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The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it. (Karl Marx)
The Frankfurt school united Marx and Freud to become the most influential thinkers of the 20th century left. (The Guardian)1)The Frankfurt school, part 1: why did Anders Breivik fear them?The Guardian 2013-03-25.
Marx had a dream. A dream of changing the capitalist society. With this dream he managed to inspire hundreds and thousands of intellectuals. Some of those intellectuals formulated their own proposals of implementing Marxian dream in real life. One of such proposals that turned out to be most attractive at the turn of the century was communism. After WWII, however, it became obvious that Marxism practised in communist countries not only failed to transform societies after the desired Marxist fashion but also suffered an economic defeat, whereas in western countries capitalism seemed to be thriving and the affluence placated the working class. Latter day Marxists came to the realisation that workers no longer made the revolutionary force in modern western societies and began looking for a new proletariat. The dream of creating a brave new world with a new awareness was still waiting to come true.
It was just 2011 when the Finnish government, one of Greece’s many creditors, demanded that Athens put one of its national symbols, the Parthenon, as collateral for the rescue loans package.1)Finland’s demands for collateral could leave Greek bailout in ruins, The Guardian 2011-08-28.
Fast forward to 2015: while the European Union leaders humiliate the Greek democracy by imposing even harsher austerity measures than the ones previously rejected in a referendum, even despite the fact that the IMF admitted having miscalculated the Keynesian multiplier for Greece and thus completely underestimated the catastrophic consequences of austerity,2)Growth Forecast Errors and Fiscal Multipliers, IMF Working Paper 2013.Finland is no longer part of the group of “virtuous countries”: unlike Greece, its public finances are fine, however the sources of its economic strength, tech colossus Nokia is in a deep crisis,3)Finland: The sick man of Europe? BBC 2016-02-29.unable to keep up in innovation with its competitors, Apple and Samsung. The once national pride of the Finns, accounting at its peak for 20% of the Finnish exports,4)As Goes Nokia, So Goes Finland? Bloomberg 2013-09-03.will end up being overtaken by foreigners (Microsoft). To worsen the conditions of the Finish economy, the EU leaders opted for a trade war against one of Finland’s main trade partners, its neighbor Russia, over the Ukraine crisis.
Almost 1000 years ago, Turkish tribes started settling in Anatolia, beginning the formation of the Turkish state. How did it happen? Many jump to quick conclusions and simplify the matter pointing to the Byzantine defeat at Manzikert in 1071. The reality is different: in the aftermath of the battle, Emperor Romanos Diogenes reached a peace agreement under which the Turkish Seljuk sultan was handsomely rewarded with money while the Byzantine Empire did not suffer territorial loss. The Byzantine elite in Constantinople, however, decided to unseat Romanos and not to adhere to the agreement. In the subsequent squabble over the throne, one of the competing factions would hire a relative of the Turkish sultan, Suleiman to increase its chances to seize the throne. As the Byzantine elite rushed to Constantinople, Suleiman was left with his troops to control one of the biggest Byzantine cities of Anatolia, Nicaea. The resulting Sultanate of Rum, the first presence of the Turkish people in Anatolia, was born not by conquest, but by the shortsightedness of the Byzantine ruling class.
“There will not be Obama Care repeal and replace. There will be no tax cut. There will be no infrastructure stimulus. There will be just one giant fiscal bloodbath over a debt ceiling.”1)Stockman: “After March 15 Everything Will Grind To A Halt”, Source: Zerohedge 2017-02-27.These are the words of David Stockman, a former Reagan Administration White House Budget Director, who insists that a market bloodbath is imminent as the debt ceiling holiday will have been finished by March 15, 2017.
“We will have a government shutdown,” said Stockman to CNBC. “It is totally unexpected, unpriced in by Wall Street, [and] it will spook everybody.“2)Wall St. is misreading Trump, and a market bloodbath is imminent: Stockman, Source: CNBC 2017-03-05.March 15 is also the day of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting during which a rate hike decision is expected to be taken; the Dutch election is slated for the same day. Will it be the beginning of the great financial turmoil?
1)Vilfredo Pareto, By Ioannis Arvanitakis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian engineer, philosopher, economist, sociologist and political scientist, famous, among other things, for his theories about “the elites”.
In his theory of the “circulation of the elites” he argues that social mobility is fundamental for the peaceful continuity of social order: as long as the elite is open to the influx of capable elements from the lower classes, the system is able to rise up to the challenges it faces. When the elites shut themselves off and do not assimilate exceptional individuals from the lower social strata, an imbalance is created that can result in a violent overthrow of the ruling class by a new one capable of governing.
Drawing on that theory we argue that democratic systems have evolved in a way that an overthrow of the elite can happen without violence, but by democratic vote. Lack of social mobility, says Pareto, results in an elite detached from the daily challenges of the common man and a sense of disenfranchisement of the voters.
After Viktor Orban’s Hungary, the second European Union state took an aim at George Soros and his funds, accusing him of organizing anti-government protests and attempts at destabilizing the country. The head of the ruling party and a former Romania’s prime minister Liviu Dragnea, known for his independent national economic policy, called the leaders of the recent massive street protests as “agents of George Soros.”1)Romania: Keep the corrupt in jail, where they belong, Al-Jazeera 2017-01-30.
While some believe that “bad” governments from Eastern Europe (from Poland to Macedonia) use Soros’s Open Society Foundation and his broad contacts as a scapegoat in order to avoid the responsibility for their own weak political results, chief communications officer of the Open Society Foundation, Laura Silber, does not try to conceal their engagement.
A frustrated Harry Truman would often say, “Give me a one-handed economist. All my economists say, on the one hand…on the other.”1)The one-handed economist, The Economist 2003-11-13.
At present, too, the media are clearly in search for a man who holds strong views and they have surely found one in Hans Werner Sinn, professor emeritus, who has published and continues to publish an avalanche of texts, is frequently interviewed by the mass media and remains one of the renowned German economists.
He made himself famous formulating a hypothesis of a bazaar economy by means of which he attempted to clarify why the German national product is shrinking despite the fact that the country has been on top of the list of the exporting countries.2)Hans-Werner Sinn (2005): Die Basar-Ökonomie. Econ Verlag. ISBN 343018536X.His books, too, have made the headlines (e.g. Can Germany Be Saved? The Malaise of the World’s First Welfare State (2007) and The Green Paradox (2011))in which he voices his protest against the energy transition and advocates a policy of strict regulations regarding banks. In numerous interviews Sinn has taken a stance on politics, now giving support to the ruling class, now endorsing the opposition. For that matter he praised Agenda 2010.3)Die Agenda 2010 und die Armutsgefährdung.His statements and comments have since 2015 evoked such uneasiness among the ruling elites that finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble began to call him in private “Professor Nonsense”, while Angela Merkel broke off the relationship with him although he used to be a welcome guest in the chancellery.4)Der verbliebene unabhängige Denker, Internetkanzlei 2012-07-23.
2016 was the year of the revolt. The Dutch referendum, the British referendum, the American elections and the Italian referendum all ended up in humiliating defeats for the political, corporate and financial elites; only Austria decided to keep faith with their projects, but even there the demonstration of malcontents was significant. 2017 requires a change of strategy.
Mainstream political parties are in disarray everywhere, facing either the rise of anti-establishment parties in the political arena or that of anti-establishment candidates within their own ranks. With the forthcoming French elections, the Socialist party collapsing after François Hollande’s disastrous tenure and the primary establishment choices Sarkozy and Juppè eliminated, a change of strategy was needed to stop the wave of the much dreaded democratic participation of the masses (dubbed as populism), unwilling to submit any longer to the interests of the elite: enter Emmanuel Macron.
The European elites have long stopped to respond to the fears and hopes of the people, which resulted in the emergence of new political parties and movements that address these fears and inspire many citizens of the Old Continent with a hope that it is still possible to have a new, healthy establishment. The forthcoming elections in France, Italy and the Netherlands may decide whether such politicians as Fillon, Macron, Grillo or Wilders, who decisively oppose the current establishment, will hold positions of power. The question arises whether they are as reliable and trustworthy as they would like to be perceived or they only wish to pull wool over our eyes and will not be all that different than their neoconservative and liberal predecessors.
Due to numerous scandals, cronyism, unfair business deals, empty promises, thousands of migrants in the streets and refugee camps people began to mistrust the likes of Berlusconi or Sarkozy. Recently, new actors have appeared on the political stage who immediately have been labelled as extreme right or left, populist, xenophobic and anti-European. People in Italy and France, however, do not let themselves be duped with such misnomers anymore and prefer now to turn their attention to such politicians as Marine Le Pen or Beppe Grillo, who at least represent the common man’s feelings and hopes. Yet, even if the National Front and the Five-Star Movement abide by their election promises, the leaders of these parties do not seem so decent as their voters wish they were.
If you think mathematics is about numbers, calculations and things like these, you are wrong. Mathematics is also about “restoring the cultural dignity of children.”1)What is ethnomathematics, and how can it help children in schools? Teaching Children Mathematics; Reston; Feb 2001; Ubiratan D’Ambrosio.If you think mathematics is acultural, then you are in the wrong; true, mathematics used to be perceived that way but it should not, since “an acultural mathematical curriculum […] distorts the facts that children learn about how mathematics has evolved and who has contributed to this evolution.”2)What is ethnomathematics, and how can it help children in schools? Teaching Children Mathematics; Reston; Feb 2001; Ubiratan D’Ambrosio.If you further think mathematics is an objective branch of knowledge which students ought to master, then, yes you guessed it, you are wrong. Students ought to be encouraged to use mathematics “to critique aspects of society” and, indeed, to “critique mathematics” itself because its “algorithms structure our lives in ways which reproduce inequality”,3)Decolonising mathematics: Why it’s good for us, how to begin, BizNews.com 2016-10-17.which is elegantly referred to as “weapons of math destruction”.4)Math Is Biased Against Women and the Poor, According to a Former Math Professor, The Cut 2016-09-06.If you think decolonisation is about lands and nations, then again you are wrong. Nowadays we are in need of decolonising university curricula, science and the language of instruction.5)It’s time to take the curriculum back from dead white men, The Conversation 2015-05-08; Why switching to indigenous languages will help solve university crisis – education expert, BizNews.com 2016-10-04.
What’s wrong with mathematics? Indictment number one: it has been created by “dead white men” (so has English literature) who thus continue to “control things”.6)It’s time to take the curriculum back from dead white men, The Conversation 2015-05-08.Indictment number two: mathematics “has a problem with diversity”. Why? Because “all over the world, black and women mathematicians remain rare”.7)Decolonising mathematics: Why it’s good for us, how to begin, BizNews.com 2016-10-17.Indictment number three: mathematics (and many other branches of science) “perpetuates stereotypes about who belongs in the field”. And who does? “Gifted people”, and since e.g. in “2013, 73% of math doctorates were male and 94% were white or Asian” and “the proportion of women pursuing mathematics PhDs between 2004 and 2013 actually fell, from 34% of students to 27% of students” mathematics is reprehensibly racist and biased against females.8)Ideas of “Giftedness” Hurt Students, youcubed.Indictment number four: mathematics is “all too often Eurocentric, paying homage to the fair-skinned Greeks as the purveyors of most of our significant mathematical knowledge”.9)What is ethnomathematics, and how can it help children in schools? Teaching Children Mathematics; Reston; Feb 2001; Ubiratan D’Ambrosio.
Syria has long been a target of Neoconservative foreign policy. After the removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, the leading Neocon ideologist, Deputy Defence Secretary under George Bush and an architect of the invasion of Iraq, said in 2003 that ”there will have to be a change in Syria”.1)Syria could be next, warns Washington, The Guardian.The problems during the occupation of Iraq and the radical change in the American public opinion towards the conflict forced the Bush administration and Neoconservative circles to shelve their plans.
Original plan and first problems
In 2011, Obama assembled a mighty coalition, including France, the UK, Israel, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to finally remove Assad and bring “regime” change to the Syrian people, confirming the line of of “liberal interventionism” of the Bush years as Robert Kagan, another prominent Neocon ideologist, defines it.
In August 2013, following an alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad government against rebels, Obama finally found his pretext to justify the invasion of Syria, obtaining the authorization for the use of force from the US Senate.2)S.J.Res.21 – Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Government of Syria to Respond to Use of Chemical Weapons, Congress.govThe use of sarin by the Assad troops would later turn out to be a fabrication,3)The Red Line and the Rat Line, London Review of Books.much like Saddam’s never found weapons of mass destruction that the Bush Neocons had used as an excuse to justify the invasion of Iraq.
In a meeting including the most successful minds of the business and political world, you would expect a buzz of new ideas on how to solve the rising displeasure in the Western world: none of that; the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos was an echo-chamber of whining about the democratic participation of the masses that are no longer blindly obeying their elites, scorned as “populism”.
Davos 2017 was the reflection of an elite detached from the reality of the lower classes of the West, unable to understand their problems: the choice of the location for the forum is further evidence of this; a tourist location in a tax haven, instead of, for example, Molenbeek in Brussels, transformed by globalization into a breeding ground for Muslim terrorists, a no-go area for years, until the Belgian police had to use its special forces in the wake of a terrorist attack. This is the daily reality of the average Belgian, European, Western citizen.