The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Category: Cultures

Monica Lewinsky on cyber-bullying

by fpman

Monica Lewinsky jokes that she is the only person above 40 who is not dreaming of being 22 again, given the “improbable romance” she was involved in with Bill Clinton when she worked in the White House, between 1995 and 1996. She explains the why of this in the video below.

A TED talk

Some of the specifics of the case are worth mentioning that some may not remember by now. The whole affair came to light after Linda Tripp, a colleague of Lewinsky’s, whom she confided in, secretly recorded long hours of telephone conversations with her in which she talked about her relationship with Clinton. These recordings, “made for patriotic reasons” by Tripp, were eventually made public and are still available online today. Past is always present on the internet.

The sibling gap and the pecking order

by fpman

This article offers a discussion of anecdotal evidence (from psychotherapists) related to a (supposedly) growing income gap (even) between siblings in the United States. Its main thread is the story of a brother and a sister – brother an entrepreneur who worked hard to go to college and then succeed, and sister who didn’t.

The choice of this kind of story may be seen as cherry-picking, a little bit. The dominant understanding in the article seems to be, as a result, that it is primarily a function of individual merit how much one succeeds. It does bring in some alternative perspectives, and to some degree it was intended to be neutral in its assessment, but in the end the article comes across as inclining in that direction.

The way it quotes Dalton Conley, a sociologist, reflects this:

“A decade ago, sociologist Dalton Conley produced research suggesting that income inequality in America occurs as much within families as among them. Yet the similarities tend to end there.

In comparing yourself with rich strangers, Conley notes, you can always convince yourself that they inherited wealth or attended elite schools or had parents with connections to lucrative jobs.

That doesn’t work if your brother or sister becomes wealthy. A disparity in siblings’ fortunes can feel, Conley says, like a judgment on intelligence or drive.

“You had pretty much the same advantages and disadvantages growing up,” says Conley, author of The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why.”

Conley, however, is actually recognized for his work in comprehensively reviewing the many different factors simultaneously at play in the background of the sibling gap.

Biology may play a distinguishing role in the first place but parents often themselves create or reinforce differences by criticizing and praising siblings regarded as inferior or superior, respectively — unintentionally or at times intentionally allowing the emergence of a “pecking order” within the family. Gender plays a role, too, of course: parents may favour boys to become high-achievers, and in fact society does much the same, too, not to mention the old discourse over whether women can have it all. Random things make a big difference as well: different life situations may put a very different burden on a brother or a sister.

I dare add: these variables may also interact. For example, the more a society is competitive the more it reinforces any gap that may have emerged during the siblings’ upbringing.

Thus, however Conley ended up saying what he said in the above brief statement, he would most likely readily point out himself that you may believe that “you had pretty much the same advantages and disadvantages growing up” even when it is not really the case. Let’s add that it may also be a problem if you know or feel that you didn’t have the same chances and you are frustrated by this: by the unfavorable pecking order, and that others may see your protestations about it as, simply, the cognitive dissonance reduction of a loser.

By the way, Conley’s first example in his 2004 book (“The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why”) is that of the Clinton (half-)brothers (Bill and Roger). There the argument is apparently that Roger got “a false sense of invincibility” out of Bill’s experience.

Bill_and_Roger_ClintonThe Clinton (half-)brothers

Stranger kings

by fpman

It’s that time of the year when one can (have the time to) think of things like… stranger kings. No, not the “Three Kings.” Just kings (or leaders) who are strangers to the land they rule (or used to rule, back in the day). I could as well be thinking about “What’s the purpose of Stonehenge?” (but I listen to it instead). The subject of stranger kings is nevertheless definitely closer to the subject area we are covering on this blog so I’ll spare you of some off-topic blogging.

If you think about it, the topic of stranger kings is actually even a bit of a paradoxical subject from the point of view of the Patrimony. Someone who was originally an alien to the people and the land under one’s rule by definition did not have family ties at birth that helped him/her into position. Those ties could of course be built up on the go, and they indeed were, in most cases, with the affinal ties that resulted being one of the key resources a stranger could use and rely on to get to rule… and to rule.

But some further literature which I am reading at the moment reveals that there may have been other resources, too. Or other reasons, rather, for a stranger becoming the king of the land.

David Henley: Conflict, Justice, and the Stranger-King Indigenous Roots of Colonial Rule in Indonesia and Elsewhere. Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 38, No. 1 (2004), pp. 85–144. LINK

Marshall Sahlins: The Stranger King or Elementary Forms of the Politics of Life. Indonesia and the Malay World, Vol. 36, No. 105, July 2008, pp. 177–199.

As it may transpire from these sources, picking a stranger to be king could mitigate conflict between an ethnic group’s competing sub-units – Henley explains the emergence of colonial rule in some places with this as a key mechanism. Sahlins ponders how stranger kings often represented the “foreign” that is both desired and feared, and how the choice of an alien to rule one’s land worked similarly to the affinal tie of marriage on the personal level (through which many stranger kings have historically come to power, actually). The choice of a stranger both as king and as spouse led to constructive renewal (which, as we know from the science on consanguineal marriages, is even biologically/genetically necessary, to avoid too much in-breeding).

This is all fascinating. But the examples considered from the world of ancient communities from Greece to the Southeast Asian islands and Melanesia, and from the colonial era, seem remote. This begs the question: are stranger kings extinct by today? Has, as a result of nationalism, citizenship (and the requirement thereof) emerged as a must-have bond to a political community that pre-determines that a certain degree of strangeness cannot be overcome to get to rule a certain land? Knowing that citizenship (where the notion exists) actually does not work in a universal and homogeneous manner (just like rule of law and human rights don’t, either) this is an intriguing question…

Interesting contemporary examples jump to mind, too, from the Hashemite dynasty ruling Jordan today in the person of Abdullah II (a dynasty hailing from the Hejaz region of the Arabian Peninsula) to Sonia Gandhi in India (the Italian lady who met then-future Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi in a Greek restaurant in Cambridge, UK, and is now pulling the strings within the Indian National Congress party)…

Having thought through this, for strangers to be truly strangers one should also have a strong difference between internal and external that is not there so much, and certainly not universally there, in today’s increasingly transnationalizing world… which some people refer to as a “neo-medieval” order of sorts, implying that once we were there already, in the past…

Alright, no more paragraphs ending with ellipses today!

Chaebol nobility

by fpman

Korean Air is the latest South Korean chaebol (large family-run conglomerate) hit by a scandal related to family matters. Cho Hyun-ah, company chairman Cho Yang-ho’s daughter, recently made a flight she was on turn back so one of the stewards could be kicked off at the gate. The reason: she was served macadamia nuts in an unopened bag which she, as the person actually in charge of the airline’s in-flight services, thought was not the proper way. According to common descriptions of the story she basically transformed into a dragon in response. She clearly went way too far, and by now she has ended up stripped of all of her company titles and was forced to publicly apologize for her actions.

ChoHyun_ahCho Hyun-ah (centre) with father Cho Yang-ho, apologizing (photo: Song Eun-seok)

The NYT doesn’t fail to add that the incident

“is likely to stoke already seething anger at the country’s family owned conglomerates — or chaebol — whose leaders have a reputation for imperious behavior and treating their employees like feudal subjects.”

It is worth remembering at this point Chonghaejin Marine Company’s case. It was their ship, the MW Sewol ferry which sank in April of this year. Over 300 drowned in that incident caused to a great extent by human errors. On its last journey the ferry was carrying over three times the amount of cargo it was supposed to carry, and the extra load was not properly secured. After a relatively sharp turn by the vessel at one point the cargo shifted and caused the boat to capsize.

Yoo Byung-eun was the head of the family whose business empire extended to control of Chonghaejin, run by Yoo Byung-eun’s sons at the time. In the wake of the ferry disaster, the public mood turned against father Yoo, and South Korean authorities issued an arrest warrant against him related to charges of embezzlement, negligence and tax evasion. His children fled the country, and in the meantime he went into hiding, presumably with the support of the 100,000-strong Evangelical Baptist Church which he co-founded.

Eventually police found a badly decomposed body in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, south of the capital Seoul, and based on DNA evidence it was proclaimed that it was Yoo Byung-eun. He was thus pronounced dead. Police is still after Yoo Som-na, a daugther of his who is also accused of embezzlement and is held in prison in France awaiting decision on her extradition. Her defenders argue she would not get a fair trial in South Korea at this point.

The NYT is also referring to a story where a “ruling-family” member at the telecom and petrochemical conglomerate SK group beat up a union activist with an aluminum bat. This exaplains the context where many papers are now calling on government and judicial authorities to set examples with some chaebol princes and princesses to put an end to what they describe as “imperial abuse.”

Beirut rules?

by fpman

The Islamic State is a puzzling phenomenon in many respects. One thing we just can’t make sense of is how an organization that often goes beyond previously imaginable extremes in its political and military tactics, can get seemingly genuinely very upset about stuff being done to them in return.

Such a moment came yesterday when one IS commander by the name of Abu Ali Shishani (his name tells us he has some connection to Chechnya, though he is a.k.a. Anas Sharkas by his kunya or nom de guerre) filled a video message with complaints about Lebanese authorities that seem to have rounded up wives and children of several IS leaders in the last few days. One of those detained may or may not be a former wife of caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s, a certain Saja al-Dulaimi, and if she is who she is thought to be, she is held there together with her daughter, plus some other wives, including a wife of Abu Ali Shishani’s. (It seems that Saja al-Dulaimi had been a subject of hostage exchange before, when she was held by Syrian government forces in the past along with two sons and a smaller brother.)

In this situation, Abu Ali Shishani called on Sunni Lebanese yesterday to blow up the house around them and let the roof fall on their head, basically. He said:

“I call on you, Sunnis, to rise up in unity. Our wives and men are in prisons. They took my wife and children and had no right to do so.”

Lebanon is a country where many people understand the basic rules of tit-for-tat kidnappings, and Sunni Islamists operating in and from Syrian territory have kidnapped many Lebanese soldiers up to now, not to mention they have even executed some of them. Lebanon is a country where a reluctance to be pragmatic may be punished fast. We would never discount the IS potential to break down the old order in places where they haven’t done it yet but Lebanon may be tough territory for them in this respect.

Thai “democrarchy”

by fpman

Thai Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is about to have his third wife’s, that is, Princess Srirasmi Akrapongpreecha’s family stripped of royal entitlements, according to reports, and most likely a divorce is brewing along with this.

This comes related to allegations of corruption against an uncle of the princess, a police general, who may have been party to some serious smuggling and gambling crime, and may have been involved in soliciting bribes regularly. The uncle in question is Pongpat Chayaphan, formerly the head of Thailand’s Central Investigation Bureau. He has been arrested together with seven colleagues of his.

This source allows a peek into some royal intrigue these days, within the ranks of the royal cabinet, known as the Privy Council:

“The prince has been described in secret cables liberated by Wikileaks from the US Embassy as unstable. Members of the Privy Council have confided that they fear his elevation to the thrown and would prefer his sister, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.  However, the laws of succession specify that the heir to the throne must be a male.”

So the case is an interesting combination of corruption and positioning for power. To me an even more interesting aspect of the story is this tidbit, however, from the previously linked BBC article:

“Until now the severity of the lese majeste law criminalising any critical comment about the monarchy meant that no Thai media had pointed out the family connection.”

“Lèse-majesté laws” (laws on injury to majesty) are supposedly an historical feature of absolute monarchies. That you cannot insult the honour of a royal family is not really compatible with post-monarchic, let alone democratic, political arrangements. Mixing the two results in “democrarchy” which may be as awkward as it sounds. Yet Thailand has a lèse-majesté law and it apparently is a major obstacle in the way of free discourse, according to this study for example. As past application of the law reveals to us, Thai authorities are even ready to incarcerate a US citizen for two years for posting excerpts of a book about the king that has been banned in Thailand related to the law.

ThaiRoyalStandardThe Thai royal standard (from here). What standards apply to the royal family?

But in fact Thailand is not entirely unique in this respect. Most European remnant monarchies have lèse-majesté laws themselves. There the application of the law is different of course and based on recent practice mostly obscene and pointless statements about the royals would get you into trouble. That is less of an anomaly perhaps as it is not entirely out of line with anti-defamation practice. (Although I’m open to the argument that even such a restriction may be viewed as problematic from a democratic standpoint.)

All quiet in the House of Saud?

by fpman

Gerald Butt, writing for the BBC, is warning us (in my words from here) that the situation past peak production of oil is not the only concern we should have related to Saudi Arabia: being past peak production of the “Sudairi sons” may be similarly concerning, prospectively. The Sudairi sons, or the “Sudairi Seven” are seven sons of the late Saudi king Ibn Saud from Hassa al-Sudairi, a favourite among the late king’s many wives. Currently this line of the family provides the oil kingdom with its succession of rulers.

Below is the relevant part of the family tree from Butt’s article, also giving you suggestions as to who in the next generation could follow once Abdullah, Salman and Muqrin will no longer be there.

Now, we don’t have to have a PhD in Gender Studies to be able to tell that there’s something wrong with how the family tree is visualised there. And no, it’s not that it is indicated that King Ibn Saud had “approximately” forty-five sons even though that indicates some potentially interesting things, too. On a more superficial level, the obvious problem is that women apparently are not supposed to belong in a scheme of this kind. It’s just the men who are shown. Hassa al-Sudairi has done her service as the mother of seven royal heirs but that doesn’t earn her a place there.

SaudiRoyalLineageAn overview of le royal with ease

At the risk of saying “at the risk of stating the obvious,” we may add that the absence of women is of course reflective of the general understanding of the role of women in Saudi Arabia. It is the men who deal with the important problems, such as that of which of them should take the throne. Back to Butt’s article:

“A meeting of the Allegiance Council, a body consisting of sons and grandsons of Ibn Saud to resolve succession issues, was held in March 2014 and endorsed King Abdullah’s elevation of Prince Muqrin – with the proviso that this appointment could not be overturned.”

At the end of the day, however, I don’t actually have to have a PhD in Geopolitical Studies to be able to tell you that this of course is not necessarily the foremost concern from the point of view of the world economy right now, and that in fact a succession of well-educated royal heirs to the throne may be much better in this respect than a bunch of AK-wielding shura members electing their caliphs (opportunity cost, damn it).

Putin’s gesture

by fpman

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped a shawl around Peng Liyuan, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife at the APEC summit yesterday.

Sigh. Boring.

Yawn.

What…? This counts as big news somewhere, somehow? The Guardian explains how:

“The incident, at a performance linked to this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, was originally shown on state TV and spread online as a forwarded video. But it was soon scrubbed clean from the internet in China, reflecting the intense control authorities exert over any material about the country’s leaders while also pointing to cultural differences over what is considered acceptable behaviour in public.

“China is traditionally conservative on public interaction between unrelated men and women, and the public show of consideration by Putin may provide fodder for jokes, which the big boss probably does not like,” said the Beijing-based historian and independent commentator Zhang Lifan.”

Very interesting. So the censors partly get the blame for this.

Not all the blame though. Some of Western media is in overdrive now to frame what happened either as a “PUTIN GAFFE” or as “CHINESE CENSORSHIP” or both.

Russia’s English-language media in return talks about… hold your breath…

…still hold your breath…

…still hold it…

…SHAWL CHIVALRY!

By the way, from RT’s article linked above you can also learn that Vladimir Putin engaged in similar shawl chivalry at the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg last year, on Angela Merkel in that case.

Alright, back to lazy times. Just chillin’.

“Stay classy, stay hustling”

by fpman

For example, this – see the title above – may qualify as a typical message carried by the hot new Instagram wave from Iran, via the account “Rich Kids of Tehran.” It has in its focus the lives of, hold your breath, the rich kids of Tehran. It’s all the rage these days, apparently, in some circles – potentially a different kind of rage in others, be it bling or bikinis that happen to enrage the latter more.

There is plenty of both (bling and bikinis) in Iran, even in a time of sanctions.

RickKidsOfIran

BBC Trending has a piece on the subject expressing what may be easily mistaken for slight disappointment at the fact that in this case Iran does not readily conform to the expectation that it would quickly and harshly deal with the people involved for their liberal ways.

A “classy” conclusion is reached where the author quips:

“It seems they [the Rich Kids of Tehran] do not fear repercussions from the Iranian authorities, who have been known to pursue other young people for engaging in subversive activities.”

To which we respond:

Dear BBC Trending,

We understand the point you are trying to make. However, as you may have observed, the Islamic State is another trending topic these days. Complaining of the inadequate efficiency of religious law enforcement as a manifestation of elite privileges seems to be slightly out of touch when viewed from the greater part of the universe outside of that political entity.

Spread the love,

The Patrimony

One (or more) question(s) about North Korea

by AiteVer

It’s been trending like crazy that Kim Jong-un, the current Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka the North one) has been out of sight for more than a month. The mystery that surrounds the case has sparked mountainous debate and, strangely, all we can do is wait and see the events unfold.

Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011, following the death of his father Kim Jong-il who had earlier succeeded his father Kim Il-sung, in 1994. The latter was the first leader of the independent North Korea and was canonized as the ‘Eternal Leader’ by the country’s constitution. The respect for the Kim lineage derives from this constitutional arrangement, heavily supported by an all-enhancing state-led personality cult. In short, the Supreme Leader has all the decision-making power and his rule is unquestionable. Well, at least that’s how it looks.

1024px-The_statues_of_Kim_Il_Sung_and_Kim_Jong_Il_on_Mansu_Hill_in_Pyongyang_(april_2012)The ancestors (Source)

Following the disappearance of the latest Kim, there are multiple scenarios on what could have happened and what is expected to happen next. It stems from the nature of the North Korean system that at least some elements of these scenarios are only guesswork:

  • The widely popular view is that Kim Jong-un lost political control and was toppled by his government’s officials. This article describes the decision-making system as highly hierarchical and puts the Central Committee in the strongest position while underlining that the Party is not even mentioned in the constitution. As a result, most interactions ‘stem from habit, custom and established pattern’. No wonder most of the speculation involves a close examination of recent appointments in this strict structure.  This other piece provides a table that shows recent movements in the main governmental bodies.
  • Hwang Pyong-so’s fresh (and highly anticipated) promotion as the vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission and his visit last week to South Korea (on Kim Jong-un’s plane with Kim Jong-un’s bodyguards) suggested that he has become the second strongest person in the country.
  • Then, in another account, a former top official claims that the Leader already lost power to the government’s Organization and Guidance Department back in 2013, which was signaled by the public humiliation and execution of Jang Song-taek, a member of the previously untouchable Kim family.
  • The Diplomat writes that it’s likely that Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong temporarily took over the leadership while he recovers from his mysterious illness. By the way, officially it’s been denied that he’s suffering from any illness.

The above are just some of the speculations that circulate in international media. According to an expert cited by Time magazine

“These episodes [like Kim’s absence] reveal as much about us as them—our own assumptions, even obsessions, when it comes to North Korea. We assume North Korea must be on the brink of collapse, so when the young leader suspends his relentless ‘onsite guidance visits’ for a few weeks, we assume he’s been overthrown. Precisely because we have fewer sources of reliable, direct information about North Korea, it pays not to rush to judgment. “

Either way, there is another alluring question related to the issue: what happens if Kim Jong-un is really out? Interestingly, only a few articles delve into this kind of speculation. It is an exciting one. Living with such a huge legacy and their vividly praised ancestry, certainly no Kim could ever be pushed aside in total silence. Or is this a mistaken assumption? In a personalized de facto monarchy the next Supreme Leader will surely have to be another Kim, right?

A key challenge related to this is that there are very few options left on the table: there’s the sister (who is a ‘senior official’ apart from being sister), there’s that guy who lost his chances by visiting Disneyland on a fake passport, too, and the other brother who was deemed unable to rule by his father and is assumed uncontrollable. It would be easier if Kim Jong-un had an adult heir but he is only reported to have a young daughter. Or is it perhaps time for reconciliation and a new era of North Korean politics? Well…


kim family treeThe Kim Family Tree (Source)

The next major event in the DPRK’s life will be held on October 10. The country will celebrate Party Foundation Day, the celebration of the foundation of the DPRK Workers’ Party, and we will – or we will not – see the Supreme Leader cheering with his people.