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Archive for July, 2012

 

Philosophers Simon Critchley and Cornel West muse in this discussion on questions of faith, religion and politics, based on Critchley’s book The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology (2012). Critchley puts forward a notion of a secular form of religion, in which religion is that force which binds people together in association. Thus, it also forms the basis of political action. As a means to this end, Critchley invokes Wallace Stevens’ idea of a “supreme fiction”, that is a narrative we know is fictive but which we choose to believe in anyway. This is the essence of faith. The discussion was held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on February 7, 2012.

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Well, it sure didn’t take long, did it? Just a few days after the rejection of ACTA by the European parliament, Michael Geist reported on a leak of a trade agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and Canada (see also his follow-up post). The treaty, dubbed the Canada – EU Trade Agreement (CETA), contains a near word-for-word copy of ACTA in its chapter on intellectual property rights. CETA is a much more extensive treaty than ACTA was, so if it ever actually comes up for vote in the parliaments, it’ll be more difficult to reject, since it would also mean rejecting a wide variety of completely unrelated points. This is typical of the current mode of legislation in the EU: private interests are being smuggled into the process as part of these all-encompassing packages that are presented on a take-it-or-leave-it-basis, so that all discussion of individual issues therein gets mooted.

This is also indicative of a more general way “democracy” works here in the West: you get the freedom to choose (whether it’s by proxy in a parliament, or by a referendum), but only as long as you make the right choice (as determined by the money elite). In case you fail to realise what’s good for you and make the wrong choice, you can be sure that the same proposition will be presented to you again and again (with slight variations to deceive you) until it goes through. This is how it will continue to be as long as the political agenda is set by the corporate lobbyists and not us, the people.

This is why we need to take a proactive stance and start setting a whole new agenda from the ground up ourselves. We can no longer trust the politicians to do this for us. Parliaments should only be voting on legislation initiated by us, the people, not legislation drafted by corporate lobbyists. Treaties should be negotiated by us, the people, via an open process, not by faceless bureaucrats behind closed doors. The case of Iceland shows that this is not a pipe dream, there are ways to at least take steps in this direction. But those steps need to be taken by us. This thing cannot be done by proxy. If we’re not prepared to do this now, all we can expect from the future are more defensive battles over ever more oppressive legislation and treaties, many of which we are bound to lose.

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Philosopher Simon Critchley discusses in this talk Zygmunt Bauman’s argument that in our current liberal democracy power (“the ability to get things done”) and politics (“the means to get those things done” and the discourse about what things should be done and what shouldn’t) have been separated and, therefore, nobody is in control of the system, least of all ourselves. This is a source of great anguish. Critchley uses the Occupy movement as an example of an attempt to bridge that gap. He also introduces his concept of an infinite demand, that is an ethical disposition of being open to possibilities that exceed the limits of the concrete situation at hand, which he sees as the basis of true politics. The talk was held at The Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry on June 28, 2012

(Critchley begins the talk in German, but fear not: he soon switches to English.)

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Europarliamentarians celebrating the death of ACTA.

 

We did it! The European parliament today voted against ACTA by a whopping 478 votes to 39. With the EU countries out, the treaty is now as good as dead. After the death of SOPA, this is another confirmation for the fact that collective action by the Internet community can have genuine consequences for policymaking. However, ACTA and SOPA were just two battles in an ongoing war. Simply blocking legislation won’t be enough in the future. The intellectual property lobby will no doubt be back with new propositions that are bound to be even more detrimental to the freedom of information than the ones we’ve blocked (see the TPP-treaty currently under negotiation, for example). It’s now time for us to go on the offensive and turn the tide of the expanding IP regime around.

Says La Quadrature du Net:

“Strasbourg, July 4th 2012 – The European Parliament rejected ACTA by a huge majority, killing it for good. This is a major victory for the multitude of connected citizens and organizations who worked hard for years, but also a great hope on a global scale for a better democracy. On the ruins of ACTA, we must now build a positive copyright reform, taking into account our rights instead of attacking them. The ACTA victory must resonate as a wake up call for lawmakers: Fundamental freedoms as well as the free and open Internet must prevail over private interests.

Citizens from the Internet and all around the world have won! By 478 to 039 during the final vote, Members of the EU Parliament killed ACTA once and for all. Together –connected through a decentralized communication architecture– we defeated this evil treaty negotiated in secret by a club of private interests and dogmatic civil servants. The ACTA battle demonstrates how crucial our networked public sphere is to the future of our societies and democracies.

Philippe Aigrain, co-founder and strategy adviser for La Quadrature du Net declared: “European institutions must now recognize that the alliance between citizens, civil society organizations and the EU Parliament is at the core of a new democratic era in Europe. European copyright policy must now be built with the participation of citizens.”

La Quadrature du Net warmly thanks and deeply congratulates every citizen, organization, cluster and network who collectively achieved this major victory! Let’s all celebrate and learn from this success, so as to be even stronger for the next battles!

“Beyond ACTA, we must stop this repressive trend which keeps imposing measures that harm the Internet and fundamental freedoms. Citizens must demand a reform of copyright which will foster online cultural practices such as sharing and remixing, instead of endlessly repressing them. The ACTA victory must be the beginning of a new era, in which policy-makers put freedoms and the open Internet –our common good– ahead of private interests.” concluded Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for the citizen advocacy group.

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Rick Falkvinge goes on to say:

“Six months ago, the situation looked very dark. It was all but certain that ACTA would pass unnoticed in silence. The forces fighting for citizens’ rights tried to have it referred to the European Court of Justice, in order to test its legality and to buy some time. Then, something happened.

A monster by the name of SOPA appeared in the United States. Thousands of websites went dark on January 18, and millions of voices cried out, leaving Congress shellshocked over the fact that citizens can get that level of pissed off at corporate special interests. SOPA was killed.

In the wake of this, as citizens had realized that they didn’t need to take that kind of corporate abuse lying down and asking for more, the community floodlights centered on ACTA. The activism carried over beautifully to defeat this monster. Early February, there were rallies all over Europe, leaving the European Parliament equally shellshocked.

The party groups turned on a cent and declared their opposition to ACTA in solidarity with the citizen rallies all over the continent, after having realized what a piece of shameless mail-order legislation it really was, to the horrors of the corporate shills who thought this was a done deal. Those shills tried, tried hard, tried right up until today, to postpone the vote on ACTA past the attention of the public and the activists.

Alas, they don’t understand the net. And there’s one key thing right there: the net doesn’t forget.

But the key takeaway here is that it was we, the activists, that made this happen. Everybody in the European Parliament takes turn praising all the activists across Europe and the world that called their attention to what utter garbage this really was, that it wasn’t some run-of-the-mill rubberstamp paper but actually was a really dangerous piece of proposed legislation. Everybody thanks the activists for that. Yes, that’s you. You should lean back, smile, and pat yourself on the back here. Each and every one of us has every reason to feel proud today.

[…]

Many of the bad things in ACTA will return under other names. For the lobbyists, this is a nine-to-five job of jabbing against the legislation until it gives way. Just another day at work. We need to remain vigilant against special interests who will return again, again, and again, until we make sure that the legislative road for them is completely blocked. We must remain watchful.”

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