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Martin Luther King Day 2018: A Marginal Sociologist’s Take on How the Controversy Regarding “Shithole Countries” Reveals the Hypocrisy of the Modern World

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During a meeting with U.S. lawmakers regarding immigration policy, U.S. President Donald Trump’s allegedly asked a question: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”. According to the Washington Post, these comments were made by the President of the United States, despite the fact that no concrete sources were mentioned; the Post’s story mentions only “several people briefed on the meeting” and “people familiar with the meeting”. On the other hand, some U.S. lawmakers have come out to deny that Mr. Trump used such colorful language. Given that the Washington Post was unable to provide sources, it is still unclear whether or not these comments were actually made. For the purposes of this post, however, it does not matter whether or not said comments were actually made.

This is because there are a few things beyond argument regarding this incident:

 

  1. Trump’s comments were, clearly, less than ideal;
  2. This kind of event should have sparked real debate, in the vein of Sociologist Jurgen Habermas’ communicative action

 

Sadly, despite the fact that everyone could agree on number one above, it seems that no one could agree on number two. Instead of actually talking, there was only outrage, as evidenced by the sports(!) site ESPN’s focus on responses from the NBA (National Basketball Association) community (http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22062684/raptors-president-masai-ujiri-criticizes-president-donald-trump-reported-remark and http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22100611/adam-silver-donald-trump-controversy-discouraging ). Normally, one would expect that when a sports website focuses on politics that some sort of nationwide debate would be forthcoming; unfortunately, that was not the case at all. Instead it was the same old self-righteousness that most Americans should, by now, be used to.

Some readers may ask why this is a problem. Why should there be debate, some might ask, when Mr. Trump’s comments were so offensive? Sociologically, it seems to me as if the “offense” that so many have taken to Mr. Trump’s comments stems from the inner demons of many Americans. Perhaps, this is because many Americans might actually harbor the kind of condescending—and ultimately negative—view of other countries that Mr. Trump’s comments espoused (perhaps because they don’t travel?). It is possible that the president’s comments reflect the inner thoughts of many Americans, and to come face to face with this reality is simply too much for a great number of people.

Anyone who has traveled beyond their home knows that, inevitably, something goes wrong. It could be a missed train, a fully booked hotel, a closed restaurant, the inability to find Wi-Fi, or even something as banal as a convenience store that has run out of unsweetened iced tea. In a moment of exasperation, I am sure that most people have exclaimed “this place (town/county/neighborhood/or even country) is a shithole!”. To deny this would, in my opinion, not be realistic.

At the same time, I know for a fact that many people—who claim to be “liberal” and “tolerant” in their outlook—make the same value judgements about other countries (and cultures) as they allege Mr. Trump made. Of course, these people tend to not be as “eloquent” as Mr. Trump was in stating their opinion; instead they err on the side of political correctness. In college, a former girlfriend of mine—who was from a non-Western country—once told me how an ostensibly “tolerant” resident of our college town once told her (upon learning of where she was from) “oh, I heard it’s really bad over there”. During the 2013 Gezi Park Protests in Turkey, a neighbor of mine in the United States used the exact same terminology: “Oh, you’re going to Turkey? I heard it’s really bad over there”. Now, let me translate these statements for a moment from “politically correct” language to “real” language:

 

“I heard it’s really bad over there” = “I heard that place is a shithole”

 

While the latter may be more vulgar, and seem more disrespectful at first, it is clear that the former is no less condescending, no less insulting, and certainly no less disrespectful. And this is something that we, living in Western cultures, should be aware of when we discuss international affairs.

Importantly, this condescension manifests itself in other facets of the Western liberal mind as well. Take, for instance, the debate on illegal immigration in the United States (or the refugee crisis in Western Europe, since it is an analogous process). The globalist push to encourage immigration to the west is driven by the same sentiments of condescension and superiority. So many times, I have heard my fellow sociologists claim that illegal immigration should not be discouraged because “those people are trying to better their lives” and “escape from poverty”. Beside the fact that Mexico is far from the only “poor” country in the world (in fact, it is not even that poor, as Mexico is ranked 16th in GDP, just below Australia—where is the outcry for increased immigration from Guinea-Bissau, which clocks in at 181st?), the idea that lives will be “improved” by illegal immigration to the United States smacks of Western concepts of superiority.

 

Here, the logic goes:

 

  1. Your country is poorer than ours;
  2. Coming to our country—which is not poor—will improve your life;
  3. Welcome!

 

Of course, this logic could easily be translated as:

 

  1. Your country is a shithole;
  2. Coming to our country—which is not a shithole—will improve your life;
  3. Welcome!

 

And thus the Western individual’s sense of virtue and self-righteousness has been confirmed, another “third-worlder” has been rescued from the poverty, filth, and violence of the third world. Of course, it is never considered that—perhaps—the “third world” country that the immigrant hailed from had many positive qualities that the United States lacks: like a sense of community, a sense of family values, and a general lifestyle not dominated by the mechanistic and bureaucratic logic of extreme capitalism. These latter points are rarely considered because the Western countries tend to benefit from the cheap labor offered by immigrant populations. The economy of the United States is satiated by cheap labor from Mexico while the sense of national virtue and self-righteousness in Sweden is satiated by an influx of Syrian refugees; yet in both cases the underlying assumption is “our country is better for you than that shithole you came from”. Is it degrading? Of course it is. Is it insulting? Of course it is. And is it really that different than the comments Mr. Trump allegedly made? To me, I don’t see how it is, and there in lies the hypocrisy of modern liberalism in the West.

Since some of Mr. Trump’s comments were directed at Haiti—and even prompted CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who choked up at times, to become emotional when discussing the topic—I will provide an experience I had with a former student who was from Haiti. My student was indeed a strong individual (as Mr. Cooper describes Haitians to be), but more importantly he was a strong thinker. He taught me things that I did not know about his country: this is one of the joys of teaching; often the teacher learns from the students. My student taught me that Haiti’s troubles were many, but they could be traced back to two sources: Politicians and Imperialism. This student told me that Haiti’s politicians were notoriously corrupt; they tended to take from their population much more than they gave. And he also told me that when the United States started providing rice to Haiti, it meant that the local agriculture business was destroyed; the island nation started to depend on the United States for rice and, rather than develop their own domestic agriculture, they began to rely on international sources. An excerpt from Thomas M. Kostigen’s The Big Handout, available on Google Books,  explains this situation well. Here it becomes abundantly clear—at least to me—that Haiti’s problems do not stem from it being a “shithole country” at all. But at the same time, their salvation is not to be found in more “international aid”. Rather Haiti—like all countries, including the United States—would be well served to embrace their own nationalism, their own country, to bring about a better future.

The hypocrisy of the outrage about Mr. Trump’s comments was brought home to me most recently on 15 January 2018 when a shooting took place at the Providence Place Mall in my hometown; that night my brother was at the mall. He was quick to point out the irony: Many people at his school had warned him about visiting me in Turkey over his Christmas vacation, they had told him that Turkey was “dangerous”. In short, they had warned him that Turkey was a “shithole country”, even if they didn’t use such politically incorrect language. Yet, he did not find guns blazing in Turkey—he found them in the United States, in his home town specifically, while out shopping for Matchboxes. Indeed, the idea that—somehow—other countries are much more “dangerous” than the United States is flawed. But don’t ask the politically correct to tell that to you, since they will only respond with politically incorrect formulations of their own thoughts and crocodile tears (Please see Anderson Cooper, above). Or—even worse—they will paint over the truth: that the globalist system desires to make all countries “shithole countries”.

Take the progressive mayor of Providence, RI, Jorge Elorza, who said the suspect was just “a knucklehead”. His further elaboration did not actually elaborate at all: “It was a terrible incident. Kids … rival groups, rival factions started beef at the mall and it resulted in someone pulling a gun out and shooting someone. It’s senseless, just dumb stuff”. That the Mayor, an elected official(!), of an American city could not come out and say what the police themselves could say—that they “wouldn’t rule out” gang involvement—is a testament to just how dangerous political correctness is for the city, for society, and for the nation. Senseless violence is not inflicted by “factions” or “groups”, senseless violence is inflicted by gangs.

But, sadly, this is the state of the United States in 2018. This is a country where people who imply that other countries are “shitholes” in a politically correct manner feign offense when the same sentiment is uttered in a politically incorrect manner without realizing that they do the same exact thing. This is a country where—in “honor” of Martin Luther King Day—the New Yorker magazine puts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., kneeling, next to Colin Kaepernick on their magazine’s cover. I put “honor” in quotations because the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should be depicted as kneeling besides someone like Colin Kaepernick (whose divisive actions I have written about before) is a disgrace to the legacy of an American hero; in fact it diminishes his legacy.

 

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A Questionable Cover Image For The New Yorker. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/seahawks/seahawks-michael-bennett-appears-on-the-new-yorker-cover-next-to-colin-kaepernick-and-martin-luther-king-jr/

 

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Perhaps this Would Have Been a Better Cover Image For The New Yorker? Image Courtesy Of: http://guides.ll.georgetown.edu/c.php?g=592919&p=4172699

 

But this is also a country where such division—for reasons I cannot fathom—is welcomed. It is a country where someone like Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is the head of the American Sociological Association (ASA). As a marginal sociologist, it is an insult to me that someone as seemingly racist as Mr. Bonilla-Silva represents my profession. This is man who has written a book arguing that, basically, all whites are racists, and has given a talk entitled “the real ‘race problem’ in sociology: the power of white rule in our discipline”; as a sociologist—as marginal as I may be—I take offense to this. In reading one of Mr. Bonilla-Silva’s book chapters for a graduate seminar, I was taken aback reading some of his generalizations punctuated by blatant racism; it was clear to me that he certainly was not judging people by the content of their character but by the color of their skin–something Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged us not to do. But this is because Mr. Bonilla-Silva—like Colin Kaepernick—is unlike Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The latter was a hero who wanted to bring people together, the former two are cowards who only want to drive people apart. Just like it takes strength to be positive in the negative world we live in, it takes a strong person to unite people—the weak will only resort to division. By the same token, most of us know that it is easier to break a friendship off than work to make a friendship grow.

This is because people have no respect—nor idea—of their own community, their own nation. We cannot abandon our countries to the mercy of globalist leaders and corporate interests, both of which have no respect for their countries. We owe it to ourselves as citizens of whichever country we belong to to make our countries as good as they can be; we must strive to make our countries live up to the messages that they send us regarding “freedom”, “democracy”, and “liberty”. I saw the football fans stand up for their country in a small stadium in Istanbul, as the fans of Sariyer supported their nation with a Turkish flag, a banner reading “Long Live Mustafa Kemal Pasha” (Yasa Mustafa Kemal Pasa), and a banner reading “Country First” (Once Vatan). For me it was an inspiration. And I see the same sentiments it in a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. himself: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. It is words like these that inspire me, not the negative rhetoric of division that the globalist media tends to proffer.

 

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On an October Day the Sariyer Players Stood For Their National Anthem While The Fans Made Their Sentiments Clear Through Banners. Images Courtesy of the Author.

 

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A Sensible Sentiment Sociologists Would Do Well To Keep In Mind. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.quotesbycelebrities.com/martin-luther-king-jr.-quotes/we-must-learn-live-together-brothers-or For Audio of Mr. King’s Speech, Please See This YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNPpEQkep2k
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Road Tripping 2018: The Road Offers Both Individual and Social Catharsis in the U.S.A.

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At the end of (yet another) American road trip I am left in an all too similar emotional state; it is remarkable that—as the years go by—I feel the same at 31 as I did when I was 20 following a cross-country road trip. Sure there is the physical fatigue; the body aching from sitting from hours on end, the eyes tired from watching out for every little pothole and every piece of debris, the stomach reeling from one too many fast food meals. Yet there is also a very real mental pleasure that comes from endurance driving; I would argue that it is a pleasure that far outweighs the negatives of physical fatigue.

“Motoring”, to to speak, as a mental pleasure is a subject I have written about in the past (Please see here and here. Rarely in the modern world do we have a chance to be completely alone with our thoughts, devoid of the influences of our “smart phones” or computers. How long these days will remain ours, with self-driving cars on the horizon, is of course up for debate but it is a subject worth thinking about. That the road trip is a pensive experience is undeniable. That it is also very “American” is also undeniable. Indeed, Jack Kerouac showed just how the two are intertwined; the road trip is not only an exercise in individual thought, it is also an exercise in collective thought as well. For me, in the early days of the new year, I saw just how cathartic it can be.

On I-95 in northern New Jersey I watched the New York skyline drift by to my left, the city which, at the dawn of the last century, would become a model for urban areas the world over is now slowly decaying with each American Dollar being spent abroad on foreign policy intrigues which offer little tangible benefit to the American citizen. Meanwhile, ahead, the smokestacks of American industry send plumes of smoke into the frigid northeast sky. How much longer these industries—the bed rock of American wealth—will remain “American” is an open question as the country continually outsources industrial jobs while (attempting) to transition to a service economy, complete with under-employed servers at restaurants and white collar workers with Master’s Degrees whose main responsibility could be as banal as forwarding e-mails for eight hours a day.

 

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“On I-95 in northern New Jersey I watched the New York skyline drift by to my left . . . ” . Image Courtesy Of The Author.

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“Meanwhile, ahead, the smokestacks of American industry send plumes of smoke into the frigid northeast sky . . . “. Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

Off I-95 in the American South I found that antique shops have become one of the main tourist attractions in rural areas which have been devastated by the attacks on American industry. As industry moves overseas, the production of raw materials has similarly collapsed. A little later, in South Carolina, I stop by the “tourist trap” that is South of the Border, a kitschy attraction built in 1950 on the North Carolina/South Carolina line to (perhaps) offer some respite to families from the monotony of endurance driving. Yet, according to State Media’s Washington Post, South of the border is “Un-Pc”, even “racist”; the author compares it to Donald Trump for its offensiveness, racism, consumerism, and garishness.

 

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“Off I-95 in the American South I found that antique shops have become one of the main tourist attractions in rural areas which have been devastated by the attacks on American industry . . .”. Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

Of course, the offense took by the Washington Post staff writer is part and parcel for mainstream media in the United States these days; it is much easier to hate than actually take the time to wonder. It is one-dimensional thought at its finest in the offended states of America.

Perhaps it was the weather; the snow on the ground—in front of a beach shop advertising Myrtle Beach—made an already absurd place even more absurd (as if such a thing were possible). Yet it is possible, because this is America. This is a country in which car culture—and the road tripping that goes with it—is embedded in us as Americans. This is a country that expanded westward (with all of its unfortunate violence), this is a country that was founded on the ethos of “the open road”. How much longer will tourist traps like South of the Border exist? Children no longer need to alleviate their boredom on the road with kitschy tourist attractions, they have their ipads and iphones and TV sets in the headrests of their parents’ Suburbans and Escalades. Yet, while this may be convenient (for parents), it denies children the chance to experience one of the magical things about road trips: Understanding their own country. In the past, kids might have played games in the car—like spotting license plates from different states. In the past, kids might have–**GASP**–gotten out of the car at a road side attraction in order to actually interact with someone living in a different part of the country. All of these actions, in the past, served to reinforce one very real thing that the social engineers in academia and the media have tried to deny over the years: It is that America does, indeed, have a culture.

 

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South Of The Border is an Absurd Place Made Even More Absurd By the Snow on the Ground in South Carolina. Perhaps the Ice Cream Shop Was the Only Shop Whose Image Was Enhanced by the Presence of Snow Below the Mason-Dixon Line. Images Courtesy of the Author.

 

Whether or not this culture is “good” is not up for debate here; I would be the last person to argue that rampant consumerism and extreme capitalism are good things for the human soul. And, like French Sociologist Michel Foucault, I would hesitate to argue that anything is inherently “good”; what is good for one person may not be from another person’s perspective. Rather, I argue that there is—and must be—one thing that ties us together as Americans, whether we live in Seattle, Washington or Bangor, Maine; San Diego, California or Minneapolis, Minnesota; Amarillo, Texas or Ocala, Florida. That one thing is, of course, our culture—and a respect for it.

On this particular road trip, I was taken by the fact that our car culture is very real; I was able to drive 1,200 miles (almost 2,000 kilometers) without having to use my horn once (as someone who has driven in many different countries, and undertaken many road trips in the United States, this is no small accomplishment). There is, for most people at least, an unspoken respect that driving on an Interstate highway produces: We are all going somewhere, individually (as Americans are conditioned to do) and let us try to interfere as little as possible with others who are doing the same thing (another thing Americans are conditioned to do). Perhaps this is a throwback to an earlier America, a time when one of the country’s major news outlets—like the aforementioned Washington Post—was not owned by a corporate leader like Jeff Bezos (of course, this fact alone should make people think twice if they think The Washington Post is an independent news outlet working in the best interests of the public: it is not).

As I drove on, the miles of rural America flying past me like the pages of a flipbook, I certainly had ample time to think. I thought about how America, in its vastness, can make a person feel small, powerless. Perhaps for some this is true; perhaps that is why we see so many Americans seek solace in identity politics. Yet for me, it is quite the opposite. In a smaller country, a citizen can be content with their role as citizen-receiver; the country is small, the people are more or less homogenous, the citizen can live their lives in (relative) assurance that the state has the ability to look out for them. In the United States, on the other hand, the country is big and it is far from homogenous. Yet this offers the individual a chance to be big as well. It is up to you, the citizen, to act on the purported values of your country. Every individual has a responsibility to treat their fellow citizens with respect, fairness, equality, and dignity. In a big country, every individual must—everyday—act on the purported values of their country by supporting small businesses in their community, opening the doors for fellow patrons and—yes—obeying the rules of the road. The state will not do this, despite how many times it may recount the virtues of “freedom” and “democracy”. It is up to the individual citizen to ensure that “freedom” and “democracy” are more than just words.

This is what true nationalism is. It is not blind patriotism, it is not accepting everything the state says with unquestioning loyalty, and it is not the chauvinistic idea that your country is somehow “better” than the rest. Rather it is an active attempt to, everyday, make life easier for one’s fellow citizens, for those with whom you share a living space, regardless of which particular identity they may have at any given moment. As John F. Kennedy once famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. It is these values which unite us as Americans; it is these values that are the ties that bind us and these values which are stronger than that which seeks to divide us. In other countries as well, there are certain values which unite citizens; although the era of globalism has tried to erode these it is up to individual citizens—regardless of their nationality—to embrace their country’s values and their country’s cultures so as to resist the impersonal forces of global capital which contend with the nation-state for the citizens’ loyalties.

 

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John F. Kennedy. Image Courtesy Of: http://chatafrik.com/special/memorable-speech/ask-not-what-your-country-can-do-for-you-by-john-f-kennedy#.WlRx0jOZPRg

 

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It is Up to All of Us, Regardless of Where we are From, to Explore Our Own Countries. It Is Also Our Responsibility to Assist Those Who Travel to Our Countries, Since International Travel Is Also Necessary For Gaining a Useful Perspective On the World. Image Courtesy Of: https://mxd.dk/mxd-viden/a-brief-overview-of-the-us-music-market/

Travel Assistance: Some Tips For U.S. Citizens Trying to Procure a Visa for Travel to Turkey

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slide-1.jpgNot So Easy Anymore, but Its Still Possible! Image Courtesy Of: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

 

After having multiple Kafkaesque experiences at the Turkish consulate while trying to procure a Turkish visa for my father and brother during the bizarre visa spat between Turkey and the United States, I have decided to provide a few tips for U.S. citizens who want to travel to Turkey during these strange times. It is my hope that this information will be helpful not only to my fellow Americans, but also to the staff of Turkish consulates in the United States, since they have been working overtime to meet the demand of a new visa regime that hitherto has not existed between the two countries lucky (!) enough to call this marginal sociologist a citizen.

Before offering my tips, I will first offer my own analysis of this bizarre geopolitical spat. While waiting for my visas to be processed, one of the people waiting insinuated that this international issue could be blamed on the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump; given that this interpretation is frequently churned out by the mainstream media I was not entirely surprised to hear it. The only issue with this kind of surface level media analysis is that it has no bearing in reality. In fact, it is likely that the visa spat was created by the State Department without the direct knowledge of President Trump; the U.S. State Department—which Hillary Clinton used to head—is filled with holdovers from the previous presidency (regime?) of Barack Obama. As I have noted before, Hillary Clinton was also a known supporter of Fethullah Gulen, the shady Islamic cleric who the U.S. shelters and the Turkish government blames for the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016.

Given these intrigues it is likely that this visa crisis was fabricated by a portion of the State Department, following the arrest of a Turkish national employed at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul who was suspected of having a role in the failed putsch, in order to create a roadblock for President Trump in international relations. Of course, the fact that the United States came out so strongly in support of a foreign national employed at a U.S. consulate amounts to a tacit admission that the Obama government may have had a hand in the events of 15 July 2016 (perhaps fomenting coups in democracies is part of what President Obama meant when he told his successor “American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend”.  Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was all to willing to run with the visa spat in order to use it for his own gains: Mr. Erdogan is trying to re-fashion himself as a nationalist—not globalist—leader following the rise of populism and nationalism in both the United States and Great Britain. In responding to the United States’ halting of visa applications for Turkish citizens in kind, Mr. Erdogan is bolstering his nationalist credentials. There are, however, a few issues with this.

The first is that Turkey did not exactly respond to the United States’ move in kind; this was not a reciprocal move. Although the consulate stressed to me that the 160$ fee (the old e-visa on arrival was 20$, by contrast) is part of the reciprocity since that is the fee the U.S. charges Turks for visas, the visas offered are not in anyway similar. While the U.S. generally grants 10-year multiple-entry visas, the visas I got were single-entry, valid for just 15 days in a six-month period. In other words, in order for a U.S. citizen to get multiple-entry visas valid for 10 years they would have to pay 4,000$ (200$ x 2 for 12 months, x 10 for 10 years)! Additionally, the United States charges exorbitant fees because the visa process involves background checks and interviews; the Turkish process does not. Still—despite it all—Americans have to realize that citizens of most of the world’s countries need visas to enter the United States (or the European Union, for that matter).

The second issue is that President Erdogan is no less globalist than he was before. In fact, it is almost as if this visa spat was manufactured (by both the State Department and the Turkish state) in order to provide the world with an example of what the end of the “globalist” utopia—really a dystopia—would look like if bilateral visas were implemented worldwide. It is almost like Turkey is being used as an experimental “pilot” case, because this visa spat has been just that bizarre.

Despite all the oddities and diplomatic wrangling, the important thing to recognize from all of this is that draconian visa rules need not be the future in international relations; the only ones who will suffer from this game are normal citizens looking to travel and the consular employees who will have to work overtime to deliver visas. Therefore, it is essential that we separate “the government” from “the nation”. “Nationalism” as a concept does not mean agreeing with everything your government does; blind patriotism is not “nationalism”. It is our job to understand that and hold our leaders’ collective feet to the proverbial fire when they do things that do not reflect well on shared national values (like, for instance, fomenting a violent civil war in Syria without accomplishing anything, something both Turkey and the United States have been guilty of despite their anti-imperialist nationalist pasts). Government exists to provide a safe environment for all of its citizens with the least amount of regulation as possible. The government should not exist to provide handouts to all of its citizens, for instance, but it does exist to help those who are unable to help themselves—the disabled for instance who are not able to gain employment otherwise. Of course, this visa spat is not an example of less government regulation but, the way I see it, it is part of the effort to thwart the rising tide of nationalism against the globalist project.

Since I believe in nationalism as a global force—respect your country and others within a global system of equals and not the tiered system of unequals (divided into “first” world and the rest) that globalization has created—I will offer my advice to fellow travelers whose only goal is to see the world by helping them navigate the complicated Turkish visa process. Since Turkey was not prepared for this upsurge in visa applications from the United States, it is my hope that I can help both my fellow Americans looking to visit Turkey and my fellow Turks working hard in consulates across the United States. Although the visa spat is likely to be resolved soon since the U.S. finally ended funding to Kurdish forces in Syria—which had been a cynical attempt to further ethnic strife in the Middle East without decisively ending the ISIS/ISIL/DAESH threat—I still hope that whatever advice I can offer will be of help.

In order to combat the fake “tolerance” of different cultures and faux “diversity” pushed by progressive adherents of globalization, it is critical that we all travel (as I’ve written before, I believe that travel should be incorporated into all higher education in the United States). Travelling to cultures different from our own—and meeting those who speak languages different from our own—is a truly humbling experience. When one finds themselves pointing and grunting for food at local restaurants, from Abidjan to Vladivostok and everywhere in between, one will realize that we’re not all that different: we all have to eat, after all! And, whether one is sitting at a tea house in Istanbul, an ahwa in Cairo, a café in Vienna, a taverna in Thessaloniki, or a pub in London, one might get the opportunity to actually speak to someone—another human—and get a new perspective on life. For all of its technology and ability to “bring people together” digitally, globalized networks like Facebook and Instagram do little to actually bring people together on a human level. But travel does.

We are all human, we all have similar wants and desires no matter the language we speak, the culture we were raised in, or the country whose name is written on our passports. Travel allows us to see this first hand, it allows us to see our world for what it is for ourselves. What emerges through travel is a world much different than that which the globalist agenda tries to sell us: the image of the world as sold through globalization is one of rich countries and poor countries, a divided world where—for some reason—residents of richer countries are supposed to feel sorry for those in poorer countries while also being expected to feel guilt for their roles in the imperialism of the past. By this twisted logic, those in the richer countries are expected to open their borders to those from poorer countries, in order to provide them with “opportunity”. Of course, this structure is nothing more than a modern day “white man’s burden”; it is a modern justification for a modern imperialism no less exploitative and no less racist than that of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Just like in the imperialist world of the past, this modern day world is divided by “rich” and “poor” countries as globalization perpetuates the prosperity of the former and poverty of the latter.

In order to break away from this process it is first essential to travel. By traveling we will both be able to take a critical view of our own societies (in order to improve)—while America is a great place to live I have also learned that there are many positive aspects of Turkish society that I wish existed in the United States—while also understanding that, as people, we are not all that different. I can recall great experiences from my own travel laughing together with people whose languages I did not know about the absurdities of daily life—an angry shopper at a grocery store or the poor driving of a careless driver in traffic. That we share these similarities does not, however, meant that we are at all homogeneous. We have different cultures and nationalities which must be preserved as the resistance to a worldwide technocratic form of government which looks to make our shared values and morality no longer human, but tied to the consumerist logic of smartphones and shopping malls; it is a world where Cairo’s ahwas and Lisbon’s pastry shops would be replaced by Starbuck’s and its corporate logic. I shiver at the thought.

With that out of the way, here are my tips for procuring a Turkish visa. As I said, it is my hope that my advice will be helpful not only to Americans but also to Turks and any other travelers who wish to see the world for what it is: Not a homogeneous globalized world run by corporate interests but a heterogeneous world of many nations, cultures, and traditions.

  • The website where U.S. nationals can apply for a Turkish visa is: https://www.konsolosluk.gov.tr/Visa. Please make sure to complete the online application and upload all necessary documents that are requested because, otherwise, the application will not let you move onto the next page. If you do not have a digital version of any of the necessary documents, just take a picture of the hard copy with your smartphone (I’m assuming that most people have one in today’s world) and upload that. For instance, if you do not have a digital version of your passport photos you can just take a picture of the hard copy and upload that.
  • In the “name” section of the application, it has boxes for the “first name” and “surname”. While Americans may not be used to acknowledging their middle names, often times passports will include them since—like a birth certificate—a passport is a citizenship document. This is why applicants must write their name EXACTLY as it appears on the passport. This means including what ever is written in the “name” section of the passport in the “first name” box of the application and what ever is written in the “surname” section of the passport in the “surname” box of the application. This is crucial since the name on the visa must match the name on the passport.
  • The Turkish visa application requires travel insurance. While this may be purchased from third party companies, most insurance policies provided by U.S. employers will cover care abroad through reimbursement (Just remember to save the receipts of any care overseas). Therefore, a photocopy of your insurance card should be enough for the purposes of the visa application. Bring whatever documents you have to the consulate; upload a picture of the documents (that you can snap with your smart phone) to the application in the proper space.
  • Provide a bank statement or a document to prove direct deposit information from your financial institution with your application. Again, bring whatever documents you have to the consulate; upload a picture of the documents (that you can snap with your smart phone) to the application in the proper space.
  • Bring photocopies of your passport, specifically the photo page which carries your personal information.
  • Children under 18, who are not travelling with both parents, will need permission (from the parent who is not traveling) to travel internationally. This can be obtained by writing a statement like “I, (name), (relation to child—mother, father, etc), give permission for (child’s name) to travel to Turkey on (dates of travel) with (name of travel companion)”. Remember to get this document notarized by a notary public and the country clerk of your place of residence. Please do not forget to bring this document with you when you go to your appointment at the consulate.
  • Most importantly bring cash, since credit cards and personal checks are not accepted. The fee, at the time of writing, was 160$ for a single entry visa and 200$ for a multiple-entry visa. If at all possible, bring exact change because the consulate did not seem to have change the day that I visited.

Hopefully, everything works out and you have a safe trip to Turkey. As I have already elaborated, I believe that things will be relaxed in the near future but—just in case they do not relax—treat this post as a small “how-to” guide. I myself have benefited from certain blogs like “biz evde yokuz” (https://www.bizevdeyokuz.com , sweetsweden.com (http://www.sweetsweden.com/travel-tourism-holidays-in-stockholm-sweden/your-guide-to-public-transport-in-stockholm/#.WjqFrjN7HRg and dontstopliving.net (http://dontstopliving.net ; so here is my shout out to them.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.turkishlibrary.us/abd-de-etkin-bir-toplum-ve-guc-olmak-icin-tum-turk-amerikalilara-birlesmek-amacli-acik-bir-cagridir/

 

***DISCLAIMER: This Blog (Thisisfootballislife) and author (John Konuk Blasing) do not guarantee the accuracy of this information and do not bear responsibility for any mishaps occurring from adherence to any of the advice given. Travelers should always check the website of the Turkish consulate for the most up to date information (Information from the US Department of State can be found here: https://tr.usembassy.gov/message-u-s-citizens-turkish-visa-guidance-update-u-s-citizens-november-20-2017/ . Since this is not a travel blog, and rather a sociology blog, any information on this blog is designed to help—if at all possible—fellow world travelers in their adventures. ***

A Marginal Sociologist’s Take On Some of the Absurdity in American Schools: Take an Example from the Sports World

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The past few days have seen some increasingly absurd events on campuses across the United States; while many may have heard of the events in question I have not seen much meaningful (or helpful) discussion on the topic. My aim here will be to provide one concrete example—from the sports world—in order to underline the degree of absurdity.

A writer for the New York Times (State Media) in the United States, Anemona Hartocollis, wrote a seemingly innocuous piece (at least judging by the headline) entitled “Colleges Celebrate Diversity With Separate Commencements” on 2 June 2017. In the article the author seems to—perhaps unwittingly—support racial segregation, an entirely unjust system that divided black and white citizens of the United States into “separate but equal” schools and public spaces; it was a system that was defeated by the Civil Rights Movement and activists like the late Martin Luther King, Jr. Hartocollis celebrates (among others) the separate graduation ceremonies held by Black students at Harvard University, the separate “lavender” (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students) graduation at the University of Delaware, and the separate graduation for first generation college students and New York’s Columbia University. Apparently, the “separate” graduation at Harvard took place before the main graduation ceremony (the two were not mutually exclusive, students could attend both judging by reports) where famous Harvard dropout and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that the struggle of our times was “against the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism and nationalism”. As a scholar of nationalism myself, I will not bore you with an eloquent retort to Mr. Zuckerberg’s grossly misinformed comments. Rather, I will outline why things like “separate” graduations are quite simply absurd.

There is a form of segregation going on across campuses in the United States, that much is certain. It is also certain that this type of division goes against the very ethos of what the college experience should be. Ward Connerly, president of the American Civil Rights Institute, is quoted in Hartocollis’ piece saying “[c]ollege is the place where we should be teaching and preaching the view that you’re an individual, and choose your associates to be based on other factors rather than skin color”. Mr. Connerly believes that events like “separate” graduations simply serve to amplify racial divisions. Judging by the present—as well as the past—he seems to be correct in his assessment of the situation despite state media’s celebration of “separate” graduations as a positive development!

In the present the case of Evergreen State College in Washington State, where the campus had to be shut down due to violence, serves as a perfect example. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Bert Weinstein

 

a professor of biology, objected to a proposed “Day of Absence” that encouraged white students, staff, and faculty members to leave campus in order to “explore issues of race, equity, allyship, inclusion and privilege.” He wrote that “on a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color.” The request, he argued, was “an act of oppression in and of itself.”

Since then Mr. Weinstein, who considers himself “deeply progressive,” has been called a racist, and a group of Evergreen students have demanded that the professor be “suspended immediately without pay.” What’s more, dozens of his fellow professors signed a letter last week calling for the university to investigate him, complaining that his speaking out had turned the campus into a target of white supremacists.

 

To a marginal sociologist like myself, this is absurd. A professor is being challenged for his opposition to what amounts to fascistic mobs (fascism in the United States is something I have written about before) and he is also being criticized by his fellow professors! The New York Times gives more detail regarding the content of Mr. Weinstein’s email:

 

 “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles,” he wrote, “and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away.” The first instance, he argued, “is a forceful call to consciousness.” The second “is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.” In other words, what purported to be a request for white students and professors to leave campus was something more than that. It was an act of moral bullying — to stay on campus as a white person would mean to be tarred as a racist.

 

For me, “moral bullying” is a kind term to employ describing this kind of behavior, but that is normal coming from State Media; a simple Google search of “Evergreen College” brings up just one story from State Media (The Washington Post)—the rest are not from “well-respected” and “mainstream” American news sources. Unfortunately, this leads the public to believe that this is not a real threat to their very lives and livelihoods in the United States of America. Just because Breitbart reported that protestors were “roaming [Evergreen’s] campus with baseball bats” and CNN didn’t doesn’t make it any less of a real threat to dialogue, communication, and—most of all—student safety! Unfortunately, this kind of intolerance is rooted in the indoctrination—that passes for education—in many American Universities. It is a reason that I myself do not always feel comfortable (intellectually speaking) on American college campuses. Sociologist C. Wright Mills said it best in The Sociological Imagination when he compared the Soviet Union and the United States, pointing out that while in the former intellectuals were “physically crushed”, in the latter they are “morally crushed” (Mills, 1959: 191). This is a fascistic form of divide and conquer and it needs to stop.

 

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When I attended the University of Texas, the bats we talked about on campus were winged mammals living under the Congress Avenue bridge. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2017/06/06/report-evergreen-protesters-roaming-campus-with-baseball-bats/

 

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Very Few Mainstream Media Outlets Reported on the Situation at Evergreen College. Image Courtesy Of the Author.

 

The “Social Justice Warriors” on American campuses would be well served to also take a look at history in order to understand why segregation was unjust and was—rightly—overturned in Brown vs. The Board of Education in 1954. Sports provides a great example of why segregation, the division of people based on race (or any other characteristic for that matter), is a policy destined for failure (for instance, Tamir Sorek’s eminently readable Arab Soccer in a Jewish State contains an interesting chapter on separate Muslim soccer leagues in Israel). In America the national pastime is baseball, a sport that—like football in Turkey (and perhaps Israel)—both reflects and shapes the national consciousness. That is why baseball—like so many social and cultural institutions in the United States—has been affected by the issue of racial divisions; the most prominent example is Negro League Baseball. According to a cursory look at the Wikipedia page, 1888 was the last year blacks were allowed in either the major or minor leagues of American Baseball; 1887 was when the first “negro league” was founded: The National Colored Baseball League. It was not until 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the “color barrier”, that a black player appeared in the top tier of American Baseball. Was it good for American baseball that—for almost sixty years—blacks and whites played in different leagues, apart from one another? Of course it wasn’t. Like intellectual environments, sports competition also thrives when diverse people come together. So why would anyone want to re-create such a separation on college campuses?

 

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Jackie Robinson (Displaying the Proper Use of a Baseball Bat) Did Not Fight for Equality so that Self-Proclaimed “Social Justice Warriors” Could Fight For Division.  Image Courtesy of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Robinson

 

It might be because many people just cannot see what they are doing. Despite the “intelligence” one might think they possess by virtue of a Harvard degree, they also show a distinct lack of historical knowledge by thinking that “separate” graduations are a good thing. This might be because they did not learn history in school; it was indoctrination and not education. I paraphrase one of my former students who asked, rhetorically, whether “critical thinking” was not just a way to tell people how to think.

Indeed, this lack of self knowledge is widely manifested by those who think that being “progressive” absolves them of all ability to be fascistic, totalitarian, or bigoted. For example, a black baseball player—Adam Jones—donated twenty thousand dollars to the Negro Leagues Museum after he was reportedly racially taunted by fans at a game. Where were these racist fans, you might ask? In the same city that Harvard’s “separate” graduations—based on racial difference—took place in: Boston, Massachussetts. Ironically, Massachusetts is also one of the most “progressive” states in the country, home to much of America’s so-called “elite”. Indeed, Massachussetts’ election map shows the large margin (almost double the votes) by which the liberal candidate Hillary Clinton defeated the conservative candidate Donald Trump.

 

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“A Reliably Blue State Is an Understatement. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/massachusetts

 

I am lucky enough to have lived all over the United States, and have learned that talk is cheap. No education can teach “diversity” or “tolerance”, and it certainly can teach nothing if it is merely a form of indoctrination: One must travel and meet people different  than themselves in order to grow. We must learn from history—and sports is a part of it—in order to stand up to the absurdities of our time.

Troubling Times for Democracy All Over the World: A Few Thoughts from a Marginal Sociologist on the Budding Hobbesian War of All Against All in the Field of Culture and the Threat It Poses to Democracy

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When I wake up in the morning my usual routine consists of a cup of tea and a cursory search of “news” on Google so as to get as varied of a perspective that I can. The very fact that the vast majority of news outlets available to American readers are extremely biased towards either end of the ideological spectrum is concerning in and of itself; this type of polarization does not bode well for the future of “democracy” (in “quotes” because it is, itself, a debatable concept) in the United States, or the coherence of American society.

 

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A Useful Graphic With Which to Navigate the Culture Wars. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/check-political-bias-media-site/

 

That some news outlets are so questionable (to an unprecedented degree) is extremely worrisome. Yet, sometimes, even the “questionable” outlets can call out other “questionable” outlets in the form of a Hobbesian “war of all against all” in the media field (Bellum omnium contra omnes in the Latin for those readers who, like me,  slaved away studying Latin in high school). The Rightist Breitbart media (rightly) called out the false reporting of “Left” leaning Time Magazine in a very surprising—and sports related—story. Time Magazine Tweeted that Olympian Fencer “Ibtihaj Muhammad was detained because of President Trump’s travel ban”, and a subsequent story by  Motto, a Time publication, failed to rescind their earlier statement even though Ms.Muhammad explicately tweeted—four days after her original post—that her detention occurred in December (during previous President Barack Obama’s administration, and not during President Trump’s).

 

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Time Magazine’s Poor Journalism and Why We Should Always Question Media. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.breitbart.com/sports/2017/02/14/muslim-american-olympian-claimed-detained-trump-travel-ban-detained-obama/

 

While Breitbart provides a portion of Ms. Muhammad’s interview (where she misleadingly insinuates that she was directly affected by Mr. Trump’s “ban”) The Washington Examiner quotes a customs official who, confirming that she was detained for less than an hour, said “She comes and goes many times. She travels quite extensively. She has never been stopped before. She wasn’t targeted. The checks are totally random; random checks that we all might be subject to.” And this is the issue. People have been detained at U.S. airports long before Donald Trump became President. The supposedly “totally random” checks are not all that random—I myself have been detained upon returning to the United States from Turkey and treated extremely disrespectfully by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (this happened under Mr. Obama’s administration, I may add); my only fault was coming from Turkey and being half-Turkish. Clearly, these checks are not so “random” and these are things that the Leftist media would be better served addressing; as I myself have noted before the dystopian nature of American airports is alarming. But to blame it on a specific President—without looking at the bigger picture—is worrisome and brings into question the very existence of an independent media.

In my mornings I also focus on Turkish news. Unfortunately, in the past few months, the news coming from the two countries has—surprisingly—become more and more similar! Since the attempted coup of July 15, 2015 more than 33,000 employees have been dismissed by the Turkish Ministry of Education; on 7 Februrary 2015 it was announced that more than 4,400 civil servants—including police and 330 academics—have been purged in the crackdown following the attempted putsch. Even Turkish diplomats are fearing for their lives in this authoritarian climate. The Turkish state is exercising its power to the fullest extent; emphasizing a Weberian “monopoly on the legitimate use of force”. Interestingly, the situation is not very different in the United States and it is something that should be worrisome for those concerned about the state of democracy worldwide.

In the United States there seems to be a power struggle between the intelligence agencies and President Trump (no doubt if it happened elsewhere it would be covered with a much more critical eye by the U.S. state media). The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. intelligence officials are withholding information from the President of the United States; this is clearly worrisome, since it would seem—to anyone—that this would hinder any good faith attempt for Mr. Trump to actually do the job that he was democratically elected to do. I put it in italics to emphasize a point that, clearly, many in the U.S. seem to not understand. One such pundit, Bill Kristol, went so far as to say “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state”. For the uninitiated, “The ‘deep state’ is jargon for the semi-hidden army of bureaucrats, officials, retired officials, legislators, contractors and media people who support and defend established government policies”. Any of those familiar with Turkish politics will know how dangerous the deep state is for democracy, and it is something that I have mentioned before.

 

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The Insulting Words Of a Woefully Uninformed Man Who Has Only Lived The Privileged Life of the United States. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/02/15/bill-kristol-backs-deep-state-president-trump-republican-government/

 

While the dismissal of Mr. Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may not be the worst thing in the world (according to the Economist who are known for their sober analyses; please see here and here) , it does raise other questions—but not the type The Economist raises. Surprisingly, it was Bloomberg News’ Eli Lake who provided a useful analysis:

[F]or a White House that has such a casual and opportunistic relationship with the truth, it’s strange that Flynn’s “lie” to Pence would get him fired. It doesn’t add up […]

It’s very rare that reporters are ever told about government-monitored communications of U.S. citizens, let alone senior U.S. officials. The last story like this to hit Washington was in 2009 when Jeff Stein, then of CQ, reported on intercepted phone calls between a senior Aipac lobbyist and Jane Harman, who at the time was a Democratic member of Congress. Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do […]

[A]ll these allegations are at this point unanswered questions. It’s possible that Flynn has more ties to Russia that he had kept from the public and his colleagues. It’s also possible that a group of national security bureaucrats and former Obama officials are selectively leaking highly sensitive law enforcement information to undermine the elected government. Flynn was a fat target for the national security state. He has cultivated a reputation as a reformer and a fierce critic of the intelligence community leaders he once served with when he was the director the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama. Flynn was working to reform the intelligence-industrial complex, something that threatened the bureaucratic prerogatives of his rivals.

 

These words—particularly the bolded portions—should deeply upset any American who cares for the semblance of “democracy” that they currently enjoy. Regardless of one’s political position, one should be concerned when a state begins to attack its citizens for doing nothing that is actually illegal (especially after rumors have come from both the “Right” and the “Left” that former President Mr. Obama is planning a “challenge” to Mr. Trump). Were Mr. Flynn’s actions questionable? Sure. But they were not illegal. And when the state’s intelligence agencies—ostensibly neutral—begin to undermine an elected government it is a slippery slope. Rather than celebrate these attacks on an elected government Americans would do well to realize that they risk surrendering their own “democracy”—with their own hands—to a nebulous, anonymous, and (most alarmingly) unelected group of individuals in the intelligence community. As alarming as Mr. Trump may be for some people, he is still—ostensibly—at least accountable to the people. That is something that cannot be said for the “deep state”, and this may be one of the biggest threats to democracy in American history (in the same way the totalitarian ideology of globalization represents a threat to democracy worldwide: just look to Turkey for an example).

Sports Stars and Extreme Capitalism from Necati Ateş to Stephan Curry: The Continued Atomization of Extreme Capitalist Society

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Necati Ateş in Action For Galatasaray. Image Courtesy Of: https://alchetron.com/Necati-Ates-145199-W

 

The other day a friend sent me a picture of himself with Turkish football star Necati Ateş. In and of itself, this small “event” is not very significant; a friend had a random interaction with a famous footballer in a restaurant—itself a democratic space since everyone has to eat. Yet, for me, it was indicative of the fact that extremely wealthy celebrities, like footballers, do not have to be distant from the very people that support them: the average fan. I was moved especially by Mr. Ateş’s smile; he seemed genuinely happy to be in a photo with my friends. For me a simple picture—while maybe not telling one thousand words—did show that 1) celebrities can be accessible and 2) that celebrities can also be normal people. That this kind of interaction took place in Turkey is not insignificant.

 

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Some Beautiful People in a Beautiful Picture. Mr. Ateş is Pictured Third From the Left (In the Middle, So To Speak). Image Courtesy of E.C.

 

The extreme capitalism of the United States is based upon a belief in the supremacy of the individual; in advanced industrial capitalist societies the individual is effectively subordinate to the system. As an American-born kid growing up in Turkey I was often asked if I saw famous people on a daily basis. Of course I didn’t, I lived in Providence, Rhode Island (a beautiful city yet hardly a destination for A-List celebrities). And even if I lived in New York City or Los Angeles, celebrities—in the United States—often frequent such exclusive places that a normal, middle class citizen would be unlikely to even interact with such people. The country is simply too big (and too stratified) to be conducive to such interactions. But in Turkey it is different—the country is smaller, and people are—generally—more ready to interact with their community than people in the United States. And that is one reason that Turkey is such a warm and inviting country.

Mr. Ateş seems to show, in this small interaction, that there can be a place for humanist interaction in societies that are negotiating the relationship between capitalism and “extreme” capitalism. In the United States, it is difficult to get the autograph—let alone a picture—of a star athlete. This difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that often-times athletes (and celebrities) come to believe (due to encouragement from the culture industry) that they are somehow “above” normal society—Beyonce’s self-beatification during the Grammys is a good example of this process.

 

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The Beatification of Beyonce; Celebrities as Above the People. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/beyonce-grammy-goddess_us_58a203d0e4b0ab2d2b17d4ce

 

Similarly, some athletes completely disregard the people that support them. NBA star Steph Curry’s comments regarding Donald Trump are an example of this process. After the CEO of the sportswear company Under Armour called President Donald Trump “An Asset to this country [the USA]”, Steph Curry (who is himself sponsored by Under Armour), said “I agree with that description if you remove the ‘et’”. While I would not go so far as conservative commentators who called for Under Armour to “rip up” their agreement with Mr. Curry, I would say that Mr. Curry’s comments are ill-informed; he evidently did not realize that many normal people—including parts of the middle classes in the United States—indeed voted for Mr. Trump precisely because they felt forgotten by mainstream America’s celebrity culture. It is a process that has characterized the neo-liberal era in the United States; even in 2000 a University of Wisconsin sociologist noted how ignoring middle-America was problematic. Evidently, no one listened.

 

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Steph Curry In Action for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Image Courtesy Of: http://clutchpoints.com/steph-curry-deflects-question-about-kevin-durants-comments-about-his-defense/

 

A society divided between rich and poor cannot sustain itself and, sadly, celebrities are perpetuating this divide in the United States currently. While I agree that sports stars should speak their mind (since they are a large part of the public sphere), they should do so in an informed way. By succumbing to blind ideology, they send the wrong message to their fans. Mr. Curry would have been better off taking Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s path, who attempted to bridge the gap in American society rather than widen it further. In so doing, Mr. Johnson showed that he is more in tune with his society than Mr. Curry and—coming from a celebrity—this is something to be commended. Money, and the search for it, need not distance us from our own humanity. Unfortunately, extreme capitalism in the United States tends to glorify the celebrity. I appreciate Mr. Ateş’s actions for showing a side of Turkey that current news stories tend to miss: it is a beautiful country with extremely kind people, struggling to stand up to the ravaging forces of extreme neoliberal capitalism. If only more American celebrities could recognize the dangers of their own disconnectedness from wider society.

A Marginal Sociologist’s Take on Globalization as Seen Through The Hypocrisy of Starbuck’s Coffee: A Modern Day White Man’s Burden?

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All Aboard the Train of Cultural Imperialism? No Thanks, I’ll walk. Image Courtesy Of: https://news.starbucks.com/news/all-aboard-the-first-starbucks-on-a-train-with-sbb

 

Since I wrote about the sports world’s response to US President Donald Trump’s move to suspend immigration from seven majority Muslim countries the furor has not subsided. Indeed, in discussions with fellow sociologists, I have been able to see first hand the anger that Mr. Trump’s poorly-executed policy has spurred. Such discussions are usually fruitless since—as I have also written about in the past—many Americans do not have a clear sense of the world because they have not travelled. This kind of “international ignorance” may well be one of the biggest shortcomings of modern American society; it is a society that has continually fostered this kind of ignorance while not encouraging what I would call “international competency”. It is unfortunate, and the problems it creates are wide-ranging.

In the piece I wrote earlier I used Sociologist George Herbert Mead’s conception of the “self”: essentially one defines the “self” in relation to how one perceives others see them. It grows out of an acknowledgement of the “other”. Most Americans—having never left the country—do not have any conception of an “other”; this leads to the kind of extreme individualism that I wrote about in the context of American sports. Of course, emphasized individualism is a product of extreme capitalism since modern industrial society encourages individualism; having fewer communal ties makes one more likely to wholeheartedly accept the culture of competition which is necessary for capitalism to flourish.

This may be one reason that so many in the American public have been ready to make the immigration cause their own without thinking about other issues; in their mind “American” society is the best there is. Ready to encourage this kind of sentiment the media have featured South Sudanese NBA Star Luol Deng’s message prominently. Mr. Deng explains: “It’s important that we remember to humanize the experience of others. Refugees overcome immeasurable odds, relocate across the globe, and work hard to make the best of their newfound home. Refugees are productive members of society that want for their family just as you want for yours. I stand by all refugees and migrants, of all religions, just as I stand by the policies that have historically welcomed them”. Of course, Mr. Deng is right: we must humanize the experience of others and recognize that people are just trying to make the best of the perils that globalizing society has produced.

 

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Mr. Deng’s Words Should Be Recognized. Especially the Emphasis on “Humanizing” as opposed to Corporatizing. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/LuolDeng9/status/826186188650221568/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

 

Unfortunately, the media fail to realize one crucial point: The American model may not be the only model for world society; in fact, there are many functioning societies around the world that are much less individualistic than America’s and which still maintain their stability. We must keep this in mind, lest we push a form of imperialism that borders on societal engineering and is eerily similar to the “white-man’s burden” of colonial times. What works in America works fairly well—but that doesn’t mean it will work everywhere and it certainly doesn’t mean that it should work everywhere. The media fail to realize that all of the countries President Trump suspended immigration from have been victim to some degree of American intervention in the past (as the President himself admitted, the United States is far from innocent); the more this kind of imperialism is pushed the more unstable the world becomes.

Starbuck’s Coffee—themselves guilty of the kind of cultural imperialism that globalization encourages—decided to take action following Mr. Trump’s order. It amounted to an extremely hypocritical move. Starbuck’s announced that it would hire 10,000 refugees for its stores, sparking ire from Americans. Starbuck’s’ PR department seemed to have smoothed things over as their hometown newspaper the Seattle Times reported that veterans were already well-represented within the Starbuck’s community, and Business insider noted that “The coffee giant responded with links to a press release on its recent work to open stores in lower-income communities and a website on its veteran outreach” (Author’s Note: I have retained these links for readers who are interested). Even more hilarious is that Starbuck’s—despite their unending cultural imperialism—don’t even have locations in any of the seven countries Mr. Trump chose to temporarily stop immigration from. I wonder why?

 

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Locations of Starbucks Worldwide Are Colored In Green. I Guess The Seven Muslim Majority Nations Were Deemed Too Unsafe Even For Starbuck’s (!). And What About Africa? I Guess Starbuck’s Might Be A Little Racist Too (!). Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starbucks#Locations

 

The issue here is that Starbuck’s, in their bid to be “inclusive” and “progressive”, are merely painting over their own questionable past. Starbuck’s in Turkey (and I imagine it is similar in other countries that have an existing “coffee culture”) has emphasized a form of cultural imperialism; traditional coffee houses are pushed out by the ubiquity of Starbuck’s’ locations. In addition to their imperialism, the company also has put the demands of international capital before the concerns of human life. As someone who closely followed the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, I know that Starbuck’s closed their doors to protestors affected by tear gas and attacks from the police; it was such an affront that many in Turkey wanted to boycott Starbuck’s wholesale. Starbuck’s—again through the mouthpiece of a hometown Seattle news source—tried to cover up their deplorable actions and Christian Leonard’s piece for the Seattle Globalist carries the headline “Starbucks lends a hand (and a toilet) to Turkish protesters”. The truth is far from it; they in fact had closed their doors (and toilets) to protesters. This kind of “alternative reporting” is a result of Starbuck’s’ propaganda machine, as one Canadian source points out:

 

In a world where millions are instantly united by social media, political actions can be quick and effective in situations like this. Starbucks has been criticized by protestors, who claim that when the police tear gas attacks began, Starbucks was one of the only shops to close its doors and refuse to allow in those injured and seeking shelter. Starbucks has since been scrambling to regain its credibility amid calls for boycott: Tweeting images of its staff helping protestors, and posting notices around campus denying that it failed to provide assistance.

 

The aforementioned story is an example of Starbuck’s’ attempt to “regain its credibility”. Unfortunately for Starbuck’s, anyone who knows about the company should know that it is morally bankrupt.

Current CEO Charles Schultz sold the NBA’s  Seattle Supersonics, allowing the team to move to Oklahoma City and alienating many basketball fans in the process. The company also turned a blind eye to insults directed at NASCAR fans after the company attempted to enter the motorsports world. The company even sparked a controversy over Christmas (I italicize it because it is so ridiculous) in order to keep with America’s obsession with political correctness; for the company “Merry Christmas” was deemed offensive.

Those who think that Starbuck’s is standing up for refugees might want to look at the situation from a different perspective. They might be looking for cheap labor from desperate sources (if so they really represent one of the more reprehensible forms of extreme capitalism) or they may just be looking to glorify their own moral standing, championing the consumerism of America while reaching out to the “less fortunate”. In any case, those searching for virtue in Starbuck’s would best be “served” going elsewhere for both coffee and virtue.

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