Paul Mason Artsnight

Paul Mason

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This programme contains scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.


The biggest mass migrations since... A Republican candidate determined to


build a wall between the USA and Mexico. Can the mature secular


democracies adapt to their institutions or will they be


eclipsed by chaos, despotism? The big question is, can the West


survive? Hay Castle was built by Norman


knight to keep the Welsh out of newly conquered England. Today, it


is part of the site of the Hay Festival, one of the most


prestigious book festivals in the world and a great bondage point from


which to survey modern geopolitical conflict. -- a great plant each


point. In this episode, I will be examining the crisis facing the


West, as seen through the pages of six new books featured at the


festival. I will be looking at the past, how am I is formed, and at the


future, how technology is preparing us for the New World ahead. First,


the present, and it is not looking good. During his military career,


General Sir Richard Sheriff became one of the highest ranking soldiers


and until recently was deputy head of Nato. He is a man who speaks his


mind, was famously threatened with court martial when he criticised


David Cameron's defence cuts. His first book, 2017: War with Russia:


An Urgent Warning from Senior Military Command, brings us and


urgent warning. Russia is our strategic adversary


and has said itself on a collision course for the West. It is enhancing


its military capability, it has thrown away the rule book on which


the post-war settlement of Europe was based. The president has started


a dynamic which can only be halted at the West wakes up to the real


possibility of war and takes action. Sir Richard, your book contains a


fictional scenario of war with Russia. How real and how possible of


the events? Very real and very possible. If we don't take the


necessary measures to make it a unreal and impossible. If there is a


threat to the West, what is the biggest threat? The biggest threat


is the potential for nuclear war. We need to remember, and this is


something that comes out of the book, that nuclear thinking is hard


wired into Russian military thinking. They have nuclear bombs. A


standard Russian major exercise involving Russian troops that has


happened recently, could see the Baltic states and session as the


scenario and the final phase is what they call rather chillingly nuclear


de-escalation. In other works, they have taken what they want and if we


try and come back and get it, they will nuke us. We have taken our eye


off the ball and we have forgotten the lessons of the Cold War in which


Nato maintained peace with effective deterrence. We have been lucky, we


have had peace, but it is not necessarily the default setting in


international relations. If you look at the suite of history, war is all


too often the default setting. Peace is precious, it needs to be worked


and paid for. Yes, defence is expensive, but you should try the


costs of war. Much worse. This is an incredibly serious scenario. Why did


you do your book as fiction? It is fact braced prediction and out of


other story because I hope people will read it and will find it an


interesting read. Above all, I have contributed in recent months to two


think tank report highlighting the dangers of the ball states. Not many


people read think tank reports, unless they are in the business. I


want people who know nothing about defence to read this and think, this


is serious, we need to do something. Too many ordinary people in Britain,


it would be unthinkable that we would ever go once again into even


an intense rivalry with Russia, let alone a shooting war. Do David have


to make that mindset change? They do, and this is my point. It is


something we send our professional soldiers and sailors and marines and


airmen along way away to Iraq, Afghanistan, but they are


professional soldiers, that is what they do. The notion of a national


war of survival is inconceivable. But people need to understand that


the defence of Britain doesn't start at the Straits of Dover or the white


cliffs or on the Murray Firth but it actually starts in the forests of


the Lithuanian of a Latvian border. If war with Russia is just a fiction


for now, the war in Syria is a harsh reality.


The thing about being in war zones is the unexpected always happens.


Janine di Giovanni lived alongside the Syrian people documenting life


in the middle of a jihadist war. One of the most brutal struggles in


recent history. The very experienced reporters don't want to do it. Her


book, The Morning They Came For Us, is an uncompromising account of the


nation on the brink of disintegration. Ordinarily people,


war starts with a jolt. One day, you are busy with dentist appointments


or ballet lessons, and then the curtain draws. One moment, the daily


routine grinds on, ATMs work and mobile phones function. Then,


suddenly, everything stops. Barricades go up, soldiers are


recruited and neighbours work to form their own defences. Ministers


are assassinated and the country falls into chaos. Fathers disappear.


The banks close and money and culture and life as people knew it


vanishes. Janine di Giovanni, your book describes the horror of the


Syrian war. Do you think ordinary people in the West even know or


understand the depths of what has been happening there? Probably not.


It is an incredibly compact is war. It is a proxy war, there are many


components, many stakeholders involved in it. But I think on a


very small micro level, what actually is happening to the people


I think it's very underreported. The starvation being used as a tool of


war, torture, rape, enforced detention, people are simply


vanishing. What would go West do if we did understand how bad it is for


ordinarily Syrian people? I think if we could put ourselves in the place


of ordinarily Syrian people, we would have acted. I think we have to


step up the humanitarian aid. There are many seized areas where people


are starving to death. I think if we have the means to attack Isis, we


have the means to drop food onto starving people with airdrops.


Protecting humanitarian quarters. As a journalist who covered Iraq, I


never thought I would hear myself saying that intervention is


necessary but in the case of Serbia which is destabilising the whole


region and written is to be a long-term conflict, I think


long-term intervention should be an option.


# In the case of Syria. What should we be doing? It shouldn't be a


surprise to anyone that 4 million people are fleeing war, fleeing


political turmoil, they are trying to save their lives. What can we do?


In my view, we have to have more compassion. I am the child of an


immigrant. My father came from Italy and went to America and I think most


people have roots that stretch back. World War II was not so long ago and


in many ways, the crisis, the humanitarian crisis that is


unleashing an Europe right now is a result of our nonchalance, our


policy of looking away a look -- getting the war in Syria fester. Do


you think journalism can have any effect? You have done the


journalism, in your book, there are unflinching descriptions of violence


and sexual violence and yet nothing changes. I do think journalism has


an impact. I think my colleagues and I in Bosnia refused to let the story


guy and we try to avert what would become the genocide at chevron eats,


we didn't do that but we did continue to report on war crimes and


we try to make the case that we should never let this happen on our


watch. We know that in 1994 in grander, there was a genocide. There


have been subsequent horrific humanitarian catastrophes.


Absolutely, journalism has a real place, not just as one of the


pillars of democracy, with free speech and if we bring to light the


horrors that are happening inside Syria, people can galvanise. The


pressure that that public can put on their government is crucial. It is


really our job to continue to do that.


Can the West survive the threat of a nuclear apocalypse other rarities of


the humanitarian tragedy that is unfolding all around us? If the


present is uncertain, what can we learn from the past? Is that history


shows, the seeds of the catastrophe are often sown from within. The


Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling six


of the world's surface. Simon Sebag Montefiore's book is an intimate


story of 20 czars and czarina is, some touched by genius, some touched


by madness. The Romanovs inhabit a world of family rivalry, imperial


ambition, Lou Reed glamour, sexual excess and depravity. Lesbian men


trois, and an Emperor who wrote the most erotic correspondence ever


written by a head of state. Yet, this is also an empire, a


civilisation of towering culture and exquisite beauty. Simon Sebag


Montefiore, it is almost like the question, what did the Romanovs do


for us? What did they do for Russia? They've a lot. They were immensely


successful. Actually, they made Russia the biggest empire in modern


times. The most successful empire builders since Genghis Kahn. They


also made colossal mistakes. One of them was to try and promote a narrow


nationalistic state which alienate it all the ethnic peoples, the


polls, the Jews, the Finns, the Tartars, in their empire. Another


one was to stick to a very narrow ideology, it was just as daft and at


the third as Marxism and Leninism became. What are the parallels with


what Putin is trying to do? Blood amid Putin has this greater Russia


as a stated objective. The parallels are direct. The


dilemma of Russian power is to try to justify autocracy by providing


security at home, prosperity at home, and also spectacular imperial


prestige abroad. But that costs money. And ultimately, if you are


pursuing this kind of fantastic adventure abroad but you cannot


afford it at home, you will fall. And that is basically what happened


to the Romanovs. And Vladimir Putin is in danger of that happening to


him since he is now pursuing this incredibly expensive rearmament,


adventures in Syria and Ukraine and so on, which are incredibly


spectacular, great on television, crowd pleasing, but if he does not


reform his economy he will fight you cannot afford it, just as the


Soviets could not afford it, just as the Imperial Romanovs could not


afford it. And what the Romanovs were doing is to make Russia great


again, and that is a slogan that is now familiar as Donald Trump's


slogan. Ironically, although we think about our democracies as


superior to those of Russia, in some ways we are pursuing similar


aspirations to them, and similarly dangerous ones. Do you think we in


the West have to learn how to make some kind of accommodation to


Russia? It has revived as an economic power, whatever you think


of the current leadership. Have we got it wrong? We have certainly had


to learn the hard way that in the Middle East, for example, we cannot


do anything without Russia. Russia is there. It is dominating now,


Syria. In Palmeiro, for example, in the temple there, the Russians have


set up, and it shows that there are concept of the spectacular


showmanship and projection of imperial power is way beyond what we


understand, and so Syrian peace is now impossible without Russia. It


has already happened. We now have to acknowledge that Russia is once


again a great hour. How long for is another question. But they are back.


The year before the Romanov dynasty finally came to an end, seven men


change the course of history much closer to home. On Easter Sunday


1916, the seven signed their names to the proclamation of the Irish


Republic. This challenge to imperial rule triggered a six-day battle with


British troops in the centre of Dublin which left almost 500 dead.


Ruth Dudley Edwards new book, the Seven, asked whether Ireland's


founding fathers had a coherent vision or whether they were just a


collection of fanatics, misfits and failures. The Troubles could make. I


am, not least and mighty 93, as a journalist. I was fascinated with


the preoccupation with the seamers lineage of heroes and martyrs who


have been used to inspire generation after generation to kill and die for


Ireland without any regard to the wishes of the people. Ruth Dudley


Edwards, what was unique about the men who made the Easter rising


happened? They had a supremely gifted, can best among them, partly


airport, also headmaster, he was worth his weight in gold as a


propagandist. And deconstructed in narrative of repeated attempts of


the Irish people to get rid of the British York. He proclamation of the


Irish Republic that they produced in 1916 day that narrative. It was very


cleverly done. There was no support for the Revolutionary started. Their


plans were preposterous. Some of them wanted to die, some of them


hoped to win. We all had these different needs and visions of it.


But my big contention about this is that because of the violence of 1916


every other person who came along and decided he was right in the


Irish people wrong now believe he would get retrospective


justification. So you have what was called the War of Independence, and


you have a Civil War, and ever since then we have had the provisional IRA


say no they were right and everybody else was wrong, and they are trying


to legitimise what they did in 30 years destroying Northern Ireland in


the same way that 1916 happened. It has been a frightful precedent for


violence. And for you, the seven men who signed the proclamation, have a


huge responsibility in other words for what you see as the negative


legacy? I think they have enormous responsibility. I don't think they


had a clear view of what they were doing, except in some cases just to


get at the Brits. To get clear of an emotional turmoil or to be a great


marker, a great Catholic martyr. To be the Christ of Irish nationalists.


He can be consulted Christ, dying for his people. They had all sorts


of mixed ideas. But in the end they were doing what they wanted to do,


more for themselves and for anyone else. It was narcissism. Do you


think we in the West can learn anything from that period for the


way we confront and deal with this huge challenge from jihadist


terrorism? I am loved to draw the parallels myself, but do you think


there are any parallels in the way that... What can we learn from this


challenge? Certainly there are. For a long time anybody who died for


Ireland was de facto a good person. A self-sacrificing person. The


Reggie had these! And that has been -- you were in jihad. They got what


they wanted, in your eyes. And with the hunger strikers now in Sinn Fein


land being compared with 1916, they starve themselves to death. They


committed suicide for Ireland. And were elected to the British


Parliament in the process. Absolutely. I'm in favour of brutal


truths. And I'm very proud that Ireland has got to the stage where


in public arenas you can argue this out, and on the whole people don't


anymore call you a traitor for suggesting that these people were


complicated but not necessarily right. Whatever we learn from the


past has to feed into a more positive plan for the future. There


is a growing global population, and the very fabric of the planet is


under threat. The ecosystem is changing irrevocably. The reminder


question can the West survive, can the world survives? We live in


Epoque making times, literally. The changes that humans have made in


recent decades have been on such a scale that they have altered the


world beyond anything it has experienced in its 4.5 billion year


history. It is a thrilling but uncertain time to be alive. Welcome


to the anthropocene, the age of humans. Gaia Vince is a journalist


specialising in environmental and social issues. To write her book,


Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet


We Made, she visited 40 countries to document our climate and ecological


changes caused by humans affect the indigenous communities of the


planet. This is all that's left of the world's highest ski resort. Gaia


Vince, explain to me what the anthropocene actually means. The


anthropocene really means the age of humans. And it is a geological idea,


the idea that humans are fundamentally changing our planet,


changing the course of rivers, the temperature of the atmosphere, the


chemistry of the oceans, etc, and we have experienced geological changes


like this before. You may know of the Jurassic, the time of the


dinosaurs. But normally they are caused by something massive,


something extraterrestrials like an asteroid impact of organic eruption.


And now scientists are saying it is us, we're changing the planet at


such a fast rate that we are actually putting lives in danger. We


are facing certain crises, of food and water. As I read your book I


thought it is amazing how much the human species is able to actually


adapt to change, but do you think ultimately the planet can adapt to


this species that has kind of expanded beyond control and changed


it so much already? There is no threat to the planet. The planet has


been over 4.5 billion years and will continue we go extinct or do not.


We're quite a recent species. I'm very interested in humans, in us and


I come at all these environmental issues I think slightly differently


from a lot of people in that I'm interested in, how does it affect


us? I love tigers. If Tigers go extinct, is that the problem for us?


Does it matter? They are great and charismatic species, but we're not


going to starve to death. Doesn't matter if we extinct? Because some


deep Green would rather we went extinct plants survive. I am not one


of them, I am on the side of humans! I would be very sad if humans go


extinct. As I have travelled around the world, I have been humbled, I


think, by how people who have so little can be so generous. And I see


this side to humanity, I think we are a very cooperative, a very


empathetic species. Something is definitely going to change. A social


structure that we have globally at the moment, where there are a


handful of nations that are much wealthier and have a much heavier


resource use and other nations, I think that is going to have to


change if we are going to see, all of us, a global population, humanity


itself surviving and living comfortable it in the decades to


come. In Europe there is an imaginary scene at the turn of the


next century where everything is kind of OK, we have adapted. -- in


your book. There are walkways and bicycle lanes, there is no traffic!


Can our political system really make that kind of change? I think we are


going to witness enormous changes. That was quite a fun chapter to


write because it is completely imaginary, I had to think of what


possible scenarios we might undertake in the coming decades. But


I am an optimist. I think we are going to do... I think we're going


to do well, I think we're going to survive this and adapt. Part of that


future will be governed by artificial intelligence, which is no


longer just science fiction, but a central part of our culture. It is


written into search engines, robotics, video games, and touches


most every aspect of contemporary technology. Professor Margaret


Boden's new book, AI, Its Nature and Future, discusses whether artificial


intelligence could ever truly be intelligent, creative or even


conscious. The apocalyptic visions of AI's future are usury, but partly


because of them, the AI community and policymakers and the general


public as well I waking up to some very real dangers. And it is not


before time. Professor Margaret Boden, what do you think the impact


of artificial intelligence will be by the mid-century honour Society


and on our way of life? I think a lot of things will be running much


more efficiently. Child support, health care, even in medicine.


Really every profession. There is a pretty broad concern now that


artificial intelligence plus machine learning plus robotics will flatten


a lot of jobs that we currently have, and not replace them. I think


that is certainly true. And a lot of jobs that even if they don't


disappear they will be very much downsized. There are a lot of


professional jobs at the moment, a lot of professions where people are


already starting to use AI as advisory systems. It won't have to


get all that much better... Lawyers? Lawyers, accountants... The thing


that worries me most, but there are many things I could mention, is the


idea of using AI systems as carers are companions for old people. I


think there's absolutely no way that AI is going to be good enough to be


able to do that well. Probably ever. Certainly not in the next century.


And I think we would be really taking away people's committee and


really giving them the rough end of the stick to do that. If we wanted


to resist AI, would we just be Luddites, or would there be a


justification for it? If you mean get rid of it, forget it. It is


impossible. And also I don't think it would be a good thing, but anyway


it is impossible. What I think we should do is resist AI taking over


in essentially human to human situations where firstly we cannot


get it to take over any reasonable fashion, and secondly, we shouldn't.


My example of the care homes is just one example of that. Another one


would be one-to-one education. And even though some of these


educational AI systems can adapt to some extent the individual student,


they cannot do it as well as a good teacher can. I think the greatest


lesson that AI has taught us is the amazing power and subtlety and


richness of human minds. And to equal that is a very big ask. In


this programme I have been asking can the West survive? It probably


can, but with wars and razor wire around its borders, with a big


question over what it stands for, and the lingering suspicion that


like all dominating societies, this just might be its sunset.


# It's the end of the world as we know it


# It's the end of the world as we know it


# It's the end of the world as we know it


# And I feel fine. # It's the end of the world as we


know it # It's the end of the world as we


know it # It's the end of the world as we


know it # And I feel fine #.


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