Re: Re: What is your vision for the future?

A lovely 'Utopian' world seems quite nice. A place in which our technology has evolved to the point in which we no longer have to battle one another, and have thrown off the 'shackles' of religion to me seems grand. My problem with this type of 'utopianism' is that there is no room for the people who see religion as a 'freeing' concept, not one of shackles. But as long as there is a religion that says that all other religions are wrong, there will be disagreement. I'm not so shallow as to say that 'No matter what, people will fight,' but there will be disagreement.


I've recently developed, (but not polished) a theory of ethics/morality that I like to call the 'Realm of Intolerance.'  This is almost a subjectivist theory of ethics, but it describes a universal: we can all be offended to the point of 'action' by other's behavior. At what point do each of us throw our own safety to the wind to stand up for a principle? This is the subjective part. The fact that all of us have it is universal. If I were to see a person smack their child on the bottom, I will not be moved to act. I will silently judge, but the fact that this offensive action does not in turn cause an action on my part means that I condone this behavior on some level, and is thus not a part of my Realm of Intolerance. However, if I saw a woman being raped in an alley, I would attempt to help her, at great risk to myself. Rape exists in my 'realm of intolerance.'

Granted, I do hope that people learn to develop free energy and solve the 'limited resource' problem that's been plaguing our species, (nay, all cosmological systems) since the beginning of time, at which point I would hope that the arbitrariness of others' religious beliefs would become apparent. At this highly improbable point in the future, I could see the previous gentleman's vision for the future becoming real. Throwing off the 'shackles' of religion is hardly a solution for those who love their religion, but being tolerant of others' religion seems universally beneficial, regardless of our state of technology.

On a less optimistic side of the future spectrum, I do see a sort of 'Cyberpunk' future coming soon. Everyone dropped cyberpunk like a bad habit once the year 2000 hit, probably because all of those cyberpunk writers of the '70s and '80s predicted extreme economic, sociological, and political change by the year 2000. Given that this didn't happen, I bet that people thought it never would. Well, if Mighty Capitalism keeps marching forward the way it is, cyberpunk is still a possibility. A future where corporations rule with an iron fist, and combat one another through espionage and all-out war. 'The West-Coast States of McDonalds.' 'The Pepsico Southern States,' etc are possible in that future.

There is an inevitable clash between this type of world and the Communist/Totalitarian future. (this world is set forth in the cautionary tales of Orwell, Bradbury, and Huxley)

To find a medium between the two types of rule, or, heaven forbid, a completely new idea of rule, seem exceedingly unlikely.

Pick your poison, boys and girls, for we drink 'till the Sun goes down.

-Lex 

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Kosovo land swap could end conflict - or restart war

Best case: redrawing borders leads to peace, prosperity and EU membership. But there's also a worst case

Image: SRF
Strange Maps
  • The Yugoslav Wars started in 1991, but never really ended
  • Kosovo and Serbia are still enemies, and they're getting worse
  • A proposed land swap could create peace - or reignite the conflict

The death of Old Yugoslavia

Image: public domain

United Yugoslavia on a CIA map from 1990.

Wars are harder to finish than to start. Take for instance the Yugoslav Wars, which raged through most of the 1990s.

The first shot was fired at 2.30 pm on June 27th, 1991, when an officer in the Yugoslav People's Army took aim at Slovenian separatists. When the YPA retreated on July 7th, Slovenia was the first of Yugoslavia's republics to have won its independence.

After the wars

Image: Ijanderson977, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Map of former Yugoslavia in 2008, when Kosovo declared its independence. The geopolitical situation remains the same today.

The Ten-Day War cost less than 100 casualties. The other wars – in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo (1) – lasted much longer and were a lot bloodier. By early 1999, when NATO had forced Serbia to concede defeat in Kosovo, close to 140,000 people had been killed and four million civilians displaced.

So when was the last shot fired? Perhaps it never was: it's debatable whether the Yugoslav Wars are actually over. That's because Kosovo is a special case. Although inhabited by an overwhelming ethnic-Albanian majority, Kosovo is of extreme historical and symbolic significance for Serbians. More importantly, from a legalistic point of view: Kosovo was never a separate republic within Yugoslavia but rather a (nominally) autonomous province within Serbia.

Kosovo divides the world

Image: public domain

In red: states that have recognised the independence of Kosovo (most EU member states – with the notable exceptions of Spain, Greece, Romania and Slovakia; and the U.S., Japan, Turkey and Egypt, among many others). In blue: states that continue to recognise Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo (most notably Russia and China, but also other major countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Iran).

The government of Serbia has made its peace and established diplomatic relations with all other former Yugoslav countries, but not with Kosovo. In Serbian eyes, Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 was a unilateral and therefore legally invalid change of state borders. Belgrade officially still considers Kosovo a 'renegade province', and it has a lot of international support for that position (2). Not just from its historical protector Russia, but also from other states that face separatist movements (e.g. Spain and India).

Despite their current conflict, Kosovo and Serbia have the same long-term objective: membership of the European Union. Ironically, that wish could lead to Yugoslav reunification some years down the road – within the EU. Slovenia and Croatia have already joined, and all other ex-Yugoslav states would like to follow their example. Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have already submitted an official application. The EU considers Bosnia and Kosovo 'potential candidates'.

Kosovo is the main stumbling block on Serbia's road to EU membership. Even after the end of hostilities, skirmishes continued between the ethnically Albanian majority and the ethnically Serbian minority within Kosovo, and vice versa in Serbian territories directly adjacent. Tensions are dormant at best. A renewed outbreak of armed conflict is not unthinkable.

Land for peace?

Image: BBC

Mitrovica isn't the only area majority-Serb area in Kosovo, but the others are enclaved and fear being abandoned in a land swap.

In fact, relations between Kosovo and Serbia have deteriorated spectacularly in the past few months. At the end of November, Kosovo was refused membership of Interpol, mainly on the insistence of Serbia. In retaliation, Kosovo imposed a 100% tariff on all imports from Serbia. After which Serbia's prime minister Ana Brnabic refused to exclude her country's "option" to intervene militarily in Kosovo. Upon which Kosovo's government decided to start setting up its own army – despite its prohibition to do so as one of the conditions of its continued NATO-protected independence.

The protracted death of Yugoslavia will be over only when this simmering conflict is finally resolved. The best way to do that, politicians on both sides have suggested, is for the borders reflect the ethnic makeup of the frontier between Kosovo and Serbia.

The biggest and most obvious pieces of the puzzle are the Serbian-majority district of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, and the Albanian-majority Presevo Valley, in southwestern Serbia. That land swap was suggested previous summer by no less than Hashim Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic, presidents of Kosovo and Serbia respectively. Best-case scenario: that would eliminate the main obstacle to mutual recognition, joint EU membership and future prosperity.

If others can do it...

Image: Ruland Kolen

Belgium and the Netherlands recently adjusted out their common border to conform to the straightened Meuse River.

Sceptics - and more than a few locals - warn that there also is a worst-case scenario: the swap could rekindle animosities and restart the war. A deal along those lines would almost certainly exclude six Serbian-majority municipalities enclaved deep within Kosovo. While Serbian Mitrovica, which borders Serbia proper, is home to some 40,000 inhabitants, those enclaves represent a further 80,000 ethnic Serbs – who fear being totally abandoned in a land swap, and eventually forced out of their homes.

Western powers, which sponsored Kosovo's independence, are divided over the plan. U.S. officials back the idea, as do some within the EU. But the Germans are against – they are concerned about the plan's potential to fire up regional tensions rather than eliminate them.

Borders are the Holy Grail of modern nationhood. Countries consider their borders inviolate and unchanging. Nevertheless, land swaps are not unheard of. Quite recently, Belgium and the Netherlands exchanged territories so their joint border would again match up with the straightened course of the River Meuse (3). But those bits of land were tiny and uninhabited. And as the past has amply shown, borders pack a lot more baggage in the Balkans.

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