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[Xmca-l] Re: Prof. Ionna Kuçuradi

And of course, as Vygotskyans, we understand the importance of symbols.

We had a discussion once before, Ulvi, about why in a country like the US there is such a large percentage of people who reject the idea of Evolution of Species, and accept the literal truth of the Biblical story of Genesis, despite the US being such a modern, educated, technological society. My answer then was that in the US, belief or not in Evolution has become an integral part of a political agenda. You have the same problem in Turkey. People do not evaluate a belief "on the basis of evidence," but rather from the standpoint of the great social projects to which they are committed.

*Andy Blunden*

Ulvi İçil wrote:
Thanks Andy. And I can say the same for Turkey: Because secular and elitist republic did not feed the masses economically and socially also, these masses could be easily directed against the bourgeois , elitist republic. And now, we live the collapse of this republic. Ulvi

2013/10/19 Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>

    the literature on this problem is sooo extensive and sooo complex
    I am almost lost in trying to respond to your message, the more so
    because the domain is so contested and aggravated.

    "Human Rights" has a long history, which I think can be traced
    back to 1776 and the "Rights of Man and the Citizen" of the
    American and French Revolution and were ensconced in the founding
    of the United Nations in 1948. Here "human rights" were raised by
    advocates of liberalism against repressive or aristocratic regimes
    governing them. But the first time I recall "human (universal)
    rights" being counterposed to culturally specific conceptions of
    right was when Ronald Reagan introduced "human rights" into the
    discourse of "free trrade" in about 1982. This move reflected the
    shared interest of US capitalists and their employees to prevent
    the importation of products of cheap labour. Singapore's Lee Kuan
    Yew responded with the idea of "Asian Rights" which he claimed
    represented cultural differences in the conception of right. (also
    "human values" and "asian values"). So we had perfectly legitimate
    conceptions promoted for self-serving reactionary motives on both
    sides of this discussion. At the same time, Reagan was arming the
    religious Mujaheddin to fight the secular government in Afghanistan.

    Your observation, that 40 years ago women in Turkey went about
    their business without wearing veils, is important. Of course,
    Turkey has had a militantly secularist government since 1922. But
    even in Cairo or Tehran, it was the same. I have seen a photograph
    of a market place in Cairo in the 1950s, filled with women doing
    their shopping, and not a veil in sight, indistinguishable from a
    market place in London. Why has this happened? I would say that
    the secular, modernist, socially progressive, nationalist
    leaderships which led the people of the Arab world in the decades
    after the Second World War, to free their countries of domination
    by Western colonialism and imperialism, unfortunately failed to
    deliver the prosperity and happiness that they had promised.
    Oddly, even though these leaders were explicitly "anti-western"
    they were seen as vehicles for modernism. After the defeat of
    Egypt in its struggle with Israel, Egypt reconciled itself with
    the West, and Sadat was seen as a representative of the West. The
    Shah of Iran would be the classic representative of this type.
    Secularism by means of the torture chamber. Even without the
    actual overthrow of the "founding fathers" who had fought the
    colonial powers, these regimes became representatives of "the
    West"; secularism became identified with foreign domination, and
    the cause of people's misery.

    This spread from the Middle East to the European and American
    metropolis, where it intersected with the discourse of the various
    emancipatory movements which had grown up in the wake of the Civil
    Rights and Womens Liberation movements. And this is where the
    really perverse results came about. Women, blacks, homosexuals,
    immigrants, etc., etc., all demanded respect for *difference*.
    Initially these movements had begun with the demand for equality,
    which was usually taken on the basis of "justice is blind", but
    developed by separating the notions of equality and sameness, and
    demanding not that people be treated the same, but be accepted as

    I have friends who fervently support the French line on laiete,
    which seems to unite native French people from extreme left to
    extreme right and everything in between. I can see the logic of
    it. But I think to some extent we have to see the re-assertion of
    the right to be oppressed by one's own religion, as a *social
    problem* rather a matter of crime and punishment, or government

    It is a tragedy that the great ideals of the Enlightenment have
    been so discredited in the eyes of those who really need those
    values and forms of life. But it cannot be resolved by forcefully
    imposing emancipation.

    Apologies for all the oversimplification, inaccuracies and
    omissions in this sketch.


    *Andy Blunden*
    http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>

    Ulvi İçil wrote:

        Dear all,

        For your information.


        *You have even said that the promotion of respect for all
        cultures is a
        “trap” for human rights.*

        **The differences of cultures is a fact. But these differences
        should not
        cause discrimination. I have nothing against people living as
        they like, *so

        long as their world views, ways of living and norms do not prevent
        themselves and their children from developing their human
        The unconditional promotion of respect for all cultures as an
        attempt to
        fight discrimination is well-minded but very problematic. Many
        have norms that are incompatible with human rights – take as
        an example
        polygamy or blood feud. This escapes attention, probably due
        to the
        importance of culture in the singular. That is a trap for
        human rights.
        What we need to respect are human beings – not cultural norms.
        norms must be evaluated. *

        *What is, for instance, your stand on the claim of
        schoolchildren or
        employees to carry symbols of religious conscience?*

        **When I was a student more than 40 years ago, there were no
        girls wearing
        a scarf in Turkey, neither in school nor in the university.
        *Today there is

        a revival, all over the world, of world views and norms that
        people, and children in particular, from developing as human
        beings. This
        revival is closely connected with the promotion of “respect
        for all
        cultures”. The best way to solve this problem is through
        education. The
        concept of laïcité is often misunderstood. It does not simply
        consist in
        the separation of religion and the State. Laïcité is a
        negative principle
        which demands that religious and cultural norms in general do
        not determine
        the establishment of social relations and the administration
        of public
        affairs. This is why laïcité is a precondition for human
        rights and the
        reason why it is very important. Those who agree with the claim of
        schoolchildren to carry religious symbols are probably not
        aware that they
        push children to give priority to one of their various collective
        identities, that they push them to give priority to their
        cultural identity
        and not their human identity, and that by doing this they promote
        discrimination.* There is a philosophical problem behind all
        this. The

        premises from which universal human rights and cultural norms
        are deduced
        are different, and so are the ways in which they are deduced.
        So to better
        protect human rights we need a philosophical understanding of
        concepts and foundations. Unfortunately, I still see it missing

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