Saturday, June 03, 2006

Germany: Clash of Civilizations Already Underway

The Germans are fast becoming politically incorrect when it comes to Islam

Europe and Islam are traveling a path that can only end in an unparalleled clash of civilizations. As much as idealists may believe a widespread clash of cultures to be impossible in our modern world of sophistication and tolerance, the facts from Germany clearly tell us conflict is brewing. A recent study commissioned by Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and performed by researchers from the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research disclosed an alarming trend in Europe's largest and most influential nation. "Experts fear new conflicts after a study published this week showed most Germans doubt the Western and Islamic worlds can peacefully coexist. Mistrust of the 3 million Muslims living in Germany appears to be growing" (Deutsche Welle, May 20).

The results of the survey are startling. Of the 1,076 Germans interviewed in early May, 83 percent of the respondents associated Islam with "fanaticism"-an increase of 8 percent from a similar poll conducted in 2004. Over 71 percent believed Islam to be "intolerant," a rise from 66 percent in 2004; 62 percent saw Islam as "backward," up from 49 percent; while 60 percent saw it as "undemocratic" (Jerusalem Post, May 24). Only 8 percent of the respondents characterized Islam as peaceful.

Perhaps most striking was that 61 percent of Germans said they believed a "clash of cultures" already existed, and 65 percent said they counted on such conflicts to worsen in the future. These results are astonishing: According to this survey, most Germans expect a future clash with Islam!

Elisabeth Noelle and Thomas Petersen, who authored the Allensbach study, characterized the results as saying, "Germans are increasingly of the opinion that a lasting, peaceful coexistence with the Islamic world will not be possible" (ibid.). This survey shows that Germans are growing fed up with the intolerant ideologies and actions of Muslims in Germany and throughout Europe.

When asked if there should be a ban on building Islamic mosques in Germany, as long as the building of churches in some Islamic states remains forbidden, 56 percent agreed. Survey results even indicated that there is growing support for ending Germany's constitutional right of freedom of religion with regard to Islam. Many Germans are growing so disgusted with Muslims, they are prepared to alter their constitution in order to curb Islamic ambition! When asked if "strict limits should be imposed on the practice of Islam in Germany to protect the country, 40 percent said they would support such moves" (Expatica, May 18).

Though intolerance of Muslims in Germany has been on the rise since the 9/11 attacks in America, it has grown much stronger recently amid a torrent of high-profile stories in the German press. "Concerns over an `honor killing' in Berlin, demands that schoolgirls be permitted to wear burkas, a surge in schoolyard violence involving Muslim immigrants, and the failure of Germany's 3 million Muslim immigrants to assimilate have deepened a `crisis of cultures'" (Jerusalem Post, op. cit.). As these events unfold, leading politicians such as Bavaria's Edmund Stoiber are suggesting bold new initiatives to solve the problem. In Germany, the dividing line between Germans and Muslims is becoming painfully clear.

That a contingent of Germany's population is intolerant of Islam is not startling. Many nations have small sectors of their population that espouse such sentiment. What is startling is that the results of the Allensbach survey suggest that anti-Islamic sentiment isn't simply confined to a narrow segment of Germany society. The majority of the German people believe a clash of civilizations is already underway.

More here


Moaning about supermarkets has taken over from expensive house prices as the favourite topic of conversation at trendy British dinner parties. To those for whom the choices of ordinary people are vulgar in the extreme, supermarkets and their cheap, varied goods have come to embody everything the bien pensants hate about modern capitalism. Hence the constant complaints that supermarkets are too successful; that they are attracting too many customers away from smaller, more expensive independent shops; and that they are squeezing their suppliers too much.

The British Left has always been hostile to big business and ignorant of economics. But Tory leaders should know better. Not David Cameron: he has jumped on to the anti-supermarket bandwagon as part of his mission to remake his party's image, which now apparently means ditching his party's traditional attachment to consumer sovereignty. Thus do the wealthy political elites of the metropolitan Right and Left make common cause against plain folk.

It is simply wrong for those rich enough to afford the expensive prices of small, independent stores and boutiques to seek to impose their lifestyle and spending choices on those who cannot afford them. Supermarkets have been one of the great forces for poverty reduction in modern times: they have done more to help struggling students and poor immigrant workers than any of Chancellor Gordon Brown's incomprehensible tax credits or patronising handouts. The poor can now clothe and feed themselves for a few pounds in Tesco and Wal-Mart. Yet those who shout most about helping the poor are also loudest in attacking the supermarkets.

Competition rightly remains intense in the British retail sector, which is why prices are falling in real terms. Around 93% of customers have access to three or more retailers within a 15 minute drive; 98% of the population has access to at least one online grocery retailer. More and more goods are available: at last count, around 41,500 lines were stocked by the four largest supermarkets, an increase of 40% over five years. Despite its increased share of the retail market, Tesco makes only 3p in profit for every pound spent in its shops, thanks to fierce competition. Most of the huge productivity gains it and other retailers have squeezed out of the international supply chain have been passed on to consumers.

Since 1987, the price of clothes is down by about half in real terms and that of food by about a fifth; cheap imports from China would have led to lower prices even in the absence of supermarkets, but Tesco and its competitors have hugely magnified the effect. Given that the poor spend far more than Mr Cameron and wealthy left-wingers on clothes and food, they have gained the most: the majority of commonly purchased products are 10% cheaper in the four largest supermarkets than in other retailers.

The constant attacks on supermarkets are a reflection not just of economic ignorance at the highest political level but of Britain's tall poppy syndrome. Tesco is one of the great success stories of modern British capitalism. Led by Sir Terry Leahy, the sort of gifted businessman in short supply in Britain, it has expanded all over the world. It is the biggest private sector employer in Britain and pays and trains its staff generously. This is not to say that Tesco is right about everything: its decision last week to cease supporting the campaign to liberalise Sunday trading is anti-choice and anti-growth. But most attacks on the company seem more inspired by jealousy and snobbery than by reason. They should cease - and politicians should grow up.



Man-hatred is their gospel

Politically correct feminists maintain that women as a class are politically oppressed by men as a class, which means that every woman is oppressed by every man. Class oppression is the ideological lens through which PC feminism views all issues.

Tammy Bruce's book "The New Thought Police" (2001) received media buzz as a former insider's expose of how PC feminists smear their intellectual opponents in an attempt to silence and discredit them. For example, Bruce described how PC feminists led a campaign of defamation against the conservative Dr. Laura Schlessinger by misrepresenting her as homophobic. Joan Garry, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was quoted as saying, "If she can't be controlled, she must be stopped."

The PC treatment of heretics within feminism has been no less brutal. Indeed, heretics are commonly reviled more than infidels. Consider Erin Pizzey. In 1971, Pizzey opened the first battered wives shelter in England, which she ran until 1982. Arguably, the Chiswick Family Rescue was the second domestic violence shelter in the world. Pizzey's book "Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear" (1974, out of print) was one of the first to explore and expose wife battering. Today, the shelter Pizzey founded denies her entry; her name does not appear in its official history.

Pizzey's 'mistake' was to diverge from THE theory of domestic violence that feminists at the time insisted dominate all discussion. She believed that men could also be the victims of domestic violence, and that women could be as violent toward their partners as men. Pizzey's views put her on a collision course with PC feminists who, according to Pizzey's own published account of events, initiated a campaign of harassment and violence against her.

Pizzey described this harassment in an article she published in the Scotsman in 1999. "Because of my opposition to the hijacking of the refuge movement, I was a target for abuse. Anywhere I spoke there was a contingent of screaming, heckling feminists waiting for me," Pizzey wrote. "Abusive telephone calls to my home, death threats and bomb scares, became a way of living for me and for my family. Finally, the bomb squad, asked me to have all my mail delivered to their head quarters." One night, the family dog was killed. Eventually, "exhausted and disillusioned," Pizzey said she went into "exile with her children and grandchildren," leaving England in 1982 to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Pizzey returned to England that same year for the book tour of her next book, "Prone to Violence," which once again ignited a violent reaction among feminists. Pizzey wrote that when she arrived in England for her book tour, she was "met with a solid wall of feminist demonstrators" carrying signs that read "ALL MEN ARE RAPISTS, ALL MEN ARE BATTERERS." "The police insisted that I have an escort all round England for my book tour," Pizzey wrote in the Scotsman.

There is some reason to believe that "Prone to Violence" has been the target of a campaign of suppression by PC feminists. According to the web site Wikepedia, in 1996 an internet search of the world libraries that can be accessed through the Library of Congress uncovered only 13 listings for the book: an astonishingly low number for a pioneering work that caused a sensation.

Why would PC feminists nearly riot over a book and, then, ignore it? Because Pizzey advanced a competing theory of domestic violence. When viewed through the PC lens of class oppression, domestic violence is not an act of violence committed by one individual against another. It is an act committed by men that must be correctly understood within the larger context of women's class oppression. "Prone to Violence" spelled out some of Pizzey's disagreements with that view.

Disagreement #1: Of the first 100 women who entered Chiswick, Pizzey found that over 60 percent were as violent or more violent than the men they were fleeing. In short, a significant percentage of the women were also batterers or otherwise active participants in the violence.

Disagreement #2: Pizzey developed the theory that many battered women were psychologically drawn to abusive relationships and they sought them out. To PC feminists, such analysis was tantamount to 'blaming the victim.'

Disagreement #3: She explained why the existing model of domestic violence shelters was ineffective. PC feminists were attempting then (and now) to secure ever greater financing for these operations. Sandra Horley, director of Chiswick in 1992, reportedly complained, "if we put across this idea that the abuse of men is as great as the abuse of women, then it could seriously affect our funding."

Pizzey may or may not have been correct; I believe she was and is. Neverthless, her book drew upon over 10 years at the Chiswick shelter during which time Pizzey dealt with some 5,000 women and children. "Prone to Violence" is an extremely early and honest overview of domestic violence from a woman with extensive experience of its daily realities. The book cried out to be taken seriously. At minimum, it deserved a thorough rebuttal from its PC feminist critics--not death threats directed at its author nor the ultimate silence it received.

Pizzey is not alone. In America, Suzanne Steinmetz -- author of the book "The Battered Husband" and a co-author of the much-cited "First National Family Violence Survey" -- experienced a similar drama. She and her children received death threats; an ACLU meeting at which she spoke received a bomb threat. The reason: her research indicated that the rate at which men were victimized by domestic violence was similar to the rate for women.

In large and small ways -- from shrill protests to the tearing down of announcements, from blocking university promotions to threats and defamation -- PC feminism has attempted to stop voices it could not control. Feminism is dying not from a backlash but from an orthodoxy that cannot tolerate real discussion...and never could.


Fair trade: the bitter aftertaste: A new film makes a timely and thought-provoking attack on an unquestioned orthodoxy of our age.

On 8 May 2006, I arranged a screening of The Bitter Aftertaste, a film shot in the UK and Ghana by first-time director Philip Thompson and a young volunteer film crew, working for the London-based development charity WORLDwrite.

The film calls into question the ability of fair trade to deliver development for poor countries. The screening was introduced by Ceri Dingle, director of WORLDwrite. For a documentary only about 20 minutes long, it provoked heated and intense debate among the 80 or so people who came to watch it. Selected for screening at the prestigious Raindance Film Festival last year, the film has attracted widespread notoriety for its criticism of one of the sacred cows of development thinking: fair trade.

Fair trade is a mechanism through which fair-trade companies try to ensure a guaranteed price to the producers of some specific primary commodities - such as cacao and coffee - regardless of price on the world market. Often, fair trade also includes the maintenance of certain labour and environmental standards. Probably like many vaguely radical, middle-class students studying development economics, I flirted with fair trade during my undergraduate days, when I could least afford it. At the time, fair trade seemed to be the natural complement to my combats and German army shirt.

My ethical consumption binge eventually wound down - partly because I just preferred Cadbury's to the bitter dark chocolate that fair trade varieties always seemed to offer. I had no great epiphany, much less any conversion to free-market principles. I was partly turned off because there was something suspect about fair trade. Everything that fair trade had going for it - the promise that you could make a difference to poor farmers just by being a normal person shopping at the supermarket - seemed to me to be insufficient. Could anyone really make a difference by putting in so little effort? I eventually admitted to myself that I had no idea what real difference fair trade made to people in the developing world.

Even after this formative experience, I was still shocked by some of the footage in The Bitter Aftertaste. I had no romantic conceptions about poverty, but I still presumed that fair-trade produce would at least come off some sort of large, socialistic cooperative farm with better productivity and happier workers. Not so with the cacao farmers in Ghana. Indeed, to the untrained eye, it was difficult to tell natural vegetation from cultivated land, let alone having giant fields filled with teams of well-organised farmers. The sight of a solitary child hacking away with a machete, bent over double to the point of appearing deformed, was shocking.

But the film crew did not merely go to see where the cacao comes from. They also investigated the place of fair-trade produce here in the UK, interviewing economic experts and systematically interrogating each of the principles of fair trade. This part of the film included some of the most astonishing footage of all - including an interview with a representative of the fair-trade movement admitting that they had no policy of introducing mechanisation on their farms. In other words, no effort was being made to plough some of those putative extra gains from fair trade back into raising the productivity of the farm workers, and offering them the possibility of getting more money for more produce.

The film also pointed out that fair-trade organisations are actively campaigning for the use of organic fertilisers, flying in the face of a Ghanaian government campaign to introduce chemical fertilisers that would increase yields. As if suddenly realising the absurdity of a no-mechanisation policy, the fair-trade official being interviewed went on to rationalise the policy, arguing that most farm workers enjoyed their job, having the opportunity to work together in their community. In this respect, the sheer unremitting drudgery of subsistence agriculture was perhaps the most overwhelming impression left by the film, and eloquently conveyed in the impassive, weary faces of the farm workers - a very different image from the usual TV fare of Africans depicted as smiling, happy-go-lucky tribesmen at one with nature.

It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that the claims of fair trade are bogus. Indeed, the very name seems a misnomer, suggesting that justice has been definitely achieved just by spending a few extra pennies that fair trade guarantees above the market price. It seems to me that, ultimately, the goal of fair trade is to tickle the ethical conscience of the genteel Western consumer, more than it is to lift primary producers out of poverty. In the discussion following the film, the point was often raised that, however limited the gains from fair trade, it certainly did not cause poverty and perhaps provided a springboard to further development. But this only begged the question of why bother with fair trade at all? As Ceri Dingle made clear, the most pernicious element of fair trade is how it lowers the horizons of development thinking overall, and thus serves to perpetuate poverty.

Instead of industrialisation, fair trade offers a concessionary, piecemeal form of advancement, while genuine social development is effectively postponed to some indefinite later date. In the process, Westerners are encouraged to see the developing world as a gigantic farm to satisfy their needs, rather than seeing the people of the developing world as individuals in their own right, with aspirations no less than any other people the world over.

The Bitter Aftertaste is a timely and thought-provoking attack on one of the unquestioned orthodoxies of the age - the idea that the isolated consumer can make a difference to poor people on the other side of the world. For this reason alone, it deserves a wide and diverse audience, so that the debate about development can be taken far beyond its current platitudes and restrictions.


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