TEAM Made by Steff Nagel and Ella Goemans, it’s true.
Editor: Giovanni Stanga
The Spring Edition
Co-editor: Gaia Lisi Final Edit Printed Edition: Ella Goemans Journalists: Fazilet Merve Çağlayan
Nicolas Gaté Ella Goemans Emils Dombrovskis Karin Filkászová Leonie Friedrich Julia Hönnecke Sharmi Hauqe Michael Keith Gaia Lisi Gaby Muhlberg Steff Nagel Leander Nielbock Simon Pompé David Reuter Samantha Scarpa Sophia Seeber Leonardo Sena Giovanni Stanga Wiebke Stimming Giulia Tempo Maria Thon Cover: Steff Nagel Layout and design: Steff Nagel
La rue Montorgueil à Paris - Claude Monet A beautiful impressionist painting of the celebration of French national idenity after the Franco-Prussian War. It would soon be after this moment that France would host the World’s Fair and unveil the mighty Eiffel Tower. Besides it lively colours, the world in this painting was at a revolutionary point when bigger leaps were taken than we could have ever imagined before.
Mashrou Leila: A portrait of a revolutionary band in the Middle East.
Revolution of Facts: Why fake news dominates everywhere.
Populism, a ‘normal’ revolution: On the rise of populist mainstream parties.
South America 30
Brazl Cultural Shift: Society is not fixed. Does this also apply to Brasil?
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
Rise Up Women!: How the suffragets started a feminist revolution.
Talk Of Revolution: Somewhere, in the trenches of WWI...
Digital Revolution: Our daily lives are riddled with phones and other gadgets.
Soundtrack To Revolution: Music can discuss political issues; through the ages.
The Middle East 32
A Paradoxical Civilisation: Iran once more finds itself in a political change.
China as a rising power, an analysis.
12 Chinese (R)evolution:
1968: How students of the ‘60s made history.
A 35mm Revolution: Why we should use film once more.
History 36 Peaceful Revolutions: How the Berlin Wall is a another form of revolutions
Nazim Hikmet: A romantic Revolutionary.
evolution. In modern history, this word undoubtedly represents one of the most misused terms, characterized by diverging interpretations of what it actually stands for. Is a revolution a disruptive process that utterly breaks from the past? In other words, is it solely projected to the future or can some of its core elements be traced to the will to restore a glorious past? Moreover, can a revolution occur through peaceful and institutional means or does it need violence to occur? These are the unsolved dilemmas which not only historians and scholars are confronted with, but even us, everyday people face it when we interrogate ourselves on the very meaning of this word. We often portray a revolution as a topdown movement that sparks within the masses, but, as history teaches us, social and political protests are often led, and even manipulated by the elites for their own benefits. As the all-time expert of revolutions Vladimir Lenin argued, the system can be changed only from within. The necessity to know the rules of the game to carry out a revolution, indeed, often determines the return to the initial status quo, once the wave of social turmoil quietened and has been suppressed. The most problematic aspect of a revolution is that it is total, since it entails the complete dismantling of the current system, to be replaced with a more just, efficient and representative of the people. The demand to re-build the socio-economic and political structures, in line with original and innovative ideologies, principles and rules, however, brings about, in almost all cases, a vacuum of power within both the new organization and the leaders that sit on top it. The latter plays a pivotal role in channelling the social unrest of the masses, which are very diverse within themselves and thus chaotic entities. The emergence of leaders who allegedly claim to act in the name of the people’s interests becomes problematic, due to the fact that change is often produced through the use of violence, stating that ‘the ends justify their means’. There are countless examples of this phenomenon, including the French Revolution, the 1917 Russian Revolution, The Chinese Revolution led by Mao in the 1960s, and the Arab Spring. Our curiosity in reflecting upon this long debated concept stems from its inner complexity. The aim is not to necessarily to provide answers, but instead it is that of assessing contemporary and past processes that relate to the concept of revolution through our interpretative lens. Due to this, and its high degree of variety, we decided to tackle this theme from different angles. There are musical, political, cultural, socioeconomic, historical and geopolitical revolutions, and all of them deserve special attention, to shed light on the differences and the shared features. I hope you enjoy these articles and best of luck with your current and future endeavors on behalf of the whole Diplomat Team!
By Samantha Scarpa
n the breeze of September, more than 35.000 people gather for a concert, hiding some alcohol from the policemen and taking selfies with friends. The night starts, and a 5-member band takes the stage, with the sound of its unmistakable drum kit and their skinny, black-leathered outfits. The singer of the band, a queer icon, starts singing some of his most famous lyrics, while the audience follows him and dances through the night, cheering and applauding the performers:
Others have tamed hurricanes to control the fate / But by a breeze weâ€™re blown away and to ruin we abate/ And when you dare ask about the deterioration of affairs / They silence you with slogans
And then: Why bother being, instead of becoming? / All things live to die as a new tune / The difference between freedom and submission is agency / I made the choice. I permitted it. I said it. The vibes are incredibly good, everyone feels at home. At some point, two or three rainbow flags are raised from the crowd, waving to the rhythm of the music.
But this is not one of the usual European festivals: it takes place at the Cairo, in Egypt, and the singer is Hamed Sinno, frontman of Mashrou’ Leila. Following the Music Park Festival on September 22nd, 2017, Egyptian media and the public élites strongly condemned the event that soon went viral on social networks – it was the first time ever that someone showed the rainbow flag in public. In the following days, more than 20 people were arrested for “deviant behaviour”. Mashrou’ Leila was strongly criticised by national newspapers for their “subversive messages” and the Egyptian Music Syndicate banned the band to perform in Egypt again. To all this, the band replied with a long and well-articulated post on Facebook, stating that “The amount of boastful ignorance, hate speech, and lies that have emerged in the press is unthinkable. We urge the Egyptian press to wake up to the catastrophe that they have generated and take responsibility for the inflammatory lies that they have published over the last 10 days. […] This is not a time for silence, nor is it a time for condescendingly discussing identity politics. Silence is consent.” On a more personal remark, Sinno stated in an interview “I am not going to pretend that none of this is disappointing or completely heart-breaking, but all of this must mean we are doing something right”.
The History of an “Overnight Project” Mashrou’ Leila (in Arabic: the night project) is a Lebanese music band founded in 2008. They chose this name due to their habit to rehearse at night, being busy with uni during the day. The members have all studied at the American University of Beirut and come from the middle-class Arab-American part of the society, the second generation of Middle Eastern that came back from the States. This is a point Sinno wants to underline: “I don’t think that expectation is really there when it comes to dealing with white artists. No one really goes up to a white artist and says, ‘How do you represent your culture?’ […] The Arab world is as complex and as diverse and messed up and great as anywhere else in the world”. This complexity is well expressed in their music. “Contamination” is the main feature of the genre they play, which ranges from a pop-indie sound to rock-alternative influences. Electric synths and a drum-kit go along with the Arab touch of Haig’s violin and a warm bass line. In their four albums (Mashrou’ Leila, El Hal Romancy, Raasuk and Ibn el Leil) romantic ballads alternate with energetic manifestos. And here comes the second element of their success: the lyrics. Since the beginning, the band has
often taken stances towards political and societal issues, singing about the Lebanese corruption, going against the limit of expression and, especially, talking about gender and sexuality. One of the most appreciated songs, Shim el Yasmine, tells a personal story regarding the singer and a break-up that he had back at university: “Smell the jasmine / Brother don’t forget me /My love, my prize / I would have liked to keep you near me / Introduce you to my parents, have you crown my heart / Cook your food, sweep your home /Spoil your kids, be your housewife”. It has soon become an anthem for the LGBT community, as well as the more recent Kalam: “I taste mistakes and whiskey on your lips / And yet the language of words persists / Its letters cloak us as I whisper all my secrets into our mouth / Then you return to your idols, and I return to the void”. The power of these lyrics lies on the universality of the feelings they play and the heavy influence of literature, taking inspiration by Allen Ginsberg, Abu Nuwas, Walt Whitman, Greek and Roman mythology and even Sappho. As soon as the band grew in popularity and expanded their tours outside Lebanon, landing in France, Europe and eventually North America, the local traits of their political message gradually acquired a universal consciousness and paid further attention to social issues, yet still engaging in regional causes. Although they try to maintain a sort of “low-profile” in the message they send without addressing particular situations, their constant engagement is undeniable. In 2016, they took part in a project with Greenpeace, rewriting some of the lyrics and performing these unreleased versions aboard the “Rainbow Warrior”, a boat owned by the ONG that sails across the Mediterranean. Their last single, “Roman”, talks about betrayal and disappointment. As a lot of fans say, it has been soon taken as a symbol of protest against a political and social system that is not loyal to the needs and claims of citizens. “Worms carve my body / and the Earth embraces my skin / How could you sell me to the Romans?” The chorus – and the song – was the summer hit of the Middle East. “While in the countryside they are not so popular, everyone sings their song in the cities. They represent a way to recognise yourself in a youth – principally, but not uniquely – that demands more of the governments” a Syrian activist told me some months
“It was the first time ever that someone showed the rainbow flag in public.” ago. Especially the second part of the chorus, “alayhum”, “charge!” may symbolise a battlecry to every individual’s fights. The band has followed the enthusiasm of the audience to speak about another huge social issue: female representation in the Middle East. Together with the videomaker Jessy Mousallem, they created a music video in which Arab women, wearing their traditional clothes – often with hijab or veils – gather around one of them who dances a contemporary choreography. The power of their movements and their look is the key to self-realisation, as the band claims. They wanted to deliver a vision through which “treating oppression not as a source of victimhood, but as the fertile ground from which resistance can be weaponised”, as they told NPR.
Amman and the costs of speaking up If it is not revolutionary enough that one of the most prominent Arab band in the world is explicitly pro-LGBT and has a gay frontman it is time to have a deeper look at the practical consequences of their music inside and outside their country. Their last album, “Ibn El Leil” (“Son of the night”) is inspired by the atmosphere of foggy nightclubs. According to Sinno’s explanation, the night bars are the place where, in Lebanon, politics and society finally merge. He compares them to the ancient Greek agora and speaks about how gay rights and gender equality have first found their voice in these places. “The fact that gay men feel more comfortable going out in certain places in Beirut and holding hands or making out on a dance floor says a lot. All of that is a political negotiation in the absence of a structure that is doing that negotiation for you.” One of their new songs, “Tayf” (“Ghost”), implicitly refers to a nightclub in Beirut shut down by the authorities, through quotes from Sylvia Plath and the Bible. This is one of the powers of Mashrou’ Leila: people from every corner of the world can be touched and feel the same, although in different degrees and nuances. After the club shooting in Orlando, the band explains, they were
granted higher security standard for their concerts in North America. “It takes about 10 minutes of being onstage to start feeling like nothing is going to happen. But then it goes from there. And it’s amazing to see an audience loosen up over the course of a concert, to see the energy in the room transform”. If everything seems so beautiful in the story of Mashrou’ Leila it is extremely important to highlight that the events in Egypt this September is only the latest of the political incidents that the band has witnessed. Despite the huge success of the single, Roman – as well as most of Mashrou’s music – is not played by the radios nor are their videos broadcast on TV. Despite their soldout concerts on both sides of the Mediterranean – and the Atlantic – their personal lives and performances are always at risk. The most remarkable case occurred in April 2017, when they were supposed to play in Amman, Jordan. Hundreds of people from the entire region – and tens of buses from Palestine – were supposed to attend the event. However, the license to perform was withdrawn less than a week in advance. The formal reason for the decision was that “some of the songs contradict the values of Jordan’s society”, as the Minister of Tourism declared. Following the condemnation in international media – newspapers such as the Guardian and Libération put a strong spotlight on the issue – the ban was reverted only one day before the concert, making it de facto impossible to re-organise the big event. They planned another concert in June, which was banned again for the same reason. This time, the band knew for sure there were some conservative resistances within Jordanian authorities and it even received individual life threats. But Mashrou’ Leila is not afraid to speak up in a resolved, yet elegant style, as they have been doing ever since the first album was released and Hamed Sinno performed in Beirut, where he himself brought and held the rainbow flag on stage, 8 years ago. I will conclude this article with Mashrou’ Leila’s comment on the events which, as usual, demonstrate that the classy and strong music of change cannot be silenced, not even through violence:
“An in-depth reading of the band’s stances and our songs reveals our interest in various social struggles, questioning the nature of freedom, and addressing various issues that we cannot ostrich ourselves from, be they oppression, censorship, gun control, sexual repression, the patriarchal oppression of both men and women, or the difficulty of just being, when being is in a society that constantly extinguishes our aspirations. […] We will not stop defending the Islamic community on account of this. Nor will we stop defending the LGBTIQ community on account of this. Nor will we change anything about how we go about making and performing our music. We are not afraid of the various death threats we’ve received over the last few days. We refuse to be ashamed of supporting our queer band-mate. We are proud of our work. We are proud of our audience, as always. If anything, today we are ashamed of the decisions of the Jordanian authorities.”
The Shah of Iran visits Berlin. His supporters welcome him, cheering. Young people gather to protest his dictatorial regime. Suddenly, the monarch’s supporters start bludgeoning the other side with their signs, brutally and without warning. Only later it would emerge that the Iranian Secret Services were behind that act of violence. After some confusion, the police steps in - on the supporters’ side. “Today, there’s going to be trouble”, the officer in charge had remarked earlier that day to his men. Now the police are brutally dispersing the young protestors. Violent panic ensues. Desperately, people flee the scene. Benno Ohnesorg, who had earlier lost his pregnant wife in the crowd, sprints away from two policemen chasing after him. A thousand feet stampede across the pavement alongside him. He takes a sharp turn inside a backyard. Then, a gunshot bellows through Berlin. Silence. Then, one officer screams at the other “Are you crazy?!” In October 2017, it was fifty years ago that Benno Ohnesorg had been murdered by West Berlin’s police. The bullet had hit him through his skull from behind. The officer was never convicted. What would it take for you to grab a Molotov and throw it against the government? What if every part of your conscience, every moral fibre in your body, and all your peers were screaming at you: We are living in an unjust system and we must overcome it. What would you do? During the 60's, young people all over the world were
By Simon Pompé asking themselves these questions. It had started in America, where out of public opposition to the Vietnam War, the Hippie- and Civil Rights movements were born. It spread to Europe like wildfire. 1968 was the year of escalation. In America, Martin Luther King was murdered, enraging his supporters and causing riots. In France, the Fifth Republic came dangerously close to collapse in May, until violent student and worker strikes were broken. And in Germany, the murder of the student Benno Ohnesorg reignited the sixties’ Leftist movements and bestowed them with a radical intensity that never quite found a uniform stance towards the legitimate use of political violence. ’68 was significant to the entire world - also to both Eastern and Western Europe. However, the two sides of the Iron Curtain displayed two different kinds of civil mobilisation. In the East, entire societies spanning all demographics rose to their feet to fight for what was essentially national sovereignty against Soviet quasi-imperialism. In Poland, for example, entire cities’ populations filled the streets to protest the regime. They did so every decade of Communist rule, eventually culminating in the Solidarity movement of the eighties. Workers, mothers, mostly secondary schooland some university students all collectively demanded religious and national freedom as well as fairer working conditions. The Prague Spring, most dramatically, saw Czecho-Slovakia rise up against foreign influence. Under their courageous reformer President Dubček, they dared to oppose the Red Army on the streets when the
“There were an enthusiasm and sense of urgency for the fate of humanity most students might not have in 2018” Soviet tanks intervened in August to repress the dissenters. The rest of Eastern Europe experienced similar happenings, social issues worth exploring and just as interesting as elsewhere in the Old Continent. However, this article mainly focuses on Western Europe. There, the asked questions were more about individual freedom and liberalisation against the state, rather than national freedom. There, the students were decisive, not entire societies. I am a student and probably, so are you. This article asks the question what today makes us so different to the students of ’68. How come it is unthinkable now to most of us here in Maastricht to ever become a radical? What would need to happen? I asked my friends these questions. They agreed, that the moment they would riot against the state, not only protest, would arrive when their personal democratic rights or those of society unjustifiably start being cut. Freedom of speech, democratic elections, separation of powers and so forth. Rights, which they appreciate right now. German students of 1968 saw these as painfully lacking and opposition to the state as indispensable. The protests, where oftentimes violent demonstrators clashed with ruthless and cruel police, shook the nation in its foundations and polarised it to an explosive extent. The country was virtually being ripped apart along the age of thirty, as the youth accused their parents’ generation of either complicity or silence in face of Nazi crimes. Consequently, many young people, mainly from the educated middle class, turned to Leftism, supported by intellectuals like the “Frankfurt School”, a group of German philosophers centred around Theodor W. Adorno. Rudi Dutschke, the most prominent student leader in Germany, decried the alleged fascism, that the bourgeois post-war structures and states harboured, and argued that the older Germans had not really changed. He criticised the consumption society, which was the economic backbone of young West Germany, as a tool to domesticise the people and depoliticise them. Thus, opposition to capitalism and the older generations mixed into an explosive battle cry, that innumerable students followed. Dutschke never found clear words for his position on violence. But some did eventually become convinced, that the only effective means to battle them in their eyes quasi-fascist state was bombings, shootings, kidnappings. The most notorious socialist terror group, the RAF, originates in the sixties and terrified the German public until 1993. To this day, evaluations of the ’68 movement are thus an intensely controversial topic in public opinion’.
In Paris, the riots took on even more dramatic dimensions, the likes of which unseen in Europe. What started out as student sit-ins and protests against the universities’ policies evolved into a proper revolt lasting days. The abhorrently brutal measures of an overwhelmed police radicalised the students in May ’68, as well as the assassination attempt on Rudi Dutschke’s life by a right-winger that gravely injured him. Eventually, the Labour Unions were convinced to join them, leading the protesters to announce a studentworker union under the banner of Leftism. Streets and the Sorbonne University were barricaded, street riots ensued. Initially, the students and workers demanded more liberal curriculums and higher wages, but increasingly focussed on more fundamental questions like capitalism and the consumption society. They despised the thenconservative government and its orthodox policies: Promarket economic ideology, interventionist foreign policy and the piously Catholic views of the establishment came under fire, drawing inspiration from the American hippiemovement. Reading circles discussing Das Kapital, student committees on for example sexual liberation or anarchism, and spontaneous lectures on all kinds of social issues sprung up as rapidly as they would eventually cease. There were an enthusiasm and sense of urgency for the fate of humanity most students might not have in 2018. Then, students did not shy away from discussing the class system or the global world order. No fear of not quite knowing what they are talking about could hold them back from unapologetically rallying against the old people’s state and worldviews. Needless to say, how attractive the movement thus became. In May, it will be the 50th anniversary of the Paris riots. This article does not aim to glorify the ’68 movements’ goals. It does not propagate a particular political message. And it certainly does not advocate the use of violence to any extent. I simply want you, dear reader, to reflect on this anniversary on your attitude towards society, politics and the state, in short; the system. While the word may have become a cliché, it is still in dire need of a revival in debates. Do you think humanity lives in the best possible system? Consider the fundamentals that are shaping the world order; a global capitalist market, abhorrent industrial conditions in some parts of the world, imperialist aims by global superpowers. These parameters are the same ones that were protested fifty years ago in the Western bloc. Certainly, things are quantitively better: European democratic institutions are more reliable, poverty and low wages are not as rampant and arguably, European governments have become more moral in their actions since the end of colonialism and the Cold War. Not least because the students of ’68 have become today’s
decisionmakers. And yet, qualitatively the system has not changed. The liberal market still exhibits the deficiencies that its enemies decried in the 20th century. Exploitation of working people is still very much alive in the countries that wealthier states have outsourced their industrial labour to, and it is growing even. In Bangladesh, labour conditions are as equally appalling as the industrial slums of the preWW1 European states. This is not a political problem, it is an inherent feature of any free market of any dimension. American society is currently debating how it should deal with their own version of Benno Ohnesorg; the shootings of unarmed black men by the police. In light of these examples, is it really adequate to dismiss fundamental questions about our world’s workings as a 20th century, cold war-era antiquity? That is not to say that our generation does not care about the world’s injustices. There is an incredible energy behind environmentalist activism or the feminist movement. Poland, for example, sees an incredibly high frequency of youth protests around societal and identity matters. The crucial difference between ’68 and today is, however, that people now have seemingly accepted the lawful, system-internal path towards change. Ask a politically active student in Maastricht today how they would change an unjust fact of political or economic life, many would reply that state policies and elections are the way to do it. Strikes and protests are the most extreme measures people support, especially in France. However, they would
certainly not call for revolution under the banner of some ideology. Although a few universities still harbour extremist thinking, it is surely not as widespread or intense as fifty years ago. Arguably, reform is more commonly seen as preferable to bottom-up approaches. Radical action is disdained, and rightfully so, but why? Social media plays its part. Some commentators have described the outrage culture, that Twitter or Facebook have enabled, as effectively detrimental to progressive values. While every misstep of a person of public interest is met by furious outcries of online users, ultimately, the realm of internet bears little impact on decisions taken in the real world. Articulating the youth’s anger at 140-signs character limit on Twitter or a ranting post on Facebook gives a false sense of agency and activism. Digital scandals may contribute to poisoning public discourse, but should real debate not happen in a more tangible manner? The Internet as such is a useful, efficient medium, but social media, by nature, is served in digestible and fast-paced portions. The intellectual and ideological debate is thus bound to be unfruitful. Young people need to be careful not to mistake opinionated polemics on social networks with real, productive debate forums. Or does the decreased radicalism among students originate in the betterment of the quality of life in central, western Europe? Are we just too well-off to keep challenging the political and economic status quo? If that is true, and this
STUDENTS article is not arguing that it is, then the Frankfurt School and Rudi Dutschke were right in 1968. They argued that the entertainment and culture industry tranquilises the public’s political and idealist consciousness by providing ever-accessible pleasure. Raising living standards on the backs of the outsourced labour force supposedly replaced religion as the new opium of the masses. We should feel implored to prove them wrong. Again, I do not advocate seeking to destroy our institutional functions, because indeed, they may be effective and somewhat ethical. But it shall be encouraged to be less ready to complacently accept the laws that be. There are enough issues to be angry at the system right now. And what happens, if another Benno Ohnesorg gets murdered in Europe? The way through reform, the topdown, the institutional, electoral path towards change may not always be decisive enough. Therefore, students must dare to discuss fundamentals again. The philosophies of rich and poor, of higher and lower economic classes, and the possibility of radical change. In 2018, we especially need to look beyond the West’s borders. Fifty years ago, Western students largely ignored the Eastern European struggles for reform and we should not make the same mistake. Young students who have the advantage of still being able to learn should dare to be naïve and ambitious when tackling these questions. The students fifty years ago held nothing back; they threw in all their inexperienced youth when discussing their ideologies. Eventually, they
grew up to be the politicians and commentators of today, enticing real and tangible reform. That would not have been possible, had they not undergone the essential maturing process that was the revolts of 1968. I think what my message boils down to is; let’s all be a little less conformist in Maastricht and elsewhere. We do not have to become the furious students of Paris or Berlin. But we should find inspiration in their unapologetic manner in which they debated the very essence of our world’s structure. Out of their own initiative and their genuine hunger for intellectual and palpable idealism, they started grassroots movements that almost toppled the Fifth French Republic and forever changed politics. We shall not erect barricades in the streets, but we should engage university literature and discuss philosophical politics in an equally intense dimension, while not relying on workshops, seminars or the university, but start our own debates and readings circles and initiatives of that kind. If we deny ourselves the right to discuss the big questions and ideologies out of apathy, complacency or fear of making a fool of ourselves, we will not get anywhere close to a utopian best possible system. We will become mere administrators of the current state of affairs. If society is to continue moving forward, that must never, ever happen. Because fuck the system.
ince the culmination of the Second World War, there has been a struggle for global dominance on a scale never before seen. In the immediate post-war world, the two main actors were the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Each presented and defended their own ideologies for a global economic and political order in what became a cold war of capitalism against communism.
By Michael Keith
ASIA This war was played out through satellite states in the respective spheres of influence with proxy wars, economic aid, and more than a fair share of political bullying. The Marshall Plan is one of the most commonly cited examples of this: a massive and wide-scale economic aid program from the US designed to not only rebuild Europe after the destruction of WWII but also to extend the ideologies of 20th century America and keep communist influence in the West at bay. Of course, the Soviets responded with their own Molotov Plan centred around the Eastern Bloc. The Korean War, fought from 1950 until the truce in 1953, with conflicting support from East and West eventually helping to split the nation in two, is another illustration. The Vietnam War is a famous case of a proxy war between the conflicting ideologies. The race into space can also be counted, with either side scoring major victories in that arena. And of course, the absurd and horrifying obsession with nuclear weapons. Actual MADness. But then it all came crashing down in 1989 and the Soviet Union was no more. Russia today, still regarded as a superpower and of course still a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, no longer enjoys the influence it once did. The recent nuclear showboating of Vladimir Putin in his State of the Nation address and the consequent lack of global concern shows that the Western world is no longer quite as concerned about Russia as it once was. With the end of the Cold War, a power vacuum was created. No longer was the world divided up into Soviet communism and American capitalism. America filled the gap and became the de facto global superpower, willing and able to call the shots. It is no secret that they have an economy on a global level, with the Dollar standard a clear indication of the financial power of the US. The United States has more billionaires than any other nation by a large margin. In 2016 half of the top ten most powerful individuals on the planet were American. The American military certainly needs no introduction, their exorbitant defence budget especially not, and this has arguably been a primary US method of backing up their political aims. Especially in the developing world, there is always the threat of accepting America or the US Marines will come a-knocking. Oorah. But another, perhaps unforeseen but still undeniably powerful, consequence of the proliferation of US military bases around the world has been the spread of soft power. Where the words Semper Fi are to be found, guaranteed American culture is just around the corner. I remember sitting on my grandfather’s knee hearing tales of his days in the Royal Air Force when he was stationed in Hong Kong in the late 50’s; stories of American food that they ate, American bases they partied at, American cars that they drove, American music that they danced to. And not much has changed in the last half-century.Whether it’s 1959 or 2018 we still talk of the Oscar’s, instead of Chuck Berry it is Kendrick Lamar, no longer Marilyn Monroe but Kim Kardashian. For better or for worse, our world is saturated with American culture. This being said, Communism did not die in Berlin in 1989. November 9 might have signalled the end of the Soviets, but there was a sleeping communist giant just around the corner. A dragon actually. In 1949, when Mao Zedong declared the Communist Party of China (CPC) to be the victor of the Chinese Civil War, it started down a
long path that very few could have foretold. Throughout the 20th Century, China has, for the most part, kept to itself. The CPC has enjoyed totalitarian control of the world’s most populous nation since the inception of the self-styled People’s Republic. And although China did not enjoy a front and centre spot in global politics, its history of disastrous internal politics has been extensively commented upon outside of Republic. Chairman Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward, an ambitious economic and social campaign designed to transform China from an agrarian to socialist and industrialised country, resulted in the death of tens of millions. His consequent sociopolitical Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, devised to spread Maoism as the predominant ideology, was no better for the country. The One-Child Policy, a widely criticised population control experiment of the grandest scale, is a whole different issue. Forget about the claimed positive or negative effects, whether or not the CPC achieved its aims, there is the disturbing thought that China and its leaders can so easily manipulate billions of people at will. Total control over a vast swathe of human beings, to experiment with at will in the name of national advancement. All that is done, is done for the Party and for China. Despite the obvious human rights violations of blatant population control, this policy had a reported 76% approval rating amongst the Chinese population. The Party might not yet be able to influence the thoughts of the world population, but over the past half-century, it has learnt how to control its own people.
And this is the narrative of the People’s Republic. China has been probing and China has been learning. In the late 1970’s, the Deng administration of the time experimented with partial privatisation of the agricultural sector. The disaster of the Great Leap Forward and the ensuing Great Chinese Famine was averted and agricultural production shot up by 25% over the next decade. A vital lesson was learnt. A huge step forward was the opening up of China to international markets in 1978. This move, a highly controversial one within the Party due to the privatised nature of doing business within certain economic zones, has proved to be instrumental in taking the internal national control of the CPC outside its borders. Of course, this happened forty years ago but the legacy shows how successful this move was for the Chinese. Arguably this was a move that turned China into the world’s factory; a move that led to Chinese control of the means of production for the capitalist West. The results speak for themselves, in 2013 China overtook the United States as the world’s largest trading nation, with over $4 trillion in import and export value recorded for the year. The People’s Republic has slowly but surely been learning. Which brings us to today. The Marshall Plan of the 1940’s and 50’s brought American influence, one way or another, to Europe and beyond. President Xi Jinping has a plan of his own. And it’s bigger. Colloquially named the Belt and Road Initiative in English, it is slated to span more than 68 countries, 65% of the global population, and 40% of the global economy. China has stated that it believes that this ambitious project is to bring about a much-needed infrastructure re-organising, mostly within Asia and the Near East but with African, Australasian, and European connections too. Transportation networks including railways through Pakistan to the west and deepwater
ports in the Indian Ocean and energy projects including coal-fired power plants in East Africa and oil and gas exploration in the Northern Sea are just a few examples of the wide scope of economic and geographic plans in this initiative. Of course, there could be more to this than just economic benefit to China and the countries involved in the scheme. Especially in Hong Kong, where tension with the CPC is particularly rife, there is a lot of criticism of Chinese geopolitics at play. By bringing infrastructure advancements to developing countries, such as Kenya and Pakistan, the Chinese are buying political influence. Control the flow of money and you control the people. To genuinely believe that the Party does not have fingers in the projects it is overseeing is a naïve judgement. China has been experimenting with and learning how to control. Its political system, the justice system, censorship program, and the long and rich history of human rights abuses show that China is not afraid of taking control in the name of national advancement. Admittedly, mistakes have been made in the past. But if one is to look at the history of modern China, this is a nation not afraid to make mistakes. China is an ancient and proud nation, their timeline extends further back than almost any other nation on this planet of ours. With an acreage and population as vast as theirs, with the resources currently available to them, they can feasibly afford to make mistakes. Who is going to argue? The US will not declare war on China and under the current administration, specifically, the disaster that is Donald J
Trump, any real threat to Chinese influence is unlikely. The isolationist “America First” economic policies are unlikely to further American global influence. Unsurprisingly, political support for the US is at an all-time low. These two options are off the table for the world superpower. With the rise of far-right ideologies and rampant nationalism rearing its head, socialist Europe has too much infighting to pose a threat to anyone. Who or what else is left? Well, China has made another mistake. Soft power. Defined as the ability to attract and to co-opt, to shape the preferences of others through attraction and appeal. Usually, this is done through political ideology, culture, and foreign policy. It stands in stark contrast to hard power, which is the coercive means of persuasion through financial or military means. China has failed spectacularly in the arena that America does all too well in on a daily basis. China has been manufacturing the greatest brands for decades, but it has failed to sell its own brand. In the West, we value democracy and freedom. China has neither of these. In fact, there is a long history of exactly the opposite. We all know about the Great Firewall. Tiananmen Square still exists in the minds of many. One party since 1949? That is not what the West is about. Just ask the Italians. It is soft power, all that we as (Western) human beings hold dear to us, that could prove to be China’s undoing in global dominance. The sleeping dragon is waking, but it has not woken up yet.
“The sleeping dragon is waking, but it has not woken up just yet.”
By Leander Nielbock
T H E R E V O L U T I O N O F FA C T S : FEELINGS OR EVIDENCE? Yo u o b v i o u s l y c a n ’ t j u s t c r e a t e f a c t s … o r c a n y o u ? Out of all the statements issued by president Donald Trump and his advisors during the electoral campaign and since taking office, few have caught the public attention to a similar degree as the infamous statement on “alternative facts” by US Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway. In her statement, Conway defended a statement by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer regarding attendance numbers of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, as not being false but rather alternative facts. This incident caused a wave of criticism and ridicule towards the Trump administration with late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel calling it “conveniently skewed”. Following the statement, dictionary website MerriamWebster reported a spike in searches for the word ‘fact’. Furthermore, many users started tweeting about the statement, comparing “alternative facts” to “Newspeak”, a term introduced by George Orwell in his dystopian novel ‘1984’, which describes a controlled language, designed to limit freedom of thought and free will. This, in turn, led to a sales increase of the novel by just shy of 10.000 percent. From this brief showcase of public reactions, it becomes clear that the statement led to confusion and even anger among the people. Many felt like the government was trying to take them for a fool because you obviously can’t just create facts … or can you? The answer to this question is more intricate than it might seem at first glance as there is a concept called ‘social facts’. Introduced by the theory of social constructivism, the existence of these facts depends on human agreement. In other words, these facts are objectively non-existent
until enough people agree with them. This gives these facts legitimacy, making people feel that they are true. A prominent example for this is money. Despite having objectively no value, being no more than a piece of paper, mankind has collectively agreed that it holds a certain value. In fact, we live in a world in which socially constructed facts exist side by side with their objective counterpart. We would neither try to walk off a cliff, because we know that gravity exists, nor would we simply steal whatever we needed because there are laws. We take both of these as given, despite one being a natural law and the other being a socially constructed rule set. Why then did Conway’s statement cause such an uproar? The answer to this question is rooted in the source of the social facts we know and accept today which started as rules and agreements between a small group of people growing in scope and scale ever since. This has established them within society so that people are accustomed to them. This can, again, be seen in the previously stated example of money which has gradually developed from personally written certificates of debt to its current state as ‘universal trading material’. However, what Donald Trump and his advisors are doing is fundamentally different. Returning to the original example of Spicer’s comment on President Trump’s inauguration crowd, we see that the “alternative fact” was put forward by a single individual. It was neither the result of an interhuman agreement nor has it developed over time. It was put forward to be accepted.
“The existence of facts depends on human agreement.” @RealLeanderNielbock
RISE UP WOMEN! by Gaby Muhlberg
2018 marks an historic anniversary: 100 years since women gained the vote in the UK. Although it will have been still another decade before this right was universally extended, the importance of this moment cannot be underplayed. This presents an interesting opportunity to reflect on the brave women who fought for the vote, and on the issues that women still face today. In the UK the cry “votes for women” only gained traction at the beginning of the 20th century. There were essentially two camps in the campaign for the vote– the suffragettes led by Emmeline Pankhurst, who believed in direct action (large protests, destruction of property and in some cases, even terrorism), and the Suffragettes, who were led by Millicent Fawcett and promoted peaceful, legal measures (i.e. writing letters or peaceful demonstrations). Despite Fawcett being one of the earliest voices in the women’s movement, Pankhurst and her band of Suffragettes are by far the more well-known. Their green, white and purple stripes have been immortalised in history. The Suffragettes suffered exceptional police violence – they were roughly handled, beaten and imprisoned. As a result, many of those imprisoned decided to take drastic measures and utilised hunger strike as a political tool. The government’s response was brutal, exceptionally painful and degrading to force-feeding
– women were held down and whilst male doctors forced tubes into their noses or down their throats. Often tubes weren’t even cleaned, allowing foreign material to enter the lungs and cause diseases such as Pneumonia. It’s hard to decide which was worse the degradation of the procedure or “the pain of sore and bleeding gums, with bits of loose jagged flesh, or the agony of coughing up the tube three or four times before it was successfully inserted” - as the testimony of a Suffragette reads. Many were force-fed dozens of times and left with permanent damage, both physical and mental. Of these Suffragettes, one of the most well-known is Emily Wilding Davison. In 1913 Davison jumped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby and was trampled to death. To this day it is still unknown whether this was intended merely to disrupt the race, or to commit suicide. Either way, Davison drew a huge amount of attention to the struggle. In many way, Davison epitomised the movement - she was well-educated and graduated with a first-class degree from Oxford but was never actually awarded her degree because women were not allowed to study at the time. As a Suffragette, she was later arrested nine times, went on hunger strike seven times and force-fed 49 times. In 1914 WW1 broke out and the Suffragettes put protest on hold. As men were sent
FEMINISM to the trenches, women were recruited en masse to the factories and farms. Within this time, something incredible occurred occurred – the men in power realised that women were just as capable of doing these jobs as men. In 1918, women over 30 who held property and women with university degrees, were given the vote. In 1928 this was extended to all women. But the war did something almost more important than teaching the political establishment what women were capable of. It taught women their own selfworth. Within a few short years the structured and repressive Edwardian era crumbled. Clothes were freer, hemlines were shorter, education and professions were opening up, and contraception was becoming more readily available. Out of the ashes of destruction left by ‘the war to end all wars’, the modern woman was born. And fast-forward several decades. We’ve gone through several waves of feminism, society has irrecoverably altered and it’s better to be a woman in 2018 than in any other time in history. But the Suffragettes back then knew an important fact that we must keep in mind now: women getting the vote was only the first step. Only a handful of world leaders are women, and in the UK only 32% of Members of Parliament are female. Exactly 100 years on, there are still parts of the world where women have no right to vote nor a right to a basic education (never mind a degree from Oxford). Many women still have no control over their own bodies, the glass ceiling is ever-present, and a culture of rape, exploitation and domestic abuse still exists. I say these as if they are concrete problems only in far-flung countries, but they sadly aren’t. They happen everywhere (just to a greater or lesser extent). And no matter where you are, there is still this absurd superiority complex that exists in some men. To give you an example, I recently discovered that within a professional student association in Maastricht, a male student told his female colleague that he refused to take orders from her “because she was a woman” (I’m not saying names because I’ll probably get shouted at if I do). That is just SHOCKING in this day and age and supposedly in an educated environment.
Time’s Up and #MeToo have been revolutionary. It feels as if there’s a new energy in the movement for women’s rights and that feminism has got its groove back. It’s being opened to a whole new generation. And there are always the inspiring stories and inspirational leaders. My new favourite person is Jacinda Ardern (the prime minister of New Zealand) who has recently announced her pregnancy and explained that after taking her maternity leave, her husband will become a stay-at-home dad to look after their child. They deserve the award for the coolest and most 21st century couple. I mean, imagine if Emmeline Pankhurst could have seen that! I’ve always proclaimed myself a strong feminist and supporter of women’s rights. But researching the Suffragettes has shaken me. I was always aware of the history, but I think I needed reminding of just how brutal the struggle was. I often see people rolling their eyes whenever they see the topic ‘feminism’ coming up again. Like, alright, alright, we get the point that men and women are equal. But that is an insult to the memory of those incredible women. I’d like to hope that if I were stuck in a very uncomfortable corset and being told that because of my gender I was unworthy of exercising one of life’s most fundamental freedoms - the right to vote, I wouldn’t have even half the bravery of the Suffragettes. I am filled with awe when I think of those women and everything that they endured. And yes, the world is unrecognisable 100 years on, but it isn’t perfect. It makes me ask the question… “What can I do?”
“. . . Feminism has got its groove back.”
We’ve reached the stage where there are now more women than men graduating from university, yet attitudes like this still exist, the glass-ceiling still exists, our rights to our own bodies are constantly being threatened (just think of Trump’s cuts in funding for contraception), and women are still drastically underrepresented in both professional and political fields. But, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The
TALK OF REVOLUTION By Ella Goemans
SHORT STORY Silence. The click of a lighter and the faintest sound of breath being drawn. “They’re calling it a revolution,” the lighter clicked once more, briefly illuminating a ghost-like face. Two faint points of burning tobacco were the only things they could make out. The nights were always the worst. Cold, damp, and if you were unlucky your lighter would be spotted, and a rain of bullets would leave you fumbling with frozen fingers for filthy ladder rungs to bring you down to the icy muck which seeped through your boots and bones. “A revolution?” the voice was hoarse and hollow and heavy. “Wit kind a revolution makes ya abandon men ya fought wif fer years, yer goddamn brothers? Leaving us as fecking cannon fodder fer the Germans… They’re bringin’ death an us” silence fell again. “They’re rejecting this bloody war, they’re getting rid of aristocracy and all classes, true equality,” he took a drag and stared up at the blank sky for a moment. An equal society… wouldn’t that be something? “They’re moving out tomorrow…” “Equality? I’ll tell ya wit that looks like. Like this. Mud, blood, fecking rats nibblin’ at yer toes… Them things dinnea care about who ye are. Bloody lunatics those Russians, goin’ te fight to achieve this,” the Eastern heavens had started turning a deep blue. Relentless bullets from both sides were sure to start soon. Just like every morning. The men’s faces became more visible. Bony and dirty, hairs littering their cheeks and chins. They were both due for a shave. Each looked close to death, old and falling apart, but neither had reached the age of thirty. The trenches were not kind to youth. “This is not equality. This is war run by the bloody aristocracy. Kaisers and kings and princes and lords, sending us to sit here and die for them. That’s not equal. That’s cruel.” “Ya see that man there?” more light was exposing the trench. Men moved around like bugs, thigh space and too many of them. Others half stood, half leaned on the ladders, trying in vain to keep their feet dry. The hoarse-voiced man was pointing to the ladder next to theirs, three men silently smoking and passing around a cup of bitter liquid that had to pass for coffee. “He’s lord a some castle. ‘Is two sons were at Somme. Both died. A tell ya, this war does nea care who ya are. It’s enough that we all die.” Their roll-up cigarettes had burned out. The silence that reigned before was becoming a clatter of drinking tins, pots, bullets and other things inexplicably made out of metal. “You’re depressing,” he began rolling two new cigarettes, which were too loose and too damp. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a normal smoke. “Aye,” he accepted the stick of tobacco. “I’m leaving with the Russians.” A blank stare was the first reply. “How auld are ya?” Once he might have blushed at the question, but the cold was numbing, and age was now just a number. Everyone was older than they were. “Nineteen. Late draft.” He wheezed. That was what laughter was to him. Corrupted lungs and vocal cords didn’t allow him a normal laugh. The war could do more than just take your life: it could take away what made you human. “Christ, yer young. Ya know that if yer caught wit the Russians yer goin’ te get shot?” “Every day I tell myself I’m going to get shot. By who doesn’t matter to me. I’m dead anyway.” Another wheeze. “Wee bastard. A righteous cynic…” he shook his head. And like that, the sound of machine guns and shouts filled the air. Another day of pointless death had opened.
By Giovanni Stanga
POPULISM: A ‘NORMAL’ REVOLUTION T
he day after the unfortunate Italian elections, which sanctioned the definitive rise of populist parties to the centre of the political stage, Matteo Salvini, the leader and Prime Minister candidate of the far-right Lega, solemnly bragged of being a ‘populist’. As he elaborated later on, indeed, he prided himself for being on the same side of the Italian people and contended that there was nothing he was ashamed of. Throughout his campaign, whose success was certified by an astonishing 18% of votes received, he called for the ‘revolution of common sense’, to which millions of people placed their hope and trust in. In the light of these events, some crucial questions spontaneously pop up in mind. Is populism truly a revolution per se? And if so, can it turn upside down the whole political system, as it preaches to? Is it a contingent or an ever-present structural phenomenon that will always shake and possibly dismantle the very foundations of our cherished liberal democracy?
Is Populism truly a revolution per se? The Scientific Explanation My answers to these rather difficult questions, cooked for you with a political dressing, are yes and no. Yes because it is seriously challenging the political establishment, yet it does not have the means to change it as a whole. Yes because it mostly arises in contingent times such as crisis, yet its sociological roots are profound. Yes because it represents an appealing mixture of powerful and popular ideologies, but no because xenophobia, the fear of the ‘other’ and
the demarcation between Us vs Them on which populists play on are entrenched in the human brain, although they can be countered. In his scientific article “Why your Brain Hates Other People”, Professor Robert Sapolsky brings evidence to the argument that our brain deploys certain automatic and emotional responses when ‘confronted’ with individuals that look differently from them. He reports many scientific studies that prove when people observes others with a different skin colour, for instance, they activate amygdala, a section of the brain which
POPULISM is associated with fear and anxiety. Moreover, it has been tested that in these situations our brain employs less fusiform cortex, which is used for facial recognition, and a smaller amount of the oxytocin, a pro-social hormone that make us cooperative and trustful. The natural distinction between ‘Us and ‘Them’ is therefore displayed in the mechanism by which our brain traces the differences distinguishing one group from the other. It comes naturally that whereas ‘We’ are virtuous, honest and morally noble, they are deprived, corrupt and morally deplorable. This profound demarcation, however, is primarily determined by our emotions, as these are elaborated by our brain prior to our rational and cognitive explanations, which aim to justify our automatic reaction. This modus operandi of our brain is not problematic, but it becomes so if these natural tendencies to arbitrarily classify people are triggered in a systematic way by populists when relating to immigrants to gain more political consensus. Moreover, these illuminating findings shed light on the deeply influential emotional traits of humans, which ought not be considered intrinsically rational beings. A similar set of emotions, namely resentment, anger and discontent, are fuelled by populists in the electorate’s minds when they refer to the ‘corrupt’ ruling caste and elites, which, as argued, are the main architects of the moral decay of the Judaic-Christian Western civilization, in opposition to the Arabic and Muslim one.
Populism: A Mix of Ideologies This ideological feature has been theorised by Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” in the 1990s and was named “civilizationism” by Rogers Brubaker in his article “The New Language of European Populism”. Moreover, this reflects a wholly original element introduced by populism, traditionally identified as the heir of fascist ideologies and as a structurally determined pathology emerging under ‘extreme conditions’, such as those in which Europe found itself in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s of the last century. Indeed, populist politicians not only adopt a rhetoric centred on nationalism. Indeed,
“Our brain automatically traces the differences distinguishing one group from the other.” proclaim themselves as the legitimate guardians of Western civilization and Christianity, which, just as radical Islamism, has re-emerged as a reaction against the people’s perception of deculturation, defined as “the process of divesting a tribe or people of their indigenous traits”. Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini, Victor Orban, Geert Wilders all claim to protect the Christian roots against the threat posed by the Islamization of the European societies. Differently from the far-right and hyper-nationalists fascisms that emerged in the Old Continent in between the two World Wars, nowadays populists advocate the brotherhood of the sovereign European nations, which nevertheless are to be ethnically and culturally homogenous. Cultural diversity and society’s plurality are considered dangerous as they contaminate the unity and integrity of the native people. Populism, to a lesser extent, was already present in world’s politics in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It most recent widespread diffusion, however, can be mainly attributed to the ideological vacuum left by the end of the Cold War, a vacuum that has been filled by this new popular discourse. Populism might indeed not be revolutionary in itself, but the combination of different ideologies that make it up is largely unprecedented. One of them is indeed nativism, which argues that states should be inhabited exclusively by members of a native group (the nation) and that non-native elements represent a fundamental threat to the homogenous nationstate. Nativism is linked with the opposite of pluralism, namely monism, a doctrine that holds that only one supreme being above all exists. Populist leaders refer to the people as they were one integral moral, social and cultural entity, with them being the sole and ‘legitimate’ source of power and authority capable of expressing their will. Statistics display that authoritarianism is a much more entrenched tendency among young people than in the past. The need of a strong man that
would finally overcome problems is felt as deeply urgent. Populists indeed claim their direct link with people and, for this reason, are adverse to the procedures and practices of parliamentary democracy. The promise that globalization would benefit the whole world’s population has not been respected and therefore what Rousseau named ‘social contract’, i.e. the state authority’s legitimacy conferred by the people, has been breached. As worldwide socio-economic inequality increased and living standards stagnated, middle and working classes especially progressively grow feelings of disillusionment and disenchantment towards their political institutions. Nonetheless, the fact that people are willing to give away their personal freedom highlights the profound state of despair in which they find themselves. The crucial question is whether these antisystemic movements will be able to fully infiltrate democratic institutions and effectively corrode them to the core.
a fertile ground among the population, and thus should not be regarded instead as an absurdity or a sociological pathology. We shall re-classify this complex phenomenon within the boundaries of normality, representing a rather logical outcome. Being a top-down process by which politicians have adapted their discourse by talking to people’s belly, the only way to counter it to and demonstrate its intellectual aridity is a bottomup equal response that through civic education upholds liberal democracy as the most effective possible political system.
The Challenge of Today’s World Politics
Moreover, our politicians have to be bold enough to carry out policies, discourses and agendas whose rationale is guided by the urgency to tackle the global challenges that the international community is facing. They have to be the first ones to introduce in the public concepts and values such as internationalism and cosmopolitanism. Most them did not dare to yet. As Zygmunt Baumann Populism within the Political System of highlights indeed, nowadays human beings are As Lenin showed, the only way to change the teared up by the cosmopolitan drama and their system is to be within it. The turning point would absolute lack of a cosmopolitan awareness, be when the political establishment will have to mentality or attitude. Free and unregulated come to terms with populism and eventually bend world’s markets, the nation-states’ demise of over to its requests. This, however, is unlikely to sovereignty, the rise of global governance at happen any time soon, due to the proportional the expense of single democracies are patterns systems of many European countries, with the of history that can create an explosion of the exception of France and the UK. Nevertheless, people’s feelings of powerlessness and violent the major risk is the infection of the whole political backlashes against their institutions, leading to system, forced to create a populist opposition able a revolution. Global economic integration, the to compete with it. This would entail the constant nation-states’ sovereignty and the preservation public perception of a crisis, fuelled by populists of their democracies cannot all be achieved when referring to the corruption of the elites, simultaneously, as Dani Rodrik teaches us. As the the invasion of immigrants, the war on terrorism first one of the three seems to be an irreversible and on drugs and security threats. There is a path (Trump permitting…), the leaders of the widespread consensus that populism emerges world are forced to choose between one of the more prominently in specific circumstances, such remainging two. Good luck. Not an easy task. as a crisis. Nonetheless, a plant grows if its roots are nourished with water. Populism can spread like wildfire because its best representatives find
“Populism spreads like a flood because its message finds fertile soil among the populations.”
he Industrial Revolution, which the whole of Europe experiences between the 18th and 19th century, and some states even at the beginning of the 20th century, represents the precursor the digital revolution. As technology became advanced with time, the first computers started appearing in the 1950s and 1960s and progressively came to be a product of mass consumption. Moreover, towards the end of the 20th century, the Internet entered the world’s market and slowly people acquainted themselves with this new means. Nowadays it is, at least for most of us, unthinkable to live without it. Take a second and ask yourself when you spent the last day without using the internet. Be it smartphones, tablets or laptops; we use any opportunity to connect with other people in social networks and share private pictures of our latest holidays. We spend our time watching videos of certain YouTubers who are even able to earn their livelihood with tutorials about anything. In case of desperation or cluelessness, we consult Mr Google who provides us with countless findings. In the morning Siri will advise us, depending on the weather, to either take sunglasses or an umbrella with us to be as well as possible prepared for the day. The trend is clear: technology is developing constantly and spoils us daily with innovations. But where is this phenomenon leading us? It is merely a matter of time before we will use only self-driving cars or until we can beam ourselves to any place we want to be.
By Leonie Friedrich
Let’s have a look in the past. About twenty years ago when I was in kindergarten, my older brothers were fascinated by their brand-new Gameboys. If you ask a child today, most likely he or she has no clue what you are referring to. I remember when I wanted to meet up with friends, I just went next doors, rang the doorbell and asked: “Do you want to come outside and play on the street?”. I hardly know any children who would meet their friends that way, but sometimes I truly miss those days. Back then, we did not use the internet, disregarding from the fact that we did not even know what it was. But we did not miss it either. The evolution of technology in the past decades has clearly changed our society as well our everyday life. However, it is arguable whether this change is a positive one or not. Has it altered our social behaviour as we mostly communicate through social media rather than face to face? Sometimes it is argued that people used to be more on time and more reliable as we did not have the means to cancel or postpone appointments at the very last minute. It Is questionable how close this observation is to reality. Nevertheless, it might give us some food for thought and might teach us to appreciate time a bit more again.
How do different generations deal with the constant digital revolution? The daily progress of technology does not go without notice. But how do different generations deal with the constant digital revolution? My grandmother does not have a computer, neither a smartphone. A simple mobile phone for an emergency but I doubt she knows how to use it. Other elder people make an effort to keep up with the technology but soon they would scream: “I deleted the internet!”. Flabbergasted I think “Wow, hats off, those are skills!”. Sometimes even my mother would give me a call and ask me how to attach a document to an email. At first, I have to laugh but in the next moment, I am afraid that in thirty, forty or fifty years I will be in exactly the same situation. On the contrary, you see little children with their own In any case, I am devices who know how to use them perfectly. convinced that the way you deal However, I do not want to generalise. Of course, with this evolution strongly depends on I have also seen seniors next to me with their your environment. Whether you live in the city tablets in their hands to give their grandchildren or in the countryside, or in how far your work a video call. They socialise online and try to life is affected by the innovations and so on and find their old schoolmates from years ago. so forth. Our generation grew up with all these ‘new’ products but our parents had to enter uncharted territory. Will it be the same for us in the future? On which stage are we going to be? Most likely I will be glad to have children who will help me to familiarise myself Even when we have a closer look at the with new products and hopefully will world of work we can notice a great evolution filled not tease me for my helplessness. with many innovations. Innumerable procedures and jobs have experienced mechanization and have been automatised which increased the productivity. Many workers are replaced by machines or robots and only a button must be pressed to conduct a process. What does it mean for the future? Do I have to fear that my profession will not be appreciated anymore as everything will work digitally and automatically anyway?
Digital inventions continuously alter our daily routine. How has the digital revolution
influenced our society? Today we are able to be in contact with people in the other hemisphere. This allows us to maintain friendship no matter how far we are from each other as well firms can profit from close collaboration with countries all over the world. Anything you want to know you can easily look up online. Information is easily accessible and research has been facilitated. Have we become lazy? Or simply more efficient? Digital Revolution, a constant transition. It has changed us, our society and our daily life and there is no end in sight. We should appreciate all the opportunities it provides us with. However, concurrently, we should treat digital innovations with caution and should remember human qualities which cannot be replaced by the best technology. We should enjoy all the benefits it provides us but simultaneously we must not be blind and overlook disadvantages which possibly occur.
â€œThe evolution of technology broadens our horizons and helps us to break through obstacles.â€?
Letâ€™s take a moment to observe the time we live in. It seems that we are at the point now when people believe the idea that building a wall on its borderline will make their country great again. The absurdity of such kind has become almost a daily part of contemporary news circle and debate. However, both recent and more distant history has shown that there is a unifying silver lining of every politically significant, divisive, controversial period in modern history. Political or social revolutions are always surrounded and supported by avant-garde art, and specifically music that simultaneously paints the absurdity of the time and is able to inspire great masses for protests.
SOUNDTRACK TO REVOLUTION
By Emils Dombrovskis
MUSIC In the time period between the Vietnam War, and today reality show host becoming the president of one of the most powerful states in the free world, there have been a variety of different artists that have created soundtracks to revolutions and protests, therefore becoming a part of a historically significant political change. The colourful era of 1960’s pop-culture was shaped by more than just different inspirational substances. Even if the marijuana smoke hazing over the Woodstock in 1969 made it impossible to see the sun, the festival was a symbol of much more than just being free and not giving a damn. On the contrary, since the festival took place during the peak of Vietnam War, it was about acknowledging that we are all in this together and a united society has the power to be reckoned with. Supposedly, that was the message of Jimi Hendrix historical cover of Star Spangled Banner during his Woodstock set at 8 AM. It definitely had an antiwar theme, but it also was about the American society as being one whole. It was not much as an act of protest, but the moment of realization where the American society was at. It is not very likely that one would disagree that the most significant voice of reason and protest in music during the Vietnam War was Robert Zimmerman, who some may know as an artist who performed under the pseudonym of Bob Dylan. Not one, but many of his songs are an obvious hail for a change. One of the most influential of them is ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’. Dylan himself admitted that while writing this song he wanted to write something big and meaningful. Something that would illustrate the existing social injustices and the government’s unwilling attitude towards change which is expressed in lines – “Come senators, congressmen/ Please heed the call/ Don’t stand in the doorway, Don’t block up the hall/ For he that gets hurt/Will be he who has stalled”. Another anti-war and civil rights classic in Dylan’s repertoire is Blowin’ in the Wind. By asking hypothetical questions in lines with why there is so much wrong with the world, and what do civil rights actually mean, he addresses the existing troubles, which are still relatable to today’s American society – ‘Yes, and how many deaths will it take ‘til he knows/ That too many people have died?’. The song that took Dylan 10 minutes to write became equal to an anthem for the black American part of society. Folk-rock in the 1960’s and 1970’s seemed to be on its highest point of popularity. It was a common form of art for sharing frustration towards the ruling elites and call for a change. And not only in the US or Europe. Sixto Rodriguez is a sort of a legend you may never have heard of. Originally from Detroit, Rodriguez did not claim much fame in the US, however, became a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa during the 1970’s. Despite his records selling very poorly in the US, his first album Cold Fact through bootlegging became massively popular in South Africa without him even knowing that. His songs similarly to Dylan deal with social injustice and inspire for standing up against the establishment - I opened the window to listen to the news/ But all I heard was the Establishment’s Blues/ Gun sales are soaring, housewives find life boring/ Divorce the only answer, smoking causes cancer (This is Not a Song It’s an Outburst: Or, The Establishment Blues). Giving up hope on becoming a famous musician, while not knowing his popularity in South Africa, and after rumours circulating that Rodriguez committed suicide on stage by
“Woodstock was about acknowledging that we are all in this together and a united society has the power to be reckoned with.” setting himself on fire; Rodriguez remained a mysterious personality in rock music. In 2012 an elaborate story on his unique carrier with a surprising twist was told through the documentary ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ which is a mustsee for everyone with a genuine interest in rock music. Moving to a bit more recent times, even if it seems that the West since the end of the Cold War, arguably, is living in a more peaceful state of politics and societal issues, there are still problems that some artists decided not to be silent about and through music raised their concern about. One of the most exemplary sounds of 1990’s protest songs was the Rage Against the Machine vigorous and resentful single Killing In The Name. The anti-establishment spirit of the song more specifically refers to the police brutality and beating of African-American taxi driver Rodney King by the LA Police Department. The song is still up to date and carries a greater value than just a dancefloor banger in 90’s parties. Let’s admit that most of us have jumped to the lines - Those who died are justified/ For wearing the badge/ They’re the chosen whites while most of the time not even thinking about the real story of the song. However, it has the angry spirit of a teenager that makes it so easy to use for bursting out emotions of frustration. Even though the band is no longer active, their message is now carried out by the band Prophets of Rage which consists of former Rage Against the Machine bassist and backing vocalist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk together with former members of Cypress Hill and Public Enemy (B-Real, DJ Lord and Chuck D). Their massive, loud, and catchy bass-filled tunes are complimented with anti-establishment/Trump lyrics - Soldiers falling in the name of freedom hey/ Civilians buried in the rubble where dreams die/ Politicians spew lie after fuckin lie (Unfuck the World). A list of the most influential artists that have used their songs to share a political protest message should never be published without mentioning Irish rock veterans U2. Show me a person that has not seen or heard about Bono’s famous speeches on civil injustice during their concerts, and I will show you a person who has not heard about U2. One of their most defining songs is Sunday Bloody Sunday which made their breakthrough in the US possible. The song refers to the ethnic-nationalistic conflict in Northern Ireland and more specifically Bloody Sunday massacre on the 30 January 1972 in Derry when British soldiers killed 14 civilians who were protesting against the internment. And the battle’s just begun/ There’s many lost, but tell me who has won? / The trench is dug within our hearts/ And mothers, children, brothers, sisters/ Torn apart. Equally important song in U2’s carrier is Pride (In the Name of Love) that glorifies the efforts and struggles of Dr Martin Luther King and the American civil rights movement
in 1950’s -1960’s - Early morning, April 4/ Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/ Free at last, they took your life/ They could not take your pride. There are numerous more of honourable mentions that deserve to be talked about and used as inspiration to protest injustice and demand change – John Lennon, Sex Pistols, Bruce Springsteen, Nina Simone, Tracy Chapman, and the list could go on for a while. Despite having a massive list of legendary artists to be inspired from, in times when it seems that the society has been treated unfairly, it is crucial that contemporary artists also explore different styles to mobilize society to protest the issues that are important to today’s public. Since rap is experiencing a kind of renaissance in last five years, it’s regular social message gets through to a wider public. Arguably, Kendrick Lamar is the most influential rapper at the moment. His last album DAMN was especially targeted towards racism and Trump’s office. For example, the song XXX. (featuring U2) echoes the hypocrisy of American relationship with religion - Donald Trump’s in office/ We lost Barack and promised to never doubt him again/ But is America honest, or do we bask in sin? / Pass the gin, I mix it with American blood. This might be rather surprising and unlikely example for few, but the National next to their darkly romantic and melancholic music, have not been afraid to express in a biting, nevertheless witty manner their political feelings. Especially their latest record Sleep Well Beast more often than in their earlier albums, touches upon politics, and Trump was pretty much the main target of Matt Berninger’s sharp lyrics. Although the whole album is quite experimental, Turtleneck is a definitive standout not only in the record but in the National’s repertoire in general. Heavy riffs combined with lines like - The poor, they leave their cell phones in the
“There are still problems that some artists decided not to be silent about and through music raised their concern.”
bathrooms of the rich/ And when they try to turn them off everything they switch to/ Is just another man, in shitty suits, everybody’s cheering for/ This must be the genius we’ve been waiting years for - defines the current American society from the artists point of view. Even if the National is not likely to gather thousands on streets to demand revolution, their intelligent way of expression is the perfect starting point for discussing where we are at. Even if it’s only among latte drinkers.
Music and politics throughout history have maintained a way of interaction. It is not always friendly, but it has had a clear impact on major historical events. Society has found inspiration and a voice of reason in music when a change was urged. History of popular music has shown that it is not about a specific genre that can express public frustration and concerns. It’s not about a specific period of time or place that needed such music the most. As society grows, so grows its ambitions and sources of influence. Not only does such protest and revolution music reflect the most pressing issues affecting the growth and unity of a particular society. It also is there for the people to have something to relate to. To create an image of society they want to be a part of.
By Leonardo Sena
BRAZIL CULTURAL SHIFT: CHANGE OR CLASH?
here have been a variety of reasons Brazil had one of the worst socio-economic crisis in history. Chiefly, the raison d’etre has been the significant effects of the economic crisis on the living standards of the Brazilian society. In 2014, Dilma Rousseff, the former president of Brazil, entered into a series of actions to save the economy, which instead made the economy even worse. For instance, in 2015, the President Dilma Rousseff announced a series of tax increases such as the IPI of industrialized products and the IOF on financial transactions. These actions, which aimed to collect more capital, ended up encouraging companies to move out of Brazil. As a result, thousands of people were left jobless and Brazil was left with one of its harshest crises. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast, Brazil will not be able to grow above 2% in the next two years. But was this disarray just a mere product of incompetent public policy? The answer is no.
Decay in the Brazilian institutional system It is platitudinous to suggest that one of the main causes of this is the decay of democracy in the Brazilian institutional system. That is, Brazilians politics has turned from its main purpose; serve the people, to becoming nothing more than the act of remaining in power and making a profit out of everything. With a coalition based government, the politicians in Congress managed to gather their interests and make new alliances. Once in power, they are able to appoint executives at state-run companies and thus pay and received payments from contractors and other companies. The corruption, nonetheless, reaches a larger scale when the same politicians manage to funnel the
money designated to public resources to fund political parties and private interests. While some people convey that all of this is simply misconducts common therein the political field, one may find that corruption in Brazil is beyond the political spectrum.
Corrupt attitudes in everyday life Although the Brazilian population does not identify itself with the corruption, aspects of the Brazilian culture may suggest otherwise. According to research conducted by the National Confederation of Industry in 2016, “seven out of ten Brazilians admit to having committed corrupt attitudes in everyday situations.” Moreover, in the same research, only 3% of respondents consider themselves to be corrupt. These intriguing findings suggest that despite the fact that the Brazilian society admits partaking in illegalities, most of them have become desensitized to their illicit ‘shortcuts.’ In the same scope, when observed closely, their culture -- so-called “jeitinho Brasileiro” has made the Brazilian population blind to the concept of corruption. In their minds, to actually accomplish something has become more salient than actually following the rules. Sidney Chalhoub, a Harvard University historian, during a discussion about the Brazilian culture, asserts that the ‘jeitinho Brasileiro’ is “at the centre of how the corruption has become systemic in Brazil.” While one could argue that there is nothing wrong with using an ‘easier’ path to accomplish something, in Brazil, there is evidence that these actions may have collaborated with its social-political impasses. Yet, the problem becomes more pragmatic when a society becomes oblivious to the right and wrong and ceases to be able to differentiate favours from plain corruption. Of
After more than 195 years of independence from Portugal and years of fighting to establish its citizen’s constitutional rights, Brazil is still far from becoming a developed nation. Part of the reason relates to longstanding wealth inequality and substandard public services. However, the latest economic crisis has given Brazil two options; a revolution or a comedown. While some scholars may argue that these misfortunate circumstances are correlated to the deceptive sense of democracy in the Brazilian political system, others argue that corruption is drenched into the Brazilian inner-most culture and hence nearly impossible to change. The new generation might argue it differently, nevertheless.
course, unquestionably, nepotism is practiced all over the world, yet in Brazil, it has gone beyond proportions ranging from people, institutions, companies, all the way to public policy.
The Cultural Revolution Though the previous generation failed to identify such fault, the new generation is rising up – or at least trying to change this mentality. They are leading this revolution. Through social media, the new generation has strived to voice their concerns and even organize protests against the degraded political representatives. Notably, the Lava Jato - or Operation Car Wash, for instance, judicially commanded by Judge Sérgio Moro, received a significant endorsement from the young generation. However, the rule of law must not play a role alone. There is a lot of room for improvements and cooperation. Older Aristides, 21 years old, a student of Languages at the University Center Teresa D’Ávila in the state of Sao Paulo, points out that “the greatest chance we have of seeing Brazil transforming into a new nation is through investment not only in higher education but especially in basic education.” For Older, “Brazilians need to worry about politics, not only with parties or ideologies but with their citizenship rights and the duties, with justice and awareness.” And Older is right. In order to completely change the Brazilian culture, there needs to be a nation-wide strategy that tackles deviance of behaviour in every single level of the Brazilian society. These begin from the type of manners taught at home to common norms and standards taught at school. This would prevent situations seen as part of everyday life from becoming the base for a corruptive and unequal
What is Jeitinho Brasileiro?
“The jeitinho Brasileiro” is a term utilized to describe the action of defying rules and norms to “get something done.”
system. Furthermore, the mentality within the election spectrum must be changed as well. In Brazil, there is a famous saying ‘roba mas faz’, connoting ‘steals, but gets it done.’ If the new generation of Brazilians is indeed serious about the uprising Brazil, this mentality must be rebuffed. To improve Brazil’s economic status and rebuts its international trust, it would require the Brazilian citizens to scrutinize their decisions during the election season, prioritizing not only what the politician can accomplish, but also his or her previous and, foremost, present conduct. This, unfortunately, has not yet been the case. According to the latest polls released on March 6th, 2018, Lula da Silva, the former Brazilian president whose conviction on corruption charges was upheld in January, is leading the polls with 33,4% of approval. Analyzing the outcomes of the Brazilian socioeconomic crisis, the cultural revolution has become the sine no qua non for further progress and future prevention against institutional turmoil. One may find that the “Brazilian way to get things done” is not the main cause of financial instability and that this is a simple ‘creativity’. Notwithstanding, unpunished corruption has promoted ambivalence among Brazilians, making Brazil’s economy faintly stagnant. Essentially, in order to remove corruption, it is necessary that the entire Brazilian population change their mindsets and additionally adjust their codes of norms. How Brazilians will manage to survive until then, that is something to worry about then. That is something that the “jeitinho Brasileiro” may no longer be able to help.
By Nicolas Gaté
PORTRAIT OF A GREAT CIVILIZATION MADE OF PARADOXES “Iran could experience a Revolution like that of 1979” says Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
ith two dozens of casualties and a thousand arrests in a single week, this year commenced with a massive outcry throughout Iran that was unprecedented in scope since the 2009 Green Movement. The so-called “egg protests” sparked on December 8th and unfolded into a country-wide crosssocial caste protest. It soon put down the fear of shouting out the misery and the anger that the allegedly corrupt and oppressive regime is held responsible for. Unlike the bloodshed repression against the “Persian Awakening” events in 2009 that followed conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent re-election, the regime is this time in a deadlock, trapped by its own fractures and contradictory pretentions. The partial sanctions relief that followed the 2015 deal with the UN Security Council members plus Germany over the country’s nuclear armament did not deliver the expected economic miracles. The successful soft power policy of the Shia Persia over its Sunni Arab neighbours does satisfy Iranian national pride but yet does little to solve the rise of basic commodities such as eggs. The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ali Khamenei, fiercely accuses the enemies from the outside -faithful to the usual focus on foreign affairs. However, it remains that it is the fundamentals of the Iranian theocracy that is here at stake. The complaints on inflation (the cost of basic goods jumped by 40% over 2017), unemployment
(12.7%) and inequality quickly began directly targeting the regime. Dangerously subversive slogans were yelled such as “Death to the dictator” or “Clerics should get lost” and a portrait of Supreme Leader Khamenei was burnt according to Associated Press. As a symbol of the exhaustion of the theocratic power, the hijab protest has spread in the last few months. These acts of revolts, named “Girls of Revolution Street Protest” consist of women removing their compulsory hijab head covering, tying it to a stick and waving it like a flag while standing upon elevated spots over heading the crowds. Disillusion turned into overt grievance in Iran. President Rouhani’s 2017 electoral promise of economic kick-start following the relief from international embargo has been trumped by a drop in the oil prices and by the crude lack of capitals due to the still slim foreign investments. On top of that, the other regime institutions such as the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution hinder the social advancements that the Iranians expected from their President. “Revolution”. On which side is it then? Is it on the one of the enforcement of the regime’s ideology or on that of the street protesters? Acknowledging the protests, few days before the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic and the fall of the US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahvali,
THE MIDDLE EAST
“The fundamentals of the Iranian theocracy are here at stake.”
President Rouhani affirmed Iran shall preserve the legacy of the Islamic Revolution “forever”. He then reminded that spurning the voice of the people was the cause of the previous regime fall. He did so in a way that hinted at the fact that the current Islamic Republic could follow a similar path. Hence, as the revolts antagonize “the Revolution”, the very meaning of revolution endures the twits of Iranian history. It seems that the strong regimes, willing to live up to Trotsky’s doctrine of “perpetual revolution”, are soon caught up by Hannah Arendt’s idea of a revolution, one of repeated “inaugural rupture” from the previous order.
When revolution meets conservatism Coincidentally, semantics thus challenge reality and the Persian civilization appear to be at the dawn of a civilizational turn. Etymologically, a revolution is the term for the cyclical movement of stars – one that retrieves its original position, as in a loop. And indeed, in the first usage of the word, it was referred to the return to the traditional laws that had been perverted and betrayed by the illegitimate practices of the ruling Stuarts at the moment of the English revolution of 1688. Similarly, it is a return to an idealized past that the Iranian Revolution of 1979 brought about as it brought down a progressive if not liberal regime to the advantage of Islamic fundamentalism. It established
a theocracy that is less mindful of individual liberties. This relatively non-violent revolution built upon a political and cultural opposition to the West and to the Westernized modernism, and, more specifically, to the United States. If it helped to redefine the meaning and practice of modern revolutions, this “inaugural rupture” seems to be now coming to exhaustion as the recent unrest translates a claim for a forward-looking reset. This is indeed more conducive to the definition of revolution that is held in the West since the French Revolution. The meaning of revolution had then changed from the one that applied for the English case: it becomes the projection into a future yet to be built, a complete overhaul on the basis of new principles, a re-edification where some see the possibility of a regeneration of man. This implies rejecting the past and to have faith in the ability of man to be the master of his destiny. Sociologists believe it is true, that the access to social media and to globalized culture has opened the Iranians up to have more individualist’ expectations for their future. This, however, does not mean that the Iranian people will simply adopt the Western clusters inherited from the Enlightenment nor that they have abdicated to Western-global culture. Iran, the oldest nation in the world, a many times secular civilization, has always found its own way out of the challenges of its history in order to better recover its past mightiness.
A Nation of perpetual rebirth Persia has a history of more than 3000 years. The Persians are Indo-Europeans surrounded by Turkish and Arab populations. Unlike its neighbours, the country of the Aryans is the oldest state in the world and has always occupied the land of Iran, Sarzamin-e Iran. The first great empire of history is founded by Cyrus the Great in the sixth century BC with Persepolis and Susa for capitals. Persia has since then been invaded many times, its civilization has always assimilated its invaders, growing out of their cultural, linguistic and even religious contributions. Iranian Islam contributed greatly to the Muslim culture, nourished by Greek philosophers, Persian illustrious thinkers (Molla Sadra, Avicenna, Sohrawardi) as well as by Zoroastrian doctrines. Isfahan, the sublime capital of a Persian kingdom yet ruled by a Turkish Safavid dynasty, made Shiite Islam a glorious stream of thought. Iran is an exceptional contribution to world literary culture: Ferdowsi’s Book of Kings, the poems of Hafez, Khayyam and the contemporary writers Shamlou and Behbahani are translated into all languages. Today, the Palme d’Or of the Cannes Film Festival given to Abbas Kiarostami and the Noble Peace Prize of Shirin Ebadi symbolize a culture fundamentally open to the world despite political isolation. This diversity and cultural openness are exacerbated in Iran. Constituted by 60% of Persians, 16% Azeris, 10% Kurds and 6% of Lurs, Iran is home to many languages. It is particularly striking to note that this cultural diversity goes hand in hand with a national unity that resists all the dramas of history. First, the Iranians seem to be bound by an unshakeable consensus around their nationalism and their antagonism towards the United States. This feeling of Iranian exceptionalism is exacerbated by the Shia religion which is part of the identity of the nation and that is specifically salient in Iran. Yet, Iran has never been isolated from the rest of the world. The level of education of Iranians is one of the highest in the Middle East, with women representing more than 60% of students, the country is highly urbanized and societal mores are sometimes astonishingly modern. Today, Iran has still a very unfavourable image. Since 2006, Iran, one of the countries of the “axis of evil”, endures UN sanctions for its nuclear policy and US President Trump does not seem to want this empathy to improve. Will Iran be able to open up to the world without renouncing its cultural identity? Once again, the Iranian civilization, in its complex diversity, might recover its past greatness while living through this difficult phase of its long history. Or will it miss its chance again and revolt to its darkest days?
THE COLLAPS OF THE BERLIN WALL: THE POWER OF FRIENDLY REVOLUTIONS By David Reuter “But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still”. When President Reagan outlined his vision for America during his farewell speech in 1989, he clearly did not only describe the fundamental political philosophy on which he based policy actions in his home country. Further, the cold war had lasted for 44 years at this time – and many geographical areas of the world had served as the arena to make a case for the American and Soviet’s respective political ideology. In many cases, this conflict led to war and exorbitant human suffering – most notably on the Korean peninsula and in Vietnam. The German case was different.
After the end of World War II in Europe, the allied forces decided to separate Germany into four zones at the Potsdamer Konferenz, with each sector autonomously controlled by one of the forces. Former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, George F. Kennan, recognized the need for economic assistance to contain Soviet influence on the European continent early on: “We have no choice but to lead our section of Germany – the section of which we and the British have accepted responsibility – to a form of independence so prosperous, so secure, that the East cannot threaten it”. This goal was supposed to be achieved through economic assistance so that “free peoples […] work out their destinies in their own way” (President Truman, March 1947). One year later, the Marshall Plan was set up, comprising $12 billion dollars ($140 billion 2017 dollars) to rebuild war-torn regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, improve European prosperity, and thus prevent the spread of communism. During this time, the divergence of economic development and prosperity materialized between the Western Allies- and Sovietoccupied zones. The merger of UK, US and French zones in 1948 marked the start of an emerging confrontation between Western and Soviet forces. For eleven months starting in June 1948, the Soviets blocked western allies’ railway, road and canal access to the sector of Berlin under Soviet control, and said it would lift the blockade if the Western Allies would withdraw the newly introduced currency Deutsche Mark from West Berlin. In response, the Western Allies introduced an airlift to transport needed goods, such as fuel and food, to West Berlin. While this posed a tremendous challenge given the large population of the city, the allies improved their logistics quickly and were able to transport more goods over the border that had been transported before the blockade by railway before April 1949. Consequently, the Soviet Union lifted the blockade one month later. By the end of 1949, two states had been established: the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), a social-market, a capitalist state in West Germany, and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a communist, soviet-brother state in East Germany. The superiority of the capitalist system in securing prosperity quickly became apparent. A major manifestation of this was the so-called “brain-drain”: in the hope of high wages and the pursuit of scientific discovery without suppression of an authoritarian regime, disproportionately many young professionals left the GDR. The massive emigration westward left East Germany with only 60% of its population of working age by 1960, as compared to 70% before the war. Two months after Mr. Ulbricht made this claim construction of the wall began. The former secretary-general of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) employed 28,000 police officials and 40,000 soldiers to seal the border and suppress any potential civil uprising. The division of Berlin also split the world into East and West. The “Iron Curtain” had been closed; spouses, relatives and friends were brutally torn apart from one another. From this point onwards, tensions increased. In 1975, the wall became more massive, with the so-called “Grenzmauer” (border wall) measuring 3.6 meters in height. In total, it is estimated that between 80 and 450 people died while trying to escape East Germany over the Berlin Wall. While tensions between the global superpowers increased elsewhere in the world, often accompanied by usage of extensive military force, it did not result in an outbreak of violence in the German capitol. The fear of another war on the European continent, especially coupled with the possibility of a full-scale nuclear war, prevented the highly charged situation from escalating throughout the years. Decisive changes in the geopolitical environment took place in the mid-80s. President Reagan started to pursue a new approach, today known as the “Reagan doctrine”. Unlike his predecessors, Reagan did not only want to contain Soviet and thus communist influence around the
“Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten!” “Nobody has the intention of building a wall!” – Walter Ulbricht world but destroy it wherever possible. This entailed an unprecedented increase in military spending, financial and military support for anti-communist fighters in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as a domestic policy gravitating around expanding citizen’s individual freedom and liberty. The economic and political direction stood in stark contrast to the current situation in the Soviet Union. After the successive deaths of Soviet leaders Andropov and Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev took over the office of secretary general of the Soviet Union. As such, he launched widespread domestic reforms encompassing the reconstruction of the political and economic system established by the communist party, known as “Perestroika” (listening) and “Glasnost” (openness), while moving to end the cold war by withdrawing armed forces from Afghanistan and refusing support to the Soviet Union’s satellite states. Gorbachev’s policies ultimately sparked the 1989 revolutions. In Germany, a group of civil rights activists and pastors initiated a wave of peaceful weekly demonstrations, which would go down in history as “Montagsdemonstrationen” (Monday demonstrations). They demanded “Freiheit!” (Freedom), “Für ein offenenes Land mit freien Menschen!” (for a free country with free people) and “Wir wollen raus!” (We want to get out). The initially small movement quickly gained traction and attracted more than 300,000 demonstrators at its peak. The fear of a brutal confrontation with the SED-regime grew in proportion to the number of demonstrators. The protests on the Tian’anmen square in China served as a blueprint for that: in total, it is estimated that 300-3000 citizens were killed as a consequence of the protests. This prompted demonstration leaders in Germany to distribute 25,000 leaflets containing the message: “Wir sind ein Volk! Gewalt unter uns hinterlässt ewig blutende Wunden! Für die entstandene ernste Situation müssen vor allem Partei und Regierung verantwortlich gemacht warden!” (We are the people! Violence leaves eternally bleeding wounds on us! The party and government need to be held accountable for the current situation!”. The SED acknowledged this warning and refrained from using armed forces to suppress the demonstrations thereafter. The legitimacy of the SED’s rule was indisputably diminished by three factors: a new civil conscience, demands for freedom of travel and increased emigration to West Germany through channels of foreign countries and their embassies. Yet, a rather unexpected chain of events led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. At a press conference on the 9th of November 1989, Günther Schabowski, a member of the SED’s board, informed the public that travel from the GDR to the FRG was allowed through all possible channels and borders. Upon a question on when this new law comes into power, Schabowski answered: “Das tritt nach meiner Kenntnis – ist das sofort, unverzüglich” (it comes into power, under my best knowledge, as of now, immediately), unaware that it was supposed to become effective the next day. News outlets in both parts of the country disseminated this information immediately. Masses of East Germans crossed the borders. One year later, FRG’s chancellor Helmut Kohl was able to convince both western allies and Gorbachev to agree to German unity – the rest is history. April 2018. In the last decade, the world has witnessed a financial crisis which eroded trust in financial markets, a euro crisis which almost tore apart the guarantor of peace and prosperity on the European continent, full-scale civil-
HISTORY and proxy-wars in the Middle East, as well as an unprecedented fragmentation of the international geopolitical order caused by a gravitational pull towards right-wing populists. And all of this is happening while the unstoppable penetration of digitalization into all areas of life is profoundly changing the bases of modern societies. Given these developments, what can we learn from the fall of the Berlin Wall? First and foremost, it is certainly important to consider options for civil revolutions within the overall geopolitical and economic context. The demonstrations remained largely peaceful due to the fact that (1) both superpowers were uninterested in an armed escalation of the conflict (2) the desire for liberty and freedom bolstered a new civil conscience and (3) the economic and political situation in the Soviet Union was highly fragile, opening up various avenues for change. This implies that the success of friendly revolutions depends on the overall fragility of the current system. Secondly, this fragility needs to be paired with enough pressure for all parties concerned to make concessions. Certainly, German unity would not have been achieved without the rapprochement of Reagan and Gorbachev, as well as the openness of the SED to grant more freedoms to its citizens. Thirdly, it is about the right timing. This does not mean that civil movements should wait-and-see whether the overall situation provides an auspicious opportunity to make a move. But certainly, choosing the right time to spark a revolution greatly enhances its chances of success. 2018 marks the year in which the Berlin Wall has been gone for longer than it existed. And while this should serve as a source of pride, it should never be forgotten how much human suffering accompanied its existence. In times of rapid change, it is more important than ever for us, the youth, to remember what gave us the strength to overcome the greatest darkness of human mankind: a deep desire for liberty, peace, and the opportunity to pursue oneâ€™s dreams within these two. And as we finish our education, go to work, and start families, let us never forget the suffering of the past and how we overcame it. Engage in political discussions, convince your neighbour to change his mind about refugees, create public support for your ideals of liberty and justice, et cetera. But do not wait for others to carry out change. Change can come only if we, as a collective and as products of our time, formulate our ideals and hopes for the future. Because one day, the world should be home to numerous cities, which are built on rocks stronger than the ocean. And those cities should hum with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get there. Let us start building these cities today.
â€œThe success of friendly revolutions depends on the overall fragility of the current system.â€?
F ilm is not de ad
e all know how to take photographs. It’s the push of a button, a touch on the screen or the flick of the finger. We all have had a camera, be it a phone, our dad’s compact or our own DSLR. Taking photos is not revolutionary in the slightest. We shoot more pictures than ever before. Of our food, festivities and friends. We have Snapstreaks, swipe around Instagram and post the odd photo in a WhatsApp group. I don’t need to tell anyone here how to take photos. Yet, something’s missing. The fact that our phone can take award winning photos, is built on several revolutions spanning over 150 years. The first photo was taken on a metal plate with a solution of silver particles. For the first time in history, real life was captured. And while the image may not have been anything epic, it was the way forward. Since that magical moment, we have simplified our cameras, we invented colour photography, we mass marketed it and then we went digital. The first working digital cameras were created in the 90s, and since 2004, digital has been the medium of preference. While we still revolutionise the sensors, the size and systems of the digital cameras, the concept has never changed drastically anymore (removing the mirror box of a camera is not a crazy change). And so, we are at the apex of quality photography. Resolution power over 9000, megapixels to spare and ISO settings in the hundreds of thousands. We made it. We are beyond the 20th century, film is dead, hurrah for the digital age. And yet,
I would argue, we’ve lost the soul and wonder of photography. Are the specs of a camera what photography is about? Why do we take pictures? If you were to ask your mom and dad if they have something called slides, they may search in the attic or closet for a box with these little plastic windows, in which memories are stored in the rich texture of Kodachrome. Little snippets of memories. With vibrant blues, greens unmatched, reds popping. Like that filter on Instagram, but better. More real. If you hold them up to the light you see your mom or dad and your grandparents, smiling. There is nothing like this. And while the story behind these images may be lost, the colours evoke nostalgia big time. You may wish to take such pictures yourself… The awesome thing is: you can. Film is not dead. It’s like vinyl, being rediscovered by a generation that never grew up with it. You may know the local hipster talking about his weird artefact from the 70s Soviet Union, how it shoots ‘medium format’ and is sporting copies of a ‘Carl Zeiss’ lens. What language does this man speak? I asked myself that question too when I started on the journey of film photography. All I can say now, is that it’s worth the learning curve. We all know how to take pictures. But we may not know the science behind it. If you ever wished to shoot photos without a phone, you may soon find that your options are not the cheapest. A starter DSLR costs around 300 to 400 euros, lenses
“Film photography is a hobby of creation.” cost even more. It’s off-putting to start with these costs. But what if I tell you, you can have a camera, an SD-card and 27 printed pictures for around 20 euros? Crazy? No. A disposable camera with a roll of film inside can give you this. You don’t need expensive gear to make memories, it just takes a fire of the button. Most people that dabble in film photography start like that. It’s the joy of taking photos without any digitalisation or difficult dials to control. When you start out, disposable cameras are your friend. Yet you may soon wonder if there is more to this medium, and then, a world of combinations and possibilities opens up. You have to imagine that film cameras have been produced since the beginning of the 20th century. There are millions and millions of models to choose from, most of the time still fully functional. Each coming with its own quirks and hiccups. There is however, not really a wrong path to take. So let’s say you bought a nice camera with a good sharp lens for 50 bucks or that 5 euro bargain bin camera at the local thrift store; the next step is the film itself. Film stocks are magical. Going back to the slides of your parents, that’s only one of the many types of film. Film has countless shapes and sizes. All have different colour renderings, and all processes can result in different outcomes. Unlike digital, in which the microprocessor decides the colour, the white balance, and the saturation; film can be tempered with on all the parts of the journey. Some may complain that this makes film inaccurate, but if used correctly it can result in images that are otherworldly. Better than the real world. You may like to use a monochrome filter over your digital pictures, but nothing beats real black and white prints and photographs. And while you can always try to replicate the looks and feel of film, it never will be exactly the same, film is its own class. Film is a way of capturing the world as it once was. As if all is that warm summer that can only be attained through melancholy or nostalgia. It’s not behind a screen. It’s in your hands, in prints and in the negatives. While it may never again be the dominant medium in the world of photography, it is what photography always has been. A way of
capturing the wonders of the world. Not taking 200+ photos of the same statue because the SD-card is 64gb. In film photography, 36 is a magic number. It’s the length of a standard roll of film. And while some cheat a bit and get more shots out of such a roll, normally, 36 is the number. 36 shots not to be shared immediately, not to be posted on social media, but rather to be enjoyed a week later when the photos come back from the lab. Nothing beats the happiness of having those photos in your hands, reliving a holiday or moments long past. Nothing beats the handing around of those shots, letting others go over the photos. It’s like a little time machine. In a world of instant gratification, not having something right away is perhaps also healthy from time to time. You may read this and ask, why is this a revolution? Why preach for a dead medium? Because I have seen people take amazing pictures with their phones, but then post them on Instagram with a filter on top waiting for the likes to flow in. I want to reach out to those people and tell them that there is an alternative,
one where the result can be as satisfying as the hundreds of likes you may get on a post. I also saw people try out film and get sucked into it from then onwards, being happy they undertook the journey. Having real photos, in print, hanging on the wall, is something that will always be with you. Not bits and bytes on a screen. We have been digitalising the world around us, perhaps it may be time to look back and pick things from the past that are still amazing à-la analogue. People did that with vinyl. More and more people around the globe do the same with film photography. This article is as much a love letter to this medium as it is a pamphlet shouting ‘I want you to join the film community!’ Because film is anything but dead. It’s resurrection may be a sign of the time saying that we can’t have everything in a digital format. Film photography is not a hobby of collecting, it is a hobby of creation. It’s a tactile experience from the moment you put the film in to the moment you get the prints back. But if you don’t agree with this, that’s also fine, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, right?
Taken with a camera from 1968, I developed this photo in my own darkroom All of this is not based on quantifiable things. In absolute terms, digital has surpassed film in all departments. Yet somehow we cannot stop looking at those old photos of days long gone, and with the same possibility in our own hands, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity. Film photography is relatively cheap. Nowadays you can buy cameras that were once over 800 euros, for less than 50. Even if you don’t want to invest in a real camera, go to the camera shop here in Maastricht or somewhere else, and buy a disposable camera. Go on the journey yourself. Take it with you to the beach or a party with friends. Fill it up with memories. It may in the end not be your hobby, but that doesn’t leave you empty handed, because you still have the photos. Go out into the world and capture it, while there is still time, and make memories. Away from the screen, but ever more present in the real world.
By Fazilet Merve Çağlayan
azım Hikmet; a revolutionary poet, who is an optimist, passionate, and a romantic. More than fifty years after his death, the world still remembers him as a literary giant who managed to defy convention in his country and invent a new poetic voice. In contrast to traditional poetry, he simplified the language and enriched his poems with a sharp social purpose. Throughout his life, he artfully advocated simple freedom, hope, love, and decency. As David Cohen wrote about him, there are some men who do not die, and Nazım is one of them. Nazım Hikmet was born in 1902 Selanik, Ottoman Empire, which is now part of Greece. His family was a distinguished family which had produced a number of influential Ottoman officials. He grew up and went to school in Istanbul. He started to write poems when he was only 14 thanks to his artist mother and poet grandfather. In 1920, he travelled to Ankara, which was a village in the heart of Anatolia then, He joined the nationalist movement fighting against the post-World War I occupation of Turkey. Nazım left alliedoccupied Turkey after World War I and ended up in Moscow, where he attended the Communist University of the East.
In the Soviet Union, communism as a doctrine in action fired his imagination and gave him hope to reach what he liked to call “sunny days”. He spent about four years there and met writers and artists from all over the world. His time there was essential in the creation of his unique voice and focus, he was acquring a passionate attachment to communism, as well as revolutionary ideas about the norms and functions of poetry. With his new orientation, he started breaking the boundaries of classical rhyme and form, which until his time were preserved and protected almost religiously throughout centuries of Ottoman and Turkish poetry. The first poem in his new style was “The Pupils of the Eyes of Hungry People” which he wrote after seeing a film called Hungry People in Moscow:
Hungry people, lined up, hungry, Neither man nor woman, neither boy nor girl, Frail and feeble. With the twisted arms, Of a writhing tree, They are, The walking limbs, Of those, Barren lands… Hungry people, lined up, hungry Not two or three, Not five or ten, Thirty million, Our hungry People… This poem was marked Nazım Hikmet’s adoption of free verse and ideological poetry. He abandoned formal lyric and ready-made meters. After the Turkish Independence in 1924, he returned to Turkey. However, he was soon arrested for working on a leftist magazine. He escaped to Russia and continued to write plays and poems. A general amnesty in 1928 allowed him to return to his home country. After his return, he was immediately arrested and sentenced to six and a half years in prison, he was released in 1933 by another amnesty. Because of his communist beliefs, he was under surveillance by the Turkish secret police and spent five of the next ten years in prison because of various trumped-up charges. During the years of 1929 through 1936 he published nine books of poetry—five collections and four long poems—while working as a proof-
reader, journalist, scriptwriter, and translator. He became the charismatic leader of the avant-garde and revolutionized Turkish poetry. His freedom came to an end in 1938 again. In prison, Nazım Hikmet’s poetry reflected the seriousness of a spirit that could not be broken. He produced some of his greatest work between the years of 1941 and 1945 while in prison. Nazım Hikmet’ s imprisonment in the 1940s became a cause célèbre among intellectuals worldwide. In 1949 an international committee that included Pablo Picasso, Paul Robeson, and Jean-Paul Sartre was formed in Paris to campaign for Nazım Hikmet’s release. In 1950, he went on an eighteen-day hunger strike, despite a recent heart attack. His hunger strike caused a stir throughout the country, petitions were signed, and a magazine named after him was published. After the 1950 general election, when Turkey’s first democratically elected government came to power, he was released in a general amnesty. In 1950, the World Council of Peace announced that Nazım Hikmet Ran was awarded the International Peace Prize along with Pablo Picasso, Paul Robeson, Wanda Jakubowska and Pablo Neruda. In 1951, within a year after his freedom, his persecution had resumed. There were two attempts to murder him, he decided to escape across the Bosphorus in a tiny motorboat on a stormy night. Nazım never returned to his home country again and spent the rest of his life in Poland, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union as a political refugee. The Turkish government denied his wife and child permission to join him. His Turkish citizenship was revoked in 1959 and he acquired a Polish citizenship. During his exile, his poetry was published in various countries and translations of his work appeared throughout Europe. He died of a heart attack in Moscow in June of 1963 and was buried in Moscow’s famous Novodevichy Cemetery. After his death, his books gradually began to be published in Turkey. In 2002, the centennial of his birth was recognised in Turkey and as a UNESCO international year. In 2009, his Turkish citizenship was restored, and his family has been asked if they want his remains repatriated from Russia. Despite his persecution by Turkish government, Nazım Hikmet was always and always will be revered by the people of Turkey. He is considered to be a romantic revolutionary and his works are among the greatest patriotic literature to come out of Turkey. Nazım taught all of us to hope, love, criticise and never give up. He pointed out “sunny days” in the future and told us how we can reach them. In this world, we still have wars, bombs, dying children, and hungry people and it seems that we will continue to
have. Therefore, his words will remain influential and crucially important for humanity. His ideas, his sentiments, his words will help us to find our way through â€œsunny daysâ€?. Thanks to his neverending optimism, humanity can faithfully believe that there are beautiful days to come. As he says:
The most beautiful ocean is the one we have not yet seen,
The most beautiful child has not yet grown up.
Our most beautiful days are those we have not yet lived.
And the most beautiful things I would like to tell you I have not yet told.