About OUFI

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London, United Kingdom
Welcome to my Blog. This Blog provides a platform for free expressions on issues of importance that appeal to the independent mind. Matters of political, moral and social concern, that may agree with or contravenes our free and well-intentioned thinking, have free reign on this blog. Friends and colleagues can express and respect different opinions on current or historical issues that at times may run counter to established worldview. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” - Voltaire

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Teutonic Embrace


Bernhard von Bülow (1849-1929), who served as Reich Chancellor from 1900 to 1909, gave his famous speech on Germany’s “place in the sun” when he was foreign minister. His vision of Germany as a colonial power became the ideological foundation of German naval expansion, which began shortly after that.

German industrious zeal over the last hundred years despite the experiences of two world wars had never deserted the German sense of achievement.  German dominance in Europe, until recently was thought a thing of the past, but recent economic activities raised eyebrows in many political circles and suspicions abounds that the resurgence of German hegemony is casting its shadows over Europe yet again. This essay will focus on the historical evidence that contributed to this thinking and the evidence we have today.  This piece will attempt to demonstrate that with careful monitoring by Berlin of German fiscal and banking policies, Germany has protected its currency behind the Euro where German capital is dominating Europe and profits from the misery of the austerity measures it helps to impose.

Von Bulow though he presented himself as the guardian of Bismarck’s heritage was no Bismarck.  In 1865 serving as Chancellor under Kaiser Wilhelm I, it was the genius of Count Otto von Bismarck with the aid of unifying force; Prussian military power and success in the war against France in 1870–71 brought together the Deutsche Zollverein a federation of 25 states.  Then he went on by alliances to achieve for the German industrial powerhouse, political and economic superiority in Europe. Then came, Weltpolitik, the Wilhelmine Keiser foreign relations idea was to transform Germany into a global power through aggressive diplomacy, the acquisition of overseas colonies, and the development of a large navy. The origins of the policy can be traced to a Reichstag debate on 6 December 1897 during which German Foreign Secretary Bernhard von Bülow stated, "...We wish to throw no one into the shade, but we demand our own place in the sun."

As before, at the turn of the Twentieth Century, modernization and globalisation for Germany so today means domination.  Chancellor Otto von Bismarck seized colonies for Germany in the mid-1880s to exploit class antagonisms created by industrialisation and to build a strong foundation of support for the new Reich so is the present Chancellor of Germany Angela Dorothea Merkel attempts to control European currency for continued industrial expansion unhindered.  As before German leaders operating from The Reichstag thought they can dictate terms to a prostate enemy so today German Bundestag dictated austerity measures against an almost bankrupt Greece. 

Mitteleuropa; a concept for middle European economic union under German hegemony, was the brainchild of Friedrich Naumann in 1915. Naumann’s concept envisaged economic and cultural cooperation of the region’s inhabitants in the formation of a free trade zone.  Mitteleuropa denotes both a direction in German economic and political thought and the title of the most popular wartime (WWI) utopia.  It was a replacement to the slowing down of imperialist colonial expansion to provide alternative markets for continued German industrial development.  It was also a divisive policy providing an impetus to the nationalist movements among the ethnic structures in Europe to look at Germany for leadership.  Soon enough early into the Great War in 1916, it took on imperialist colours in the shape of territorial expansion starting with Poland.  Mitteleuropa prioritised the displacement of Poles and Jews to resettle Russian Germans in the newly acquired areas fusing initial economic ideas with the ideology of the German Lebensraum (Living Space).

Fast forward to 1933 we find Hitler’s growing fascination with the United States and increasing efficiency.  Its success, together with concern that Europe in general, and Germany in particular, would be relegated to an inferior status primarily because they lacked American dynamism and the massive internal market provided by the North American landmass. Germany’s expansion to the east to gain Lebensraum would provide a source of raw materials and create an internal market of American proportions while building an upwardly mobile workforce educated enough to achieve that aim. The Nazi views were “that a superior people (German) always have the right to conquer and to own the land of an inferior people.”

 And so we see the dominance of Germany in Europe once again in 2017 taking hold using the Euro as a tool for subjugating its ‘partners’ but within its entrails a mechanism for global domination. The new American administration has already indicated that it is preparing for global economic and currency war. The White House claimed that Germany is using its money to “exploit” its neighbours, particularly southern European neighbours and the United States. The White House evidently thinks of the European Union and the monetary union that established the euro currency, as essentially a mechanism to protect German interests and extend German power.  It holds German capital domination of Europe responsible, in the event, it has placed in its crosshairs the Deutsch Mark. 

To find out what got us here we take a quick short look at recent currency history.  Before the emergence of the Euro, we had the European Monetary System (EMS).  In the 1970's the American Dollar was weakening with much of world capital going to Germany which propped up the Deutsche mark exerting inflationary pressure on the German economy, weakening scopes for German exports.  Linking the Deutsch mark within a union of other European currencies hedged its currency from extreme evaluations either way. In a sense, the Euro is akin to a European German currency standing in opposition to the Dollar, an international currency underpinned by unlimited printing.   Since wage inflation in Germany was much lower than the rest of Europe, it stood to gain most than other European countries.  Distrusting the Dollar was no longer an option but imperative, so releasing the European currencies from a monetarist straitjacket was essential to minimise the volatility.  While protecting its industrial powerhouse, the Euro today maintains Germany’s grasp for European economic primacy where it had failed a century earlier. 

What this means, of course, Germany is able to build massive exports and current account surpluses. In recent years this has become of great concern to the American administration since they believed that such German under consuming of goods and services placed a brake on the world economy as a whole.  The IMF estimates Germany’s 2017 surplus as 8.1 percent of GDP with a policy of keeping the Euro low, in an export-driven economy, is no more than keeping the Deutsche mark lower than it should be.  The new American administration is distraught because it can not get at the Deutsch mark since it is fenced in by the Euro.   
  
Here is the catch.  Germany, easily biggest economy in the euro area keeps building up its reserves through its exponential exports drive and growth, holding steadfast to the Euro from disintegrating while through a system of money transfers it props up failing economies.  The German central bank, The Bundesbank today holds almost €1 trillion euros (see chart) of claims against the troubled economies of Greece, Ireland, Italy and other EU ‘partners’ in what is termed TARGET2 system of claims. At the same time, such unrelenting financing has become too big for it to go backwards if that happen claims on German banks can cause a severe breakdown to German economy posing real threats to the German industrial powerhouse. However, the position is firmly grounded by politicians and academics, who say that if the European Central Bank (ECB) interferes it would be an illegal monetary financing that violates German law. Germany today enjoys an economic utopia chiefly of its own making the rest of Europe could only envy.  If Angela approves then, Europe endorses this is how it is going thus far, but could Mittleuropa last?

For the one thing, the drums of the currency war are not about to miss a beat, and the Dollar is far too arrogant to let an upstart such as the Euro to spearhead world economies. The second point, I believe to be far more damaging is the drum roll of history. Envy, jealousy or the pressures of austerity has produced resentment and claims for past wrongs need to be justified.  Germany’s insistence that loans from Berlin…must be repaid in full – and with interest” – says the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.   A Christian Democrat, no less, as are the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.  Such monolithic sounding statements stands in stark contrast to the American and other European countries approach to wave away the hefty war reparation payments imposed on Germany after the two world wars. With the modern dystopia, of a North - South divide in Europe, I don’t see a way out for the troubled economies of the southern region.  Without easing the austerity measures, the disparities of income will widen, and the resulting anger will prove to be the primary cause that will eventually see the fragmentation of the European Union.  





Sunday, 12 February 2017

The Emotional Reason

Illuminating Morality Part 2 (Concluding)



The judgment that something is morally wrong is an emotional response. It doesn’t follow that every emotional response is a moral judgment. 

Doing right for the wrong reason or doing wrong for the right reason.

This is the second part of an essay on Illuminating Morality a continuation of part one from last week which said that Cultural inferences, Biological or innate part of our human nature, as well as language, combined determine our moral decisions.  More often than not, rationality or reason hardly influences our moral decisions putting them on the second tier of cognitive reasoning. With that in mind, I here argue, taking one of the three, that Cultural conditioning is the mainspring for our moral decisions gives us the ability merely observe to pass judgment.  This, incidentally, contradicts what many believe the potential to observe without judgment is one of the highest forms of intellectualism. 

Still, having gone on the side of Cultural conditioning as the primary source for our moral induction, we are immediately confronted by the notion of relativity which I shall examine in this essay.  Relativist, believe that conflicting moral beliefs can both be true. The staunch socialist and righteous Conservative are both equally right; they just occupy different moral worldviews. Both, take into account a comprehensive view of the adamant conviction that each is correct and that the conversation partner is mistaken where both assume the other is making the blunder. 

Such moral misconception mostly embedded in the positive illusion that makes us take the moral high ground to what makes us think we are special and right.  We convince ourselves that we know we have authority to tell others they are wrong. That we are juster and more knowing and we are even better drivers and better at making sandwiches or other trivia.  A flourishing dogmatism oblivious to alternative facts or considerations but merely backed by an unshakable conviction of being right is the only presupposition grounding our moral justification.  Balancing a vainglorious self-righteous conviction carries their emotional statements simply based on culturally induced preferences  A conclusion based on the rather flimsy belief that if we were all acutely aware of the totality of consequences and implications, as he or she sees them, we would not be in disagreement about moral objections. 

The decision as to whether drug consumption or prostitution is inherently malignant or such matters as abortion, euthanasia, gun control, same-sex unions, pornography, all differ in value conflicts and entails decisions about  ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ taken irrespective whether our values we attach to them are valid. Many rest their judgment on all the above on the firm belief of right or wrong on emotive impulses.  They are ‘just not right’ or ‘just wrong’.  Many of us often fail to distinguish between value judgment and a moral or emotional expression. 

David Hume, prominent Scottish Eighteenth century thinker, supports a ‘Passivist’ view.  This is “beliefs are established for us by the state of affairs around us and only by that;  we have no input into that belief.” What you observe then you believe in what you observe. No need for rationality but conditioning that induces you towards that belief.  “Reason is always a slave to the passions.”  Whereas Rene Descartes, a French philosopher expressed an ‘Activist’ view where belief is an intersubjective understanding derived from reason. As you may have gathered, I lean on the ‘Passivist’ view.

Our attitude to morals dramatically changes over a period.  What society accepts today it did not accept 300 years ago and vice versa.  This variation spans time as well as regions.  Take cannibalism, a practice, Anthropologists tell us, was widespread in many parts of the world surprisingly in over 34% of cultures at one time or another. Take blood sports when in Roman society human being killing each other was fun to see considered pleasurable pastime. Rather similar to bull killing (fighting) in Spain today.   Head hunting a culture among Celts warriors, the ancient Britons decapitating and hanging the heads of their enemies over the neck of their horses, and until the eighteenth century in Benin City near River Niger in what is now Nigeria, the collection of skulls and human sacrifice was part of life.  Or, even the painful footbinding of young girls in China, a culture that lasted for 1,000 years.  Variation in attitudes towards violence is paralleled by variation in attitudes towards sex and marriage. Arranged marriage is also common, and some cultures marry off girls while they are still pubescent or even younger. In parts of Ethiopia, half the girls are married before their 15th birthday. It is morally wrong to deny others what we do not accept as we will not accept to deny us what we think is right.  One reason being who is to say that our contemporary outlook on marriage change to run along Ethiopian line in the future and look back at our culture as regressive and ‘uncivilised’.  Also, with such dominating attitude, we are in danger of smugly supposing superiority. Each culture assumes it is in possession of the moral truth. The practice of sending elderly relatives to nursing homes is considered wrong by one and right by another culture.

There is another argument that suggests cultural inferences caused by variations in circumstance and the need to adapt to the environment otherwise people everywhere agree on similar values.  For example slave owners natural tendency to believe that slaves were intellectually inferior. Or, for Inuits, because life was hard and constant shortage of food they practised infanticide.   Such arguments would also seem to suggest it is right to enslave those with low IQ’s and it is right to kill off impoverished children.  But it is spectacularly implausible that all moral differences can be explained this way. Differences in circumstances do not show that people share values; rather, they help to explain why values end up being so different.  When societies converge morally is usually because one has dominated the other, as with the missionary campaigns to end cannibalism.

In conclusion, moral judgment is an emotive reaction, conditioned and osmotic devoid of the reason for its reaction.  Reason is only reactionary to bring attention to value- value judgment as opposed to emotive judgment.  ‘Don’t do this’ has a greater resonance that ‘do this’ a child had already internalised a moral value since parents correct antisocial behaviours for example; spanking, withdrawing love, ‘go to your room’, to experience a negative emotion to learn.  Reasoning with children on what is a moral value so often fail since by definition all moral responses are emotional attitudes. Some of us within seconds go from having no idea what something is, to developing strong feelings about it, to being outraged when anyone disagrees.  What makes us feel bad must also be wrong.  Is that right?

I leave you with this thought experiment:

Bank error in your favour

When Richard went to the ATM, he got a very pleasant surprise.  He requested £100 with a receipt.  What he got was £10,000 with a receipt - for £100

When he got home, he checked his account online and found that, sure enough, his account had been debited by only £100.  He put the money in a safe place, fully expecting the bank swiftly to spot the mistake and ask for it back. But the weeks passed, and nobody called.

After two months, Richard concluded that on one was going to ask for the money.  So he headed off to the BMW dealership with the hefty down-payment in his pocket.

On the way, however, he did feel a twinge of guilt.  Wasn’t this stealing? He quickly managed to convince himself it was no such thing.  He had not deliberately taken the money, it had just been given to him.  And he hadn’t taken it from anyone else, so no one had been robbed.  As for the bank, this was a drop in the ocean for them, and anyway, they would be insured against such eventualities.  And it was their fault they had lost the money – they should have had safer systems.  No, this wasn’t theft.  It was just the biggest stroke of luck he had ever had.

Are people naturally immoral? What if it was not a bank but another human being? Are we judging by a peculiar sense of justice?

The reason why Richard was so easily persuaded by his own argument, he is prone to self-serving bias in his thinking.  It is very difficult to disable this bias and think impartially, after all, why should I?

Thought experiment extracted from a book by Julain Baggini ‘The Pig that Wants to be Eaten’, (p. 40), Granta Publications, Copyright 2005 Julain Baggini, ISBN 1 86207 7487



Sunday, 5 February 2017

Illuminating Morality



Many people easily confuse Morality with Ethics, so let us get that out of the way for starters. I will also hastily say you will not find right or wrong in this essay but it can if taken seriously enough give you food for thought as I try to shine a light on the sources for moral behaviour.  Consciously or unconsciously what are sources that would trigger our moral decisions?  What factors can go to formulate our moral action leads us to certainty, a convinced assessment, irrational or reasoned.

This chapter is a first of a two-part essay.  Next week I shall deal with the intricacies of Morality why be moral and whether morality is relative.  The changing attitudes that constitute our moral beliefs. Is it right to be judgmental?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary; it is the quality of morals or morality of a person or group of individuals’ moral principles or conduct. The definition also encapsulates moral qualities or endowments. While we are at it, Moral virtue is behaviour conforming to a moral law or accepted moral standards,  And according to OED, Ethics is a branch of knowledge dealing with systems of moral principles.

With that over, I also hope to show in this essay how we perceive feelings; altruistic or immoral that forms our ethical principles that emanate from within our inner thoughts.  It is interesting to note that our moral principles do not necessarily come from codes or book of laws. So many people acknowledge that we quarry our morality trends and formulate individual moral applications from some fixed points such as Mosaic laws etc.  Here I shall endeavour to explain this is not necessarily so since we can also instinctively excavate our right and wrong metrics from biological tributaries that are at work in our cognitive or mental impulses directing our sense to an ‘acceptable’ behaviour. 

There has recently been a move away from the traditional belief of two opposing sides for the originality of Morality; biological and cultural.  For many, the cognisant of impulses accounted from a hybrid set of factors such as language which constructive cultural interferences then modifies, but such signals triggered by biological impulses towards judgment and reasoning of errors.  The likely event is that in turn, moral judgment will then influence the free will that eventually points to intentions.  Neuroscientific techniques have led to new discoveries about the functional organisation of the ‘moral brain’ and the transmission of impulses for a final moral judgment.  

If we start with the premise that moral judgment is aimed at discovering moral truth, then psychology can find our senses unreliable like say faulty instrument.  The other premise is that every one of us has this intersubjective justification of knowing things to be morally right, but that can also prove defective.  This begs the question can we ever believe anything to be universally right? Well, yes, I posit that these two sound premises are not conflicting views but can run parallel. They can also contribute to one another to reach an understanding as subjective and verified true belief,  at the same time accept to establish human, and moral judgment is innate complimented from cultural factors.  As you will see below, there is another factor that directs our moral judgment such as language.  Indeed language has a significant role to play. In effect, none of these three factors works in unison but in a tripartite inclusion to arrive at an opinion.  Such is the fusion that fashions our conviction that can in extreme cases polarize or highlight disagreements, so we arrive at an almost unshakable conviction to our ‘true’ belief.

What seems to be clear at the outset there are two most important principles sources from which we extricate our moral directions.  On the one side, our moral judgments rooted in natural factors (biological) but that in all cases on appearance they are socially conditioned into a pattern of behaviour.  Additionally, since the turn of the twentieth century, psychologists have placed much less emphasis on the role of reasoning in moral judgment.  An audience were presented with a story where a brother and a sister performed acts of incest and were told beforehand; the pair went to extraordinary precautions to avoid conception.  Their moral judgments did not extend beyond “I don’t know why it’s wrong, it just is.” Such reasoning was later called ‘moral dumbfounding’ since a moral judgment arrived at spontaneously and in flashes and thinking probably would only follow much later if at all.  So this leads us to ask are moral judgments produced through conscious thought or unconscious psychological mechanisms. At the end is the belief rational is it reliable.  Yes, since spontaneous mathematical answers are no different, though correct does not mean arrived at in a rational way.  So defining spontaneity as flawed can at times be incorrect. See below where reasoned and reasonable judgments may not be reliable.

Here is a spontaneous judgment being, 

Wrong for the Right Reason.’

Get rich quick schemes. 
Most people who use email will receive message virtually every day promising huge riches for a ‘small’ capital outlay.  Because these are almost without exception frauds and it would take too much time to investigate their credentials one by one, the only rational course of action is to ignore them all.  However, that means it is possible that one day you will ignore a genuine opportunity and forgo great wealth.  That particular email would not be a fraud, yet in an important sense, you would still have reasoned correctly when you concluded it probably was.

And very briefly; moral judgments can also be affected when hungry or following a hearty meal, by the phrasing of questions, by the environment such as cleanliness and comfort of the surroundings. A likely wrong or biased decision made where the floor is littered with empty pizza boxes or if you have been drinking or expressing attitudes following an enjoyable movie or a day out. Moral orientation goes into overdrive when say going into a courtroom feeling vulnerable at a plaintiff’s attempt to chisel away some of your millions your biggest hope is for the judge to come back from an enjoyable lunch preferably downed with a glass of wine.  Interestingly, your cognitive impulses would instinctively direct your moral judgment towards an appeal to his moral bias. 

Some popular line of thoughts among Scientists and Psychologists that nearly all human morality is embedded in evolutionary biological factors of human nature. Recent experiments made on the cognitive responses of babies before application of language suggests there is strong correlation towards behaviour at a very early age:

The babies, seated on their parents’ laps, watched a puppet show in which a character trying to climb a hill was helped up by one puppet, but pushed back down by another puppet. Offered the opportunity to reach out and grasp one of the two puppets, babies showed a preference for the helping puppet over the hindering puppet.

Of course, this is a long way from a full proof experiment, but at the outset, it seems to suggest how human morality comes about; it builds upon innate preferences for pro-social behaviour.
In the cases of adults where the minds of human adults lead to display an evolutionary specialisation for moral judgment that compels most people to make persistent and predictable mistakes in evaluating abstract inferences. What this means is people’s natural tendency to perform much better judgments when applied to social norms rather than evaluating linkage between numbers and colours.  

For instance, rather than being asked to assess an abstract rule linking numbers and colours, people have been invited to evaluate a rule prohibiting those below a certain age from consuming alcohol. Participants in these studies made the common mistakes when looking for violations of abstract rules, but made fewer errors in detecting violations of social rules.

This experiment would suggest that moral judgment evolved as a domain-specific capacity, either Abstract or Social, rather than as an application of domain-general reasoning- a broad brush application. Preferences are dependent on the cultural uptake and where reasoning is either deemed less important or is a later addition.  If this is right, then there must be at least an innate (Biological) core to moral judgments.  This category also embraces causing harm, sharing benefits, resources, and respect for authority, etc.  This phenomenon also marked by regional geographical differences that can significantly affect judgments.  A prime example is where people from Eastern and Western hemisphere can differ in their views by engaging or prioritising one over the other.   

However, it is believed whatever brings the two principles Biological and Cultural together to mutate into judgment is language.  According to Noam Chomsky’s (1965) generative linguistics, “the capacity for language production […] functioning grammar is innate, but the enormous diversity of human languages comes about through myriad cultural settings and pruning within the evolutionarily allowed range of possible grammars.” In other words, the capacity of making moral judgments is within the grammar used in a particular language, but depending on the diversity of cultural presence it colours the decision to produce distinct local morality.


We also find that moral judgment is more a matter of emotion and affective intuition than deliberate reasoning.  For many, this means people decide without going through any reasoned or rational judgment in balancing a thought but appearing suddenly and effortlessly in consciousness that can take the form of an unshakable bond yet remain without foundation.  In such cases, there is never need to reorganise the mind to least searching, weighing evidence, or inferring a conclusion to confirm or deny their first line of thought.

The conditioning exposes the bias in our thinking and opinions obviously unable or unwilling to accept the presence of such biases. Our honest thoughts right or wrong drives our ethical principles and rational thinking hardly ever get a look-in.


I leave you with this:
When no one wins

Private Sacks was about to do a terrible thing.  He had been ordered to first rape and then murder the prisoner, whom he knew to be no more than an innocent civilian from the wrong ethnic background.  There was no doubt in his mind that this would be a gross injustice – a war crime, in fact. 

Yet quickly thinking it over he felt he had no choice but to go ahead.  If he obeyed the order, he would make the ordeal as bearable as possible for the victim, making sure she suffered no more than was necessary.  If he did not obey the order, he himself would be shot and the prisoner would still be violated and killed, but probably more violently.  It was better for everyone if he went ahead.

His reasoning seemed clear enough, but of course it gave him no peace of mind.  How could it be that he was both going to do the best he could in the circumstances and also a terrible wrong?

From a book by Julian Baggini (p. 19), ‘The Pig that Wants to be Eaten’


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Knowing me, knowing you (ah-haa)


Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
Abraham Lincoln
16th U.S. President

There is a fog of ambiguity about the man Donald Trump, President of the United States.  He shrouds himself in doubt and inconsistency while creating his self- style image of unpredictability.  Both, to date, are his greatest achievements.  He created tools that he has mastered and made all of his own, they not only won him the election to the highest office in America but the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.  His braggadocios approach, disdain for the rule of Law and demagoguery has brought him a faithful following.  In Latin American of old, they use to call El Caudillo or our leader carrying a heavy load as a racist, narcissistic, virility-obsessed, and self-aggrandizing despot who thrives on controversy.  Little Caesar, and authoritarian; before long Trump Squares and Trump Boulevards could scatter across the United States and Fourth of July likely soon to be Trump’s Thanksgiving Day.  Though he aligns himself to the Republican Party, elected by the People who make him even more attractive than the party he aligns himself.  A one-man juggernaut, where Executive orders reign is enforcing ‘legal’ prejudices, proving unstoppable neither by the entire press nor all reasoned thinking Americans.  Those who believe in him see no wrong.  So this piece is about him ‘ME’ and the People; phenomena believed by even a greater phenomenon. Trump is an all-encompassing figurehead surfing on a crest of a wave of Populism pushed by the tailwind of rhetoric and demagoguery. 

A maverick reality TV star Trump is an unlikely candidate for a populist. He inherited a fortune, he lives on Mount Olympus of New York’s Trump Tower surrounded in Louis XIV imitation opulence and hops around in a tailor made Boeing. Luxuries he does not share with his mainstream of working class supporters.  Of course, a politician doesn’t need to live like them to know their situation he only needs to be aware of their resentment and discontent.  Trump does that with illuminating clarity.  In typical Populist fashion, he doesn’t much care about ideologies coming from the Left or the Right but knocks the elite and the establishment, including the Press, he thumbs hard enough, and his followers love the sound of the bang.  So long as it is loud he doesn’t much care whether provable or justifiable, the louder the cry, and the tighter the ‘people’ embrace.   Indeed a PR dream and a Brand loyalty in the making. The shining irony, of course, is the working class who voted for this Billionaire outlines the rejection of factors that led Mr Trump to the White House: a continued erosion of trust in government, CIA, FBI and elected office. Distrust what you know but believe what you don’t know.  Realisations that the United States standard-bearer of democracy for the world has become a “flawed democracy”, where President Reagan adage ‘trust but verify’ now ring hollow.

When considering the attitude of the press we find a different picture, under pressure for facts, ‘Alternative Facts’ become part of the lexicon for the new administration.  I suspect in contrast to the ‘people’ they see Trump in a different light or see through him even.  His fake appearance puts them off starting with his aesthetic attributes. Top down; hair and his over indulgence of facial orange Tan is a turn-off, other fake blemishes remain to discover.  Overall, though, I believe that the self-styled guardians of the status quo, suspect that he has a tunnel approach through an echo chamber.  In stark contrast to their articles they carefully sift and thoroughly research credible sources; a planned approach he doesn’t much care for.  To Trump intellectualism and science is a secondary issue for justification of his claims.

The legendary writer Philip Roth, says he is “ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognising subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English." Besides, since the Press are the Establishment and the Elite, therefore, they have become an irrelevance.  The power of the press is no longer.  Maybe it is Red tie make them see Red or the idea he is trying to make Red the new Black, but his carefully coiffed appearance he can destroy whatever justified arguments they have craftily cultivated.    John D. Gartner, a registered psychotherapist from the renowned Johns Hopkins University Medical School, went so far as to describe Trump “he meets the diagnostic criteria for the disorder.”

‘We are transferring power from Washington D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.  For too long a small group in our nation’s capital have reaped the rewards of government while the people bore the costs.’ Studying the annals of History I often read similar synonyms to Fatherland or Motherland even the Proletariat, but I will be digressing. Listening to the roar that greeted his inauguration speech was mesmerising experience if only because the euphoria made on empty.  He further declared “Americans’ enemies are right here at home: globalists, neoliberal economists, neoconservatives and other unilateralists…politicians who serve the Ruling Establishment rather than the American people[…] while getting rich in the process.”  There were, as before, no credible policies to speak of but slogans under any other platform would be considered Slander.   It begs the question, is it possible to trust a person without knowing him or her or what they stand beside ‘Anti’? By all evidence so far the answer is yes by pinning hope against all the odds. The people give him the benefit of the doubt and assign Time to be the judge of his actions. Yes, he surfs through riding on a crest of wave wrapped in populism that fits with the general mood of anger and dissatisfaction that he can sense, but further hype up to his advantage.  An escalating public mood takes over and morphs into an alleyway of blind faith. With certainty and assurance unbounded by doubt he strives to convince people with their misgivings and exaggerates their prejudices and fears of uncertainties.  He colours with divisive highly controversial slogans ethnic nationalism or American Nationalism (mainly of European heritage) instilling fear in the white majority if you will.  How authentic sounding or how faithful his rhetoric maybe to his real convictions is irrelevant. Any challenge by dissenters is thrown out and presented with ‘Alternative Facts’.  Politics in populism need not carry proof.  Fears rise above reason or logic that grows from a ‘rational’ into a new philosophy of unshakable ‘understanding’.  He becomes the epitome, a whole new meaning of unjustified true belief.

“Hope that all goes right” is the motivating force that has put Trump in the White House. Trust is the key that has grabbed the voters’ senses, but how much does that trust come from his controversial promises to convince the potential voter.  To the extent the contradictions and misbehaviour, the rude remark made about a female TV presenter without later apologising did not deter the majority of Catholic and other Christian or shake their confidence in him. The Anti-abortionists and the Catholic section of the population brushed away the barren morality that accompanies him instead they allow Faith in him rule their conscience.  In other words, the lack of respect and implied scorn he projected remained invisible to his people. Though his policies just don’t add up in some ways somehow prove and still proves his most powerful weapon.  Scrapping Obamacare and denying over 20 million people affordable health care, rejection of Roosevelt’s open and non-tariff Trade policies, promising Steel and Coal workers their old jobs against progressive technology are a false hypothesis. Coming in on a popular wave of an angry section of the population who ignore the new age of American technological achievement disregarding American Capitalism, the United States proudly champions throughout the world, instead, accepting to be fooled by an emblem of narcissism and egocentricity. 
Narcissus is falling in love with himself heavily ingrained with a polarising attitude and a champion of Meta-comments. The President, unqualified in political challenges and a stranger to diplomatic decorum, purposefully, when challenged, forgets what he deems correct since so often, his convictions are baseless, more often capricious or at best whimsical. 

Come what may, hell, look at me, Hail Democracy, I am the president and I make sure Right is always on my side.  If it all goes wrong it isn't ME!


Saturday, 26 November 2016

Tyranny of Capitalism



TYRANNY OF CAPITALISM

“Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all.”- John Maynard Keynes

“Capitalism needs neither propaganda nor apostles. Its achievements speak for themselves. Capitalism delivers the goods.” -Ludwig von Mises.g


“If there were a nation of gods, it would govern itself democratically. A government so perfect is not suited to men.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, 1762

This article will take on itself the difficult task to examine the ominous tempest currently sweeping across the Western world leaving a virulent social anger in its wake.  Class differentials marked by gaping divide of social interaction between the poor who are becoming poorer and the rich 1% who are experiencing a meteoric rise in wealth.  In the United States for instance "Including capital gains, the share of national income going to the richest 1% of Americans has doubled since 1980, from 10% to 20%, roughly where it was a century ago. Even more striking, the share going to the top 0.01%—some 16,000 families with an average income of $24m—has quadrupled, from just over 1% to almost 5%".  This phenomenon not confined to the US but similar trends also in Britain, Canada, China and India. Here, I examine some of the reasons for a one-sided concentration of income: a core reason for political dissatisfaction rapidly developed fault line in inequality especially striking since the 2008/9 recession, and point to those who are brave enough to recognise this paradigm shift how they aim to achieve a more egalitarian society.  This change together with globalisation has drawn to itself the current recoiling to national borders, rejection of foreign imported labour, and building real and metaphoric walls to secure people's cossetted and traditional grounding they perceive to exist still.

Class conflict is no stranger to this side of the world clearly recognisable by the ever present ‘Society of Orders’ that prevailed in Europe until the first two decades of the twentieth century.  There has been many uprisings, revolts and revolutions to mark such events and one notorious that struck at the heart of European Elite was 1848, a month of revolutions and industrialisation. The mere grievance was to get a decent wage for an honest day’s work. Though the revolts at the time did not achieve much, they later proved to be the spring well for social reforms in Bismarck’s Germany, Tsarist Russia and of course in Britain and France.   Throughout the 'Gilded Age' of the Second half of the 19th century through to the second half of the Twentieth, despite gallant efforts by governments to fiscal reforms, interwar society was marked by deep social fault lines: egalitarian notions were still in slumber. Social welfare was mostly inadequate falling far short in its care of the elderly, disadvantaged and those fought for King and country.  That was all to change post-1945.   It was time for the government to recognise and payback the individual a belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted.  Civil and human rights were taking centre stage; forces were in evidence working on behalf of the people’s security allaying fears of vulnerability.  The individual and society have finally arrived and ever since education and entrepreneurial spirit and other redeeming forces slowly eroded ‘Socialism’ from being synonymous to class conflict on both sides of the Atlantic.   Billionaire George Soros addresses the pejorative use of the term by the conservative right by stating, "Speaking as a person who would be most hurt by this, I think my fellow hedge fund managers call this class warfare because they don't like to pay more taxes."

The recent experience of voting trends in the UK and the United States demonstrated a bottom-up awareness towards a need for organising political structure and an appeal to reform the economic scene.  A cautious tale of two halves is building up in a country famous for its interacting with its people and in the UK the welfare system instituted at the beginning of the second half of the last century is a prime testimony.  Need for a cautious realignment of the Reaganite and Thatcherite neo-liberal policies and to clip back the free for all notions of free markets and reinstitute a degree of state control.  In effect, it is for the government to re-establish its role as conscious observer and ethical policymaker acting on behalf of individuals kerbing greed and apply an alert moral view to competitive capitalism to reconcile with those who feel alienated.    To release the handcuffs that can inadvertently stifle the economy that has so often in the past brought economic unrests.

Theresa May was the first to recognise this discrepancy in her first speech after becoming Britain's Prime Minister emphasising Social Justice to be the principal theme of her one Nation Government.  Her ideas of a union were not only about the United Kingdom but to encapsulate “all of our citizens, every one of us, whoever we are and wherever we’re from.”  As a government “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.”  In her determined effort towards equality and sapping control from the Elite, she went on “we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you […] Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for everyone of us.”

There is another side of the argument that says the wealthiest shoulder the most for moving the economy forward.  On BBC’s ‘Daily Politics’"The people who have shouldered the greatest responsibility to get the economy back on its feet are the wealthiest". Somehow I doubt whether John Maynard Keynes would have agreed see first quote above. Whether such perverse statements could ever reconcile with reality is hard to imagine but could be flippant rhetoric protecting a brittle carapace rather than admitting the obvious.  Moreover, Sir Philip Green BHS story belies this argument as do those allegedly dodging UK corporation tax such as Google, Starbucks, Amazon, etc.  For many of the hardworking population these cornucopias of riches, among this wailing and fury do not bode well and for blanketing over their responsibilities is an unacceptable face of Capitalism especially in the face of an emerging new society that demands transparency and calling out for fairness. It is worthwhile to realise Gallup World Poll data provide new evidence that all along the national income scale, life satisfaction rises with average earnings level and vice versa.

Indeed from all recent accounts, we need to realise we are in the throes of change, a paradigm shift of major proportions.  Unresolved Political dissonance is growing ever more incongruous; disparities is proving to be one of the biggest social, economic and political challenges of our time. The latest victories in the US, the Brexit vote in the UK shows the masses are increasingly vulnerable easily exploited by a subtle "the will to power" (Nietzsche), political entrepreneurs stirring up the emotions.  Visible signs of disenchantment against the establishment, the 'Gatekeepers' and the ruling elite is a continued theme on social media.  Populists are also filling the gap between the political right and left on emotional grounds.  Many struggling Europeans are angry for similar reasons outlined but increasingly see refuge in the rhetoric of racial and cultural nationalism passing for patriotism while the populist demagoguery does much for exciting the traditionalists fearful of demographic changes.

The tyranny of capitalism has undoubtedly left some people behind while many others feel marginalised.  Also, the government thus far has intentionally or otherwise misread or mishandled the appropriate tools in dealing with those underprivileged or creating enough opportunities for young and enthusiastic sections of our society to thrive.  The young forced against the bulwark of rising property prices and rising rents and the lowering of incentives for working long hours.  The chase for greater profits has circumscribed employment regulation and where Laws enacted they have failed to kerb avaricious companies in fencing off unethical capitalistic approaches. Poverty and those failed members of our society have grown in unprecedented numbers and due to convoluted council regulations has seen marked escalation in homelessness- the forgotten few.  A new breed has evolved from among those suffering such destitutions, and the many en mass supporters who have grown angry are voting against the establishment and balloting to reverse this chain of events.  The Elite and the establishment are held to blame for this divergence. An incoming tide of income disparity enough to suggest a polarising of society from the haves and the have not from the wealthy and the underprivileged- a class differential measured by a widening and an unacceptable concept of inequality.

An economic system that allows for Capitalism unchained, without government orchestration will only add weight to public resentment of "the politicians are all lying to us anyway," Compromise and empathy ought to be the imperative in the business of making money.  A dire need to prescribe to that ethos when evaluating the value of Profit since it is morally unjustifiable to accept that accumulation of wealth is an end itself.  However, I hasten to add; this piece is not meant to be a stain on the free market but creating wealth must also build opportunities, a change of mechanism, where possible in a joint effort with the government to deliver the change that people want. Capitalism needs to share in the wealth it creates, responsibility and the drive for prosperity also mean to give out a share to those with limited opportunities eliminating reasons for a possible backlash.   A free market must also be a means to spread opportunities, protect democracy and help to stem the tide of stagnation in people standard of living and allowing Capitalism to speak for itself by working for the whole country.


"Always recognise that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end." 
 Immanuel Kant






Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Restructuring Lost Paradise





World War I cost the Allied forces 5.5 million deaths.  While the Central Powers one of which was the Ottoman Empire lost around 4.5 million war dead.  By 1917 a year before the end of the war The Russian Empire, thanks to the Lenin’s October Revolution, Communist takeover, the Emerging Soviet Union was counting its dead and its disintegration almost complete bar last minute nationalist insurgencies.  By 1918 Keiser Bill’s Germany had lost its colonies mainly to Britain and Japan.  Austria-Hungarian Empire severely dismembered both shrunk to micro-size in comparison to pre- 1914.  Finally the Turkish Empire partly for participating on the Central Powers side and partly for the Dardanelles debacle, a Campaign that severely damaged Allied pride. Post-1918, the Empire was pulled to pieces with much of its territories divided under mandatory systems between Britain and France.  That is when the infamous Sykes-Picot duo went to town as self-proclaimed cartographers with immense discursive powers for shaping the entire region.  Described at the time a “dictation of terms at the point of the Bayonet…”.  Similarly, the regional disparity of power means today we see, Iraq once again finds itself under the Turkish hammer while, this time, resting on the Iranian anvil.

Europe meanwhile was in turmoil drawing and redrawing dozens of boundaries in efforts to accommodate ethnic demands.  Nationalism was at fever pitch where the Wilsonian (Wilsonianism), ideas for self-determination and democratisation vying for centre stage.  The War may have ended but in the words of the French Foreign Minister Stéphen Pichon the war’s end meant only that “the era of difficulties begins.” 

For this post, we are concerned with, peace-making with the Ottoman Empire.  It began with Treaty of Sèvres, signed in 1920 between Ottoman Turkey and the Allied powers represented by Britain, France, the United States, Italy and Japan. They alone wrote treaties and expected the states of the defeated powers to sign them. At this time discursive powers efforts at peacemaking a discrepancy developed in determining the situation on the ground.  However, since Turkey’s new nationalist government hand had weakened while their ultimate wish was to join the International Community in restructuring and rebuilding their economies, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed VI signed on 10 August 1920 giving way to its existing borders as stipulated in the agreement.

"In Anatolia, an emerging Turkish successor state under the direction of Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938) revealed the discrepancy between discursive and material power dramatically. The outcome in Anatolia required a second and quite a different treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne signed on 24 July 1923. This treaty sharply demarcated the power of the European empires. The new republic in Turkey proved interested not in rejecting the overall discursive structure of international relations, but joining it on terms agreeable to itself.” This treaty followed the Greece's defeat in the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 resulted in a population exchange between Turkey and Greece in 1923, 1.2 million Greek Orthodox left Anatolia and 500,000 Muslims/Turks from Greece and the Balkans came to Turkey. By 1927, the Greek Orthodox population in Turkey was only 13,648.

Turkey's nationalism has probably never been stronger since the heady days of Kamal Attaturk.  Today, of course, it has an added ingredient, a dose of religion making it distinctively different to the secular state that came away from the remains of the Empire and dismemberment of its borders.   Erdoğan-style of Nationalism is rolling back history and reconstructing the Ottoman Empire – Lost Paradise.  Despite the Treaty of Lausanne, a Treaty that marked the birth of a new State, created by the struggle of its citizens rather than the gift of the Imperialists, has happily (without Mosul) lasted for over a century.   Unlike its counterpart, that devolved into another world war barely thirty years after. Between the two wars, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, and Hungary tried to redraw their borders but met with catastrophe. Whereas, Kamal Ataturk, revolutionary founder of Turkey, resisted from doing the same wise enough to avoid apocalyptic end. However, as with the Treaty signed at Montreux on July 20th, 1936, when Turkey was suspecting a draining of British power was successful in gaining further sovereignty over its former territory.  

Now may be a new dawn means new chance and a new hope that can also mean new problems.   Hence the power game now, ideal opportunity for Erdoğan to resolve yesterday’s problems, seeing Iraq almost on its knees with its firepower diminished.    

Realising a divided sectarian army, Iraq has so far proved useless against so-called Islamic states. The latter made up of volunteer groups hardly ever experienced professional combat and untrained in warfare. Moreover, the Iraqi army would be unable to provide a bulwark against a professional; NATO supervised well-armed and highly trained Turkish armed forces.  Like the imperialist of old, refurbishing Mao Zedong, old proverb “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun: Concessions or War not much of choice.

It is worth questioning whether Turkey is conducting its foreign policies on an ad hoc basis because rather than its policies, actions and attitudes towards Iraq is piecemeal when it should be holistic, so the main actors need to know its real intentions.  What is the sum of all parts? Obviously, where Iraq is concerned, Turkey does not consider itself as an outside agent since it regularly infringes on Iraq's porous borders finding intermittent causes to justify these actions, illegal border crossings.    Compared to Israel's past misdemeanours crossing into Lebanon at will, Turkey's border violations are by far more dangerous and rather more ominous.  Iraq, like Lebanon, then and now, has no power at its disposal to deal with a hegemonic power, a Sunni thorn by its side.  Attempt to monopolise the business of regional politics Turkey eliminates any intrinsic reason for Shia Iran to participate in this delicate demarcation in identifying Iraq's borders. 

There are of course other than a political reason to suggest for Turkeys aggressive policies led by President Erdoğan.  Such systems are found in the internal framework more in evidence after the introduction of The Emergency Law System.  Erdoğan further solidifying hold on Turkish civil society and the Army for growing support is essential to his personal status.  Certainly, after the July botched coup attempt, he has to bring in the secularist army into the fold of his Islamist government but also has to rebuild the Army's reputation after seeing some of its generals subjected to the humiliation the following August, back to a respected institution under his influence.  He knows he could be walking a tightrope to keep the balance between the Army well known to hold on to Kemalist secular Turkish State.  With the civil, nationalist currents sweeping the country the military, powered by Ankara, the Army will be obliged to keep the momentum against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).  There is also Oil wealth to be had, and a critical and more valuable additional commodity is Land.  Aside for Turkey's burgeoning and highly successful industrial base Turkey's dependence on Tourism has so far proved fickle.  Food production is an asset forming commodity that is not volatile or dependent on international political mood but its greater demand internationally; it becomes a corollary to Turkey's political importance.       

It remains questionable whether Erdoğan’s long reach can be successful beyond his present borders. The recent incursions into Syria and Iraq anything to go by the boundaries are becoming blurred.  Additionally, with too many participants and superpowers hell bent to play their parts, flexing their firepower at will, the area is becoming too crowded where he fervently considers himself the dominant player.  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s revisionist policies, attempts at sovereignty over the area to an irredentist claim on Mosul and part of Syria is nothing short of redrawing the boundaries. Not so much for getting rid of Assad or Shia government in Iraq, since by present a reckoning he is agreeable to both their patrons Iran or to cure an aggrieved fixation against the PKK but to change the terms of the Lausanne Peace Treaty. In that regard, not to chain ourselves to the present set of political confusion, when a pixelated perspective will do, but to see both foreign and domestic policy often fused to his benefit. In Turkey’s case, it is evident the geopolitical belligerency takes place for the benefit to build Ankara’s uncompromising self-image in support of an increasingly authoritarian regime.  Among the turmoil that surrounds it, strained Alliance between Turkey and NATO, growing rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, and its unique geographical endowment its stands poised to recover its lost Paradise.   

Monday, 24 October 2016

Laïcité



The years 1789 to 1794 was the epoch-making five years that were to form the turning point of the French Revolution.  The Third Estate went to build the Nation as a body of people who join to live under the common law.  From it sprang the Declaration Rights of Man that went on to underscore Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

It may surprise you despite the heading this post is not about religion although religion runs through it, I would rather rein in the argument to social conformity and Law of Secularism principally in France.  Hence to read this post against a background of recent controversy concerning the banning of wearing burkinis on a beach and its likely hood of causing nuisance and disturbance especially in the light of the last few terrorists’ attacks in that country.  The multi-folds of this argument support the consequent ban on the Bourkini and face cover along the following lines:

a) Blatant disregard for the law of the land
b) Provocative display of religious symbols.
C) Laïcité is not coercive or restrictive.

According to Wikipedia Laïcité, is the absence of religious involvement in government affairs, especially the prohibition of religious influence in the determination of state policies. According to Oxford Reference, Laïcité exists in varying forms depending on the level of influence of religion and religious beliefs stipulated by government guiding principles, politics, law, and public life. In some countries, such as France, there is a complete separation of religion from state affairs (a form of secularism known as Laïcité). Demonstrating, amongst other things, to limit if not issue an outright ban on the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in public government institutions such as schools. It does not prevent or prohibit people's right to freedom of religion and belief. Secular states have two key features: 1) their legal and judicial processes are out of institutional religious control and 2) they constitutionally establish neither an official religion nor atheism. Laïcité is non-restrictive to freedom of thought and freedom of worship.  The absence of state religion and separation of state and religion some consider as a prerequisite to freedom of thought and drawing in minority interests.  Other countries that have adopted Laïcité or its hybrids are the United States, Turkey, Mexico and others including ironically for a Middle Eastern country, The Lebanon.

The stress is on égalité where the Equality of all is to establish a simple citizen on equal terms to all other citizens, devoid of ethnic, religious or other particularities.  Citizen, in the context of the French Revolution, is the key that abolishes patriarchal and hierarchical constructs of Society of Orders.

It is generally asserted that French secularism secures freedom of thought and freedom of religion. On the other hand, many would argue that Laïcité is coercive and is an infringement on the right of the individual.  It implies a subtle form of anti-clericalism and inhibits religious expressions.  Rather than promoting freedom of religion, it prevents the believer from observing his or her religion. Personally, I strongly refute this argument since effort for equality, France as embedded in its constitution constantly aware not to include religion in public and hence though a Catholic country the government as always distanced itself from Religious exhibitionism.  Conversely, the law is also active in the protection of minority rights and is supportive in funding of religious institutions irrespective of denomination.  It restricts government and institutions from any would be prejudice against any one's religion while it tries to minimize the chances of radicalisation.

French constitution seeks more of a universal acceptance of tradition just as much as the Gregorian calendar, for example, is accepted universally.  What it tries to prevent is stepping outside the universally accepted norm to distinctively making a statement.  Conversely, from religious neutrality perspective, the law works for the protection of minority rights.  It restricts government and institutions from any would be prejudice against any one's religion. It makes an effort to contain the radicalization of Islam, and the law acts as a deterrent by extending its reach to include an excessive show of religious emblems.  Laïcité can further be interpreted embodying restrictive religious aims not to allow a Divine authority to dominate the state and to extinguish any outward sign that can lead to that.

Hence, it is also a flawed argument to suggest that a Nun, in formal dress, should not be on a beach.  As far as the Catholic Church is concerned it stipulates a Nun must make her presence visible in everyday life, hence a Nun’s Habit, just as much as an Islamic Imam is identified by his mode of dress in public.  And, is irrespective whether or not a Nun is allowed on the Beach as in Nice, France. Contemporary culture often very secularized is increasingly sensitive to the language of signs and symbols to embellish with Bourkini; a symbol that bears clear witness they belong to a particular religion is interpreted as extremely provocative.  Culturally, many would invoke the idea being discreet with one's religion as a necessary part of being French.  The Islamic hijab, Sikh turban, (large) Christian crosses, and Jewish Stars of David and kippah should be banned from public schools. Such a ban came into effect in France in 2004.  Moreover despite many consider France a Christian country the law also banned the broadcasts of Catholic and Orthodox Christmas night liturgies.

For further validation to my argument, I need to highlight the objection from yet another perspective. The outward appearance of distinctive clothing bracketing a certain individual to a religious affiliation is a political statement.  It bears the psychic phenomena of self-distancing more engrossed with identity formation bordering on self-construction.  It tries to signify possible distinction between Equality of an individual in society as opposed to a difference of that individual.  Showing outward signs of failure to integrate into the broader community and failure on the part of the person to benefit from standard discourses of Enlightenment to ‘find themselves’, without prejudice to the universal norm.  To opt out to a concept of self-distancing while unconsciously allowing separation, delimitation, and spatial partition.

Religion in Democracy, the practice of which need not be contradictory to the term so long as the points hitherto considered, are acknowledged for this argument. In opposition, it is worth noting, generally, in Muslim countries Religion and the State were united in pursuit of Islamic righteousness. However, in porous social democracies, meaning and appropriating application of Laïcité is in flux. They also allow Laïcité to extend its reach to cover the constant changes and evolving system of values organizing the relationship between civil society and the state.   Laïcité is not asking to 'exit from religion' or to withdraw from the world held by one's religion and its creedal references but to give collective meaning to societies’ members.

Clause 4 of the ‘Rights of Man’ states: Liberty consists in being able to do whatever doesn’t harm another.  Thus, the exercise of each man’s natural rights has no limits other than those which guarantee to the other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights; those limits can only be determined by the law.

(Accepted by King Louis XVI of France)

Friday, 21 October 2016

Atomising Morality



Straight away I explain, this post will be about the importance of The Individual and Individual Rights over a common misconception that there is a universal moral code many who believe binds the order of society.  It will also take under its wings the vagaries of Morality some continue to resist their acceptance but preclude the different Ethical norm that calibrates our behaviour towards fellow human beings or to nature at large.   The notion of the Enlightenment that gained pace in the eighteenth century through the efforts of Philosophical giants such as chief editor, and contributor to the Encyclopédie Denise Diderot along with Jean le Rond d'Alembert and Voltaire who were its leading light.  The age of the Enlightenment was the key that unlocked the concept of Individual Rights released Man from the notion of Belief and into the secular world we know today.  To help get this post off the ground Atomising Morality is the same as saying Moral Relativism a subjectivist view where the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to the moral standard of some person or group of individuals.

Moral diversity is entirely due to moral truth or justification, which is also relative to a culture or society. It is high time for a multiculturalist society that is presently seeing a transforming Europe inculcate the idea that all moral values had equal or relative validity. Realisation and acceptance of diversity of culture including those considered primitive were the eventual pointers in the second half of the twentieth century on the occasion of the United Nations debate about universal human rights. Not forgetting, of course, the relative feminist values and the sphere of medical concerns.  It is a fact there are in-depth and widespread moral disagreements across different societies, and these differences are much more significant than whatever agreements there may be. Moral judgment can differ as much as to say ‘Polygamy is morally wrong’ may be true relative to one society, but false relative to another.

My starting point in all of this is to go back the Classics when the sense of Virtue in the fourth century Athens, was identified to one's advantage to adapt at least Justice as a character trait.  The Cardinal Virtues Plato settled on were Prudence (Wisdom), Fortitude (Courage), Temperance (Discipline) and Justice.  The antonyms were Foolishness, Inconsistency, Wrath and Injustice.  All were considered universal and the option most likely to lead to flourishing existence.  The moral code that acts as the wellspring to individual morality is ‘Why be just?, and What is the right thing to do ?’ This ought to be the catalyst that translates differently to suit different cultures in how to arrange the ‘good’ listed earlier both in themselves and in their consequences.   

The continuous social reconstruction mainly in Northern Europe and Northern America has also caused the disintegration of religion which up until then was in some respects the binding force for a collective understanding of moral behaviour.  That said religious inferences blurs when traditions and conventions provide a truer condition that cultivated those seeds in what Kant calls "The Categorical Imperative" towards the "autonomous Will."

The end of World War II gave way to the birth of a New Europe, and it was the turn for the European governments to serve the wishes of the individual.  A new order and a new kind of society propagated and a new conception of Man was incubated ready to meet the ‘Golden Age’ laying out the premise of appropriate freedom.  “If what each of us shall do and become is without alternative, the notion of choice is illusory, and it is the opportunity to choose that the meaningfulness of the above questions depends on.”   It was time for a new war of ideas and social revolution, a tendency to reassert the primacy of the individual placing individual choice in the most direct and inescapable form. “To render myself passive in this world’ wrote Sartre in Being and Nothingness (1943) ‘is still to choose the person I am.’ 

The 1960s were a time of sweeping social and cultural change, affecting most areas of life. It was a time of unprecedented affluence when for the first time the mass of the population began to enjoy what had hitherto been luxuries: televisions, cars, foreign holidays, refrigerators, and washing machines. It was a time when youth became more assertive, challenging the authority of parents, teachers, and social conventions of every kind. The revolt had a political dimension, which found powerful expression in the student movement of the later 1960s, culminating in Paris in May 1968.  The old order seemed to be totally discredited, and a new age of freedom and democracy had dawned. But much more lasting in their effects were changes in ways of life and personal morality, symbolised by deliberately unconventional clothes and hairstyles, by the use of illegal drugs, and above all by a rejection of the accepted norms of sexual morality.  More generally, the prevailing ethos of individual freedom, informality, ‘doing your own thing’, and rejection of hierarchies of every kind presented the churches with a major challenge.  Breakdown of moral attributes meant increasing disbelief in church ordered moral guidance, and this on a general level may have caused the greater level of unchristian beliefs.  Changes of Morality were, therefore, becoming more concerned with individual behaviour. 

The common thread running through the ‘cultural revolution’ of the 1960s was the demand for greater personal freedom, and the consequent rejection of those moral codes, doctrinal systems, social conventions, and systems of authority which seemed to stand in the way. 

"This revolt had at least three dimensions, which could overlap, but equally could be totally independent of one another.  The desire to enjoy the benefits of affluence, in the form of more material goods, greater mobility, and more leisure; an egalitarian political radicalism, which challenged existing systems of authority and hierarchy; and a desire to experiment, to seek new experiences, and to liberate the senses, unconstrained by Puritan taboos. The drive to enjoy the fruits of affluence most often led to religious indifference." Hugh McLeod (1997), ‘Fragmentation’ in Religion.'


Atomic individuality is associated with modern social contract theory.  Under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher neo-Liberalism was to emphasise that point where at times the concept bordered on ethical subjectivism.  The individual is becoming conditioned by new values of freedom and the values he adopts measured by initiatives of each person.  The sum of which has been more good than bad and that shows in the entrepreneurial spirit generated over the last decade and more to say nothing of keeping the government on their toes.  That goes hand in hand with motivation, inventiveness and innovation that had it remained in the cloisters of Classic morality would have made man’s achievements impossible.  

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Dump Trump!


The word Phenomena has an interesting concept.  Rummaging through the pages of Oxford English Dictionary, (OED, I find Phenomena to mean  "A thing which appears, or which is perceived or observed. A particular (kind of) fact, occurrence, or change as perceived through the senses or known intellectually; esp. a fact or occurrence, the cause or explanation of which is in question."  This definition prompts much of the subject of this post; indeed the support for the Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is a Phenomenon based on imagination, perceiving, ultimately the essence of that support is in question.  So the post will be about ‘phenomenology’ the study of the theory of this particular phenomenon.  I found out later the question, in this case, is not Trump as some people may believe but the changing American Society and the ‘question’ is embedded in refusal to change.   Any one of his ilk will do. 

American Society or to be exact White American Society gripped with fear.  The Republican Party that has always stood for Law and Order, holding steadfastly to conservatism and traditionalist American principles has done its job far too well.  It now finds itself being rejected by the non-white majority, mainly voting for the Democratic Party more amenable to societal changes, which will now be the dominating voice in the American political arena.  Moreover, Trump has become the new ‘aisle’ that has traditionally divided the Senate but with a difference where Republicans find itself sub-divided as it has done before.  “There were no longer two parties in the senate—there were three, and the two of these counted as Republican becoming more bitter against each other than against the common enemy across the aisle.” C. G. Bowers, (1918).

Trump is a demagogue espousing the fanciful cause of the people who are against most of those that are different.  Hence he has attacked all those that do not agree with him or critical of policies.  His oratory has alienated Women, Muslims, Hispanics, Gays & Lesbians, African Americans, Catholics, accusing the media of ganging up on him and believing the election rigged against him.  To the point that in 19th October Las Vegas, during the last face to face debate, he demeaned the principles of Democracy totally averse to accept the verdict of the US Presidential Election on November 8th, 2016.  

He is also an authoritarian which makes his popularity is even more puzzling.  As a student of History, I inevitably turn to History for an explanation of this phenomenon, and in particular, I turn to Germany of 1933.  At the time one of the most sophisticated and intellectual societies in the world turned freely, blindly and irrationally to an overwhelming support of a demagogue. Lead by a Socialist Nationalist leader who aroused enough pride and nationalist passion of the German Nation to drive them to ruin eventually. What attracted them, having survived the Great War of 1918 and the Hyperinflation that followed, was fear of uncertainty and the unknown and fear of change.  Unconsciously perceiving a belief in a leadership no more that praying without theological consideration or driving while not giving a second’s thought how the engine works.

Likewise, and by all accounts, Trump is a political agitator who appeals to the passions and prejudices of the mob to obtain power or further his interests.  His rhetoric further defines him as an unprincipled or factious popular orator who carries much of the cause for a dividing American society.  An atavistic and a throwback to a political party formed in the United States in 1892 to represent the interests of the entire population embracing populist advocacy to public control and holding free institutions to account. 

Hence we go forward to find out why White America is gripped with fear and flirting with Authoritarianism and is attracted to extreme and bizarre views. What is more absurd is that his popularity is across social and demographic divide – income, education and religiosity which usually any one of them can define a Republican candidate. Research has shown those who fear change and a desire for protection from change possess a “psychological profile…that is characterised by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders.” McWilliams Hence they seek an authoritarian figure for protection.  The correlation in the support for Trump points in that direction and primarily citing immigration for playing a significant part in unbalancing the status-quo.  What is happening though is that same group is driving a wedge in American Society.  It is also polarising the GOP voters between these who hold orthodox views from those who are extremists.  Research also “predicted a looming and dramatic transformation of American politics.” (Hetherington and Weiler).  A development if need be to challenge threats with force, forming barricades against outsiders totally beyond the grain of traditional American welcome and belies the notion of America as a nation of immigrants.

Whether to propagate his vision to potential voters of such extreme views can upend American politics is hard to predict. One thing for sure that there is a section of the population that exist, admittedly not enough to seat Trump as the President of the United States and commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces, but the scars of intrinsic and indoctrinated ideologies he leaves behind would be difficult to heal.   They will be to Hillary Clinton and those who follow to repair the damage left behind.  What is worse is that what happens in America soon distils into Europe when already in Britain, France, and Germany where multiculturalism had supposedly taken roots, are crying foul of immigrants.  The idea that a Presidential nominee could come out with “We’re going to be so vigilant we’re going to be so careful, we’re going to be so tough and so mean and so nasty” is akin to Fascism.  With French Nationalist leader such as Marie Le Pain in France nearer home also stoking the fires, prophesizing on similar lines, we need to turn to the defunct Weimar Republic for instruction on how not to do it.  Dump Trump!