The Octant
Insights and reporting from Caleb Maupin

WTOProtestNEOEveryone wants to predict the future. This is why for thousands of years astrologers, sorcerers, and psychics have continued to rake in money, despite science debunking their supposed abilities. Every human being goes through life engaging in actions based on a calculation of what the consequences will be, and on at least a vague prediction of what will happen next.

Beyond personal life, the ability to calculate the trajectory of events is deeply important in geopolitics. Observing global trends and making accurate predictions is a highly desired ability. To be able to watch world events as they occur, take note of certain trends, and forecast correctly what will eventually unfold, gives the forecaster a strong advantage.

With this understanding, we shall look over the year of 1999, twenty years ago. This was a year in which a number of the biggest trends impacting the contemporary global situation first began to manifest themselves.

TrumpIranSanctions

Three years into the Trump administration, the USA has certainly escalated tensions with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iran deal has been “ripped up,” new sanctions have been imposed, and the threat of war becomes more intensely visible amid a cycle of regional maritime incidents often involving the oil industry. However, there seems to be solid disagreements among the circles of power about how much to escalate tensions with Iran. The basis for these differences, and what they represent, is worth examining carefully.

Cecil Rhodes’ Round Table

In 1895, the wealthy British capitalist for whom the settler state of Rhodesia was eventually named, spoke frankly to members of his own class. Cecil Rhodes described a strategy for quelling dissent and labor unrest in the British homeland, while expanding the super-profits of British bankers.

AaronCopland

The folk songs carefully arranged by an American composer in 1950, contains subtle lessons amid the political turmoil of 2019.

On June 17th in St. John’s Church in New York City, tenor Everett Suttle gave a vocal performance accompanied by pianist Daniel Kirk Foster. The Greenwich Village event was sponsored by the Foundation for the Revival of Classical Culture. The streets outside were decked out with rainbow flags in anticipation of the annual “pride weekend”, which generally shuts down the area with parades and festivities celebrating the political advances of the LGBTQ community.

After an opening selection of British music and a brief intermission, Suttle moved into Set 1 and Set 2 of Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs arranged and published in 1952.

The audience comprised of many young people from different national and ethnic backgrounds, who sat in the small seating area of the church. No doubt at least a few of them were supporters of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the new call for “Democratic Socialism” in American politics. Whether they knew it or not, as they face a troubling political atmosphere, the composer of the music shared many similar hopes and fears in his time.

 What is a Sympathizer?

Aaron Copland’s music is known for its ‘Americanness.’ The music from his ballets Billy The Kid (1938) and Rodeo (1942) have been used in a number of cowboy movies. However, Copland’s background is a far cry from what one would expect of a man who composed what essentially became the soundtrack for many Hollywood westerns.

In November of 2000, 100 years after his birth NPR’s Elizabeth Blair reported on the composer: “Copland’s music has become a symbol of Americana, but some details about his life remain little known. Copland was Jewish, homosexual, and often identified with the Communist Party. Some believe these affiliations made his music all the richer.”

Gangsterism

Many Americans base their entire view of the world, and their understanding of the relationship of the United States to other countries, on the contents of a college-level “Economics 101” course. They view the world market as a land of “free competition” in which different countries and international corporations “compete.” They then believe that consumers, communities and countries “vote with their dollars” rewarding the best products and services.

In this delusional fantasy, championed by figures like as George Soros and Anne-Marie Slaughter as an ideal “Open International Market,” the United States and western countries occupy their dominant position, simply because they are the best. The products and services offered by western financial institutions and international corporations are simply superior to those found anywhere else. This delusional fantasy goes on to present the western financial elite as somehow mentoring and assisting the world, by helping it “develop” and perhaps someday be more like the superior west.

On March 7th, Caleb Maupin gave a presentation to a class organized by Students & Youth for a New America and the Center for Political Innovation. His presentation was entitled "The Actual Nature of Revolution" and discussed the history of the term "revolution," the experience of Bolshevism, and the Bolivarian Revolutions of South & Central America. The presentation concluded with five theses regarding revolution in the 21st Century and the underlying psychology and motivation of activists.

The four sections of the class were punctuated by discussion and comments from local students who attended.

SocialistNametag

With all the talk of “socialism” these days, the actual definitions of the related terms gets murky. What is “socialism?” What is “Communism?” How is “Social Democracy” different from “Democratic Socialism?” It seems that language evolves, just like political discourse itself.

It was Henri Saint-Simon who first used the term “socialisme.” What exactly he meant by it wasn’t so clear. Saint-Simon was frustrated by the aftermath of the French revolution. While a lot of aristocrats had been killed and democratic structures had been formed, injustice persisted. Some people got wealthy, while some were left to starve. Selfishness and greed seemed much less restrained.

Saint-Simon built cooperatives and provided charity to the poor. He also proposed a more scientific organization of society. The word “capitalism” is not found in Saint-Simon’s work. Instead, he criticized “individualism,” arguing in religious and moralist terms that selfish behavior was bad for the community. Socialism was defined simply as the rejection of the “individualism” that he saw as out of control in the early 1800s.

In 1817, Robert Owen began calling himself a socialist as well, and the term was picked up in the English speaking world. Owen was a wealthy factory owner who sought to build a “New Moral World” and established utopian communities in Scotland and the United States. Owen received a standing ovation from the US House of Representatives when he addressed them in 1825, explaining how he intended to build a kind of religious colony of friendship and collectivism in his settlement of New Harmony, Indiana.

By the mid-1800s, talk of “socialism” was everywhere in Europe and even widespread in the United States. But what did socialism mean? To some, it meant moving out to unsettled lands and starting model communities. To others, it meant adopting an 8 hour work day and getting rid of child labor. To others, it meant restoring the “natural order” of kings and nobles that capitalism had been torn down. To some, it meant establishing a theocratic religious government, while to others it meant abolishing religion and establishing a “new order of reason and science.”