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Hagia Sophia: Target of Erdoğan’s National Populism and Culture Wars.

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Turkish court rules Istanbul's Hagia Sophia can revert to a mosque ...

 

Religious and National Populist Culture Wars.

The BBC’s Orla Guerin reports,

A change is coming to Hagia Sophia, which has endured since the 6th century, outlasting the Byzantine empire and the Ottoman era. Now, once again, it will be a mosque. But Turkish officials say Christian emblems, including mosaics of the Virgin Mary which adorn its soaring golden dome, will not be removed.

Making changes at Hagia Sophia is profoundly symbolic. It was Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, who decreed that it should be a museum. President Erdogan is now taking one more step to dismantle Ataturk’s secular legacy, and remould Turkey according to his vision. The Turkish leader – who presents himself as a modern day conqueror – is making no apologies for the change. He says anyone who doesn’t like it – and plenty abroad don’t – is attacking Turkey’s sovereignty.

Reclaiming Hagia Sophia plays well with his base – religious conservatives – and with Turkish nationalists. Critics say he’s using the issue to distract attention from the economic damage done here by the Covid19 pandemic.

But many in the international community argue that the monument belongs to humanity – not to Turkey – and should have remained unchanged. They say it was a bridge between two faiths, and a symbol of co-existence.

The progressive  Peoples’ Democratic Party, the HDP,  (Halkların Demokratik Partisi (HDP),  Partiya Demokratîk a Gelan) [party, (an associate member of the Party of European Socialists ) which holds 58 seats in the Turkish National Assembly, has condemned the move.

THis is already being greeted by religious reactionaries.

Religious prejudice overrides history.

The significance is lost of nobody who knows the history of Turkey, and  for people across the world who care about our common cultural heritage.

Secularists have made their views known.

This is the motive:

Turkey’s ruler  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan  and his organisation, the Justice and Development Party (: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), illustrate a national populism prepared to go further than culture wars against democrats and religious minorities.

The hounding of dissidents, the imprisonment of political opponents, and his blood-stained interventions in Syria and against Kurds across the region, not to mention his open use of Turkish forces to bolster his preferred side in the Libyan civil conflict (Erdogan Is Libya’s Man Without a Plan.) , are more significant than this move to stake his claim as an international leader of hard right Islamism.

Yet this bigoted and deeply insulting move is noxious in itself.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 11, 2020 at 11:47 am

Cancel Culture. “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate”. From Rowling to Chomsky.

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alex (@alex_abads) | Twitter

“The task of Marxist politics is to defend these freedoms” – Ralph Miliband.

JK Rowling joins 150 public figures warning over free speech

BBC,

Some 150 writers, academics and activists – including authors JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood – have signed an open letter denouncing the “restriction of debate”.

They say they applaud a recent “needed reckoning” on racial justice, but argue it has fuelled stifling of open debate.

The letter denounces “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism” and “a blinding moral certainty”.

Several signatories have been attacked for comments that caused offence.

“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” says the letter.

US intellectual Noam Chomsky, eminent feminist Gloria Steinem, Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and author Malcolm Gladwell also put their names to the letter, which was published on Tuesday in Harper’s Magazine.

The appearance of Harry Potter author Rowling’s name among signatories comes after she recently found herself under attack online for comments that offended transgender people.

A comrade writes (B),

 I don’t have an issue with the principles outlined in the letter, but I really think the idea of ‘cancel culture’ is perpetuated primarily by people who are performatively ‘woke’ and ‘anti-woke’. Like that person yesterday who was decrying mathematics as western imperialism on one side, and the likes of Andrew Doyle and Julie Burchill on the other. They feed off each other.

This looks like the best way to look at this.

When we come down to it, one of things the socialist left should do is to stand with liberal principles on issues of freedom of expression and non-conformity. Surely the bedrock of the diversity is multiple standpoints.

Marxists like Ralph Miliband took this view.

..the civic freedoms which, however inadequately and preariously, form part of bourgeois democracy are the product of centuries of unremitting popular struggles. The task of Marxist politics is to defend these freedoms; and to make possible their extension and enlargement by the removal of their class boundaries.”

Page 189 – 190. Marxism and Politics. Ralph Miliband. Oxford 1977.

To our shame this powerful tradition on the left has been overshadowed by the legacy of left regimes which turned their backs on civic freedoms.

You could say that the present dispute is much more minor, that it’s the hobbyist left versus the media version of the national populists. “Stifling debate”, moral panics, hysteria, controversies, like the TERF wars and the Western (if not US dominated) rows over racism (which ignore present-day Africa to begin with), the nationalist baiting, and the Brexit Party supporting Spiked, are more concerned with “speech and thought” than anything else.

Yet it’s hard to deny that restriction on debate, people being howled down, getting into serious difficulties for their opinions, not their acts,  has become a problem.

Are these only culture wars?

People mention that in the US you can get sacked at the drop of the hat – one fall out from these attacks – without any real employment protection.

It is also the case that this is not an issue confined to the lands directly cited by the authors of the letter, or just a matter of cultural “conformity”.

It only takes a minute to look at countries, from the, Russian Federation politics, China and Hong Kong, to Erdoğan’s Turkey, to see limits on freedom of expression leading to court sentences and prison.

Human rights, and expression is one of them, are the bedrock of the left.

I do have a serious problem with Chomsky though….and not just because he’s a supporter of Labour Against the WItch-hunt:

 

And this,

Not to mention those who shunned Charlie Hebdo…

American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky views the popularisation of the Je suis Charlie slogan by politicians and media in the West as hypocritical, comparing the situation to the NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters in 1999, when 16 employees were killed. “There were no demonstrations or cries of outrage, no chants of ‘We are RTV’ […]“, he noted. Chomsky also mentioned other incidents where US military forces have caused higher civilian death tolls, without leading to intensive reactions such as those that followed the 2015 Paris attacks.

Here’s the letter.

A Letter on Justice and Open Debate

Harper’s Magazine.

Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.

Frank Furedi draws “Boundaries” to defend the “civilisational accomplishments of humanity.”

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Why Borders Matter: book launch with Frank Furedi and Timandra ...

The “war to uphold the precious gains of civilisation is being lost.”

Critics of Spiked magazine, and its offshoots, The Academy of Ideas and its work in founding the red-brown Front, the Full Brexit, do not often discuss the work of its founding pundit, Frank Furedi.

A  sheave of references, in the duller corners of publications on social policy, crime, and psychology, indicates that the former revolutionary Marxist has some kind of academic standing. The assistance of Google reveals, for example, a citation in this work which begins, “In this article I examine the attractions and shortcomings of the “positive” neohumanisitic turn in organizational theorizing and how positivity might be developed. “

One can see why he enjoys the heady moments  when he can escape from this to the Spiked/ex-Living Marxism network’s annual beanfeast.

Events reported in 2010, and surely on the next occasion more convivial after their alliance with the Brexit Party and the success of Spiked contributor Munira Mirza, as Cabinet Head of Policy.

The fifth annual Battle of Ideas was held over a weekend last October at the Royal College of Art in West London. There was a route you could do, a circuit, up the stairs at one end of the windowless basement and down them again at the other, and I did it many times, bag dragging at my back. Each day was divided into five time-slots, each slot into ‘strands’: the Battle for Energy, Battle for Work, Battle for Reproductive Choice; or Breakfast Banter, Café Controversies, Bookshop Barnie.

The talks themselves had titles like ‘Working for the State: Public Service or Gravy Train?’, ‘India’s Future: Slumdogs or Millionaires?’ So much stuff, so much Horrible Histories alliteration, so many dispiritingly either-or questions: out of 74 talks, I spotted just one whose take-home message I couldn’t immediately guess. It was on ‘football, greed and the recession’, it was called ‘Who Ate All the Pies?’, and I’m afraid I don’t know the answer, because I went to ‘Rethinking Freedom in an Illiberal Age: Securing Rights or Celebrating Liberty?’ instead.

Jenny Turner reports from the Battle of Ideas

Furedi’s latest work, puffed in Spiked (Why Borders Matter: Why Humanity Must Relearn the Art of Drawing Boundaries. 2020.), he explores the idea that “The rejection of borders between nations and communities runs in parallel with the unbounding of cultural norms in all dimensions of social life.”

Just in case you hadn’t got this he today offers a summary of the work,

As I note in my new book Why Borders Matter, the ability to ‘tell right from wrong’ has been compromised by the cultural devaluation of boundaries, such as those between good and evil; adult and child; man and woman; human and animal; and private and public. All of these symbolic boundaries have been called into question in recent decades.

The identitarians are winning the culture wars

Readers of Spiked will have guessed that the (two part) article is a lengthy rave against “Identitarians”, identity politics, political correctness, and the “culture war” being waged by the new “counter-cultural establishment”.

(it) has successfully marginalised conservative and classical-liberal ideas, be they tolerance or democracy, within institutions of socialisation, such as schools and universities. And it has turned many cultural institutions, from the arts to the media, against humanist sentiments and ideals associated with the Western tradition that runs from Classical Greek philosophy through the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. Even classical socialist ideals of solidarity and internationalism have been torn asunder by the politicisation of culture and identity.

Furedi asserts that, “These developments take the form of a one-sided war against the past in general, and the legacy of the West in particular.”

In a passage that bears the most royal of purple he writes,

Having gained hegemony, members of this countercultural establishment are now less and less afraid to impose their own values on the rest of society. From their standpoint, Boris Johnson is an elite outlier, and his defence of Churchill offers them a reminder that there are still obstacles to the realisation of the project of detaching society from the legacy of its past. They now constitute the cultural establishment, and people who wish to defend the statues of Churchill or Abraham Lincoln are their countercultural adversaries.

The birth of the culture wars

It would be facile to dismiss this (who in fact is in Government?).

But within Why Borders Matter (or as far as Goggle Books unearths) are a number of substantial claims that go to the heart of political philosophy and political practice:

  • That human beings need limits in order to grow, that political rights (in the tradition of Edmund Burke) are not only national constructions, but should remain circumscribed by these boundaries.
  • That national sovereignty and the border security it establishes  helps one of these needs, a “sense of belonging”
  • That attempts to deterritorialise sovereignty and citizenship rights reduces people to “their most abstract individual qualities”, depriving them of “the cultural qualities which give their lives meaning”.

How those who argue, against these views, that human rights are universal, that there are no national frontiers or limits on the right (for example) not to be tortured, murdered, oppressed, starved or beaten, are linked to attacks on a “principled commitment to the civilisational accomplishments of humanity.” is not explained.

In Spiked Furedi cites Hannah Arendt’s conservative reaction to mid-1960s student radicals questioning established values of right and wrong.  Arendt’s also famously argued that human rights without national legal systems to back them up are meaningless. In despair at the way people were left stateless and without rights in the 1930s and in the aftermath of the Second World War) the political philosopher  talked of the “right to have rights”.

This is a deeply felt and pondered claim, and one that can only be answered by political action to make sure that the rightless are given protection. And rights, unless, and we hope this is not the case, Ferudi is arguing that boundaries once drawn mean that they are permanently excluded.

The liberty to grow and flourish in our own freely determined conditions, of the kind outlined by John Stuart Mill and by Marx’s ideal of a society in which the liberty of all is a  condition of each person’s  development, is a better goal for the foundation for “belonging” than a host of customs controls and the ownership of a passport.

Nevertheless this is not an abstract question of an intellectual conversation about human  “qualities” but of the mechanisms that might make such potentials, that is substantial, rights real.

But, one of the facts about globalisation, the world wide exchange of news and direct communication, is: How we ignore what is happening outside our “borders”?

Do we have any responsibility to act on one of the most basic moral impulses, human sympathy?

Leaving issues of war, oppression and rights to national states, run by political parties who may be hostile to rights – the national populists or straightforward dictatorships – is a real concern, from Poland, the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, Brazil, Turkey, not to mention Syria.

Furedi would leave us trapped in a bubble, without any answers to the demands that solidarity make on people.

And what ‘cultural meaning” does Assad’s Syria give to people slaughtered in a civil, not “culture” war?

It is precisely the sovereigntist, Spiked, quarter that has argued. not just against armed humanitarian intervention in these conflicts, but against anything more than gestual solidarity with the millions whose lives are at risk.

La Terre et Les Morts.

It’s as plain as a pikestaff that if there is a culture war in the West Furedi is an “identitarian” on one side, that of the  rights of tradition, the Land and the Dead (la terre et les morts – as a founding figure of the French far-right, Maurice Barrès , put it ) He stands for the cemetery of the past against the universalism of the future…

Spiked’s claim to stand for the “the so-called “traditional ideals”, or, more bluntly evokes two sources.

The first is the most obvious. Furedi’s book seems, consciously or unconsciously, to base its title on this book, In Praise of Borders (Éloge des frontières. 2010)”. In this, the endlessly prolific writer and academic Régis Debray defined limits as needed to make sense of the world. “The border is what gives meaning to our world. It is the first response to the nothingness of space and existence. ” How can we bring order to chaos?” By drawing a line. By separating an outside from an inside . ” The deeper reason at work lies in the deep-laid, multifarious connection between borders and identities.”

Debray accused sans-frontiérisme of “économisme”, treating culture and polities – summed up in the goals of the international charities like Médecins Sans Frontières – as part of the “global marketplace”. It is the bearer of  “technicisme”, aligning the world to the same standard, of unbounded absolute values. At the heart of the wish for a borderless world is imperialism, through the call for universal Law and human rights is Western power imposed through NATO.

The second is that Spiked is, out of design or not (and few of its contributors seem to be French speakers), echoing themes peddled on the French sovereigntist thinkers, who have become increasingly right-wing and national populist.

The analysis of the “culture wars” by one of the best known far-right writers in France  the historian  Éric Zemmour, may lack the sociological guff about, “the corrosive influences” of the cultural contradictions of capitalism  generational conflict and the individualism of the post-war world.

But…..

In Le Suicide français (2014 – free to download hereis a long (534 pages in the French edition) Zemmour laments about French decline, at the hands of the post-68 cultural rebels, who have become the new establishment. In this Potemkin Republic the  watchwords of 68,: “Dérision, Déconstruction, Destruction”, have undermined the foundations of society, family, and work.

The French left has become a vehicle for metropolitan elites, a supporter of the mass immigration that is underlining France’s ancestral values, its cultural heritage and the Republic’s national economy. In its place it encourages a bohemian “cosmopolitanism”, cultural consumption and mixing. Trapped in its postmodernism and political correctness the left  despises the People, the victims of this New World Order. This Zemmour, Ferudi fashion, contrasts with true  Enlightenment cosmopolitan idealism,  which used to spread theories, ideals and civilisation.

Zemmour has been, liked Spiked, a supporter of the anti-elite protests by “Peripheral France’, the Gilets Jaunes. At present, nobody will be surprised to hear, he is frothing at the mouth at Black Lives Matter and the toppling of statues and getting rid of memorials to slave owners and colonialists (in fact I guessed the latter without reading, but a brief check shows pages of his latest rants on the topic).

No doubt his anti-immigration views would make Zemmour unacceptable – for how long? – to Spiked.

But there are others who would perhaps be more acceptable.

Zemmour is only one of a host of French writers obsessed with the themes of defending civilisation against multiculturalism, identity politics, political correctness, . they range from supporters of Marine Le Pen, such as Christian Bouchet,  France’s Melanie Phillips, Alain Finkielkraut,  to former leftists like Michel Onfray who has just launched his own ‘red-brown’ journal, Front Populaire, bringing together right (including the extreme right, Éléments pour la civilisation européenne) and left wing supporters of sovereigntism. There is name for this political current, national populism.

Is this the kind of search for meaning and cultural belonging Furedi has in mind?