Trump And The Infrastructure Of Fascism

Prof.dr. Gerald Epstein

Infrastructure investment: it’s that economic policy sweet spot that everyone loves to love.

Fixing bridges, building roads, modernizing airports, improving mass transportation, keeping lead out of our water: nearly everyone can relate to the need for it and can imagine how much better their lives would be with more of it.  For years, most people have faced crazy-making delays in traffic, long lines at airports, and have seen pictures of bridges collapsing. And the experts agree. Economists and engineers have warned us about the problem for decades.  The most recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a D+ on its infrastructure building and maintenance, which means that, overall, our infrastructure is in critical condition. These civil engineers estimate that over the next 10 years, the U.S. will have about a $1.2 trillion in infrastructure financing shortfall unless something dramatic is done. Studies have confirmed that, properly done, infrastructure investment can generate millions of jobs, create big time saving efficiencies, and keep people safer. These infrastructure shortfalls, fed by years of Republican austerity initiatives at the Federal and State levels, too often aided and abetted by Democratic bankers and other Democratic “deficit hawks,” are much in the everyday texture of American life.

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump jumped on the bandwagon, decrying America’s “Third World” infrastructure and touting his ability to fix it in short order—as “demonstrated” by his “building prowess “in New York City and “around the world.” Trump promised to quickly fix the country’s decaying infrastructure and generate millions of good paying job with a $1 trillion program that will “Make America Great Again.”

That Trump had hit a political “sweet spot” was made clear early on by the number of prominent Democrats and labor leaders who announced not only an interest but real enthusiasm for cooperating with Trump on making a $ 1 trillion building-spree a reality. How could they resist? A true, well designed, well-implemented $1 Trillion government investment in infrastructure is a plan many Democrats, progressive economists and labor leaders had been promoting for years. As Richard Trumpka, President of the AFL-CIO explained: “During my January meeting with President Trump, we identified a few important areas where compromise seemed possible. On manufacturing, infrastructure and especially trade, we were generally in agreement. Mr. Trump spoke of $1 trillion to rebuild our schools, roads and bridges. He challenged companies to keep jobs in the United States. He promoted ‘Buy America.’ He promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.” Read more

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The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks ~ Self Portrait, ca.1948

Gordon Parks was one of the seminal figures of twentieth century photography. A humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice, he left behind a body of work that documents many of the most important aspects of American culture from the early 1940s up until his death in 2006, with a focus on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life. In addition, Parks was also a celebrated composer, author, and filmmaker who interacted with many of the most prominent people of his era – from politicians and artists to celebrities and athletes.

Born into poverty and segregation in Kansas in 1912, Parks was drawn to photography as a young man when he saw images of migrant workers published in a magazine. After buying a camera at a pawnshop, he taught himself how to use it and despite his lack of professional training, he found employment with the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which was then chronicling the nation’s social conditions. Parks quickly developed a style that would make him one of the most celebrated photographers of his age, allowing him to break the color line in professional photography while creating remarkably expressive images that consistently explored the social and economic impact of racism.

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Studio Meritis MaKOM

Foto: Ilya Rabinovich

Studio Meritis MaKOM (Joseph Semah and Linda Bouws) is aware of the urgent need to add new perspectives to the dominant Western traditional way of thinking in our globalizing world.
The Western world has been predominately manifested by iconic works of art, literature, film, theatre, philosophy, often related to traditional Christianity.
But culture is not static, it is always changing: today’s culture is tomorrow’s heritage.

Seen from this perspective, it is necessary to take a critical look at how Western culture and art are presented and why. It is also important to recognize and accept sources and traditions of other cultures.
We will be searching for new structures and a new conceptual vision which will better reflect the reality of our pluralistic society. This will require thinking out of the box, whereby the artist’s scrutiny on the creative processes in the West will play an important role.

Studio Meritis MaKOM is committed to investigate and encourage different views on the current artistic research into Western culture. New research into the existing way of thinking will lead to new and maybe forgotten information, representations and interpretations. We will develop these, analyse them and provide them with a podium.
Our aim is to stimulate a collective commitment and to make a contribution to the debate on Western art and culture by also including non-Western art and culture.

Studio Meritis MaKOM reflects and provides context for art and culture.

Studio Meritis MaKOM focuses on
– Current global developments and discussions on Western art
– Contextualization of Western art
– The significance, relevance and representation of Western art, culture and politics in a complex world of interculturalism.

© Metropool Foundation International Art Projects

Mob: +31(0) 620132195

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The Guardian ~ The Story Of Cities

Story of cities #18: Vienna’s ‘wild settlers’ kickstart a social housing revolution ~ Photo: The Guardian

An in-depth historical look by Guardian Cities at how the world was urbanised.

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Truth Or Dare ~ Mena-Region and Europe Towards A More Inclusive Dialogue

Tolhuistuin – IJpromenade 2 – 1031 KT  Amsterdam ~ September 17 -2017,  14.00-21.30 h. – +31(0)20 7630650

To reserve tickets 7.50 €

Do we citizens have a right to truth in post-truth societies? How much debate can we handle? What to do with ‘legitimacy claims’ and ‘the rule of law’ if increasingly they seem more part of the problem than being key to conflict resolution?

If you are interested in these pivotal issues of our time, come to the Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam on Sunday September 17 and participate in the Truth or Dare festival ‘beyond post-truth society’.
Truth or Dare welcomes the current battles about ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ as excellent opportunities to revisit and redesign our societies in Europe and the MENA region.
The event aims to offer a unique chance to challenge ourselves, discard useless narratives and develop new ones, and engage in fruitful dialogue with changemakers from around Europe and the Mena-region.

Truth or Dare is an exploration in five acts of the meaning of truth in present-day societies.

Taking our lead from the global debate about ‘the post-truth society’, we consider the fundamental crisis of the post truth age as a battle over legitimacy and the control over central institutions in society. Our conference is an attempt to create a safe space for critical contemplation and serious self-reflection. We deem such reflections crucial and a prerequisite in any fight for more equal and inclusive social and political dialogues. We focus our deliberations on the MENA region and Western Europe.

Prologue – 14.00-14.30 h.

Truth or Dare
Do citizens have a ‘right to truth?’ This thought-provoking speech will take us through the various meanings of ‘truth’ in our times. The speech is a prelude to an open dialogue with all participants that will address the following questions:
– Is a ‘common truth’, in this context defined as social consensus, necessary and a basic condition for peace and social stability?
– Is the discourse on truth and truth claims equally accessible to everyone?
– What are the consequences when institutions whose legitimacy derives from their ability to criticize, such as science and the rule of law, have become contested themselves?

Keynote speaker: Rached Ghannouchi, co- founder of the Ennahda Party and serving as  its ‘intellectual leader’ (under reservation)

First act: Truth 14.30-15.30 h.

Is there life after truth?
Moderator: Markha Valenta, assistant professor at Radboud University Nijmegen

How are truth claims played out in present day societies and what are the minimum conditions needed to build (or rebuild) democratic institutions? These will be the two key subjects of this first Act. Modern institutions which arose from out of the need to hold societies together, such as media, science, the democratic rule of law and other forms of government derive their legitimacy from their ability to accommodate divergent ideologies and views: through systems of rules, procedures and standards they are supposed to build on a social consensus about values and methods. Now that this implicit agreement is undermined and considered of diminishing value, the question arises: What are the minimum conditions needed to build or rebuild well- functioning  (democratic) institutions? Is ‘social consensus’ a basic condition to prevent polarization and social conflicts or does it suffice to just establish a set of transparent mechanisms to deal with diversity?

Speakers: Xandra Schutte, editor in chief of ‘De Groene Amsterdammer’; Jonas Staal, Dutch visual artist; Samir Makdisi, American University of Beirut

Break: 15.30-16.00 h.

Second act: Dare 16.00-17.00 h.
Benefit of the doubt?

Moderator: Godelieve van Heteren
Where to go with ‘legitimacy’ in post-truth societies? A round-table conversation in which guest speakers and participants will discuss the meaning of ‘legitimacy’ and explore its relevance for society today and for well-functioning institutions.
Legitimacy is widely considered to be a basic principle for states, the media and science, but is also multifaceted and rather intangible.
The search for authority and influential power symbols in post- truth societies is the starting point for this discussion. What is the meaning of legitimacy when we each live in our own bubble? Is it still useful to search for common sources of legitimacy and what should they look like? Or is the current widespread polarization a given that requires alternative concepts?

Speakers: Cees Ullersma, head of the banking supervision department of the Dutch central bank (DNB); Bechir Mechergoui, professor at the University of Tunis; Thijs Jansen, founder of the ‘Beroepseer’ (professional ethics) foundation.

Third act: Truth 17.00-18.00 h.
The truth we dare not see

Moderator: Steve Austen

How much debate can we handle? Our mainstream social dialogues are far from inclusive. Are we living in a forever derailed arena of confusion; does is still help to define procedural requirements for social criticism or should we rather widen the discourse?
During recent decades, countries in the western part of the world aimed to educate citizens about critical citizenship. Critical thinking is claimed to be key in preventing radicalization and extremism and considered an important ‘export product’ of ‘western countries’.
But nowadays a significant number of citizens have turned against the institutions created to support critical thinking such as the rule of law, science and human rights values. In practice, it appears difficult to deal with critics and criticism and to allow for fundamental questioning.
We tend to evade discussion and instead focus more on altering ‘the tone of the debate’. Very often criticism is rejected as populism, not grounded in facts or emotionalism. Are we ready for a post-‘we’ society?

Speakers: Karl Sharro, architect, satirist and commentator on the Middle- East; Joshua Livestro, columnist and commentator, Dick Pels, analyst (under reservation).

Drinks and Dinner 18.00 tot 19.30 h.

Fourth act: Dare 19.30-20.30 h.
Rule of law or Rule of Truth?

Moderator: Myrthe Hilkens (under reservation)

How to relate to the rule of law now that that institution seems to be part of continuous contention rather than key to conflict resolution? This will be the focal point of a stage interview about the rule of law.
In ‘Western’ countries, the rule of law is often evoked as a sure guarantee for human rights and freedoms for minorities. Many discourses on the achievements of so-called ‘Western civilizations’ abound in praising the rule of law as a legal safeguard for pluriformity. However, nowadays this assumed institution of hope has increasingly fallen prey to harsh accusations of partiality, bias and alienation.
We will engage in a ‘hard talk’ on what is the ‘heart’ of the rule of law? Is it merely a set of procedures to settle conflicts or does a well-functioning rule of law also require a minimum level of mutual understanding and shared values? And if it is the latter: what are the basic values underpinning the rule of law? How will our current conflicts play out given the state of the ‘rule of law’? What practical future are we looking at?

Ad Melkert, politician, councillor, Independent advisor, board director; Abderrahim Kassou, conseil national des droits de l’ homme and Sameh Khader, Director General of the Mahmoud Darwish Museum

Epilogue: Truth 20.30-21.30 h.
The battlefield of truth

Moderator: Godelieve van Heteren

The battlefield of truth is the finale in which we take a deep dive into the accessibility and equality of current public debates. We will turn the spotlight on the public media in the broadest sense of the term. How do we deal with the polymorphic media and inequality in access to media channels? How can we understand the widespread dissatisfaction with existing procedures and institutions? Is it time for a fundamental review and are we up to it, given the complexity of post-truth society as discussed in the previous conversations of Truth or Dare?

Introduced by Markha Valenta, assistant professor at Radboud University, Nijmegen, Shula Rijxman, Chairman of NPO (Netherlands Public Broadcasting, under reservation), Hans Nijenhuis, Editor in Chief AD (Dutch daily newspaper, under reservation) and Bechir Mechergoui, professor at the University of Tunis.


Contact: Faïrouz ben Salah
Mob: +31 (0) 64638801









Contact: Linda Bouws
Mob: +31(0) 620132195


Université de Tunis







City of Amsterdam






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It’s Just Not Relevant ~ Objective Truth

Farid Tabarki

In 2015 Oxford Dictionaries chose the laughing face called ‘face with tears of joy’ (an emoji or ‘ideogram’ in internet communication) as its word of the year. The dictionary was not as upbeat this time around. The winner of 2016, ‘post-truth’, according to its definition relates to or denotes “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. Doesn’t that call to mind Brexit and the US elections?

We are not talking here about a novel phenomenon. The Nation reminds us that the term ‘post-truth’ appeared in the magazine as early as 1992. Back then, Serbian-American author Steve Tesich was referring to the Iran-Contra affair of 1986, during which president of the US Reagan denied selling weapons to Iran in order to finance the Nicaraguan Contras.
According to Tesich “in a very fundamental way we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world.“

Since then, Clinton has claimed not to have had sexual relations with that woman, Tony Blair has justified the war against Iraq by lying about Iraq’s supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction, and president Trump has denied climate change. It is not so much that objective truth does not exist, as indeed the postmodernists claim, because it does: it’s just not relevant.

You might expect such an absurd situation to occur only in unfree countries, such as the fictional country from George Orwell’s 1984, where citizens are forced to accept two truths through ‘double-think’. Or the Soviet Union, where, according to Alexei Yurchak, associate professor at Berkeley, hypernormalization was the norm: everyone was aware of the system’s failure, but for lack of a more hopeful outlook, both apparatchiks and citizens collectively pretended it was working normally. This period gave us the following proverb: “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us”.

Is the free west heading for a similar mock democracy, where the lying leader pretends to be right and the citizen pretends to vote for the politician he or she really wants? In this modern form of hypernormalization, Trump’s or Farage’s lies don’t serve to conceal the truth, but rather to strengthen prejudices.

The Netherlands also doesn’t seem to be able to combat lying politicians through fact-checking. According to professor Paul Frissen we must look for new political stories, all about “solidarity in a historically grounded future”. He is right: we are lacking in imagination. You don’t dismantle lies with facts, you dismantle them with vision.

Farid Tabarki is the founding director of Studio Zeitgeist



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