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You Wanted Civil Society? Well, Now You´ve Got It

Blinded by the lights

Courtesy Id-iom/Flickr

This article was originally published by the openDemocracy on 30 September 2016.

Amid Russia’s conservative turn, a new brand of conservative civil society is mobilising against freedom of expression. Русский


 
Anton Belikov walks through the Direct Look exhibition, and attacks work by Sergei Loiko and Alexander Vasukovich. Video: Elena Balakireva.

On Wednesday evening, Anton Belikov, an artist and lecturer at Moscow’s Surikov Academy of Arts, walked through an exhibition of photographs documenting the war in eastern Ukraine, and threw paint over them. Having ruined and torn up the pictures as “war propaganda”, Belikov then turned to one of the photographers and the curator to say: “You wanted civil society? Well, now you’ve got it.”

These photographs by photographer Alexander Vasukovich and journalist Sergei Loiko were exhibited in Moscow’s Sakharov Center as part of the Direct Look photography prize. As a result of this attack, the Sakharov Center decided not to close the exhibition, but instead to hang posters detailing what took place on 28 September in place of the damaged works.

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´Social Cohesion´ in Deeply Divided Societies: Five Findings for Peacebuilding

Courtesy El Bingle/Flickr

This piece was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 30 August 2016.

Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo’s Olympic Gold Medal won in judo was doubly significant for her young country. First, Rio was Kosovo’s first-ever Olympics – it became controversially independent in 2008 and its Olympic Committee was not recognized until 2014 (conveniently, after the now much-maligned Sochi Winter Games); Kelmendi, already a champion in judo, carried the Kosovo flag first into the Olympic stadium. Second, by default, her gold medal was the country’s first-ever Olympic medal of any kind.

Back home, Kosovo remains deeply divided along the essentially ethnic lines that emerged during its mostly successful secessionist bid from Serbia (Kosovo’s independence is still not fully recognized, and tensions remain with a small Serb minority along with important Orthodox sites). July, for example, saw tense but mostly peaceful marches by Kosovo’s minority Serbs to holy sites.

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The Natural Selection of Ideas: Prerequisites and Implications for Politics, Philosophy and History

Courtesy Rhoni Mcfarlane/Flickr

This article was originally published by Global Policy on 4 May 2016.

Why do certain ideas and political paradigms endure while others become obsolete or are rejected?

This question has preoccupied political and philosophical scholarship for millennia. This article puts forward four conditions for the survivability of ideas. It argues that modern tools for understanding human nature, such as those offered by neuroscience, provide us with unprecedented insights about human predilections and needs. Based on these findings, we can better conceptualize why some ideas thrive while others do not and their possible implications to international relations. The human need for dignity is central to this explanation: no ideas can thrive if they do not guarantee and safeguard human dignity.

In 1859, Darwin introduced the concept of natural selection in On the Origin of Species, and J.S. Mill explored the flourishing of ideas in On Liberty. In Darwinian natural selection, features that do not contribute to the function of the individual vanish over the course of generations, as bearers of such traits lack the reproductive fitness to pass those features on to their offspring. Mill applied a similar argument to ideas: good ideas would survive the rigors of critical debate, but there were no means of discovering which ideas would endure apart from testing them. In my attempt to continue this debate, I turn to neuroscience. Advances in neuroscience and brain-imaging inform us about underlying predilections in our nature, which indicate that we will be more likely to choose and validate certain ideas over others. My task here is to unpack this premise and to do so by looking at four prerequisites for the selection of ideas.

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The Art World Fights the Islamic State’s Stolen Antiquities Industry

Courtesy Rach / Flickr

Courtesy Rach / Flickr

This article was originally published by War is Boring on 19 August 2016.

Daesh loots ancient sites for profit — and the stolen artifacts wind up on the collector’s market

The Islamic State makes millions of dollars selling looted artifacts on the black market. A few years ago, the world watched in horror as Daesh uploaded videos of its followers destroying antiquities in the name of its ultra-puritanical ideology.

The militants have since wised up. Daesh realized it could both rid itself of the influence of pre-Islamic culture and fund its caliphate at the same time. Black market trade in archaeological artifacts has become quite the industry for the terror group.

Documents seized by U.S. Army Delta Force commandos during the May raid which killed militant Abu Sayyaf Al Iraqi revealed that the group has “established an Antiquities Division with units dedicated to researching known archaeological sites, exploring new ones, and marketing antiquities,” a recent Government Accountability Office report stated.

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Talking Policy: Parag Khanna on Connectography

Facebook Connections

Facebook Connections, courtesy of Michael Coghlan/flickr

This interview transcript was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 13 May 2016.

The world is becoming more connected by the day. Whether through the Internet and social media or through increased international trade, the world today does not look the same as it did 100 years ago. According to Parag Khanna, leading global strategist and award-winning author of numerous books including his latest, Connectography, these links are only going to increase in the future. World Policy Journal spoke with Khanna to discuss the concept of connectography and what the connected future holds for politics, people, and the environment.

WORLD POLICY JOURNAL: In your new book Connectography, you suggest that the current global order is changing. How exactly is this happening, and what does the world of the future look like in your opinion?

PARAG KHANNA: Right, so, the premise is that the forces of connectivity—transportation, energy, innovations, but also capital market, cultural integration, trade, and so forth—are reshaping the meaning of geography and the extent to which political geography based at the boundaries dictate our fate versus the connective forces that make connectivity more our destiny than the geography has been for now, or up until now. And that’s the pattern that you need to take a step back and take a 5,000-year view to appreciate. So we’ve reached the sort of tipping point where that connectivity does in fact matter more than divisions. And we have so much connectivity across political borders, and yet we have so few wars along those borders. So we no longer really fight over a border. Instead we are now fighting over connectivity. But we’re also benefiting from connectivity greatly at the same time. So that’s where you get a picture of the world that’s really far more complex than what we’ve had here before.

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