Tag: Public Policy (Page 1 of 3)

Trump & the Politics of Conscience

By: Jared Marcel Pollen

In this month, twenty-four years ago, Vaclav Havel wrote a speech entitled “Politics & Conscience,” a speech he intended to deliver on the occasion of receiving an honorary degree from the University of Toulouse that spring in 1984, a speech he was unable to deliver due to the fact that the Communist government of Czechoslovakia had revoked his passport. The piece opens with Havel recalling the sight of a factory that scored his boyhood walks to school:

“It spewed dense brown smoke and scattered it across the sky. Each time I saw it, I had an intense sense of something profoundly wrong, of humans soiling the heavens. I have no idea whether there was something like a science of ecology in those days; if there was, I certainly knew nothing of it… Still that ‘soiling of the heavens’ offended me spontaneously.”

This indignation, registerable even to a child, is based on the intuitive knowledge that some things constitute an affront to our nature, and cannot be covered up or explained away with any political justifications – not economic growth, modernization, job creation, the “greater good,” etc. For there is a natural ethic upon which all politics is founded, and then there are the ideological moralities that attempt to map themselves onto it. You can demonstrate this using any number of examples. Take, for instance, an abattoir: it is a house of death, designed for the sole purpose of slaughtering living creatures. Whether you believe the abattoir should be owned privately, or by the state, whether its employees should be paid fifteen dollars an hour, or twenty-five, whether those employs deserve to be unionized or not; or whether the abattoir deserves to be powered by clean sustainable energy or by coal – none of it changes the essential moral ugliness of its existence.

Just shy of ten years after writing this speech, Havel would become the first democratically elected president of the newly formed Czech Republic, a country I have been a temporary resident of for the last ten months. At the moment, I am in my attic apartment, overlooking a rank of factories that lie north of the Vltava river, their blinking candy cane stacks a distant feature contained within the segment of my skylight. I spend an inordinate amount of time with my head out this window, observing this scene, but my thoughts are not on smoke plumes or killing floors. These days, my thoughts are on the first year of the Trump presidency, now in the books, and the three years that are still ahead. These thoughts, however, are driven by the same indignation imbued by a floor full of hanging carcasses. Which is to say that Trump, and the cultural phenomenon that brought him to power, represents not just a corrosion of democratic politics (as if that weren’t bad enough) but a corrosion of moral conscience. It also represents the ascension of virtually every bad human quality to the level of power. The disgust I feel towards the Trump presidency, therefore, is not political, it is human. He is not merely offensive to politics, he is offensive to nature.

Read More

Foreign Envoys’ Statement on Democracy in Kenya Lets an Undemocratic Government off the Hook

By: David O. Monda

The recent media statement titled “Kenya’s Democracy is at Crossroads” by a number of envoys from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and Canada, among others, attempted to equally castigate the Jubilee government and the opposition NASA coalition for the lack of a National Conversation on a range of political issues. The envoys spent significant diplomatic capital trying to maintain a neutral stance between condemning the brinkmanship of Jubilee and that of NASA. At the end of the statement, the status quo was maintained. Neither side is compelled to negotiate. As a result, Kenya’s democratic gains continue to erode. Having been constitutionally elected into office, the onus is on the Jubilee Administration to reach out and initiate dialogue to move the country forward. The envoys’ statement on democracy in Kenya let an undemocratic government off the hook. It is a sad day for democracy in Kenya.

The onus to initiate dialogue needs to come from the victorious party. In this case President Kenyatta and his coalition. It will not be possible to repress the discontent from the half of Kenya that rejected the Uhuru presidency on August 8th. A measure as simple as the president visiting opposition strongholds would be a good first step to bring the nation together. This is a measure lacking in the envoy’s statement.

Read More

The Malaise of Liberalism

Alex Knepper from New American Perspective looks for a defense of liberalism in the face of the revival of nationalism and socialism.

By: Alex Knepper

There are few things clearer in contemporary politics than the need for an alternative vision to homo economicus, in both its liberal and socialist manifestations — man with neither roots nor telos but content merely with animalized comfort — and the right’s proposed flight back into the inadequate and unbelievable claims of the ancestral. It is also clear that there is no faction in American politics which can obviously serve as a vehicle for this alternative.

Read More

“To Art Its Freedom”: Right-Wing Arts Policy in the New Austria

Art of Politics, Politics of Art, A Series By: Jeanette Joy Harris

In this series, Jeanette Joy Harris looks at how artists around the world are using public and participatory art forms to describe and analyze contemporary politics. With an eye to the intersection of politics and aesthetics, Harris looks to art as a type of political action and a means of understanding ourselves as political animals.

Art can be a challenge to power, or be power’s instrument. Sometimes it can even end up being both. This last is what happened recently in Austria, where a new, right-wing government has adopted the motto of an art movement that formed in Vienna in 1897, precisely in opposition to conservative leadership.

Here’s how things have taken shape. In December 2017, a coalition between the far-right Freedom Party and the more center-right People’s Party, took control of the Austrian parliament. Their win, representative of the increasingly conservative EU political landscape, was based on an anti-immigration platform. Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz has already promised Austrians stricter immigration policies and has recommended the creation of militarily-backed “safe spaces” where immigrants can stay before entering into the EU. This is a strong statement coming from the leader of the country that will hold the European Union Presidency from July to December of this year. [i]

Andrea Mammone, a historian of modern and contemporary Europe at Royal Holloway, University of London, talks about Austria’s new government as “nationalism in action,” providing examples of its ethnically-based politics in an article for Al Jazeera earlier this year.[ii] In 2017, the “Integration Law” was passed, which requires immigrants to read and speak German and forbids Muslim women from wearing a face veil.[iii] With this law as an example, culture seems to be a high priority for the new Austrian government, which has further claimed, in its public agenda, that common heritage “contributes significantly” to national identity. [iv]  But the power of nationalism, as a widely-held cultural value in Austria, cannot be evaluated strictly through policy and legislation. Consideration should also be given to the ways in which the government might use cultural institutions to more subtly define and refine what it means to be Austrian.

Read More

Kenya Slides Precipitously Towards a De Facto One-Party State in 2018

By: David O. Monda

In 2018, Africa is littered with governments that function constitutionally but remain authoritarian, undemocratic, and de facto one-party states ruled by strongmen. The gains made by the Jubilee coalition in Kenya at the national and county level during the 2017 elections, increased the number of seats the party had in the legislature. With the opposition hopelessly divided on a strategy to confront Jubilee, this threatens the hard fought multi-party system developed in Kenya since the introduction of multi-party politics in 1991. Post 2017, Kenya is sliding precipitously towards a de facto one party state.

Read More

Perfect Storm

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

I think our culture is facing a convergence of three popular philosophical theses which threatens to undo us. I’ll set out the three theses and then I’ll set out the storm.

Thesis 1: There is no objective truth.

This means that truth can’t be a relation between what one believes and what is actually the case independently of what one believes, so one cannot be mistaken about what is real. (One can only be “inauthentic,” i.e., not in touch with one’s feelings, which leads to thesis 2.)

Thesis 2: Truth is subjective, i.e., it’s what you feel.

Thesis 3: Disagreeing with someone is the same as hating that someone. Witness the negative reactions on some university campuses to speakers expressing views contrary to the views of students, faculty, and administrators.

Here’s the perfect storm: I am whatever I feel—and you’re a bigot for challenging that.

Let’s put some flesh on this storm.

Recently, white American man Adam Wheeler, who now calls himself Ja Du, has decided he is transgender and Filipino. And people are defending Ja Du’s status as a Filipino woman.

Read More

Canada’s Transgender Rights Bill is incoherent—and that’s a concern

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

Canada’s Bill C16, a.k.a. Transgender Rights Bill, attempts to add gender identity and expression to human rights and hate-crime laws. Below I argue (with Jordan B. Peterson’s help) that the bill is incoherent. I also show why, logically, that’s a concern—for everyone.

Jordan B. Peterson, a psychology professor at U of Toronto and an outspoken critic of Bill C16, appeared in a Senate hearing on Bill C16. He expressed concern that the bill compels speech, and thus is a threat to free speech. He also testified to Bill C16’s incoherence—my interest here.

Peterson’s testimony correctly points out that the appropriate context of interpretation for C16 is constituted by the policies of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), as was indicated by a link at the website of the Department of Justice. (The link was later taken down, which is a discussion for another time, a discussion having to do with this question: Are Bill C16 proponents hiding something?)

Read More

Why Yoweri Museveni’s Retirement is Key to Uganda’s Democratization

By: David O. Monda

Uganda is romantically idealized as the Pearl of Africa. The reality is that in the field of democratization, the Pearl of Africa metamorphoses into the Peril of Africa. This is because the example of Museveni’s mockery of Uganda’s constitution is being replicated in many African countries. African presidents have discovered ways to amend their national constitutions to perpetuate themselves in power at the expense of democratization in their countries. These constitutional amendments have the effect of institutionalizing the individual in power rather than building the institutions that will safeguard the nation long after the individual president is gone. Yoweri Museveni’s retirement is key to Uganda’s democratization.

Read More

Why Doug Jones Matters

By: Caleb Mills

It was September in Birmingham, crisp northern winds rolling down from Appalachia to meet the heat of the American South. It was clear fall was coming. And with fall came hopes of a new year, and perhaps a more peaceful time for the African-American community living in one of America’s most violent cities.

Whatever doubts many had about the direction of the nation – one that seemingly had no place for a black man seeking equality – children still played, schools still taught, and church bells could still be heard.

One of those children was Cynthia Wesley. Cynthia was a pretty girl, her dimpled face in pictures are caressed with dark lavish curls and a toothy grin that, sadly, seems out of place on someone who grew up in those times. Her eyes were large and dark, almost always dancing off the smile on her face every time the camera went snap.

Wesley grew up in a town charged with animosity based on color and sex, so for the little 9th grader in that historic year of 1963, the innocence of childhood probably did not completely shield her from the struggles her community faced. Certainly with friends like Denise McNair, her 11-year-old Sunday school buddy who dreamed at a very young age of fighting for Social Justice, she must have heard the stories of those killed and persecuted for the color of their skin; the color of her skin.

However, Cynthia wasn’t into all that. She wanted to help in different ways. Watching her parents example growing up, Cynthia longed to teach like her father and mother. She wanted more than to be defined by centuries of racial prejudice. She wanted to be more than a little black girl.

Birmingham couldn’t stop her from dreaming; but it could do something far, far worse.

The 15th was a Sunday, and just like every Sunday in Birmingham, bells were ringing across the city, calling finely-clad church-goers, black and white, were on their way to attend worship services. In the 16th Street Baptist Church, Cynthia and three other girls, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, and Carole Robertson, were in the basement changing into their choir robes, tying each other’s dress sashes, maybe giggling at gossip, maybe chatting about schoolwork.

Whatever they were doing, they never finished.

The room erupted into a hellish landscape of screams, fear and terror as 15 pieces of TNT blew a hole in the church’s basement. Fire enveloped the room, and the dreams 4 little girls were crushed forever. Science class had lost their best student. The world was deprived of a future teacher. And 8 parents lost one of the few things that provided them with a glimmer of light in those dark times.

There was nothing special about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. It was the latest in a heinous string of bombings that had earned the city the nickname Bombingham. And although it shocked the nation, very little changed. This was just another day in Birmingham, Alabama.

As Alabamians prepare to go to polls on December 12th to elect a new senator, it’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that nothing ever changes: Alabama is a place filled with racial tension, poverty, and a sad history representing America’s ultimate sin. And in terms of day-to-day politics, the Republican has it in the bag. After all, it is Alabama.

However, the race between civil rights lawyer Doug Jones and former State Supreme Court judge Roy Moore is tighter than expected according to recent polls and analysis. This is historic in several ways. It’s the first time in decades a Democrat has a chance of winning. And the race’s tone harkens back to days long past, with Moore clearly appealing to a mindset molded by Nixonian southern politics.

To see why Doug Jones really matters, you have to understand what he’s running against. And that means revisiting the 1960s, when southern politics realigned, creating the worldview in which Roy Moore operates.

Read More

Deconstructing Karl Popper’s Paradox of Intolerance

By: Mohamed Farija
One of the winning submissions from the Battle of Ideas op-ed contest on the theme of Free Speech.

Racism. Sexism. Xenophobia. These problems have plagued humanity since time immemorial and there’s no sign that they’re going away anytime soon. Despite these problems, I choose to believe that the majority of people are decent human beings who inherently desire to live in a tolerant society.

An integral aspect of a tolerant society is people’s ability to have and promote differing viewpoints i.e. freedom of speech. However to declare such freedoms as unlimited is to give unsavory voices a place at the table.

Thus we are brought to Karl Popper’s Paradox of Intolerance. “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

However Popper did not suggest intolerant ideas have to be silenced, i.e. that his paradox be used to limit freedom of speech. Rather, actions of intolerance such as violence or oppression should be eradicated from a liberal society, even through force. “In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.”

Read More

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén