Final Response: On Tyranny

In my opinion, On Tyranny is the Buzzfeed ‘listicle’ for the politically engaged. Timothy Snyder’s book, which includes 20 succinct chapters, discuss and understand tyrannical rule.

The book, which clearly takes place in an American context. He uses language like “our President” far to often to say otherwise. Yet, in the context of this course, there is this a broad definition of of the behaviour under the spectrum of fascism.

While there are 20 chapters, there are several key themes that he highlights. The first is institutions. He wants people to understand that the ideas of tyranny take place within democratic societies. Rulers will use these built up institutions to consolidate power. Therefore, when it comes to political institutions like elections, one has to be wary about one-state parties and electoral rigging.

The second key theme is information. Media plays a major role in keeping the government accountable to the people. Therefore, it is important to watch for hateful language, slogans and propaganda. Also, it is important to educate yourself on the facts and not take information for gospel. In an era of the 24-hour news cycle, false news stories are easier to create and spread.

Finally, is to treat everyone with kindness. As we have discovered in this course, tyrannical regimes use inferiority complexes and the friend-enemy distinction to gain power. In Chapter 12, he encourages making eye contact and small talk, as a way of connecting with those around you , even in the most basic way, in order to break down social barriers and create trust.

In conclusion, Snyder states that history does not repeat, but it does instruct. These ideas that he presents encapsulates these historic principles of fascist, tyrannical regimes, and makes their elements transparent to all forms of tyranny. This way, we as a society are able to detect them and address them in all of its form.

First Response: Brexiting the Conversation

The British disaffection with the EU, which lead to the final referendum to exit the supranational state, can be summed up in a few words: anti-immigration and the economy.

I think it’s difficult to determine whether some of these issues are long or short term causes, but nonetheless, it is apparent that some have fueled the fire.

In terms of structural causes, Britain was initially left out of some of the forming groups within the European Union. As mentioned in the Meon & Selter reading, they remained out of both the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC). Furthermore, the UK is not a part of the Schengen zone and still use the pound, meaning that they still retain control over their economy.

When I mentioned the issue of migration, this has been a longer term issue with Europe, but mainly within the British context. The “Rivers of Blood” speech said by Enoch Powell in the House of Lords in 1968 has become a focal point in a modern context around the point of anti-immigration. Yet, clearly, these ideas are nothing new. It is the conflation of immigrants with danger that perpetuates the fear and stereotypes. Furthermore, given the context of the migration and refugee crisis, it creates fear, and therefore an issue of ‘national security’.

As Hobolt stated there are a few reasons for some of these longer term issues, including: socioeconomic factors; geographical identities; feelings about the domestic political establishment; and, policy attitudes. As the information from the referendum has showed us, many of those who chose to stay were uneducated. Nonetheless, the government holds a lot of weight internationally, as England is still part of the Security Council.

It is important for us to remember the privileged position that England is in and how this makes them look on the international stage.  

The Smoking Gun: A Response to Gun Violence in the United States [OpEd 2]

Students around the United States participated in a national walk in support and solidarity to those who have lost their lives to gun violence, specifically those who have died as a result of school shootings.

Exactly one month ago, the deaths as a result of gun violence in Parkland, Florida caused a wave of advocacy from students demanding safer learning environments, one that poses mass restrictions to the use of automated weapons.

Nonetheless, this is not the first time this has been a topic of conversation within the United States. There have been several mass shootings in the United States, that have garnered significant attention from the media, so much so that those outside the borders can name them.

Las Vegas

San Bernardino

Orlando

Columbine

Sandy Hook

Virginia Tech

Parkdale

Every time we have to add another city or school to this list, politicians make a point of avoiding taking real policy action and instead hide behind the Second Amendment. This inaction causes us to as whether the role of violence is entrenched in the United States constitution,

The notion of violence as part of the mass populist movement is common, but the specific way that these acts of violence are handled in United States are representative of a larger, more dangerous politically polarized climate.

First, there is the rise of shootings, and not just with handheld guns, but automated weaponry. Take the most recent Parkdale example. A former student suffering from mental illness was able to obtain an AR-15 rifle, kill 17 students, and wound many more. This was the 18th school shooting in the United States this year.

The frightening reality is the ability to exploit this event to further promote the use of guns. President Trump has argued for more gun use by arming teachers, and having them be responsible for gun use. From his perspective, this is a way to both respect the Second Amendment and keep children safe.

This narrative is further advanced by the NRA, which lobbies the US government in order to protect and defend the Second Amendment. In the 2016 election, Republican candidates received over one million dollars for their campaigns, thus enticing them to bypass policy discussions on the topic. The protection of one’s political status in the face of tragedy like gun violence, without the willingness to adapt this legislation is wrong, and frankly, a lamentable notion.

Moreover, the ability of the students and teachers to mobilize against institutionalized gun violence demonstrates the desire to change firearm culture in the U.S. Again, using the Parkdale example, students have been spreading the word, whether on the news, rallying in the streets, and using social media to mobilize other students across the country and globe.

The National School Walk Out is not the first action against gun violence in schools. There have been other responses to previous school shootings. It is also the pre-emptive measure to the ‘March for Our Lives’, a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 24th. This march represents the ability to demonstrate the strong public opinion favouring better gun control. Those who choose to be influenced by narratives that promote violence will maintain that power if there is no action.

Speaking as a student myself, as part of the larger student collective, we need to take action in order to stay safe. We need action. We’ll start walking, you start legislating.

 

Featured Image from the Huffington Post

First Responder: Rethinking Chimurenga and Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe

Throughout the course of our study, it is sometimes hard to understand what populism actually means. Nonetheless, the ability to disseminate some of the aspects and analyze the different cases is so important for being able to analyze all new news.

This week, our studies bring us to Zimbabwe, under the rule of Mugabe. Mugabe’s rule of Zimbabwe paralleled the regimes of fascist Italy as is mentioned in the Scarnecchia article. The two main reasons for this is the creation of the friend-enemy distinction and the addition of violent populist principles into existing institutional frameworks.

The first looks at the friend-enemy distinction. Mugabe was able to enable violent action by framing it with an anti-colonial narrative. While colonialism in Africa is a part of history that significantly damaged the development of the country, Mugabe’s specific narrative used it to cover his own violent actions on his people.

Like many other populist regimes, Mugabe was able to take nationalist historiography and make it prominent once more. Part of the success with his reign was the institutionalization of these historic principles. In Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s article, he states that the two principles of chimurenga and gukurahundi, 

“situate the birth of the nation within a series of nationalist revolutions dating to the original resistance….and entails violent and physical elimination of enemies and opponents”.

This feeds into the fascist cycle, as mentioned by Scarnecchia:

  1. Militias
  2. Abuse of legislative and judicial power
  3. Party membership
  4. Political survival over strategic economic planning
  5. Government inflation that favours the elite

What this continuously demonstrates is that violence begets violence, no matter in what populist context.

 

Class Facilitator – الإسلام في أوروبا: Islam in Europe

The theme for this week was the idea of a multicultural Europe. Given anti-immigration sentiment that has been on the rise in Europe, this idea of a “proper European identity” has emerged, as if there were never integration from other countries. As our readings this week demonstrated, specifically with the influence of Islam in Europe, this simply is not true.

After an examination of the readings and the first responses, the main issues that were prominent in our discussion was the role of ethnicity and religion. While they can both be categorized under ‘identity’, they both present different challenges, as one does not necessarily link to the other.

Furthermore, one of the readings discussed anti-immigration sentiment in Europe as a result of a combination of the weak traditional elite, the refugee crisis, and recent terror attacks. In my opinion, this critiqued the structure of that the European Union, which was my leading question. The group responded with recognizing the importance of the EU structure in creating unity within countries, and emphasized how context [i.e. Euro Crisis] plays a role in larger events like the refugee crisis. This also developed into a conversation about the cultural schism in Europe between Western and Eastern Europe, given how Eastern Europe is more aligned with the Middle East given influences with Russia and immigration statistics.

Sweeper: Fear, Resistance and Global Climate

The topics of fascism turned to discussions of populism as our topic moved into the case study of Latin America. What was interesting about this dialogue as a whole was the connection of this case study to central themes overall. Some that I found very prevalent that I will touch on are the promotion of fear, resistance, and ability to act in the context of larger global sentiments.

Key discussions from lecture regarded the disappearances that occurred in Chile and Argentina, and how this was a tool of oppression among the general public. People did not know how to react to these disappearances, instilling fear and uncertainty among those who were not associated with the military regime. This ability to instill fear is common among all the examples we have studied thus far as it is the easiest way of controlling people.

In terms of resistance, the grandmothers and mothers that protested in the Plaza de Mayo used the means they had under a restrictive government to gain information and counter the fear-based political climate.

Finally, the politics of the larger political context of the 1980s were highly problematic, as it promoted, from all parties, the want and desire to gain power in some capacity. In the wake of the Cold War, with the United States trying to promote anti-communism and Latin America wanting to secure power on the global scale, the polarizing political climate ability to consolidate power through populist authoritarian means was almost inevitable.

First response: Mind, Body and Soul

What’s interesting about these articles in relation to some of the previous articles read in this course is the focus on the individual in relation to the collective. There were three distinct readings that highlighted the three different areas of the body; soul, body and mind, that can be used by populist regimes to build power.

The first was through sexual orientation, which highlights soul. This article highlighted how scientists and psychologists tried to explain homosexuality as different from the norm in Germany to justify their isolation.

The next was specifically through the trainability of the body, as was highlighted with the Tokyo Olympics article. Here, there is a connection between the trainability of the body to compete and the ability to train the body in the need to fight is prevalent.

Finally, there was the willpower, which I equated to the mind. This is the ability to shape one’s thinking in aordane with other principles. As shown with the Romanian example, they used the influence and way of thinking of the Germans and Italians to shape their own fascist ideals.

Furthermore, what is interesting about these three principles being shown is lear masculinity. This demonstrates something that was shown in the first week of class, this medieval principle of a male dominated power means. If the ideal in a society is male dominated, than according to this populist principle, it would be easier for every other person along the gender spectrum would essentially be cast out.

In my opinion, this is where the principles of fascism and populism converge. When we see interactions on an individual level, the impact is much more personal and therefore more effective when it comes to control.

Feminism is flourishing amid Trump presidency

In the context of populist regimes and movements, the role of women and their ability to engage with their surroundings has incredible historic repercussion in the growth and perpetuation of feminist ideals.

Women’s movements are nothing new. Women have been fighting for equal rights in many capacities since the suffrage movement. The interesting element is the ability for women to do that under populist regimes. This has benefits, and consequences. In the wake of the #MeToo movement addressing sexual assault and violence, the general public is starting to understand the power of mass female movements, and their influence in the larger political context.  

In the 1930s, the rise of Nazism gave way to a political climate of fear and violence. This was not only issues through the war, but also through the Holocaust.  Women under the Nazi party used the institutions in place to move their way through the ranks. At the time of Nazi power, women still did not have the right to vote, a symbol of their poor political and social status. Their ability to participate in the war greatly affected their ability to organize. This came in the form of working as secretaries, marrying high ranking officers, and serving as nurses or militia women.

Serving in the war came at a great cost to women in Germany. As explained in Wendy Lowler’s  Hitler’s Furies, women were expected to take on more responsibility in lieu of men going off to battle. By the end of the war, women made up 40% of the roles in high ranking Gestapo offices. Under the anti-Semitic regime of Nazi Germany, there were three main categories for women: witnesses, accomplices, and murderers. One of the testaments in Lowler’s novel, made by Erna Petri, stated that she justified the violent actions against the Jewish people as a desire to prove herself to the men, and to further advance her social status.

Parallels exist between female militancy in Nazi Germany and segregation movements in the United States. A women’s group in the United States known as Daughters of the American Revolution are a group of ladies responsible for the maintenance of American culture. Over the years there has been swirling controversy over their practices. Until recently, there was heavy segregation for black American women in the group, as well as the funding to preserve Confederate generals’ statues. In light of the neo-Nazi demonstrations in places like Charlottesville, these symbols and statues continue to promote pro-slavery rhetoric and fuel the overall segregated, populist sentiment.

The difference between movements of the past, and today, is the ability to resort to violence and exclusionary politics in the face of populism. While the women in the previous examples were able to use the political institutions for their own personal advancement, it was at a detriment to other individuals and social groups.

On the other hand, women during the Trump administration era today are supporting each other and using their stories to inspire. While the President is a known molester, women have come out in large crowds, of every race, creed, religion, and sexual orientation to march and protest for their basic rights. In 2017, just a few months after Trump was elected to office and cut programs like Planned Parenthood, over 500,000 women and supporters marched in Washington to advocate for legislation reform in support of women’s rights and social programs. The movement has grown to multiple cosmopolitan cities across the United States and worldwide, reaching numbers of marchers again in the hundreds of thousands.

This gives me hope because in the face of racist and hateful world leaders that are using populist rhetoric, women today are coming together and fighting for what is right and important, in a way that supports each other.

Featured Image from: CNN

Sweeper: Furies – Not Just Part of Greek Mythology

In Hitler’s Furies, the concept of female complicity and their involvement in the war and Holocaust was a prominent theme. The question remains, are women the victims or perpetrators of this violence?

 

I can say that neither myself nor our group had a definitive answer. There were many perspectives presented by the author about the intentions behind the range of actions presented by the women. The author includes examples from the disregard and differentiation of Jewish people, being bystanders to the death camps around them, and to extreme of actually killing Jews as part of firing squads.

 

Our group discussed some of the potential underlying intentions for the various actions, including:

  1. Whether this was due to the systemic and overarching rules of the Nazi regime – Did the culture of fear and racism corrupt thoughts and actions where they wouldn’t normally outside of these circumstances.
  2. The ability to use these structures to move up the social ladder. At the time of the Holocaust and the war, women in Germany did not have social and political opportunity. Through being mothers, wives, and members of the Nazi party, they were able to exploit the system to gain opportunities and jobs.
  3. Did complicity come from being strictly in a “mother” role – Did this role perpetuate comfort for men in the battlefield and physically engaging with the Holocaust?

 

Not to excuse the horrific action of genocide through the Holocaust, but the ability to try and disseminate the individual intention versus the collective intention in the context of war, suffering and suppression was extremely insightful in how these multiple factors can feed into a problem.

First response: Fascismo e violenza

The prime principles of fascism is systematic violence against an enemy. This ideology manifested itself circa 1920’s Italy, where Benito Mussolini took control of the country as an authoritarian leader. As mentioned in his doctrines,

War alone maximizes to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it”.

As a counter-resistance to Socialism and Liberalism, the rise of fascism as an ideology was defined by Mussolini through action rather than theory or principle. This idea of being able to act, rather than just theorizing concepts of war and conflict, allow for leaders like Mussolini to mobilize quickly.

The Italians were able to find national unity in the demographic colonization of Ethiopia. The examples given in the Ben-Ghiat chapter which include the obvious racism against Ethiopians and sexual exploitation of women demonstrate the ability under fascist regimes to act swiftly and place these violent  principles into action, and as a unifying factor in their [Italy’s] state building.

What is most interesting about this principle of structured violence within a political theory is that while Italian fascism is the first concrete example, it is but the first example of many. Finchelstein makes reference to many examples in Asia, the Middle East and South America, as well as the infamous Nazism, as German fascism. The transnational aspect of this ideology shows the universality, especially historically, in violence as a means of identity, action, and legitimate justice. In each country example, while there are different ends, the means of consolidating power through violence is still the same.