Category Archives: Culture

PakiBash, 2.0: How Postmodern Racism Enables Systemic Decay

The renaissance of racism was one topic that we at Mediolana did not except to be writing about in the late summer of 2017, but with the rise of authoritarian populism in both key developed economies and emerging markets – and a nod to the 16-bit cult video game PakiBash – it makes perfect sense to elucidate the mechanics of this phenomenon.

Contemporary postmodern racism – while certainly not excluding the possibility of physical violence – is a predominantly virtual beast. But it has far-reaching real-world consequences, including ’tilting’ elections, the dehumanisation of out-groups and – crucially – guaranteed decline. Here’s how it works:

  1. Activate ad campaigns. The media is critical in creating a fecund climate for postmodern racism. It does this by running increasingly shrill stories which make popular scapegoats synonymous with structural economic and social problems that they have little-to-no tenable causative connection with, especially vis-à-vis the rest of the population. Wildly inaccurate extrapolations from unrepresentative examples are routinely deployed in this phase.
  2. Increase the heat. The next step – in which the media often (though not always) plays the roles of both cheerleader and instigator – is to claim that in an era when hate speech has become the defining wallpaper of our digital culture, ‘ordinary people’ are somehow being silenced from expressing hate speech. This has the effect of getting people to adopt confrontational demeanours, raising the temperature far beyond rationality.
  3. Airbrush inconvenient facts. That EU migration constitutes a vast economic subsidy to, say, the finances of the United Kingdom – a net benefit of £8.8bn from 1995 to 2011, as opposed to a £604.5bn drain on the exchequer during the same period by British nationals – is something that must be flushed down the memory hole. Sexual abuse – something which numerous high-profile cases have demonstrated is tragically institutionalised at all levels of UK society – is, somehow, to be construed as solely committed by people with darker skin tones and ‘alien’ names working in the margins of the nighttime economy.

Postmodern racism is, in many senses, a quite brilliant stratagem. And to certain population demographics, this new and improved form of Paki-bashing will doubtless provide that surge of adrenalin which is otherwise presumed missing from their existences.

However, it does not actually solve any of the problems it purports to explain. Quite the reverse: (i) it infantilises sections of the general public by conning them into believing that their own deficiencies – such as catastrophically low levels of educational attainment – can be remedied by blaming abstract entities; (ii) it deliberately polarises and degrades political discourse; and (iii) it gives a Get Out of Jail Free card to the taxpayer-funded agencies whose performance and policies have been central in engendering systemic decay.

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The Cost of Decadence: ‘One Night in Heaven’ Smashes Price Ceiling!

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Food Fight: Venice ‘Skewers Europe’s Fast Food Sensation’! #kebabban

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Transparency, International: Five Reasons Why Monocle’s Annual Soft Power Survey Needs Reexamining

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Firmly entrenched as we now are in the era of emergent big data, barely a week seems to pass without some kind of new rankings list – in areas from academic attainment to public transportation system safety – being published. Many of these are indubitably worthy, but one of the great recent additions to this panoply is Monocle’s Soft Power Survey (‘MSPS’). The MSPS orders countries by their performance in the arena of soft power, a concept that encompasses fields such as culture, education and innovation, and which deserves far greater prominence, particularly when contrasted with its costly and increasingly insane military counterpart.

This being said, for any index to carry a high level of authority, its rankings have to be both comprehensible and justifiable; on reading its latest iteration (Power Play, 12/16-01/17), we at Mediolana – after some contemplation – think there are at least five reasons why Monocle’s Soft Power Survey desperately requires reexamination (and quite possibly recalibrating):

  1. We’re Number One. The United States (position: 1) has been placed at the pinnacle of the index after a year in which its political system has – after decades of decline – well-and-truly jumped the shark, with much of the rest of the world looking on in much the same way as observers to a car crash. This choice alone jeopardises the value of the entire index, and begs the question: what exactly would the US have to do to rank poorly? In truth, Brand America has arguably never quite recovered from the humanitarian and fiscal sinkhole of the present series of Middle Eastern conflicts; how Monocle can attribute more weight to a Beyoncé album than to (unmentioned) deep structural problems is a genuine mystery.
  2. Oh, Those Russians. Almost as baffling as America’s ascension to the top of the MSPS is Russia’s non-placement – it does not make the cut of 25 ranked nations. Again, this seems scarcely credible: the Russian Federation has won the hosting rights for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, arguably the most potent soft power event of all; moreover, the nation clearly punches above its weight in the news media sector, even if not all its organs are necessarily outlets of record. And in sectors as diverse as fashion (think: Irina Shayk) and education (where there is a serious, long-term plan to propel its HE sector into the elite category), Russia is enough of a player to make its exclusion from a soft power index difficult to understand.
  3. Blood on the Beachfront. Similar to the United States, Brazil (19) enjoys an augmented ranking in this year’s survey – and only Monocle knows why. 2016 saw its elected president removed from office in a manner which can charitably be described as eyebrow-raising; correspondingly massive and bitter protests; and no end in sight to the plague of senseless urban violence which casts a huge shadow over this undeniably beautiful country – and which means that Brazil at ‘peace’ rivals war-torn Syria when it comes to its annual tally of civilian murders. The ‘games’ element in the bread and games formula – soap operas, footballers and an invidious Summer Olympics – cannot paper over these these chasms.
  4. Soft Power ≠ Skiing. Austria (21) is many things – tidy, well-administered, efficient – but twenty-first century soft power giant it is not. A generally stable and functional political system aside, it is in fact a real struggle to think of any heavyweight soft power assets in this Alpine nation’s possession, so its inclusion in the MSPS – just behind China (20), but ahead of India (24) – does little to dispel the idea that this index is, at least in places, borderline arbitrary.
  5. Our Absent Friends. As well as Russia, there are other absentees from the Soft Power Survey which do not inspire confidence in the index’s criteria. Unlike Brazil (with which it shares a number of similarities), Mexico is a rapidly-developing culinary superpower; unlike Portugal (15), Turkey has both a twenty-four hour English-language international news network and a world-class airline; and unlike Poland (25), the United Arab Emirates is a country that connects the planet via Emirates and Etihad, and also contains no less than three global or regional hubs: Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Basic computational errors such as these must be remedied if the MSPS – which surely merits a much, much wider audience – is to reach its full potential.

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Making Relationships Great Again: From Disenchantment to Magic via Game Theory

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Notwithstanding the tumultuous socio-psychological state of today’s world, there is actually surprisingly little which keeps our Creative Director & CSO awake at night. One of the exceptions to this rule is the seemingly relentless march – particularly, though by far from exclusively, in technology-defined cities such as London – towards a post-human society in which human beings are increasingly perceived as disposable. Within the job market, robots are unquestioningly viewed as superior replacements; within wider society, immigrants and other out-groups are libellously demonised in a way that even two years ago would have seemed almost unthinkable.

The dating scene is not immune to this logic. People – real people with feelings, emotions, sensibilities and fragilities – are now routinely dismissed with not so much as a left swipe on a screen. And for those people who do get dates, the shadow of ritual humiliation is rarely too far from the surface.

In recent years, much of the analysis of post-modern dating’s sub-optimal outcomes has focused on this topic from male perspectives; while this is in some ways entirely understandable, these narratives have tended to marginalise or even ignore a genuinely disturbing phenomenon: that of women in consenting relationships being starved of affection, used and then unceremoniously discarded by men who seem incapable of forming attachments – or beyond this, even basic empathy.

It was therefore with great relief that we at Mediolana came across a recent item at FASHIONARTISTA – a beauty industry/lifestyle blog with a burgeoning and richly-merited following – which addresses this issue head-on. In Why We Are Losing Our Charm And How To Get It Back, game theory is used to great effect in illustrating how the dynamics of male-female dating interactions can be tipped back towards sanity by the latter adopting a classic ‘less skin, more charm’ strategy.

By metaphorically augmenting one’s character with a layer of mystery (and perhaps literally adding a layer of clothing to the evening brand), the terrain of the dating game can be changed from one which is primarily about sex to one which is about the quality of the human being you are having dinner with; sex does not disappear, but instead has a chance to occur at such a time when it can possess some metaphysical significance – and with this, a corresponding leap in quality and connection.

So far, so logical – but what if adoption of this strategy still ends in rejection? After some contemplation, this is where – at least for us at Mediolana – ‘less skin, more charm’ comes into its own. If a young lady is following the rest of the advice given at FASHIONARTISTA’s blog – which can best be summarised as counsel on the art of being more graceful – and there are still no takers in her social circle or dating market, then the course of action is clear. Change your social circle, change your location, change the religion and/or weltanschauung of the people you date (or even your own). Refuse to be stuck in a cycle of second-rate relationships – go to where the great guys are and be appreciated for being you in all your glory. Numbering the days of the disposable society requires nothing less.

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Bloc Party: #ASEAN ‘Now Established #MissWorld Player’!

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Shanghai-Style #Mathematics: Essential Reform Or Irrelevant Fad?

The education system in England is undertaking one of its most dramatic reforms yet – transitioning to teaching mathematics according to East Asian methods – and readers of this company’s blog can check out our take on this momentous process at mediolana.com. See you after the leap!

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