Exchange with Alex Foti on nettime

By | December 18, 2016

Alex Foti to nettime, 17 December 2016

Dear Vahid,

for the very little it’s worth i’ve been campaigning to save Aleppo since the siege and furiously since the assad-putin-iran atrocities escalated. i agree about the complicity by omission of the left, which finds a depressing parallel with most of the left muddling truth about ethnic cleansing in bosnia in the early 90s.

going back to analysis, as moral introspection is maybe for another foray, clear to me that the     rebels and the women and children of east aleppo were the first victims of the global reaction triggered by trump’s election. it is foremost a murderous reaction against the 2011 revolutions, and an ominous foreboding for us all. the left loves rojava’s kurds (rightly so), but is split (trotskyists as far as i know support the revolution against the assad dynasty) over solidarity to free syria.

Why? communist nostalgia, mostly and as you said the glee to see the US on the losing side. But even lefties should ponder that the destiny of Aleppo was bargained between Putin and Erdogan, which certainly ain’t positive for the kurdish cause. But the US is now no longer a liberal empire but an aggressive nation-state bent on transnational revanchism, perhaps a bit like putinism (petrocapitalism) projected domestically and internationally. White America needs to protect itself from the black and brown menace inside and the yellow peril abroad. Rising nuclear tensions in Asia (again Keith was prescient on US-China rivalry) and the global trading system at risk are other immediate consequences of elected nazipopulism. In Europe, France, Holland and even Germany could succumb to the forces of national populism in 2017, boosted by the white house returning white.

Returning to lack of American and European military support which made the fall of Aleppo possible to the perennial shame of the supposedly western values of human rights, i think the critical left (which is undoubtedly anti Trump Putin Erdogan) should ponder the whole Global War for the Middle East in its political complexity without renouncing a strong stand in defence of opposers of authoritarian regime and forces, whoever they are and no matter how they fit in one’s ideological matrix.

For instance, ethnically and socially sunnis are victims in Syria of Assad and Iran, while       shias are victims in Yemen (and Bahrein) of the House of Saud. In Mosul, there’s in effect a grand international coalition against ISIS that conjoins temporarily russian, kurdish, iraqi, iranian, kurdish, american, even french interests. Trump’s election is not affecting that front fundamentally, although the daesh has reclaimed palmyra where putin had recently held a propaganda concert hailing its liberation.

Putin has effectively hacked the elections and made Trump possible. However, just like China’s, his ambitions are regional not global. Russia’s economy is weak, but the rise in oil prices decided by opec is guaranteed to give the regime a respite as it extends undoubtedly its political influence over Europe. For instance, even if Le Pen loses, Fillon has already said there will be a rapprochement with Russia (in fact, the EU will no longer apply sanctions for Ukraine). China will tighten repression in Hong Kong and confront Taiwan, as the yuan drops in value and Chinese stop being first holders of US treasuries. The global financial system is being redesigned as positive interest rates make their restrictive comeback, the dollar rises and restrictions on financial movements to stop capital flight are introduced by the chinese communist party (which owns directly or indirectly Milan’s two football teams if i can insert a light-hearted comment at the end a sombre post about a bleak situation).

The domestic appointments point toward America’s turning into a low-wage high-carbon economy (Exxon at State and Goldman at Treasury – no change there – fossil capitalism lobbyists at EPA and Energy) that’s set to further increase ballistic inequality. A fast-food executive (carls jr if u wonder) at Labor wil fight for 15 to the death and is already proposing subsidized robotization of fast food restaurants and supermarket chains.

Finally, how’s informational capitalism reacting to all this. Amazon and IBM are collaborationist. Facebook too, am i right? What about Google and Apple? Is the Californian Ideology compatible with national populism (or whatchmacallit)? The mysogynist-in-chief assembled the executives of Silicon Valley the day the people of Aleppo were raped and murdered. How did it go according to nettimers?

love to you all, let’s think big, let’s stay human,
lx

On Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 5:29 PM, Vahid Salehi <vahidsal@gmail.com> wrote:

Just to ask what should we do?
Global left backed Assad by silence if not verbally.
There is an obvious reason for such alignment.
<…>

My response was rejected by the nettime moderators. They had been privately asking me about how to broaden the range and tenor of discussion on the list. This was obviously too broad for them.

Keith Hart to Alex, nettime    18 December 2016

Alex, there is so much wisdom and humanity in this reflection on the world today. But the main message is one of method and it is summarised beautifully in how you sign off: love to you all, let’s think big, let’s stay human. We need to cling to this message, even if realising it in practice is very hard.

I am not a Christian, but I was as an adolescent and I chose then to master the New Testament in Greek.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις, ἐλπίς, ἀγάπη, τὰ τρία ταῦτα· μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη. (King James version of the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13, 8-13).

Charity Christianity The theological virtue defined as love directed first toward God but also toward oneself and one’s neighbors as objects of God’s love. Love of humanity.

Through a glass, darkly The idea of seeing obscurely through a distorting mirror, even seeing a dark negative image of ourselves, as opposed to recognizing what is human in all of us when we meet face to face. I think of this as the ethnographer’s or novelist’s charter.

The promise of the digital revolution, its teleology, is to rediscover the categorical imperative when universal communications replicate what should happen when we meet face-to-face. Kant (1784) held that “In man (as the only rational creature on earth) those natural faculties which aim at the use of reason shall be fully developed in the species, not in the individual.” He meant concretely through libraries or the universal media we have today, at last adequate to the expression of universal ideas. The anthropologist, Roy Rappaport (1999) wrote that “Humanity is that part of the world through which the world as a whole can think about itself”. Or, in C.L.R. James’ (1938) words, “The distinctive feature of our age is that mankind as a whole is on the way to becoming fully conscious of itself”. The task of building a global civil society for the 21st century is urgent and anthropological visions must play their part in this.

Gandhi saw the human as both each individual and all of humanity, especially the need to make meaningful connection between the two. This aspiration to place oneself in the world is shared by the “human economy” programme that we launched in Pretoria almost six years ago. It is negated by emphasizing the myriad identities, associations and divisions that mediate these extremes and all the world religions placed high emphasis on such a project. Gandhi synthesized Buddhism and Victorian romanticism. Ajit Dasgupta in Gandhi’s Economic Thought (1996) claims that his two great predecessors as an economic thinker were the Buddha and Ruskin.

A rich tradition of Islamic economy informed Europe’s renaissance and still plays an active part in world economy today. In the eleventh century, Cairo was the hub of a civilization linking Southern Spain to India. One of its most prominent economic thinkers was Al-Ghazali (1058 – 1111), a Persian who taught in Iraq, Syria and Egypt. Ghazali focused on the economic aspects of maslaha (social utility), distinguishing between necessities, comforts and luxuries. Subsistence living was inadequate, but wealth too had its dangers. Both extravagance and miserliness were to be avoided, a middle course being recommended. Ghazali offers many insights on exchange, production, money, the role of the state and public finances. He emphasizes ethical behaviour in the market and regards the production and supply of necessities to be an obligatory duty. He condemns hoarding and lauds cooperation. Usury is rejected and justice, peace and stability are seen as preconditions of economic progress.

And so it goes on. Just to return briefly to your concrete historical narrative,

> The US is now no longer a liberal empire but an aggressive nation-state bent on transnational revanchism<

It is almost always a mistake to treat paired opposites as successive stages in history. To take the biggest so far, the Roman, Chinese, British and American empires were built by aggressive state expansion and retained that quality after they became more ecumenical. Keynes called himself a liberal and he sought to extend his political vision to the global level at Bretton Woods. He was shot down by Harry Dexter White and died soon afterwards. The American empire was never liberal, but was rather underpinned by ownership of the world currency (the main legacy of Bretton Woods), militarism (the empire’s formation coincided with the Cold War)mercantilism (using its third of the world market as an unequal bargaining tool) and finally intellectual property (the US stayed out of the Berne Convention on Copyright until 1989 over a century later and TRIPS followed in 1994).

One aspect of the left’s failure is its persistent willingness to treat the fig leaf of free trade as the reality of US capital accumulation – neoliberal globalization today as much as the postwar global order then.

I mentioned the method of your trinitarian sign-off. Its etymology is worth examning. It comes from ancient Greek meta-hodos. Hodos is a road or a journey, meta is a preposition meaning both before and after. So method is preparation for a journey and its destination, before and after together. Our method must serve making a world where self and society are one.

A ‘belief’ meant in origin ‘something held dear’, which is to say that exchanges involving money entail at some level a vision of humanity bound together by mutual love. This is how the young Marx ends his remarkable essay on ‘The power of money’ in the 1844 manuscripts:  “If you love without evoking love in return, i.e. if you are not able, by the manifestation of yourself as a loving person, to make yourself a beloved person, then your love is impotent and a misfortune.”

Keith x

 

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