Why we must resist the New Normal

Its advocates think we should live our lives forever in the shadow of Covid.

FRANK FUREDI21st July 2021

Why we must resist the New Normal

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Time and again you hear politicians, pundits and experts hold forth about the New Normal. Although they rarely say exactly what it is, their message is clear: the way we live and work in the post-Covid world will be very different to how we lived and worked in the pre-Covid world.

There are numerous versions of the New Normal. For example, the work one entails changed working patterns, with many people expected to continue working from home. The environmental one entails reduced international travel and lower levels of consumption. And the education one entails the replacement, in part, of old-fashioned face-to-face teaching with online learning.

It can often seem that the New Normal is a way for certain sections of society to advance their pre-existing visions of how things ought to be. For some economists, for example, the New Normal means the restructuring of capitalism. One World Bank blog asserts that multinationals will have to take ‘greater responsibility’ for the environment and adopt an ‘increased focus on sustainability and green initiatives’. Decarbonisation here is projected as a product of the New Normal.https://0697cad591f78cdd8d0b6d3ad3e81666.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

This is an outlook advocated by the globalist oligarchs of the World Economic Forum, in the shape of its so-called Great Reset. This is the WEF’s attempt to put a positive spin on the New Normal. It claims the application of new technology under the benevolent guidance of technocratic experts will create a more just world.

The political New Normal shares some aspects with the WEF’s vision. Like the WEF, those arguing for a New Normal politics want to subordinate democratic decision-making to technocratic expertise. In particular, they believe that public-health experts should have a far greater say in the management of society.

This technocratic vision, however, lacks even the technological optimism of the Great Reset. Instead, public-health experts see the New Normal as a way to continue the restrictions and public-health management of the past 18 months. From their standpoint, it is not humans determining the future of society, but a virus.

And here, perhaps, we approach what lies at the heart of these various visions of the New Normal — a tremendous fatalism. A virus is effectively dictating our futures for us. Public life has been reduced to little more than an exercise in public health. The overarching objective of New Normal life amounts to little more than avoiding risk – or, as it used to be known, tempting fate – and trying to stay safe.

This brings us to the dominant themes of the New Normal script – human passivity and powerlessness.

Indeed, both are continually promoted by the New Normal advocates. For example, the Guardian’s report on its favourite risk-averse society, New Zealand, is titled: ‘No “return to normal” expected in post-pandemic New Zealand – and locals say that’s fine.’ Overall, it says, ‘New Zealanders’ feelings toward Covid-19 were “passive”. Almost half – or 44 per cent – felt neutral emotions around Covid-19, and three-quarters felt the country was going in the right direction.’

The passivity of New Zealanders in the face of Covid and the ensuing restrictions highlights a dramatic loss of agency. If this report is accurate it suggests that New Zealanders are gripped by a powerful mood of fatalism. And they seem not to be alone. Across the West, many seem to be willing to accept that they can do no other. The virus is deciding their future for them.

This marks a dangerous backwards step for humanity.

Humanity has, of course, long subjected the idea of destiny to philosophical and scientific debate. The Ancients often expressed a powerful belief in people’s potential to exercise their will and shape their future. With the ascendancy of the Enlightenment and the commanding influence of science and knowledge, belief in the creative and transformative potential of humanity flourished. When US President Franklin Roosevelt stated in 1939, ‘Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds’, he echoed the belief that people possessed the power to make their own way in the world. That Roosevelt could express such a positive view of the human condition in the dark days of 1939 indicates an admirable refusal to defer to fate.

The representation of humanity in the West today is far less flattering. Human powerlessness and vulnerability are emphasised in virtually every cultural domain. People are divested of the capacity to make conscious decisions about their lives. Indeed, even the idea that human beings are capable of reasoning, judging and acting for themselves has given way to the dogma that people lack the moral and intellectual resources to deal with a crisis – in this case a pandemic.

This tendency to depict humanity as being at the permanent mercy of events beyond its control, be they viruses or climate change, resembles the ancient practice of evoking fate as a terrifying and unstoppable force. Yet, though many Ancients were in awe of fate, they still explored the possibility that individuals might be able to influence their future.

The Romans, for instance, worshipped the goddess Fortuna, giving her great power over human affairs. But they still believed that her influence could be contained and even overcome by people of true virtue. As the saying goes: ‘Fortune favours the brave.’ The conviction that the power of fortune could be limited through human effort and will is one of the most important legacies of the humanist tradition – a tradition that revived during the Renaissance and flourished during the Enlightenment. Indeed, this tradition affirmed the belief that, in certain circumstances, humanity could gain freedom from necessity and influence its own future.

But that was then. Today, the optimistic belief in humankind’s ability to subdue the challenges it faces has been displaced by a powerful mood of fatalism.

However, we do not have to accept the dogma of the New Normal. The old normal encouraged humanity to see itself as the subjects and not the objects of history. We need to reappropriate the democratic and future-oriented spirit of the Enlightenment era. It is not up to experts sitting in their laboratories to decide what is and what is not normal. Through democratic debate, it is up to citizens to work out what kind of future they wish to inhabit. Beware the peddlers of the New Normal.

Frank Furedi’s latest book Democracy Under Siege: Don’t let Them Lock It Down is published by Zer0 Books.

Why we must resist the New Normal – spiked (spiked-online.com)

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EU’s Top Court: Employers May Ban Islamic Headscarves

by Soeren Kern

  • The judgment is consistent with previous determinations by the Luxembourg-based court, informally known as the European Court of Justice (ECJ), that bans on religious symbols at the workplace are not inherently discriminatory — provided they apply equally to all religions.
  • The significance of the ECJ’s decision on the headscarf — arguably the most visible symbol of political Islam in Europe — cannot be overstated: by striking a balance between religious liberty and entrepreneurial freedom, the court has effectively blocked a back-door effort to enshrine Sharia law in European labor law.
  • Islamic head coverings have been a recurring issue in Germany, where the Muslim population has surpassed six million to become approximately 7.2% of the overall population of 83 million.
  • Germany’s headscarf debate — which is actively being fueled by groups promoting Islamism and Salafism — is directly linked to ongoing disputes about mass migration and the integration of immigrants into German society.
  • “The headscarf is not neutral. Religious freedom is important, yes. It is important to preserve it, yes. But this basic right also has its limits where a basic social order is violated, and a higher legal interest is affected.” — Ahmad Mansour, a Germany-based Israeli-Arab expert on Islam.
(Image source: Transparency International/Flickr)

The Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU’s highest court, has ruled that private sector employers within the 27-member bloc are legally entitled to prohibit their employees from wearing Islamic headscarves at the workplace.

The decision states that corporate bans on religious or political symbols are legitimate if employers wish to “present a neutral image towards customers” or to “prevent social disputes.”

The judgment is consistent with previous determinations by the Luxembourg-based court, informally known as the European Court of Justice (ECJ), that bans on religious symbols at the workplace are not inherently discriminatory — provided they apply equally to all religions.

The significance of the ECJ’s decision on the headscarf — arguably the most visible symbol of political Islam in Europe — cannot be overstated: by striking a balance between religious liberty and entrepreneurial freedom, the court has effectively blocked a back-door effort to enshrine Sharia law in European labor law.

Unsurprisingly, the ruling has been met with outrage by those — including the Turkish government — committed to establishing a special status for Islam in Europe. They have condemned it as “fascist,” “racist,” and “Islamophobic.”

The ECJ’s ruling, issued on July 15, is based on two legal cases from Germany. In the first, a Muslim employee of Hamburg-based WABE, which runs a large number of child daycare centers in Germany, was warned several times that she was not allowed to wear a hijab at the workplace. WABE, which has more than 600 employees who care for approximately 3,500 children, is non-partisan and non-denominational and prohibits staff from wearing any religious symbols, including Islamic headscarves, Christian crosses, and Jewish skullcaps. An internal regulation states:

“Employees shall not make any political, philosophical or religious statements to parents, children and third parties in the workplace. Employees shall not wear any signs of their political, philosophical, or religious beliefs that are visible to parents, children and third parties in the workplace. Employees shall not give expression to any related customs to parents, children and third parties in the workplace.”

After the woman, a Muslim convert, was suspended from her job, she sued to force WABE to remove from her personnel file the warnings about her wearing the Islamic headscarf. The Hamburg Labor Court (Arbeitsgericht Hamburg) asked the ECJ to interpret EU law.

In the second case, a Muslim woman in Bavaria sued MH Müller Handel, which operates a drugstore chain, after she was prohibited from wearing a headscarf while working as a sales assistant and cashier. An internal directive prohibits MH Müller employees from using conspicuous political, philosophical or religious symbols in its stores. The directive is aimed at maintaining neutrality to prevent conflicts between employees that have arisen in the past and were apparently based on different religions and cultures represented there.

The woman said that the company had violated her religious freedom and sued for damages; MH Müller countered that it was entitled to entrepreneurial freedom. After the woman won her case in a local court, MH Müller appealed to the Federal Labor Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht), which asked the ECJ for a preliminary ruling based on EU law.

In its decision, the ECJ, referencing the EU’s so-called Employment Equality Directive, which aims to combat workplace discrimination, explained:

“1. Article 1 and Article 2(2)(a) of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation must be interpreted as meaning that an internal rule of an undertaking, prohibiting workers from wearing any visible sign of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace, does not constitute, with regard to workers who observe certain clothing rules based on religious precepts, direct discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, for the purpose of that directive, provided that that rule is applied in a general and undifferentiated way.

“2. Article 2(2)(b) of Directive 2000/78 must be interpreted as meaning that a difference of treatment indirectly based on religion or belief, arising from an internal rule of an undertaking prohibiting workers from wearing any visible sign of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace, may be justified by the employer’s desire to pursue a policy of political, philosophical and religious neutrality with regard to its customers or users, provided, first, that that policy meets a genuine need on the part of that employer, which it is for that employer to demonstrate, taking into consideration, inter alia, the legitimate wishes of those customers or users and the adverse consequences that that employer would suffer in the absence of that policy, given the nature of its activities and the context in which they are carried out; secondly, that that difference of treatment is appropriate for the purpose of ensuring that the employer’s policy of neutrality is properly applied, which entails that that policy is pursued in a consistent and systematic manner; and, thirdly, that the prohibition in question is limited to what is strictly necessary having regard to the actual scale and severity of the adverse consequences that the employer is seeking to avoid by adopting that prohibition.

“3. Article 2(2)(b)(i) of Directive 2000/78 must be interpreted as meaning that indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief resulting from an internal rule of an undertaking prohibiting, at the workplace, the wearing of visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs with the aim of ensuring a policy of neutrality within that undertaking can be justified only if that prohibition covers all visible forms of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs. A prohibition which is limited to the wearing of conspicuous, large-sized signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs is liable to constitute direct discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, which cannot in any event be justified on the basis of that provision.

“4. Article 2(2)(b) of Directive 2000/78 must be interpreted as meaning that national provisions protecting the freedom of religion may be taken into account as more favorable provisions, within the meaning of Article 8(1) of that directive, in examining the appropriateness of a difference of treatment indirectly based on religion or belief.

The ECJ’s ruling is consistent with a landmark decision announced in March 2017, when the court sided with a Belgian company that terminated a Muslim employee who refused to stop wearing a headscarf at the workplace. The company said the headscarf violated its position of neutrality. The ECJ ruling stated:

“Article 2(2)(a) of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation must be interpreted as meaning that the prohibition on wearing an Islamic headscarf, which arises from an internal rule of a private undertaking prohibiting the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign in the workplace, does not constitute direct discrimination based on religion or belief within the meaning of that directive.”

Reactions

Islamic head coverings have been a recurring issue in Germany, where the Muslim population has surpassed six million to become approximately 7.2% of the overall population of 83 million, according to calculations by Gatestone Institute.

Germany’s headscarf debate — which is actively being fueled by groups promoting Islamism and Salafism — is directly linked to ongoing disputes about mass migration and the integration of immigrants into German society.

Fahrettin Altun, spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accused the ECJ of embracing Europe’s fascist past:

“It is unbelievable that fascism just spread to the courts. This wrong decision is an attempt to grant legitimacy to racism. Instead of denouncing its dark past, Europe now seeks to embrace it. We condemn this ruling, which infringes on human dignity.”

In a subsequent statement, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally condemned the ECJ’s ruling; it claimed it was an “open violation of the right of religion” and “constitutes a further example of the efforts to institutionalize and legalize hate and intolerance against Muslims in Europe.”

Burhan Kesici, Chairman of the Islamic Council of Germany, said: “The ruling by the European Court of Justice regarding the headscarf ban clearly shows that Muslim issues are not taken seriously in Europe.”

By contrast, Birgül Akpinar, a German-Turkish member of the ruling Christian Democratic Party (CDU), tweeted:

“Good decision! Now we only need German judges who have the courage to follow the #ECJ judgment – and NO, that would be neither #exclusion, #discrimination nor #racism, but common sense!”

Christine Anderson, a Member of the European Parliament for Germany’s conservative party, Alternative for Germany, wrote that the ECJ’s ruling would strengthen the rights of employers:

“The decision of the European Court of Justice is absolutely to be welcomed…. Minority morality must not prevail over our own civilizational achievements, such as the principle of private autonomy. Every employer should have the right to say no to the headscarf. It is important that, despite a climate of increasing politicization and moralization, certain principles of law are not abolished.”

Ahmad Mansour, a Germany-based Israeli-Arab expert on Islam, expressed support for the ruling:

“The headscarf is not neutral. Religious freedom is important, yes. It is important to preserve it, yes. But this basic right also has its limits where a basic social order is violated, and a higher legal interest is affected.”

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.

EU’s Top Court: Employers May Ban Islamic Headscarves :: Gatestone Institute

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