Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

http://www.ptb.be/nieuws/artikel/ukraine-la-tres-grande-majorite-des-ukrainiens-ne-veut-pas-de-cette-nouvelle-guerre-civile.html

An interesting article that points out the huge cultural and economic differences within Ukraine, the problematic role of the nationalist (neo-nazi) party Svoboda, the absence of important classes of society in the news and other platforms (workers, farmers, the unemployed…), the problem of Western media that depends on the English speaking Ukrainians and seems to actively search for people with pro-Western opinions (idem dito for the pro-Russia media and movement), foreign interventions through both economic and political means, oligarchy & corruption

Why haven’t I heard or read anything of this quality in the (I hate to use the word) “mainstream” news?

I don’t care about getting an update every five minutes about a gunshot, catapult or the occupation of some ministry. Take your time, a few hours or even days, and write a proper article. This mini political party in a mini country managed writing a good article about Ukraine. I’m sure the large media companies own the means to reach the same quality.

The new history books in Belgian schools start with a brief discussion of the different ways to view time. Twelve year olds’ first chapter won’t be about Ancient Greece anymore, that’s moved one spot. Instead, they start learning about progression v. digression; linear v. cyclical; finite v. infinite. Interesting! Although I’m having some second thoughts about the classification of the contemporary Western view on time as linear, progressive and (virtually)infinite…

Linear. Years go on and on. Going from the 31st of December to the first of January adds another year to our collection. Yet, our weeks always go from Monday to Sunday and start over again at Monday; months and seasons follow each other, but once their cycle of twelve or four is over, they start again. Every year we have the same special days like Eastern, May First and Christmas. People are at home, come together with family or friends, prepare sometimes for days ahead. Children, students and employees look forward to their day off. We all start our lives as needy and helpless creatures and many of us end-up in a similar way.

It seems to me that the linear view of time is highly popular in history classes in contemporary Belgium, not necessary in our society as such.

Progression. Even though people around me are materially and intellectually well endowed, many of them fear the future. Our parents who are in their 50s fear for their pensions. We, in our 20s, are afraid that we won’t be able to find a steady job, buy a house and settle happy and safely like our parents did. Conservatives fear cultural degradation, liberals fear an attack upon their freedom rights and socialists fear the demolition of a carefully build 20th century welfare system.

Economic uncertainty and cultural changes have made people lyrical about the good old post-WW II 20th century.

Infinite. Time itself probably won’t stop soon, but that doesn’t mean that our view on history is infinite. The end of times according to physics is far away. The end of humanity might be closer. The end of my life even closer. Death of others, diseases or other horrible things might not kill you, but will make history stop from your point of view. Grandparents, parents, I, children and grandchildren, those are in some respects my limits.

Infinity is only accepted in a vague theoretical way. Every aspect of our life and even our conceptions of things we somehow conceive as infinite are always limited.

On the December the 16th, the world acknowledged the existence of Ukraine. After watching the news on Russia Today, The Young Turks and REAL News there are some things all of them agree on: there is a protest in Ukraine, the country has economic difficulties and the show by John McCain was, to say the least, questionable.

RT focusses on the chaos and economic difficulties the protests created. The protesters can’t do much more than screaming “revolution!” and “down with the president!”Experts Stephen F. Cohen (professor Russian Studies at NYU) and Mark Sleboda (professor International Relations at MSU) were both very explicit in their condemnation of McCain’s appearance. I wonder what the experts would say about the police brutality, the protester’s demands and the role of the EU and Russia. Unfortunately they were only brought in to state the things in the before-mentioned list of inter-media agreements.

TYT is a fun news show, but they seem to lack a strong body of journalist to feed them information. It’s a bit unfortunate how the host remarked that the Ukrainian people don’t want to be the satellite country of Russia. Besides that biased remark, they weren’t able to bring much news. Ukraine exists, there is a protest and since we are for democracy, we support the protest. I wonder what TYT would say about a party like Svoboda, who is currently part of the pro-EU demonstration, but has neonazi connections. Or what about the objections RT made about the huge blockades, chaos and negative influence on the economy? Are protests by definition something we should support?

The REAL News brought in an expert from the start. Associate professor Jeffrey Sommers of Wisconsin-Milwaukee focusses mainly on the role McCain plays. Just like the RT professors, but with a bit more body, Sommers explained how McCain missed the end of the Cold War. At the end of the interview, the host asks what the people of Ukraine need. Unfortunately, Sommers doesn’t get much farther than stating the awkward situation of Ukrain’s economy and the need to develop the economy. Again, we didn’t get much farther than the list of inter-media agreements.

The lack of information about the protests in Ukraine, combined with the constant use of so-called experts seems an example of the declining quality of the news organisations. The result is a variety of news shows that, in this case, mainly report three points that everyone could have come up with. RT bothers me in their biased selection of topics and words; TYT made a clearly biased statement as a result of their lack of information; and REAL News doesn’t manage to bring the information in the right format. I sometimes hear these stories how groups of journalists were specialized in specific topics and regions. Not only would they know how to get the information and analyse it, they were also journalist and thus managed to bring the information in a text to the broad masses.

Manifest and Latent Racism (3)

Posted: November 28, 2013 in Society
Tags: , ,

Every day is a new day full of absolutely crazy remarks about race and religion. Whenever I complain about these issues I say for example “today there were six arrogant bastards who said this and that”.  I never draw any generalising conclusion from this. I’ve never said that all the white middle class people in Belgium (or Flanders) are racist fuckheads. Not only harsh and unfounded words, but also the easy jump from particulars to large groups of people is a crucial part of racism.

Everybody around me agrees that the remarks I hear every day are insane. At the same time, in multiple occasions the same people will draw from one (!) comment by a muslim a conclusion about the whole of Islam and all its participants. They don’t seem to notice their own change of words.

“Person X said this, therefore, they are all this and that.”

Why can’t we talk about the sexist fuckhead with the beard in the same way as we talk about the racist fuckhead with his gnome in his front yard? In a situation with muslims or blacks, there seems this automatic generalisation. As if they’re all the same anyway, right?

The Zeitgeist Movement is an organization with a progressive message. Even though I consider myself a progressive, there are multiple things in the Zeitgeist Movement that I don’t appreciate. Or let me be plain from the start: it stinks. In order to keep this post nice and clean, I’ll simply discuss their mission statement on the international and Belgian website. There is much more madness elsewhere, but even this post is a waste of time… (“Haters gonna hate“, but equally important believers gonna belief).

Firstly, the movement is more than a loose group of people. They are doing their utmost best to organize themselves and spread their message. Thus, the word “organization” seems a better fit. This isn’t only a matter of semantics. They explicitly claim not to be a political organization. The first sentence on the Belgian websites states “The Zeitgeist Movement is not a political movement.” Yet, they clearly have an ideology and work with structures similar to international political organizations.

Secondly, they have a clear enemy, namely, the current social structure. On the website you can read:

The Movement recognizes that issues such as poverty, corruption, collapse, homelessness, war, starvation and the like appear to be ‘Symptoms’ born out of an outdated social structure.

But what is this outdated social structure like? They refuse to use nationalities, classes and other categories, but even if these are abolished in their ultimate dream world, these categories still have a function in the analysis of the current world. Besides, how should we talk about this social structure if we can’t make any distinctions between groups of people? And, if we do make such groups, what should they be based on? And, where does this social structure come from?

The third and most problematic point for me is the rejection of politics and the complete belief in science and technology.  As if the study of science and technology won’t need anymore political decision-making. The website says:

“[…] the defining goal here is the installation of a new socioeconomic model based upon technically responsible Resource Management, Allocation and Distribution through what would be considered The Scientific Method of reasoning problems and finding optimized solutions. This “Natural Law/Resource-Based Economy” is about taking a direct technical approach to social management as opposed to a Monetary or even Political one. It is about updating the workings of society to the most advanced and proven methods Science has to offer […]”

Whenever a movement has a clear political ideology and programme, but refuses the concept of politics and is confident that decision-making don’t need politics, I feel a little shiver. It reminds me of the vile interpretations and terrible implementations of marxism with the ridicules use of the word “objective“. On the Belgian website they literally claim that their ideas don’t need a “subjective interpretation“. The world is clear, straightforward and simple. And, surprise surprise, the Zeitgeist Movement owns the Truth of how to organize the social structure.

Truth isn’t here something that you search and work for in dialog and struggle with others. Truth becomes something eternal, external and in the hands of the Movement. With these characteristics you can crush every opposition. Every action by men is condoned by the Truth out there. It’s fundamentalism at its purest form.

I could discuss their specific views on ethics, psychology and other topics, but in general, they are obviously lacking basic knowledge of political philosophy (in its broadest sense). Some “new” ideas are hundreds years old. But, more importantly, they are often extremely naive and simplistic. Those ideas have been criticized, improved and edited in the past. Unfortunately the Zeitgeist Movement hasn’t payed any attention to this. For example, the idea that we shouldn’t blame individual bankers and CEOs, but the structure of our economy and society as such. Yet, unlike Marx and others, they haven’t made a thorough analysis of this current structure. Or the Rousseauian naivety about the blank slate newborns, thrown  out on the internet in the most un-nuanced and ridiculous way. The Zeigeist Movement might be interesting to motivate 15 year olds. But I hope that they will quickly move to more serious things.

Ultimately, the Zeitgeist Movement is an ideology, it’s politics. Ignoring this clears the way for fundamentalism.

EDIT: “We have to stop delegating decision-making to people and delegate decision-making to a process of rational thought.” – Peter Joseph on TYT.

EDIT: The same comments in a youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTClaNxBkvM

Edward W. Soja Quote

Posted: November 18, 2013 in History/Philosophy, Society

“To be urbanized still means to adhere, to be made an adherent, a believer in a specified collective ideology rooted in extensions of polis (politics, policy, polity, police) and civitas (civil, civic, citizen, civilian, civilization). In contrast, the population beyond the reach of the urban is comprised of idiotes, from the Greek root idios, meaning ‘one’s own, a private person’, unlearned in the ways of the polis (a root akin to the Latin sui ‘of it’s own kind’, with generis ‘constituting a class alone’). Thus, to speak of the idiocy of rural life or the urbanity of its opposition is primarily a statement of relative poitical socizaliation and spacialization, of the degree of adherence/separation in the collective social order, a social order hingeing on urban nodality.” – Edward W. Soja – Postmodern Geographies The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory p. 235.

Arrogance seems a key element within racism. In order to make claims about groups of people that often include many millions, you need arrogance to ignore your lack of information and the internal complexity of the selected group.

For good reasons, many people often base their opinions on the news. Within ca. one hour a day they get information about the whole world. Luckily, most of us are wise enough to acknowledge our limitations and try to avoid claims that are all to strong. Only a person with a (slightly) distorted psychological condition can jump from these few bits and bytes of information to general claims.

It’s ok to listen, read, think and, yes, even to judge. But stay open-minded for new information and don’t take too many drastic actions that you can’t reverse.

It’s ok to draw links between race, poverty, education and criminality. But searching connections is like an archaeological endeavour that needs time and resources. Also, when x is connected to y, the one isn’t reduced to the other.