Advertisements
Home

Globalism Hits a Road Block in Macedonia as the World Cup Starts

Leave a comment

On 14 June 2018, the most famous globalist sporting event—the FIFA World Cup—kicked off with an epic clash between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Of course, the fact that this match (featuring Saudi Arabia) came on the eve of the Eid al-Fitr (the holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan in Muslim countries) is not a coincidence. Rather, it is an example of just how deeply globalist sentiments have become embedded in our daily lives; even sport is not immune to this form of ideological manipulation. While Russia’s 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia did not pique my interest, a conversation over dinner regarding the possible name change of Macedonia did. The small Balkan nation is currently known as the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (F.Y.R.O.M); the proposed new name is “Northern Macedonia”. In theory, this name change will resolve a longstanding dispute and serve to renounce the Macedonian nation’s supposed claims on the region of Northern Greece known as Macedonia.

On 12 June 2018, according to CNN, “Zoran Zaev, the prime minister of Macedonia, and Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister of Greece, had announced a surprise agreement to the new name. The move was to be a bridge in resolving longstanding tensions between Macedonia and its neighbor to the south”. As is so typical with globalist endeavors, the language is couched in utopian tropes, in this case “resolving longstanding tensions”.  After the “agreement”, Mr. Zaev Tweeted that “the name change preserved the Macedonian ethnic and cultural identity”. How acquiescing to the demands of the European Union and NATO could ever help a country “preserve” its ethnic and cultural identity is beyond me, and just one day later the president of F.Y.O.R. Macedonia responded to the absurdity. In the wake of the “agreement”, President Gjorge Ivanov said, in a video published by Reuters,

 

European Union and NATO membership cannot be an excuse to sign such a bad agreement which has unforeseeable damaging consequences for state and national interests of the Republic of Macedonia. My position is final, and I will not yield to any pressure, blackmail or threats. I will not support or sign such a damaging agreement.

 

While the conflicting positions taken by the Prime Minister and President of F.Y.O.R. Macedonia, respectively, may indeed represent an internal power struggle within the Macedonian state, by approaching the issue from a wider angle we can see that this small event is also indicative of an emerging struggle between globalism and nationalism around the world.

What is most ironic is that it is not just Macedonians who are angry at the proposed name change; Greeks are also incensed! According to John Psaropoulos of Al Jazeera, “the Greek government faces a vote of no confidence over its deal with the former Yugoslav Macedonia”. For Greeks, the name “Northern Macedonia” will “sanction the country’s Macedonian language and nationality, albeit with the proviso that they are of Slav, not ancient Greek, origin”. In short, the Greek side believes that any recognition of F.Y.O.R. Macedonia’s “Macedonian-ness” is a threat to Greek identity. By the same token, many Macedonians see this ”agreement” as an attack on their country and national identity as well!

 

What leaders on both sides of the issue fail to realize is what Pention University’s human rights professor Dimitris Christopoulos points out:

 

the name of a state can be the object of a diplomatic negotiation. The name of a nation – the identity of a people, where they feel they belong – cannot, because it is not a question of rules but of conscience.

 

While the European Union might herald an agreement as a diplomatic coup, allowing for the integration of the southern Balkans into the EU and thus expanding the European common market, it is certainly a loss for the people of both Greece and F.Y.O.R. Macedonia. It is the people of both states who, ultimately, will determine the fate of their political leaders. While many like to see nationalism as a divisive force, here we see that it can also make for strange bedfellows; in this case both Greek and Macedonian nationalists are strongly against the manipulations of globalist politicians. Hopefully, both countries will successfully resist these manipulations. May this serve as a reminder to readers that they should always stand up for their countries in the face of corrupt politicians who are only looking to profit at the expense of their own citizens.

 

3Q4BDZDPKAI6RNGY5L3Y2TCUJQ.jpg

The Macedonians Are Not Happy . . . (Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/opponents-criticize-greece-macedonia-name-deal/2018/06/13/66e3b81e-6ee5-11e8-b4d8-eaf78d4c544c_story.html?utm_term=.709ecce1b960).

 

e5907dac6fb44d1b8640e4796da24786_18.jpg

. . . And Neither Are the Greeks. So What Makes It Right? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/06/greek-government-faces-censure-macedonia-deal-180614182429517.html
Advertisements

Football Shirts Get Political Again, This Time in The United States

1 Comment

Almost a month ago, I wrote about a case where a football shirt started a political storm in Germany. Now, it seems, the same is happening in the United States. A few years ago, as I was filling out my Panini album (a must during a World Cup year), I couldn’t help but lament the fact that both Turkey and the United States would not be playing. For the U.S. it is an even bigger failure (given the amount of money invested in football), and the squad will have to settle with appearing in a few pre-tournament warm-up matches. While the U.S. faced France on June 9 2018, a French friend texted me to ask “Why are the U.S. jerseys so hideous?”. I didn’t know what he meant, so I tuned in and took a look. Indeed, the jerseys were a little off…the numbering scheme was, for some reason, colored like a rainbow! The players looked like school children, and—as a shirt enthusiast—I cringed at the design. The problem, of course, is not the fact that the U.S. men’s national football team is supporting gay pride. The United States is a diverse nation, and its gay citizens are just as valuable as its straight citizens. Indeed, the only thing that should matter, in an international football match, is representing your country. In this case, the only thing that should matter is being American. And that is the issue with these shirts: it is an unnecessary distraction and the numbering color scheme represents the ongoing politicization of all spheres of culture—sports included—in the United States of America. It is certainly a slippery slope.

 

GettyImages-966129008.jpg

Really? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/team-usa-ireland-pride-jerseys-friendly-dublin-484427761.html

 

The politicization of U.S. Soccer brings to mind the furious campaign by former star Eric Wynalda to become president of the U.S. Soccer federation. Mr. Wynalda, in the run up to his campaign, said all the right things. Indeed, he asked the right questions:

 

We have countries like Uruguay with 3.5 million people in the whole country. You have Iceland who’s beating England. They have more active volcanoes than coaches. We here have this massive undertaking. We have 350 million people [in this country] and we can’t figure out how to find 11? Really?

 

Sadly, however, U.S. Soccer would not listen, showing both the corporatization of football in the U.S. as well as the larger world. The mainstream media labeled him an “outsider” (the LA Times) and the New York Times—leaders of media manipulation as they are—chose to highlight his personal financial problems. The LA Times article identifies the main reason Mr. Wynalda has had trouble in the football world:

 

Multiple efforts to become an MLS head coach went nowhere, as his contemporaries with vanilla personalities were awarded positions. U.S. Soccer’s player of the decade in the 1990s, a veteran of three World Cups, became an outsider.

He wouldn’t encounter such obstacles in almost any other country, where strong if not downright defective personalities are accepted as byproducts of the creativity necessary to be a star player [Emphasis Added].

 

As football has become increasingly corporate in the age of industrial football, creative ideas—as is the case in most industries—have been discouraged. This is why Mr. Wynalda’s struggles are not just a “personal trouble”, to borrow the language of American Sociologist C. Wright Mills. Rather, they are representative of wider “social problems”: Industrial society in the United States has become reluctant to open itself to any ideas which challenge the dominant narratives, creating an environment which fosters one-dimensional thought in boardrooms across corporate America and in classrooms throughout the American education system.

 

0443174.jpg

Eric Wynalda, A Patriot Who Has Become an Outsider In Our Brave New World. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2016/06/02/us-win-over-colombia-1994-world-cup-announced-were-here-stay

 

Of course, this is not the recipe for a successful country, a peaceful society, or even a functioning football association. We, as a society, have become used to allowing technocrats to shape all facets of our lives. The two candidates Mr. Wynalda ran against, Sunil Gulati and Carlos Cordeiro, were typical technocrats. The former is an economist who teaches at Columbia University; the latter is a former partner at Goldman Sachs. In fact, Mr. Cordeiro said he was the only candidate with  “the skills to help oversee an organization with a 170 person staff, a $110 million budget, a $150 million surplus, and more than four million players, coaches, and referees”. While these are of course important factors to consider, the fact is that these skills have absolutely nothing to do with football but everything to do with business. When profit becomes the main consideration, however, these are the qualities that come to the fore. In an uber-rationalized world—in the Weberian sense—an emotional former footballer like Mr. Wynalda is deemed unacceptable for the position; instead, it is investment bankers and economists who are the ones favored. And that is how we come to an absurd situation where the most important colors of a football shirt are not the national colors of a nation but those on back of the shirts.

 

The decision to allow rainbow colored numbers—in support of Pride month—drew outrage from many. In fact, it even made a footballer for the US Women’s national team abandon her dream of representing her country because her faith did not allow her to wear the “pride” shirt in question. Given this situation, it is easy to see that there is a problem here.

 

jh.jpg

Jaelene Hinkel Chose to Speak Up. Unfortunately, It Cost Her the Opportunity to Represent her Nation. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/team-usa-ireland-pride-jerseys-friendly-dublin-484427761.html

 

While gay pride should certainly be supported—gay individuals are equal citizens of the United States—there are ways to do this and, unfortunately, football shirts are not the place for this. Anything that willfully alienates people—gay or straight, religious or secular, male or female—from the larger community (in this case the nation) should not be supported by anyone who is truly tolerant. It seems that forcing footballers to wear jerseys which support a certain quasi-political message represents an egregious imposition of politics on sports. It is no different from the calls from gay individuals to boycott the fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A ( https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lgbtq-eating-chick-fil-a_us_5b1fb4cee4b09d7a3d770c81 . No one, regardless of their sexual orientation, has a right to tell people where to eat. Encroaching onto people’s personal lives like this is a form of fascism, and cannot be tolerated by anyone who values the liberty and freedom of individual human life.

 

US-Soccer-696x434.jpeg

One of the First Lessons of Sport is That the Name on the Front of the Jersey Matters More than the Name on the Back Of the Jersey. The Same Goes For the Colors of the Jersey. If We Truly are “One Nation” and “One Team”, as the Banner Suggests, then We Have No Choice but to Abandon the Divisive Virus of Identity Politics. Image Courtesy Of: https://gaynation.co/outrage-as-us-soccer-team-dons-rainbow-jersey-for-in-support-of-rainbow-community/

 

Perhaps if the US Soccer Federation had spent its time developing the football program—rather than catering to identity politics—the U.S. would have a team to root for in the World Cup. Instead, we see the regressive nature of progressive America as the quality of football suffers when technocrats choose politics over sport. The politicization of football shirts, therefore, clearly shows that authoritarianism knows no political allegiance; it can come as easily from the “left” as it can from the “right”. Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book, so resist the divisions and stand up for your country!

 

1280px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

 

 

The Top World Cup 2018 Shirts: A Lesson in Late Stage Capitalism and Global Homogenization

Leave a comment

Four Years ago, I wrote a piece detailing my top picks among the 2014 kits and my choices for the top five classic world cup kits. With just seven days until the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia, I thought I would do the same. However, this year, the list will be a little more sociological than the one from four years ago.

Indeed, outlets like GQ have provided their rankings, as well as a slew of other websites; one need only search “top world cup shirts 2018” in order to be bombarded by hundreds of choices. This is why my list will not be so much as a ranking. Instead, it will be commentary on just how late stage capitalist logic—and one dimensional thought—invade every aspect of our lives. This invasion—similar to the colonization of the life world by the system, that Sociologist Jurgen Habermas has written about—is very evident in the world of football shirts.

For an introduction to the topic, please see my earlier post from 6 July 2017 here. In short, my argument is that when the logic of consumption drives the creative process, one dimensional thought becomes the norm. Designers and creative minds are unwilling—in fact, in some cases, they may even be scared—to stray from the “tried and true” methods. After all, these are the methods that have brought profit. Therefore, creativity is stifled by a dominant form of one dimensional thought which cannot stray from its own money-making logic.

This is why cars have started to look more and more the same, and why mobile (or cellular) telephones are virtually indistinguishable from one another regardless of if they are iPhones, Samsungs, Nokias, HTCs, LGs, or any other brand. As a human society, we have become used to images—we are obsessed with them, as Jean Baudrillard has said—and this means that our reality is more of a hyperreality dominated by these images. We know what a mobile phone should look like, anything that does not look like the image we have been grown used to cannot be a phone (think of flip-phone versus iPhone). Similarly, with cars, we see the same process. We have become used to what a “luxury” car should look like, so we cannot conceive of anything that does not look like what we expect (perhaps this is why Hyundais and Kias look virtually the same while also resembling more expensive brands like BMW and Audi).

 

cellphones.png

Which One Of These Is a Phone? Image Courtesy Of: https://thoughttamales.wordpress.com/tag/prepaid-cell/

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 9.04.33 AM.png

The Same Car? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.carwow.co.uk/blog/kia-sportage-vs-hyundai-tucson

Unfortunately, football shirts are not immune from this ongoing homogenization in the name of increasing consumption, and the latest World Cup shirt designs show this. More than a few of this year’s shirts bare a striking resemblance to older shirts, which makes for a very boring overall lineup.

 

Spain 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 8.31.03 AM.png

 

Spain’s 2018 shirt did not impress GQ, and this is perhaps because it is just a re-hashing of the country’s classic 1994 design.

 

Spain 1994. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.branchofscience.com/2014/05/nineties-kits-usa-94-special-part-two/

spain-home.jpg

Colombia 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 8.41.09 AM.png

 

Another shirt that GQ didn’t like. Perhaps that is because this is just a modernized version of Adidas’ 1996 template; the antecedent of this shirt was perhaps Romania’s Euro 1996 shirt.

 

Romania 1996. Image Courtesy Of: https://thefootballshirtcollective.tumblr.com/post/142359500227/repost-199698-romania-home-shirt-from

tumblr_o584vpLJ8f1rtjl8do1_1280.jpg

 

Mexico 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 8.31.28 AM.png

 

Mexico’s 2018 kit is not very imaginative (and has no resemblance to the beauties from 1998 which actually paid homage to Mexico’s Central American heritage). Instead, this kit seems to have been inspired by Bulgaria’s 1994 World Cup Kit. I suppose that is globalism at its best; in 20 years Mexico went from gaining inspiration from their own history to gaining inspiration from…Bulgaria. Maybe it is due to the fact that both countries’ flags share the same tricolor, who knows.

 

Bulgaria 1994. Image Courtesy Of: http://kirefootballkits.blogspot.com/2011/10/bulgaria-kits-world-cup-1994.html

Bulgaria Home and Away Kits World Cup 1994.jpg

 

Germany 2018. Image Courtesy Of: : http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 8.31.42 AM.png

 

While Germany’s shirt might be striking in this line up, it is merely a rehashing of the classic West Germany shirt from 1988. And, like so many shirts on this list, the new one is not as nearly as well designed as the old one. Indeed, sequels are never as good as the originals.

 

Germany 1988. Image Courtesy Of: http://hullcitykits.co.uk/meet-the-hck-staff/

WG1990.jpg

Nigeria 2018 (Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 8.32.07 AM.png

 

Nigeria’s new kit has been widely touted as one of the best in this year’s tournament. GQ calls it “eccentric”, and given that it is already sold out in the UK it goes to show that sometimes it pays to stray from one-dimensional thought. Yet, at the same time, even this shirt is not completely unique. When I first saw the shirt I couldn’t help but think that I had seem something like it before. Indeed, it bares some resemblance to Holland’s classic 1998 design and West Germany’s Euro 1988 Away kit as well as Northern Ireland’s 1990 Umbro shirt.

 

56230_Basten_Gullit_1988_Final_Cs_1_grande.jpg

Holland 1988. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.retrosyrarezas.com/products/holland-netherlands-mens-retro-soccer-jersey-euro-88-gullit-10-replica

 

Germany Home and Away Kits Euro 1998.jpg

Germany 1988-1990. Image Courtesy Of: http://kirefootballkits.blogspot.com/2016/07/germany-kits-euro-1988.html

 

Dowie~1.jpg

Northern Ireland 1990. Image Courtesy Of: http://nifootball.blogspot.com/2006/10/iain-dowie.html

 

It is important to note that this list—and this criticism of the 2018 shirt line up—is not to say that respecting the past, and paying homage to past designs, is not a bad thing. Indeed, respecting the past and what has come before is a good thing. But this does not mean that we should be blind to the fact that, in the name of consumption, we are being sold the past back to us in the present. It means that while we—as consumers—are paying more and more for our products, while the designers may be getting less and less creative. And it also means that there is a very real double standard in world football when it comes to shirt designs.

I will leave this post with a comparison between the 1996 Turkey Home and Away shirts and the 2016 “Spider Man” home and away Turkish Kits. Perhaps, in this instance, the designers would have done well to seek some inspiration from the past. But even here, the “past” of 1996 still represented by an Adidas template.

 

20180607_164123.jpg

New vs. Old. I am not a fan of the new shirts at all. Image Courtesy of the Author.

 

In March 2018 a Turkish sports pundit, Mehmet Demirkol, came out threatening to take the Turkish FA to court if they did not return to the classic Turkish national shirt design. The classic design has been changed on and off for years, culminating in the monstrosity of the 2016 “Spider Man” kits. And it is here that I agree with Mr. Demirkol. There is such a thing as national symbols, and—as Mr. Demirkol argues—the football shirt is a national symbol. We do not see international corporations like Nike and Adidas playing with German, English, Brazilian, Dutch, or Argentine kits. No, such countries have been wearing similar designs for years. Indeed, as I pointed out, Germany has returned to a classic design for the 2018 World Cup. Yet countries like Mexico and Turkey have their kits played with—and their national heritages ignored—by the whims of global capital. In order to resist the ongoing global homogenization of global corporations and globalist ideas, it is important to respect your national heritage regardless of which country you come from. And, even when it comes to football shirts, we can still stand up for our countries in the face of globalism.

 

fft16_mf535736.Jpeg

The Classic “Red Stripe” Design Evoking the Turkish Flag. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/yazarlar/baris-kuyucu/17-yil-sonra-klasik-forma-1206165/

Football Shirts and Nationalism

2 Comments

As an avid collector of football shirts, the headline “How a soccer jersey sparked the latest Germany-Turkey spat” of a 15 May 2018 article by Siobhan O’Grady in The Washington Post immediately caught my eye. As a dual citizen of a Western country (the United States) and Turkey, I felt the tensions that the footballers in question—both Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan—must have been feeling themselves. Especially because I study the intersection of football and nationalism in Turkey, I know that this event is about much more than just football shirts and Turkey’s fraught relationship with Germany; in fact, this small event is indicative of both the failures of globalism, as well as the crisis of modern—and “Western”—liberalism.

On the surface, the decision by Manchester City’s German-Turkish footballer Ilkay Gundogan to present a jersey to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the inscription “With great respect for my president” seems to be a minor issue. In years past it may have been but a footnote in the day’s news. Yet, in this age—when it seems as if most people are all too willing to be “offended”—something as innocuous as the gifting of a football shirt has become grounds for outrage. Indeed, as French Sociologist Michel Foucault said, “modern society is perverse”.

 

NAMCHQEZEQ4VLOSU5NBDBUKSBI.jpg

From Left Mr. Gundogan, Mesut Ozil, Mr. Erdogan, and Cenk Tosun. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/05/15/how-a-soccer-jersey-sparked-the-latest-germany-turkey-spat/?utm_term=.c36280ce21f4

 

And it is this event which so clearly demonstrates just how perverse modern society has become. Should Mr. Gundogan have called Mr. Erdogan “my president” while playing for Germany’s national football team? The president of the German football association (DFB), Reinhard Grindel, did not seem to think so, and politicians from both the right (Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany Party) and left (Cem Ozdemir, a former leader of the Green Party and himself of Turkish descent) seemed to agree. As a representative of the German national football team, Mr. Gundogan would have done well to recognize that it is the German—and not Turkish—football system which built him into the world star that he is today; as such, he should have recognized that his president is German (and that his country) is Germany. Had Mr. Gundogan wanted to embrace his Turkish side wholeheartedly, he could have rejected Germany (and all of the privilege that comes with playing for one of the best national sides in world football) and chosen to play for Turkey, similar to Manchester United’s talismanic Ryan Giggs who rejected England in favor of his native Wales despite the corresponding lack of international prestige that went with choosing the Red Dragons. In Giggs’ words:

 

It still bugs me when people ask if I wished I’d played for England. It’s the question that’s bugged more than any other over the last 10 years. I’m Welsh, end of story. My parents are Welsh, my grandparents are Welsh. The mix-up came from the fact that I played for England schoolboys. That’s what confuses people. But I’d rather go through my career without qualifying for a major championship rather than play for a country in which I wasn’t born in or one that had nothing to do with my parents. That’s just stupid.

 

Had Mr. Gundogan been as straightforward as Mr. Giggs—and perhaps sacrificed fame and fortune for family ties—it is likely that there would have been very little backlash as a result of his actions.

Yet, in the globalized world, it is not so simple; indeed Mr. Gundogan—as discussed above—owes much of his sporting pedigree to the German system. During my childhood I myself often toyed with the question of which country I would represent in international football (thankfully, I was never a good enough footballer to actually have to make this decision) and I am aware that this is a difficult choice for anyone to make. Having not grown up in the (extreme) globalized age, however, I was able to make my own judgements and have been able to wholeheartedly embrace both of my nations. In the modern world, however, the push for “diversity” and “multi-culturalism” has attempted to create a meaningless mélange of cultures; far from making people “multi-cultural” or even “bi-cultural” it has instead made people confused, and Mr. Gundogan’s case is a perfect example of this confusion.

Judging by this case, Mr. Gundogan still identifies with his Turkish background. This may be due in no small part to the fact that—as the 15 May 2018 article notes— “many German Turks say they still face discrimination because of their ethnicity and religion”. Indeed, the German state might not have been as successful in assimilating its sizable Turkish immigrant population as it would like to believe. And this is the main point. There is nothing shameful in Mr. Gundogan’s inscription to the Turkish President itself, and it is not helpful to applaud—or disparage—Mr. Gundogan’s choice without being cognizant of the fact that many factors outside of his control likely went into his decision to call Mr. Erdogan “my president”. As an individual citizen, Mr. Gundogan has every right to express his admiration for any political figure that he desires. This is because footballers are not robots; they are human beings with very real human emotions. Despite the rationalizing tendencies of the modern world (in Weberian terms), emotion still plays a major role.

Many scholars of nationalism recognize the deep emotive bond created by national identities. And despite the emphasis on means-end rationality in our societies and the growing importance of capital interests in modern football, nationalism remains a major force in our world. There is no “global village”, despite what post-modern globalists may believe. If national bonds and cultural identities were as unimportant as the proponents of globalization claim, then it is likely that Germany might have been more successful in integrating its Turkish community. By the same token, it is also likely that the German FA would not have expressed their concerns with Mr. Gundogan’s actions in such overtly nationalist terms. For instance, the president of the DFB, Mr. Grindel, said that “football and the DFB stand for values that Mr. Erdogan does not sufficiently respect”. Similarly, the coach of the German national team, Joachim Low, said that “when you play for Germany you represent German values”. Were it not for Germany’s distaste for Mr. Erdogan, it is unlikely that the jersey would have been an issue; indeed, it is the two-faced nature of modern liberalism which has caused this event to become overblown: according to modern liberals, multiculturalism is good to a degree…but when it begins to threaten the nation’s values, it becomes a problem. Yet these are two irreconcilable positions.

Just as Edward Said noted that “orientalism” said more about the West than it did about the East, so too does this small event tell us more about Western “liberalism” in Germany than it does about Turkey and its supposed Eastern “despotism”. We see that the utopian visions of “multiculturalism” and “pluralism” in the West are—in reality—very difficult to achieve in practice. Despite the continuing attacks on nationalism throughout the world, the emotive connection that individuals feel towards their national identities, cultures, and values are shown both by Mr. Gundogan’s actions, as well as by the DFB’s response to those actions. By bringing in the concept of values, the DFB is making a judgement on Mr. Gundogan’s moral character which may be unwarranted; Mr. Gundogan could have been merely expressing his affinity for the Turkish nation rather than for a leader specifically. Yet this alternative interpretation is not provided by the main(lame)stream media which prefers to spread messages of division.

 

K66VM4LBKM2PRAN2CO5P4HRSCQ.jpg

Mr. Gundogan, Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place in the Midst of a Geopolitical Struggle. Image Courtesy of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/05/15/how-a-soccer-jersey-sparked-the-latest-germany-turkey-spat/?utm_term=.c36280ce21f4

 

In short, ignoring the emotive aspects of national identity may be doing the world more harm than good by encouraging divisions and the creation of a dangerous double standard. The world would do well to recognize that, as scholars like Anthony D. Smith and Walker Connor have noted, nationalism will not be going away any time soon.

 

Beitar Trump Jerusalem and the Absurdity of Modernity

Leave a comment

The “absurdity of modernity” that Michel Foucault refers to should be in the back of all of our minds as the presidency of Donald Trump unfolds; indeed, it is precisely why we should not be too surprised when new absurdities pop up. The latest absurdity is the decision by Jerusalem football club—and six-time Israeli champions—Beitar Jerusalem FC to change their name to “Beitar ‘Trump’ Jerusalem in celebration of the U.S. President’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, thereby recognizing the ancient city as the Israeli capital. An announcement on the club’s Facebook page reads:

For 70 years, Jerusalem has been awaiting international recognition, until President Donald Trump, in a courageous move, recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel. President Trump has shown courage and true love of the Israeli people and their capital, and these days other countries are following his lead in giving Jerusalem its rightful status.

While this is certainly surprising—and more than a little absurd—the question remains, what does this mean in terms of the future?

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 1.24.57 AM.png

Certainly An Interesting Image. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.newsweek.com/beitar-jerusalem-israel-donald-trump-name-change-us-embassy-israel-benjamin-923645

 

As a state which exhibits the darkest side of ethnic nationalism and seems to reject an inclusive form of civic nationalism, Israel has often come under fire by critics. According to a 2017 U.N. report, Israel was classified as an “apartheid state”. Of course, defenders of Israel vehemently denied this characterization of the Jewish state. These contradictory descriptions of the Israeli state—and its actions—will, of course, constrain U.S. President Donald Trump going forward. Is he a “Friend of Zion”, as the banners around Jerusalem announce? Or does he believe in an “America First” policy, as he continually claims?

 

embassyfoz_hdv.jpg

A Friend Of Zion? But…shouldn’t’ the U.S. President be a friend of the American People First? Image Courtesy Of: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/israel/2018/may/lsquo-trump-is-a-friend-of-zion-rsquo

 

A short look at Edward Said’s seminal 1978 text Orientalism can offer a few explanations. As Said notes, “standing near the center of all European [and now the American imperium’s] politics in the East was the question of minorities, whose ‘interests’ the Powers, in each its own way, claimed to protect and represent” (Said 1978: 191). Given this background, then, it should not be surprising that American foreign policy is stuck in the Orientalist logic of old—support of minorities—in a classic divide and rule strategy. Indeed, we have seen the same in Iraq and Syria (with the Kurdish minority) and elsewhere to a lesser extent (Yemen, for instance). But just how long can this policy hold, specifically in Israel?

Indeed, given that so few countries (just nine, including the United States and Israel) voted against the UN resolution rejecting the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it would seem that the United States is quickly becoming an international pariah (to use the classic terminology favored by news media).  Despite this, it seems that this process could open the door to a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The first step would be to recognize that the status quo cannot—and will not—help anyone involved. Indeed, the Palestinian entity in Israel has been shrinking for years. Additionally, a few recent opinion polls (like this one, cited by the Jerusalem Post in 2017) seem to point to a plurality of Israeli Jews and Palestinians calling for a two-state solution. Indeed, the days of Apartheid style segregation—and settler colonialism—should be put behind us, since they do nothing for either the Israeli state or the Palestinian entity; rather, such an unstable situation puts both in a constant state of turmoil. Indeed, the fact that over fifty people have died in recent protests—following the embassy opening—attests to the degree of this instability.

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 4.06.08 AM.png

Whither Palestine? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/opinions/israel-settlements/?utm_term=.1c0637d70bd4

 

Of course, criticism of the status quo often results in accusations of “anti-Semitism”. Again, Said’s Orientalism is useful in explaining why such criticisms miss the mark. In a lengthy passage, Said explains the rationale behind his book:

 

The life of an Arab Palestinian in the West, particularly in America, is disheartening. There exists here an almost unanimous consensus that politically he does not exist, and when it is allowed that he does, it is either as a nuisance or as an Oriental. The web of racism, cultural stereotypes, political imperialism, dehumanizing ideology holding in the Arab or the Muslim is very strong indeed, and it is this web which every Palestinian has come to feel as his uniquely punishing destiny. It has made matters worse for him to remark that no person academically involved with the Near East—no Orientalist, that is—has ever in the United States culturally and politically identified himself wholeheartedly with the Arabs; certainly there have been identifications on some level, but they have never taken an “acceptable” form as has liberal American identification with Zionism, and all too frequently they have been radically flawed by their association with discredited political and economic interests (oil-company and State Department Arabists, for example) or with religion” (Said 1978: 27).

 

In short, there is a major anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias in American (and Western) presentations of the region and indeed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict more generally; this—in itself—constitutes a form of anti-Semitism given that Arabs (like Jews) are themselves a Semitic people (an argument put forth in Orientalism). And this is another reason why the current status quo—consisting of low level violent conflict between Israeli security forces and Palestinian terrorist groups, and de-facto segregation between Israel’s Arab and Muslim populations—cannot stand for long. Both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs deserve to live with dignity and in peace. And it is clear that the current situation cannot offer this kind of peace.

Perhaps, by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the United States will finally be able to rid itself of the burden to defend Israel—a country the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut—and move forward domestically without becoming embroiled in Middle Eastern conflicts in the future. After all, it is Israel’s responsibility to both its Jewish and Arab citizens to ensure equality before the law; it is also Israel’s responsibility (like any sovereign nation) to enforce their own borders without encroaching on Palestinian lands. Now that the capital has been recognized (and one contentious issue taken off the table), there might be hope that both sides can move towards a reconciliation with both their Arab neighbors (and Arab citizens); there might also be hope that the United States can recede from its current position as an imperial overseer of Israel and tend to more urgent domestic matters.

Time will tell as to what road both Israel and the United States take in the Middle East, as well as if Beitar Jerusalem’s name change will hold. While Beitar’s move is not surprising—given their far-right fan base—it is my hope that the name change will commemorate the transition to a more peaceful, and less belligerent, Israel going forward. Regardless of the football team’s name change, lasting peace in the region is important and it is increasingly clear that the current status quo will not deliver that kind of peace.

 

i.jpeg

Beitar’s La Familia Ultra Group are Known For Their (Ethnic) Nationalist Identity. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.espn.com/soccer/beitar-jerusalem/story/3497455/beitar-jerusalem-announce-they-will-rename-club-after-trump

From Tweets to Teetering on the Brink in Turkey

1 Comment

sijdao.jpg

Clash of the Titans: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, complete with Basaksehirspor Jersey (L) and Meral Aksener (R). Image Courtesy of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/958823/Aksener_den_rekor_kiran_tweet__Galatasaray_2-0_Recep_Tayyip_Erdogan.html

 

Last weekend Turkish football giants Galatasaray faced off against league leaders Istanbul Basaksehirspor in a battle for first place in the Turkish Super League. If Basaksehirspor won, they would move five points clear at the top with five matches to go. If Galatasaray won, they would move into first place, one point ahead of Basaksehirspor. That it was a critical matchup was lost on no one, since Istanbul Basaksehirspor is an invented team which garners its support from the Turkish government; indeed, I am not the only one who has pointed this out.

At times it seems as if the team’s biggest supporter is the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself! On 14 April 2018, one day before the match, the President spoke at his party’s Basaksehir congress. Complaining about the team’s lack of fans (a topic I have touched upon), Mr. Erdogan issued a call to Basaksehir fans:

 

Tribünleri Başakşehir’in gençliğinin doldurması lazım. Gençler şampiyonluğa oynuyorsunuz tribünlerin dolması lazım. Bunu halletmeniz lazım. Bakın aniden bir sürpriz yaparım. Başakşehir’in bir maçına gelirim, tribünleri boş görürsem olmaz.

The youth of Basaksehir must fill the stands. Kids, you’re playing for the championship the stands must be filled. You need to take care of this. Look, I could suddenly make a surprise visit to a Basaksehir match; if I see the stands empty it wont be good.

 

Almost immediately, Mr. Erdogan’s comments created a backlash on social media; one fan posted a picture of Istanbul’s municipal workers with the caption “Basaksehir fans are coming with 27 busses”, alluding both to the team’s past recruitment of municipal workers to fill the stands, and to the team’s previous incarnation as the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s (IBB) team, Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyespor.

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 3.43.38 AM.png

Basaksehirspor’s “Hardcore” fans readying their Tifo with Drums. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/foto/foto_galeri/958500/1/Erdogan_in_Basaksehir_cagrisina_sosyal_medyadan_tepki_yagdi.html

 

Aside from humorous responses like the one mentioned above, the most important response on social media came in the form of a Tweet by Meral Aksener, herself a former cabinet member and former member of the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Action Party (MHP). Ms. Aksener broke from the hardline MHP and—seemingly following the populist line which has emerged from London and Washington in the past few years—started her own nationalist party, the Iyi (Good) party, in order to challenge the growing one-man rule of Mr. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has seemingly subsumed the MHP and its “ancient leader”, Devlet Bahceli, to quote the Economist. Ms. Aksener’s Tweet was a brilliant response to Mr. Erdogan’s comments, reading:

 

Çok sayıda mesajdan, Sn. Erdoğan’ın AKP’li gençlere GS karşısında açıkça Başakşehir yanında yer almalarını isteyen çağrısının sporseverleri çok üzdüğünü gördüm. Bırakın gençler istediği takımı tutsun, bırakın futbol sahada oynansın ve futbol kulüplerinin renkleri kirlenmesin.

I read in many [social media] messages [posts] that many sports fans were upset by Mr. Erdogan’s open call for AKP supporting youth to support Basaksehir [Basaksehirspor] against GS [Galatasaray]. Let the youth support whichever team they would like to, let go and allow football to be played on the field and not sully the football teams’ colors.

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 3.46.38 AM.png

Meral Aksener Hits Back at Mr. Erdogan. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/958823/Aksener_den_rekor_kiran_tweet__Galatasaray_2-0_Recep_Tayyip_Erdogan.html

 

Following the match—which Galatasaray won 2-0, Ms. Aksener sent a follow-up Tweet with what could be considered the dagger in the heart: Galatasaray 2 – 0 Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This Tweet was many things:

  • It was funny.
  • It revealed the very real connection between the ruling AKP and Basaksehirspor; a form of social and cultural engineering designed to further the entrenchment of the AKP’s hegemony over all facets of Turkish cultural life.
  • It showed just how unafraid Ms. Aksener is of Mr. Erdogan, who—as The Economist notes—would never admit to being afraid of a woman.

 

Surprisingly, the globalist main (lame)stream media has not covered Ms. Aksener’s rising star. Given the post-modern world’s obsession with identity politics, it would have seemed that the story of a woman like Ms. Aksener’s challenge to Mr. Erdogan in an Islamic country would have been a popular one. Unfortunately, as in so many other cases, the main (lame)stream media only follows the stories that fit their narrative. And, sadly, that narrative is one which can have nothing to do with anything that strays from the logic of globalism.

That Mr. Erdogan was made very afraid by Ms. Aksener’s brazen Tweet showed just days later when, on 18 April 2018, he announced snap elections for 24 June 2018. It was a surprising move, especially considering how often Mr. Erdogan has spoken against early elections in the past. In 2010 Mr. Erdogan said “In the developed countries of the world there is no idea, no understanding of early elections. These are signs of backwardness”. In 2009 Mr. Erdogan called anyone who wanted early elections “traitors” or “sell-outs to the nation”. Yet, in 2018, Mr. Erdogan has gone against himself! Of course, such contradictions are not surprising. After all, this is politics in the globalizing world. There is, however, a rationale behind this madness. Mr. Erdogan has called these early elections—despite contradicting himself—for three main reasons.

 

erkenseim-siyasetciler.jpg

To Quote Mr. Erdogan: “In the developed countries of the world there is no idea, no understanding of early elections. These are signs of backwardness”.  Image Courtesy Of: https://listelist.com/erken-secime-karsi-cikmis-siyasetciler/

 

SmlzACiAiJepgTnG.jpg

The Above Reads “Early Elections Are A Betrayal To The Nation”; Mr. Erdogan’s Said On 15 March 2009 That “Wanting Early Elections Is a Betrayal To The Nation” While On 8 January 2010 He Announced That Early Elections Were A Sign Of Backwardness. Images Courtesy Of: https://listelist.com/erken-secime-karsi-cikmis-siyasetciler/

 

  1. Erdogan is looking to capitalize on the nationalist fervor while he can. As I have written earlier, Mr. Erdogan has looked to capitalize on the rise of populism following the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. and Brexit in the U.K. by re-branding himself as a nationalist. He has looked to strengthen these “nationalist” credentials by rallying Turkey behind the flag (the oldest trick in the book, of course) during the Turkish operations in Northern Syria, designed to prevent the formation of an independent Kurdish entity. Indeed, Turkey has recently attempted to take a middle ground approach to Syria between the U.S., U.K., and France on the one hand and Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime on the other. This policy, of course, is reminiscent of Turkey’s neutrality during the Second World War, perhaps one of the best foreign policy moves in Turkish history. And it is also one born out of Ataturk’s own nationalist position, of an independent and sovereign Turkey. Indeed, it seems that Mr. Erdogan—and the AKP more generally—have re-discovered Ataturk and classical Turkish geopolitics (focused on sovereignty and defending the national borders) and are looking to ride this wave to five more years of power.
  2. Erdogan has become cognizant of the threats to his own power in domestic politics as well as international politics. As the aforementioned Tweets regarding the Basaksehir match show, Ms. Aksener is not afraid to challenge Mr. Erdogan domestically. Despite the AKP’s clear ideological influence over Turkish football Ms. Aksener was not afraid to take a critical stance. At the same time, on Tuesday 15 April, U.S. president Donald Trump sent out one of his famous Tweets, it was the first one which mentioned Turkey that I can recall. In it, he called for the return of an American pastor who the Turkish government has jailed for being a “spy”. Mr. Erdogan, over the course of the week, recognized that both the domestic and international tide may be turning against him, and thus he had to act. Perhaps he realized that—given this recent firestorm on social media—his party might not be able to survive until November 2019, when the next elections were supposed to take place.
  3. Erdogan (who owes his seat in power to the forces of global finance) also knows that he must pander to the interests of globalization and global finance. As The Washington Post notes, “analysts said Erdogan may also have decided to shorten the electoral timetable because of signs of a worsening economy, a major concern for Turkish voters”. Indeed, Bloomberg’s reports of the call for early elections focused solely on the economic interests of global capital. Bloomberg’s piece pointed out that “Lira stocks rallied” after the announcement and that “The lira extended gains after the announcement, appreciating 1.6 percent to 4.03 per dollar as of 6:30 p.m. in Istanbul; it has weakened this year against all 17 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The benchmark stock index added 3.1 percent, its biggest one-day gain in a year.” Of course, as one analyst noted, this might not be enough. Jan Dehn, head of research at Ashmore Group PLC in London compared Erdogan’s situation to that of Chavez in Venezuela and Kirchner in Argentina: “Markets hope that if Erdogan wins he can do some adjustment and get a bit more normal. A bit like how markets used to view Chavez and even Kirchner. In reality of course, they did not get more moderate. They got more radical instead.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 4.52.13 AM.png

U.S. President Donald Trump Weighs In. Image Courtesy of: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/986432143189512192

 

And this radicalization is what many in Turkey fear. Unfortunately, however, in the age of globalization which is characterized by an extreme form of capitalism, the markets are truly all that matter. You will not see wide-spread outrage at the fact that Mr. Erdogan is circumventing the constitutional democracy of the Republic of Turkey. This is because his move will bring “stability” to financial markets, at the expense of a populace which has been living under an official state of emergency for the better part of the last two years. His decision to call early elections will earn investors more money, even though Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists.

Unfortunately, global financial moguls care little for these trivial “details”. They care about the bottom line; “human rights” and “democracy” are just a footnote to that bottom line. As a commentator in a local Turkish newspaper points out, the early election is just an early call for the battle against imperialism at the ballot box. I have pointed out before how globalization and globalism are just colonialism and imperialism with a kinder face; it is time that we all recognize this—and take back our countries—before it is too late.

 

Flag-map_of_Turkey.svg.png

Image Courtesy Of: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag-map_of_Turkey.svg

A Marginal Sociologist on Social Engineering Part 1: Technology

1 Comment

Yesterday I found myself connecting through Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport. There were just nine gates in the small terminal I was in, so I headed to a nearby restaurant for a drink and a snack. To my surprise, there was no one around. No one working, at least. Each table had two Ipads—one for each chair—with menus, games, and even flight information on them. There were no waiters or waitresses. It felt like an odd wasteland, but I decided to play along. I touched the “drinks” page, scrolled down to “spirits”, chose “whiskey/bourbon”, scrolled down to “Jim Beam”, chose “double (plus 4 Dollars), chose a “non Coca-Cola Mixer” and selected “Ginger Ale”. Success (even if it meant spending more time on the Ipad than it would have to tell a server “One double Jim Beam and Ginger Ale please”). When it came time to pay, I was told to add a gratuity. But why? Would I be giving myself the gratuity? I took my own order, after all! And there were no servers whose service I could rate; after all, gratuity is given after the service has been conducted, not before!

I was bewildered. But the system does not let one order without paying; one must pay up-front in order to even get a meal! On top of that, one must swipe a credit card in order to pay! My attempts to pay in cash, needless to say, failed miserably. It was clear that the losers—in this situation—are those who do not have credit cards (this establishment, clearly, did not serve their kind . . . isn’t that discrimination?) and the limited number of servers themselves; those lucky enough to have kept their jobs in this technological utopia will be chronically under tipped because no one in their right minds should tip before seeing service.

Once the order was in, I decided to poke around the menu for a few minutes. I noted that it was available in a number of languages, which intrigued me (perhaps I should have been a marginal linguist, but I digress), so I scrolled down to “Turkish”. The translation was, predictably, atrocious. Likely, it would have embarrassed a five-year old. “Gluten Free of Charge” meals, Grilled Cheeses made of children, and “national bread” did not seem like very appetizing meals. Clearly, the restaurant had chosen to eschew human translators (like they eschewed employing a human wait staff) and instead relied on Google Translate. Unfortunately, the end result was an embarrassment. I felt like I was living in an episode of Black Mirror; I had found myself in a dystopian present dominated by the limits of technology. No, technology certainly does not make us “freer”; rather, it tends to erect more and more boundaries around us—it is certainly Max Weber’s “iron cage” of rationality.

 

A Bar Without Bartenders at Reagan International Airport…Black Mirror Much? Image Courtesy Of the Author.

 

While the restaurant itself was kind enough to provide me a prompt reply to my complaint via email, this example stretches far beyond just one poorly run restaurant in the Reagan National Airport. Rather, this kind of technological rationalism—if left uncheck—will likely spell doom for human kind (and human freedom more specifically) in the long term. Peter L. Bergman and Thomas Luckmann’s 1966 work The Social Construction of Reality makes it clear that we, as human beings, are social creatures (For more on Social Constructionism, please see the Wikipedia page here. We need human contact not only to just thrive, but also to survive:

 

Men together produce a human environment, with the totality of its socio-cultural and psychological formations. None of these formations may be understood as products of man’s biological constitution, which, as indicated, provides only the outer limits for human productive activity. Just as it is impossible for man to develop as man in isolation, so it is impossible for man in isolation to produce a human environment. Solitary human being is being on the animal level (which, of course, man shares with other animals). As soon as one observes phenomena that are specifically human, one enters the realm of the social. Man’s specific humanity and his sociality are inextricably intertwined. Homo Sapiens is always, and in the same measure, homo socius (Berger and Luckmann 1966: 69).

 

By severing our links with our fellow human beings—by privileging the technological over the social—we are, in actuality, setting ourselves up for a bland (and perhaps even bleak) future devoid of empathy and social interactions. While I have written about both the threats to empathy and ongoing cultural homogenization in the modern world before, it is useful to remember just why empathy—and human relations—are so important.

Empathy and respect for your fellow human beings are factors which can prevent tragic events like mass shootings and homicides; social alienation, however, are risk factors which can exacerbate anti-social behaviors and—ultimately—lead to violence. The first step of fascism—which the history of mid 20th century Europe provides a few examples of—is the dehumanization of the “other”. Once one sees “the other” as sub-human, it becomes much easier to dismiss and—in extreme cases—get rid of them; it is the process which Hannah Arendt outlines effectively in The Origins of Totalitarianism. In the period Arendt writes about, this dehumanization was encouraged by state-led propaganda. In the current era, this dehumanization is encouraged by corporations and Silicon Valley, who constantly stress the value of technology for “making our lives easier”. The other side of the coin, of course, is that machination serves the interests of corporations (by driving down the costs of labor and increasing competition between the remaining human employees) but does not serve the interests of average human beings. Is technology really making things “easier”? Or are we just willingly accepting a form of domination and—simultaneously—sewing the seeds of our own destruction? Perhaps we should care about one another—our fellow human beings—than we should care about robots. Unfortunately, it seems like Amazon’s Alexa gets more respect than living, breathing, human beings do, and that is a very real problem. Otherwise, we will be left in a very bland world where restaurants look something like this, too bland to ever offend anyone:

20180323_122452.jpg

A…Bland New Eating Establishment. Image Courtesy Of the Author.

 

Take back your lives from corporate greed.

Take back your educations from radical ideologues.

Take back your countries from dehumanizing bureaucratization.

 

American-Flag-Wallpaper-300x225.jpg

Image Courtesy Of: http://world-visits.com/2011/12/flag-of-the-united-states

Older Entries