Tag Archives: Neoliberalism

Sheherazade Becomes Marginal in a Society that Embraces Apathy

Image

When you live in a society where shallowness is embraced, there will be a mass following of people who imitate shallowness.

You see, the elite can only thrive with a mass following, by creating a mass appeal, popularity.

The merciless thrive by exploiting the basic human desires, and brand their strategies with the facade of “love” or “humanity.”

This shallowness is a form of turbulence — keeping us distracted, distancing us from Light.

Light can seem invisible with turbulent vision; yet the wise know Light continues to radiate in full spectra in undetected forms.

The wise know to be wary of “charming” promises, as Plato says “Things are not what they appear.”

It is only those placed in liminal states who are able to contrast between discourses.

But you see, our state of being is not a static entity. Circumstances can harden us, circumstances can soften us —

Can one be so optimistic these days?

Something new is occurring in human history, with humans being hardened into objects, irreversibly.

Resistance is strategically kept powerless and marginal.

If only Foucault was alive to see his biopolitics now.

The once optimistic feeling of softening the soul is being negated in a new social transformation who’s future is unknown.

Long ago, Sheherazade softened the heart of King Shariyar. But this was a time when the art of wisdom was embraced by the ruling elite.

Once, people were aware of the dehumanization resulting from objectification.

An objectified human becomes inanimate, lacking substance — yet this obsolescence is embraced!

Now, increasingly, the art of wisdom is silenced, and instead ‘information’ prevails.

Modern education is information, not knowledge — and the marginal are drowning.

A life of simulated shallowness, avarice and merciless individualism is propagated as “the promise” and masks the greedy profit that lies underneath

I have softened the hearts of many men. Though, I am limited in the abundance of human drones.

A drone is taught to valorise surfaces only, like the body; it cannot detect the emotional depth of the soul.

How foolish of me to consider myself a Sheherazade in a society that is morally bankrupt!

You see, in a world where shallowness prevails, the shallow ideals will be rewarded.

Oh, the days when I was an object, I only attracted objects!

Oh, I am fully aware, that if I transformed myself into a walking simulation of stupidity (a shapely ass and big pair of tits as my sole identity), then I will reign popularity.

But you see, now, I refuse to be an inanimate object.

How could anyone be an object once they’ve reached their soul?

I speak in a language that cannot be comprehended so easily,

it will only resonate by those immersed in Love.

My silence speaks this language.

My God, I am so thankful You reign in my heart, radiating Your Beauty

The burning of my heart keeps me from solidifying into a cold, hardened object. I’m melting in Your bliss.

Love will shine, it radiates in all forms to those whose surfaces are still permeable.

-Myself

*The tale of Scheherazade is symbolic in showcasing that wisdom is what makes a human worthy of being. Scheherazade changed King Shahriyar’s murderous vengence towards women, and inevitably softened his heart. How? She used her wisdom, her knowledge — she was not simply an object. The symbolism has relevance to today’s context: When a human is simply an object, devoid of inner depth, they become perceived as insignificant, disposable as an inanimate object. Sadly, it has become a trend in modern societies for people to identify in objectifying manners, thereby neglecting the ripening of their inner beings. This trend is a reflection of the ‘popular’ social values that are advertised by all forms of media/social media. 

___________

set free

“They have taken us prisoners,

They’ve locked us up.

But that’s nothing…

The worst

is when people –knowingly or not —

carry prison inside themselves”

-Nizam Hikmet

(trans. Sisir Kumar Das 378)

___________

Do Panjereh

(…)

always been a distance

between your hands and mine.

always with this bitterness

our days and nights have passed.

 *

there is not a very long distance between us, but

(even this short distance) seems so far.

the only connection between you and me

is the kind caressing hands of wind.

*

we are forced to stay captive.

we will stay captive as long as we live.

for us the only way to freedom is death.

as soon as we are set free, we will die.

*

Oh, I wish this wall would fall down

so that you and me will die together

and in another world

we will be able to hold hands, be together.

may be in that other world,

the pain of shunning and hatred wont exists in hearts.

(may be in that new world) between their windows

wont be any barrier of walls.

-Googoosh

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The Hypocrisy of Feminist Stances Towards Prostitution Laws

How do government laws affect the lives of prostitutes? Below is an old essay I wrote regarding prostitution laws in today’s Modern nation-state world:

justice

It is hard to imagine reading a paper or watching the news without hearing about some excerpt about prostitution and laws surrounding. After all, prostitution has historically been a popular and controversial issue in many societies. Defining prostitution is difficult because of the various interpretations of its meaning. According to the World Health Organization, prostitution is, “a process that involves a transaction between a seller and a buyer of a sexual service.” On the other hand, the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS has a more complex interpretation of prostitution: “Sex work may be formal or informal,” and then continue to explain that, “Commercial sex work may be conducted in formally organized settings from sites such as brothels, night clubs, and massage parlors; or more informally by commercial sex workers who are street-based or self-employed.” The complexity of prostitution helps explain why it’s an issue that evokes multiple opinions. In the modern nation-state, prostitution has become a social ‘issue’ that is regulated or prohibited by law. For instance, prostitution may be illegal, legal, or decriminalized. For social and cultural academics, it is important to make the sense of laws and the society. Therefore, one can use different theoretical frameworks, such as feminism or bio-politics, to explain the prostitution phenomena. In this essay, I will look at certain feminist influences on prostitution laws, and it’s implications. I will then analyze those feminist trends in prostitution laws through the lens of biopower. The two popular feminist stances have been either to tolerate prostitution by regulating it or to abolish prostitution by criminalizing it. Overall, prostitution laws result in the further marginalization of prostitutes despite being back by some feminist groups. Prostitution laws, instead, maintains neoliberal state interests while ignoring the true feminist aim of female empowerment.

Theory

Biopower is a term that was coined by Michel Foucault, which inspired a new theoretical frame to academic thought. For Foucault, biopower is the ‘”regulatory power of states over populations,” which thus produces, “docile bodies in everyday life of institutions.” In other words, Foucault tried to emphasize that the body is a way to understand a society and how power is used to control their lifestyles. Lifestyles of individuals and their self-care practices are influenced by an overarching power. Giorgio Agamben further elaborated Foucault’s theory. In Agamben’s view, the sovereign power constructs ideals for citizenship where certain lifestyles amount to a ‘qualified life.’ However, individuals who contrast from the ‘ideal’ are living a ‘bare life,’ and thus are excluded in various ways, such as marginalization or facing violence. Therefore, the marginalized groups in society are only marginalized because state power determines who can be included in the society and who cannot. In “What’s Law Got to Do with it? How and Why Law Matters in the Regulation of Sex Work,” Jane Scoular notes that prostitutes are part of the ‘bare life,’ where they are marginalized due to not being ‘ideal’ citizens.  To understand biopower, it is important to know who is an ‘ideal’ citizen and answer: what is the purpose of including some while excluding others?

In modern nation-states in the West, a ‘qualified’ life relates to neoliberal ideals. Neoliberalism is a shift in political, economic and ideological policy that began in the 1980’s (Yang, 2013), which currently dominates many governments globally. Economically, it is a policy of free-markets with minimal government interventions. Politically, it is the diffusion of government into smaller institutions. The notion of ‘freedom’ and individualism is the ideology behind neoliberalism, where individual freedom is achieved only through free markets. Yet the hidden element is that neoliberal policies seek to maintain the power of economic elites, and, it’s a “political project to re-establish the conditions of capital accumulation.” Neoliberalism, according to Scoular, is the main idea behind a ‘qualified’ life in Agamben terms. She notes, “modern law operates to regulate the complete lives of individuals,” and thus the law influences social norms. For instance, prostitutes are marginalized due to social stigma. The stigma, as Davey and Kissil mention, is the result of laws that criminalize prostitutes. Prostitutes are criminalized because the state feels they pose a threat to their ideals. For instance, the Contagious Diseases Acts in the late 19th century are said to criminalize prostitutes for their alleged danger to public health. Medical discourses and sciences were used to justify penalizing ‘unregulated’ persons, but in reality it was a moral panic over ‘unregulated’ sexuality. Controlled sexuality was crucial to the Modern nation-state agenda. Thus, prostitutes can only be ‘qualified’ if they satisfy the needs of neoliberal ideals, such as self-regulating themselves in a manner which results capital accumulation. The law is a way of expressing state power in an indirect way, as it influences norms, and thus influences people to maintain neoliberal interests. I will discuss how neoliberal interests are maintained through prostitution laws, but first I will discuss feminism as theory, since certain feminist have a strong stance on prostitution laws.

Feminism consists of many differing outlooks, yet there are notions that all feminists agree upon. For instance, feminists agree that female voices need to be addressed and recognized in society. They also stand for female empowerment through gender equality, especially in a Modern context where women are found less in high status positions compared to men. Despite these agreed upon notions, feminists differ in other aspects. Postmodern feminists, for instance, contend that feminism has been dominated by white, middle-class women, and such women cannot represent the interests of women as a whole. The weakness in feminism is that there is a lack of consensus on a variety of topics. With regards to prostitution, there are oppositional feminist stances, which is highlighted by Maureen Davey and Karni Kissil in their analysis titled, “The Prostitution Debate in Feminism: Current Trends, Policy and Clinical Issues Facing an Invisible Population.” Yet these two feminist stances do not speak for all feminists, because many feminists may be open to other theories on prostitution.

Discussion

Abolish Prostitution? Regulate it?

Two popular feminist stances towards laws on prostitution are: abolishing prostitution or regulating it. Yet while both have different stances, they both have very limited outlooks. Feminists who seek to abolish prostitution are often termed as Radical Feminists. In their view, prostitutes are victims of male oppression. Their goal is to abolish prostitution, as they feel prostitution only serves to oppress women. An example of this stance is found in Sweden, where prostitution is illegal. However, punishment is only directed at clients, whereas sex workers, seen as victims, are guided by state into ‘exiting’ programs. On the other side, another group of feminists, which Davey and Kissil termed the ‘pro’ feminists, feel that prostitutes have the agency to make their own choices and thus the laws should give them legal rights. The ‘pro’ feminists are usually in favor of laws which prostitution is tolerated. Therefore, legalization assumes that prostitutes will be empowered because they have legal rights. Overall, both the ‘pro’ and radical feminists are not challenging hegemonic state power, but rather are staying within its power. They fail to address how prostitution laws are part of wider form of maintaining state interests. In this view, the two feminist stances in the prostitution debate are problematic, because they are trying to represent the voices of all women. But as Kissil and Davey note, the two feminist stances have seldom consulted with the voices and desires of the prostitutes themselves. The lack of acknowledging the voices of prostitutes is apparent when given the implications of these feminist solutions to prostitution.

massage parlor

Prostitution laws, whether tolerant or against prostitution, results in more disadvantage than advantage for prostitutes. This is rather ironic, since feminist backed prostitution laws are usually aimed at protecting sex workers. For example, in Sweden, prostitutes are only protected from the law so long they adhere to ‘exiting’ programs, which are programs that aid prostitutes to exit the sex industry and integrate in mainstream society. This idea of exiting assumes that all prostitutes have the same desires, and thus all can be controlled. Therefore, prostitutes who don’t exit are deemed as criminals. As Scoular notes, “Criminalization in Sweden resulted in more risky situations for sex workers, where they have less choice of clients, quicker transactions, drop in prices and greater stress” (20). She further notes, “The Swedish Model just got rid of ‘visible’ street workers, while it created ‘invisible’ sex workers in off-street work” (20). Therefore, individuals who remain prostitutes in Sweden become excluded, because society has made no place for them. What is also interesting is how radical feminists aim at the criminalization of men over women, where men become targeted as clients. This actually doesn’t result in gender equality, but rather it shifts the stigma of prostitutes over to men.

Canadian examples illustrate the implications of prostitution laws where prostitution is tolerated. In Canada, the exchange of sex for money is legal, yet other laws make it difficult for prostitutes to conduct their services legally. Tamara O’Doherty (2011) notes that Canadian prostitution laws “ensure prostitution remains firmly entrenched in illicit markets by requiring sex workers to offend the criminal laws in order to work in safety (indoor venues)” (219). She further notes how Section 213 of the Canadian criminal code states that public communication for the purpose of prostitution is criminally prohibited. To illustrate this: brothels cannot legally label themselves as spaces for prostitution. Instead, they have to label themselves as non-sex related businesses, such as a massage parlor. Prostitutes themselves cannot be open about their services either; they cannot discuss with clients beforehand about their services. At the same time, Section 211 makes it illegal to use a place on a regular basis for prostitution, so therefore the massage parlor must ensure they deny sex is going on. According to O’Doherty, this ‘quasi-legal’ atmosphere places sex workers in more vulnerable positions, where they less prone to working in safe places. Given that the two feminist stances both have mainly negative implications for the lives of prostitutes, it seems that laws are not empowering their intended subjects. But rather, it’s pushing the majority of prostitutes to the ‘bare life.’

Since laws do not benefit most prostitutes, then the obvious question is: who benefits from the prostitution law? The State benefits as the laws ensure that their neoliberal interests are not challenged. In Sweden, exiting programs help prostitutes find ‘normal’ jobs, which they will become ‘qualified’ taxpayers, and thus assimilating with the hegemonic ideals and aiding the state power. In some Canadian provinces, for instance, local municipal laws require that massage parlors obtain expensive licenses to operate. As well, Edmonton sex workers are required by local municipal law to obtain licenses for each place they work. The act of licensing is a way of commercializing the sex industry, which means the state profits off licenses. It also is way of controlling and monitoring prostitutes. Therefore, those who participate in licensing are included in society, as they are doing what the state wants. However, not all prostitutes want or are in the position to reveal their identities. For instance, an illegal immigrant is automatically excluded from having ‘qualified life,’ because they are invisible to state recognition. And while legalization is argued to protect some prostitutes, others have argued that increased regulation means increased policing and monitoring over the lives of women. Further, many academics agree that prostitution laws do not reverse the negative impact of social stigma, which stigma causes psychological trauma for many prostitutes.  Therefore, many prostitutes are excluded and marginalized for failing to adhere to state interests. Sadly, marginalized groups are part of sustaining the capitalism. Therefore, the Radical and ‘pro’ feminists are contradicting themselves, because they are supporting a system of inequality, where only a minority of ‘qualified’ prostitutes are included in society. Such groups should not even be called feminist, because feminism is supposed to be about gender equality.

Feminism in current times, influenced by Postmodernism, emphasizes the diversity of female experiences, yet the ‘pro’ and radical feminist views on prostitution ignore an open, multi-theoretical approach. It is no wonder that these feminist stances on prostitution laws have had problematic results for prostitutes themselves. Given that prostitution laws have not benefited the fate of most sex workers it becomes obvious that laws are more concerned with sustaining state power and interests. However, the complexity involved in prostitution makes it difficult to find an alternative law that will satisfy the needs of everyone. Yet the question remains: can law be more inclusive of all members of society when considering how law is a tool of marginalizing certain people? So while the framework of biopower helps us understand prostitution laws it doesn’t really give us a solution to challenge the hegemonic power.  Many aspects of people’s lives are orientated toward neoliberal interests in most advanced capitalist nation-states. Therefore, it is difficult to challenge the power of state when the populations are compliant with the law. However, as an anthropologist it is the task to be critical and to educate others about making the familiar seem strange, whilst making the strange seem more familiar. As a postmodern feminist, it is important to be open to the ideas and theories of others. Rather than continue to marginalize others, one needs to think of ways that society can be more inclusive of so-called deviant groups.

Partial References:

Davey, Maureen & Kissil, Karni. (2010). The Prostitution Debate in Feminism: Current Trends, Policy and Clinical Issues Facing an Invisible Population.Journal of Feminist Family Therapy 22 (1), 1-21.

Farquhar Judith & Zhang Qicheng. (2005). Biopolitical Beijing: Pleasure, Sovereigntly, and Self-Cultivation in China’s Capital. Cultural Anthropology 20(3), 303-327.

Harley, David. (2005). Freedom is just another word. A Brief History of Neo-Liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

O’Doherty, Tamara. (2011). Criminalization and Off-Street Sex Work in Canada. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 217-245.

Schoular, Jane. (2010). What’s Law Got to do with It? How and Why Law Matters in the Regulation of Sex Work. Journal of Law and Society 37 (1), 12-39.

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A Question of “Poison” – Western-Liberal Values

I apologize to my viewers for not posting lately. I have been writing extensively, but my thoughts, like my life, are complex, confusing and dynamic.

I find myself becoming more cynical towards Western-Liberal ideology, and all of its implications. In a nutshell, I sum up Western-Liberal ideology as: money accumulation, perpetual economic growth, competition, individualism, lack of a family and communal values,  and the discourse of ‘freedom.’ These are all values that I, unknowingly, adopted and internalized. Western-Liberal ideology is what I attribute to what has harmed mine and many others well-being. I am starting to view Western-Liberal indoctrination as ‘poison.’ And people who practice such traits, I refer to them as ‘poisoned.’ I am ‘poisoned’ myself, yet I am aware of it’s negativity.

So why so cynic? The more I study about the history of cultures and make comparisons, I realize that the modern world has failed to fulfil the basic human need: belonging.  Individualism, by way of Western-Liberal ideology, had turn most of us into self-indulgent, narcissists. The implications of ‘greed’ is that we neglect others for self-gain — thus, the human need to belong is jeopardized. Moreover, in an economic sense, the inequalities between the favored and unfavored are growing.

Yet so many people are unaware of this. We ‘self-regulate’ ourselves in ways that do not benefit others, but rather maintain the hegemony of neoliberal capitalism. Many notions of Western-Liberal ideology are unchallenged by the majority, because they are so embedded into our minds (most of us do not think about the origin of these values). How often do people challenge the concept of economic ‘growth’ and realize that accumulation of things is not sustainable? Others may be aware, but they have no need to worry, because they are ‘normative’ people who get along well with like-minded individuals. But what about marginalized individuals? What about people who do not fit the ‘norm’ of society? They suffer. They are isolated. Nobody pays attention to them. And even worst, various institutions, such as the mass-media, feed us propaganda to dismiss these ‘misfit’s’ and blame them for social ills.  My heart cries for fellow marginalized individuals. Suicide crosses their minds, because the worst punishment for anyone is social isolation. As Emile Durkheim notes, those who belong are less likely to commit suicide. Happiness is linked to social cohesion, yet the current dynamics of conformity are based on maintaining social asymmetry rather than an egalitarian goal.

I strongly admire those who are not affected by this ‘poison.’ I cannot admire those who possess all of the negative traits that I possess. I outcaste myself. I don’t like doing things that most people my age do. I am still ‘poisoned’,  yes. I still carry poisonous items, such as designer items,….but slowly, I hope to getaway from all these things that are meaningless in life. What has meaning? Love, family, traditions, spirituality, nature.

Sometimes I have this dream…to run away. I love that novel by James Hilton, “Lost Horizon,” where a traveler accidentally arrives at a blissful haven on earth, away from the ills of civilization. Yet I have traveled the world. I have travel to several parts of the world, both wealthy and poor, trying to find meaning. Like James Hilton’s novel, I too have realized that the most kind and loving people are those who are content with less materialism. The unfortunate reality is that the entire world is being incorporated into this ‘poison’ — adopting Western ideology (capitalism). The old traditions will, tragically, die out.

On a recent venture to the Middle East, my expectations of a culture-rich society was met with disappointment — it is very evident that adopting the notion of wealth accumulation is destroying the beauty of the old traditions. Most cultures were manipulated, via colonialism and coersion, into this new modern ideology. In the rich Gulf States, most women and men are no longer concerned with tradition, but rather men are focused on comparing Ferrari and Maseratis in the Majles, and women are concerned with the latest Chanel or Birkin handbag and beautifying themselves on a  ‘plastic surgery’ trip to Lebanon. What is more disheartening is that it’s very ‘uncool’ to be traditional (in the premodern sense). It’s common to hear unintellectual youngsters being proud of not being beduoin or not having beduoin mannerisms.

Often, I like to imagine if I had a child one day. Where is the best place to live with good communal values? How would I protect my son or daughter from these individualistic ideals and practices that plague the majority? How do I prevent my child from living a meaningless life of going to nightclubs, drinking, drugs and using material things to determine their self-worth?

I was once the epitome of everything that I currently detest. Yet often I wonder why didn’t I end up like the majority? I feel very grateful for my experiences, otherwise I would have continued with empty, shallow habits. Everything happens for a reason

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