Archive for the ‘Culture & Society’ Category

30
May

The comparison was inflammatory, to say the least. Former Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts equated Donald J. Trump’s immigration plan with Kristallnacht, the night of horror in 1938 when rampaging Nazis smashed Jewish homes and businesses in Germany and killed scores of Jews.

But if it was a provocative analogy, it was not a lonely one. Mr. Trump’s campaign has engendered impassioned debate about the nature of his appeal and warnings from critics on the left and the right about the potential rise of fascism in the United States. More strident opponents have likened Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

To supporters, such comparisons are deeply unfair smear tactics used to tar conservatives and scare voters. For a bipartisan establishment whose foundation has been shaken by Mr. Trump’s ascendance, these backers say, it is easier to delegitimize his support than to acknowledge widespread popular anger at the failure of both parties to confront the nation’s challenges.

But the discussion comes as questions are surfacing around the globe about a revival of fascism, generally defined as a governmental system that asserts complete power and emphasizes aggressive nationalism and often racism. In places like Russia and Turkey, leaders like Vladimir V. Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan employ strongman tactics. In Austria, a nationalist candidate came within three-tenths of a percentage point of becoming the first far-right head of state elected in Europe since World War II.

 

 

23
May

The women behind Sykes-Picot

Written on May 23, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Culture & Society, Middle East

women

 

British diplomat Mark Sykes and French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot garnered most of the attention in the retrospective commentaries published around May 16, the 100-year anniversary of the Sykes-Picot Treaty.

Other pieces referred to their contemporaries, such as the British agent T E Lawrence, who led the Arab Revolt during World War I, or the influential oil broker Calouste Gulbenkian.

These Europeans sought to shape the Middle East, yet for every discussion of a European man who engaged in this endeavour, there is also a story of a European woman who both made this region, and was made by the region.

Jane Digby, Gertrude Bell, or Freya Stark, just to name a few women, led lives as illustrious as their male counterparts in the Middle East.

In terms of popular historical memory, we remember European men in the Middle East, such as archaeologists, spies, and diplomats concocting surreptitious treaties, but have forgotten the women who also engaged in such activities. Read more…
By Ibragim Al-Marashi, former professor at IE School of International Relations and currently  assistant professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos. He is the co-author of “Iraq’s Armed Forces: An Analytical History.”
12
May

As the Philippines ushers in the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao, the country is poised for dramatic changes from the leadership of Benigno Aquino III. Aquino’s tenure was generally stable, and he oversaw the longest sustained period of growth the country had enjoyed in decades. Aquino rhetorically touted the need to retain strong democratic institutions, and he also used typical political methods of trying to achieve policy successes: he consulted with advisors, unveiled policy platforms, and then tried to build support for them in the legislature and with the public. His persona was rarely controversial. Yet even as he tried to combat corruption and oversaw high growth, Aquino achieved only modest success in reducing income inequality, long one of the most significant problems in the country. Despite new cash transfer programs, inequality in the archipelago has grown in the past three years, according to Patricia Abinales of the University of Hawaii. Indeed, she notes, despite consistent growth rates of six percent or above during Aquino’s tenure:

“Job-generation has not caught up. Unemployment continues to hover between 6 and 6.6 per cent. The Philippine poverty rate remains one of the highest in Asia at 16.6 per cent, while income inequality has worsened in the last three years, though the remittances of overseas Filipino workers-which rose to a high of US$28.4 billion in 2014-mitigate this sad portrait.” Read more…

By Joshua Kurlantzick

May 11, 2016; This piece was originally published by Asia Unbound, a blog by the Council on Foreign Relations, and Forbes Asia. Follow the author on Twitter.

5
May

Should We Be Turning Japanese?

Written on May 5, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Culture & Society, Political Economy

Walking among the open air cafés in Tokyo during an unseasonably warm November last year—just after the Paris terror attacks—I realized that something was different. Japanese almost never think twice about going into public places. Their streets are not filled with combat troops on wary patrol. Parents don’t fear when their children congregate at a concert or in the park. Japanese are the first to highlight their country’s problems, but when I talk with a group of young men and women at a tiny, crowded bar, their greatest fear for the future is growing old alone, not that they might not grow old at all.

Japan does face a demographic crisis—its population is actually shrinking—but there is another big positive dimension to life in modern Japan. The Japanese are not arguing (all that much, anyway) about social and economic inequality. Nor are the shops dark and the restaurants empty, at least not in Tokyo and other major cities. There is no Japanese Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders drawing on and stoking the anger of a disenfranchised middle class.

Japan has found a separate reality—a separate peace if you will—from the globalization paradigm that has dominated the West since World War II. The country’s experience over the past quarter-century raises the question: How open does a modern nation need to be in order to be “successful”? That should prompt us to ask, in turn, whether we in the West have been overstating the benefits of openness and globalization, and underestimating the virtues of social cohesion and stability.

All this warrants a fresh look at the long-tainted “Japan model.” At least as viewed by the West, Japan has spent the past quarter-century under a cloud. After the Japanese asset price bubble popped in 1989, the once-and-future “Pacific Superpower” (recall all those headlines from the 1980s, declaring things like “Your Next Boss May be Japanese”) no longer interested investors, pundits and the media. “Japanese” traits such as lifetime employment, so recently lauded, were quickly reinterpreted as rigidity, risk averseness, and a general inability to deal with a new era of innovation that valued the individual over the group. In particular, it became an article of faith in the West to decry Japan’s insularity, whether economic or socio-cultural. Japanese society, ethnically monolithic and anti-immigration, was derided as fatally parochial in the new, modern borderless world.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/04/globalization-japan-terror-insularity-213807#ixzz47naq4l7U 

 

April 12, 2016; Michael Auslin

28
Apr

A banner of Austrian presidential candidate Norbert Hofer is covered with snow in Gnadenwald, Austria, April 27, 2016.

A ripple of concern shivered across Europe this week in establishment circles after a right-wing populist candidate stormed to pole position in the first round of Austria’s presidential election.

“Triumph for the extreme right,” proclaimed Spain’s El Pais newspaper. Britain’s Guardian warned of “turmoil” ahead. Italy’s Corriere della Sera bemoaned a victory for the “anti-immigrant far right” while Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called on traditional political parties to “listen to this wake-up call!”

“In Austria, European governments see a mirror of their own future. Social tensions are rising,” noted another editorial predicting the rise of Europe’s far right.

But this writer wasn’t talking about Sunday’s vote.

Trotskyist journalist Peter Schwarz penned his thoughts 16 years ago, back in February 2000, when the Freedom Party (FPOe) first joined an Austrian government.

At the time, the party’s charismatic and controversial leader, Joerg Haider, had provoked condemnation at home and abroad with his praise for Hitler’s Waffen SS, with his strong anti-immigrant stance and Eurosceptic views. Read more…

Published on April 28 by Katya Adler in http://www.bbc.com

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