Sonntag, 3. Februar 2019

Sexual Misconduct, Religion, And Culture

No boy was born to disrespect, objectify, or mistreat women. Sexist behavior is generally a taught and learned behavior. We know who is learning the behavior. However, who is teaching it?

Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Charlie Rose

We have recently been seeing an increase in powerful males being exposed and taken down in public due to various forms of sexual misconduct. The fact that some men in power are paying for the horrific things they have done to countless women is a development that we can welcome. However, for every Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, or Charlie Rose that we expose, there are countless women who have been violated; countless new Harvey Weinsteins are emerging, and countless more women are being violated as we speak.

If we want to put an end to misogyny in the long-term, we need to examine what led to its wide-spread status in the first place.

Mistreatment Of Women, A Recent History

Much of the conduct we consider unacceptable today was not recognized as a problem in the "free world" until recently. For example, marital rape was not even a concept, given that it was a woman's duty to serve her husband by making her body available to him at all times. Subsequently, many U.S. states had marital rape exemptions in their books until recently. The Violence Against Women Act was only passed in 1994 and was left to expire during the recent government shutdown. 

In other "free world" countries such as Germany, raping one's wife became punishable under the law in 1997. Similarly, until the end of the 70s, it was the legal duty of married women in Germany to "run the household." Women could only work outside of the home if they had the permission of their husbands. Women could not open a bank account without the input of a male until 1962 in Germany. Following suit with good old traditions, conservative lawmakers in the USA, to-date, are working hard to limit the choices of women and deny them critical access to health care and birth control.

Agriculture, Hoarding, And Sexual Control

Let us now discuss how women ended up being the primary targets of sexual oppression.

The main purpose of sexuality is reproducing, release of tension, and pleasure.  Let us repeat release of tension and pleasure here. Sexuality can also function to exert power over another being; an aspect of sexuality that, by the way, humans did not "invent," but took to extremes, like no other animal on the planet.

Civilization is the reflection of a constant effort to increase reproduction while suppressing pleasure. This is because civilized societies are artificial systems that are governed by rulers. They are militarized and operate through production, consumption, exchange of goods and services, and the transfer of wealth. Unlike reproduction, pleasure and release of tension do little to benefit the rulers (unless they are involved in the process themselves, of course). The higher the number of births, the better for the rulers because of the increased opportunities for economic and military exchange. Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule. However, such exceptions, too, are generally driven by the interests of the rulers. 

Efforts to control sexuality by targeting women started early, long before Christ. Records show that sexual oppression and differential treatment of women had set foot before the first civilization known to wo/mankind, in Mesopotamia. However, the emergence of the male-dominated, monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—substantially strengthened the patriarchy.

The initial targeting of women, however, started with the introduction of agriculture. After the hunter and gatherer societies, humans began to hoard, which led to the accumulation of wealth. In order to control the distribution of wealth, it became critical to identify the father of an offspring. The most viable way to do this was to control women because one could accurately identify the mother of a new-born. Therefore, efforts were made to limit the number of partners with whom a female could have sexual intercourse. From there, history took its course. The result is a highly oppressive system that became more and more exploitative and sophisticated over time.

Sexism And Science

Oppressive systems require constant attention to survive. Narratives that de-humanize and objectify arbitrary targets help minimize the amount of interference needed to keep the system going. Scientists and other highly regarded intellectuals generally deliver the much-needed narratives to justify the status-quo, as in the case of sexism. However, sexism isn't the only construct to which scientists made major contributions. Scientists have also made major contributions to racism. They claimed that human beings can be divided into different races and that some races are inferior to the others. To-date, they also claim to have discovered biological differences between men and women, particularly, as it pertains to their brains.  What they don’t tell us is, first of all, where they are finding the non-conditioned boys and girls on which to conduct their studies. Secondly, biological study of differences between men and women is based on flawed premises that there are two clearly distinguishable sexes and that each group has somewhat identical biological sex-traits because, otherwise, they cannot be studied the way scientists claim to study them. However, today, we know that that biological sex is somewhat fluid and even if a person fits into one biological category, their levels of female/male hormones can differ. Additionally, there are persons who cannot be assigned to either category altogether, e.g. because they have a combination of biological sex traits.

However, let us give the scientists the benefit of the doubt and assume that the differences they claim are true. What exactly would that change in the way we would treat an individual boy, girl, or anyone who does not fit into the two categories?

Sexual Misconduct And Religion

Throughout centuries, the clergy has played a major role in keeping the population in line, most importantly by aiding to demonize and suppress sexuality. The Catholic Church is one of the most prominent examples for this, but certainly not the only one.

After 9/11, it has become popular to cut Islam some slack when it comes to women and the Koran. Due to the anti-Muslim sentiments that emerged in the "free world" since 9/11, everyone seemed so keen to hear how progressive Islam is. Only, interpreting Islam in a progressive manner and claiming that there is one true way to interpret Islam or any other religion, is hardly an acceptable way to correct racist backlashes, because the truth remains that there is no “right” way to interpret any religion.

Nobody is qualified to tell others how to exclusively interpret the “word” of any God, but we are able to objectively claim that Islam is a male-dominated monotheistic religion. However, all three monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have the same root and tend to encourage oppression of women.

Religion is a personal matter. Everyone has the right to believe in whatever they please or interpret a religion the way they see fit, with the only limitation being that one's freedom (of religion) stops as soon as it interferes with someone else's freedom. 

Sexism And Men

Even though males historically ended up in more powerful positions, sexism affects males negatively too. After all, the purpose of sexism is to control society as a whole, not just women. Its goal is to provide a blueprint by which everyone has to live by, to limit individuals' choices and freedoms. Like women, males have little say in what roles they get assigned: the role of the provider, warrior, the one who does not show emotions, spreads his semen, mistreats women, and the long list goes on.

Sexist narratives teach us what a stereotypical man, woman, and anyone who does not fit into the two categories, is allegedly worth, and when, what we should look like, what we should do with our bodies, who we can share it with, and how we share it. 

MeToo Movement

Regardless of contrary claims, public shaming and the MeToo movement have contributed tremendously to creating an environment that discourages sexual misconduct. In the future, predators are at least going to think twice before preying on women (and men). The year 2018 will go into history as a key year for women's liberation from sexual exploitation. However, we are going to need many more 2018s before the sickness called sexism is driven out of our hearts and minds, from our homes, workplaces, mosques, churches, and synagogues, schools, and kindergartens. 

Link to Original Publication:

Sonntag, 17. Juni 2018

Naturalized Americans, No Need to Apply

...when I came to Washington DC many years ago, representatives of a federal agency told me that I could not work for them because I was a naturalized citizen; I was apparently not as trustworthy as they were…I went after the agency with everything I had; time, energy, knowledge….I put together a case that, to-date blows my mind; it was well-documented, well-researched and the analysis that I provided was one that I am immensely proud of, to-date… shortly before the turning point, a person that I knew commended me for my immense courage; realizing how big it was what I was doing—a single immigrant woman, all alone in this country, going after a major agency that violated her rights. I didn’t have any money or a lawyer. --I had the “who do you think you are" moment that Brene Brown refers to. I froze…I was suddenly overwhelmed by an unimaginable amount of fear; I dropped the case…

…to this day, dropping the case was one of the biggest regrets of my life. --I wonder why I ran into that person that particular day, had the conversation we had that led to my dropping of the case.

Today, I know that it was not the time for me to win such a major battle yet; I suspect that I had to learn many more lessons in life before winning a battle of such caliber. However, the truth is, it still bothers me to-date that I was overwhelmed by so much fear and let people who violated my rights off the hook that easily...

...there is so much more to be said about this incident, how it affected me and how my life has changed afterward, however, almost a decade later, I am still processing the event and therefore am not ready to say everything that needs to be said yet...

Montag, 28. Mai 2018

Coming to Terms with History–Germany is not “Burka”?

Germany is often praised for having “come to terms with the past.” Germans have even coined a specific term for their efforts, Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung, indicating how seriously the matter is taken. However, Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung generally only refers to coming to terms with a limited portion of German history, particularly the Holocaust, even though as it turns out, the Holocaust was not the only genocide that Germans have committed and subsequently need to come to terms with. Shortly before the Holocaust, Germans also committed a genocide against the Herero and the Nama that they have successfully concealed until recently. On the other hand, inconsistencies in dealing with two genocides occurring within such a short time apart—deliberately concealing one, while admitting the other—are not the only troubling aspect of Germany’s dealing with the past.

Lack of Protection for Minorities

Little is known about the lack of protection for minorities in Germany. In spite of the troubling past, Germany did not have anti-discrimination laws until the Das Allgemeine Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (AGG) was passed in 2006. The law was not a German initiative. It was passed in response to the standards set by the European Union (EU). [...]

For full article, please visit Daily Sabah at: 

Dienstag, 24. Oktober 2017

The State Of Israel—An llusion That Racism Can Protect From Racism

Recent clashes in Charlottesville, VA, brought to surface just how much appeal racist ideologies have to-date. They also showed how little we have learned from history. However, there is another side to racism that is less obvious and even more dangerous: racist ideologies are deeply ingrained in our everyday lives and most—if not all—of us participate in keeping racism alive. Subsequently, denial is a major aspect of racism. That is why real changes in this arena hardly ever occur.

Understanding this widely misunderstood subject, however, is not only key to understanding the current clashes in the USA, but also to many other conflicts around the world. One such conflict is the “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict. This particular conflict is a crucial example as it, among others, illustrates how easily targets of racism can become perpetrators themselves.

Racism—Economics and Power

Before discussing the racist aspects of the ideology that created the state of Israel, let us examine what racism is and what makes it such a difficult topic.

First of all, the term is difficult to define. Racism has little to do with race, ethnicity, or anything along those lines. Racism is an illogical construct, the details of which can change depending on what narrative is needed at a given time to justify (ill) actions. What is steady, however, is the way racism works: Racist narratives help overcome the natural empathy that humans have for each other. Once empathy is overcome, mistreatment of “others” can occur. Any ill actions taken against the “others” can additionally be justified as an action to protect the “in-group,” as reflected in the Israel’s right to defend itself narrative.

One of the biggest challenges of racism is that we can hardly even discuss the topic without utilizing racist concepts. Even to identify the “offenders” versus “targets” of racism, we have to create groups and “other” peoples. It is critical to remain conscious of these facts during conversations about racism. It is also critical to refrain from labeling individuals as racist, as labeling only leads to denial. The question that we have to ask ourselves is not whether someone is a racist (because most people who grow up in the systems in which humans operate possess racist notions), but rather, to what degree is one aware of this, and to what degree does one let his or her notions affect his or her actions?

Racism is a construct that primarily serves economic purposes. Therefore, it is critical to keep track of the exchange of money and power that is associated with it.

Exchange of Money and Power—Largest Military Aid to Israel Under President Obama
Israel, a country with barely 8.5 million in population, is the recipient of the highest US military aid in the world. The Memorandum of Understanding for the largest military package ever to go to Israel was signed during the administration of the Democrat and Nobel Peace Prize winner President Obama.

Israel, itself, is among the top ten of exporters of military equipment in the world. At the same time, main suppliers of weapons to Israel are USA, Germany, and Italy.

Politicians and other movers and shakers claim they want the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to end, even though they and their businesses, and other interest groups they collaborate with, are the major winners of this conflict. It doesn’t make sense—why would someone want something that is the basis of their existence to end? On the other hand, given the amount of money that is to be made, and power to be gained, who can blame the benefactors for exploiting the situation?

Zionism and Theodore Herzl’s Utopia
Israel is a state that was created on racist premises, ironically, in response to the horrors of racism that Jews had to endure over centuries. The founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, suggested creating a Judenstaat (Jewish state), a safe haven for Jews. However, creating such a state for a particular group was not only short-sighted, but also based on the racist notion that there is such a coherent, distinguishable group—the Jewish peoples. Zionists, themselves, seem not to agree what the mutual traits are that makes the group so coherent. However, this is very common in racist constructs; reasons for coherency of any alleged group are inter-exchangeable, because they are arbitrary. Therefore, traits that make Jewish people who seem to share a common religion, a coherent group, can also easily be identified as culture, nationality, race, ethnicity, and what have you.

Zionists have not been subtle about their claim that there is not only a particular group—peoples called the Jews who share a common culture and history—but also that they are superior. According to the Israel Democracy Institute, approximately two thirds of Israeli Jewish persons to-date believe that Jews are the “chosen people.” There are many attempts to rationalize this inappropriate suggestion that an almighty could have the audacity to prefer one peoples over another; however, the truth remains that such notions are similar to the perverted notions that made the persecution of the persons of Jewish belief for centuries possible. The Zionist notions of superiority are also emphasized, among others, by the group’s overall exclusivity—the opposition to “intermarrying” with other groups, and the existing hurdles for “others” to join the religion. Opposition to “intermarrying” is a common indication for one group feeling superior over another, as, among others, demonstrated in the Nuremberg Laws. However, denouncement of “intermarriage” is also common among other groups, including persons of Islamic beliefs, when they are in a more dominant position.

Besides having been created out of racist notions, the state of Israel’s existence is additionally legitimized through religious belief systems/myths in which, coincidentally, males similar to other major religions, play the main roles: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the list goes on. This legitimization additionally forces everyone to buy into a particular religious belief. Anyone has the right to believe in anything they wish; however, dominating a region because of what one believes to be true based on some religious narratives is generally not how we expect democratic countries to operate.

Given the circumstances, Zionists subsequently have to rely on fear and paranoia to keep up the status-quo in Israel. However, living in paranoia and fear is not a sustainable way of life, and it is doing disservice to one’s self.

Politicians understandably encourage fear and paranoia, because that is how they can keep the population in check and have them look up to them for solutions and protection. However, the general public should know better than to buy into such disabling narratives.

Even though religion appears to play a major role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the conflict itself is not a clash between religions, but rather stems from racist ideologies that justify mistreating the others, denying them their human rights and their human dignity.

There is a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict; however, the solution is not “political,” because politics is what created the problem in the first place. The real solution is a human solution. The good news is, politicians don’t change the world. It is the general public, their opinion, that changes the world.

The only people we have to look up to in order to resolve this conflict is the everyday individual—persons of Jewish faith, as well as Muslims, Christians, and the list goes on. Once a majority of people involved in the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict manage to see behind the perverse narratives, once a breaking point is reached, and they start dealing with their own dehumanizing attitudes, leaders will have no choice but to follow suit with appropriate actions. Unfortunately, it probably won’t take long for this conflict to be replaced by another one, but in the meantime, at least the people who suffered for too long as a result of this conflict can get a break from their pain and suffering.

However, if the general population remains conscious of what racism is about, how it is utilized to “divide and rule” common people, maybe the next conflict won’t take as many casualties, and as much pain and suffering, before it is resolved.

Alev Dudek is a German-American researcher, analyst, and writer. As an established scholar in diversity, she served on the executive board of the International Society for Diversity Management in Berlin as well as the City of Kalamazoo Community Relations Board. Alev received The National Security Education Program (NSEP) award in 2014.

Freitag, 22. September 2017

Everyday Racism: ‘Where Are You Really From?’

Humans interact with each other in strange ways, especially when they first meet: instead of exploring each other’s individuality, they face each other through the lenses of their society’s conditioned biases.

Subsequently, when two strangers meet, questions such as, “What do you do?” pop up. A question dreaded by many who, at a first encounter, don’t want to discuss a part of themselves that may have little to do with their passion, desires, or interests; or because of the value we place as a society on various lines of work; or because work is generally what we do to pay our bills, not who we are. Another first encounter question that pops up repeatedly is the focus of this post: “Where are you from?”

“Where are you from?” is a question that is asked across countries and cultures. Proponents of this question argue that it is only a means to start-up a conversation between strangers—a way to connect with each other in a light-hearted way. Most of us are so accustomed to it that we neither question the lack of literal logic, nor the everyday racism embedded in the question.

What Defines Where Someone Is From? —The Literal Challenges

Let us first explore the lack of literal logic. Has anyone ever identified what determines where someone is from? Is it supposed to be the location where someone was born, lived the longest, most recently, or identifies herself with?

Even though there is no definition of what determines where someone is from, there is a preconceived idea that everyone somehow knows what the answer is.

The question is based on the assumption that humans somehow are from fixed, easily identifiable locations, which can make anyone outside of this standard feel as if they are some sort of an outsider—somewhat “odd.” Many military children struggle with this question, as they tend to move around often and, subsequently, don’t know how to answer it. However, they are not the only ones.

Covert Racism: Where Are You Really From?

For racial and ethnic minorities, “Where are you from?” offers an additional layer of challenge. It is one of the most powerful reminders of everyday racism. Here is how the interaction often plays itself out:

When minorities tell the inquirer where they are from, the inquirer is not always satisfied with the answer, as in the case of an “Asian looking” woman who “claims” to be from San Diego. In those cases, the inquirer finds it appropriate to probe further by asking follow-up questions such as: “I mean, where are you really from?” or, “Where are you originally from?” or worse, “Where are your parents from?”—keep in mind, we are talking about strangers who just met.

Do these questions sound like a light-hearted, striking up of an innocent conversation with a stranger? Regardless of what the answer may be, there is more.

When minorities return the question to the inquirer—to the one who apparently sees him- or herself as native to the United States—they have no problem with answering, “Pittsburgh,” or “Austin.” Why the double standard? Why would someone who is allegedly from Pittsburgh be unable to accept that someone else is from a similar location? No one is from Pittsburgh unless they are Native Americans from Pittsburgh.

If we are going to play a game of where someone is from, we could even question that Native Americans too came from somewhere, some time. However, we are not going to play this game because it is ridiculous.

Minorities Also Participate in the Othering Game

It must be noted here that the inquirers are not always persons of the dominant culture. Minorities, themselves, engage in this type of interaction, as well. This makes sense because the power of racism lies in the fact that minorities buy into the narrative as much as the dominant culture does.

People who never witnessed the awkward situation that many minorities are way too familiar with may not understand just how disturbing these interactions can be. Because the awkward conversations generally do not end at this point, either, especially if the person asked—God forbid—volunteers the national origin or ethnic background information.

Then, the inquirer usually gives a sermon about how wonderful people from x, y, z country (not racist at all) are, how they have a friend from that country, or tell all about his or her recent vacation to that country. Such follow-ups clearly reflect something very crucial: the denial of the other person’s individuality. They show how the inquirer is grouping and boxing the person in front of them. What does one person “from” Spain has to do with another person from Spain? Just as much or as little as over 300 million Americans have in common with each other—or not.

Romanticizing Diversity—Narrative, Little to Do With Reality

Minorities, however, often also stress that the “Where are you from?” question is appropriate to ask, because they are proud, and want to discuss their national origin, their heritage, or what have you. They claim that those factors make up their identity.

Identifiers such as ethnicity, culture, or national origin, however, are all arbitrarily determined constructs, just like race. Contrary to wide-spread beliefs, where someone “is from” has little to do with who the person is. We are not the spices we eat. Who we are is also not determined by arbitrarily drawn political borders or by whether we drink our tea in the morning or the afternoon.

Here in the U.S., we especially tend to romanticize ethnicity and culture—traits that we conveniently mistake for diversity. “Conveniently,” because true diversity is based on a high level of individuality and requires much more effort than having an annual diversity festival at a street corner. Diversity in complex societies, such as ours, is a serious challenge—a challenge, the level of which we hardly appreciate.

Everyone has to decide for themselves how they feel about “Where are you from?” The purpose of this post is to make us question how we interact with each other on a daily basis, the questions we ask, and the answers we give.

The purpose of this post is also to make us think, if, and to what degree, we want to help others deny our individuality and humanity.

This article was originally published in The Globe Post:

Donnerstag, 23. März 2017

The Armenian Genocide—Time for Acknowledgement and Healing

"As April 24, the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide is nearing, many countries are going to take the opportunity, again, and prove their moral superiority by judging Turkey. The morally superior even include countries such as Germany that was involved in more than one genocide in the beginning of the last century. As perpetrators of the first genocide of the 20th century against the Herero in Namibia, Germany may have also had a role, the extent of which is still unclear, in the deportation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Often praised for her dealings with the Holocaust, it took Germany over 100 years to finally acknowledge the genocide against the Herero in 2015. Countries such as France, Switzerland, Slovakia, Cyprus, and Greece have so far shown their moral superiority by suppressing speech and making it a crime not to acknowledge the [Armenian] genocide while very comfortably judging Turkey for her shortcomings on freedom and democracy..."

For full article, please visit: Tikkun Daily Blog

Montag, 6. März 2017

There’s only one solution to Turkey’s ‘Kurdish problem’

The foundation of Turkey’s difficult relationship with its Kurdish minority was laid after World War I, when the Ottoman Empire was partitioned into various nation-states. The area where the Kurds, a nomadic tribe, used toroam freely was divided into what is today known as Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. There has been friction with the Kurdish minority in all four countries since.

Deconstructing myths

In Turkey, the frictions are mainly based on two factors. First is that Kurds feel betrayed. They claim that the Treaty of Sèvres promised them an independent Kurdish state. However, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, allegedly “tricked” them into fighting against the allies, either by promising Kurds their own territory or a common state. Since neither materialized, proponents to date feel that they have a right to create an independent or autonomous Kurdish state within Turkey’s borders.

The allegations against the Turkish state, however, are not entirely true. Even though the treaty included a provision for a Kurdish state, according to Article 64, the provision had many conditions, one of which would have required Turkey’s consent for a Kurdish state to materialize. Moreover, such a Kurdish state would have been put under British control. A majority of Kurds rejected this due to religious concerns. When the Turkish Nationalist Movement decided to fight the allies and the conditions of the Treaty of Sèvres, the majority of Kurds chose to fight alongside Atatürk. Three years later, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed and Turkey’s current borders were legally established.

Since the Republic of Turkey was legally established, any form of Kurdish state in Turkey — independent or otherwise — is obviously less than feasible. Yet, proponents of a Kurdish state incorrectly refer to the Treaty of Sèvres to make their case. This brings us to the second challenge: the lack of human rights in Turkey.

No one can change history. What can be changed is how minorities are treated — regardless of who they are, when people are treated with respect and dignity, and are granted full-fledged human rights, concerns about ethnicity or race become secondary, or may even vanish. After all, the purpose of constructs such as race or ethnicity is unequal treatment.

In this regard, Turkey has failed miserably — however, not only her minorities but her entire population. A constant crack-down on free speech has been on the political agenda since the establishment of the country and only continues to intensify with the increasingly autocratic direction of the current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime.

Erdoğan’s opening

After President Turgut Özal, who suddenly became ill and died in 1993, Erdoğan became in 2005 the first Turkish president to show interest in dealing with the Kurdish problem more openly. However, any signs of progress were short-lived. Although the ban on broadcasting in Kurdish was lifted in 2009 and Kurdish was finally allowed to be taught in public schools in 2012, even the attempts to grant Kurds the most basic rights have been inconsistent, as the recent crack-down on Kurdish schools and news outlets illustrates...

For full text, please visit Original article published in The Hill: