glitzy ugliness oncoming in the sixties. A period of trash culture that now envelopes the globe, foretold by Pound, embossed by Fellini and absorbed by us.
Pepe the Historian appears nearly everywhere in the pages of “Raging Twenties”. In a most clever Chapter 13, “Siren Call of A ‘System Leader’”, Pepe wends through the Mongol age of Genghis Khan, to the death of Kublai Khan and the end of that Empire right into the 21st Century where the USA Empire, like the last great Khan, faces China. However, China is a part of Eurasia, the vast resource of the multi-polar sovereigns China, Russia, Iran, India, their neighbors and friends, arrayed ready to construct a new world based on four civilizations, not an ideology like the failed Empire of the USA.
The Historian gathers from Thucydides and others regarding plagues. Pertinently, Escobar delivers the connection of the fall of empires and plagues as cause. “Predictably eyeing the Decline and Fall of the American Empire, a serious academic debate is raging around the working hypothesis of historian Kyle Harper, according to whom viruses and pandemics—especially the Justinian plague in the 6th century—led to the end of the Roman Empire.”
Escobar’s journalistic roots remain in real politic while consistently pointing out the gap between the twisted souls that feel the need to lie, cheat and murder to achieve their ends. With acerbic ink, he writes: “Those were the days when NATO, with full impunity, could bomb Serbia, miserably lose a war on Afghanistan, turn Libya into a militia hell and plot myriad interventions across the Global South. And of course, none of that had any connection whatsoever with the bombed and the invaded forced into becoming refugees in Europe.”
Pepe’s economic interest in Belt and Road and the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era opens our eyes to the real geo-political shifts. The pandemic has fractured world trade. “Soon we will be facing three major, interlocking debates: the management of the crisis, in many cases appalling; the search for future models; and the reconfiguration of the world-system.”
Peering over our Covid masks, we read Chapter 12, “How To Think Post-Planet Lockdown”. Pepe’s main insight remains valid: the state of exception has been completely normalized. And it gets worse: “A new despotism, which in terms of pervasive controls and cessation of every political activity, will be worse that the totalitarianisms we have known so far.”
“As dystopia and mass paranoia seem to be the law of the (bewildered) land, Michel Foucault’s analyses of biopolitics have never been so timely, as states across the world take over biopower—the control of people’s life and bodies.”
Pepe gives us, among many, Giorgio Agamben, who redoubles his analyses of science as the religion of our time: “The analogy with religion is taken literally; theologians declared that they could not clearly define what is God, but in his name they dictated rules of conduct to men and did not hesitate to burn heretics. Virologists admit they don’t know exactly what is a virus, but in its name they pretend to decide how human beings shall live.”
In the section, “Enter the triad”, Chapter 10, Pepe postulates: “I offer as a working hypothesis that the Asia triad of Confucius, Buddha and Lao Tzu has been absolutely essential in shaping the perception and serene response of hundreds of millions of people across various Asian nations to COVID-19—compared to the being is the greatest joy.” It also helps to know that “life is a series of natural and spontaneous choices. Don’t resist them—that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Buddhism runs in parallel to the Tao: “All conditioned things are impermanent—when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.” And to keep our vicissitudes in perspective, it helps to know that, “better it is to live one day seeing the rise and fall of things than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the rise and fall of things.”
Quo Vadis. Where are you marching?
Pepe shows us the way, the paths we are on. He offers, too, a pantheon of “travelers” who opine from the high clouds of history, from books on dusty shelves of libraries, from blogs and videos on digital platforms, all snatched by his rapier mind to weave affirmation into his ideas and analysis. In sum, a feast awaits the reader, taken as a banquet or a serial read chapter by chapter. Enjoy.
Where you can buy RAGING TWENTIES by Pepe Escobar
Who hoo first one here to,say ~~ I ~~~ am Pepe’s biggest fan.
And of course I hate him.
A career as a travelled, insightful, exceptional writer – I won’t insult him with the prerogative “journalist”.
He is far too wonderful for that sordid “profession”.
That coulda shoulda been me.
No I am not fit to shine Pepe’s shoes.
May he not aggravate the PTB too much, so that he lives a long life and continues to bring us joy (and quality reports of the world beyond Zog.)
That is one hella review.
Inspired by Amarynth and Pepe’s writings and ebullient personality.
‘one hellava review’. Got that right. Fit for purpose. And more than just a review. The varied personas ascertained with considerable discrimination, this is a lot in the way of ‘more’. Impressive.
Such a beautiful review of an exultant life. Thank you Larchmonter.
Strictly this comment possibly belongs in MFC, but it might get missed there.………
So, as “anything Pepe” is a superduper magnet for eyeballs, I’ll post it here:
I want to applaud the moderators, especially for this past week.
I am a very long time guest at this site, and the pace right now is frenetic (and fun, if being a commentator on the sidelines at this latest iteration of WW3 can be flippantly called “fun”).
Due to the heroic mods, the quality of the comments is exceptional, and that is very very much appreciated.
We are here for Saker’s valued expert analysis (and including other guest authors)
Banal and ignorant comments are like going to the movie or live theatre, and have a trio of bozos up the front, chatter, talk and text, and walk in and out buying confectionary.
Every other patron wants someone to confront them and get them to STFU.
The mods have done their gatekeeper work like artisans.
Their craftsmanship is hardly noticeable, which is of course the sign of mastery.
And like all masterpieces, can only be admired.
Saker has over the years shared some of the vitriol that spews at him for the audacity of hosting a site championing “beyond mainstream” thinking; a voice, that cannot be bought and cannot be controlled.
The laser hot hate directed at him is palpable. (And scary).
Given the excrement that is flung in “normal” times, I can only begin to imagine what’s “incoming” now, with global tensions so high.
I know from bitter, hurtful personal experience, abuse is hard to shrug off.
And people counselling to “not let it bother you”, and “rise above it”, are just a further irritant.
So from one very appreciative reader/2-cents worther,
To Saker, the moderators, and all those unknown and unacknowledged in the background
T.h.a.n.k ❤️ Y.o.u
Pepe Escobar is brilliant. He is perceptive, and because he is Latin, he sees from the outside. He is a great scholar, a lover of jazz, the arts, deep art, artistic art. He writes like a Hollywood script, capturing attention with the facts, and with his particular and talented look. He chose the good fight, the right and fair side of the story. He is from a contradictory, paradoxical country, where he is ignorant and also has geniuses like Paulo Coelho. Pepe does not have the prejudices and addictions that most Western intellectuals have. It is a privilege to read Escobar. He offers us with facts, but also with elegance, philosophy and even poetry in his texts. His Buddhist vision, and Brazilian humor, contains the distinctive intellectual spice. He is one of the world’s leading geopolitical journalists.
“Escobar’s concept from “Raging Twenties” that impressed is: “We are all being carried forward through the tides by a harpooned whale, with no idea how, where, or when our journey ends. Like Melville’s Ishmael, we’ve got to stay cool as we relentlessly fight the winds of fallacy, fiction, fraud and farce that the expiring system manipulates non-stop.””
Indeed. But I will add something else.
We don’t know where we are going in a big part because most of the traditional drivers to human evolution are exhausted: Natural resources to be exploited endlessly, new territories to discover, new areas to develop, science and technologies opening doors to new markets and solving problems, etc. Today, unbound consumption cannot drive humanity to peace and fulfillment of needs because resources are becoming scarce and the environment cannot take anymore unchecked pollution. And technology, as good as it is, cannot guarantee that employment will increase or hold since they are becoming very disruptive to traditional activities.
We’d need to find other drivers to move ahead and close many gaps (accessibility and quality for housing, health care, education, employment, etc). Traditional economic growth and colonization won’t do.
Pepe Escobar is my fellow South American.
We have opposed the cold North’s fantasy, which denies reality, with magic realism (Realismo mágico), a way to seek thruth by giving new possible creative extreme perspectives. It peels off fake appearances by pure gravity.
It is a healthy will of life against the misery of anglo-protestant-jewish misery.
Un abrazo Pepe.
Cheers from France.
Awesome review. Thank you. Will buy.
To feature a book review by such a man of vision as Pepe Escobar, with a review of the caliber of Larchmonter, quite an intellect in his own right, marks the Saker website and its founder as a true oasis in an intellectual and spiritual desert.
As I age I am not so adept with words yet my visual conceptual analysis is still alive. In such regard I am putting up a very short video of how an analysis of things is similar to the analysis of ideas the Pepe is so adept at discussing with intelligence, wit and purpose.
Painting or visual analysis has also a ‘history’ as in the ‘history’ of art and its development that travelled much the same course to the history of ideas. So much so that today’s beauty can be ugly, fashion can be rags and sense can be nonsense.
My little video is merely what a philosopher might see as a basis for deconstruction and reconstruction and within such parameters examine the steps to find a ‘universal’ process.
As Pepe would say … it is as simple or complicated as Buddism or the Tao.
I’m posting an open question that I hope people here will find interesting … will the new U.S. Cold War against China speed up or slow down or have no effect on creating the new multi-polar world?
argument for speeding up end of U.S. domination – It will show that the U.S. is a paper tiger and our attempt to dominate China will drain our resources at a faster clip. The EU and others will feel emboldened to defy us rather than be intimidated by us.
argument for slowing down end of U.S. domination – We scare off foreign investment in China and are able to impose a global trade embargo. China’s economy is dependent on trade surpluses and freezing their overseas assets is too much of a crippling blow.
argument for no impact – reciprocal economic sanctions are too painful for U.S. companies to endure, therefore, the natural trend of U.S. economic power becoming less dominant will continue at a normal rate.
OK; this is not a suitable thread for your question. It is completely off this topic, which is Pepe’s book and a book review.
I this this site is moderated so I apologize in advance but I am pleased enough with my question that I am going to save it and post it on sites dominated by Neocons and I know they will bristle at the notion that the U.S. started the ‘Cold War’ and that will derail the discussion but I also don’t want to back down from it. So at the risk of making the post tedious I am going to post the following tag at the end of it.
My question to you is this, should I just find a euphemism for ‘Cold War’ so that I do not have to explain it? [see square brackets below]
[for those who say, ‘China started the Cold war against us by spying on us and stealing our IP…, No, China has had a normal policy of economic growth. Everyone spies on everyone. We started the ‘Cold War’ since a Cold War is defined as full spectrum warfare.
1. We challenged their legitimacy as a country, ‘regime that commits genocide’.
2. Economic, ‘fought to get allies to not buy their products like 5G’
3. Military, ‘naval drills and alliances for containment’.
Maybe you think this is good but China did not do any of this to us, we chose this policy ourselves]
I repeat my comment above. Please bear in mind what the topic is here.
Larch, once again Pepe dances around why we are called the Anglo-ZIONIST Empire in the first place. This is like trying to explain the motions of the planets without mentioning the fact that they all go around the Sun. Uncle Shmuel, as the Saker likes to call him, has always been a dual citizen. Zionism is all about chosenness. The Europeans who came to this continent saw themselves as chosen by God to displace the indigenous and steal their land and resources. This is exactly what the Ashkenazim are now doing in Palestine. Manifest Destiny equals Zionism equals white supremacy, pure and simple.
Pepe is so right about this, because of new trade agreements like the Belt and Road Initiative, the Anglo-Zionist Empire is taking on water and will eventually sink like the Titanic. Problem is… they have nukes, lots of them. They will not go quietly into that dark night like empires of the past. The Zionist Samson Option will ensure that they will take the rest of humanity with them.
Tommy, kindly take the Zionism talk somewhere else. You know full well that this is not the topic here.
This is to celebrate Pepe’s book which we are all very impressed with.
Excellent review LM. I give it a double A+ good!
And the coming ,supplanting,system-if that’s what it will turn out to be-would not be likely to produce fallacies,fictions,frauds and farces,in its turn? To believe that would indeed be the biggest fallacy of all.Now,more than ever,where the capacities for producing and disseminating false narratives are more widespread than they have ever been in the history of mankind,is the time to be aware and wary of such occurences.
Larchmonter, my friend and comrade,
Truly excellent synopsis of Pepe’s thoughts and writings. Only you could fathom these depths and then speak of them in such easy to understand terms, and your snippets of ancient, and not so ancient, wisdoms enlighten us all.
Well done, my friend, truly and magnificently well done.
What an amazing review, for what sounds like an amazing book, which I’ll be ordering soon.
Bravo Larchmonter445, I didn’t realize you were such a lyrical writer as well.
Great review Larchmonter.
Pepe Escobar never fails to deliver new perpectives, new angles, vistas, possibilities, to explore and think about. A sharp analyst and superb storyteller to boot.
Qualquer coisa que eu tentasse escrever aqui não conseguiria descrever a emoção que senti ao ler Larchmonter citando partes da obra e descrevendo do autor.
Google-translate by mod:
Anything I tried to write here could not describe the emotion I felt when reading Larchmonter citing parts of the work and describing the author.