Monday, October 24, 2005

Freedom's Travails

When most people think of fascism they think Castor oil, jack-boots, rubber truncheons, and death camps; they hit the high-points but miss the subtleties, the telling and frightening details that can ruin a person's day every day--forever: the slow and creeping infantalization of Human life, the control over the privacies of existence, of what a person may speak, and of what he may think. forget Auschwitz, forget Orwell's 1984: think UNESCO.

Below we have two versions of some of the most disgusting and hateful fascism in the world today, and the chances are that most people won't be bothered by it in the least. Though this is the very stuff of fascism, the kind of fascism that should have reasonable men and women in secret meetings plotting, in arms and in the jungles of the concrete kindergaartens of our modern cities, likely nothing will come of this, and tomorrow more will follow this, and then more. Who puts up with this? We do, we adults responsible and mature. We ordinary men and women.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a school teacher in your face--forever.

UNESCO Takes Historical Step Against Cultural Invasion

By Ali Ihsan Aydin
Published: Thursday, October 20, 2005

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is preparing to adopt an international convention to protect cultural diversity around the world. The convention envisages the exclusion of cultural products from the category of commercial goods and confers expansive rights to countries to enable them to protect their cultures. The document will be put to vote on October 20, Thursday, at a UNESCO general assembly in Paris. In a preliminary vote held last week, 151 countries supported the convention while only the US and Israel voted against it. To put an end to the cultural expansionism of powerful countries is set as another objective. If the draft convention comes to effect, it would be possible for states to impose restrictions on the imports of foreign cultural content and to subsidize the domestic cultural production. Turkey has dropped its reservations on the draft upon the European Union's demand, adopting a joint-attitude with the Union and backing the convention, the approval of which is regarded as certain.

The Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions, drawn up after a two-year process of extensive study and discussion, aims to end cultural expansionism of powerful countries in order to protect cultural diversity in the globe. The UNESCO charter envisages excluding cultural products such as movies, music records and artworks from the category of commercial goods and confers ample rights on countries to take measures to protect their cultures and languages. If the draft passes and comes into effect, then a country that signed it can impose limitations on the imports of Hollywood movies, force radios to broadcast a certain percentage of domestic musical content and impose high taxes on the imports of foreign cultural content.

The United States, which has control over 80 percent of the culture industry as well as the cinema sector, is fighting "a diplomatic war" against the enterprise, which was pioneered by France and Canada two years ago. Although the US takes the position that cultures can best flourish in the free market economy, it opposes UNESCO's interference in economic strategies with the argument that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is entitled to be involved in economic matters. The culture commission, however, took a vote on Monday, with 151 votes for the agreement. Only Israel took sides with the US against and Austria and Kiribati were the abstentions. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rica reportedly wrote a letter to the UNESCO foreign ministers, threatening them with the US's departure from the UNESCO. The Americans previously abandoned the organization in 1984 on the pretext of its being politicized, but then returned to the organization in 2003.

The convention on cultural diversity is likely to be ratified at UNESCO's 33rd general assembly meeting which opens this Friday. Then will start the ratification process of the convention in parliaments of the member states. For the document to come into force as in the status of an international agreement, the votes of at least 30 countries are required. The power of the convention will be dependent on how many countries will ratify it. The US has been reported to have launched initiatives to render the power of the convention limited and involved in a process of signing bilateral agreements with several countries before the convention comes into force. Even though the convention comes into effect among a limited number of countries, leading the cultural diversity initiative, France, and other countries struggling against American cultural hegemony will have obtained certain opportunities they have demanded.

One of the most remarkable elements of cultural diversity UNESCO tries to protect is language. A total of 6,000 languages exist in the world according to UNESCO; however, 94 percent of the world population speaks only four percent of them. Fifty percent of these tongues are about to disappear. Ninety percent of them have no presence on the Internet. Cultural industries are dominated by only five countries in the world. Eighty-eight out of 185 countries have never produced any movies, even amateur ones, so far.

U.N. Body Endorses Cultural Protection

U.S. Objections Are Turned Aside

By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, October 21, 2005; Page A14

PARIS, Oct. 20 -- In a vote cast as a battle of global conformity vs. cultural diversity, delegates to a U.N. agency turned aside strong U.S. objections Thursday and overwhelmingly approved the first international treaty designed to protect movies, music and other cultural treasures from foreign competition.

The 148 to 2 vote at the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization emerged as a referendum on the world's love-hate relationship with Hollywood, Big Macs and Coca-Cola.

The American delegate doesn't like to hear the word 'protection,' " Joseph Yai Olabiyi Babalola, clad in the ornate gold robes of his tiny country, Benin, told UNESCO delegates. "Not all countries are equal -- some need to be protected."

U.S. officials say the measure could be used to unfairly obstruct the flow of ideas, goods and services across borders. Films and music are among the United States' largest exports -- the foreign box-office take for American movies was $16 billion in 2004. Assuring access to overseas markets for these products has been a prime U.S. goal at the World Trade Organization.

Louise Oliver, U.S. ambassador to UNESCO, told delegates at the organization's headquarters near the Eiffel Tower that the measure was "too flawed, too prone to abuse for us to support." She contended that dictators could potentially use it to control what their citizens read.

The measure passed at a time of growing fear in many countries that the world's increasing economic interdependence, known as globalization, is bringing a surge of foreign products across their borders that could wipe out local cultural heritage. France, for instance, has long kept measures in place to protect its film industry against imports, notably Hollywood productions.

Called the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the document approved Thursday declares the rights of countries to "maintain, adopt and implement policies and measures that they deem appropriate for the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions on their territory."

Cultural expressions are defined as including music, art, language and ideas as well as "cultural activities, goods and services."

The convention would go into effect if 30 countries ratify it, a step that U.S. officials say is inevitable.

What its practical effect would be remains unclear. But proponents and dissenting U.S. officials agree that it would at least allow countries to require that imported movies have subtitles or dubbing in native languages.

Advocates say it could help small nations promote and distribute their cultural products on the world market.

Supporters included some of America's closest allies, such as Canada and Britain. British delegate Timothy Craddock called the document "clear, carefully balanced and consistent with the principles of international law and fundamental human rights."

In the vote, only Israel sided with the United States. Four countries abstained.

The showdown came two years after the United States rejoined UNESCO following a two-decade boycott that began over objections to the organization's media policy. Many American officials said UNESCO was inherently anti-American.

"Everyone would love to make this into some big U.S.-against-the-world routine," U.S. delegate Oliver said in an interview, insisting that the vote was not a sign of anti-Americanism. "It's the U.S. standing for principles, the U.S. standing for freedom, the U.S. saying things that should be said."

She and other U.S. officials have not suggested that the United States might withdraw from UNESCO again over this issue.

The vote came less than a month after delegates at a U.N.-organized summit in Geneva sided against the United States to try to remove technical control of the Internet from U.S. hands. Talks deadlocked after the European Union refused to support the United States, in a move that stunned American officials.

"In the battles over issues critical to shaping the globe in the 21st century," French sociologist Eric Fassin said, "each side is defending its own best interests." Most of the world, he said, is asking: "Is there only one way to look at things?"

Proponents are uncertain how the convention would be enforced or how potential conflicts with the free-trade rules of the World Trade Organization would be resolved. The convention states that it is not intended to overrule existing treaties but would have equal force with future ones.

The case above is the most striking of all examples we can find recently of Left dhimmi fascism. Its very innocuousness is the worst of it. This is the end of freedom in the West. Yeah, it's only movies and books, and others will take their places, original media, local productions, more viewpoints, authentic, traditional, unalienated, volkish.

We're in trouble because most people just don't get it. It seems cranky and crazy to be against local culture and more diversity. Everyone is in favor of local production and against Yanqui imperialisme. And there's the problem: No one ever in existence came up with his or her own traditional culture. No one ever considered and acted on a personal local custom all of his own. Tradition, culture, custom, these are all mind-traps that no one can be free of while at the same time thinking freely. Ideas, even bad one, are better than no ideas at all. At least one can consider the worth of a bad idea. But no one can think of ideas no one is allowed to know of. This is not promotion of local culture: this is censorship, the wall around the collective mind, a prison of the soul. And who is going to fight against such a lovely idea?

1 comment:

Coydog said...

And this makes me totally embarrassed to be a Canadian :P

I've had to put up with the CRTC's garbage for all the days of my life.