The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: children

A million Erasmus babies

by fpman

Besides stimulating cooperation in the field of higher education and, as part of that, studies abroad, the Erasmus Programme is the European Union’s attempt at social-engineering a transnational European class of open-minded, pro-European integration, multi-lingual, mobile, and high-achieving people, possibly the future leaders of the continent (the program is running since 1987 so we may still have to wait to see).

As a bonus, the European Community Action Plan for the Mobility of University Students (ERASMUS stands for that, though it is also reference to the medieval Dutch scholar Erasmus) may also lead to the birth of children with a fully transnational identity, from parents who have come to know each other while spending time abroad with the Erasmus scholarship’s support.

Recently, a study prepared for the European Commission showed that over a quarter of program participants may have found their future partners like this, and the Commission presented this by leaping to the conclusion that this may have resulted in one-million babies

(Never mind that “alternative cost” matters here as maybe not these babies but other babies, from other people, may still have been born if the Erasmus pairs don’t come together.)

Italian novelist Umberto Eco is quoted in the article accounting of the report’s findings. He seems overjoyed as European intellectuals often are when it comes to the subject:

“I call it a sexual revolution: a young Catalan man meets a Flemish girl – they fall in love, they get married and they become European, as do their children. The Erasmus idea should be compulsory – not just for students, but also for taxi drivers, plumbers and other workers. By this, I mean they need to spend time in other countries within the European Union; they should integrate.”

Methodology may be a problematic aspect of the European Commission report. The article mentions that it is based on “interviewing” 88,000 students although it is of course not sample size but random selection that is important in determining whether survey results are representative. And for that one has to have a well-defined population in the first place, e.g. students who have done the Erasmus program but not much else prior to that, perhaps (to filter out those for whom the Erasmus experience was not Transnational Experience No. 1). This is all significant as at the European Commission they seem to have arrived at the one-million figure for Erasmus babies by projecting that from the finding of how many former Erasmus students had partners of a different nationality. Anyway, here is the original report. I haven’t had the chance to go through all of its 227 pages yet but there is no mention of the words “children” or “babies” in there.

At least it may be confidently proclaimed that the Erasmus program is really beneficial to many.

The reason why I was recently reminded of this article (albeit it is of relevance to this blog in any case) is the ongoing search for answers as to how the Islamic State finds such a wide audience that is listening to its message, even in Europe.

Now imagine Umberto Eco’s quote with a major twist.

“It is a revolution (um, actually, it even has sexual aspects: beyond things like this, there are all those wannabe jihadi wives who travel there, too): a young French jihadi meets a Syrian jihadi or a young Saudi jihadi meets a British jihadi and … they get married (with or without “love” as such). And they become… (take a guess) as do their children.”

It may feel as twisted as this re-interpretation by Perfect Circle of the Beatles’ Imagine but the Islamic State is indeed nothing less than a competing integration project. It is in competition not only with the EU of course but with everything else in the post-colonial, formerly Euro-centric game of states, borders, inter- and supranational institutions, citizenship and human rights. Its effectiveness as an integration project may pale in comparison with the European project, and it alienates many in the process. But that is still a relevant dimension of measurement right there.

How many Islamic State babies are there by now? This could be an intriguing question.

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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.

Teh faceplant

by fpman

I am in such a rush to bring this photo (below) to the attention of The Patrimony’s followers I am not even going to correct the title above.

Obama_OvalOfficeThe faceplant – photo: Lawrence Jackson (source)

So this is a pic from the White House Flickr page (taken in June this year, published today). One source summarizes what we need to know about it thus:

“When a retiring Secret Service agent and his wife were invited to speak with Barack Obama in the Oval Office, the couple’s young son was offered the chance to go face-to-face with the world’s most powerful man. Instead …”

The context, provided to you straight from our Situation Room: US President Barack Obama has a history of popular photos with kids (see for example this story + photo combo, too). And the US Secret Service has a recent history of rather uncomfortable scandals.

Sometimes, if you add up one and one, it’s less than two – but may still be more than one. Call it the halo effect, if you’re the scientific type.

How an Islamic State media officer views the issue of family

by fpman

The following dialogue is heard in the second part of a documentary shot by Vice News in Islamic State territory recently. It takes place inside a car where, while waiting, the journalist, Medyan Dairieh, is asking questions in Arabic from a representative of the Islamic State, by the name of Abu Mosa, essentially a media officer — or Dairieh’s minder.

Medyan Dairieh: “The war has been going on for a while. Don’t you have recreation time that you spend with the family?”

Abu Mosa: “To be honest, no. In my case, no. In the last few Eid celebrations, I told my children that I’ll not buy any sweets for Eid until the children of Daraa and Homs are able to celebrate, too. I don’t return home for pleasure, I only go when it’s important or I’m sick. I don’t, I don’t go at all.”

Medyan Dairieh: “Does that mean that you live for war all the time?”

Abu Mosa: “Yes. The family, honestly, is the least important thing. There is a higher purpose. No one would defend Muslims if we all sat at home with the family.”

Abu Mosa is no top decision-maker, of course, but he is a representative of a recently declared state (or political entity, to use a less loaded term). While his person may initially make this seem like an off-topic post for this blog, the subject he is talking about, and the similarity of thinking across the Islamic State’s jihadi leadership — given that their whole world view is in effect about demanding and expecting homogeneity of thinking, or the unity of the umma, i.e. the “community of the believers” — makes Abu Mosa’s comments significant on a larger scale.

This is a peculiar case — in reference back to our first post here where we said politicians having family comes with both good and bad sides in terms of political implications. Here the readiness on the part of at least some of the people in question to disregard even the bond to their own families, along with much else, in the name of their “higher purpose,” is… concerning. That, probably, is the scientifically accurate expression of what it is.

By the way, the documentary discussed here has five parts and you find the first of the five here.