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Yes, there is a very significant current of populist nationalism (or nationalist populism—your choice) in the world, not only in the “East” where the despotic state has historic roots (see Modi, Putin, Erdoğan, not to mention Kim Jong-Un), but also in the “West”, which is (supposedly) relatively grown free of these roots (see Trump, Johnson/Farage, Wilders, Le Pen). Yes, those so-called “leaders” think, act, and sometimes look alike. It is, however, too easy (and often misleading) to think of them as “racist guys with weird hair”:

This approach, of course, tends to forget Marine Le Pen who is not a “guy” and has her hair usually under control, and also neglects to mention that for these new-fangled petty would-be dictators, the hair is the easiest aspect to get under control. As a matter of fact, Putin and Erdoğan have no “hair trouble” to speak of, although they are no better in the racism and authoritarianism departments.

The real (and serious) question is, whether there is any lingering, profound truth behind these much talked-about and advertised similarities. That all these leaders are nationalists, populists, and most of the time racists, goes without saying. But what of it? There always have been, and probably will be in the foreseeable future, many of these so-called “politicians”. In what way are they significant at this precise juncture in history?

To start with, it is our reaction to them that is significantly different. And, unfortunately, this reaction is a carefully manipulated and tailored one: we are asked (even goaded) to believe that this new generation of “politicians” are replacing neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, which is supposed to be no different from liberalism, but only newer and shinier; a regime that guarantees our liberties (as long as such liberties do not threaten the perpetual survival of capitalism); a regime that guarantees our happiness (as long as such happiness is found in the unconditional submission to the free market). So, we are supposed to be threatened, because the system that guarantees our liberties and happiness is going to be replaced with something much nastier, isn’t it?

This is the kind of manipulation we are dealing with. So, we are expected to support neoliberals against the “populists”; Hillary Clinton against Trump, Macron against Le Pen, Rutte against Wilders. Nobody asks whether we like Hillary, Macron or Rutte—we are asked to decide not by what we prefer, but by what we want to avoid. Even the phrase “lesser of two evils” is not pronounced much—we are not supposed to think of these choices as “evil” at all, lesser or greater.

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The Guardian published an article about the recent (mis)adventures of Donald Trump by John Daniel Davidson (February 5, 2017), supposedly offering an alternative approach, but only ending up in the same populist/Bonapartist narrative as Trump himself.

What is terribly wrong with this article is that it puts us in an either/or situation. Trump is not only a self-absorbed, narcissistic, racist bigot (maybe not exactly a fascist, but the difference is undetectable right now), but also a clever politico who can exploit the need for change in a considerable percentage of the US population. The fact that the American people was forced into an impossible and sad referendum between Trump and Hillary, was the problem itself. It seemed that in this impossible choice Trump stood for “change” and the “people” and Hillary for the status quo and the elite, but this is no more than an illusion. Nobody stood for real change and for the people: they both stood for the status quo and the elite, but only for different status quos and different elites. Both of them won by a small margin (one the popular vote, the other the Presidency) and Trump became President. If Hillary had won, we would have been a bit more comfortable (or rather, blissful in our own ignorance), because hers is the more familiar status quo (hence less “uncanny”) and the more “professional” elite.

But at this point in history, neither had the means or willingness to resolve the formidably complex issues facing US capitalism. Sanders did have the willingness (but probably not the means), so he was discarded by the Democratic establishment. By doing this, the Democratic Party conceded a possible Trump win, but they probably hoped that Trump couldn’t survive four years of untruth, bullying and ignorance, or, failing that, were sure that even if he did, he could only pave the way for a huge conservative-Democratic victory in 2020. Exactly like the situation in Turkey for the last 15 years. If the Democratic Party had studied the events in Turkey a bit better, however, they could have seen the possibility that Trump might be a keeper, and disrupt and dismantle the status quo in the US without even realising that he was doing so, and do this over and over again, always finding a way to keep popular support even if by the skin of his teeth.

By the way, this is not something we should be unconditionally cheering about (“Hooray, the US system is going down the drain!”) Not because we like the existing status quo, but we, too, are completely unprepared for what is to come next. Again, look at Turkey: there is no rational, defendible oppositon to what is happening, because the existing opposition (both from the left and the right) had already conceded to the status quo, offering no alternatives but the narrative of an abstract “change”, which the AKP and President Erdoğan had already hijacked. Even the far left who seemed to be exteremely critical of the status quo (both “old” and “new”), didn’t have a hope that it could be changed or a clue about how it could (and should) change. Now that it is being forcibly changed (for the worse) by the recent Constitutional Amendment, establishing a “Presidential System” without checks and balances or a functional parliament, everybody is trying to shake off the paralysis and only now trying to think of ways of offering an alternative other than a simple “No!”

Let us hope that the Americans are wiser (and luckier) than us.

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Darbeye karşı sokakta nasıl direnilir: Milletvekili Victor Baudin 1851'de Louis Napoleon darbesine karşı sokakta: How to take to the streets against a coup: Deputy Victor Baudin against Louis Napoleon's coup in 1851
1851: Milletvekili Baudin darbeye karşı

 

Darbeye karşı sokakta nasıl direnilir: Milletvekili Victor Baudin 1851’de Louis Napoleon darbesine karşı sokakta.
How to take to the streets against a coup: Deputy Victor Baudin against Louis Napoleon’s coup in 1851.

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Kasten yapılan sahtekarlıkla kayıtsızlıktan doğan yalancılığı birbirinden ayırmak bazen çok güçtür… Kasten kandırmak – bu çok farklı bir şey. Ama kendi doğrularından, fikirlerinden ve bunların özündeki hakikatten, ayrıntıları önemsemeksizin emin olmak – bu, dostum, özellikle dürüst olan insanların karakteristik bir niteliğidir… Kadın aşağı kata bakıyor ve holde Jane Wilkinson’ı görüyor. Kafasında gördüğünün Jane Wilkinson olduğuna dair tek şüphe yok. Öyle olduğunu biliyor. Yüzünü açıkça gördüğünü söylüyor çünkü – doğrularından bu kadar emin olduğu için – ayrıntılar önemsiz! Ona yüzünü görmüş olamayacağı söyleniyor. Yaa, öyle mi? Yüzünü görüp görmemesinin ne önemi var ki – o Jane Wilkinson’dı… Bunu biliyor. Ve bu yüzden soruları bilgisinin ışığında cevaplıyor, hatırladığı olgular üzerinde düşünerek değil. Kendinden emin tanığa her zaman şüpheyle yaklaşmalı dostum. Hatırlamayan, emin olmayan, şüphe duyan, bir dakika durup düşünen  –Ah! evet, öyle olmuştu galiba, diyen— tanık kesinlikle daha güvenilirdir!

Hercule Poirot, Lord Edgware’in Ölümü, Agatha Christie, 1933.

Konum ne denli doğrulukla ölçülürse, momentumun belirsizliği aynı oranda büyür ya da tam tersi.

Werner Heisenberg, Belirsizlik Makalesi, 1927.

Hercule Poirot 1933 yılında “pozitif bilgi”nin faydasızlığını, ona sahip olan (ya da sahip olduğu varsayılan) kişiyi ayrıntıları ve –semantik bağlamda henüz şekillendirilmemiş olgular her zaman ayrıntı özelliği taşıdıklarından— olguları görmezden gelmeye ve dolayısıyla onları daha önceden varolan, a priori bir “bilgi”ye uydurmak için çarpıtmaya, saptırmaya, yeniden yaratmaya ve yanlış anlatmaya ittiğini gözler önüne seriyor. Ancak Werner Heisenberg, Poirot’tan tam altı sene önce, tartışmasını varsayılan pozitif bilginin istenmeyen sonuçlarına değil de önermelerine dayandırarak, bu tür bilginin imkansızlığını göstermişti: “Nedensellik yasasının kesin formülasyonunda –‘bugünü kesin olarak bilirsek, geleceği hesaplayabiliriz’ – yanlış olan sonuç değil önermenin kendisidir.”[i] Heisenberg’in önermesi aslında Poirot’nun tartışmasıyla örtüşüyor: Fiziksel olguyu incelerken ayrıntılara girdikçe, kesinliğimizi kaybederiz. Sorun, bu gerçeği kabullenmeyip (daha geniş, daha genel fiziksel olgu hakkındaki), bilgimizin mutlak olduğuna, galaksilerin hareketinden fotonların ve elektronların hareketine kadar varolan her şeye uyarlanabileceğine inandığımızda ortaya çıkıyor. Bu yüzden varsayılan bilgimizin kesin olduğuna ne kadar inanırsak, bu bilgiye riayet etmeyen ince ayrıntıları o kadar görmemezlikten geliyoruz (mesela elektronun momentumu ve/veya konumu).

Kesin olan şu ki, Heisenberg ve Einstein’ın 1926’daki tartışması bu “bilginin” doğasına dair bir belirleme yapıyor: Heisenberg gözlemlenebilir/bilinebilir olguyu ölçülebilirliği açısından belirlemeye çalışırken, Einstein gözlemlenebilirliğin belli bir teoriye uyumla doğrudan bağlantılı olduğunu önererek ona meydan okuyor:

Heisenberg: “Atomun içindeki elektron yörüngesini gözlemlemek mümkün değildir. […] ama yalnızca ölçülebilir nicelikleri teorinin içinde ele almak mantıklı olduğundan, onları yalnızca kendilikler olarak olarak, yani elektron yörüngelerinin temsilleri olarak sunmak bana olağan geldi.

Einstein: “Ama fiziksel teoride yalnızca gözlemlenebilir niceliklerin ele alınması gerektiğine gerçekten inanmıyorsun, değil mi?”

Heisenberg “Görecelilik Teorisi’nin bu fikre dayandığını sanıyordum?” diye şaşkınlıkla sordu.

Einstein, “Belki bu tür bir akıl yürütme kullanmış olabilirim ama bu yine de saçmalığın daniskası. […] Gerçekte tam tersi geçerli: Neyin gözlemlenebilir olduğunu yalnızca teori belirler.”[ii]

Poirot’nun eleştirdiği tam da bu değil miydi? Yani gözlemlenebilir olguları kesin, önceden edinilmiş bilgiye uydurmak için bozmak? Terminolojide (görünürde) hafif bir kaymayı dikkate almazsak öyle gibi görünüyor. Fark şurada: Poirot bilgi (hatta pozitif bilgi) hakkında konuşurken, Einstein teoriye gönderme yapıyor, yani theoria’ya, yani, bir bakışa, bir görme biçimine, bir anschauung’a. Teori, en yalın anlamıyla, şeylere bakma biçimimizdir ve bu yüzden “neyin gözlemlenebilir olduğunu belirlediğini,” söylemeye gerek bile yoktur. Diğer yandan bilgi sophia’dır, varılan bir yerdir ve oraya bir kere vardığınızda belirsizliklere yer yoktur. Bu yüzden eğer ayrıntılar (olgular) istenmeyen belirsizlikler yaratma eğilimindeyse, onları görmezden gelmeniz ya da çarpıtmanız gerektiğini söylemeye bile gerek yok. Teori belirsizlikler üzerine kuruludur; bakış kayar, dolaşır, meraklanır, yeni veriyi içerir, değişir, mutasyona uğrar: a priori ve a posteriori arasındaki sıkıntılı dengeyi temsil eder. Diğer yandan pozitif bilgi, bir kere oluştu mu sabitlenir; daha fazla etrafına bakmaz, olgulara olması gerekeni söyler: a priori’nin a posteriori üzerindeki egemenliğini temsil eder. Kısacası, teorik fiil bir kere yerleşik bilgi olarak pıhtılaştığında ve kendisi üzerine düşünme yetisini kaybettiğinde, bilgi daha sonraki bilgi için kazanç değil risk oluşturur.

Bu bağlamda nazar bir kere sabitlentiğinde, pozitif bilginin, yani kendinden sorgusuz bir şekilde emin olan bilginin, bugün Köktencilik dediğimiz şeyin temelini oluşturma ihtimali vardır. Ama bir saniye, diyecek kendinden emin olmayan görgü tanığı, aynı şey Köktencilik’in taban tabana zıttı olarak bildiğimiz Aydınlanma’nın da temeli değil mi? Saçma, diye cevap verecek kendinden emin görgü tanığı, aynı şey birbirine taban tabana zıt iki varlığın temelini oluşturamaz, öyle değil mi? Emin olmayan görgü tanığı ikircikli kalacak ve “Köktencilik” ve “Aydınlanma” kavramlarının daha derinlemesine araştırılmasını talep edecek (ya da, üslubuna göre, rica edecektir) bizden.

[i] Werner Heisenberg, “Belirsizlik Makalesi”.

[ii] Werner Heisenberg, Der Teil und Das Ganze, R. Piper & Co., Munich (1969) Çeviri G. Holton.

Çeviri: Didem Kizen

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 … Between the deliberate falsehood and the disinterested inaccuracy it is very hard to distinguish sometimes… To deceive deliberately – that is one thing. But to be so sure of your facts, of your ideas and their essential truth that the details do not matter – that, my friend is a special characteristic of particularly honest persons… She looks down and sees Jane Wilkinson in the hall. No doubt enters her head that it is Jane Wilkinson. She knows it is. She says she saw her face distinctly because – being so sure of her facts – exact details do not matter! It is pointed out to her that she could not have seen her face. Is that so? Well, what does it matter if she saw her face or not – it was Jane Wilkinson… She knows. And so she answers questions in the light of her knowledge, not by reason of remembered facts. The positive witness should always be treated with suspicion, my friend. The uncertain witness who doesn’t remember, isn’t sure, will think a minute – ah! yes, that’s how it was – is infinitely more to be depended upon!

Hercule Poirot in Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie, 1933.

The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.

Werner Heisenberg, Uncertainty Paper, 1927.

In 1933, Hercule Poirot demonstrates the futility of “positive knowledge”, how it goads its (supposed) possessor into ignoring the details, and since facts not yet framed in a semantic context always assume the character of details, into ignoring the facts, hence bending, distorting, recreating and misrepresenting them in order to conform to a pre-existing, a priori “knowledge”. Werner Heisenberg, however, precisely six years before Poirot, demonstrates the impossibility of such knowledge, basing his argument not on the undesirable consequences of presumed positive knowledge, but rather on its premises: “But what is wrong in the sharp formulation of the law of causality, “When we know the present precisely, we can predict the future,” is not the conclusion but the assumption. Even in principle we cannot know the present in all detail.”[1] What Heisenberg suggests actually coincides with Poirot’s argument: The more we go into further detail in our investigation of physical phenomena, the less precise we get. The problem arises when we do not acknowledge this fact and believe our knowledge (of larger, more general physical phenomena) to be absolute, applicable to everything in existence, from the movement of galaxies to the movement of photons and electrons. Therefore, the more we believe our presumed knowledge to be certain, the more likely we are to ignore the minute details (the momentum and/or the position of an electron, for instance) which do not conform to this knowledge. To be sure, the 1926 discussion between Heisenberg and Einstein makes a specification as to the nature of this “knowledge”: While Heisenberg tries to specify observable/knowable phenomena with regard to measurability, Einstein challenges him to suggest that observability is directly connected with conformity to a certain theory:

Heisenberg: “One cannot observe the electron orbits inside the atom. […]but since it is reasonable to consider only those quantities in a theory that can be measured, it seemed natural to me to introduce them only as entities, as representatives of electron orbits, so to speak.”

Einstein: “But you don’t seriously believe that only observable quantities should be considered in a physical theory?”

“I thought this was the very idea that your Relativity Theory is based on?” Heisenberg asked in surprise.

“Perhaps I used this kind of reasoning,” replied Einstein, “but it is nonsense nevertheless. […] In reality the opposite is true: only the theory decides what can be observed.”[2]

Isn’t this exactly what Poirot was criticizing? To bend observable facts in order for them to conform to a pre-conceived knowledge, of a certainty? It seems to be so, unless we take into account a (seemingly) slight shift in terminology: While Poirot is talking about knowledge (even positive knowledge) Einstein is referring to theory, that is, theoria, that is, a gaze, an outlook, an Anschauung. Theory, in the most basic sense of the term, is the way you look at things, and therefore, it goes without saying that it “decides what can be observed.”

Knowledge, on the other hand, is sophia, something arrived at, and once you arrive there, there is no room for uncertainties: So if details (facts) tend to create unwanted uncertainties, it goes without saying that you should ignore or distort them. Theory is based on uncertainties; the gaze shifts, wanders, wonders, takes in new data, changes, mutates: it represents the uneasy equilibrium of a priori and a posteriori. Positive knowledge, on the other hand, once established, becomes fixed; it doesn’t look anymore, it tells facts what they ought to be: it represents the hegemony of a priori over a posteriori. In short, once the theoretical act coagulates into preconceived knowledge and loses its self-reflexivity, knowledge becomes a risk, rather than an asset, for further knowledge.

In this sense, positive knowledge, that is, knowledge unquestionably certain of itself, has the possibility of becoming the bedrock of what we today call Fundamentalism, once the gaze is fixed. But wait, the uncertain witness will say, isn’t the same thing also the basis of the Enlightenment, what we know today as the diametrical opposite of Fundamentalism? Nonsense, the positive witness will answer, the same thing cannot be the basis of two diametrically opposite entities, can it now? The uncertain witness remains ambiguous and demands (or requests, depending on their predilection) a further examination of the concepts of “Fundamentalism” and “Enlightenment”.

[1] Werner Heisenberg, “The Uncertainty Paper”, in Quantum Theory and Measurement, eds. John Archibald Wheeler & Wojciech Hubert Zurek; Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.

[2] Werner Heisenberg, Der Teil und das Ganze, R. Piper & Co., Munich (1969). Translation by G. Holton.

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