“Many Asian intellectuals became some of the most eloquent – and earliest – critics of modernity. … With their anti-modern sensibility … they anticipated Europe‘s own thinkers, who were forced to re-examine their nineteenth-century belief in a progressively rational world by the slaughter of the First World War. … In fact, it was European principles of nationalism and civic patriotism that almost all native elites embraced in order to beat (or at least draw level with) the West in what seemed a Darwinian struggle for the future. …

Resistance to the West required [well] urgent adaptation to Western ideas of organizing state and society. … there was one Western idea in particular that proved irresitible to Muslim as well as Communist anti-imperialists …: the institutions and practices of the nation-state: clear boundaries, orderly government, a loyal bureaucracy, a code of rights to protect citizens, rapid economic growth through industrial capitalism or socialism, mass literacy programmes, technical knowledge and the development of a sense of common origins within a national community. … More than fifty new nation  with new names, borders and currencies appeared in just two decades after 1945. …

But the transition from criticizing foreign rule and instigating mass-movements to establishing a stable basis for self-determination proved to be very difficult. … The imported ideological passions of the Cold War aggravated political tensions in many countries, such as Pakistan and Indonesia. Separatist movements broke out in Kashmir, Aceh, East-Pakistan, Tibet and Sri Lanka. …

We can see that the seemingly wholesale adoption of Western ideologies (Chinese communism, Japanese imperialism) did not work. Attemps at syntheses (India’s parliamentary democracy, Muslim Turkey’s secular state, China’s state capitalism) were more successful, and violent rejections of the West in the form of Iran’s islamic Revolution and Islamist movements continue to have an afterlife.

Many new nations, such as Pakistan, never recovered from birthing traumas. … A year after the Arab Spring and the collapse of several pro-Western dictatorships, chaos and uncertainty may loom over a wide swathe of the Arab world for some years. But the spell of Western power has finally been broken. … The sense of humiliation that burdened several generations of Asians has greatly diminished. …

Yet this succes conceals with an immense intellectual failure, one that has profound ramifications for the world today and the near future. It is simply this: no convincingly universalist response exists today to Western ideas of politics and economy … Gandhi, their most rigourous critic, is a forgotten figure within India today. Marxism-Leninism lies discredited and … China‘s own legacy of ethical politics and socio-economic theory remains largely unexplored. …

The ‘Bejing Consensus’ has even less universal application than its Washington counterpart; it sounds suspiciously like merely a cynical economic argument for the lack of political freedom. …

The earliest Asian modern intellectuals were beholders to European ideas. … Europe itself took hundreds of years to develop and implement the concept of a sovereign nation-state, only to then plunge into two world wars that exacted a terrible toll from ethnic and religious minorities. …

Much of the ’emerging’ world now stands to repeat, on an ominously larger scale, the West’s own tortured and often tragic experience of modern ‘development‘. In India and China, the pursuit of economic growth a all costs has created a gaudy elite, but has also widened already alarming social and economic disparities … The privileged Chinese minority aspires to nothing higher than the conveniences and gadgets of their Western consumer counterparts … a third of Indians live in conditions of extreme poverty and deprivation. More than half of the children under the age of five in India are malnourished. …

The disasters … can no longer be explained away with reference to the logic of development as manifested in Europe’s history. … The hope, that fuels the pursuit of endless economic growth – that billions of consumers in India and China will one day enjoy the lifestile of Europeans and Americans – is as absurd and dangerous a fantasy as anything dreamt up by al-Quaeda. … It condems the global environment to early destruction, and looks set to create reservoirs of nihilistic rage and disappointment among hundreds of millions of have-nots – the bitter outcome of the universal triumph of Western modernity, which turns the revenge of the East into something darkly ambigous, and all its victories truly Pyrric.”

aus:Pankaj Mishra: From the ruins of Empire. London: Penguimn 2013 (Orig.-Ausg. 2012), S.302-310


25/09/2018 (22:44) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“The rejection of the Chequers plan at Salzburg was no surprise .. The EU … knows it holds all the cards and recognises the danger of giving ground. Its priority is to accommodate Dublin, not London. It also concludes that a government so determined to leave must believe it can look after itself. Brussels has no reason or incentive to make any better offer.

The government has never understood the Brexit process and therefore has always botched it. It expects the EU to treat the UK both as an equally powerful third country, and as a member state still deserving the EU’s protection. It is neither.”

aus: Jonathan Lis: Don’t buy the Brexit hype: it’s a border in the Irish Sea or the customs union. The Guardian Online, 21.Sep.2018, im Internet


21/09/2018 (21:38) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“Rousseau founded the main political and cultural movements of the modern world. Many ‘isms’ of the right and the leftRomanticism, socialism, authoritarianism, nationalism, anarchism – can be traced to Rousseau’s writings. Whether in his denunciation of moral corruption, his claim that the metropolis was a den of vice and that virtue resided in ordinary people (whom the elites routinely conspired against and deceived), his praise of militant patriotism, his distrust of intellectual technocracy, his advocacy of a return to the collective, the ‘people’, or his concern for the ‘stranger’, Rousseau anticipated the modern underdog wth his aggravated sense of victimhood and demand for redemption. …

Rousseau was … the prototype of the man who feels himself, despite his obvius success, to be at the bottom of the social pyramid. … He was convinced, like many converts to ideological causes and religious beliefs, that he was immune to corruption. A conviction of his incorruptibility was what gave his liberation from social pieties a heroic aura … In the movement from victimhood to moral supremacy, Rousseau enacted … [what] has become commonplace in our time. …

Rousseau’s first great disciple, Robespierre, seems to have grasped, and embodied, better than anyone the incendiary appeal of victimhood in societies built around the pursuit of wealth and power. …

The Jacobins and the German Romantics may have been Rousseau’s most famous disciples, determined to create through retributive terror or economic and cultural nationalism the moral community neglected by Enlightment philosophes. …: Herder inaugurated the nativist quest – hectically pursued by almost every nation since – for whatever could be identified as embodying an authentic national spirit: literary forms, cuisine and architecture as much as language. … Fichte came to think that Germans were simply superior to everyone else … [and he] gave nationalism its caracteristic secular feature: the transposition of religious into national loyalties. … Körner, [then, called the wars against Napoleon] ‘a crusade … a holy war’. This [was the first] ‘holy war’ in post-Christian Europe. …”

aus: Pankaj Mishra: Age of Anger, a History of the Present. o.O.: Allen Lane (Penguin Random House) 2017, S. 110-113, 174, 175, 191, 193.


29/05/2018 (12:12) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::

Development 2

“As Engels asserted … ‘Just as Darwin discovered the laws of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history.’ Thus, development came to be infused wth fresh earnestness and world-historical urgency, and then exalted with the prestige of science. Mere being came to be degraded, thanks to Germany’s special experience, by becoming. As Nietzsche wrote caustically, ‘The German himself is not, he is becoming, he is developing. Development is thus the truly German discovery.’ … All the hopes, transmitted from Marxists to modernization theorists and free-marketeers, of ‘development emerge from nineteenth-century German thinkers: the first people to give a deep meaning and value to a process defined by continuous movement wth a fixed direction and no terminus. All our simple dualisms – progressive and reactionary, modern and anti-modern, rational and irrational – derive from the deeply internalized urge to move to the next stage of ‘development’, however nebulously defined.”

aus: Pankaj Mishra: Age of Anger, a History of the Present. O.O.: Allen Lane (Penguin Random House) 2017, S. 204-205.


29/05/2018 (11:36) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“… Khomeini was actually a radically modern leader. For one, the cleric’s notion that the Iranian nation did not stem from any general or popular will but derived from God‘s mind, which as a charismatic leader he arrogated himself the right to interpret, was wholly novel: an extraordinary deviation, in fact, from a politically quietist Shiite tradition in which all government appeared illigitimate in the absence of the Twelfth Imam.

Khomeini belonged to a long line of revolutionary nationalists that began with Giuseppe Mazzini … Khomeini’s ideas were embedded in modern notions of representation and egalitarism. His notion of state power as a tool to produce a utopian Islamic society was borrowed from the Pakistani ideologue Abu Al-Ala Maududi, whose works he translated into Farsi in 1963. (Maududi’s vision of imposing Islamic order from above in turn was stimulated by Lenin’s theory of an elite as vanguard of the revolution.) …

With its many affronts to dignity and freedom, the Revolution was in this respect like the many self-defeating projects of human liberation since Rousseau started to outline them in the eighteenth century. … The Islamists … offered dignity – often a substitute for freedom in the postcolonial context …

Khomeini … grasped more clearly than modernizing-by-rote monarchs and despots the deeper and transformative potential of the idea brought into being by the Enlightement: that human beings can radically alter their social conditions. …

A religious or medieval society was one in which the social, political and economic order seemed unchangeable. …  The idea that suffering could be relieved, and happiness engineerd, by men radically changing the social order belongs to the eighteenth century. …

The idea of a perfectible society … turned into a faith in top-down modernization; and transformed traditional ways of life and modes of belief – Buddhism ans well as Islam – into modern activist ideologies. …

Meanwhile, the religious impulse had not simply disappeared in Europe … Europeans simply had erected new abolutes – progress, humanity, the republic – to replace those of traditional religion and the monarchy. … The metaphysical and theological core of Christianity … was often found at the heart of modern projects of redemption and transcendence … Revolution or radical social transformation effected by individuals was increasingly seen as a kind of Second Coming; violence initiated the new beginning; and in the final approximation of Christian themes, history was expected to provide the final judgement … Nearly every major thinker in Europe … also transposed Christian providentialism into would-be rationalistic categories. …

Christian eschatology even suffuses the political ideals of today‘s insistently Islamic radicals and Hindu nationalists – an inescapable irony of history … The cross-currents of ideas and inspirations, … the varied ideological inspirations of Iran’s Islamic Revolution (Zionism, Existentialism, Bolshevism and revolutionary Shiism) – reveal the picture of a planet defined by civilizations closed off from one another and defined by religion (or lack thereof) is a puerile cartoon. …

Radical Islamists or Hindu nationalists insist on their cultural distinctiveness and moral superiority precisely because they have lost their religious traditions, and started to ressemble their supposed enemies in their pursuit of the latter’s ideologies of individual and collective succes …”

aus: Pankaj Mishra: Age of Anger, a History of the Present. O.O.: Allen Lane (Penguin Random House) 2017, S. 153-159.


28/05/2018 (23:40) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“… states took over the monopoly of legitimate violence, political power and therefore also responsibility. Delegating responsibility to civil society whilst maintaining power in the state and even in the economy therefore seems to be a process of taking away responsibility from those in power and giving responsibility to those without power, who would thus become responsible for their own underdevelopment …

If the goal is more or less imposed, and the different parties’ responsibilities take the form of being co-opted into a system that cannot be questioned, the transfer of responsibilities can be seen quite simply as a good excuse to … lessen the responsabilities of those who dominate the system. …

Bonnie Campbell makes clear ‘… that the notions of ’empowerment’ used by the World Bank in the 1980s and ‘participation’ in the 1990s do not arise from a concern for real participation but are connected rather with a concept of ‘populist manageralism’.'”

aus: Christoph Eberhard: Responsibility in France. A juridical approach in the face of the complexity of the world. In: Sizoo, Eidth (ed.): Responsibility and cultures of the world. Bruxelles u.a.: P.I.E. Peter Lang, S.126/127.


25/02/2018 (20:22) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“[There exist different] kinds of religious identities: the identity of the zealot, of the faithful, … of the religious ideologue …, religion as lived spirituality …, spiritless religiosity and religion as pastiche …

1. Religion as faith … is a form of love, trust, belief, or way of life. It can be monolithic or pluralistic, universalizing or particularizing, and divisive or integrative…

2. The ideologization of religion begins when the certainty of faith begins to totter. … the religious ideologue has already lost his religious identity or else he is in the process of losing it. His actions are guided more and more by desires, by economic or political interests. He may offer a religious explanation for everything he does but that reason is not causally efficacious. … [Nevertheless, he still] believes that high ideals inform his action. …

3.The zealot, on the other hand, is cynical, instrumentalist, and a political realist. … [He has accepted that the moment of faith, perhaps even of religious ideology, has passed. He is possibly aware that both are dead, buried, and at best, can be revived in an altogether different form. … He selects the eternal fundamentals of his religion by which his life and the life of all others will be guided in the future.] …

4.Spiritless religion [is] … a body of religious practices from which the original, living impulse has been wrenched … the body remains but the original spirit has evaporated …

5. From what I call religion as pastiche, both the original body and intent are gone and a very poor imitation of the original impulse inhabits an entirely new set of practices. … Unlike parody that has a latent understanding that something normal exists of which it is a comic imitation … pastiche is irrevocably delinked from it. It simply has no idea of what it is imitating. .. Pastiche … is the imitation of an imitation of religiosity, in a heavy, laboured form … Curiously, it is part of a general nostalgia of things past … Those with a penchant for pastiche religion … are on a trip of self-expression: people in search of a religious identity. …

6. Religion as lived spirituality … is distinct from both metaphysics and morality, from speculation and practice. … its essence is neither thinking nor acting but intuition and feeling … the intuition that the infinite accompanies the finite, the powerful but immediate feeling that the human world is not disconnected from the rest of the universe. … A person with such a religious identity is contemplative and tolerant. …

In so far as modernity is tied to industrialism and capitalism, they are liable to disrupt traditional faith, its plurality as well as its privileged, self-evident authority. … Trust, unconditional obligation, the voluntary surrender of choice, powerful emotions such as love that once turned belief into faith and conviction gradually give way to reason and doubt. In these changed circumstances, belief must be supported by evidence or argument and when neither is available, it must try to stand on its own. It is this wobbly self-reliance, however, that makes it belligerent, dogmatic, and doctrinal. Modernity often turns traditional faith into a set of doctrines. …”

aus: Rajeev Bhargava: Religious and secular identities. In: ders: What is Political Theory and why do we need it? New Delhi: Oxford, S.274-290.


15/10/2017 (17:44) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“Have you ever heard the adage that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal, i.e. body language and vocal variety? You probably have, and if you have any sense at all, you have ignored it.

There are certain “truths” that are prima face false. And this is one of them. Asserting that what you say is the least important part of a speech insults not only the intelligence of your audience, but your own intelligence as well.

The whole objective of most speeches is to convey information, or to promote or defend a point of view. Certainly, proper vocal variety and body language can aid the process. But by their very nature, these ancillary activities can convey only emphasis or emotion.

The proof? Although today we presumably live in a visual world, most information is still promulgated in written form, where vocal variety and body language play no role. Even the “interactive” Internet is still mainly writing. The vast majority of people who surf the Internet do so looking for texts, with which they may interact via hyperlinks, but it is still essentially text.

Likewise with a speech. If your words are incapable of getting your message across, then no amount of gestures and tonal variations will do it for you. You are still obliged to carefully structure your information and look for “le mot juste” (the best words or phrases) to express what you want to say.

So just what does this “7% Rule” really mean?

The origin of this inimical adage is a misinterpretation, like the adage “the exception that proves the rule.” This is something else people say without examining it. If you believe that this is actually true, I will demonstrate at the end of this article that it isn’t. But first things first.

In the 1960s Professor Albert Mehrabian and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angles (UCLA), conducted studies into human communication patterns. When their results were published in professional journals in 1967, they were widely circulated across mass media in abbreviated form. Because the figures were so easy to remember, most people forgot about what they really meant. Hence, the myth that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal was born. And we have been suffering from it ever since.

The fact is Professor Mehrabian’s research had nothing to do with giving speeches, because it was based on the information that could be conveyed in a single word.

Subjects were asked to listen to a recording of a woman’s voice saying the word “maybe” three different ways to convey liking, neutrality, and disliking. They were also shown photos of the woman’s face conveying the same three emotions. They were then asked to guess the emotions heard in the recorded voice, seen in the photos, and both together. The result? The subjects correctly identified the emotions 50 percent more often from the photos than from the voice.

In the second study, subjects were asked to listen to nine recorded words, three meant to convey liking (honey, dear, thanks), three to convey neutrality (maybe, really, oh), and three to convey disliking (don’t, brute, terrible). Each word was pronounced three different ways. When asked to guess the emotions being conveyed, it turned out that the subjects were more influenced by the tone of voice than by the words themselves.

Professor Mehrabian combined the statistical results of the two studies and came up with the now famous—and famously misused—rule that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal. The non-verbal component was made up of body language (55 percent) and tone of voice (38 percent).

Actually, it is incorrect to call this a “rule,” being the result of only two studies. Scientists usually insist on many more corroborating studies before calling anything a rule.

More to the point, Professor Mehrabian’s conclusion was that for inconsistent or contradictory communications, body language and tonality may be more accurate indicators of meaning and emotions than the words themselves. However, he never intended the results to apply to normal conversation. And certainly not to speeches, which should never be inconsistent or contradictory!

So what can we learn from this research to help us become better speakers?

Basically, nothing. We must still rely on what good orators have always known. A speech that is confused and disorganized is a poor speech, no matter how well it is delivered. The essence of a good speech is what it says. This can be enhanced by vocal variety and appropriate gestures. But these are auxiliary, not primary.

Toastmasters International, a worldwide club dedicated to improving public speaking, devotes the first four chapters of its beginner’s manual to organizing the speech itself, including a chapter specifically on the importance of words in conveying meaning and feeling. Only in Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 does it concern itself with body language and vocal variety.

I don’t know how to quantify the relative importance of verbal to non-verbal in delivering speeches. But I have no doubt that the verbal (what you actually say) must dominate by a wide margin.

One of the most famous speeches of all time is Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” Its 272 words continue to inspire 150 years after they were spoken. No one has the slightest idea of Lincoln’s movements or voice tones.”

aus: Philip Yaffe: The 7% rule: fact, fiction, or misunderstanding, Ubiquity Volume 2011, Number October (2011), Pages 1-5   DOI: 10.1145/2043155.2043156, im Internet


13/10/2017 (9:50) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“… A stronger variant of this theme of protectionism is for the US to default. … Default sounds like a cataclistic option – stock markets would crash, the cost of debt would soar, the dollar would suddenly turn into monopoly money, and there would undoubtedly be a deafening international uproar. … A default  scenario is the one China ought to fear most … The US would not be the only loser. Remember that not only would China lose the value of all the American debt it held, but importantly such a US default would, at a stroke, jeopardize China’s own development strategy, which counts on the US (government and individual citizens) borrowing cash to buy its goods and keep the Chinese populace employed. …

North America could easily become self-sufficient. … In this game of poker, America still holds the cards, and the upper hand …”

aus: Dambisa Moyo: How the West was lost. London: Penguin 2011, S. 188-199.


04/08/2017 (23:18) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::


“What has happened in Hungary since 2010 offers an example—and a blueprint for would-be strongmen. Hungary is a member state of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. It has elections and uncensored internet. Yet Hungary is ceasing to be a free country.

The transition has been nonviolent, often not even very dramatic. Opponents of the regime are not murdered or imprisoned, although many are harassed with building inspections and tax audits. If they work for the government, or for a company susceptible to government pressure, they risk their jobs by speaking out. Nonetheless, they are free to emigrate anytime they like. Those with money can even take it with them. Day in and day out, the regime works more through inducements than through intimidation. The courts are packed, and forgiving of the regime’s allies. Friends of the government win state contracts at high prices and borrow on easy terms from the central bank. Those on the inside grow rich by favoritism; those on the outside suffer from the general deterioration of the economy. As one shrewd observer told me on a recent visit, “The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s rule over Hungary does depend on elections. These remain open and more or less free – at least in the sense that ballots are counted accurately. Yet they are not quite fair. Electoral rules favor incumbent power-holders in ways both obvious and subtle. Independent media lose advertising under government pressure; government allies own more and more media outlets each year. The government sustains support even in the face of bad news by artfully generating an endless sequence of controversies that leave culturally conservative Hungarians feeling misunderstood and victimized by liberals, foreigners, and Jews. Outside the Islamic world, the 21st century is not an era of ideology. … What is spreading today is repressive kleptocracy, led by rulers motivated by greed rather than by the deranged idealism of Hitler or Stalin or Mao. Such rulers rely less on terror and more on rule-twisting, the manipulation of information, and the co-optation of elites. …

The United States is of course a very robust democracy. … Donald Trump, however, represents something … radical. A president who plausibly owes his office at least in part to a clandestine intervention by a hostile foreign intelligence service? Who uses the bully pulpit to target individual critics? Who creates blind trusts that are not blind, invites his children to commingle private and public business, and somehow gets the unhappy members of his own political party either to endorse his choices or shrug them off? If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled. …

Donald Trump will not set out to build an authoritarian state. His immediate priority seems likely to be to use the presidency to enrich himself. But as he does so, he will need to protect himself from legal risk. Being Trump, he will also inevitably wish to inflict payback on his critics. Construction of an apparatus of impunity and revenge will begin haphazardly and opportunistically. But it will accelerate. It will have to. …

Trump is poised to mingle business and government with an audacity and on a scale more reminiscent of a leader in a post-Soviet republic than anything ever before seen in the United States. Glimpses of his family’s wealth-seeking activities will likely emerge during his presidency, as they did during the transition. Trump’s Indian business partners dropped by Trump Tower and posted pictures with the then-president-elect on Facebook, alerting folks back home that they were now powers to be reckoned with. The Argentine media reported that Trump had discussed the progress of a Trump-branded building in Buenos Aires during a congratulatory phone call from the country’s president. (A spokesman for the Argentine president denied that the two men had discussed the building on their call.) Trump’s daughter Ivanka sat in on a meeting with the Japanese prime minister—a useful meeting for her, since a government-owned bank has a large ownership stake in the Japanese company with which she was negotiating a licensing deal.

Suggestive. Disturbing. But illegal …? How many presidentially removable officials would dare even initiate an inquiry? …Venezuela, a stable democracy from the late 1950s through the 1990s, was corrupted by a politics of personal favoritism, as Hugo Chávez used state resources to bestow gifts on supporters. Venezuelan state TV even aired a regular program to showcase weeping recipients of new houses and free appliances. Americans recently got a preview of their own version of that show as grateful Carrier employees thanked then-President-elect Trump for keeping their jobs in Indiana. …

Trump will try hard during his presidency to create an atmosphere of personal munificence, in which graft does not matter, because rules and institutions do not matter. He will want to associate economic benefit with personal favor. He will create personal constituencies, and implicate other people in his corruption. That, over time, is what truly subverts the institutions of democracy and the rule of law. If the public cannot be induced to care, the power of the investigators serving at Trump’s pleasure will be diminished all the more. …

Whenever Trump stumbles into some kind of trouble, he reacts by picking a divisive fight. The morning after The Wall Street Journal published a story about the extraordinary conflicts of interest surrounding Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Trump tweeted that flag burners should be imprisoned or stripped of their citizenship. That evening, as if on cue, a little posse of oddballs obligingly burned flags for the cameras in front of the Trump International Hotel in New York. Guess which story dominated that day’s news cycle?

Civil unrest will not be a problem for the Trump presidency. It will be a resource. Trump will likely want not to repress it, but to publicize it – and the conservative entertainment-outrage complex will eagerly assist him. Immigration protesters marching with Mexican flags; Black Lives Matter demonstrators bearing antipolice slogans – these are the images of the opposition that Trump will wish his supporters to see. The more offensively the protesters behave, the more pleased Trump will be. …

In the early days of the Trump transition, Nic Dawes, a journalist who has worked in South Africa, delivered an ominous warning to the American media about what to expect. “Get used to being stigmatized as ‘opposition,’ ” he wrote. “The basic idea is simple: to delegitimize accountability journalism by framing it as partisan.”

The rulers of backsliding democracies resent an independent press, but cannot extinguish it. … Modern strongmen seek merely to discredit journalism as an institution, by denying that such a thing as independent judgment can exist. All reporting serves an agenda. There is no truth, only competing attempts to grab power.

By filling the media space with bizarre inventions and brazen denials, purveyors of fake news hope to mobilize potential supporters with righteous wrath – and to demoralize potential opponents by nurturing the idea that everybody lies and nothing matters. A would-be kleptocrat is actually better served by spreading cynicism than by deceiving followers with false beliefs: Believers can be disillusioned; people who expect to hear only lies can hardly complain when a lie is exposed. The inculcation of cynicism breaks down the distinction between those forms of media that try their imperfect best to report the truth, and those that purvey falsehoods for reasons of profit or ideology. …

Populist-fueled democratic backsliding is difficult to counter,” wrote the political scientists Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz late last year. “Because it is subtle and incremental, there is no single moment that triggers widespread resistance or creates a focal point around which an opposition can coalesce … Piecemeal democratic erosion, therefore, typically provokes only fragmented resistance.” Their observation was rooted in the experiences of countries ranging from the Philippines to Hungary. It could apply here too. …

If people retreat into private life, if critics grow quieter, if cynicism becomes endemic, the corruption will slowly become more brazen, the intimidation of opponents stronger. Laws intended to ensure accountability or prevent graft or protect civil liberties will be weakened.

If the president uses his office to grab billions for himself and his family, his supporters will feel empowered to take millions. If he successfully exerts power to punish enemies, his successors will emulate his methods.

If citizens learn that success in business or in public service depends on the favor of the president and his ruling clique, then it’s not only American politics that will change. The economy will be corrupted too, and with it the larger culture. A culture that has accepted that graft is the norm, that rules don’t matter as much as relationships with those in power, and that people can be punished for speech and acts that remain theoretically legal—such a culture is not easily reoriented back to constitutionalism, freedom, and public integrity.

What happens in the next four years will depend heavily on whether Trump is right or wrong about how little Americans care about their democracy and the habits and conventions that sustain it. If they surprise him, they can restrain him.

Public opinion, public scrutiny, and public pressure still matter greatly in the U.S. political system. In January, an unexpected surge of voter outrage thwarted plans to neutralize the independent House ethics office. That kind of defense will need to be replicated many times. Elsewhere in this issue, Jonathan Rauch describes some of the networks of defense that Americans are creating.

Get into the habit of telephoning your senators and House member at their local offices, especially if you live in a red state. Press your senators to ensure that prosecutors and judges are chosen for their independence—and that their independence is protected. Support laws to require the Treasury to release presidential tax returns if the president fails to do so voluntarily. Urge new laws to clarify that the Emoluments Clause applies to the president’s immediate family, and that it refers not merely to direct gifts from governments but to payments from government-affiliated enterprises as well. Demand an independent investigation by qualified professionals of the role of foreign intelligence services in the 2016 election—and the contacts, if any, between those services and American citizens. Express your support and sympathy for journalists attacked by social-media trolls, especially women in journalism, so often the preferred targets. Honor civil servants who are fired or forced to resign because they defied improper orders. Keep close watch for signs of the rise of a culture of official impunity, in which friends and supporters of power-holders are allowed to flout rules that bind everyone else.

Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.”

aus: David Frum: How to Build an Autocracy. The Atlantic Monthly, March 2017 issue [im Internet].


03/02/2017 (13:44) Schlagworte: EN,Lesebuch ::
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