The Growth of Extremism and the Factor of “Intellectual Parity”

A Paper by Gagik Harutyunyan, Executive Director, Noravank Scientific Educational Foundation, submitted for the Rhodes Forum Scientific Marathon - 2015

The global security today depends to a large extent on the developments in Middle East in the context of the Islamic State’s (IS) actions. However, the IS is just the tip of the iceberg; the Middle Eastern processes are closely related to what happens in Central and Southeast Asia and continental “yellow, hot Africa.” In addition, escalation due to actions of extremist groups occurs not only in these regions. In terms of a number of indicators the same logic applies to the events in Ukraine. It is no coincidence that the “Right Sector” combatants call themselves “Christian Taliban”, let alone numerous instances of collaboration between Ukrainian and Islamic extremists from some regions of Russia and CIS. The potential of extremism accumulates also in EU countries, so far in somewhat latent form. After a long period of tranquility, racial-based clashes resurged in the USA. There is an impression that a wave of extremism is engulfing the entire global space and there is every reason to believe that this phenomenon is a key sociopolitical trend.

Some analysts correlate these developments with the painful emergence of multipolar world, which occurs in the mode of a “Cold War 2”. A re-division of spheres of influence is accompanied by geopolitical shifts. At the same time, connecting the developments to geopolitics only is somewhat problematic, too.

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Culture Wars in India (and Elsewhere)

By Come Carpentier de Gourdon, Convener of the Editorial Board of the World Affairs Journal

The many rifts in the contemporary world cannot but extend to the field of culture as they always have, in one way or another. Bismarck was perhaps the first to explicitly call Kulturkampf his policy to combat, in the name of what was technocratic and political modernity for the time, the feudal traditions  and confessional principles followed by Catholics and other conservative Germans but all powers have fought in the civilisational arena to propagate and impose their worldviews and ways of life on others through language, ideology, school curricula, modes of dressing, food et al. The British, among other colonizers, were no different in India and Macaulay epitomized their approach.

Islamic Leaders Issue Bold Call for Rapid Phase Out of Fossil Fuels

Religious scholars, experts and teachers from around the world unite to make emotive declaration on climate change ahead of crucial Paris summit

By Arthur Neslen, The Guardian, August 18, 2015

Islamic leaders have issued a clarion call to 1.6bn Muslims around the world to work towards phasing out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a 100% renewable energy strategy.

The grand mufti’s of Lebanon and Uganda endorsed the Islamic declaration on climate change, along with prominent Islamic scholars and teachers from 20 countries, at a symposium in Istanbul.

Their collective statement makes several detailed political demands likely to increase pressure on Gulf states ahead of the Paris climate summit in December.

Hollowing Out Humanity: Neo-Liberalism, Individualism and the Possibility of Happiness

A Paper by Dr Ian Forbes, FRSA, FAcSS, Institute for Science and Society, University of Nottingham, UK, submitted for the Rhodes Forum Scientific Marathon - 2015

Far from enhancing social and private life, the unleashing and promoting of individualism has serious implications for the possibility of experiencing happiness. Just as new perspectives about the nature of human happiness have emerged, providing robust and data-based accounts of the pre-conditions for happiness, so the possibilities for taking advantage of this knowledge are becoming severely constrained. What can be observed is a progressive hollowing out of the most vital human constructions. 

Individualism originally derived its strength from the proposition that there was such a thing as ‘an individual’, possessed of moral worth. While intuitively appealing at the level of human ego, this has been mutated into a simplistic account of a person as no more than a rationally calculating individual. This impoverished version of a socially-situated being has been elevated to an ideological prop for the implementation of neo-liberal approaches to politics and economics.

If Congress Rejects the Iran Deal, It Would Be a Historic Blunder

By Seyed Hossein Mousavian, The Huffington Post, August 21, 2015

The comprehensive nuclear agreement reached between Iran and six world powers represents a milestone achievement for the cause of global peace and security. Such a diplomatic resolution to a long-running dispute between rival powers has only rarely occurred in history. With this historic deal at hand, the dawn of a new age of relations between Iran and the United States is within sight.

Zum Ableben von Egon Bahr

Potsdam, 21.08.15. „Sicherheit voreinander muss durch Sicherheit miteinander ersetzt werden. Das empfand ich als revolutionär.“ Das schreibt Egon Bahr, der außenpolitische Vordenker der Brandt’schen Ostpolitik, im WeltTrends-Heft August/September (Nr. 106-107).

Es ist sein letzter Text, wie wir mit tiefer Trauer feststellen müssen.

Prof. Egon Bahr hat sich in den letzten Monaten vehement gegen die Rückkehr des Kalten Krieges in Europa gestemmt. Scharf analysierte er die neuesten internationalen Gefahren, seien es US-Raketenabwehrsysteme, Drohnen oder der IS. Die deutschen und europäischen Interessen vertrat er im politischen Disput mit Klarheit und Präzision, wobei dies immer mit Anekdoten aus seinem reichen diplomatischen Leben angereichert und damit noch überzeugender wurde.

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Isis ‘Blows up Temple Dating Back to 17AD’ in Palmyra

The Guardian, August 24, 2015

Islamic State blew up the ancient temple of Baal Shamin in the Unesco-listed Syrian city of Palmyra, the country’s antiquities chief has said.

“Daesh placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baal Shamin ... and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple,” said Maamoun Abdulkarim, using another name for Isis.

An Orphaned Tax Agenda? Sacrificing Good Governance and Tax Justice in the Addis Ababa Outcome

An Article by Manuel Montes, Senior Advisor on Finance and Development at the South Centre in Geneva, published at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, August 18, 2015

At the Financing for Development Conference in Addis in July 2015, developed countries blocked a proposal to establish an intergovernmental body within the United Nations on international cooperation in tax matters. There is a fundamental difference between North (where international companies are mostly headquartered) and South (whose interest lies in obtaining a fair share of the tax revenues arising from the operations of international companies in its territory). This divide can be better bridged in work by an intergovernmental body in the UN. The Addis Ababa outcome however sacrifices good governance and tax justice.

Yes, there is Growing Inequality; But Why Do the People not Revolt?

A Paper by Steve Szeghi, Professor of Economics, Wilmington College, submitted for the Rhodes Forum Scientific Marathon - 2015

In recent years both in academic journals and the mass media, the reality of increasing income and wealth inequality has been well documented and commented upon.  Inequality is increasing within counties across the globe, even as social safety nets that once existed are compromised or in tatters. The evidence is abundant thanks to the work of Piketty and Saez, Krugman and Reich, and even earlier the work of Kuttner, Phillips, and Hartmann. While the facts of increasing inequality are beyond question, there is a vexing question remaining. Why do the people not revolt? Or better: particularly in the Western Democracies why do the people not vote for real change? In the western democracies the people don’t have to risk jail or death by engaging in revolution, all they have to do is vote. So why is this vexing inequality tolerated? Why do people not vote for real change?

The reasons are both varied and multi-layered. While some are discussed by Reich in his movie ‘Inequality for All,’ and Michael Moore in his movie ‘Capitalism’, none have been adequately and exhaustively addressed. The purpose of this paper is to lay out the myriad of reasons why rising inequality is tolerated by people across the globe but particularly in the western democracies. What can be done ultimately to lead to real change is beyond the scope of this paper, but a greater understanding of the reasons for acceptance or inaction is a necessary first step on that path. More documentation of growing inequality is not needed. What is needed is to understand why the people do not revolt as a result of this reality.