Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Non-violent communication

Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:43 am by Aught3

Non-violent communication (NVC) is based on the acknowledgement that there are some people who like committing violence while there are others who enjoy contributing to well being through compassionate giving. Many of the structures in our societies contribute to the violent aspect by educating people to be obedient and submissive to authority. In the same way that our culture foists a life philosophy of enlightened hedonism onto us, it also sets us up in domination structures where superiors are expected to tell others what’s best for them and inferiors are simply supposed to obey. The goal of NVC is liberation from decades of cultural education steeped in domination structures and replace it with compassionate systems of communication, thinking, and influencing.

Part of the education problem is the widespread use of a “static” language that focuses on what people are rather than how they are feeling. They, their behaviour, or their appearance are constantly judged as good or bad, right or wrong, normal or abnormal. Our approach of retributive justice also plays a role. When someone is judged as “bad” by the authorities we come to believe they now deserve to receive punishment. All that it takes to make violence enjoyable is to believe there are bad people and they need to be punished. This approach to justice goes to the heart of violence on the planet. Finally, there is danger in a language that denies choice. Words like “ought”, “must”, and “have to” are commonplace but they deny individual responsibility and lead us to be slaves of authority. We may not like all the things we do but it is important to recognise that we don’t so anything that we don’t choose to. NVC is a system primary of communication but also of thinking and influence which helps us to overcome the domination structures which lead to excess violence.

If the alternative to domination and violence is compassion and giving then the question NVC answers is “what skills are needed to live compassionately?” It is about how we ensure that what ever we do is done willingly and comes solely out of the joy that comes from giving. In order to do this, NVC puts the focus back on human needs. If human needs are unfulfilled we take action. Once the needs are fulfilled we can celebrate. The basis of this process is to figure out “what is alive in us” and “what would make life more wonderful” How to go about communicating the answers to these questions to others is the process of NVC. 


The Process
1. Observe without judgement
The process of NVC begins with clear observations that are delivered without judgement. Clear observations tell other people whether or not they are fulfilling our needs. However, judgement and evaluation, especially when it is received as negative, often provokes defensiveness and shuts down the possibility of listening in the other person. Observations, on the other hand, are objective and can be agreed upon by both parties without the presence of guilt or blame. Blame and criticism make it difficult for others to enjoy contributing to our well-being which is the whole point of NVC. If done successfully, this initial agreement over the facts of the situation is a great way to begin a productive conversation.

2. Feel and empathise
Both positive and negative feelings are a manifestation of fulfilled (positive) or unfulfilled (negative) needs. NVC is all about putting people in touch with feelings, either their own or others. After making observations, the next step is to attach a feeling to those facts. Again it’s important to stick to only naming feeling in this step and not move into judgement or evaluation. Saying “I feel disappointed” is the right type of response. Saying “I feel you aren’t trying to the best of your ability” is making a judgement while masking it with the language of ‘feeling’.  In this stage empathy is very important. You may need to check with the other person that they really heard and understood your feeling and are empathising correctly.

3. Communicate the need
Needs have a specific meaning in NVC. They are broad categories of shared desires present in all people. Some examples of these types of needs are respect, self-determination, companionship, etc. The idea here is to link the need with a feeling from the previous stage, again no judgement should be taking place. “I’m feeling scared because my need for safety isn’t being met” or “I’m disappointed that my need for honesty isn’t being met” are good instances of this. The need should be communicated in a clear and open way to reduce the chance that it is misinterpreted. Again, checking that the other person heard you by having them repeat back your need is a useful way to confirm communication is taking place correctly.

4. Make a request
The last step is to make a request of the other person that would help you to get your need met. Because this is a request and not a demand we have to be open to the other person proposing a less-than-ideal alternative or even saying “no”. If the other person hears a demand, it makes it difficult for them to enjoy contributing to us, and they may comply out of shame and guilt. This is not the way we want other people to help us! This is why, in NVC, we only request and never demand. Requests made between two freely-acting individuals in order to fulfill each other’s needs is the entire goal of NVC. If the other person doesn’t agree to your request, that’s okay! You can use NVC to find out what feeling or need is holding them back and propose an alternative that gets both your needs met or you can simply accept their choice not to fulfill your need today. In NVC, each person is responsible for finding ways to get their own needs fulfilled and not responsible for trying to fulfill the needs of others.


Although it has been around for decades, NVC is a system of communication that I came across only recently. I think the idea is pretty powerful and putting it into practice, although difficult, has been extremely rewarding for me so far. It’s hard to believe I wasn’t introduced to NVC sooner and I hope introducing it to you will improve your relationships with those around you and make your own life better too. I think NVC is especially useful for people in imbalanced power dynamics (e.g., teachers, parents, and managers should definitely pay attention) but it is still a great system for use in any type of relationship.

Open wide, let me put this in you

Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:52 am by Prolescum

Given that the UK Government is considering switching to open source formats and software, and that several municipalities (or entire government departments) within and without the EU have decided to ditch proprietary software in favour of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) alternatives, it’s worth us having a look at the pros and cons of such a move, if only to better understand (or object to) the decisions being made at this level.

Firstly, a quick explanation of the terms are in order:

Open Source Software: See here for the official Open source Definition

Open source is a development model based upon the “four software freedoms” elucidated by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation as: the freedom to run [the] software for any purpose; the freedom to study how the program works and change it to suit your needs; the freedom to redistribute the code; the freedom to distribute your modified software so others may benefit from your changes.
The free in Free Software refers to liberty, not price. In practice, this means that using software with an open source license gives developers, engineers and end-users the ability to share their ideas and make contributions (fix errors or bugs, add new features etc) that benefit anybody using said software. It also means that the code is available for constant review, giving rise to the argument that FOSS deals easily and promptly with, for example, security issues.

Proprietary Software:

Software licensed under the exclusive terms supplied by the copyright holder. Generally speaking, proprietary licenses give the right only to use the software under certain conditions, in practice meaning that one is restricted from modifying, sharing, studying, distributing or reverse engineering the code.
Only the provider of the software has access to the source code, and therefore only they can modify, release updates or add new functionality to the software.


It’s worth noting that both proprietary and open source (or free) licensing uses the same legal basis (usually copyrights) to construct agreements. Proprietary licensing (most often in the form of an End User License Agreement) will state precisely what you can and cannot do with your purchased license, whereas open source licenses can vary from completely free, i.e. no restrictions at all, to the requirement that published code must be released using the same or equivalent licensing.

So how would it benefit government departments?

1. Switching formats (for example from Microsoft’s proprietary .doc Word document format to the open standard .odt format) could mean that all government departments regardless of operating system or software in use will be able to read and write to the same target and expect the same results. Of course, I suspect this happens now with office documents, but is burdened by an EULA with an annual fee.
As the format has new features added, no additional cost is applied outside the manpower required to roll out the updates. This would also make it easier for the various departments to deploy a variety of operating systems depending on their needs without the burden of having to re-format documents for particular users.

2. Overall costs of deployment are reduced (not paying for licenses or new iterations of the software, for example). This is a disputed one, as a counter argument exists. The cost of retraining staff for using new software, and the cost of training or employment of new IT staff with a new system has been said to vacuum up any savings made by switching.
As it currently stands, much of the UK Government is still using versions of Windows and other related software created well over a decade ago, so I believe the retraining costs of switching would amount to much the same were they to update to more modern versions, with the added benefit of lower future spending.

3. Updates, bug fixes, plugins and tweaks etc can be created in-house without additional licensing or approval. Most IT departments, whether government or business, have employees who write and deploy software for front- or back-end offices. An easily understood example might be an intranet where employees have access to FAQs, forums, customer databases and the like. As has been my experience, certain parts of an intranet may make use of bespoke Internet Explorer (Microsoft’s default browser) features, such as ActiveX plugins. Only IE supports ActiveX, and only Microsoft decides whether a plugin is still useful or will be deprecated.
This is a problem because the choices are often either to use an outdated browser (not secure when used outside the intranet) or rewrite from scratch to whichever iteration they update to. This is a vicious circle, and would be ameliorated by using an open standard such as HTML5 to code the intranet and open source software to maintain legacy features (for example by using a browser’s plugin architecture or altering its code) while keeping up-to-date with regards to general internet security.

4. Writing your own software. Libraries and back-end services written for one open source program can often be used in other programs without express permission (depending on the license), lessening the burden of writing new ones from scratch.

What are the downsides to switching?

1. With regards to format-switching, Microsoft Office now supports open document formats, so only some brief training informing staff to save in .odt would be required. Switching entire platforms may require further training due to the variety of options available outside the proprietary software pool, however, given that various departments may be required to give training for new versions of proprietary OS deployments, I believe the costs are comparable.

2. Long term viability. An issue that comes up within the Open Source communities is what to do with a project when its creators or maintainers decide to no longer support the software. This could add to the overall costs if a department depends on some code that is no longer supported, as it may require a switch to an alternative or for the IT chaps to maintain it themselves.

3. Interoperability. An issue that plagues the modern world as a whole, really, but one that should concern a government considering deployment of FOSS. An example might be using Microsoft’s Exchange for email. Support for ActiveSync et al outside the Windows environment is choppy, if not appalling.

4. Regulations. There may be legal requirements upon software deployment, such as using particular encryption methods or in fact using software with specific licensing restrictions, exemptions, or requirements. I believe this would be the issue most necessary to adhere to, and the most difficult to overcome.

All cards on the table, I am an advocate of FOSS, so my opinions should be regarded accordingly.

That said, these are only a few of the pros and cons we should consider (the ones that came to mind when writing this post…). Can you think of any other issues governments could run into from a switch? Or perhaps you’ve noticed a benefit not noted above? How about a mistake I’ve made? Comments and suggestions very welcome through the comments link below.

Further reading:

List of Open Source Licenses
Legal Issues and Best Practices around procuring or deploying open source software

Philosophy for life

Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:56 am by Aught3

In his book modernising the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism (A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy), William Irvine proposes two criteria for a coherent philosophy of life. The first is to have an ultimate goal in living. Of the things that can be pursued in life, the ultimate goal is the one you find most valuable. It is a grand goal that sits at the top of a hierarchy and is something you would be unwilling to sacrifice in the pursuit of other ends. Without an ultimate goal, a philosophy of life is incoherent.

According to Irvine, the second component in a coherent philosophy of life is a strategy for achieving your ultimate goal. The strategy tells you how to go about your daily routine in a way that enhances your ability to achieve the thing in life that you define as the most valuable. Without an effective strategy you will likely fail to achieve your grand goal and so a coherent philosophy of life needs both an ultimate goal and the means to achieve it.

Everybody has a philosophy of life, it’s just that most people don’t think about it. For such an important topic, philosophy of life isn’t discussed at school, universities don’t offer courses, and treatment of these topics in popular culture is next to zero. Without proper consideration of this issue, the life philosophy foisted upon most people is enlightened hedonism. The ultimate goal in hedonism is pleasure and the ‘enlightened’ part refers to the strategy. An enlightened hedonist takes time to consider which pleasures they will pursue, at what time they would like to enjoy those pleasures, and the best method for obtaining them. Another thoughtless source of a semi-coherent life philosophy is an inherited religion. In a typical religion the goal is to obtain a good second life and the rules and precepts lay down the way to achieve that goal. Since everybody has a life philosophy the only difference between people is whether they have thought about their ultimate life goal or have just accepted it.

The biggest danger with having the wrong life philosophy is the chance that you will mislive. Despite all the things you did at the end of your life you will look back only to realise you did not live it the way you wanted to. Either you chased the wrong goal or, if you had the correct goal identified, you were unable to live up to it. As Irvine puts it “Instead of spending your life pursuing something genuinely valuable, you squandered it because you allowed yourself to be distracted by the various baubles life has to offer.” An enlightened hedonist may realise the pursued pleasures did not really bring what was most desired and the religionist may come to the understanding that their strategy will not bring eternal life after all. Without a suitable philosophy of life you will waste the one and only life you know you are going to get.

Some alternative answers to the philosophy of life question are: virtue, tranquility, happiness, connection, service, exploration, and usefulness. My suggestion to you is to find your own answer to the question “what do I want out of life?” Ultimately, your grand goal in living is the most important thing for you to discover. Understanding it will change your life – for the better.

Austria – A period of doom or boon?

Sun Dec 15, 2013 10:05 pm by Inferno

It’s been quite some time since Austria’s general elections. In fact, it’s been so long that we’re almost decided on a new government.


You see, when I last talked about Austrian politics, we weren’t sure who would win. Now we know: The moderate left party (SPÖ) won, the ÖVP came second.


Since then, I’ve had headaches every day.

First of all, the right wing party gained 3%, putting them in third place. It was really close, they already had 22.5% and only the mail votes (basically you vote by mail, preferred by Greens and ÖVP) put them down. In a surprising turn of events, the public realized that the NEOS are a viable alternative and that FRANK is full of shit.

Be that as it may, the two largest parties gained a majority vote, so they can form a coalition without any problems. Well, if they’d agree on anything, that is. Sadly, they’ve been bickering since the elections took place (late September) and haven’t really made up their mind on anything.

That is, until now. Just yesterday (12.12.2013) it was announced that all talks had succeeded and that a new government would be formed. I’ll come back to that in just a second, but I need to deal with something first.

This SPÖVP coalition (SPÖ + ÖVP, but we simply can’t think of them as separate. They’re like an old, married couple) tried to get one particular law through since 2001: A new public service law (I think that’s what they’re called?) for teachers. It’s all about how much money we’d make and how much we’d work, that sort of thing.

Now you might think that’s an easy thing to do. But then you read “trying since 2001″ and you realize: Something’s not right.
Congratulations, you’ve just taken your first step to understanding Austrian politics: If something can easily be done, Austrian politicians will choose the hard and completely crazy way.

In this case, the Teacher’s Union rebelled against the law, complaining that we’d get more work for less pay. You know, work 50 hours instead of 40, yet lose about 200k€ over a lifespan. I’m not joking, those are the official figures.

So yeah, no service law change in the last 12 years. Now this new government absolutely has to pass this law, a law I’ve been rebelling against for the past few months, if they’re to be taken seriously. (Well, nobody takes them seriously any more, if there were to be a new vote, they’d lose by a landslide.)

Now in the past few months, I’ve been politically active (the first time in my life) in trying to stop this new law dead in its tracks and instead get an expert commission on the case. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into this and the final vote passes on Tuesday (17.12.2013), so I’m extra busy in organizing a demonstration (protest) and generally getting the info out there.

At our last protest, we were able to gather about 450 of us, on Monday we’re expecting a bit over 1.000 with about 20.000 protesting in all of Austria. We weren’t able in mobilizing the masses of Teachers because our Union did not approve.

In any case, that’s what I’m currently involved with.



Now, I said that I’d talk about this formation of government thing. Basically, they’re supposed to cut spending, increase revenues, the usual. One way to cut spending inside the government was to get rid of ministries. The two parties decided on two ministries.

If, by now, you know anything about Austria, you’ll know that they didn’t uphold the deal. All ministries will remain. Well, that’s not exactly true: They will change, but they will still be there. For example, a new ministry for “Youth and Family” will be created, but to keep the balance, another one has to be integrated into an existing ministry.

It makes absolute sense to merge the ministry for education (BM:UKK) with the ministry for science (BM:WF) (in charge of Universities). The BM:WF creates teachers training and generally handles tertiary education, the BM:UKK deals with pre-tertiary education. The two fit perfectly.

If you vote “answer two, they did not do that” then you receive 100 internets. Of course, the simple, logical solution did not sit well with Austrian politicians, so they decided to merge the BM:WF with a different ministry and they kicked out the minister (currently the most liked minister we have) as they did so.

Now here’s the question: Which ministry would they merge the BM:WF with? Possibly the ministry for transport, innovation and technology (BM:VIT). Then again, that would be too obvious. It could be merged with the ministry for health (BM:G), responsible for hospitals and doctors training. No, still too obvious. It could be merged with the ministry for agriculture, forests, ecology and water management (BM:LFUW), but even that is too logical still.

Instead, it will be merged with the ministry for economy, formerly (formerly as of yesterday) the ministry for economy, family and youth (BM:WFJ). (Remember that the latter two are being split off to form their own ministry… Why? No idea. Because, change.)

This obviously makes no sense, if only because it will lead to further marginalization of universities and will probably lead to increased economic incentives to join a university.


So there you have it, folks: My current life laid out in front of you, with all the political ups and downs we’re currently experiencing in Austria. With any luck, we’ll successfully thwart the new law, but we’re most assuredly entering a period of troubles in Austria.

Or is this really just a ploy by the government? They want us to think we’re going down the drain so they can then jump out as our saviours. I wouldn’t put it past them, but I doubt they’re intelligent enough to pull off such a scheme.

Another ridiculous poll from the Daily Express.

Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:31 am by theyounghistorian77

According to probably the UK’s most hyperbolic newspaper on a front page published on November 1 2013, “98%” of respondents to its survey agreed with a motion that there should be a “crusade” against migrants, particularly Bulgarian and Romanian ones. A classic argumentum ad populum.   Of course what the daily express did in setting the question was to contextually load it by embedding it within a stream of highly negative information about the subject matter. The previous day, for example, the Express ran a story suggesting within it that 28 Million (emphasis on that number) Romanians and Bulgarians could be coming to our shores. Any astute observer of population statistics would immediately pick up that “28 Million” is a cumulative figure representing both the approximate populations of Romania (appx 22 Million rounded) and Bulgaria (appx 7 Million rounded) [So actually appx 29 Million, using 2012 statistics]. To suggest that all 28 or 29 Million would indeed be coming here is evidently absurd, for it would mean that there would be absolutely no Romanians and Bulgarians in, erm, Romania and Bulgaria. So why the such large number? 1) Again, tabloid sensationalism 2) Again, negative information. So that figure of 98% agreeing with the loaded question is to be sadly expected, plus the fact that only Express readers were polled anyway. If there should be a campaign against anything, it would be against conducting ridiculously biased polls like this. Of course, not that this is new to the Express anyway. Also, why the image on the front page of what appears to be an Islamic headscarf seeing that Bulgarians and Romanians are overwhelmingly Christian?

The Lord Kitchener Poster myth?

Fri Sep 06, 2013 6:09 pm by theyounghistorian77

One could perhaps expect something of an increase in news-stories about the first World war to pop-up in the run into it’s 100th anniversary. There will be the very human stories such as this from the Birmingham Mail about a Private Henry Tandey who could well have killed a wounded Hitler (and thus could have produced a very different 20th century) or this from the Daily Mail about a “Captain Robert Campbell” who was a POW in a German camp and how he was let out by the Kaiser to go see his dying mother. All very touching and interesting to read if i might add. And in addition to all that there will be the stories about individual historians that are trying their utmost (rightly or wrongly) to challenge a national consensus, for example the stories of Max Hastings’ new book which i touched upon in my last blog post which the things i said there will be subject to a critique by myself in the near future.

The following as reported by the Daily Telegraph certainly belongs in the latter camp, and there’s very little to say about it other than to point out the sheer sensationalism of the article and of the historian being reported upon here. Because according to it the Lord Kitchener poster, perhaps arguably the single most iconic army recruitment poster of either World war …. “never existed”!?

“..[N]ew research has found that no such poster was actually produced during the war and that the image was never used for official recruitment purposes. In fact, it only became popular and widely-used after the conflict ended. […] As part of his research, he [James Taylor] studied the official records of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, the body responsible for recruitment posters, in the National Archives at Kew. These documents provided details of the production of almost 200 official recruitment posters produced during the war and indicated which ones were deemed popular. The so-called ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster is absent. He also analysed thousands of photographs of street scenes and recruitment offices from the period in search of the image, again, without finding it.”

But is that true?

“Mr Taylor’s book shows how the Kitchener image did inspire similar posters, which were used, including one, which was produced by LO [London Opinion], with the word BRITONS, above the same picture of the Field Marshal pointing, with the words “wants YOU – Join Your Country’s Army!”, beneath, and the words ‘God Save The King’ printed along the bottom.”

To properly understand this one needs to have a look at both versions described in the paragraph side by side. The one on the left is the version being derided as being mythical, the one on the Right is the Kitchener poster being conceded as genuine.

Of course the way to prove that the poster on the left is a genuine poster is to find it within any old photo taken during the war but on the Internet that is not as easy to do as it sounds. Because of the modern popularity of the “poster” a “Google images” search will only turn out either with replicas such as a recent “Colman’s Mustard” advertising campaign or digitisations which is what you see on both cases above without substantial indications that what you’re looking it are taken from photos of originals. That being said i know of 2, and only 2, potential examples of the left poster. This and something akin to it appearing right at the beginning of this 1959 doc about the Great War here. I have to give credit to a good friend of mine for alerting me to these examples.

If you have any more examples of the left poster (as opposed to the Right one) in old photos, please feel free to share them. As for the rest of the Telegraph article it conveys truths that have already long been known about. The poster failed to halt a relative decline in recruitment in late 1914, and those who have seen my old poster collection thread will know the poster was later adapted by the Nazis, the Soviets, and indeed Churchill (among others) for their own propaganda purposes. So i don’t think i really have much more to say on the matter.

Creationism – Cargo Cult Science

Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:23 pm by Inferno

In a Caltech-address given in 1974, Richard Feynman coined the term “Cargo Cult Science” to describe any group of scientists who follow the external traits of being a scientist (like wearing lab coats and saying “Deoxyribonucleic acid”) but who don’t follow the rigorous scientific method (like trying not to fool yourself and publishing in the peer-reviewed literature).

There are quite a few stories about how creationism is cargo cult science. For example, the story about the Discovery Institute using a stock photo of a lab to gain scientific credibility. Or take the Creation Science Museum. Those are all good examples of cargo cult science. They follow some external traits (having a laboratory, having a museum) but none of the rigorous scientific method.

I’ll introduce you to another aspect: Peer review. A few of you will be familiar with the Discovery Institute’s list of ID peer reviewed articles. They count 50 articles in seven years (2004-2011) a lot, a “boom” even. Wow, impressive.

Some of you will know the Answers in Genesis research journal. I wrote about an article of theirs a while back, calling their article one of the “most dishonest creationist “research paper”“. They’ve got another article up, one I’ll look at in due time.

A third attempt by creationists to get peer reviewed is CreationWiki’s attempt at peer review. “No articles submitted” should tell you something. Why hilarious? Because of this quote by Chris Ashcraft: “That is the goal of peer reviews in general – to uphold the consensus position. Peer reviews are just what the phrase describes – reviews by peers. Atheists and creationists are not peers regarding theories formed from these worldviews. Only creationists can provide peer reviews of creationist views.”

There are also several others out there attempting to do the same, but we shan’t worry about them for the time being. (Nor ever, as far as I’m concerned.)

Why is peer review so important for creationists? Well, proponents of evolution (hereafter called “scientists”) have often told creationists to “put up or shut up“: Either produce peer-reviewed evidence positively indicative of magical creation or get out of our schools.

Creationists now had two options: To either try and get their articles passed through proper channels or create their own journals. The first option failed horribly so they went for number two.

In very clear terms: If creationists are unable to produce peer-reviewed articles, they will not be regarded as science. Or so they think. The problem, of course, lies not with the publications, that is to say whether there are any published or not. Nor, as Casey Luskin claims, with the quantity of the research. It lies solely with the truth and evidence of the publications. Creationists could have published only a single article and, if it were correct, that would sufficiently throw any theory into doubt. Yet creationists don’t have that silver bullet, nor do they have anything else of value. They could have millions of articles out there and still not convince anyone, simply because their articles (as I showed) are full of crap.

Creationists don’t agree, of course, and rectified their problem (not getting published enough) by simply making up their own journals. Pretty awesome logic, right? Read the link, it’s rife with hilarity. First the author suggests that peer review is ineffective anyway, then he goes on to casually mention “therefore we’ve got our own journals”. Yeah, good on ya.

Anyway, back on topic. What makes this “cargo cult science”? Well, look again at the AiG journal. Doesn’t it remind you of some other journal? I think it looks a lot like a mix between the design from Nature and Science. (I seem to remember there’s another journal that looks even more like AiG’s but I can neither find it nor claim with certainty that I’m correct on that one.) That could be a coincidence, right?

Well, consider the fact that trueorigins looks identical to talkorigins and you might not feel like it’s that much of a coincidence any more.

In conclusion:
Creationists and ID-folk alike use fancy look-alike pages to make their audience think they’re real scientists. They use “big words” (Beta-Globin Pseudogene yadda yadda) and write articles hat look like real scientific articles, so much even that one of their articles slipped into a journal some years ago. They have editors, rules for submission, peer reviewers… everything a real journal has. Except for one thing: Evidence-based articles.


Bad times bring us together

Sat Jun 22, 2013 8:17 pm by Inferno

I’m sure most people will have heard of the protests in Turkey. A friend of mine is Turkish so I always get updates, however reliable they might be, through her.

A recent message on her FB recently said the following:

Sehr geehrter Herr Ministerpräsident; heute hast du uns einen Gefallen getan, dessen du dir noch nicht bewusst bist.

Ich habe heute einen Fenerbahce Fan gesehen, der vor den Polizisten, denen du den Befehl zum Angriff gegeben hast, zu Boden gestürzt ist und dem – von einem Galatasaray Fan – auf die Beine geholfen wurde. Schüler, die ihr Brot und Wasser teilen, kurdisch- und türkischstämmige Menschen, die Hand in Hand laufen. Das habe ich heute gesehen.

Frauen, die Sie als Prostituierte bezeichnen sind mit Milch und Zitrone in der Hand, aus den Bordellen, den Verletzten zur Hilfe geeilt. Ich habe gesehen, dass Menschen, die Sie als Travestien bezeichnen, ihre Hotelzimmer für Menschen geöffnet haben, die Zuflucht suchen, Ärzte und Rechtanwälte haben ihre Telefonnummern mitgeteilt, Medizinstudenten haben Erste Hilfe geleistet.

Ich habe ältere Frauen gesehen, die Essigtücher verteilen. Händler, die ihre Netzwerksicherheitsschlüssel freigeben, Hotelbesitzer, die die Verletzten in ihre Lobby nehmen.
Das habe ich heute gesehen.

Ich habe gesehen, dass ein Fahrer der Gemeinde die Straße mit seinem Bus versperrt hat, damit ja kein Panzer eindringen kann. Apotheker, die ihre Apotheken in der Nacht öffnen habe ich gesehen.

Und sei dir sicher, heute Nacht waren nicht die Gasbomben der Grund für die Tränen in unseren Augen – es war unser Stolz !!


That’s quite the wall of text and in German too. Here’s a google-translated version with some corrections on my part:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister, today you have done us a favour, which you are not aware of yet.

Today I have seen a Fenerbahce fan who was thrown to the ground by the police, whom you have given the order to attack on the ground and said fan was raised to his feet by a Galatasaray fan. Students who share their bread and water, Kurdish and Turkish-born people who run hand in hand. I’ve seen it today.

Women who you call a prostitute with milk and lemon in hand, from the brothels, rushed to help the injured. I saw that the people you refer to as travesties, opened their hotel rooms for people seeking refuge, doctors and lawyers have posted their phone numbers, medical students have given first aid.

I have seen older women who spread vinegar cloths. Traders who share their network security key, hotel owners who take the injured in their lobby.
I’ve seen it today.

I have seen that a driver of the municipality has blocked the road with his bus, so it can not be penetrated by armour. Pharmacists who open their pharmacies in the night, I’ve seen it.

And rest assured, tonight it weren’t the gas bombs which were the reason for the tears in our eyes – it was our pride!


In itself, that’s a very nice letter sent to Mr Erdogan by Mr Akyut G.

What stands out though, at least to me, is the sharp contrast between “normal” times and “problematic” times. Generally, the football (and by that I mean soccer) fans would beat each other to a bloody pulp. The prostitutes would be shunned by large parts of the society, only to be required later on.

I don’t think this is at all unusual. For example, Germany was heavily shelled in WW2 (and in turned shelled others quite severely) but when a common enemy, the Soviet Union, was declared, other Western powers fairly quickly allied themselves with the Germans.

Yet as soon as this common enemy faded away, nationalist feelings would tend to grow and allies would once again become… well, not quite enemies, but relationships faded.

I’ll draw on one example to explain what I mean: In a recent blog post about right wing parties I introduced the Austrian party FPÖ. They’re probably the most right-wing party you can currently find in Austria. Looking at the results of national votes in Austria one can see a curious trend: With very few exceptions, the FPÖ had fewer than 10% in most counties, but in 1988, just as the fall of the Berlin Wall was imminent (as we now know in hindsight), the FPÖ suddenly made a tremendous jump in votes. (In some counties earlier, see Oberösterreich, in some a bit later)

Now there might be any number of reasons for that, but I’ll only focus on the two main reasons: In 1986, Jörg Haider took over the FPÖ, which may have caused votes to soar.
I don’t think so, however. If he were the reason for the jump, you’d have expected votes to go down after he split from the party in 2004 and after he died in 2008. The opposite is true: Though a slight dip can be seen in 2004 (after Haider created the BZÖ, the second right-wing party in Austria), the numbers rose again a few years later and the total right-wing voters consistently rose.


This leaves, in my opinion, only one conclusion, which incidentally is the second reason I said I’d mention above: Nationalism, at least in Austria, is on the rise. I think the same holds true for many other countries: The Front National (FN) in France has constantly gained votes in the presidential run since its inception in 1974. Both the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alantie (NV-A) and the Vlaams Belang (VB) have gained votes and would currently hold over 50% if they worked together. Even the British National Party (BNP), by the way the only party that Wikipedia claims is “right-wing extremist”, has gained votes, even though they currently barely reach 2%.

I think the trend is clear: Nationalism. right-wing tendencies and euro-scepticism is on the rise and with it a sort of “fight for yourself” attitude. I think that’s all fairly undeniable.

There are two questions I would like to pose:

1) What can be done to counter that movement? It seems a fair number of people who would have voted centre-right are now voting left, simply because they’re frightened by a right-wing takeover or a cooperation. (Lefties would never work with right-wingers… right?)

2) Seeing the post in the context of the above letter: Do you think it’s true that we will only fight side by side if there are common enemies, as opposed to common goals? I can’t shake the horrible feeling that there might be something to it.

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