Month: November 2016

The deterioration of Islamism


(to be published in Arabic for Arabi21)

The election of Donald Trump to the American presidency takes place within the context of a global trend towards Right-wing nationalism.  This trend takes place within the context of global discontent with a status quo that has been managed for decades by center-Left political parties.

In France, which will hold elections next year, Francois Hollande has a lower approval rating than George W. Bush at the nadir of his popularity.  The National Front (the anti-Europe, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, overtly racist far-Right party) is the most popular political party in France; it is expected to win at least 40% of the votes in the upcoming election, which will see Neo-Fascists take the government.

In Italy, there is to be a constitutional referendum on December 4th which most Italians view as a vote for or against the authority of Brussels.  Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said that he will resign if the referendum’s proposal is rejected, and it will be rejected; thus Italy will be forced to hold elections. In all likelihood, this will result in a Right-wing coalition taking power.

The administration of Angela Merkel in Germany is also vulnerable, and will most likely fall next year, again, being replaced by a far-Right, nationalist government.

Left-wing parties are less able to harvest the fruits of popular discontent primarily because they are relentlessly attacked by the center-Left.  Bernie Sanders in the US was sabotaged by his own party, and the major European Left parties have been the prime opponents of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, and so on.

How will this shift to the Right impact the Musllims?

The obvious answer to this question is that it will make life considerably more difficult.  And, frankly, I expect that we are beginning a new era within our Ummah of, for lack of a better term, secularization.  Advocating Political Islam is going to become entirely too dangerous, and more and more people will feel it is wiser to compromise and capitulate with a power structure that will be increasingly vicious.

But the real blame for this, in my opinion, cannot be laid at the feet of the ultra-Right, but rather Islamists themselves are responsible.  Whether we are talking about the Muslim Brotherhood at one end of the spectrum, or Da’esh at the other end; the voices of Political Islam have miserably failed to offer a clear, constructive, and responsive program.  In the absence of any articulate policies and comprehensive plans, it is not realistic to expect people to stand up and face the very real risks involved with advocating Political Islam.

Da’esh as a territorial project is essentially over. They will continue to struggle through small scale terrorist attacks and setting up franchises around the world, no doubt, but this will only push more people away from the concepts they champion; quite simply because 1.) people will have to distance themselves from such ideas for their own safety, and 2.) because, at the end of the day, not only do terrorist attacks do nothing useful to advance the ideas advocated by the perpetrators, but they also do nothing helpful in terms of the real issues affecting people’s lives.

We are entering an era in which people will no longer tolerate empty slogans, but it is also an era in which people are entirely open to radical change.  This should be a marvelous opportunity for Islamism, but unfortunately, Islamism’s proponents have failed to do the serious intellectual work that would make it a viable alternative to either the status quo or to the ultra-Right wing.  Therefore, I expect, the relevance of the Islamist project will be diminished year after year, and our people will turn elsewhere for solutions.  We have no one to blame for this but ourselves.

 

تحويل نفوذ الشركات إلى المسار الديمقراطي         Corporate Democratization

نحن بحاجة لبناء حركة عالمية من أجل إضفاء الطابع الديمقراطي على نفوذ الشركات بناءاً على مفهوم أساسي هو “لا عدالة، لا ارباح” أي (إن لم تدعموا العدالة، فلن تنالوا الأرباح).

الشركات العالمية هي أكبر الكيانات غير الدُوَلِيّة الفاعلة على الساحة العالمية، وهي تمارس السلطة أكثر من الحكومات، وتمتلك أموالاً أكثر بكثير من الدول.

يوجد اليوم ما يقرب من 2500 ملياردير على مستوى العالم، فإذا تخيلنا أنهم يسكنون في بلدٍ واحد، سيصبح هذا البلد هو ثالث أغنى بلد على وجه الأرض، فهم يملكون من الثروة ما يقدر بنحو 7,7 تريليون دولار، وهذا المبلغ أكثر من ضعف الموازنة العامة الفدرالية للولايات المتحدة. وفي الحقيقة، إذا جمعتم بين ميزانيات الولايات المتحدة والصين (أكبر دولتين اقتصاديتن في العالم)، فسيظل المجموع أقل من ثروات هؤلاء الأفراد الـ2500 بنحو 2 تريليون دولار.

إن الفجوة في الدخل بين الأغنياء والفقراء قد تزايدت بشكل كبير خلال العقود القليلة الماضية، وهذا لا يعني فقط عدم مساواة في الدخل، بل يعني عدم مساواة في السلطة، والقوة، والتمثيل النيابي، والحرية وعدم مساواة في الحقوق.

الأثرياء ينظمون أموالهم إلى حد كبير في شكل شركات، ثم يستغلون الشركات والمؤسسات الدولية مثل صندوق النقد الدولي والبنك الدولي، في إدارة المجتمعات، وهم يديرون المجتمعات بأي طريقة إن كانت تعزز قوتهم وامتيازاتهم، رغم أنهم هم وآليات حكمهم، غير منتخَبين، وغير خاضعين للمساءلة. وهذا يجب أن يتغير.

#تحويل_نفوذ_الشركات_إلى_المسار_الديمقراطي

We need to build a global movement for the democratization of corporate influence based on the fundamental concept of “No Justice, No Profit”.

Corporations are the largest non-state actors on the world stage, and they exert more power than governments, and have more money than states.

There are approximately 2,500 billionaires in the world today, if they populated a single country, it would be the third richest country on earth.  They own $7.7 trillion worth of wealth.  That is more than double the entire US federal budget. In fact, if you combine the budgets of the US and China (the two biggest economies in the world), it would still be less than the wealth of these 2,500 individuals by almost $2 trillion.

The income gap between rich and poor has been increasing drastically over the past few decades, and this does not represent only income inequality; it represents inequality of power, of representation, of freedom and inequality of rights.

The super rich organize their money largely in the form of corporations, and they use corporations, and institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to manage societies, and they manage societies in whatever way will further consolidate their power and privilege. They, and their mechanisms of governance, are unelected, and unaccountable; and this has to change.

#Democratization_of_Corporate_Influence

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Candidate Trump vs President Trump

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(To be published in Arabic for Arabi21)

Throughout his campaign, I always assumed that Candidate Trump was a fictional character; a role scripted according to careful market research of the most disgruntled and potentially active segments of the American electorate.  Just prior to the election, this was more or less confirmed by something Trump said in an interview when he stated that, if he didn’t win, he would regard the past 18 months as a “big waste”, because everything he has been doing, he has been doing in order to win.

See, any other candidate would say something like, “if I don’t win, it was all worth it, because I contributed to the political discourse, I raised issues, I gave a voice to people who were not being heard otherwise,” and so on and so forth.  But no, Trump’s campaign had nothing to do with any of that.  His campaign was a no-holds-barred, aggressive, do-what-you-have-to-do, say-what-you-have-to-say, hard sell to get the top job.  It was a one-man show dramatization of his book “the Art of the Deal”.  And we have to give it to him, it was a brilliant campaign;  unprincipled, unethical, immoral, indecent; but brilliant.

His campaign cost less than $1 million; that is unheard of.  But he knew how to get massive, indeed, endless, free media coverage.  And the more he was ridiculed by the mainstream press, the more his core constituency’s support solidified, because they distrust the mainstream media, and Trump’s team surely knew that.

I don’t think that Trump hates Muslims, or illegal immigrants, or even Hillary Clinton.  I don’t think he is racist.  I think he is just a sociopath who was willing to promote hate to garner votes; he has an equal degree of disdain for everyone who is not a billionaire.

The stark contrast between Trump the Candidate and Trump the President-Elect began to emerge immediately.  During his acceptance speech he said that Hilary Clinton deserves the nation’s respect and gratitude for her service to the country, as opposed to her deserving to be put in jail, as he had previously said.  The plan to ban Muslims from the US was removed from his website.  And I am sure plenty of his other campaign postures will change drastically, because they were all ploys and bluffs and just part of his strategy to win the White House with the support of people he would probably never want to be seen in public with in real life.  There are people who hate Trump because he is a fascist buffoon, and there are people who love him because he is a fascist buffoon; and they have both been tricked.  He is not a fascist buffoon.

Of course, because he acted like a fascist buffoon in order to win, he has hurt the society.  Anti-Muslim attacks rose 80%  and racist and anti-Muslim attacks have spiked since his election, and the actual fascist buffoon population in the US has gotten bolder.  He may, or he may not try to quell this, depending on whether or not he thinks it is useful to him to do so. But, I think it is a mistake for Democrats and Liberals to completely close the door on the possibility that his presidency may achieve some positive changes.

He is the first president in decades who is not beholden to corporate financiers; so many decades that no one alive can remember any president who wasn’t.  He was able to break the political establishment’s iron-grip on the democratic process in the United States, with only 25% of the electorate supporting him (roughly half of the citizenry didn’t vote).  By running an incredibly negative and ugly campaign, all of the people who could have prevented him from winning just opted out of the process because they were so disgusted; this amplified the voting power of his core constituency, and yes, he was able to win almost entirely against the wishes of the power structure. Even if he did that through diabolically manipulative tactics, it is still remarkable, and there actually is something hopeful about that. It is possible to elect someone who is not part of the political establishment.

No one knows what he will do.  That is kind of scary, but it is also kind of exhilarating, because, let’s be honest, whether it was Bill Clinton, Bush, or Obama, we all pretty much knew exactly what to expect, just as we knew what to expect from Hilary: more of the same.  America has its first independent president in generations,  this is, quite frankly, a turning point in history.

If Trump actually follows through on protectionist economic policies, and a more isolationist foreign policy, I think it will be very good for the US, and indeed, for the world.  If he implements Reagan-esque policies like deregulation and more corporate tax cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy, of course, that will be quite damaging.  But I think the point is, we genuinely do not know, because whatever he said during his campaign cannot really be taken as an indication of his real position.   We simply have to wait and see, and it is important that we do that…wait and see…rather than automatically, or preemptively attack his presidency based on the nature of his campaign.