The editor's note - The headhunters are back

Editorialists invoke the Middle Ages, but a better historical analogy is Europe’s “Thirty Years War.”

The extraordinary brutality of new Caliphate’s decapitation of noncombatants – aid workers, journalists, women – has little to do with the Medieval legalism that carefully tried its witches in a court of law before burning them at the stake.

The decades of war that swept Europe in the 17th Century began as a religious conflict between two flavours of Christianity, though money and power were major elements from the first. The contrasting armies, none of them quite strong enough to win, over time forgot their moral purpose and simply began to take what they wanted and kill who they wished.

They laid waste to central Europe, parts of which never quite recovered, and in the end it cannot be said that any of the numerous sides really won, though many lost. All that was left was the conviction that enemies were not really human at all, but objects to be tortured and slaughtered at will. We thought the historic evil of beheading had finally been left behind, like African slavery.

We were wrong.

It’s hard to be cheery about the interesting content in this issue after where geopolitics have been taking us in recent months, but there are many good things worth reading.

We wonder if the UK really does intend to leave the European Union, we look at the dark outlook for the “discreetly charming” bourgeoisie and – as part of our dossier on propaganda – examine how we tell lies to children to get them to tell the truth. It works poorly.

There are happier subjects: how Fidel Castro as a child tried to persuade the US president to mail him a ten dollar bill – since he’d “never seen one” – and how animals who inhabit “No Man’s Land” between political boundaries get along very nicely without human company thank you. We do look at the Caliphate, the historical one that inspired the “Thousand and One Nights,” and at the amazing worldwide success of Ramen instant noodles, trash food for the millions – indeed, for the billions. And, as the West suffers, Africa is booming. We ask why the Americans have stopped calling. Have they lost Europe’s number?

Japan loves nature to death and the US Navy’s new warships are so highly automated they cannot fight. We await the same result from the coming automation of the “thinking” trades: robot lawyers who cannot be bothered to file a suit and robot journalists who write automatic drivel to be read by other robots.

Lots of good things.

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