The Official Soundtrack of Kurdish Independence

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It looks like we’re about to have a new state on this planet soon – an independent Kurdistan. It’s not going to happen in a couple of days, but it could happen quicker than you think.

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The Iraqi Ship is sinking. Cartoon by The Economist.

Now Iraq, as a state, is falling apart already. What is known as ISIS (they have now changed their name to IS for ‘Islamic State’), has taken over a significant portion of Sunni Iraq. In the meantime, Iraqi flags are no longer flying in the northern Kurdish part of the soon-to-be-excountry. The Kurds who have had a semi-autonomous region to begin with want a referendum soon.

With Turkey in favor of Kurdish independence (which was pretty unlikely for a very long time), Israel and the US will follow giving support, too. By the look and smell of it, Kurdistan will be a reality, sooner than we all expected.
As a Kurd myself, I am extremely thrilled about these new happenings. To think that the world is now collectively debating Kurdish sovereignty, this was on top of most Kurd’s wish lists for too many Christmases.

Speaking of lists…

Watching and reading the news lately for me feels like a Thriller, a dramedy (drama coupled with comedy) and sometimes a romance, too. If I were to make a movie out of what’s been happening, to explain to you clearly, Westerner, what really is happening, this is the track list of the official soundtrack of Kurdish Independence. I put it into a Spotify list for you to subscribe to it.

Let me justify my selection by commenting on the tracklist:

(Hint: I took lyrics that fit and put them in Italic or in direct speech)

1) Destiny’s Child – Bills, Bills, Bills: Kurdistan realized, it needs someone to help it out, instead of a scrub like Maliki, who don’t know what a man’s about.

2) Frank Ocean – Bad Religion: ISIS came, wanted to convince the Kurds, they’re the better custodians of the Kurdish land: “Allahu Akbar”. Kurdistan said: “Don’t curse me.”

3) Disclosure – When a Fire Starts to Burn: Kurds know how to play this game because “when a fire starts to burn, right, and it starts to spread, she gon’ bring that attitude home”. They know, they have to be quick now.

4) Jazmine Sullivan – 10 Seconds: So, the Kurds started to really become determined and angry at what was happening all of a sudden. It was enough. Enough was enough. “You really should look for an exit, ’cause you’re running out of time. You know that I can get crazy. When I go off, ain’t nobody to tame me”, Barzani told to Maliki.

5) Eamon – F**k it: Barzani continues, “F**k what I said, it don’t mean shit now. F**k the presents, might as well throw ’em out.”

6) Medina – Lonely: “I guess I have to admit, I was afraid to end up lonely”, he says and wishes for him to feel lonely from now on.

7) David Guetta – Love is Gone: It really is gone. Nobody can’t “deny that simple truth” now.

8) Gotye feat. Kimbra – Somebody That I used to Know: The whole world is now remembering how it was like when Iraq was still together. A real couple. Political commenters were kind of addicted to a “certain kind of sadness”. With the recent numbers of death due to terrorist attacks in Iraq, everybody’s kind of “glad that it is over”.

9) Puff Daddy feat. Rick Ross & French Montana – Big Homie: They’re all glad because Kurdistan is kind of a ‘big homie’. You can go to any hood, everyone now knows about Kurdistan because they be calling all the shots.

10) Kanye West – Stronger: Kurdistan knows it really is stronger. After all what’s happened, all the political oppression, they can’t wait for this referendum to happen soon enough. Everyone’s chanting: “I need you to hurry up now, ’cause I can’t wait much longer.”

11) Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop: Because then, they can do whatever they want with the oil money they sit on. “This is our house, this is our rules and we can’t stop”, Barzani reassures.

12) Christina Aguilera – Fighter: Really, ISIS, Kurds are thankful for the opportunity you gave them. After all what you pulled them through, you think the Peshmergas would despise you, but in the end, you made Kurds so much stronger, you made them work a little bit harder and a little bit faster in pursuing independence.

13) Nas – I Can: “I know I can be what I wanna be if I work hard at it, I’ll be where I wanna be”, this mantra has almost been forgotten in the Kurdish political arena. All these years, they’ve been trying to move towards independence but unfortunately efforts didn’t result in successes. Now, things look different and Nas was right after all.

14) Valerie June – Wanna Be On Your Mind: Now, Kurdistan wants to be independent, be its own state. And to the international community it sings: “Wanna be on your mind, stay there all the time, you can call my name!” And the name is Kurdistan.

Here is the complete Spotify list, enjoy!

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Hobby: Critical Thinking

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More than a month ago, I created a Facebook page called “Dinge, die ein Politikstudent nicht sagt” (>3 500 fans), following the example of its successful English Version “Things Politics students don’t say” (>6 000 fans).

Among the most successful posts have been following posts:

The money is in studying Politics, you end up poor if you do Economics.

I have finally found a simple definition of politics that everyone can agree on!

or my favourite

My parents were so happy when I studied this instead of law.

As it is with all things, they’re funniest when they’re true. To anyone who has just finished his A-Levels, look for these pages on Facebook, relevant to your desired program. They will tell you more about your next three years in college studying – let’s say – politics than any student counselor.

When I first started studying Politics back in 2009, Facebook was not as popular in Germany as it is today. As there was nobody to truly tell me how it would be like to study what I had always had an interest in, I was left with my intuition, people’s opinions and experiences about studying Politics and my parents’ disapproval.

I dived in naively, not knowing the relatively unstable job market for political scientists-to-be. While it is true that most political scientists find Jobs within federal governments, think tanks, nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, political lobbying groups, and labor organizations. Now, three years later, I cannot stress enough that getting a job is highly dependent on one’s own efforts and luck to become a good job candidate.

I now understood why my parents were not particularly keen on seeing me sign up for three, and most likely, five years of studying Political Science.

But 2011 changed everything.

In 2011 within just a few months, “pretty stable” regimes collapsed, Japan’s nuclear catastrophe irreversibly changed Germany’s energy policy and Denmark returned to its infamous border controls. Nothing seemed safe, everything was unpredictable. Questions were asked, answers were needed. The more complex the news, the more necessary became those who could explain them: political scientists turned into overnight celebrities. What they were taught are what they can do best: organize chaos, explain mysteries, foresee hindrance. Explain the world.

Luckily, my parents now, too, understand.

Poison Penmanship and Politics: Twitter and The Armchair Activist

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The ever growing number of online freedom fighters has been an issue since the advent of the notorious Kony campaign by Invisible Children. At first impression, you must be wondering why it would even be an issue. Why would the increase in conscious citizens using Twitter to tackle real world issues be an issue? Romance.

Freedom fighting has often been romanticised as something heroic and courageous, filled with grit and bloodshed, something noble. The camaraderie, the union of men and women bound by oppression and fighting for a single ideal, freedom. Now this may be a cinematic description of what the Syrian rebels or PKK soldiers may be doing but nonetheless it paints a picture that does not exist. Now I do not doubt nor am I talking ill of those around the world in these political positions – however the fusion of the Internet and the romance of anti-establishment has created a new battleground for these online Guevara-influenced guerillas.

Social media was at the forefront of the Arab Spring and the ones I speak of bear no resemblance to them. I am talking about those who tweet excerpts of The 48 Laws of Power, nationalistic views and the odd picture of Karl Marx or Fidel Castro smoking a cigar with an abstract comment like “the ashes fall like my comrades in battle”. For the readers who get the impression I am a right wing nut with a disdain for anything red or left – no, I am quite the opposite. I was born and bred in London to Kurdish refugee parents. I’ve been submerged in politics, completely out of my control, since I can remember. Now rather than parade what I believe in and what I have learnt, the point I am making is that these armchair activists take themselves too seriously and honestly believe they are waging a necessary war via the Internet.

One click of a hashtag on Twitter and you are sent into a warzone of regurgitated facts and angry polemicists seemingly trying to build a nation with 140 characters. The romance of it attracts the superficial ones. Some do like being oppressed, most may not know it but they are driven by it, they like fighting for a cause and without it, feel redundant. So what do they do? They fight fire with fire. An endless war that they initially tried to end by taking up arms online and as a result they unknowingly become a victim of their own circumstance. The oppressed and oppressors are no different in this case, just two sides of the same coin. For people who are supposed to believe in the welfare of mankind and basic human rights, they are very quick to incite violence on their oppressors or those who disagree with them.

Now I get the same response over and over: “They’re raising awareness, it counts for something”. Yes it does but where does awareness end and action begin? The internet is a great tool and a great tool must be utilised, it is not intended to just add ease. It is easy to tweet a 140 character war cry from your armchair. However, I am not suggesting you get the next flight to Tibet and spearhead an independence movement. My intention is for you to be critical of superficial tendencies that get in the way of something so integral as peace and safety for your neighbour.

There is an undeniable romantic appeal towards freedom fighters and anti-establishment. As a result, people become so concerned with the supposed flashy and glamourous life of a guerilla. They do not act like thinkers and builders on Twitter. They act like the very same soldiers they “fight” against. Thus the internet is another battlefield and everyone is equipped with weapons ranging from Twitter to Facebook. People need to understand that the revolution will not be Youtube-d. Actually, it already has.

The Paris Of The Middle East

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In the period after World War II a number of artists emerged in Beirut, a fulcrum between oriental and occidental, most famously Fairuz, Sabah, Wadih El Safi, Majida El Roumi, Nasi Shemseddine, Ziad Rahbani and Marcel Khalifa.

Since then, Lebanese music has established itself as a symbol and leader of Arabic music. Today’s stars such as Najwa Karam, Diana Haddad, Nancy Ajram, Haifa Wehbe, Wael Kfoury, Assi El Helani, Fadhel Shaker and Elissa have become household names in many countries around the world.

But when exploring a country’s music, attention must not only be paid to its singers but also to its instruments. Lebanon’s traditional music incorporates the deep and mellow sounds of the Oud, the beautifully decorated Derbakki (a kind of drum also known as the Tabla) and the Deff (also known as the Riqq, corresponding to the English tambourine).

But if you really want to know all about Lebanese music, you will need to dance. Dabke is the national dance and the Lebanese people take particular pride in their skills in dabke dancing. Comparable to the Irish step dance or the Greek Hassapiko, songs such as Nasri Shemseddine’s ‘Ala Ali El Dar’ have the perfect beat.

Wadih El-Safi’s and Sabah’s songs had distinct nationalist tones, reflecting the fact that many Lebanese were among the first Arab nationalists, particularly within the field of music. Mohammed Falafel, a servant of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, composed songs that became the anthems of many Arabic nations. From the very beginning, nationalism and music have been intertwined in Lebanon – the Rahbani Brothers and Fairuz are two other acts that should be mentioned here.

Fairuz is one of the most famous Lebanese singers.

After World War I, Lebanon was occupied by France until 1946. Following independence, many Lebanese artists emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, carrying on a tradition that was born under the French mandate. Mixing Western and Oriental music styles and instruments, the Rahbani Brothers popularized local folk music and made Lebanese music a highly distinguishable and unique genre.

In the early 1970s, Fairuz also performed more Western songs, with lyrics that were closer to European traditions such as ‘Habaytak Bi-Sayf‘ (which means ‘I loved you in Summer’), which catapulted her to fame in the West. Another favourite is Samira Tawfik’s ‘Balla Tsoubou Hal Kahwa‘, which is literally about drinking coffee and adding more cardamom to it. The 70s not only produced these gems but also singers, if you will, like the Bandaly Family with their infamous ‘Do you love me?‘. Bear in mind that this was shortly before the Lebanese Civil War in 1975 began.

Mashrou’ Leila make Arabic alternative music.

In the landscape of post-civil war Beirut, there was a vacuum that needed to be filled, and around 1993, peace began to feel like a possibility for the first generation of post-war youth who were eager for change. Lebanon is surely not stuck in its past and it is thus one of the few Arabic countries which has an actual alternative genre to its rich traditional music, with artists such as the rappers Ashekman or Rayess Bek and alternative bands like Mashrou’ Leila or Youmna Saba. Seminal electro-Arabic fusion bands such as Soap Kills are considered to be the voice of an entire generation. Sounds derived from the production influences of Massive Attack and Portishead, Beirutian music has always been interpreted anew.

But Beirut is a complicated place. On July 12th 2006, Israel launched an offensive attack. After 33 days of heavy bombardment, Beirut’s alternative scene suffered greatly. Its political instability however is not characteristic of its population. Not only did Lebanese music never cease to exist, but it was always subject to experimentation and innovation. Unlike in many countries of the West, where there always has been a clear line between music and politics, when in Beirut, one finds the two intertwined. Maybe this is the only place where musicologists also have to be good historians too.

This article has originally been written for Your Middle East. Here is the link to the original article.

Why I Love Studying Political Science

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My job and interest require me to read a lot on Iraq. As the 10th anniversary of the war came and went, concluding, apologetic and criticising articles, essays, opinions and let’s-take-a-look-at-what-we’ve-done-heres dominated the internet press. I read so many of them, I’d dare to say that I read them all.

Like Jennifer Rubin, I was surprised by the lack of effort on the part of those who backed the Iraq War to defend it, but I was probably more baffled by the amount of confidence with which the authors answered the most interesting question of the last decade: “Was it worth it?”

A general view of Firdous Square at the site of an Associated Press photograph taken by Jerome Delay. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

4 400 Americans died while the Iraq Body Count documented Iraqi Civilian deaths up to 122 326 until now. But does this answer the question? It would have maybe, if the world didn’t wage wars in the first place. We did and that means, we expect death. Anti-war protestors are rarely represented in a government that is prone to waging wars. They are more likely to be thought of as endlessly bickering about petty and trivial questions such as “Do we really need violence?”

But if our conscience doesn’t have an answer, what can possibly tell us if we’ve done right or wrong? How do we measure its worth – the success of a war?

We measure success by our own motives, more concretely: we compare the current outcome to goals which we’ve set at the very starting point and then we take a look at how similar they are. A lot of people waged the Iraq War and they had many motives, too. Some were known, others not so much. But that is collateral, in this post. To fully grasp the responses to the 10th anniversary, I took the liberty to divide them into two motives groups: (1) Bush administration and defenders and (2) Bush administration critics.

Group (1), as Rubin already stated, was surprisingly silent. You might ask, what could they possibly say?

Saddam Is Here, Jamal Penjweny 2010, http://www.jamalpenjweny.com

Group (2) would probably argue, group (1) had a lot to say back then and no time to answer to accusations of mendacity. Bush administration critics love to criticise not only the entire government and most of its officials. The entire society is to be blamed here, too. Because, yes, back then, willingness to resist the stampede for war was dire and the public debate was practically non-existent. There is a lot to be criticised, indeed. Iraq was a strategic disaster, it was a financial disaster, and for far too many it was a human and humanitarian disaster.  Yes, yes, yes, the intelligence was faulty, the pundit class failed, Judith Miller was wrong, and the New York Times screwed up.  In short, a lot of  “I supported the Iraq war, and I’m sorry.”  and “Look at that mess”.  (Even though not everyone thought invading Iraq was a good idea. In September 2002, thirty-three senior scholars who specialize in security affairs published a quarter-page ad on the New York Times op-ed page, declaring, “War with Iraq is Not in America’s National Interest.” (You can read the original ad here. Walt and Mearsheimer also put out a Foreign Policy piece against the war in January 2003.)

Critics certainly outweigh the defenders, that means, the war must have been wrong, right?

I don’t know. I was born in Iraq, I grew up there until I was ten, and I still have family left in the northern autonomous region, Kurdistan. I can’t tell you if it was worth it, unnecessary or – especially because I’m Kurdish – an act of liberation or not. Maybe I’m speechless because I don’t think wars are ever worth it, necessary or liberating, because I had no authority, power or enough information to wage this war, on any side of the equation, and unlike authors of all the articles I gave you to read, I didn’t have a motive. In my four years of studying Political Science, I found it troubling that so many people can have such big opinions, regardless of their expertise. But this is exactly why I loved studying it so meticulously: reading the news is like reading the psychology of politics.

Poems on War

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by KARAM KURDA

Natural Phenomena 

In the beginning,

It was sticks and stones breaking bones but soon enough we grew smarter,

Like sultry whores we taught the bow to ejaculate the arrow,

Discarding it as soon as the prints on our fingers learnt to tread artfully, doing the danse macabre back and forth, along the worn metal trigger

All for the dirt beneath the fingernails,

The moon grimaces and the stars blink uncontrollably looking at the state of nature in nation states from trebuchets to torture,

Hearing the bugle and drums outplay each other in unison, the beat muting hearts,

The dead buried on top of the dead leaving debris and dust to be stored upon forgotten men of forgotten ages with forgotten names from forgotten battles,

Did it really matter?

Was it really worth it?

Does THAT even matter?

As the gas erodes the organs and the mouth froths crying its ghastly tears horrified at the pungent taste of extermination,

The broth of war boiling in passions of rage burning the base of humanity’s melting pot, spurts of blood and whisky, dripping out of the exit wound leaving mother Earth to guzzle it down as we do the wine,

Disease intruding on the ligaments of the Land slowly shredding our bonds and creating disability where once moved unity,

As the heart surrenders and the brain makes it final defiant stand,

The spears of thought stabbing at our soul,

All that could of been,

Never to be,

Because of old men and new desires.

Playtime

The brain’s vile streak surrounded by white marble pillars erected in its honour,

Is this is what it means to be living?

The sea goes only as far as the shore and I’m sure if it had the chance it would drown the lakes that separated from its idea of unity,

I see beauty in the world only as an absence of evil…

Ask yourself what if right at the start our sin wasn’t forgiven?

That the sadistic demon of fire sought not to banish the existence of our two curious ancestors and torture two spirits endlessly but an eternity of souls for eternity

That we bred, and with it burnt bread, birthing brutality and bloodshed as Beezlebubs backyard bloated,

The pendulum of life thwacking upon you like the swing set would, with all the force and urgency of the vitality of youth bringing us

To our knees,

As it first splits the skin,

the fresh blood oozing gently onto the scraped surroundings of starved white pores and the physique trembles uncontrollably welcoming our first experience of misery,

With stumbling uncertainty we back onto the merry-go-round of life tortured & terrorised in a trail of routine,

vomiting whatever we can sacrifice to present our presence,

so we are remembered,

Dizzy, we wander aimlessly with Few flinging themselves onto the climbing frame  imprinting their fingerprints as hard as they can, gripping onto trivialities forgetting Life beneath them,

Then they fall,

Body on concrete,

Bones crunching and joints popping,

They fall,

All being privy to the irony of the slide as we climb time only to regress lower  and lower,

What if this was already hell?

and because it’s not pitiful pits of lava where pins pierce the eyes and the charred tongue becomes a blind palate in the toothless mouth leaving only the ears to be serenaded by an orchestra of wails and shrieks,

Is because Lucifer’s most coveted virtue is sloth and all other traits are pygmies in comparison to the magnificence of this one,

As he warms up singing holes in the ozone layer in what to him is foreplay,

An intricate game pulling the strings of his most rotten toys,

Wetting our lips with the brandy so we  slowly sink softly deeper into the lullaby of the last rites

Soon to be students in his class of Scholomance,

What if,

This has always been,

And will always be,

The Devil’s Playground.

Why memoirs are no autobiographies

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Studying politics ruins reading books for you because just about anything has to be interpreted in the light of the social and political circumstances of the surroundings.

One of the deficits of research on interwar Iraq, for example, is that most studies rely on records in Western, mainly British and American, and also a few German and Italian archives. Why? Not because Iraqis didn’t know or didn’t have the time to write, it is because Middle Eastern memoir literature is doubted to have the same interpretative character as autobiographies in the West. (Thanks to Edward Said for this ugly orientalism.)

It is self-evident that the information from personal memories cannot be taken at face value, which holds true for both Western and Middle Eastern memories. Literary studies teach readers to distinguish clearly between the author, the narrator, and the subject of narration. The author and the reader enter a pact, a ‘let’s pretend’, in order to provide the illusion of confidence in the information given. Hence, autobiographies and, less obviously, memoirs remain a construct.

They are essentially narratives with no direct claim to “truth”. Every statement by an autobiographer is made in a framework of contemporary discourse and has to be interpreted, as I said, in the light of the social and political circumstances of the surroundings. Many factors such as age, new experiences, and the confrontation with new socio-political demands make the individual filter, reassemble, and adapt remembered images according to “modern” requirements. Memoirs serve to explain the course of events up to the “now”-time, in an apologetic and affirmative manner. Shared memories create identities, and vice versa, adopted identities shape, if not even create, memories. As far as individual memories of incidents are concerned, they tell more about the quality of experience rather than about facts. The emphasis on specific topics, the narrative structure, as well as the occurrence of allusions and associations give hints at the perceived importance of the impression left by a certain experience at a certain time. Memoirs are written in the light of what happened afterward rather than of what happened before. Hence, the single account mirrors the whole. Furthermore, autobiographers can follow a didactical intention which is implicit in the process of singling out one’s own life to be worthwhile for public inspection: to set any sort of example. In the light of these assessments, it is hard to classify which of the texts treated in any kind of study on a subject, or even for yourself, would be a memoir and which would be a full-fledged autobiography with a high self-reflective value.

This classification is extremely important as it sometimes decides on a nation’s image to people not reading its own national literature but rely on international authors and reporters to give them a full view on things and positions.

There have been some grave decisions made on nation’s images throughout human history. Because there are not enough English books written by different perspectives. I call that ‘bad marketing’ for each nation. Let’s continue with our example:

Iraq has forever been linked with totalitarianism throughout the Nazi period in Germany. And this grave, very very bad image was very hard to rebut since ‘all’ research alluded to its truth. With Western media to draw conclusions only from Western authors, it is particularly difficult for anyone interested to find out about the ‘truth’, or the other sides of the story, as I call it.

What is fact though, is that Arabs, here: Iraqis were pro-fascist. In the Iraqi debate, images of leadership, references to a mythical past and subordination of the individual sounded quite fascist to British and US beholders in the wider framework of suspicions about a spread of fascism. For instance, the US Ambassador Knabenshue back then described a youth rally in January 1939 and reported home that the new Minister of Education, Salih Jabr, had given a speech ‘from a platform surrounded by microphones and with ‘other trappings familar to similar meetings in Germany and Italy.'” This quote in itself has no information value about Jabr’s intentions in the use of these signs or about the meaning that the audience attributed to the scenery. The quote only indicates that the event reminded Knabenshue of fascist practices. Nevertheless, quotes like this were used to prove that Iraqi Arab nationalism of the time was close to Nazism – when in fact, Germany was only one point of reference among many, many others in the nationalists’ discourse.

Also, what was their nationalist discourse for? They were pro-fascist to gain anti-imperialist support from their enemy'(Britain had occupied Iraq in that time)’s enemy (Germany & Italy). For them, being pro-fascist was a fashion, and their ideological commitment was superficial. But you don’t hear about these things, usually. Not if you don’t dig deep enough, that is.

If you study politics, history, sociology, it is imperative to take a look at the second narrative, always. The way knowledge is ordered and put into a hierarchy is ridiculous business, and I shall write about that in my next post.

But know this:

There is always another side to everything.

On how to read a newspaper, book, article or magazine (Part 2)

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Last time, I promised to tell you what a ‘theory’ is. For me to successfully do that, I need you to do as I say:

Imagine a theory to be a machine, one that looks complicated from the outside. For it to work, it requires not more than 3 very important body parts that each serve a specified purpose along the process of creating ‘information’:

Process 1: Theories are perceptional filters

Perceptional filters do awesome, yet dangerous things. From amid the sea of endless information on how things progress, they pick out those that they deem worthy – hence they evaluate what’s relevant and what is less relevant and thus not relevant enough to mention. The latter type of information vanishes into thin air forever – if nobody decides to pay attention to it ever again.

Process 2: Theories use cognitive frames

While we’re at filtering out ‘relevant’ data, why not put them together as we wish and order them ‘right’?

Process 3: Theories are conceptual schemata

And last but not least, theories wrap their information up neatly into a scheme full of conceptual categories and analytical terms.

At the end of this process of creating ‘information’, a theory always has the intention of wanting to explain everything in the way of attributing reasons for specific outcomes. If A is, B is, too. If A is not, B will not follow, et cetera.
After all, a theory is not a good theory if it can’t explain right, meaning if it can’t select relevant information and put them together in a context so as to explain you the world. So, you see, a theory only explains the only world that it believes to be worthy of explaining to you.

Up until now, it has only been about the theory of theories and I admit: it must have been a bit boring. If you stayed until now and you’re reading this, I’ll give you a really delicious cookie, umm, example: The second half of the 19th century, a lot of ‘academics’ decided it was relevant to explain why societies in Africa and Asia never stopped waging wars. They came to the conclusion, or rather their theory led them to the conclusion that peace could only be reached if local despots were eliminated and elite ‘civilized.’ Rudyard Kipling, an author and a big fan of British imperialism, said one is even forced to ‘savage wars of peace’ to help these countries to be freed from despots and thieves. It is a peculiarly Western thing to believe in certain necessities that urge for a Western call for action.

Not only did this example show you that a very neutral assertion (“They wage wars in Africa and Asia.”) led to a normative conclusion with a call for action (“We must free them.”), it also showed you that it can serve as a relatively good justification to wage another war, only this time it is waged for peace, and not for… whatever these crazy Africans and Asians are waging wars for.

Where do theories come from?

Knowing this now leads us to one important question: if theories can have an impact on political decisions such as waging wars against another people, who is it that creates theories?

It would be naive to assume theories and their assumptions and filters have always been there. Because they have not always been there. They must come from somewhere in order to exist. And it is this question that decides everything: they either come from a society that has passed on its view on life and especially politics to the next generation, and/or from the contemporary dominant group of influences around the world. So, let me accentuate the necessary steps to my soon-to-come revolutionary statement: every information is based on a theory, every theory is based on a certain conviction – both lead to the conclusion that knowledge is socially constructed and dependent.

5 tips on how to read: 

This is hard to swallow but in order for you not to become paranoid while reading, I’ll tell you my top 5 of tips on how to read a newspaper, books, articles or magazines from now on:

1 ) You must pay attention to who has written the particular piece that you are reading: find as much information as you can to make sure you know who you are lending an ear to – and quite possibly, who you are letting to influence you.

I was a TIME magazine subscriber for many, many years and at first, the first 4-6 months of my subscription, I found every article, every author, every cover page insanely intelligent. While there surely are brilliant freelance journalists contributing to TIME every now and then, after a while I changed my approach to reading, became much more critical and even began criticising some authors’ entire school of thought. What I essentially did was to create a profile of each author not just to get to know his or her respective viewpoints on all subjects imaginable but also to be able to understand them. Yes, I stalked them – for it is not enough to just read an author’s biography. Nowadays, journalists are exposed more than ever and if they decide to join Facebook and Twitter – that’s when things get interesting. Following fans/users rebut an article so harshly, that within the comment box underneath, the discussion initiated often gets more interesting than any other give-and-take at the Frankfurter School.

2 ) Read different viewpoints of the same subject. For example, if you want to know more about the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, read Alan Dershowitz and Norman Finkelstein. Read NGO reports and official government reports, and so on and so forth. It saves you a lot of headache and gives you better analytical insight into what is really going on and why it is hard to solve the conflict.

3 ) Mind the language used. Search for terms that you don’t clearly understand, or that you have heard somewhere else before. Sometimes different authors and journalists use the same term for two different things. You need to find out why they call it differently and what the word truly means in each viewpoint.

4 ) Pay attention to footnotes. Sometimes authors are kind enough and want to refer you to key discussions on the same subject.

5 ) Note his/her sources. If you are well-read in a certain subject, you can most probably evaluate an author’s sources. If you are not, look them up and see if he has presented the information in the same manner as the book he cited did. That gives clues as to how he interpreted his data and most importantly his sources – it justifies the existence of the book you’re reading.

You might not apply these tips right away. It takes practice, effort and persistence but trust me: it will enhance your reading and analyzing skills by 150%.

Happy reading!