Saturday, 21 March 2009

POLITICS OF COGNITION - CHAOS



By Fatmir Terziu

Roehampton University
Media & Cultural Studies, Politics



Two facts: HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF?

When the Parisian students in 1986, during their two weeks protest [26 November-10 December] challenged the authority with their ‘intellectual style’, the new subject was ‘a mechanism’ as a result of ‘material conditions, … towards a constructive articulation of real needs’ which in Antonio Negri’s words is an ‘intellectual subject’ (Negri, 2006:50).
Only ten years after the Parisian protest, in 1996-1997 the pyramidal scheme collapsed in Albania and brought the country into chaos. Chaos, the word in Albanian language sounds the same as in English, but is stronger in meaning: ‘Kaos’, which in another way can be related to anarchy and rebellion. The protest was run all over the country and was lead by opposition Socialist Party of Albania during the time.
According to Albanian media online, Albanian socialist party is still on this line of political cognition. “Albanian Socialist Party remains same on her decision of people’s protest” (Xhilaga, 25/11/2007:Koha Jone). So it makes again a clear point of how political system and politics of this system works through decision making of political cognition which lead to chaos. So history repeats itself. "French [Parisian] police fought running battles with rioters last night [25/11/2007] in a suburb north of Paris where two youths died after a crash involving a police car" (Mail Foreign Service: Tuesday, November 12 2007, page 2). According to Daily Mail a investigation continues about the accident at the weekend involving "a police car and a motorcycle, driven by two Arab youths aged 15 and 16" (Page 2). What's coincidence (!)
All the various modes of knowing: ‘perceiving, imagining, remembering, conceiving, judging and reasoning’ are related to cognition (Drever cited in George, 1962:24). So in politics and political meaning they face some problems. The problems are towards the meaning that they deliver in time and space. These are chiefly philosophical matters, and are not the concern here; at the same time I believe that an awareness of the philosophical problems, especially over the use of language, is a great help in understanding this chain or link between all this various modes of knowing. The very problem of appearance and reality becomes of the first importance in this understanding of the perception related to cognitive politics or politics of ‘cognition’. When the Parisian students in 1986, during their two weeks protest [26 November-10 December] challenged the authority with their ‘intellectual style’, the new subject was ‘a mechanism’ as a result of ‘material conditions, … towards a constructive articulation of real needs’ which in Antonio Negri’s words is an ‘intellectual subject’ (Negri, 2006:50). It was in fact the time that brought the news coverage in a potential way, a subject that was considered as a new identification of ‘ironic’ and ‘glamorous’ in the politics of media representation and the political issue as it was classified. It was really a subject that brought a new identification and new condition of subject interpretation.
But rather than the birth of new interpretation, it was a new rehabilitation of communist manifesto with the use and help of modern way of technology and ‘totalitarian mechanisms’ of politics (2006:179). Only ten years after the Parisian protest, in 1996-1997 the pyramidal scheme collapsed in Albania and brought the country into chaos. Chaos, the word in Albanian language sounds the same as in English, but is softer in meaning: ‘Kaos’, which in another way can be related to anarchy and rebellion. The protest was run all over the country and was lead by opposition Socialist Party of Albania during the time. People, irritated and affected by the massive loss of their savings, gathered on the streets, and everywhere there was a collapse in of state. The police came under fire and institutions lost their power. Uncontrolled situations delivered media attention around the world. Students in Vlora, a city in the South of Albania, tried to copy the Parisian protest of 1986. It was in fact a political ‘cognition’, which brought only disaster and blood to the city.
Europe's poorest country, Albania disintegrated into anarchy and armed revolt soon after pyramid investment schemes failed in January 1997. The schemes (actually fronts for laundering money and dealing in weapons) could no longer make payments once the number of investors grew to include the vast majority of Albanians, who had been lured by get-rich-quick promises. Beginning in February thousands of citizens gathered daily, demanding reimbursement by the government, which they suspected of profiting from the schemes. By March 1997, the protests had turned violent in the south, especially around the port city of Vlore (Vlora), where numerous residents armed themselves with weapons looted from army barracks. On March 2 President Sali Berisha (1944-) declared a state of emergency, but rioting and destruction spread throughout the country, gripping the capital, Tirana, for two weeks. Although the government quelled revolts in the north, in mid-March rebels still controlled towns in the south. Fearing the spread of unrest outside Albania's borders -- and alarmed at the third wave of refugees from the country in a decade -- the United Nations on March 28 authorized a force of 7,000 to direct relief efforts and to restore order. In elections in June and July 1997, Berisha and his party were voted out of power, and all UN forces left Albania by August 11 (Dictionary of Wars, 7)
But it was not the same situation, not the same control of power, not the same politics and political relations between the protesters and the state. Bogdani reveals that Albanian happenings in 1997 brought more problems in country’s integration. She compares this situation with the facts of Albanian politics in 1991. According to her “Albanian political class is still very primitive”, which can be read as fact that this primitiveness produces political cognition with problems in the politics of the country (Bogdani, 2005: Alb-shkenca). The state was dismissed and the international media exposed the undeclared power loss. So there was a lack of ‘intellectual subject’ and individuals were not able to be part of the control of the situation that conveyed a critical distrust. For Chantal Mouffe “the critical distrust of state and politics is easily explained by the principles of a system whereby the individual must remain terminus a quo and terminus ad quem” [Latin phrase for "limit from which" and "limit to which] (Mouffe, 2005:11).
It must also be said that the problems of politics of cognition are problems of thinking and understanding and are not really adequately pursued beyond perception. So lets go back to perception to explain this problem. A very common example told by George (1962), about Garden Murphy, an American psychologist, who records a visit to his laboratory one evening, is related to this fact:

“He was worried at the time about the destruction of many of his laboratory rats, and believed that a wild rat was finding its way into the laboratory and causing the deaths. On this evening, when he walked into the laboratory he saw the wild rat on the floor in a corner. He immediately prepared to take action and then, looking again, realised that what he had seen was, in fact, a ball of screwed-up paper” (1962:32).



According to George “in perception, when we apprehend an object or event we are often not able to categorise it completely or fully at the first attempt” (George, 1962:195). It implies to Albanian politics of the time. The opposition party was leading the protest of irritated people, from the local point of view and from high level of capital city Tirana, where their offices were, and told the people that ‘the government has taken your money’. Watching from the building and supporting the protest in the street, they created a clear link to perception that leads to misconception and chaos. Politics of that time disturbed the reality and treated the situation in a very political condition, because they found this perception in “the faces of the intellectual proletariat … open and sincere” and because they, the intellectual proletariat, were “an ontological power made visible” in protest (Negri, 2006:51).
So the problem of perception was clear food to politics of cognition. It was opposite have the problem and opposite of ‘this proletarian intellectuality’. Negri’s definition is different: “irony, paradox, and a critical spirit constitute the fabric of utopia; and hope nourishes it” (2006:51). According to Mouffe it can be classified as problem of democratic politics that ‘consists in defusing the potential antagonism that exists in social relations’ (Mouffe, 2005:19). Thus, the problem of misconception leads to exploration of antagonism of political interest among ‘intellectual subject’. Further it created open conflict, that in Mouffe’s definition the conflict “in order to be accepted as legitimate, needs to take a form that does not destroy political association” (2005:20). As Mouffe recommends this “means that some kind of common bond must exist between the parties in conflict, so that they will not treat their opponents as enemies to be eradicated, seeing their demands as illegitimate, which is precisely what happens with antagonistic friend/enemy relation in Albania.

“As soldiers defended public buildings from the wrath of angry protesters, the president of Albania ruled out imposing a state of emergency. President Sali Berisha will not proclaim a "total or partial" state of emergency and has "refused all suggestions" from leaders of the ruling rightist Democratic Party that he should do so, the presidency said in a statement” (CNN, January 27, 1997).

From left point of view this political cognition is in the context “The Proletariat Confronts the Bourgeois State” (Communism, 11). French newspaper Le Monde were among hundreds papers that brought the attention "the atmosphere in Gjirokaster [city in the South part of Albania, birth city of communist dictator Enver Hoxha] is mad. Popular revolt transforms itself into total anarchy, there are no more police, no more State, no more rules. The city is exuding enthusiasm, blossoming, has become excited by rebellion." (Le Monde - 11/3/1997) According to Communism “The struggle of the proletariat in Albania brought a breath of fresh air to the suffocating atmosphere of social peace which today, still far too often, anaesthetises the reflexes of the proletarian class. By way of acts clearly denouncing the whole of the State structures as their enemy, proletarians in Albania have revived the traditions of struggle by our class, which so many years of the defence of democracy - be it in the name of anti-fascism or anti-communism - had thrown to oblivion. It is so rare today to see examples of rupture from respect for private property, from the settling of conflicts through the courts, etc.. that we are taking the time and the space here to relate what happened in Albania and to develop a chronology in order to define the most important moments in the evolution of the balance of forces between revolution and counter-revolution in the country” (Communism, 11).
After all in March 1997 was first attempt to bring in a table ‘the antagonistic friend/enemy’ by the President of Albania, which lead the meeting and called an emergency coalition to be created with the presence of all political forces in the country. So these forces played the role not simply as ‘competitors’ but as part of the ‘we/they relation’ (2005:20). It was the clear political attempt that highlighted the ‘task of democracy is to transform antagonism into agonism’ (2005:20). But what lead to another condition of political cognition was Romano Prodi’s intervention [as delegated EU official] in Albanian politics of the time. He travelled in the South of Albania and met rebellion groups of this country, without any official or governmental ‘help’ or ‘association’ in terms of avoiding the political crash. But in fact he himself caused a crash, within its political cognition. According to Mouffe "a democratic society requires a debate about possible alternatives and it must provide political forms of collective identification around clearly differentiated democratic positions" (Mouffe, 2005:31). Two words stroke in my mind when stress collective identity and democratic positions; ‘infiniteness’ that acknowledge the un-directional politics behind the logic and completeness that recounts to collective aim of the political cohesion ‘related to completeness in logic’ (Wikipedia). However the infiniteness problem is polynomial-space complete himself. In the thesaurus it is the state or quality of being infinite: boundlessness, immeasurability, immeasurableness, inexhaustibility, inexhaustibleness, infinity, limitlessness, measurelessness, unboundedness, unlimitedness.
At last Albania’s political cognition still tried to create a reason or pretext in the country known all around the world as ‘the ex-Stalinists, rechristened 'socialist'. Now ten years later the lessons have been learned, even though the political cognition has again its effect. Paskal Milo, opposition MP, said for the media on Monday, July 9th 2007, that “we going to be prepared for early general election". According to Reuters, “Albania's parliament failed to elect a president on Sunday, keeping open the prospect of a snap general election that would set back the country's European Union hopes. The candidate of the ruling Democratic Party, its deputy-chairman Bamir Topi, received 75 of the 84 votes required, voting commission head, Arjan Madhi (RP) said”. Opposition MPs boycotted the session in protest against the Democrats' decision not to support a consensus candidate. According to Reuters, “this was the third round of voting. If no candidate is elected in five rounds, the country must hold a general election”. So ten years after pyramidal scheme of 1997 collapsed in Albania the situation were again in critical conditions. At last Albania elected a new president of the country, and Mr Bamir Topi received votes from right and left side of Albanian political groups. It brought to new debate, but to a change in the way of finding the solution in terms of avoiding the crisis without political cognition.
According to Canetti, ‘modern democracy and the parliamentary system should not be envisaged as a stage in the evolution’. At this point Slavoj Zizek’s ‘liberal democracy’ would be something comfortable in terms of political cognition to avoid the chaos. The fact the chaos in 1997 required an International military force, is clear to this theory of politics and political cognition. It completes this theory with Mouffe’s definition ‘in order to act politically, people need to be able to identify with a collective identity which provides an idea of themselves they can valorise” (2005:25). What is main problem with political cognition is the 'collective identity' of politics themselves. According to Albanian media online, Albanian socialist party is still on this line of political cognition. “Albanian Socialist Party remains same on her decision of people’s protest” (Xhilaga, 25/11/2007:Koha Jone). So it makes again a clear point of how political system and politics of this system works through decision making of political cognition which lead to chaos.

Maria Pandolfi in her essay Myths and New Forms of Governance in Contemporary Albania say that the process of transition in the country after 1990s was a struggle to escape from the past, but it was associated with many difficulties related to perception of politics and political battle. For Pandolfi “transitions construct a constellation of often contradictory practices and meanings around the social actors involved: hence, the perception of being lost in a labyrinth which, after the collapse of a political utopia characterised by total social control, may well generate anxiety” (Pandolfi, 2002:206). Furthermore in her words the question ‘Which Albania’ relates to the fact that political cognition has created ‘two rhetorical expressions’ (2002:2060. According to her ‘modernising’ and ‘New Humanism’ as new terms in political cognition has been only a part of a ‘package of predetermined interventions developed according to the logic of Western governmentality’ (2002:207). So trying to escape from the past in such cognitive way was seemed to be a problem. For Nicola Mai it is the problem of political cognition because ‘today Albania, like all other Eastern European countries, has experienced both the phase of Communism, when the West was either an ideal or an enemy, and that of post-communism, when it was associated with ‘the shock of the new’ (Mai, 2002:216). So this ‘the shock of the new’ in Noel Malcolm’s words is ‘the myth of indifference’ (Malcolm, 2002:84). However for Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers ‘most ....’


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