I am currently unable to find some time to post more on cosmopolitanism. I am dividing my time between my current part-time job, and my job search as I am moving to London on 1 October. I am also looking for an accommodation. As soon as my situation is stabilised, I shall be able to post again. For the moment being, all my energy is drained by this constant invisible competition that I face each time I am writing a new job application and re-tuning my CV. Tough to join the workforce.
The state of the Iranian state
My Armenian Iranian friends tell me a lot about the state of the Iranian state — or the lack thereof. I was surprised to hear that there are no taxes in Iran, neither direct or indirect. Sounds like paradise for neo-liberals — besides the absence of liberal rights. And in return for the 0% tax rate, citizens are entitled to zero service. No social security, no social benefit, no retirement fund, no health care, nothing. All is dealt with a little hustling and help from the friends.
So where does the state gets its money from if not from tax revenues one may ask? Well, the state gets the money from state-owned companies in the industrial sector extracting oil, minerals — especially uranium — or in the primary sector. Basically the state does not care a monkey’s about the economy and how people are doing with business. What the government is interested in is what is in people’s minds and how to control it. The economy is left entirely to the private sector.
Before 1979, the situation was not so bad for Armenians and other minorities. It is only since the revolution that the new authority installed a one way type of thought and educated the people into believing in these types of dichotomies: faithful/unfaithful Muslim/non-Muslim, friend/enemy, us/them. Of course the average Joe (or in that case the average Hossein) just follows the movement and gets full of hatred without understanding much why. It is a shame I am told, since Iranians are naturally very hospitable and polite people. Not anymore since the 1979 revolution. Only educated and intelligent people are able to distance themselves from the social pressure imposed. Of course they all fly from the country as soon as possible, unfortunately. There is thus an amazing brain-drain from the country. In the long run, it will only be a piece of land inhabited by uneducated peasants, led by self-‘educated’ theologian fanatics.
Master’s thesis submited
Today I submitted my master’s thesis; three copies by snail mail — I had to choose airmail for the shortest possible delay. I guess that makes it the less environmental-friendly thesis of all. Now I am crossing my fingers for the best mark, so that I can proudly send it as a writing sample to Ph.D. applications. It was a difficult moment to let it go. The past month I just spent my time re-reading and re-reading, re-editing and re-editing my thesis in order to make sure everything was just perfect. Of course, Microsoft Office was there to screw perfection up. I had to correct plenty of small details, compatibility issues, and sloppy automated functions. After printing I still noticed a little mistake. It’s nothing really but enough to annoy the hell out of me, because it is a mistake done by a software that is clearly not as perfectionist as I am. Of course it is my own fault that I chose Ms Word to write my thesis with. I should have known better. At the beginning of the writing process I considered giving LaTeX a try, but then I figured that it would take too long to learn how to properly use it. Now, I have plenty of time, and I am definitely investing this time into digging all sorts of productivity softwares: LyX, LaTeX, BibTeX, time management tools, Linux OS, wiki, blog, web 2.0, etc.
Letting it go was a painful moment. Now I have a huge void in my daily routine. I don’t have the pleasure to sit at my computer and work on this piece of intellectual achievement. My only wish now is that this coming year passes as swiftly as possible and that I get accepted for a Ph.D. at a great university (my two best choices right now are Cambridge and the European University Institute) to continue this thesis into a dissertation. My primary concern now is to build up a convincing and competitive CV for my Ph.D. application. It is a little bit frightening because I don’t really know what truly matters for Ph.D. and grants applications. I have to get a good job in London for one year, possibly related to research for experience. I wonder if I should send some parts of my thesis as article to peer-reviewed journals. If anyone has any words of advice to give me, they will be very much appreciated.
Link to RSF’s advice for foreign journalists covering human rights situation during Beijing Games
So it seems that the next Olympic games will be a tremendous communication-information-sign-warfare. In this communication battle that history showed totalitarian regimes always win — although they do not win the war — democratic countries are most probably going to lose. Simple: most of the Western wishful-thinking amateur human rights organisations are more interested in protesting for the sake of good conscience than to actually change the situation in China and improve their lives; anyway they are powerless in this respect and all they can do is to prevent from giving the Chinese authorities any levy to control their communication about the ‘imperial West’ and boost Chinese nationalistic pride by showing e.g. images of extremists desperately trying to jump on a woman in a wheelchair to turn off the Olympic torch. On the other end, governments have decided to participate and be present, and they are very unlikely to make any action that would have a communication impact directed towards the people, which could breach the carefully planned Chinese communication. The Chinese authorities can easily cut any uncomfortable speech, as long as they have images of world leaders assisting the ceremony to show to the Chinese masses. What would be difficult to censor would be any visible sign that world leaders would wear, a bit like a big T-shirt or something protesting against human rights abuses. But this is unlikely to happen. The battle for communication with the Chinese people is lost in advance, but at least ‘we’ should have the right to know and not be the victims of censorship of ‘our’ journalists in China.
Here is a link to advices for journalists in Beijing for bypassing Chinese control of information and possible censorship to ‘our’ right of information:
Ulrich Beck: A New Cosmopolitanism is in the Air
Here is a link to an article by German sociologist Ulrich Beck published in November 2007, which is a translation of the original into English:
It is quite summing up the arguments developed in his three last books on cosmopolitanism — Power in the Global Age: A New Political Economy (2002/2006); Cosmopolitan Vision (2004/2006); ; Cosmopolitan Europe (2007) — from a sociological perspective — i.e. replacing ‘methodological nationalism’ with ‘methodological cosmopolitanism’ in order to study the ‘cosmopolitanisation’ of societies and the global relations of power at stake. This theoretical approach is based on the meta-theory of ‘reflexive modernisation’ or ‘second modernisation’ in which we live in, developed in Risk society and extended in World Risk Society: On the Search for Lost Security (1999): we have moved from industrial society and nation-states thought in the paradigm of modern rationality, to a service-based society and undefined political entities in a paradigm of reflexiv identities, socially constructed.