About Martin Gak

Dr. Martin Gak holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from The New School for Social Research and specializes in metaethics. Much of his research work is focused on neuroethics and questions of religious morality.

The House in Which I Live (On Berlin and the Victims)

Krystalnacht

75 years ago tonight, hordes of Berliners went out to the streets to burn and pillage anddestroy homes, businesses, hospitals and temples of the Jewish community of Berlin. Crystal Night of 1938 probably was the night in which the IMAG0049holocaust began.

The photos posted here are Stolpersteine (stumbing blocks, they are called) planted directly in front of my door. These bronze cobblestones are the memorials to victims of the holocaust that lived in this house. I don’t exactly know who occupied this house in which I know live.

Rebbeca and Ernestine Grün were deported from these place to Riga where they were murdered. Paula Altman was deported to IMAG0056Chelmno and IMAG0048murdered. Isidor and Frieda Lehman were taken to Warsaw and killed in the ghetto. Therese Sack was deported in 1943 to Auschwitz and murdered.

These men and women who were marched to their deaths from this very place, lived among these very walls that today are my
home and looked out of these very windows at a city almost identical to this one that I so dearly love but which, i well know, would have then devoured me just as it devoured them.IMAG0054

All that I can say is that perhaps the city they loved no longer exists. But never be that city again cannot but be an arduous task which requires of IMAG0050permanent thought and permanent reckoning. These wall do not allow us to be cynicalbecause from them the echoes of these people’s silence continue to bounce and continue to assail our sense of justice. But we cannot usurp the suffering of them and of others to justify our political hatred either because our own past to which they belong will not allow us to walk away with a clear conscience.

Rather, the best we can take from those hours of brutality which from the distance of time IMAG0052still inhabit these walls is that today we are better than we were then and for that reason we are not allowed to forget the price that others paid for us to become a more just society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Moosbrugger Defense: On Poor Reading Habits, Primitivism and Expiation of Social Violence

A brilliant response to the charge of poor reading comprehension.

A brilliant response to the charge of poor reading comprehension.

As it often happens, unsolicited wisdom from academic luminaries appears on my Facebook window indecently exposing the stream of the collective consciousness of my acquaintances and my acquaintances’ acquaintances. The perverse virtue of the platform consists now of washing upon my shores the intellectual intermittence of those far away with a strange aspect of unsolicited intimacy. A form of violation of privacy, if you will. On the lazy morning of a disappointingly cold Berlin sunday, an urgent expression of moral indignation flashed upon my screen above the headline bearing the title  of a New York Times article: “Are the Roma Primitive, or Just Poor? The piece is a  fairly generic report of the defense of a group of Romani criminals in French courts. Crowning a map of Europe showing an ‘infographic’–not sure what kind of graphics is that we were shown before–representing the Romani populations of the different countries, Justin E.H. Smith, associated Columiba University, according to Facebook data collection agents, wrote:

What the fuck? ‘Primitive’? Can you imagine anything remotely similar even being suggested in ‘polite society’ about any other persecuted and marginalized group in Europe? Disgraceful, shocking lapse on the part of the Times.

Disgraceful perhaps. Yet, Mr. Smith seemed to have misdirected his righteous anger. The author of the article, who seemed to have left-wing credentials just as solid as this bastion of academic intellection himself, points out that one of the lines of defense that lawyers for the accused Romani used in court was to suggest that the practice of petty-theft and small criminality are traditional cultural element of a community that has been pushed to the margins of political life. In an irony of historical destiny, it is the prosecutor, who demands to treat the perpetrators not as victims of their own cultural primitivism but as individuals who capable of deliberating on the moral status and juridical fitness of an action, chose to break the law and deprive others of their possessions. In fact, the very title of the piece alludes to the defense of primitivism mounted by the Roma lawyers themselves. In so doing, the lawyers along with other campaigners present the Roma as cultural retrogrades incapable of behaving any better than they do. On the other hand, the idea of poverty, present in the title but absent in the presentation of lawyers or prosecutors can probably be attributed to the author himself.

The indignation of this one man was soon lifted by the righteous indignation of a few dozen other academes from the US, Canada and Europe. Most of them happily hurling expressions of indignation and asserting moral demands. The whirlwind of goodness quickly coagulated into a letter to be sent to the editor of the NYT. In its original form the letter contained the following claim:

“We were dismayed to read Dan Bilefsky‘s  October 19 article, “Are the Roma Primitive, or Just Poor?” The title pretends to present two sides of a legitimate debate, when in fact the first horn of the dichotomy, as stated, has no place at all in civil society, European or American. The article then delivers what the title promises: a legitimation of the idea, even if it is not lent full approval by the author, that Roma culture must be eliminated, and that until it is the Roma people will effectively be a plague on Europe.

Dismayed they were but that was just the product of self-inflicted outrage. The title of the article does not in any way promise the legitimation of the argument that Roma culture must be eliminated at all. In fact, the author, merely repeats the defense of Roma culture. Understandably, a professional field that has been built on offering judgment and opinion of entire works on the cursory read of title and conclusion of books and articles can hardly be asked to unfold a more systematic treatment of the problem. In addition, it is always more pleasant for American academics to wear the coats of those who suffer. The actual victims can usually not compete for that discursive territory.

The letter turns into a true exercise in political dadaism when Mr. Smith, apparently unbeknown to himself, accuses the Roma of siding with the racial policies of the Third Reich:

We are not in the habit of resorting too quickly to that well-known argument-stopper, the comparison to Nazism. But such speech has truly, without exaggeration, not been acceptable in Europe since the time of the Third Reich.

Of course, this is entirely amiss. The argument that Nazism used to describe non-germanic people (Romani’s included) was a biological argument which held that there was a different biological constitution that made Jews, Romas and their many subgroups, Slavic people, etc, of a lower nature. The Roma defense of their primitivism is not biological but cultural. In some sense, this is very much the argument that underpins American affirmative action politics. Recognizing that black Americans, Latinos, etc have been pushed to the margins of society and been kept by oppression in a state of cultural and societal destitution, the system chooses to make up for it by overlooking standard qualifications. Not only do Americans on the left treat and extend political alms to their minorities, the minorities treat whites and other minorities in the same terms. Very often, black americans have felt quite comfortable treating asians, latinos and africans as primitive brutes and have found ways to treat them accordingly. But what is more interesting though, is to look at the systematic political justification of violence among American minorities both against whites and against other minorities. The allusion to a cultural and social primitivism in the American racial political spectrum is, tacitly or not, ubiquitous.

 In fact, this is also fairly common currency in Europe where Spaniard refer in this way to sub-Saharan Africans, Italians to Eritreans and Somalis, Germans to Turkish citizens, but also Turkish citizens about German who eat pork, Morroccans in the Netherlands about the Dutch who tolerate homosexuality, etc.  And then, of course, what we may call the Moosbrugger defense of the acts of vandalism and social violence of these groups themselves. ‘Of course we do it, the political and cultural situation left us no alternatives”. So when Mr. Smith asks:

Can anyone even begin to imagine, today, speaking publicly about any other persecuted and marginalized European ethnicity as ‘primitive’, as fundamentally unfit for side-by-side existence with the majority groups on European soil? Can anyone imagine speaking of economically and historically disadvantaged ethnic minorities in the United States in this way?

The answer is of course, yes, we can. Both on the illuminated American soil and across Europe. So the indignant surprise is slightly misplaced for yet one more reason.  And then we are given a very strange primer of Roma culture. First we are explained the lack of good American style epic figures to secure Roma rights. If it is not done John Wayne style, it probably cannot be done at all:

Since that time [mid 19th century], there has been no civil rights movement, no Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, to draw attention to the deep, systematic, engrained injustices the Roma have had to face.

It is a bad habit of the American political imaginary to think that if they cannot see ‘it’ or know about ‘it’, ‘it’ is probably because it does not exist. In fact, Romani political life has quite a few significant figures including Delia Grigore in Rumania, Ali Krasniqi in Kosovo, Romani Rose, in Germany, Ceija Stojka in Austria, Zarko Jovanovic composer of the Romani anthem, Jacob Polak or Constantin Nicolaescu Plopsor Really, none? 

This, I suppose, is a rather endemic syndrome in the academic left built on the American model of do-gooding anthropology and its spawn: they occupy the voice of the oppressed and build careers on making sure that those voices remain silent or unaccounted for. In fact, this is the more remarkable aspect of this act of academic moralization: Mr Smith and his friends seem to be committed to denying the possibility of allowing this Roma to present themselves as primitive or members of a tradition. It should be left, apparently, to European and American academics to allow or disallow Romas to present themselves in one or other way. Smith is however kind enough to remind us that, at least, Gypsies have offered endless opportunities for minstrelism:

Nonetheless, they [the Roma] have a vibrant and resilient culture, with literature worth reading, films worth seeing, and people worth getting to know. This much they have in common with all cultures.

Well, perhaps in the end, we should let the professional thinkers do the thinking and just let Romas engage in more manageable tasks for which they are clearly better disposed: Jazz manouche and flamenco. And then the letter comes in a Wagnerian crescendo to a final moment of deep political hysteria as we are informed that the NYT article may be ‘paving the roads to the future camps’–as academics like to say.

Bilefsky’s article will certainly not help anyone to realize this, and could very well help to bring about the return of the sort of scenario in Europe that, we fear, now has too many people unreflectively mouthing the words: ‘Never again’.

But then again, Bilefsky, who has now been accused of nothing short of preparing the ideological grounds for the next genocide, has done little more than offer a very tepid criticism of the position taken by the Roma themselves. The author of the article is, in the end, a lot more delicate in his treatment of the question of primitivism than the professional thinkers with their pachydermic stride. Of course, perhaps the title should have been frame by quotation marks to distance Mr. Bilefsky from the claim of primitivism but then one must wonder if the invective of the savants would not have been better addressed to the copy editor.

 

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On Nancy Fraser’s Mea Culpa and Feminism as a Tool of Oppression

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 28JAN11 - Sheryl Sandberg, ...

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 28JAN11 – Sheryl Sandberg, one of the victims of male domination. The women who make her clothing in Bangladesh are her sisters.

Nancy Fraser is a disgrace and the very strange and very public mea culpa published this week by The Guardian reeks of indecency and lip service paid to the sudden realization of what, I believe, feminism may eventually come to call their very own brew of phallocentrism. The article, however, does exude in copious amounts what anyone who has crossed paths with what for some reason some insist in calling a philosopher would have promptly noticed: the woman is the possessor of some of the most formidable lack of political foresight known to man (and women) engendered deep in the loins of intellectual dishonesty and duplicitousness. Thus opens this crocodilian dirge sang over the paltry remains of American egalitarianism:

As a feminist, I’ve always assumed that by fighting to emancipate women I was building a better world – more egalitarian, just and free. But lately I’ve begun to worry that ideals pioneered by feminists are serving quite different ends. I worry, specifically, that our critique of sexism is now supplying the justification for new forms of inequality and exploitation.’

Really? That is not how you are mostly remembered by students and associates, madam. Rather, Ms Fraser, has been the very expression of a woman who sat on a 6 figure salary as students directly under her yoke barely had enough money to make ends meet. Many of these students were male and carrying a penis perhaps they deserved the poetic ancestral revenge exacted by one of the many feminist self proclaimed avatars of all historical forms of oppressed feminine intellect. But at the very same time, the crowded field of students in precarious situations including those foreign graduate students with little or no means who were feeding both her overgrown sense of entitlement and her pockets by teaching classes in her department for about 3/100 of her yearly salary not just with her acquiescence but by her active administrative design probably have a more nuanced understanding of her idea of egalitarianism.

One may, of course, think that this anecdotarium of political perversity is no more than circumstantial evidence or that perhaps the force of the discussion should be directed at the argument and not at the woman. But then again, feminism and in particular American feminism has been erected as a monument to slave morality. From its corridors, all forms of brutality has been perpetrated and this for many decades. So when suddenly Fraser points out that “In a cruel twist of fate, I fear that the movement for women’s liberation has become entangled in a dangerous liaison with neoliberal efforts to build a free-market society.” All that the general public should point out is that this is not better than her long list of massive administrative, political and intellectual miscalculations.

American feminism is a long standing monstrosity built on the most aberrant forms of Randian/Reganite libertarianism. Only Fraser and other idiots of the same ilk could have missed the fact that the entire project at least in its rather distasteful American version swallowed the version of heroic solitude and personal benefit of the stupidest forms of libertarian personalism whole. A cursory glance at the model of the ‘successful woman’ projected by beasts of burden like Sheryl Sandberg should furnish a clear picture of how far the epic account of feminism has come.

As Fraser, Sandberg is the very archetype of the imbecility of American feminism. Both of these women portray themselves as members of the ‘siblinghood’ of the oppressed and they have never, not once in 50 years, missed one chance to present their credentials showing their membership in the great family of those whose opportunities and aspirations have been curtailed by ‘the man’. To this we may add, Ms Huffington, both Ms. Clintons, Ms. Obama,  Ms Gillard but also Madonna, Byonce, Angelina Jolie and an enormous contingent of professional beneficiaries of historical victimization who teach and study in just about every American university. But here is the simple and all important question: is really Nancy part of the same group than Reshma Begum, the 19 year old who barely survived the Bangladesh factory collapse in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh? What kind of perverse beast, what type of intellectual miscreant could choose to demand benefits from a clearly forged membership card to the club of the dispossessed? In fact, what kind of otherworldly evil could benefit from the oppression and dispossession of this young woman by wearing the under paid labor of her hands and then decry her victimization. Well, much of American feminism.

Indeed,  Fraser surprise at feminism’s “worldview…increasingly expressed in individualist terms” is nothing but a complete an absolute farce. Both her ascent to intellectual power as that of many of the people around her are the very expression of the long-standing individualism and careerism, though certainly not meritocracy. If American feminism ever  ”criticised a society that promoted careerism… prioritised social solidarity…[or] valorised “care” and interdependence”, it did so in some immemorial past and in the voice of humanists and not of feminists. Should any doubt exist about this take into consideration the evangelical zeal with which Americans feminists like her passed sentence on humanism and forms of communitarianism in other parts of the world which–by their dim lights–were used to abscond the oppression of their putative sisters.

However, we should agree with Fraser that feminism has never been kin on meritocratic systems. Rather, feminism has judged meritocracy–and merit with it–to be nothing but another of the myriad mechanisms of male male domination. What for career anti-semites was the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy, for feminists was the invisible association of humans with penises. As such, a system of advancement began to take shape based on a well-established practice designed to protect ineptitude: moral demands of natural equality and under these demands some of the most egregious forms of corruption and nepotism. All for the sake of equality. Women were to be taken into the system because they were women–the US did this with other minorities as well with similarly atrocious results–and that was that.

So just as disingenuous as her feigned surprise at the current state of her art is Fraser  blame on the new capitalism. Capitalism has not co-opted feminism, feminism–and feminists like her–were active, willing and well-remunerated designers of these anarchic libertarianism. Pure and simple. American feminism modeled its idea of success on the object that they could see, the successful American male and all they did was add two breasts and subtract one penis. On account of this, we ended with the a broadened field of American chauvinism.

So yes, as Fraser points out, feminism helped to dismantle the integrity of the family as a unit of economic stability. But more importantly, in the moralized stupidity of treating family as a mechanism of oppression they liberated the individual to the elements with no shelter or recourse. When feminists vomited the word ‘patriarchal’ and rammed Jane Austin down out throats while pointing to the importance of the extended families in third-world countries as simple expressions of male domination, they guaranteed the dismembering of social fabrics in favor of individualism. The fact that Fraser needed hindsight to detect the detail shows nothing but her stupidity, former and current.

Equally breathtaking is Fraser’s surprise at the depletion of bread and butter from the tables of men. The day that the public sphere in the US finally accepted the moralization of gender and turned every man into a potential perpetrator of rape and pillage, those household that still had men in them–one can only guess how many–became target of political righteousness. So identity politics, which Fraser so much liked until she no longer did–guaranteed that equality as a value would first be purified of gender moral maculae. Equality would only be allotted to the equalers, the victims, the women.

In the wake of all of this, one can only wonder how Fraser could possible say that the critique of state welfare was “progressive in the era of state-organised capitalism”. The critique was a reactionary act of political and intellectual myopia and nothing more than that. As the previous forms of feminist stupidity, this critique has also been built on the blind ambition of women using a political neologism to hide their personalistic agendas. What to the untrained eye of Fraser seems to be a coincidental fact is indeed one of the many causal determinants of the state of affairs. Feminism was and continues to be, in addition to the other forms, a project in economic and commercial libertarianism, which is just too happy to see the state die.

There is one more element in American feminism that Fraser seems to miss and that is its deep puritan anti-sexualism. American feminists have made of sex a dirty word and have turned the entire iconography of sexuality into an expression of gender violence. In fact, it is no surprise that the notion of consent–a term closely related to contractual mechanisms–has more sociological relevance in their political imaginary than the transgression of non-consent. For feminists, sex is guilty unless mediated by a semi-tacit contract. Both the suspicion of sexual activity and the contractual allowance for its practice can, in this narrative, only be certified by women, who once again are the determinant actor in controlling sexual activity. In this story men are merely brutes that ought to be moderated by the letter of the law and the force of punishment. This is not merely a way of  foreclosing sexual violence but, more importantly, it is the very mechanism by which men can be rendered because of their putative guilt with no agency. This is indeed, the product of turning the space of the private into the political which feminists used to find desirable. For these women, no better instrument to preserve the integrity of women has been devised than the NSA’s Prism or the GCHQ’s Tempora.

The problem with Fraser’s eulogy to bad feminism is nothing but minuscule and untimely. In this discussion, this woman argues with Ms Sandberg. Her conversation is with people that are ultimately as perverse and inept as herself. Who have been as instrumental as herself in perpetrating these political catastrophes and doing all they could to export them by way of the NGO’s and other missionary mechanisms that she now decries. The time has come for these people to guard pensive silence and admit that their projects have been nothing than a bloody disaster. That the only good to come out of them has been their own mediocre but well-remunerated carrers.

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You Do Have Something to Hide. The NSA Knows What You Did Last Summer…and Last Night Too.

Juridical Hyperinflation, Extradition Treatises and Prosecutorial Abuse

Nobody knows for sure how many laws populate the American legal system but with congress engrossing its folios by an average of 55 federal laws a year yielding an approximate total of 5,000 federal crimes and somewhere around 300,000 violations your possibilities for malfeasance are just about endless.  But this is nothing when you compare it to the total number of trasngressions for which an individual can be detained in the US. The first day of January 2012, something like 40,000 new laws went into effect, a few shy from the same date the previous year. With these yearly averages it is hard to see how the law could be presumed known by all. Yet, it is.

The US is undergoing a veritable legal hyperinflationary crisis which has led Harvey Silvergate to calculate that, unbeknown to him or her, the average American citizen commits three felonies a day. Let us make the point clear: when every action is regulated, every action can be a violation. And because somewhere in the US there is a law that criminalizes telling certain jokes in an airport, unlocking an iPhone, sharing a music file, storing music files, linking to music filesusing free wifi without authorization, twitting something some American authority dislikesconsuming raw-milk, wearing a short dress, wearing a costume, cursing in public, dancing near a national monument or skateboarding among many, many other things, it is hard to believe that anyone around the world has not violated some American statute. Sure, you may think that after all you are not American so you need not care.

But even if the road will never lead you to a US immigration booth, what we have learned from cases such as Hew Raymond Griffiths‘, Gary McKinnon‘s,  Deniss Calovskis‘s, Christopher Tapping‘s and David McIntyre‘s but most notably and disturbingly the case of Richard O’Dwyer and  Kim Dotcom is that you can stay put at home and if someone in the American Department of Justice  wants to turn you into an example they have the way to do so.  In fact, in 2007 former Australia’s NSW Chief Judge in Equity,  Peter Young, wrote: “the bizarre fact that people are being extradited to the US to face criminal charges when they have never been to the US and the alleged act occurred wholly outside the US”. (see article) If you wonder what was the darkest of clouds that the semi-defunct ACTA and SOPA treatises cast on the international legal arena, you should know that it was–and still is–the aggressive prosecution even with the threat of extradition of piracy of copyright violators. Not convinced? Here you go. 

But here is the most important part of this–much like Carmen Ortiz who essentially sealed the fate of Aron Swarz–the lawyer at the DOJ or the casual prosecutor ogling a political career built on a muscular law-and-order reputation–and to know what this means you should be aware that much of the American prosecutor appointments are the result of political jockeying and electioneering–simply needs to indict you. Yes you, who would show that for this man or woman, no sin is too small and the law is applied universally even if this is an absurd lie. If you take into consideration that only a minuscule fraction of criminal cases (under 5% in the mid-noughts) go to trial because almost all is resolved in plea agreements, one comes to realize that in the American legal system, the prosecutor is also judge and executioner. So  In fact, extradition, prosecution, defense, verdict, sentence and jail-time are entirely superfluous when the indictment is enough to ruin your life.

 

Ruined Reputations, Political Intimidation and Trial by Mob

Take the case of Dominique Strauss Kahn whose political destiny was murdered by the hands of the New York Police Department, which incidentally forever change the political future of the French Republic and, by extension, of Europe and its institutions. For better or worse and irrespectively of what one may think took place in that room, DSK’s crime was never proven beyond a reasonable doubt–as the law requires to secure a conviction. All that the NYPD had to do was to parade the man in handcuffs in front of an international audience and permit the American public to indulge in one of its time-honored sports: justice by mob.  And that was that.

In the wake of the legal debacle, anyone with a sense of decency should have been faced with the inevitable question: how could this man be convicted before proven guilty? The answer is simple: by discredit, at the hour of the accusation and at the end of the pointing finger. Besides the deep sense of disgust that the memory of the DSK case continues to produce, the more atrocious realization should be how much we stood to loose and we eventually lost by the doing and political perversity of the American prosecutorial practices even if, in the end, nobody received a jail sentence.

So this is the fact: you have something to hide because by the lights of the US system you are prosecutable. Not guilty. Prosecutable. And, importantly, we now know that the American Department of Justice has at its disposal a total roster of all those violations, indiscretions and incriminating words you have ever typed.

If you were a student in a Spanish or Greek university who has been illegally downloading academic papers and sending them on to your friends for the past, say, five or six years, would you be willing to organized protests against Guantanamo after knowing that your IP had been tracked? Would you be willing to express your dismay at the American contempt for human life in the used of drones for summary assassinations if you were traveling to Mexico through Miami? Would you be willing to joke about the fact that–as McClatchy reports–the sudden threat to American embassies being foiled seem to have had “no basis in fact” if you were on your way to your brother’s wedding in California?

 

Watch Your Politics or Else… 

And here is the bigger political question. In an environment in which American policies become more systematically scrutinized and more broadly criticized for things such as their punishing pharmaceutical patent law pushed through embassies to third world countries, the usurpation of cultural spaces through copyright law enforced by extradition treatises, their imposition of aberrant financial practices, their incarceration in extra national detention camps, their military adventures, their often aggressive promotion of their agrochemical industry with the consequent destruction of native farming cultures, their global warming waffling and, of course, the visibly problematic privacy and data handling methods and practices among other things, one should ask how many European politicians would dare in the end raise their voices?

We now know what we only suspected: the US has the wherewith to silence any opponent at all by indictment or character assassination. Prosecute or leak.  A finger pointed in your direction from the American Department of Justice can cost you your job, your church membership, your friendships, your wife and children, your financial stability, your home or all of those things together so as yourself this: if today you were a Eurodeputy form a conservative party with libertarian leanings, with a wife and two children, who has been having an affair with one of your male colleagues, knowing what we now know about Prism and Tempora, would you be willing to ask for an investigations of the NSA and GCHQ spying practices on European citizens and institutions?

There is no moral to this story. In fact, this entire debacle of public policy should be enough to shift the entire center of gravity of discussions about data away from discussion about technology of the type that geeks and hacker have been left to ineptly negotiate and should be  returned to the domain of the thinking citizen who has tracked the history of abuse of the state. What the NSA and the GCHQ show us is that, as we have argued before, the internet is no more and no less that the public sphere. And that as it has always been the case and will probably always be the case, the powers that be–monarchs, chancellors, presidents and prime ministers mounted on vast bureaucracies–have a vested interest in mediating, filtering and determining what is the content and form of the information that circulates in the that space because it is there where power is negotiated.

 

 

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The Arab Spring Comes to Turkey

The Arab Spring continues

For the last five days, Turkey has been experiencing a revolt the likes of which have not been seen for long while. Fueled by the vicious assault by the Turkish police force, a humble and peaceful protest against the destruction of trees in the city center of Istanbul transformed into a massive anti-government demonstration. The revolts in Istanbul have been supported by similar demonstrations throughout the rest of the country. Overnight, Turkey has become a hellish bowl of smoke and fire. The police force has been attacking the protesters as this lines are being written and the protesters are dedicated to sting in their positions at all costs, it seems.

The first impression might lead one to think that this is an environmental protest gone astray. Far from it. Although the timing is somewhat surprising, many in Turkey have been expecting something like this to happen.

First of all, the government has been increasingly impinging upon the private. The latest law have gone some length to affect habits all the way from the cafe table to the bedroom by restricting the sale of alcohol and effectively bringing its consumption to a virtual halt and changing the laws that regulate the sales of contraceptives. While could think of these as minor annoyances they have been compounded with much more substantial matters. Recently the government of Erdogan attempted to cover up the two major massacres that happened recently: the one in Roboski, a village to the South-East of Turkey mainly populated by Kurdish citizens, and Reyhanlı, a town near Turkey-Syria border.

The people of Turkey have realized that they had enough when the prime minister seemed to show a more urgent concern with drunken youth and the country’s apparently dire need of more shopping malls while the country stood at the brink of war with its neighbor. These protests are the clear expression that the people will not tolerate the status quo any longer.

However, everything has a price. In this case, the Police attacks with unmatched ferocity in a European capital. Security forces have been pumping gas into every single building they sould find indifferent to the fact that the elderly, children or sick might be there. Rumors circulated early Saturday that the security forces may have been using Agent Orange. Meanwhile the Turkish mainstream media remains mute. This is not surprising considering that media holders have spent the better part of the last twenty years in which the ruling party has been in the ascent making business deals in the corridors of Turkish power.

There is a certain sweet irony in seeing the man who criticizes Assad for being a tyrant becoming a tyrant himself. The riots in Turkey remind us that the mechanisms that prompted the Arab Spring are still at work: the downfall of aggressive capitalism, conservative authoritarian government and a sense of a crisis of political legitimacy. Turkey is merely a link in that long chain. 

Ali Nejat Kanıyaş is our guest blogger writing from Turkey. You can follow his Tweets @dolovar_vres

 

 

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The End of the Academic Orgy: Incest, Coprophagy and a Few Cases of Necrophilia for Good Measure

In plain sight and shamelessly exposed stand the ravished bodies of the American universities, brothels where administrations grow like cancers, the inane product of clientelism and the demise of thought are celebrated. The pictures have been revolting but were hidden from view. They no longer are.

There are two assets to an administrator: the student and the incompetent faculty. Both of these groups always pay. If the student pays he pays and there is the cash. These are foreign students and administrators love them. If he does not pay, the government puts down the cash and charges him for the dubious service of sustaining an entirely corrupt structure in which no longer discernible intellect is fostered for the rest of his life.

In such confabulation, ineptitude is promoted and this is for a very simple reason. Nothing is more stable institutionally that a sustained confabulation of mediocrities in which the ineptitude of students is groomed by the obsequios repugnance of faculty. In return, these students satisfied egos offer praise to the kindness of their mentors who, in keeping their public satisfied, guarantee their overweight administrators the sustained influx of checks provided by government or distant parents.

The preservation of a student body from whose fibers resources are extracted directly or as the bi-product of funding mechanisms is guaranteed by these forms of professorial imbecility. The flow of cash for salaries, houses, vacations and cars from parent or government agencies is guaranteed with the same idiotic smiles that fast food restaurants use to convince its customers that the compounded ring of radioactive styrofoam colored with lead-laced yellow 158 is chicken.  This explains the tragic ascension to relevance of the student evaluations, popularity tests in which excitement, etiquette and personableness are purposefully conflated with pedagogic aptitude.  Obsequious stupidity produces adoring fans, tedium only character. So any thought arduous or otherwise uncomfortable may be easily dispensed with and replaced with another expression of adorable idiocy and palatable ineptitude. Stemming to a great extent from ivies, these imbecility creeps powerfully.  In the academic institutions of our intellectual Sodom,  well-certified stupidity is cheap and impressively easy to replace.

Thus, institutions can build monstruous administrations with 12 Vice-Presidents including a refreshment-machine officer and a secretary of mopping or colleges with one provost for one dean and a baker’s dozen of faculty members. This is how, in the mix, fat presidents endowed with friends and a terminal case of intellectual intermittence hire faculty summarily and summarily eliminate them relaying on multi-toothed smiles always ready to deliver bad news. This is how academic officers can hire their closest of friends with little or not oversight and allow the deportation of students while singing from the other hither of their mouths the songs of equality and redemption.

This is how those who smile and tell tantalizing tales of homosexuality in islamic texts or deliberate on St. Augustine‘s penis have taken over the temples of thought. Exchangers of flattery who know that its easier–always easier–to sell St. Augustine’s penis, Socrates‘ homosexuality, the victimization of stupidity and the many forms of senseless poetization which can be easily regurgitated from mouth to mouth at the modest price of learning empty gestures and turns of phrase. No longer the need for the pain of thinking through informal fallacies, ontological proofs and theological voluntarism.

But this appeal to idiocy is no more than demagoguery in a chain of clientelism and in that sense revolting: in order to preserve their position, these professional victims of ancestral oppression flater the stupidity and ineptitude of their audiences and their overblown sense of indignation and in those ways hide their own. But what is easier than to flater an adolescent ego?

The functionality of these horse-persons of intelectual doom is their unmatched ability to keep customers satisfied. And to the most minimal indication of protest react with a lofty sense of righteous indignation. Feminism has been used to shelter nepotism, corruption and inefficiency as has all other forms of professional minoritism. And with this veritable tradition of slave morality to stand on, when is pointed out that a reflective judgment cannot be a determinate judgement, or asserted that the Symposium ought to be read philosophically… when one has the gall to argue that nobody should be taking skiing vacations when their students have barely money to eat, these beasts of convenience deploy their arsenal built over centuries of cunning of the oppressed.

They defend their cultural studies, their speculative sociology and their lonely planet political theories, their post-colonial empathy, their long meditation of the political use of the penis and the historical suffering of the vagina or their Cold Cuts Digest scientific literacy, in short, their willful imbecility and happy ineptitude with accusations of misogyny, racism and persecution. But all who care to look know that the only true persecutor of these destroyers of nobel thinking are their own consciences. The university has been destroyed by the ravaging advance of political perversity with the unstoppable metastasis of malignant growth.

So who will be left? All that institutions need is time because time is always on their side. Students will go and faculty will mostly preserve the status quo. And in the end, voices of protest will not even need to be addressed. But here is the thing: if the logic of this beasts is the logic of the client, then it behooves the client to punish the poor service that is rendered on dues that one day they will have to  settle. Either those who can will have to raise their voices when stupidity and flattery are presented as thought or they will be complicit in the collapse of their own thinking and in the abandonment of their own good conscience.

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A few collected thoughts on the end of American Democracy

What we just witnessed in Boston is an absolute aberration of the political order and–as it has always been the case–it happened with security as the excuse. The day that Bostonians accepted to hide at home from a 19 year old suspect and relinquish the public space to the police may become known to history as the day in which democracy in America entered its final phase. Could one imagine the French police locking down the entire city of Lyon in order to capture a criminal?  What was just normalized was a state of siege directly under the nose of approving citizens who celebrated the foundation of arbitrary suppression of public rights. From now on, locking a city is not only acceptable but desirable.

That day, we were made to witness the fact that Americans in fear will do just about anything to protect their flesh and at the most infirm sign of safety will go on to celebrate in pageants of political perversity saluting those who just abused their rights and subverted the political order. At least this time they did not go out blowing up other countries… though we may be speaking too soon. Either way, this was just more of the traditional American trial by mob, which a decade ago brought us Iraq and the mass pouring of French wines into gutters around the country along with the sagacious political operation to re-baptize fried potatoes to disguise their putative ethnicity. While as a matter of fact, the 19 year old on the run was a suspect it was only by an act of sheer grandstanding that the Boston police could claim that justice had been done. In fact, the very declaration that justice had been done was the very act of perverting justice. A lie. In god’s american, policemen and their friends are now prosecution, defense and judge?

So what would be called for in this hour of mayhem? How should Mr. Zarnajew be dealt with? Much in the way that Norway handled the Brevik case and not in the was that the American system handled the Strauss Kahn case. No public showing of the suspect, no walk of shame, no lock down of a city and no ‘usa-usa-usa’ college party in the streets of Watertown. The scenes in Boston were truly nauseating.

Since this should end up in a trial by jury, the jingoism and hysteria disqualify just about anyone with a TV or Internet from adjudicating this case. Not only is Massachusetts  no longer a state where this man can receive a fair trial. No longer is the US a place where this man can receive a fair trial. Should we trust any of those in the street waving flags and chanting to treat the case fairly and the evidence objectively? These people have already decided that this man is guilty and no evidence–not a shred–has yet been presented. A bait has been swallowed whole. In fact, the recipe is an important AngloAmerican contribution to justice: due process.

Meanwhile Carmen Ortiz the prosecutor who came under heavy artillery after threatening Aaron Schwartz with 50 years of jail time and ultimately leading him to commit suicide has just showed her face as the force behind the epic Boston salvation. Ortiz who will likely prosecute the case just saved her career by mounting this entire circus and appearing on a press conference to declare guilty the man that she has not yet prosecuted. This woman should be investigated and she should under no circumstances be allowed to prosecute the Zarnajew case.  The conflict of interest should be obvious: her legal and political career depends not on a fair trial, not on serving justice but on Zarnajew being guilty. This is precisely what the American legal system has to weed out from the prosecutorial culture, the presumption of guilt. Yet, such a reform in the cultural fiber of the American legal system is virtually unattainable.

A confabulation of media, political cadres and the public has been put in place and justice is again effected with pitchforks. Open any newspaper or news outlet and the cautionary voices are a minuscule minority. The tragedy of all of this is that if the man is indeed guilty, the US will have denied itself the happy conscience of having served justice and if he is innocent it will have added another name to the list of the unjustly punished. Meanwhile, the system will continue to crumble though its final song will come when finally the fat lethargy of the American public realizes that the mob that they joined can just as easily turn on them. . Take a look at Boston and see how nations wilt exactly in the same part of the plant where they had once bloomed.

The Bible, The Constitution and the American Gun

By the standards of a developed country, the American is a violent society though surely not only on account of guns. The US is one of the only developed nation–save Japan–with an active and busy death row. Over the past few years, it has ventured in more military interventions that any other western country, often playing the role of a geopolitical cowboy. To underwrite these adventures, it has built a massive military machine which for the first time in half a century begins too look too small and insolvent for its global aspirations. In some sense, the American way is the way of the gun, the sword, the punch and the stick. And if there are ever any carrots, the carrots are mostly use for target practice and to measure the sharpness of the blade.

But this is also the society of the book. Or rather, of the two good books: the bible and the constitution. And just like most of the pious America which takes theology lessons from Glen Beck and learns comparative religion by the scholars at FoxNews, the American constitution is also approached with passionate devotion and abysmal ignorance. This combination of brutality and piety issues in one of the most remarkable aspects of the American socio-political character: the moral justification of brutal violence. The American gods are bloodthursty and, needless to say, always right.

It is no surprise that a society historically bound to the morality of violent death will find ways to justify the conditions necessary for violent death. Even in the face of what for any other civilized human being would be an outrage of decency and common sense, in the face of the death by fire of children and teachers, movie goers and high-school students, almost half of the US insists that the instruments of death–guns certainly do not shoot themselves–should be preserved for the use of the civilian population. Why? Because of the always impending need to kill or prevent one’s own killing.

But, the political use of firearms among the civilian population is something of which the American society has no tolerance, even if militias and tea partiers insist that they do. These people are mostly adults playing make-believe games. The buy guns, move to the middle of the woods and roll around in the mood pretending to free a country from an enemy that they conjure in their minds. At a younger age, this can be adorable. With a severe midlife crisis and live ammunition, it is rather frightening though not for that matter any less ridiculous.

In fact, when in the 60ies and 70ies the US saw the emergence of groups brandishing weapons for political purposes (Symbionese Liberation Army or the Black Panthers) they recoiled and fell back in line with the political intuition of most adults. Societies are safer when the monopoly of violence is kept by the state. However, since those days are long gone and a black president has stirred the fears of the white heartland, the country has seen the escalation–rather steep–of civilian militarization. In fact, if we are to believe the latest statistics based on NRA new memberships, private arsenals have grown at a tune of a quarter million in just the last month. So Obama has done what any sensible individual would do if granted enough power and the 14 executive orders plus the legislative plans had the texture of the stuff American political movies are made of.

So will this measures end gun violence in the US? Well, the NRA does not think so and it seems that half the country agrees. But that half of the country need hardly be taken seriously. The majority almost never knows what best administrative practices are let alone public policy and governance. Take for instance the often repeated claim that gun bas have not worked in Chicago and New York. The statement is so inane that it is hardly understandable that anyone would advance it without blushing. Chicago and New York do not have customs and immigration officers controlling the flow of people and goods at the border. The gun you buy in Gary, Indiana you can shoot in West Wicker Park.  So while the ban in Chicago is nominal, it is, because of federal law unenforceable.  Making it impossible for anyone to find a gun from California to Bangor, would make chicago a gun free area by virtue of what we may call environmental profilaxis. If the neighbors are not sick, then it is unlikely that there will be contagion. This is particularly important with assault weapons.

Making assault weapons illegal ensures that law abiding civilians will not get them and reduces quite radically that chance the other types of civilians will find them. It is not a full-proof solution because the borders of the US are still porous, but eliminating access of civilians to assault weapons will have a significant effect in, well, reducing their presence in civil society.

Mostly this should go without saying, though in the US the ‘go without saying’ category has severely shrunk. This is nowhere as visible in the latest salvo by the NRA–pun intended. “Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.” or so says Mr. LaPierre. We should not take weapons away from law-abiding citizens, the good guys. But it seems important to point out that the people that have used assault weapons in mass shooting over the past few years were by and large law-abiding citizens, until, of course, they no longer were. It is not Dr. Evil who was running  through the American small towns and big cities, robbing banks and shooting old laides with assault weapons.  Assault weapons were used in these cases by people that belonged to the average population. University students, dejected teenagers, etc. To wit, the problem with assault weapons is that people with no previous convictions, as was the case with Harris and Klebold, Laughner and now Lanza, can get them and use them. In other words, the very problem with assault weapons in the US is that it is available to law abiding citizens often with very little provisions and precautions.

Of course, for the NRA and its choir, these are de facto, ‘bad guys’ and who would want to disagree. These are the people against whom murderous violence is morally justified ut it is precisely this which should be kept in mind: these ‘bad guys’ against whom violence ought to be exercised, were, before unloading their weapon, good guys.

So then, there is the legalistic piety: the holly constitution grants the right to own gun and ammunition for the sake of forming a well-trained militia. Of course, these well-trained militias at the service of freedom from repressive military machines are not really there other than in the infantile mind of the boys with toys in Michigan and Montana. What a militia could do against Red Coats, no assault weapon can do against a professionalized army with a nuclear arsenal. The second amendment is entirely obsolete. If the grounds for holding onto weapons is preserving the state from a modern oppressive power then the constitution ought to be amended to permit private citizens to hold anti-aerial and ballistic misiles in their backyards. This would be the standard necessary for a well-trained and armed militia.

Thus, the constitutional argument is not an argument for anyone with a modicum of knowledge of the unfolding and evolution of legal statues. The construction of the constitution as all else is time sensitive and historically contextual, despite what Scalia in his drunken rants may believe. In fact, a modern democratic state, demands an informed citizenry that is capable of rectifying the legal sins and  juridical fossils that are inherited form times of olden.  Just as we have given up on the right to punish slaves in certain ways once we have given up on slavery–even if the constitution granted some the right to own other human beings–we have come to recognize that it is the state upon which we grant the right of the use of force. And it is from the state that we demand the right to use force under certain circumstances. But to demand by a reference to the 18th century’s political context the right to exercise political violence is an expression of complete political ineptitude.

Thus, the constitution is certainly not a sacred document–if there are any sacred document at all–even if half of the American public has the strange habit of approaching everything in the way that they approach religion–with ignorance and piety. These people, however, can rest assured that society is not a jungle divided between ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. Society is a much more rich and complex tapestry of social mechanisms which includes ‘deranged guys’ and an enormous amont of ‘stupid guys’ which mostly, seem to live below the Mason Dixon line. It is indeed not evil from which we must protect children but from ‘good intentions’ which the rode to hell is paved with. For this, it is important that the instruments for exercising such intentions be made sparse. The fewer assault weapons, the fewer bullets that can be fired a second by the pious, the deranged and the stupid. And to deal with the evil, Americans will have to learn the lesson that their parents and grandparents knew perhaps a bit too well. They will have to learn to trust the state.

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The 5 Theses of Cyber-cosmopolitanism: The virtual domain of enlightenment.

Virtual platforms have been condemn for a variety of reasons. Among them, a certain sense recurs concerning the lack of ‘authenticity’ of the modes of online interaction. Yet, the internet is in all sorts of way neither better nor worse than many of the other modes of interaction that characterize the public sphere.

 

As in the public market, a person can lie, can present itself in disguise, can pretend, can misrepresent himself, can violate privacy. But as in the public space—in the public square—the internet can be thought as the space in which the public sphere finds its home. The Habermassian café has now included innumerable living rooms and offices around the world.

 

Under this light, and considering the constitutive importance that the public sphere in the development and promotion of the values and practices of enlightenment, the challenge ahead concerns the articulation, regulation and protection of the internet as the space for the exercise of the political.

 

Here I sketch the grounds of the following guiding idea: The internet is the best and most powerful tool for the promotion and proliferation of the ideals and practices of enlightenment. That is, the internet is—especially in the guise of so-called “social media”—the very space for the development of a global democracy.

 

These are the reasons:

 

The 5 Theses:

  1. The internet is currently the ideal space fort he development of a trans-national and meta-juridical public sphere.
  2. The internet is currently the ideal space for the trans-national and meta-geographic construction of communities of care.
  3. The internet is currently the ideal space for the development and exercise of a trans-national and meta-demographic community of reason.
  4. Reason and care can be thought as central tropes in a productive dynamic of democratic deliberation.
  5. The internet is currently the most powerful tool for the development, fostering and practice of a trans-national, meta-juridical, global and inter-demographic democracy.

 

The project could be defined in three parts. 1. The articulation of the internet as a political space in the guise of the theses just enumerated. 2. The articulation of governance and policy for the promotion and strengthening of these positions and 3. The design and deployment of tools for the promotion of political enlightment: cosmopolitanism, tolerance and reason.

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