God, remember when Europe was just this boring place?
We have some beautiful photos up right now of a strange, forgotten corner of Europe: Lithuania’s Dieveniške appendix. The improbable plot of land sits almost entirely within Belarus; the locals joke that when Lithuania’s borders were being determined, Stalin set his pipe on the map and his fearful ministers, too afraid to move it, simply drew around it. The people who live there are cut off by a barbed-wire fence from their neighbors in Belarus, and largely divided from their fellow countrymen in Lithuania by geography.
Lithuania, you almost certainly don’t remember, had elections back in October, and in a shocking upset, the Lithuanian Peasants and Green Union swept to victory. That party practices a different sort of populism than has been sweeping other nations, but as I contemplated these scenes of rural life in Lithuania, I thought about the anti-establishment impulse that has animated so many political upsets around the world. (This is a depressing game I don’t recommend you play, but you can basically go backward through 2016 and parse everything as a coded message of doom, like fan forums about Westworld but with fascists.)
There are a variety of competing identities and concerns driving these developments in Europe. I was particularly struck this week with this article on the urban-rural divide, which has clear parallels with the U.S. (The accompanying graphic of Europe’s current populist parties is a nice tl;dr shortcut.) This is a good, if depressing, overview of the unfortunate convergence of events driving European societal disintegration. Between Italy’s prime minister resigning, the upcoming elections in France, Angela Merkel’s maneuvering in Germany, the continued popularity of the far-right in Austria, and many, many other decisions large and small that will take place during the next year (“get your own Islamophobic Twitter-obsessed fascist, Netherlands!”) it’s looking like 2017 is going to be a bumpy road on the continent, and by “bumpy road” I mean Bataan death march through the ashes of the European dream. God, remember when Europe was just this boring place? Don’t look at me like that, you know what I’m talking about.
Maybe we’re watching the same collapse of the liberal world order that took place a century ago after World War I. Argh! Multiple timelines, I knew it. We’ve earned a break. Let’s read Zadie Smith on optimism and despair, but GUESS WHICH ONE GETS MORE SCREEN TIME.
Since we’re focusing on Europe this week: Tiny Irish snail defeats Trump! Prepare to Survive Emergencies and War: a Cheerful Take on Serious Recommendations. Let’s do some classic German baking! The unquiet dead of the Balkans War. Britain has some seriously stupid political slogans. Today in people have too much time on their hands. We will defend with our dying breath the moral imperative of lunchtime wine.
And in sort-of-but-not-really Europe: Pirates given mandate to form new government. That’s not a joke, that’s really what’s happening.
And in not Europe at all: a guide to the breads of India by friend of R&K Michael Snyder. Sacks of fish eggs: not just for rich people anymore. The Native American hip hop vanguard. What’s it like to go to a girls’ school in Côte d’Ivoire? This is a deeply disturbing investigation into the drug war in the Philippines. But let’s end on a more positive note. Here’s my favorite story of the week, from a bartender in Canada who met one of my personal heroes. It’s a good reminder to be the wine-mooching weirdo you wish to see in the world.
See you next week for more global politics and culture from around the web. Tweet me stories you want to see @caraparks.