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" creating an audience, the line around the agora also made spectating an essential part of the Greek mind. In the 5th century BCE, Cleon described the Athenians as ‘spectators of speeches’. Plato coined the word theatrokratia, ‘theatrocracy’ – of politics as spectator sport. The American philosopher John Dewey described Greek philosophy as offering a ‘spectator theory of knowledge’, in which one always stands as an ‘outside spectator’ to what is known. This spectating impulse is reflected in the birth of Greek theatre, whose early home was almost certainly the agora. It made agonistic argument – debate – central to political and philosophical life. And it informs Homer himself, who, like Hephaestus, moulds and circumscribes human existence in order that it can be witnessed – of life itself as an agora. But, most importantly, it gave birth to the idea that through a democratic process men could momentarily step outside the polis, observe it, and judge it, without stepping back across the boundary into violence itself. The ‘Greek miracle’ of the agora thus constituted a revolutionary suspension of belief: the belief that politics was necessarily held hostage to that Homeric obsession – rage."

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'Born in 1912, Milton Friedman was part of a postwar generation of business observers who departed sharply from the likes of Keynes and Young in their vision of capitalism. Harrowed by the existential struggles with communism and fascism, these individuals combined a reflexive distrust of collective intentions with economic insights that suggested such instincts were actually commercially counterproductive. Whether it was Joseph Schumpeter’s lionization of the individual entrepreneur as the agent of creative destruction and, therein, economic development; Eugene Fama’s assessment of government intervention as inimical to market efficiency; or Michael Jensen and William Meckling’s reinterpretation of the firm as nothing more than a “nexus of a set of contracting relationships among individuals,” all of these contentions served to revitalize individual self-interest as the key instrument of industrial advancement.

'On their face these proposals were no more hostile to a sense of public-spiritedness than Adam Smith’s original argument on behalf of self-interest, but the rhetoric that accompanied them often seemed to indict altruistic intentions. Consider the opening salvo of Milton Friedman’s landmark 1970 New York Times Magazine essay “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” Reflecting on what, for him, was an annoying tendency among executives to conflate commercial aims with the common good, Friedman claimed that “businessmen believe that they are defending free en­terprise when they declaim that business is not concerned ‘merely’ with profit but also with promoting desirable ‘social’ ends,” such as “providing em­ployment, eliminating discrimination, [and] avoid­ing pollution.” In fact, he said,  such businessmen were actually “preach­ing pure and unadulterated socialism” and making themselves “unwitting pup­pets of the intellectual forces” that undermine free markets and a free society.'

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Long read, reductive summary:
Decentralization CAN be furthered without shifting to a federal form of government or changing the constitution. Aside from the great procedural difficulties and demands on resources that such a change would entail, the possible results of a failed experiment with federalism are disastrous, and could even lead to the dissolution of the Philippine state.

Federalism serves the "double protection" of individual and minority rights, especially in the governance of a very large country of continental extent comprising several states with distinct cultural identities. 'No one, however, has advocated federalism as a cure for the concentration of powers per se [which is the charge hurled against "Imperial Manila"].

'The truth is that we don’t really have a fully centralized unitary government, but one with a decentralized system of local governments. Local autonomy is a constitutional policy and decentralization a constitutional mandate. Both are rights of local governments which cannot be taken away from them. ...

'Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. argues that a federal state would enable Moros to run their government according to their customs and traditions. The Constitution already provides for autonomous regions in the Cordilleras and Muslim Mindanao with recognition of the fact that the people of these regions have a different historical and cultural heritage and different economic and social structures. Autonomous regions have their own organic acts, their own government, consisting of an executive department and legislative assembly, and special courts with personal, family and property law jurisdiction. No reason has been shown why these provisions for autonomous regions are inadequate to address the Mindanao problem.

'The argument that federalization will promote local development and encourage citizen participation in government is precisely a policy argument for decentralization. In 1967 Congress enacted the Decentralization Act (R.A. No. 5185) granting “local governments greater freedom and ampler means to respond to the needs of their people and promote their prosperity and happiness and to effect a more equitable and systematic distribution of governmental powers and resources.” ... If then there is still excessive concentration of power in the central government, it is because constitutional and statutory provisions for decentralization have not been fully implemented.

'We have reduced the President’s power over local governments to “general supervision.” We need to do something similar to Congress’ powers over local legislation to implement fully the constitutional policy of local autonomy. ... In addition, the share of local governments in the internal revenue collection should be increased from 60-40, in favor of the national government, to 30-70, in favor of local governments given the increased responsibilities that they will now shoulder.

'This is not the same as federalizing the government. Power will not be granted to the local governments as independent entities but simply delegated to them as political subdivisions of the state. National policies will still be determined by the central government, but local governments will be given broad discretion to make variations to adapt them to local conditions.

'All these can be done without changing to a federal system and without having to amend or revise the Constitution, which is problematical because of controversy in the interpretation of its Amendment Clause.'

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"...far from representing the ultimate rejection of democratic ideals, fascist movements have consistently presented themselves as the democratic alternative to liberalism. ...

"Democracy is fundamentally what Gaetano Mosca called a 'political formula.' It is the claim that a certain type of political institution 'represents' the people. Liberalism, in contrast, is a set of procedures (voting, parliamentary representation, and so on).

"Now you cannot understand anything about fascist doctrine if you do not understand that their central claim was that liberalism is antidemocratic; in other words, the fascists claimed that liberal institutions cannot represent the will of the people. They further claimed that their typical institutions, particularly the party, were more effective means to represent the will of the people. So fascists were 'authoritarian democrats.'

"Unfortunately a lot of political scientists want to engage in the crypto-normative game of defining democracy. But it’s a fool’s errand, because no set of political institutions can actualize a 'political formula.' Elected officials in our contemporary oligarchies no more represent the will of the people than did the absolutist monarchs represent the will of God."

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"The word "iconic" has become positively obscene. Syria has run out of icons. Syria is a pain with no barometer for measurement. ...

"what do we exactly do with such 'iconic' images? What did we do with that other 'iconic' image of the lifeless Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, found dead by the Aegean Sea; or before it the Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Durrah, shot and killed in his father's arms; or, even before that, the raped, murdered and burned body of Iraqi girl Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi?

"The same media that brings us this 'icon' today has the attention span of a schizophrenic baboon, and by tomorrow this 'icon' will be forgotten for another. Can there even be any meaningful 'public' to form any public opinion or public pressure occasioned by such 'icons?'

"'Memory for forgetfulness', the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish called moments like this, when we are afraid of losing sight of something that must be remembered. ... But remembering it for what, for when, and towards what purpose exactly is that recollection to happen? We live a timeless cycle of normalised forgetfulness, numbed to vicious violence."

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Stuart Hall: '"authoritarian populism" and its ideological maneuvers could not be reduced to mere trickery — in fact, it operated on “genuine contradictions,” with “a rational and material core”: “Its success and effectivity does not lie in its capacity to dupe unsuspecting folk but in the way it addresses real problems, real and lived experiences, real contradictions — and yet is able to represent them within a logic of discourse which pulls them systematically into line with policies and class strategies of the Right.”'

This article (though mostly about the Birmingham School's thoughts on the rise of Margaret Thatcher) helps me make sense of Duterte's dalliance with the left and his deployment of leftist rhetoric while still predominantly espousing the same neoliberal macroeconomic policies (a few token-ish concessions notwithstanding), and reneging on his supposedly pro-left promises (like that ceasefire with the NPA). It's a stark proposition, but I'm inclined to think that this self-proclaimed socialist president seeks not so much to advance but to neutralize and co-opt leftist opposition, traditionally the most vocal non-mainstream force that mobilizes checks and balances on state power. I can't be the only one disturbed by the lack of a strong condemnation from the left of some of Duterte's far rightist, even fascist moves. Still, my thoughts on this are inchoate, and maybe it's too early to tell whether this guy is a right authoritarian masquerading in red garb to exploit the inconsistencies of the fragmented left and Philippine society in general!

But I keep thinking of Rosa Luxemburg's experience with the SPD (and, nearer to home, the Akbayan Party): once the left is instituted with position and power in a capitalist, electoral democracy, they become invested in that system, sometimes at the cost of radical, if not even progressive, aims.

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"This tutelary theory [of neoliberalism] is a pure mathematical fiction. From the start it has been founded on a formidable abstraction. For, in the name of a narrow and strict conception of rationality as individual rationality, it brackets the economic and social conditions of rational orientations and the economic and social structures that are the condition of their application.

"To give the measure of this omission, it is enough to think just of the educational system. Education is never taken account of as such at a time when it plays a determining role in the production of goods and services as in the production of the producers themselves. From this sort of original sin, inscribed in the Walrasian myth (1) of 'pure theory', flow all of the deficiencies and faults of the discipline of economics and the fatal obstinacy with which it attaches itself to the arbitrary opposition which it induces, through its mere existence, between a properly economic logic, based on competition and efficiency, and social logic, which is subject to the rule of fairness.

"That said, this 'theory' that is desocialised and dehistoricised at its roots has, today more than ever, the means of making itself true and empirically verifiable. In effect, neoliberal discourse is not just one discourse among many. Rather, it is a 'strong discourse' - the way psychiatric discourse is in an asylum, in Erving Goffman’s analysis (2). It is so strong and so hard to combat only because it has on its side all of the forces of a world of relations of forces, a world that it contributes to making what it is. It does this most notably by orienting the economic choices of those who dominate economic relationships. It thus adds its own symbolic force to these relations of forces. In the name of this scientific programme, converted into a plan of political action, an immense political project is underway, although its status as such is denied because it appears to be purely negative. This project aims to create the conditions under which the 'theory' can be realised and can function: a programme of the methodical destruction of collectives."

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"three historical factors that are crucial to understanding the current crisis: the inherent instability of the Middle East’s artificial states; the precarious position in which U.S.-allied Arab governments have found themselves when compelled to pursue policies bitterly opposed by their own people; and American involvement in the de facto partitioning of Iraq 25 years ago, an event little remarked upon at the time — and barely more so since — that helped call into question the very legitimacy of the modern Arab nation-state."

Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart

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"Classical Greece (or at least the portions of it from which most of our surviving literature comes, particularly Athens) was fiercely egalitarian and democratic. Neither the equality nor the democracy extended to everyone – women and slaves formed two major classes of exceptions – but those who had the good fortune to be included valued their equality highly and made sure it was maintained. Men who revealed greater-than-average wealth were quickly relieved of the excess by being assigned to fund an artistic or military enterprise, and those who thought themselves better than the rest were often sent into exile. This egalitarian culture was reflected in the classical Greek language, in which adult male citizens addressed each other all in the same way – and made requests without saying ‘please’.

"This situation came to an abrupt end in the late fourth century BCE, when Greece was conquered by the Macedonian king, Philip II. Philip, his son Alexander the Great, and their successors enormously expanded the number of Greek speakers by making Greek the language of government and elite culture all over the Eastern Mediterranean. Greek speakers of the third century BCE were no more likely to live in Greece itself (as opposed to Egypt, Turkey, or the Middle East) than modern English speakers are to live in England, rather than in America, Canada, Australia, etc. But the Greek culture spread by Macedonian conquests lacked the element of democracy and equality, for it was attached to a hierarchical social system: not only a king and group of Macedonian nobles at the top, but below them a highly stratified society, often one surviving from the pre-Macedonian social structure of the conquered areas.

"In fact, third-century Greek speakers had as much chance of living in an equality-loving democratic society as modern English speakers have of living in a communist state. Instead they lived in kingdoms composed of powerful nobility, disempowered peasants, and many levels in between. It was this shift that caused Greek speakers to start saying ‘please’ to everyone except their inferiors: third-century Greek reflected the society that used it just as fifth-century Greek had reflected its own society."

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"The passing of a law and the proof of its existence is not enough to assure effective resistance to oppression. Some of the gravest violations of rights have occurred within legal frameworks. And, if that law governs a society never trained in what Michel Foucault would call 'the practice of freedom,' it is there to be enforced by force alone, and the ones thus forced will find better and better loopholes around it."


"Imaginative activism takes the trouble to imagine a text — understood as a textile, woven web rather than narrowly as a printed page — as having its own demands and prerogatives. This is why the literary is so important. The simplest teaching of literature was to grasp the vision of the writer. This was disrupted in the 1960s by the preposterous concern 'Is this book of relevance to me?' which represented a tremendous assault on the literary, a tremendous group narcissism. For literature to be meaningful it should not necessarily be of obvious relevance. That is the aesthetic challenge, to imagine that which is not immediately apparent. This can fight what is implicit in voting bloc democracy. Relevant to me, rather than flexible enough to work for others who are not like me at all. The inbuilt challenge of democracy – needing an educated, not just informed, electorate.

"I used the term 'affirmative sabotage' to gloss on the usual meaning of sabotage: the deliberate ruining of the master’s machine from the inside. Affirmative sabotage doesn’t just ruin; the idea is of entering the discourse that you are criticizing fully, so that you can turn it around from inside. The only real and effective way you can sabotage something this way is when you are working intimately within it."
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