Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ~ The Danger Of A Single Story


Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on TED.com, at http://www.ted.com/translate. Watch a highlight reel of the Top 10 TEDTalks at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/top10

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Umberto Eco ~ Ur-Fascism

nyrbWe must keep alert, so that the sense of these words will not be forgotten again. Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier, for us, if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances—every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: “I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.” Freedom and liberation are an unending task.

In 1942, at the age of ten, I received the First Provincial Award of Ludi Juveniles (a voluntary, compulsory competition for young Italian Fascists—that is, for every young Italian). I elaborated with rhetorical skill on the subject “Should we die for the glory of Mussolini and the immortal destiny of Italy?” My answer was positive. I was a smart boy.

I spent two of my early years among the SS, Fascists, Republicans, and partisans shooting at one another, and I learned how to dodge bullets. It was good exercise.

In April 1945, the partisans took over in Milan. Two days later they arrived in the small town where I was living at the time. It was a moment of joy. The main square was crowded with people singing and waving flags, calling in loud voices for Mimo, the partisan leader of that area. A former maresciallo of the Carabinieri, Mimo joined the supporters of General Badoglio, Mussolini’s successor, and lost a leg during one of the first clashes with Mussolini’s remaining forces. Mimo showed up on the balcony of the city hall, pale, leaning on his crutch, and with one hand tried to calm the crowd. I was waiting for his speech because my whole childhood had been marked by the great historic speeches of Mussolini, whose most significant passages we memorized in school. Silence. Mimo spoke in a hoarse voice, barely audible. He said: “Citizens, friends. After so many painful sacrifices … here we are. Glory to those who have fallen for freedom.” And that was it. He went back inside. The crowd yelled, the partisans raised their guns and fired festive volleys. We kids hurried to pick up the shells, precious items, but I had also learned that freedom of speech means freedom from rhetoric.

Read more: http://www.nybooks.com/

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The Middle East Is Heating Up ~ Again: An Interview With Richard Falk

Prof.em. Richard Falk

The Middle East is heating up again, in part due to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Trump administration has also incited upset with its unconditional support for Israel’s aggressive policies, which violate basic principles of international law and threaten the region with the eruption of military confrontations. For an assessment of the latest developments in the Middle East, C.J. Polychroniou spoke to Richard Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, former UN special rapporteur for Palestinian human rights and author of scores of books and hundreds of academic articles on international relations and international law.

C.J. Polychroniou: Richard, let’s start with Donald Trump’s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy there by May of this year. First, is this legal from the standpoint of international law, and second, what are likely to be the long-term effects of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on the region as a whole?

Richard Falk: There is no question that Trump’s Jerusalem policy relating to recognition and the move of the American embassy is provocative and disruptive, underscoring the abandonment by Washington of even the pretense of being a trustworthy intermediary that can be relied upon by both sides to work for a sustainable peace between the two peoples. Some critics of the initiative are saying that the US is free to situate its embassy in Jerusalem, but it isn’t Israel, as the status of the city is undetermined and East Jerusalem, where the “Old City” is located, is considered to be an “occupied territory” in international humanitarian law.

Recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, which rests on the central proposition that an occupied territory should not be altered in any way that changes its status and character without the consent of the occupied society. It also is a unilateral rejection of a near universal consensus, endorsed by the United Nations, that the future of Jerusalem should be settled by negotiations between the parties as a part of a broader peacemaking process. Israel had already violated both international law and this international consensus by annexing an enlarged Jerusalem, and declared that the whole city, within expanded boundaries, would be the “undivided, eternal capital” of Israel. It is notable that the UN General Assembly on December 21, 2017, approved by an overwhelming majority of 128-8 (35 abstentions) a strong condemnation of the US move on Jerusalem, with [the US’s] closest allies joining in this vote of censure.

It is difficult to predict the long-term consequences of this diplomatic rupture. It depends, above all, on whether the US government manages to restore its claim to act as a conflict-resolving intermediary. The Trump administration continues to insist that it is working on a peace plan that will require painful compromises by both Palestine and Israel. Of course, given the unconditional alignment of Washington with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, and the orientation of those entrusted with drafting the plan, it is highly unlikely that even President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority will be inclined to enter a diplomatic process that is virtually certain to be weighted so heavily in favor of Israel. Yet as many have come to appreciate, nothing is harder to predict than the future of Middle Eastern politics. At the same time, Jerusalem has an abiding significance for both Islam and Christianity that makes it almost certain for the indefinite future that there will be formidable regional and international resistance to subsuming Jerusalem under Israeli sovereign control.

Israel appears bent on restricting Iran’s rising influence as a regional power in the Middle East. How far do you think the US can go in assisting Israel to contain Tehran’s strategy for empowering Shias?

Israel and Saudi Arabia are both, for different reasons, determined to confront Iran, and quite possibly, initiate a military encounter with widespread ramifications for the entire region, if not the world. A quick glance at the Syrian conflict suggests how complex and dangerous is this effort to destabilize the Iranian governing process, with the dual objectives of destabilizing the governing process mixed with the more ambitious goal of causing civil strife of sufficient magnitude as to produce a civil war, and ideally, regime change.

The Israeli adherence to this recklessness seems partly motivated by its overall security policy of seeking to weaken any country in the region that is hostile to its presence and has the potential military capability to threaten Israeli security in a serious manner. Israel has been so far successful in neutralizing each of its credible adversaries in the region (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria) with the exception of Iran. In this sense, Iran stands out as the last large unfinished item on Israel’s geopolitical agenda. The question of Israel’s real intentions [is] hard to pin down, as the alleged Iranian threat is also frequently manipulated by Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders to mobilize domestic support for sticking with an aggressive foreign policy. In this latter context, Israeli security specialists express an appreciation of the risks of an actual military confrontation with Iran. Read more

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Over de rol van ijdelheid in de wetenschap ~ Over Norbert Elias

Omslag & DTP BuroBouws

In 1946 ging ik als student de colleges bijwonen van Professor A.N.J. Den Hollander, toen net benoemd tot hoogleraar in de sociologie aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam. In een van zijn eerste colleges ried hij ons ter lezing de studie aan van een zekere Norbert Elias, getiteld Über den Prozess der Zivilisation. Hij zei erbij: ‘hij is een Duitser van joodse komaf, dus helaas, alle kans dat hij niet meer leeft’. Ik heb zijn raad opgevolgd en daar nooit spijt van gehad.

Als ik zijn studie nu opnieuw beschouw vind ik die weer, of nog steeds, een meesterwerk, handelend over een belangrijk onderwerp, met verve gepresenteerd en, dat vooral, gebaseerd op gedegen en zorgvuldig onderzoek. Geen uitspraak of die wordt onderbouwd door een verwijzing naar de literatuur; het notenapparaat omvat ruim 10 percent van de totale, zo’n 800 pagina’s tellende, tekst. En tenslotte, mij dunkt dat zijn conclusies grotendeels ook nu nog geldig zijn. [1] Ik ben trouwens niet de enige die dit meent. Zo werd ik geattendeerd op een boek uit 2011 waarvan de auteur dankbaar gebruik maakt van zijn inzichten, zoals neergelegd in Über den Prozess der Zivilisation.[2]

In 1933 was Elias verbonden aan de universiteit van Frankfurt als assistent van Karl Mannheim, een in die tijd terecht befaamde socioloog. In januari van dat jaar kwam Hitler in Duitsland aan de macht. Al in maart of april is Elias uit Duitsland vertrokken, toen dat voor joden nog gemakkelijk kon. Hij heeft twee jaar in Parijs gewoond, is daarna naar Londen getrokken. Daar ontving hij van een comité dat joodse vluchtelingen uit Duitsland bijstond jarenlang een schamele toelage.

In precies drie jaar, van zijn acht en dertigste tot zijn een en veertigste heeft hij daar toen zijn meesterwerk geschreven. Een herculische prestatie. Hij had weliswaar geen andere besognes maar aan de andere kant, hij miste daar de steun van een academische instelling. Hij bracht al zijn dagen in eenzaamheid werkend door in het British Museum, dezelfde plaats waar Karl Marx zoveel jaren eerder zijn meesterwerk schreef. In 1938 kwamen zijn ouders, die nog steeds in Duitsland woonden, hem in Londen bezoeken. Een wonder dat hun dat nog gelukt is. Norbert heeft ze gesmeekt om niet terug te gaan en bij hem in Londen te komen wonen. Maar zijn vader zei: ‘mij kunnen ze niks maken, ik heb nooit in mijn leven de wet overtreden, ik heb in Breslau als onbezoldigd adviseur voor de belastingdienst gewerkt, waarvoor ik zelfs een onderscheiding heb gekregen’. Ze zijn in volle onschuld teruggegaan naar hun vertrouwde huis in Breslau. Zijn vader is in 1940 een natuurlijke dood gestorven, zijn moeder is enkele jaren later opgepakt en vermoord. In 1939 kon Elias, nog net voor de oorlog, de twee dikke boekdelen waaruit zijn meesterwerk bestaat, slijten aan een Zwitserse uitgever.

Bovenstaande gegevens zijn voornamelijk ontleend aan zijn memoires, verschenen in: ‘De Geschiedenis van Norbert Elias’, aldaar pp. 93-165: ‘Notities bij mijn levensloop’. Dit boek bevat tevens het verslag van zeven uitvoerige gesprekken met hem over zijn leven: Heerma van Voss, A.J. en A. van Stolk, aldaar pp. 11-92. [3] Die gesprekken hebben plaatsgevonden in 1984, Elias was toen 87 jaar oud. Hij gaf te kennen dat hij nog altijd vond een belangrijke Boodschap voor de Wereld te hebben, waar de wereld helaas onvoldoende naar luisterde. ‘U hebt altijd een opmerkelijk groot zelfvertrouwen gehad’, zeggen zijn gesprekspartners.

Elias: ‘Ik weet niet of het opmerkelijk is, maar ik heb nooit betwijfeld of ik gelijk had.
Zij: ‘Het is toch opmerkelijk als iemand de zekerheid heeft dat wat hij zegt belangrijk is?’
Elias: ‘Ja, maar die zekerheid heb ik en had ik altijd, ook als die inging tegen de mensen die het voor het zeggen hadden. Daar ben ik wel een beetje trots op.’ Read more

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The Entire Archives Of Radical Philosophy Go Online: Read Essays By Michel Foucault, Alain Badiou, Judith Butler & More (1972-2018)

On a seemingly daily basis, we see attacks against the intellectual culture of the academic humanities, which, since the 1960s, have opened up spaces for leftists to develop critical theories of all kinds. Attacks from supposedly liberal professors and centrist op-ed columnists, from well-funded conservative think tanks and white supremacists on college campus tours. All rail against the evils of feminism, post-modernism, and something called “neo-Marxism” with outsized agitation.

For students and professors, the onslaughts are exhausting, and not only because they have very real, often dangerous, consequences, but because they all attack the same straw men (or “straw people”) and refuse to engage with academic thought on its own terms. Rarely, in the exasperating proliferation of cranky, cherry-picked anti-academia op-eds do we encounter people actually reading and grappling with the ideas of their supposed ideological nemeses.

Read more: http://www.openculture.com/the-entire-archives-of-radical-philosophy-go-online.html

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Is Greece On The Road To Recovery, Or Will It Remain Trapped By Debt? An Interview With Economist Costas Lapavitsas

Professor Costas Lapavitsas BSc Photo: SOAS University of London

In early 2010, Greece became technically bankrupt as it was shut out from borrowing in the international credit markets because of skyrocketing deficits and huge public debt levels. Since then, the country has been under bailout programs created by the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to keep it inside the eurozone. However, the bailout programs have been accompanied by brutal austerity measures that have had a catastrophic effect on Greek economy and society. Yet the current pseudo-leftist Syriza government — which has been enforcing the EU neoliberal agenda since coming to power in 2015, with greater dedication than any other Greek government since the outbreak of the crisis — declares today’s economic situation a “success story.” However, not everyone is buying the official story.

Costas Lapavitsas is a Marxist economist at the University of London. Since the outbreak of the eurozone crisis in 2010, he argued consistently in favor of Greek default and exit from the eurozone as the key to a left-wing strategy to confront the crisis. He produced much analytical work and his arguments had considerable influence within the left, but also more widely across Greek society. For several years, his name became widely associated with these policies and had influence within Syriza, even though its leadership was completely opposed to this strategy. In January 2015 he accepted an invitation by Syriza to join its electoral ticket as an independent, and was elected to the Hellenic Parliament with a great majority in his electoral region of Imathia.

Lapavitsas served as a member of parliament for seven months and was one of the leading voices in the country in favor of a radical course of action that would bring a political rupture with the lenders. The Syriza leadership, and especially the circle of Alexis Tsipras, tried systematically to marginalize him, keeping him away from positions of authority. When the Syriza leadership surrendered to the lenders in August, 2015, Lapavitsas left the party, together with more than 30 others. They were the true left of Syriza and tried to create an alternative left-wing party called Popular Unity. Unfortunately, their efforts have not been successful, partly because of their own organizational weaknesses, and partly because a disillusionment with the left prevailed in Greek society after the surrender of Syriza.

Is Greece on the road to economic recovery? In this interview, Lapavitsas suggests it is simply ludicrous on the part of a former left party to speak of a neoliberal success story for a country mired in poverty and debt. Read more

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