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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

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Could the Increased Islamist Presence provide a Way Out of the Syrian Impasse?

In the wake of the Russo-American agreement on Syria’s chemical weapons, the war rumbles on, with a daily litany of shelling of civilians, torture, rape, murder and summary executions beyond the normal carnage of government soldiers and rebels butchering each other on whatever street, field or town square is their latest battlefield. Especially given the short timeframe for the identification, acquisition and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, the United Nations’ weapons inspectors have a truly daunting task ahead of them. A task the diplomats and the politicians may not appreciate the difficulty of. Paradoxically, given the Americans’ apparent readiness to resume the threat of missile strikes, it may be ‘their side’ – the rebels – which most jeopardises the inspectors’ mission. As Bashar al-Assad’s military have pretty much held together as a disciplined military force, the Russians will be able to lean heavily on the Syrian Government to let the inspectors get on with their job. However, the rebels are said to have fragmented so much that there may be up to 1,000 different groups now ranged against Assad. How on earth is any kind of centralised control going to be exerted on them to stop them hindering the inspectors? Without sufficient… Read More

Chemical Weapons: escaping Obama’s Trap

Chemical weapons use in Syria is Barrack Obama’s trap – the trap he laid for himself ever since he laid down their use as a red line which, if crossed, would oblige the United States to act. However, chemical weapons may also be his way out of the trap. We may not know for months – possibly years…possibly never! – who was responsible for the dreadful gas attack in the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus last Wednesday (21st). One argument, explored by the renowned philosopher Howard Bloom on Facebook, has it that, when the Syrian military is slowly but surely winning its vicious and dirty war and the “UN [chemical weapons] team had just entered Syria when the attack occurred. Would Assad really be so dumb?” The Syrian Government alleges that rebels used chemical weapons armaments stolen from military depots to try to stop the Syrian Army’s advance in Ghouta. Al-Arabiya, amongst others, has covered the Syrian TV networks’ reporting of the Army finding rebel tunnels in Ghouta stocked full of chemical weapon cannisters, gas masks, and other equipment for waging and surviving chemical warfare. Thus, the Syrian Government blames the rebels for the civilian deaths in Ghouta. A dark extension of this theory… Read More

Meanings in the Blood and Turmoil of Egypt

BBC journalist Tim Whewell has posted a brilliant and provocative analysis of the current crisis in Egypt entitled: Egypt Crisis: does Political Islam have a Future? In it Whewell characterises the conflicts which have erupted in Egypt as first the demand for the removal of Mohammed Morsi a month or so back by secularists and since then the demand for his reinstatement by Islamists. The desperate determination of the Egyptian secularists is summed up in Whewell’s piece by the Royal United Services Institute’s Shashank Joshi: “What we’re seeing is a coalition of liberal, secular, youth, revolutionary groups…who have decided that what they value is secularism at all cost, even if the cost is the shredding of every other liberal value that they hold.” While the brutality of the military in repressing the Cairo Islamists is shocking and has drawn condemnation from right around the world, there is ambivalence towards it from many Egyptian secularists. There is real distrust of the Islamists; and the fear meme has spread virally, as Whewell indicates when he says: “President Morsi was removed as much through fear of what he might do in the future as anger over what he had done already.” The Egyptian crisis… Read More

Do Arabs need a New Awakening to win True Democracy?

by Gerald Butt annotated by Keith E Rice Gerald Butt wrote ‘Do Arabs need a New Awakening to win True Democracy?’ as the BBC’s Middle East correspondent. It was published on the BBC News web site on 16 August 2012. Reading it, I was mightily impressed that Gerald’s understanding of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ effectively provided a Spiral Dynamics analysis of the phenomenon – though without the jargon and the concepts. Accordingly, I contacted both Gerald and the BBC who gave me permission to republish his piece here, annotated with a Spiral Dynamics/Integrated SocioPsychology commentary. (The text of my commentary is in red.) Gerald’s piece is timeless in its analysis of conflict between different value systems and the sheer lack of other value systems – vMEMES – hindering the progress of peoples – in this case, the Arabs – in achieving Democracy as we in the Modern West understand the term.  I am deeply indebted to Gerald and the BBC for their permissions. ________________________________________________________________________  Arabs in several countries around the Middle East are relishing the prospect of a new era built on political reform and democratic rule. This craving for democracy was motivated by a desire to throw off the shackles of the past and finally… Read More

To Understand the Value Systems of Syria, Look to Lebanon

by Said E Dawlabani I am honoured to publish this ‘guest blog’ by the remarkable Said E Dawlabani. Following a prominent 3-decade long career in the real estate industry, he has become one of the leading experts in the value-systems approach to macroeconomics and is the founder of The Memenomics Group.  He has lectured widely on the subject of ‘Where Economics meet Memetics’, has a blog with that title and has authored several papers on economic policy and global value systems. His upcoming book, ‘Memenomics: The Quest for Value-based Economic Policies’, will further develop these ideas Said’s other overriding interest is the development of the Middle East and North Africa. He is Chief Operating Officer of the Centre for Human Emergence Middle East and serves on its Board of Directors, alongside pioneering thinkers like Elza S Maalouf, Jean Houston and Spiral Dynamics co-developer Don Beck. As a Lebanese-American, he writes with experience, insight and passion of the way its meddling in Lebanon has contributed to the neo-civil war increasingly engulfing Syria. The gruesome images of dead children and the systemic slaughter of innocent people in Syria continue to shock the world day after day. Just recently a human rights group uncovered over… Read More

Austerity and the Euro – an Appalling Lack of Quality Leadership

Well, the Eurozone crisis has certainly dominated the news this past week or so – and the Greeks are once again at the centre of it. But this time it’s different. This time it’s not so much the ORANGE vMEME of the ultra-rich financial speculators effortlessly wrongfooting the BLUE-dominated fiscal technocrats in Brussels and Berlin which is causing the problem – though the speculators are still making plenty of money! Rather, it’s the people – the newly-poor, crushed and deprived by the austerity measures wreaking havoc with lives right across Europe – who are democratically electing populist politicians and extremist politicians promising them relief from the austerity. (21 of the Golden Dawn’s neo-Nazi candidates made it into the Greek parliament in the 6 May election.) New Greek elections in mid-June are tipped to give an outright victory to the leftist Syriza bloc which, if Syriza’s leaders stick to their guns, means forcing the European Union to renegotiate the second bailout deal agreed in March, so the austerity measures the Greek are forced to endure are that much less severe. That or Greece tears up the agreement and effectively leaves the euro. In trying to predict what will happen – or what should happen –… Read More

Martin McGuinness for President?

Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, always good for a soundbite, is certainly making some interesting news stories these days.His effective admission yesterday (3 October) that the Provisional IRA did commit murder when innocent people died as a result of their activities is another – major? – step forward in Northern Ireland’s unsteady and decidedly volatile route to a lasting peace. McGuinness told The Independent: “The IRA were involved in quite a number of incidents which resulted in the accidental killing of innocent people and the term used by the relatives of those people who were killed was that they were murdered. I wouldn’t disagree with that. I’m not going to disagree with their analysis of what happened to their loved ones…. I accept that, in the circumstances where innocent people lost their lives, then it’s quite legitimate for the term murder to be used.” Of course, McGuinness maintains that the army and police personnel and Unionist paramilitaries blown up or gunned down by the IRA were legitimate targets in a ‘bitter war’ – to say anything other would be to disrespect both his own past and the hundreds of IRA members who died or served jail sentences for their cause.… Read More

The Riots: who’s right – Cameron or Blair?

Today what appears to be the final battle to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya is rightly dominating the news – as it probably will for several days, as stories of valour, celebration, desperation and atrocity are told from the streets of Tripoli. There will also be much speculation about what kind of Libya will emerge from the civil war – even whether the rebels can hold off splintering into their own warring factions. And, inevitably, since the West invested so much in the NATO bombs that so potently aided the rebel victory, there will be speculation as to what the West can do to help build a new Libya that is friendly to the West and accepting of its interests in North Africa and the Middle East. In and amidst this focus on Libya, we also need continue the debate about what brought violent rioters and looters onto the streets of London and other cities just a fortnight back and what we should do about these issues. Both David Cameron and Tony Blair had key articles in this weekend’s Sunday newspapers, setting out their positions. Moral decline, moral panic and folk devils As you might expect for a piece in the Sunday… Read More

Well, are the Arabs ready for Democracy?

On 22 February David Cameron, in an address to the Kuwaiti parliament, hit out at suggestions the Middle East “can’t do democracy”, saying: “For me, that’s a prejudice that borders on racism.” Even at the time it was blatantly clear that such statements were part of his and French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign to persuade the United Nations to approve military action against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi viciously and bloodily repressing pro-Democracy rebels across Libya. A little over 6 weeks later, as NATO tries not to apologise for bombing the hell out of the first armoured column the hard-pressed Libyan rebels have been able to assemble in what is now a de facto civil war…as revolutionary Tunisia and revolutionary Egypt wonder what on earth to do next now they’ve gotten rid of their dictators…and Syrian security forces exterminate yet more pro-Democracy protestors on the streets of Deraa, I’d argue it could be construed as racist not to ask the question: “Can the Arabs do Democracy?” After all, thousands of Arabs have died over the past 3 months in the name of Democracy. If we’re not to devalue their lives, we have to ask whether their sacrifice for their cause is justified.… Read More

The Northampton ‘Supergran’ and the Issues She raises

The footage of ‘supergran’ Ann Timson belting hell out of a bunch of would-be ‘smash ‘n’ grab’ scooter boys at a jewellers in Northampton the other week (7 February, to be precise) has had me musing ever since it was first  broadcast. The fact it is has become a ‘viral phenomenon’, spreading right around the world, has only caused me to muse further. By pure coincidence, a camera man was over the road filming for a documentary and he managed to capture the entire event on film. The footage was aired on ITN News that evening. Within hours, it was on YouTube and received nearly 6,000 views over the next 24 hours. Now there are multiple versions all over YouTube, Daily Motion, etc, using Superman logos and music like Chris De Burgh’s ‘Lady in Red’, etc, etc, etc. Ann Timson’s onslaught has made news bulletins in the United States, Australia and many other countries. The event itself raises important questions – as does the fact it has become such a ‘viral phenomenon’. Just in case you haven’t seen it or you need a reminder, here’s a slight edit of the original footage…   Ann Timson So what made a 71-year-old grandmother with arthritis in… Read More