‘The Blood Stained Leveller’ By Walter Scheidel

Throughout history, plagues and wars have left greater equality in their wake. Can we get there again without bloodshed?

lame inequality on climate change. Until the end of the last Ice Age, some 12,000 years ago, our ancestors lived in small foraging groups. They moved around a lot, owned very little, and passed on even less to the next generation, sharing any windfalls on the spot. The Holocene changed all that. Rising temperatures allowed humans to settle down to farm the land and domesticate livestock; collective management of resources gave way to private property rights, and new norms made assets hereditary. Over time, the cumulative rewards of brain, brawn and luck came to separate the haves from the have-nots.

This process of stratification was reinforced by the creation of states, as political power and military muscle aided the acquisition and preservation of fortunes and privilege: more than 3,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians were well aware that ‘the king is the one at whose side wealth walks’. With the emergence of mighty empires, and as slow but steady increases in the stock of knowledge expanded economic output, the concentration of income and wealth reached previously unimaginable heights.

The principal sources of inequality have changed over time. Whereas feudal lords exploited downtrodden peasants by force and fiat, the entrepreneurs of early modern Europe relied on capital investment and market exchange to reap profits from commerce and finance. Yet overall outcomes remained the same: from Pharaonic Egypt to the Industrial Revolution, both state power and economic development generally served to widen the gap between rich and poor: both archaic forms of predation and coercion and modern market economies yielded unequal gains.

Does this mean that history has always moved in the same direction, that inequality has been going up continuously since the dawn of civilisation? A cursory look around us makes it clear that this cannot possibly be true, otherwise there would be no broad middle class or thriving consumer culture, and everything worth having might now be owned by a handful of trillionaires. Did democracy and progressive reform save us from this unenviable fate; or was it the labour movement, or mass education? All of these developments played an important role, and yet, at best, furnish only part of the answer. For inequality had already dipped steeply on several occasions, long before any of these modern breakthroughs had begun to appear.

From time to time, it turns out, history has pushed a reset button, driving down inequality in marked, if only temporary fashion. It is only by surveying its full sweep, over thousands of years, that we can discover the dynamics that drove this process. And these dynamics turn out to be very disturbing indeed: every time the gap between rich and poor shrank substantially, it did so because of traumatic, often extremely violent shocks to the established order. Catastrophic plagues, the collapse of states and, more recently, mass-mobilisation war and transformative revolution, are the only forces that ever levelled on a grand scale. No other – and less bloody – mechanisms have even come close. In a time of rising inequality, what does this imply for our own future?

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Only Mass Deportation Can Save America

( Are immigrants saving America and its identity while the native born Americans are screwing it up?  A worth reading article by Bret Stephens in NYT -f sheikh) 

In the matter of immigration, mark this conservative columnist down as strongly pro-deportation. The United States has too many people who don’t work hard, don’t believe in God, don’t contribute much to society and don’t appreciate the greatness of the American system.

They need to return whence they came.

I speak of Americans whose families have been in this country for a few generations. Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.

On point after point, America’s nonimmigrants are failing our country. Crime? A study by the Cato Institute notes that nonimmigrants are incarcerated at nearly twice the rate of illegal immigrants, and at more than three times the rate of legal ones.

Educational achievement? Just 17 percent of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search — often called the “Junior Nobel Prize” — were the children of United States-born parents. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, just 9.5 percent of graduate students in electrical engineering were nonimmigrants

Religious piety, especially of the Christian variety? More illegal immigrants identify as Christian (83 percent) than do Americans (70.6 percent), a fact right-wing immigration restrictionists might ponder as they bemoan declines in church attendance.

Business creation? Nonimmigrants start businesses at half the rate of immigrants, and accounted for fewer than half the companies started in Silicon Valley between 1995 and 2005. Overall, the share of nonimmigrant entrepreneurs fell by more than 10 percentage points between 1995 and 2008, according to a Harvard Business Review study.

Nor does the case against nonimmigrants end there. The rate of out-of-wedlock births for United States-born mothers exceeds the rate for foreign-born moms, 42 percent to 33 percent. The rate of delinquency and criminality among nonimmigrant teens considerably exceeds that of their immigrant peers. A recent report by the Sentencing Project also finds evidence that the fewer immigrants there are in a neighborhood, the likelier it is to be unsafe.

And then there’s the all-important issue of demographics. The race for the future is ultimately a race for people — healthy, working-age, fertile people — and our nonimmigrants fail us here, too. “The increase in the overall number of U.S. births, from 3.74 million in 1970 to 4.0 million in 2014, is due entirely to births to foreign-born mothers,” reports the Pew Research Center. Without these immigrant moms, the United States would be faced with the same demographic death spiral that now confronts Japan.

Bottom line: So-called real Americans are screwing up America. Maybe they should leave, so that we can replace them with new and better ones: newcomers who are more appreciative of what the United States has to offer, more ambitious for themselves and their children, and more willing to sacrifice for the future. In other words, just the kind of people we used to be — when “we” had just come off the boat.

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Islamic Enlightenment, The Struggle between faith and reason

A worth reading book reviews by Kenan Malik on three books on Islam, Christopher de Bellaigue’s The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason(Bodley Head), Cemil Aydin’s The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History (Harvard University Press) and Tariq Ramadan’s Islam: The Essentials (Pelican). It was published in the New Statesman, 9 June 2017.

The Turkish nation,’ Mehmed Ziya Gokalp wrote, ‘belongs to the Ural-Altai [language] group of peoples, to the Islamic umma, and to Western internationalism.’ Gokalp was an early-20th-century sociologist, writer, poet and political activist whose work was influential in shaping the reforms of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the key figure in the founding of modern Turkey. What is striking about Gokalp’s argument is that it stitches together three elements that today seem to many to be irreconcilable. ‘Islam’ and ‘Western internationalism’, in particular, are often seen as occupying opposite sides in a ‘clash of civilisations’.

This sense of a fundamental separation between Islam and the West has been ex- acerbated by the rise of Islamism and the emergence of Islamic State. Some Muslims are attracted to IS because of a deep loathing for the West. Many in the West regard that support as evidence for the incompatibility of Western and Islamic values. Christopher de Bellaigue’s The Islamic Enlightenment and Cemil Aydin’s The Idea of the Muslim World, in very different ways, try to explain the historical shifts that have made what once seemed necessary and rational now appear impossible and self-deluding.

The starting point of de Bellaigue’s luminous work is the oft-made claim that ‘Islam needs its Enlightenment’. De Bellaigue argues, on the contrary, that for the past two centuries, ‘Islam has been going through a pained yet exhilarating transformation – a Reformation, an Enlightenment and an Industrial Revolution all at once.’ What is distinctive about the Islamic world today, he writes, is that it is under the heel of a counter-Enlightenment, a development visible in particular through the emergence of Islamism, of which Islamic State – the group that has claimed responsibility for terror attacks in Europe, including the latest atrocities in London and Manchester – is the most grotesque expression.

The Islamic Enlightenment explores the complex relationship between Muslim-majority countries and modernity, a relationship mediated largely through its relation- ship with Europe, and more generally the West. De Bellaigue begins in three of the great cities of the Muslim world – Cairo, Istanbul and Tehran – and guides us through the transformation of their intellectual, political and social worlds in the 19th century. He is a wonderful narrator, and these chapters burst with colour and detail.

Each city and nation confronted modernity and the West in distinctive ways. However, in all cases, de Bellaigue observes, ‘The world of Islam was only ready to shed its superiority complex once its supports were revealed to be rotten.’ In Egypt, that rottenness was laid bare by Napoleon’s invasion of 1798. In the shadow of the Pyramids, as the French destroyed the Egyptian forces, ‘the fiction of Christian deference to Muslim superiority fell away’.

Napoleon brought to Egypt not only soldiers but scholars, too. In Cairo he set up the Institute of Egypt, which became the meeting point for Islam and the Enlightenment. One of the first Egyptians to visit the institute was Hasan al-Attar, who later became Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, among the most important clerics in Sunni Islam. Egypt’s ‘first modern thinker’, in de Bellaigue’s words, al-Attar was a polymath who be- came intoxicated by the learning he found at the institute. He transformed al-Azhar, one of the oldest centres of Islamic learning, into a vibrant university and encouraged a new generation of thinkers versed in Western thinking.

Most notable of this new generation was Rifa’a al-Tahtawi, another Egyptian cleric who made it his life’s work to prove that reason was compatible with Islam. After spending time in Paris, al-Tahtawi returned home in 1831 to help lead the statewide effort to modernise Egypt’s infrastructure and education. He founded the school of languages in Cairo and supervised the translation of over 2,000 foreign works into Arabic – the greatest translation movement since that of the Abbasid period, a millennium earlier. His own works introduced to a new audience Enlightenment ideas about secularism, rights and liberties.

It was not just the intellectual sphere that was upturned. The physical and social worlds were transformed, too, at a pace undreamt of in Europe. From the printing press to female graduates, from steam trains to oppositional newspapers, from the abolition of slavery to the creation of trade un- ions, in the space of a few decades in Egypt, modernity wrought changes that had taken more than a century to happen in Europe, and transformed Cairo, Istanbul and Tehran from semi-medieval markets into modern, semi-industrial cities. ‘All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned,’ Marx observed of the disorienting effect of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution in Europe. How much more so that must have seemed in Islamic states.

Inevitably there was a backlash, as there was in Europe. Yet unlike in Europe, those who promoted Enlightenment values in the Muslim world faced another problem: that of the European powers themselves. European nations may have basked in the light of the Enlightenment but they also insisted that pursuit of ideals such as liberty or democracy should not get out of hand and threaten European imperial interests.

Take Iran. In August 1906, a year-long popular struggle for democracy against the shah and his autocratic government succeeded in establishing an elected national assembly and a new constitution. The radical democrats looked to Europe for their ideals. ‘Iran must both in appearance and reality, both physically and spiritually, become Europeanised and nothing else,’ claimed one of the leading constitutionalists, Has- san Taqizadeh. But the European powers were fearful that the new, democratic Iran would no longer be a pliant creature, acting in the interest of the West. In August 1907, Britain and Russia signed an accord dividing Iran into two zones of imperial influence. Russian troops invaded Iran, dissolved parliament, and arrested and executed many deputies. Britain established a de facto col- ony in its area of influence in the south-east of the country.

Four decades later, after democracy had been restored in Iran, Western powers again intervened to destroy it. In 1951 the democratically elected Prime Minister Muhammed Mossadeq nationalised the oil industry. Britain and the United States engineered a coup d’etat that, two years later, overthrew Mossadeq and returned the shah to power – and Iran’s oil industry to Western control.

Such actions of European powers led many people in Muslim countries to see the modernising project as an imperialist imposition. It also led many to elide opposition to imperialism, and defence of the nation, with opposition to Enlightenment ideas of liberty, equality and secularism. Hence the growth of popular support for Islamist groups. The eventual consequence of Western attempts to suppress democracy in Iran was the revolution of 1978-79 – and the seizing of power by Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters.

The Islamic Enlightenment is a dazzling feat of erudition and storytelling. It is also a necessary work, challenging many of the assumptions that animate contemporary narratives about Islam. But for all that it unpicks the myths woven into the conventional narratives, de Bellaigue’s own narrative weaves in its own myths.

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“Muslims Are Strange People” By Thomas Harrington

Shared by Dr. Ehtisham

After the bombing in Manchester and the bridge attack in London, it is more clear than ever: Muslims are very strange people, inherently violent and desiring of death in a way that few of us can even begin to imagine.

The proof is there for all to see.

For example, when the US-led “international community”, under enormous pressure from pro-Zionist power brokers decided, in 1948, to award the land occupied for centuries by Palestinians to a group of Jews from Europe, and then looked the other way while those same Jews engaged in ethnic cleansing and herded the surviving Palestinians into squalid camps far from their legally-titled homes and lands, some of those Palestinians got angry and, and as part of their attempts at redress, lashed out violently at some of those Jews.

Very strange. No non-Muslim that I know would ever think of doing such a thing under similar circumstances.

In the 1950s, a charismatic Egyptian army officer named Nasser got tired of having his country and its resources, including the strategically located Suez Canal, treated as British properties on which their native presence was tolerated only insofar as they showed proper deference to the foreign Sahibs. He thus began to educate his people, including the country’s women, in secular and modern ways, and made moves to nationalize important elements of the country’s means of production thus keeping Egyptian wealth in the country for Egyptians, while at the same time encouraging Arabs in neighboring countries to do the same.

His efforts were greeted with an unprecedented campaign of demonization and, in 1956, a French, British and Israeli invasion of his country. He continued undeterred in his efforts and 11 years later, was treated, despite what you might have read and been told elsewhere, to another unprovoked attack by the Israelis.

In the wake of his death, the Western powers succeeded in finally putting a “reliable” satrap by the name of Anwar Sadat in power in that country. For the last 40 years the satrapy he institutionalized, supported by billions of dollars of bribes from the US, has systematically betrayed the most basic aspirations of the great majority of the Egyptian people. As they starved and the country’s once encouraging leap into modernity stalled, a grotesque and bullying class of parasites weaned on the pork of American “aid” grew fat and happy. Egyptian dedication to the aspirations of freedom and non-colonial dignity among other Arab nations was replaced with slavish loyalty to US, Saudi, and Israeli strategic interests.

All this has made some Egyptians feel angry and hopeless and desirous of revenge against the people from abroad who engineered this turn of events. This, of course, is very odd and aberrant, indeed, pathological behavior, something that,  were it to happen to non-Muslims, would clearly result in much different and much more peaceful and accepting  behavior.

In 1952, Iran elected a leader who had the audacious idea of using the oil that lay under the ground of his proud country to finance the well-being of its people. This obviously ridiculous idea (how could he not know that the US always has first dibs on all natural resources in the world regardless of geographical location.) resulted in a coup planned and carried out by the CIA and MI6 which ended in his overthrow and imprisonment, and the installation of a pro-US puppet with the pompous title of Shah who tortured and terrorized his own people with impunity over the next quarter century, while simultaneously spending the part of his county’s wealth that US allowed him to keep,  on himself and on  the purchase of US weapons systems.

This angered a lot of people in the country and in 1979, having seen that the route of secular reform and modernization that they had initially chosen in the wake of World War II blocked (the aforementioned overthrow of Mossadedgh in 1953), and then turned into a grotesque and ghoulish parody of itself during the reign of the Shah (1953-1979), they turned to a religiously-grounded form of resistance.

This is clearly very strange behavior, indicative of a deep cultural sickness. No other non-Muslim nation that I know of would ever think of doing such a thing.

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