Multinational Corporations and International Crime

The criminal proceedings of the Nuremburg Trials following the atrocities of the Nazi regime’ genocidal violence against humanity strengthened an international understanding of the concept of complicity to violence and soon thereafter developed the international law of human rights. Leaders in the Nazi regime were prosecuted for crimes against humanity in a series of international trials that were divided into two primary groups, namely that of organisations and that of individuals.[1] The tribunal at Nuremberg in addition to charging the defendants with heinous crimes also charged some as conspirators, namely that of mens rea or the subjective criminal intention that indicates liability. At the time, the laws of conspiracy were utilised in the United States to tackle the growing trends of organised criminal behaviour, whereby “it is a useful one [the charge of conspiracy] to bring against a gang leader who does not himself blow the safe, kill the bank guard or drive the getaway car.”[2] Under the Control Council Law[3] of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremburg, conspiracy was considered to be crimes against peace,[4] which is planning in anticipation of committing such violations and remains the most controversial aspect of the proceedings. The question of responsibility and complicity to acts of gross human rights violations was further amplified when tribunals were established for the atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. While these cases have charged individuals and organisations for state-led oppression, violence and genocide, the problem with Multinational Enterprises working in foreign countries and their immunity due to limitations in international law has been raised to the fore as an important topic for discussion vis-a-vis international law.

The continuous changes to the expanding economic structure in a globalised world along with the broadening of knowledge viz., the long-term impact environmental and human rights abuses can have, processes that emphasise responsibility by multinational enterprises has gradually started to form in the international arena. This includes the developments of international obligations and processes that assist States – particularly vulnerable countries in the developing world that often experience negligent abuse from Multinational Corporations – to develop legislation that will protect them from potential abuse, along with the willingness of domestic courts to implement domestic laws on crimes committed internationally, such as the United State’ District Courts and the Aliens Tort Claims Act 1789. The Maastricht Guidelines is another and explains the obligations of the State to adhere to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as explicated in the international covenant. The growing pressure from NGO’s and the poor reputation that multinational companies encounter also work as preventative measures to ensure compliance to international codes of business conduct and corporate behaviour. This includes the supply chain that multinational enterprises do business with or contractually hire, becoming vicariously liable for any violations of human rights perpetrated by entities with which it does business.

These violations can include poor labour standards, environmental damage and serious harm to the welfare of inhabitants from pollution, and complicity to serious oppression and violence from private contractors, the government or the military. Conversely, a multinational firm can play a vital role in the positive contribution to a State that can include employment and thus improve the capacity for communities to acquire   needed services, infrastructure and economic growth. Whilst I will try and attempt to broadly detail several areas of concern when discussing Multinational Enterprises [MNE’s], these being a brief analysis of existing laws and international covenants relating to international business and human rights; this is vital as it amplifies an understanding of the second area of concern, namely whether multinational enterprises should be held responsible for violations of human rights perpetrated by entities with which is does business. Delving through particular situations and cases, a brief comparative to existing, domestic tort procedures and laws such as the concept of vicarious liability and contract workers as I have discussed in previous posts, or command responsibility in martial courts, I will attempt to ascertain what corporate responsibility is and how the adoption of human rights principles can ensure sustainability and address the obligations as required by international covenants.

Corporate crime can involve economic, political and industrial failures leading to organisational decisions that can possibly affect not just the individual employee or employees, but also the broader community in general. From well known litigation cases against chemical companies guilty of both environmental and human rights abuses or pharmaceutical companies restricting access to life- saving medications, the topic of human rights and business responsibilities on a global scale is at the forefront of the international economic agenda, particularly since the capacity for multinational entities to commit serious crimes at a large scale can – in reverse – also be capable of effectively promoting and even safeguarding human rights. This is particularly the case for States in post-conflict situations or in an humanitarian emergency or crises that requires immediate assistance and support. It is for this reason the United Nations established the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to remedy the abuses and the failure of multinational corporations adhering to the standards as required by international human rights law. The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was established following the atrocities committed during World War Two and that illustrates a global commitment to the inalienable rights of humankind, states that, “[w]hereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”[5] All state actors and by extension multinational firms that agree to support the integrity and dignity of the human person as espoused in the UNDHR are prohibited to breach the obligations articulated within the body of international human rights laws.

The legal protections required to enforce UN conventions remain dependent on domestic legal systems, and notwithstanding the many member states that have effectively implemented human rights law into domestic legislature, there remains many States that have failed to comply with the required obligations of international law. This collision between international and domestic human rights laws can be comparatively identified in Islamic countries that expose the inconsistencies between Sharia laws and the requisite universality of human rights and the sovereign equality of State actors. “The contentious nature of Sharia’s interpretation of individual rights and its arguable incompatibilities with modern paradigms of human rights law nevertheless have to take into account the historic inequities with which Islamic societies have operated.”[6] Accordingly, the foundational principles and obligations in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights purports that States themselves must take appropriate steps to prevent abuse through the implementation of domestic legislation and policies.[7] While a plethora of resources have become available to promote such domestic changes, the protections afforded by legal rights is wholly reliant on their implementation into domestic law that adequately remedies the cooperation between state and non-state actors within the international arena opinio juris sive necessitatis.[8] Regarding the latter, relations at transnational level can be exemplified through mutual collaboration on the enforcement of anti-terrorism activities, further still and equally as intricate is state immunity and human rights.[9]

Nevertheless, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have established guidelines specific to multinational enterprises[10] that promote responsible business conduct through appropriate stakeholder engagement models that heighten transparency of the activities of multinational organisations. Followed by the Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises, the recommendations themselves, whilst voluntary, attempt to ensure that companies adhere to human rights standards and combat fraudulent and criminal behaviour. The benefits that it can have on the economy of the State encourage social progress and thus contribute to positive domestic development. And what exactly is a multinational organisation? The OECD Guidelines does not contain a precise definition of a multinational enterprise and states that multinational companies may be private, state or both that coordinate and operate in more than one country.[11] In addition to the OECD, UN documents such as the Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order,[12] the Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy[13] along with United Nations Set of Principles on Competition[14] each attempt to regulate and supervise the activities of transnational corporations. An ‘enterprise’ has been defined as “firms, partnerships, corporations, companies, other associations, natural or juridical persons, or any combination thereof, irrespective of the mode of creation or control or ownership, private or State, which are engaged in commercial activities, and includes their branches, subsidiaries, affiliates, or other entities directly or indirectly controlled by them.”[15] The purpose and incentive of the guidelines is to entice States regulate the behaviour of multinational entities with accountability mechanisms that legislate protections particularly through tort law that will safeguard against any potential abuses. For instance, the Australian government recently reached a compromise and passed a new Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law (MAAL) that requires multi-national companies in Australia to practice efficient financial and tax reporting publications to ensure better transparency in the prevention of tax fraud.[16]


Contracted to protect? DynCorp instead trafficked young girls in the Balkans.


However, as there remains no internationally enforceable remedy against potential multinational corruption and when considering the power of multinational enterprises’ particularly in the developing world or even failed States, national sovereignty becomes questionable and criminal acts such as bribery of public officials and human rights abuses become increasingly possible.[17] In Bosnia and Herzegovina, for instance, following the tragedy of war and violence in the region, Dyncorp Enterprise – private security contractors – had staff responsible for the rape and trafficking of girls as young as twelve years of age.[18] Whistleblower Kathryn Bolkovac, who was deployed on a peacekeeping mission and who uncovered the scandal was instead threatened and finally dismissed, a case of unfair dismissal confirmed by the employment tribunal in the United Kingdom.[19] The staff responsible for committing the criminal act of human trafficking in the region were merely moved and have yet to be charged since any remedy to such crime is based on the State’ duty to protect, evidently an issue when considering failed states, along with little explanation on what the State – being the United States in the case of Dyncorp Enterpise – has in regulating such criminal behaviour. Pressuring states is not uncommon even in developed countries, with international tobacco corporations pursuing action against Australia in Philip Morris v Australia. Whilst it is clear Australia’ aim is to protect human health and safety through plain packaging as an investment procedure toward the reduction of preventable deaths,[20] Philip Morris Asia disputed the change by claiming breaches to provisions in trade agreements with Hong Kong. “The Australian Government rejects PM Asia’s claim that it has breached the obligation under Article 6 not to deprive investors of their investments or subject investors to measures having effect equivalent to such deprivation.”[21]

Accordingly, along with the International Court of Justice and the World Trade Organisation’ Dispute Settlement function,   to place pressure to legislate domestic human rights avenues such as sanctions and – certainly dependent on the circumstances of the State in question – military force are used as coercive methods to prompt pressure on the countries in question. The economic opportunity that multinational entities bring to States can be employed as part of this method to endorse sustainable development, defined as: “[d]evelopment that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”[22] If one considers the responsibility that MNC’s have as inadvertently contributing to human rights violations by supporting third-party organizations that commit such crimes, their capacity to ensure that their supply chain remains free from any such abuse would conversely promote human rights obligations. The reliance that some States have on MNC’s can opportune legal and procedural changes for the better. The attention to the global failures from MNC’s in developed countries have led to valuable growth in the dedication for goods and services that promote fair and equitable conditions. For instance, foods including coffee, chocolate and other produce that contain the Fairtrade logo are steadily being promoted as a method to advocate proper labour conditions in developing countries. This can be similarly seen in Fair Wear ensuring the apparel industry adopts similar trademark assurances for consumers who desire to purchase items of clothing in confidence that workers are not exploited along with ethical diamonds and gemstones purchased as a preventative measure against the violence and slavery in mines. After extensive campaigning and lobbying by Greenpeace and other environmental activists against tissue paper company Kimberly-Clark for clear cutting endangered forests,[23] the company has agreed to approach the acquisition of required materials utilising an environmentally sustainable approach. Inter-organisational empowerment programs where negotiations between NGOs and MNCs is developing significant changes to the not only the exploitative practices of the latter, but also develop sustainable standards that promote a commitment to human rights and environmental protection.[24]

However, as goods and services are becoming regulated, reliance on petroleum in the developed world and access to lifesaving medications through the pharmaceutical industry in the developing world still remains difficult to challenge with jurisdictional restrictions failing to impose accountability laws for any violations that may be perpetrated. However, domestic courts in the Australia, the UK and the USA have developed processes that allow them to accept international cases and in turn impose penalties and responsibilities for violations for acts committed on foreign soil.[25] The Aliens Tort Claims Act 1789 (ACTA) was established in the late eighteenth century to tackle the problem of pirates and granted non-US citizens the capability to bring a law suit to the US District courts for civil cases that may have occurred anywhere in the world by individuals or organisations that contravenes treaties the United States is a signatory of.[26] Dormant for over a century, Filártiga v. Peña-Irala[27] raised the statute to the fore; the landmark case found the Filártiga family suing former state official Américo Peña for the torture and violent death of Joelito Filártiga by Peña while they both lived in Paraguay.[28] The Filártiga family won the suit and found Peña had violated international human rights laws. The question of whether multinational enterprises should be held responsible for violations of human rights perpetrated by entities with which is does business may appear clear, however the circumstances and the scope of responsibilities in the international arena still remain convoluted. Whilst accountability mechanisms and guidelines as mentioned earlier do exist, depending on the State in question, enforceability is often reliant on existing domestic laws and agreements particularly relating to labour rights, environmental protection and other safety legislation. While the United States established the Aliens Torts Claim Act 1789 that allows domestic laws to be used as a remedy for extraterritorial abuses, including the recent tort case against Chocolate company Nestle. Global Exchange and several former child slaves brought a class action suit against Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill who sourced cocoa from the Ivory Coast in Africa where children who had been captured from Mali were enslaved on the plantation farms. It is alleged they had breached the Aliens Torts Claim Act 1789 with the United States Supreme Court confirming that the case had justifiable merit.[29] This comes after a report from Save the Children in Canada that purports that over 15,000 children from Mali were sold into slavery in the Ivory Coast,[30] in addition to UNICEF’ study that almost 200,000 children are trafficked yearly along the West Coast of Africa.[31] Accordingly, the company was aware of the use of children and instead offered financial assistance so as to source the cheapest cocoa and thus, by extension, should be held accountable for the slavery. This comes after the company itself agreed that forced labour was being used in Thailand with supply chain company Thai Union with which it does business for its Fancy Feast cat food product.[32] “A report commissioned by Nestle SA found that impoverished migrant workers in Thailand are sold or lured by false promises and forced to catch and process fish that ends up in the global food giant’s supply chain.”[33]

While Nestle had in fact admitted to their failure following the report they commission with company Verité – a business that attempt to ensure transparency in supply chain processes – which exposes the developments for MNC’ to internally become more behaviorally responsible, nevertheless the company itself is tainted with a history of human rights abuses being one of the most boycotted companies in the world.[34] During the 1980’s, Nestle was found to have promoted the use of baby formula in Africa over breastfeeding, the latter of which civil society groups encouraged due to evidence of better nutrition and antibodies present in the milk.[35] As a consequence, the socioeconomic conditions of mothers in developing countries who, being impoverished and thus the costs associated with purchasing the baby formula taking a large portion of the family’ income, mothers began to dilute the powder in order to stretch the use.[36] With no other information supplied to them other than the marketing that baby formula was better than breast milk, infant mortality in the region was exasperated particularly due to the poor sanitary conditions of the water used in the formula. This resulted in the World Health Organisation developing a Marketing Code,[37] whereby, “[r]ecognizing further that inappropriate feeding practices lead to infant malnutrition, morbidity and mortality in all countries, and that improper practices in the marketing of breast-milk substitutes and related products can contribute to these major public health problems.”[38] Sporting giant Nike, with an annual turnover of more than $US27 billion, became well known for being linked to deplorable labour conditions or ‘sweatshops’ throughout South East Asia and Latin America. Business magnate Phil Knight outsourcing the manufacturing of the apparel to countries that offered cheap labour and instead poured much of its financial resources toward the adoption of a strong marketing strategy.[39]

Thus the success of the business has been built on abysmal working conditions for many labourers in developing countries, earning notoriously low salaries [at about 20 cents per hour][40] where such transnational sourcing of cheap labour supplanting the opportunity for human rights abuses. While Filártiga v. Peña-Irala certainly paved the way for justice against human rights abuses, the problem of jurisdiction and the examination of liability is central to the problem of multinational enterprise’ and gross negligence. One of the primary issues being whether a multinational enterprise can be held responsible for private non-state perpetrators. In Kadic v. Karadžić[41] where Ms. Kadic filed a suit against Radovan Karadžić for rape camps in Bosnia, it was confirmed the district courts were willing vis-à-vis the Aliens Torts Claims Act 1789 to cover private, non-state actors.[42]

Taking a comparative approach to the question of who should bear the responsibility for violations of human rights perpetrated by entities with which it does business, the concept of vicarious liability – a common law principle that purports liability by an employer for the tortious acts of an employee delegated duties to act on their behalf that I have previously discussed in a post here – can insist the responsibility of MNC’ supply chain management. As a legal term, vicarious liability ensures that employers are responsible for any negligible behaviour that occur within the workplace and not just by employees, but also agencies and contract workers. “A person who employs others to advance his own economic interest should in fairness be placed under a corresponding liability for losses incurred in the course of the enterprise.”[43] It was generally viewed that independent contractors who are assigned specific duties for a company were in principle in business for themselves and thus responsible for any incident or damages that may occur during the contract, however the growth and ultimately changes to employment structures and processes prove employers are responsible for the negligent acts by independent contactors.[44] In Doe v Unicol Corp [45] it was confirmed that corporations can be held responsible for working in concert with state officials, whereby companies are not necessarily immune from the scope of international law.[46] The pipeline project in Burma under the management of Unicol Corp [Union Oil Company of California], where the plaintiffs whilst building off-shore drilling stations in the Andaman Sea intended to build a pipeline through the Tenasserim region of Burma into Thailand found the Myanmar military units or State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) – hired to manage security during the project – for committing gross human rights violations against villagers in the region.[47] This included torture, rape, forced labour and forced relocation[48] where it was alleged that Unicol was aware of these acts of human rights violations and had the capacity to prevent or stop the atrocities.[49]

“According to plaintiffs, when Unocal and Total entered into the agreement by which SLORC undertook to clear the pipeline route and provide security for the pipeline, defendants knew or should have known that SLORC had a history of human rights abuses violative of customary international law, including the use of forced relocation and forced labor… [p]laintiffs assert, on information and belief, that defendants Unocal and Total   were aware of and benefitted from, and continue to be aware of and benefit from, the use of forced labor to support the Yadana gas pipeline project.”[50]

This reasoning is similarly seen in cases for alleged criminal behaviour by individuals in military courts vis-à-vis the doctrine of command responsibility, particularly the case of U.S Army Captain Ernest Medina in Vietnam. What has become notoriously known as the Mai Lai Massacre,[51] taking place in a hamlet in Southern Vietnam where over five hundred unarmed civilians – including women and children – were brutally murdered, raped and mutilated by US soldiers in one day of carnage,[52] only one court-martial conviction against Second Lieutenant William Laws Calley Jr. for ordering the murders of the civilians was made and even so, through a presidential pardon his life imprisonment was overturned to several years of house arrest.[53] Accordingly, Calley claimed that he was acting on orders given to him by Medina, who during the massacre chose not to intervene and was nevertheless acquitted of any crime during his trial.[54] While it is clear that the case of Mai Lai is violations of the laws and customs of war and can be constituted as war crimes and devastation not justifiable as necessary, the question of who is responsible for preventing, repressing or failing to take reasonable measures to prevent crimes against humanity, as is applicable in Rule 153 of Customary International Humanitarian Law: “Commanders and other superiors are criminally responsible for war crimes committed by their subordinates if they knew, or had reason to know, that the subordinates were about to commit or were committing such crimes and did not take all necessary and reasonable measures in their power to prevent their commission, or if such crimes had been committed, to punish the persons responsible.”[55] In the case of Doe v Unicol Corp, holding corporations liable for aiding and abetting crimes by applying international law, the courts utilised two ‘tests’ that attempted to ascertain liability, namely that of actus reus and mens rea,[56] whereby, “accountability for a certain harm because of objective (actus reus) and subjective (mens rea) criteria”[57] and to thus identify criminal responsibility. Whilst the scarcity of sources relating to the liability of aiding and abetting in international law, both actus reus defined as “the wrong act”[58] in Latin and is the actual physical act, along with mens rea or “a guilty mind” and the subjective mental state of mind have been utilised at the Nuremburg Trials and the International Criminal Tribunals for both the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanada (ICTR). Accordingly, the judgement of Prosecutor v. Anto Furundžija, it was stated that to establish actus reus, “the cases which follow indicate that in certain circumstances, aiding and abetting need not be tangible, but may consist of moral support or encouragement of the principles in their commission of the crime.”[59] That is, that the likelihood and extent of the crime indirectly increases in effect of their behaviour.


Exxon Mobil hired security forces that committed acts of torture and murder. Does that make them responsible?


In Doe v Exxon Mobil, a group of Indonesian villagers from Aceh filed a lawsuit against oil company Exxon Mobil Corporation where the plaintiffs held that the company had hired security forces that committed human rights abuses against members of the village including torture, kidnapping, arbitrary arrests and murder.[60] It is thus alleged that the company’ negligent hiring and supervising of the security forces carries responsibility since they indirectly facilitated the violence. A multinational enterprise’ purpose is to ‘advance their own economic interest’ and doing so with entities that perpetrate human rights violations expose their indirect contribution to negligence and thus by extension contributory to the harm suffered. Thus, the question is, how far does the scope of responsibility extends? As instantiated at the beginning, whilst we are aware of the rights of the human person, corresponding and equally as significant are our obligations.

It cannot be denied that particular MNC’s certainly have an influential capacity over governments, policies and politics in general. Fox News’ Rupert Murdoch, despite the notorious international phone hacking privacy breaches by News Corp, is an example of the power and influence an MNC can have with governments. The media mogul recently tweeted a series of comments regarding the Turkish elections, his controversial   relationship with the Erdogan government along with his acquired television and media rights in the country have raised concerns about his capacity to have an influence on social decision- making in the country. “Almost everywhere in the world, most of the media is still politically differentiated along with general political orientations.”[61] Whilst it is clear that media liberalisation is essential for democracy and thus by extension human rights, suspicions that the Turkish press had been infiltrated by centre- right political influence was solidified with the recent Gezi Park Protests in Istanbul, a story rarely mentioned on popular television broadcasters owned by Murdoch in Turkey during the tumult. The AKP in addition has attempted to strengthen legitimacy by showcasing popular domestic support and falsely representing themselves as significant actors of democracy, it is evident that media representation of the party is one-sided with Turkey becoming notorious for arresting journalists and restricting the independence of journalism and the media, social media becoming an expressive platform to expose the discontent displayed by the population. Notwithstanding the case against Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, a plethora of other tort litigations have nevertheless been rejected under the Aliens Torts Claim Act 1789 due to forum non conveniens, whereby the legal system of the country in question is adequate to pursue the case independent of the United States. Yet, often the laws particularly of developing countries remain deficient particularly if the sovereignty or governance of the State remain dependent on the investment and thus coverage of the areas of potential abuse by MNC’s is often insufficient to merit legal action. With a yearly revenue of more than $US120Billion, petrochemical company Chevron Corporation is an example of how a multinational organisation plays an instrumental role in environmental destruction and   human rights abuses. Their   notoriety   is perhaps more prominent in Ecuador, whereby the subsidiary Texaco had dumped millions of gallons of toxic bi-products over several decades causing not only serious environmental contamination that has resulted in ocean acidification and producing the drastic global changes with global warming and other effects.[62] In addition, the indigenous communities were struck with terminal illness and death due to the poisonous corruption of the local water system. “The company dumped untreated crude oil into open and unlined pits, from which toxic chemicals then leached into water system and through the soil of village lands.”[63]

Litigation against the multinational company by a group of Ecuadorian citizens in 1993[64] and was later dismissed by the Federal Court almost a decade later due to forum non conveniens whereby the complaint could be adequately served in Ecuador.[65] A similar case against Union Carbide Corporation in India that found thousands killed or seriously injured for the leak of methyl isocyanate gas,[66] whereby the State District Court of New York dismissed the case purporting that India had an adequate forum to launch legal proceedings against the disreputable company. This raises the question of extra-territorial tort proceedings. In 2006, Chevron filed for an international arbitration claim at the Hague claiming that the Government of Ecuador violated a bilateral investment treaty with the United States,[67] purporting that the 2003 class action against the multinational in Ecuador had been corrupted by influencing the judiciary, with the arbitration panel ruling in favour of Chevron that requested the suspension any enforcement until compliance with an Interim Measures Order had been met.[68] Criminal proceedings are still underway at the International Criminal Court against CEO of Chevron[69] for ignoring the requirement to clean the toxic waste in the Amazon and while a tumultuous case at the Ecuadorian Supreme Court that imposed damages of almost $US10 Billion[70] against the company, blatant disregard of their responsibilities is clearly manifest even on their website that states: “Chevron is defending itself against false allegations that it is responsible for alleged environmental and social harms in the Amazon region of Ecuador.”[71]

Whilst I have tried to elucidate in different sections of this blog post relating to what type of enforcement mechanisms could be used for human rights violations, including domestic laws and better approaches between MNCs and NGOs that negotiate sustainable frameworks that safeguard human rights principles as applicable in international law, therein nevertheless exists obstacles to these enforcements. It is clear that the United Nations and other national and international bodies are focusing on more effective methods to reduce MNC crime, whereby in 2003 the U.N Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights implemented the Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights that detailed business obligations and to a degree ensured clarity that businesses must ensure their obligations to human rights has been met. Prior to that, Kofi Annan whilst addressing the World Economic Forum proclaimed the Global Compact initiative that encouraged businesses to ensure the adoption of internal policies and procedures that ensured a sustainable approach to human rights. Combined efforts developed the draft norms that attempts to solidify business compliance in a legally binding set of principles and avoid MNCs from being complicit to human rights violations. Nevertheless, whilst these norms begin the process of developing into a binding treaty, organisations such as the International Organization of Employers opposed the draft norms.[72] In fact, hostilities to the framework as a remedy were rejected even by States including Australia, UK and the United States.[73] The guidelines themselves, as stated in the preface, “encourage the positive contributions that multinational enterprises can make to economic, environmental and social progress and to minimise the difficulties to which their various operations may give rise.” Whilst voluntary in character, the general principles and policies with a context of their global application, ensure not just sustainable development and supply chain responsibility, but also calls for the establishment of local capacity building procedures. Such encouragement could certainly have a long-term, normative impact particularly as a preventative measure against any social or environmental risks via the encouragement of ensuring they are combating any adverse practices that motivate corruption, violence and other abuses that impact on society and the environment. It is therefore foreseeable that the guiding principles may have a normative effect in resulting behavioural changes. This is followed with the recent adoption of resolution 26/9 on the 26th of June, 2014 that sought to develop working group on MNEs and other businesses to mandate internationally legally binding instrument that will officially regulate corporations inclusive of States and non- State and private actors. These negotiations are underway and it is clear that internationally enforceable mechanisms to ensure compliance to human rights norms – whilst yet to be achieved – nevertheless is certainly developing toward processes that places duties directly on not only States but also private, non- State entities and multinational corporations.

There are also other tactical advantages that can be utilised against MNC’s to place pressure for the adoption of internal policies and procedures that will result in an overall behavioural change that safeguards rights. The demands of consumers themselves are changing, with companies adopting the purchase of ethically sourced products, for instance the multinational company Starbucks who has adopted a sustainable strategy known as C.A.F.E [coffee and farmer equity] for ethically sourced coffee, tea and cocoa.[74] Additionally, the company also has ensured that farming communities linked in any way to their supply chain are managed by working closely with Conservation International, in addition to re-forestation projects.[75] Organisations like Conservation International and Amnesty International are adopting preventative strategies that build or strengthen relationships with MNC’s as well as developing frameworks76 that supplant compliance through collaboration. In addition, the implementation of sanctions to pressure States to ensure compliance to human rights has also been an effective method that promotes change.

“Sanctions imposed in the past, such as those imposed during WWII, the trade and financial sanctions against China, the Iran hostage sanctions, and the ongoing Iraqi sanctions, have been very effective means of achieving well- defined foreign policy objectives. Whether imposed for such broad policy reasons or in response to specific human rights concerns, sanctions usually, and perhaps inevitably, involve an immediate human cost within the target state. Short of abandoning sanctions as foreign policy tools, however, there is probably no practical way to ensure that sanctions both narrowly affect only the targeted state actors and still remain effective.”

However, sanctions can also work in reverse. In 2011, France began a process of approving of a Bill that would recognise the acts committed during the last phase of the Ottoman Empire prior to its dissolution against the ethnic Armenians as ‘genocide’ where more than 1.5 million died during a process of ethnic cleansing, an accusation the Turkish government staunchly opposes.[77] In response to the potential legislation, Turkey applied numerous sanctions particularly relating to trade agreements and reprisals against multinational entities located in Turkey from France that it is assumed the potential law was struck down due to the dwindling relationship between both States.[78] Whatever the case is, it appears that at this very moment, international law is ineffective in controlling the free-reign that multinational corporations enjoy and the only real preventative measure is the effects civil society can employ through boycotting sales of the products that they make or purchase through the international supply chain. This would mean that “hippies” who care about our environment and human rights activists that have fought corrupt companies by exposing such atrocities are in effect the champions of change as in doing so, Fair Trade products have come to fruition among many more. Thus the biggest change possible is by stopping the use of products that are damaging communities and the environment in developing countries by the people spending the money in countries like mine; we all have the blood on our hands and thus it is all our responsibility.


1 George Ginsburgs and Vladimir Nikolaevich Kudriavtsev, The Nuremberg Trial and International Law, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (1990) 62
2 Ibid., 64
3 Nuremberg Trials Final Report Appendix D, Article II of the Control Council Law No. 10, Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes, Crimes Against Peace and Against Humanity
4 Juliet Okoth, The Crime of Conspiracy in International Criminal Law, Springer (2014) 94
5 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Also see Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993).
6 Javaid Rehman and Susan Breau, Religion, Human Rights and International Law: A Critical Examination of Islamic State Practices, Brill (2007) 14. In Article 5 of the Vienna Declaration, it states: “While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
7 §1(1) UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011)
8 Benedetto Conforti and Angelo Labella, Introduction to International Law, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (2012) 33
9 See GFCC, Judgment of the Second Senate of 18 July 2005 – 2 BvR 2236/04 -paras. (1-203)
10 Organisation For Economic Co-operation and Development, Multinational Enterprises of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (2008)
11 Ibid., 12
12 A/RES/S-6/3201 Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order. Also   see 3202 (S-VI) Programme of Action on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (1974)
13   International Labour Organisation, Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (2014)
14 United Nations Set of Principles and Rules on Competition: The Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles   and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices TD/RBP/CONF/10/Rev.2 (2000)
15 Ibid.
16 Tax Laws Amendment (Tax Integrity Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law) Bill 2015, Exposure Draft Explanatory Materia. See:
17 It is for this reason that legislation such as Criminal Code Amendment (Bribery of Foreign Public Officials) Act 1999 (Cth) was developed.
18 Carissa A. Rarick, “Fighting War and Furthering Slavery: The Alarming Truth About Private Military Firms and the Solution to End Their Involvement in Human Sex Trafficking,” Journal of Global Justice and Public Policy [Vol. 2/65]
19 Human Rights Watch, ‘Bosnia and Herzegovina Hopes Betrayed: Trafficking of Woman and Girls to Bosnia and Herzegovina for Forced Prostitution’ [Vol 14:9] 55
20   In addition, the WTO   Dispute Settlement Body received five primary complaints from Honduras, Indonesia, Cuba, Ukraine and the   Dominican Republic with an excess of 40 third-party complaints, the ruling expected to be finalized later this year.
21   §44 Australia’s Response to the Notice of Arbitration, Under the 2010 Arbitration Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law
22 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. Document A/42/427
23 Mandy Haggith, Paper Trails: From Trees to Trash: The True Cost of Paper, Random House (2008) 46
24   Michael Yaziji and Jonathan Doh, NGOs and Corporations: Conflict and Collaboration, Cambridge University Press (2009) 151
25   Joseph, Sarah, ‘An Overview of the Human Rights Accountability of Multinational Enterprises’, in Kamminga, Menno T, and Zia-Zarifi Saman (eds), Liability of Multinational Corporations under International Law (Kluwer Law International, The Hague 2000) 78. Also see Menno Kamminga, ‘Holding Multinational Corporations Accountable for Human Rights Abuses: A Challenge for the EC,’ The EU and Human Rights OUP (2000) 565
26     Muzaffer   Eroglu,   Multinational   Enterprises   and   Tort   Liabilities:   An Interdisciplinary and Comparative Examination, Edward Elgar Publishing, 1 Jan. 2008, 124
27 Filártiga v. Peña-Irala, 630 F.2d 876 (2d Cir. 1980)
28 Op. Cit., Eroglu 124
29 The United States ratified the Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. See Michael Koebele, Corporate Responsibility under the Alien Tort Statute: Enforcement of International Law Through US Torts Law, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (2009) 139.
30 Theodore Harney MacDonald, The Global Human Right to Health: Dream Or Possibility? Radcliff Publishing (2007) 89
31 Jonathan Cohen, Togo, Borderline Slavery: Child Trafficking in Togo Human Rights Watch (2003) 8
32 The Associated Press, Fishermen Slaves: Human Trafficking and the Seafood We Eat, Mango Media Inc., (2016)
33 Ibid.
34 Anna Hutchens, Changing Big Business: The Globalisation of the Fair Trade Movement, Edward Elgar Publishing (2009) 77
35 John M. Kline, Ethics for International Business: Decision Making in a Global Political Economy, Psychology Press (2005) 153
36 John M. Kline, Ethics for International Business: Decision Making in a Global Political Economy, Psychology Press (2005) 153
37 International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, World Health Organization, Geneva, 1981
38 Ibid.
39 K. Aswathappa, International Human Resource Management, Tata McGraw- Hill Education (2007) 293
40 Andrew Delios and Paul W. Beamish, International Business: an Asia Pacific Perspective, Pearson/Prentice Hall (2004) 300
41 Kadic v. Karadžić 70 F.3d 232 (1995).
42 Ibid.
43 John G. Fleming, An Introduction to the Law of Torts, Clarendon Press (1985) 410
44 Scott v Davis (2000) 204 CLR 333, 4; also see Launchbury v Morgans [1972] UKHL 5; [1973] AC 127 at 135 and International Harvester Co of Australia Pty Ltd v Carrigan’s Hazeldene Pastoral Co.(1958) 100 CLR 644, 652.
45 Doe v. Unocal, 395 F.3d 932
46 Op. Cit., Eroglu, 124
47   Sarah Joseph, Corporations and Transnational Human Rights Litigation, Bloomsbury Publishing (2004) 69
48 Daniel Aguirre, The Human Right to Development in a Globalized World, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., (2008) 259
49 Doe v. Unocal, 963 F.Supp.880 (C.D Cal. 1997)
50 Ibid.
51 William Thomas Allison, My Lai: An American Atrocity in the Vietnam War, JHU Press (2012) 43
52 Carl Boggs, Masters of War: Militarism and Blowback in the Era of American Empire, Routledge (2013) 209
53 Valerie Plaza, American Mass Murderers (2015) 84
54 United States v. Captain Ernest L. Medina (1971)
55 Rule   153,   Customary   International   Humanitarian   Law,   “Command Responsibility for Failure to Prevent, Repress or Report War Crimes”
56 John Cheverie, United States Court Finds Unocal May Be Liable For Aiding and Abetting Human Rights Abuses in Burma, Human Rights Brief (Vol 10:2) 2002
57 Kai Ambos, Treatise on International Criminal Law: Volume 1, OUP Oxford, (2013) 100
58 Beth Walston-Dunham, Introduction to Law, Cengage Learning (2011)
59 §199 Furundžija (IT-95-17/1)
60   John G. Dale, Free Burma: Transnational Legal Action and Corporate Accountability, U of Minnesota Press (2011) 248
61 Rasit Kaya and Baris Cakmur, “Politics and the Mass Media in Turkey,” Turkish Studies, (Vol 11:4) 521-537, December 2010
62 Marylee Stephenson, The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador, 3rd Edition: Your Essential Handbook for Exploring Darwin’s Enchanted Islands, Mountaineers Books, 28 Sep. 2015
63 Kate Miles, The Origins of International Investment Law: Empire, Environment and the Safeguarding of Capital, Cambridge University Press (2013) 141
64 Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc. 33 ELR 20010
65 Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc. 33 ELR 20010
66 Malcolm J Rogge, Towards Transnational Corporate Accountability in the Global Economy: Challenging the Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens in Re: Union Carbide, Alfaro, Sequihua, and Aguinda, Texas International Law Journal, Texas International Law Journal [VOL. 36:299] 2001
67 Almut Schilling-Vacaflor, New Constitutionalism in Latin America: Promises and Practices, Routledge (2016)
68 They also held proceedings in a separate case claiming that Ecuador breached the Investment Agreement and the Settlement Agreement between Texaco and the State.
72 Criminal Justice in International Society By Willem de Lint, Marinella Marmo, Nerida Chazal, Routledge (2014) 238
73 Ibid.
74 Cheryl J. Baldwin, The 10 Principles of Food Industry Sustainability, John Wiley& Sons (2015) 29
75 Ibid.
76 Kinley, David; Joseph, Sarah — “Multinational corporations and human rights: questions about their relationship” [2002] AltLawJl 3; (2002) 27(1) Alternative Law Journal 7
77 Note that it is actually illegal in Turkey to claim that there ever was an Armenian Genocide. The Bill itself in France would have made it a criminal offence if one denied that there was a genocide.
78 Evangelia Axiarlis, Political Islam and the Secular State in Turkey: Democracy, Reform and the Justice and Development Party, .B.Tauris, (2014) 126

What Is Ideology?

With the continuous discourse on ideology that is often accompanied by words such as terrorism, globalisation or imperialism, the definition is not only ambiguous but has an unsavoury association to other terms that are themselves vague. Indeed, there certainly exists an adverse meaning to ‘ideology’ as being a belief system that legitimises a doctrine for violence and subordination. But what exactly is ideology? An ideology is said to be, “[a] cultural representation of the social order that makes this order seem immutable and supremely legitimate… placing it beyond change by human agencies, outside the history of human actions and social relations, and beyond the framework of material constraints, which are its ultimate determinants.”[i] According to Karl Marx, ideology or the superstructure is a conceptual method of social organisation. The collective are enticed into believing in ideological and material values, the latter of which is merely invented by the bourgeois; the oppressed are thus inadvertently supporting the ruling class’ domination. “Everyone believes his [bourgeois] craft to be the true one… [i]n consciousness – in jurisprudence, politics, etc. – relations become concepts.”[ii] Thus the superstructure contains a collection of historically retained ideas that legitimise the dominate classes.

Conversely, Michel Foucault analysed ideology – what he later names discourse – as a social function of truth that authenticates social stratification and hierarchical arrangements, whereby “like it or not, it [ideology] always stands in virtual opposition to something else which is supposed to count as truth.”[iii] Power in discourse can only emerge effectively when interpretation is no longer needed and is automatically processed as truth, which prompts repression and power. However, power in discourse is not always negative, but provides a pleasant and a productive network that efficiently conditions and closes the gap between politics and culture. This distinctly coincides with the superstructure, for not only are the elite exercising dominance over the masses but ideology exists because citizens desire it. Eric Hobsbawm highlighted the existence of what he referred to as the imagined national community,[iv] namely that the values set within ideological beliefs are merely invented to hold the administration of a State together by motivating a national character and providing political and social cohesion. “Politics is so deeply rooted in the native genius of each nation that the continuity of separate political traditions constantly resist the levelling forces at work in the social and economic spheres of modern life.”[v] However, this does not make the nation ‘unreal’ but should instead be viewed as a concept that enables, “[e]xperience and the interpretation of the world.”[vi]

Ultimately, power requires recognition.

The relationship between power and identity is most obvious in the new concept of the nation: the nation, first as a community of equal individual citizens and then as a community founded upon a shared culture, becomes the legitimate locus of power… strategically, identity not only legitimizes power but provides also an effective instrument for mobilization.[vii].

The legitimisation of ideological constructs often involve Othering or the proposition that x is more legitimate than y within essentialists categorisations, which is the view that all properties in an entity must contain the same attributes. Jean-Paul Sartre claims that the anti—Semite creates the ‘Jew’ by becoming an object representing what is loathed and thus causally becoming the very purpose or reason for his being and identity.[viii] The belief in the existence of properties or characteristics that are either universal or essential consequently legitimises these properties that are apparently eternally fixed. For instance, if the properties in x are eternal or essential, than it must be that the properties in y are not and in such instances, the legitimisation of x leads to the domination or subjugation of y. Membership thus requires the acknowledgement that certain properties within the entity are eternal or essential, leading to recognition and thus power.

Nevertheless, subjugation is not always violent and can contain positive elements that are tolerated even by those being subjugated.[ix] As an instrument for political and social development, the ideological attitudes to modernisation have often been used as an apparatus in Turkish political rhetoric. Ziya Gökalp, a Turkish sociologist and political activist who influenced Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, claims that there are two functional processes of modernisation that have caused such massive structural changes in society. “The first was in culture-nations (Durkeim’s term for societies) where the advanced division of labor was creating an occupational group structure in which individuals were incorporated… the second level was that of civilisation, which Gökalp saw as the supranational grouping to which different nations belonged and in which they related.”[x] Atatürk believed that secularisation and modernity will gradually relegate the position religion has in both politics and society, yet, along with many secularists, this imagined interpretations of the possible future has thwarted the possibility of understanding alternative social and political processes. Instead, radical fundamentalism and religious and cultural revivalism are interpreted as a retrograde condition where people are reverting back to the old and inferior position because of their failure to adapt to the precipitating social transformations.

“The sense that religion has no place in contemporary politics is evidence in common claims that people “retreat” or “take refuge” in religion to escape so-called rapid socio-political change. The implication of this language is the theopolitical actors and movements are at odds with historical necessity (almost pathologically so), and should not be as predominant as they are.”[xi] Modernity has paradoxically increased the vitality of religion. Originally thought to be unsympathetic to culture and society, globalisation has instead provided the room for religious and cultural development. Andrew Davison labels this as interpretative perplexity; what we once thought to be clear becomes more perplexing than originally presumed.[xii] Davison attempts to analyse the meaning behind these political prejudices (made especially by political scientists who engage in policy assessment), particularly the convincing idea of historical development and the saturation process of social and political globalisation. Prejudices regarding the apparent direction of secularism have interrupted a better comprehension of theopolitics (theocracy) in contemporary political discourses.

Instead of acknowledging these prejudices and attempting to work comparatively, political theorists and scientists have adopted methodological attitudes that only justify secularisation. Thus, using hermeneutics to explain the interpretation of political language and the deeper expressive meanings behind these interpretations, Davison references Hans-Georg Gadamer’s idea that prejudice guides interpretation.[xiii] Though some have argued that cultural change and development through global expansion and modernity threatens the existence of past traditions and long-established customs, others maintain that it is a necessary historical process that improves the conditions of society. “[P]atterns of behaviour identified as modern tend to prevail over those considered to be traditional… when universalistic norms supersede particularistic ones.”[xiv] Emile Durkeim was an early figure who sought an understanding of the function and significance religious has vis-à-vis maintaining the balance of society. Structural functionalism is a social systems paradigm that analysis how smaller elements in society play a functional role in the whole of the social system.

According to Durkheim, collective representations are conditioned ideals, a type of intellectual and emotional semiotic interaction within a group or society that legitimise shared historical meaning. “It is also a symbolic resource: an actor who does not conceive of him/herself as a link to an historical chain cannot elaborate a discourse of legitimization or a teleological vision that gives a sense to his actions’ he/she cannot give a meaning to his/her present combats.”[xv] According to Lowell Dittmer, symbols transcend objective interpretations and are no longer dependent on referential meaning, thus extending space and time.[xvi] Symbols become the autonomous link between a political structure and political psychology, whereby “[s]ymbols tend to merge with ‘language’ on the one hand and with the substantive ‘reality’ that language represents on the other.”[xvii]

Semiotics expose features of cultural symbolism and the interaction with belief-systems since group symbols can illustrate peculiar features that the materialist approach to social analysis may not achieve. It can provide a useful introduction to the influences and properties of a given culture by reducing communication to symbolic exchanges. “Although it is legitimate to treat social relations – even relations of domination – as symbolic interactions, that is, as relations of communication implying cognition and recognition, one must not forget that the relations of communication par excellence – linguistic exchanges – are also relations of symbolic power in which the power relations between speakers or their respective groups are actualized.”[xviii]

While Sartre believed that all people are essentially free and are built by nothing but the choices that they make, identity and recognition plays a pivotal role in current political and social dynamics that therefore makes it wholly deterministic. This dichotomy between individuality and the deterministic social environment is that the latter can facilitate the decision making process and since individuality or freedom is isolating and thus fearful by extension, or at the very least the co-deterministic environment substantiates this fear of individuality so as to endorse conformity, what eventuates is the diminishment of one’s humanity.[xix] To overcome this fear and escape from freedom, the individual makes one choice and that is to submit to the precipitating social environment; thus identity becomes symptomatic of this conformity and ‘being’ or individuality becomes unconscious and identity inauthentic. This is particularly effective in a social environment that lacks agencies that support individual autonomy, such as education and justice. Thus prejudice becomes a product of this dynamic between the individual and society and is utilised as a socio-communicative tool to interpret the dialectic of nature and historical determinism, albeit the formula is paradoxically detrimental to a just social environment since state legitimacy can be undermined by exclusive identity politics and antagonising relations between citizens and the state.

[i] J. Oppenheimer, “Culture and Politics in Druze Ethnicity”, 1:3 (1977) 623
[ii] Karl Marx, The German Ideology (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976) 101
[iii] Paul Rabinow, The Foucault Reader (London: Penguin Books, 1984) 60
[iv] E.J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Sine 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990) 159. See Also Benedict Anderson’ ‘Imagined Communities’
[v] Lucian W. Pye and Sidney Verba, Political Culture and Political Development (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998) 111
[vi] Martin Sokefeld. Struggling for Recognition: The Alevi Movement in Germany and in Transnational Space (New York: Berghahn Books, 2008) 22
[vii] Ibid., 29
[viii] Jean-Paul Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate
[ix] Martin Sokefeld, op. cit., 30
[x] Andrew Davison, Secularism and Revivalism in Turkey: A Hermeneutic Reconsideration (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998) 111
[xi] Ibid., 2
[xii] Davison, op. cit., 114
[xiii] Hans-Georg Gadamer is a German philosopher who wrote Wahrheit und Methode (Truth and Method).
[xiv] Pye and Verba, op. cit., 12
[xv] White and Jongerden, op. cit., 13
[xvi] Lowel Dittmer, “Political Culture and Political Symbolism”. World Politics 29:4 (July, 1977) 577. To extend space and time is to emotionally – rather than rationally – accept words to be true even if it is clearly to be proven false, i.e. Holocaust deniers.
[xvii] Ibid., 558
[xviii]Pierre Bourdieu and John B. Thompson, Language and Symbolic Power, Harvard University Press (1991) 37
[xix] Jean Paul Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason

Islamic Mysticism in the Near Eastern Region

The syncrestic religious groups in the Near East have adopted oral methods of transmission and maintain a particular level of secrecy due to the esoteric content of their faith and the consequent risk of persecution. Most members of the syncretistic religions are often left uninformed about their beliefs, yet they distinctly class themselves as religious adherents to Islam. Similarities between their traditions include their close relationship with Shi’ism, particularly Ismail’i, while also singing, dancing or chanting to hymns and poetry. Pre-Islamic traditions by the Turcoman tribes, Nestorian Christianity and even Buddhism together with the accompaniment of Persian and Zoroastrian beliefs all working within the social complexity of isolation, diaspora and migration for religious heresy adds to this intricacy. It is said that the steady conversion of many Christians in Anatolia to Islam introduced Gnostic elements that spawned the creation of a unique community of Muslims. Parallels between Near Eastern syncrestictic cosmogony and Christianity can perhaps be dated back to the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 that generated the gradual migration and invasion of Anatolia by the Turks, while the Oghuz people under the Seljuk’s expanded their population until the region became predominately Turkish. Although cosmogonic traditions vary between each heterodox group in and around the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia, religious views of angels and the universe together with accounts of the symbolic and mythological tales about God or the Divine Essence provide evidence of their unique similarities. Persecution by the Ottoman Empire for their religious heterodoxy isolated and ultimately developed a unique community and an orally transmitted tradition. It is important to elucidate the basic tenets of these heterodox communities within and around the Fertile Crescent in order to compare their unique relationship to one another.

Bektaşi – Turkey

The Bektaşi are a Sufi dervish order originating from the Balkan region who acknowledge the twelve Imam’s (Twelver Shi’i) and venerate both ‘Ali and the sixth Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq.[1] The tarikat or Bektaşi Brotherhood particularly view Haci Bektaş Veli as a saint. Haci Bektaş Veli was a Persian mystic from the 13th century and author of the Makalat, his own discourses and teachings that were religiously and spiritually progressive for his time, particularly since he was sympathetic to the poor living conditions and the rights of women.[2] It is often claimed that Haci Bektaş Veli fought against Arab influence over Islam and attempted to release the oppressed rural and impoverished from the exploitation by the elite, preaching “[a] version of Islam which synthesized Sunni and Shi’i beliefs with Muslim and Christian religious practices.”[3] There are claims that Mustapha Kemal was himself a Bektaşi that consequently established a strong political link between the Bektaşi and the Kemalists, but the legitimacy of the argument is weak.

Although similarities between Alevi and Bektaşi exist particularly because of the mystic Haci Bektaş and Pir Sultan Abdal whom they both revere,[4] there are clear differences. “Her ne kadar, Bektaşi ve Alevi, her iki topluluk da, kendilerini Haci Bektaş’a bagliyor ve ayni kokenden geliyor olsalar da, erkan oldukca farklidir.”[5] Unlike the Alevis who were persecuted and consequently isolated, the Bektaşi Order had considerable protection by the Ottomans and contact with the administration.[6 Bektaşi leadership can be offered upon completion of a degree and while being more theologically scriptualised or codified, any person who wishes to join the order are permitted to convert, a clear difference to Alevis who must be a talip or belong to a dede lineage. “Alevism and Bektaşism share neither the same geographical frameworks nor possess the same internal mechanisms and rules… Bektaşism is dominantly Balkan, while Alevism finds its origins in Anatolia. Bektaşism has been mainly urban, while the Alevism was, until recently, mainly rural.”[7]

While most social and religious duties are held by a dede who guides the various prayers and rituals at the cem house, the head of a tekke (dervish lodge) is led by a baba.[8] The tekke at Hacibektaş was once a place of ritual servitude but has now become a museum and a place of ceremonial gathering. It contains the monastery (maydin evi) which is where most of the services are held, but it also has an ekmek evi that includes the women’s quarters and a bake house (or an aş evi which is the kitchen) as well as an area for guests staying at the lodge (mihman evi).[9] Their religious beliefs incorporate a unique blend of Islamic and Christian elements, such as tying Muhammad, ‘Ali and Allah into a trinity or distributing wine, bread and cheese to new members (murshid or aşik), which is “probably a survival of the Holy Communion as practiced by the Artotyrites.”[10] The Bektaşi distinguish rank through the number of folds in their white cap. “The number four symbolises the “four gates”: shari’a [şeriyat], tarika, ma’rifa, hakika and the four corresponding classes of people: ‘abid, zahid, ‘arif, muhibb; the number twelve points to the number of imams. Particularly characteristic are also the twelve-fluted taslim taşi, which is worn around the neck, and the teber (double-axe).”[11]

As mentioned, the Bektaşi had considerable protection by the Ottoman Empire particularly because the Janissaries appreciated the similarity the order had with Christianity. Esra Ozyurek states that between the 16th and the 19th centuries, the Ottomans embraced the Bektaşi Order and made it the central religious organisation of the Janissaries, until 1826 when many Janissaries were killed and the Bektaşi Order made illegal. Like the Alevi, the Bektaşi allow women to participate in rituals and often sing and dance to hymns, bestowing great favour to ‘Ali and also Shah Isma’il among others. A translated version of a nefes poem is as follows:

I took the mirror to my face
Ali appeared to my eye…
He is Jesus and Christ
He is the refuge to the believers
He is the Shah of the two worlds
Ali appeared to my eye
Ali is the pure, Ali is the clean
Ali is the hidden, Ali is the manifest
Ali is the first, Ali is the last
Ali appeared to my eye
Ali is the life, Ali is the Beloved
Ali is the religion, Ali is the belief
Ali is the merciful, Ali is the compassionate
Ali appeared to my eye.[12]

Alawi – Syria

The endeavour to further understand the Alawi (traditional known as Nusayr’i) of Syria has increased over recent decades, particularly because most of the political and military elite are from an Alawi background. An ethnic minority numbering three million, the Alawis are mainly populated around the rural mountains of the Latakia region in Syria (75%) with a small proportion in urban cities of Syria; they can also be found in Lebanon and Israel (after the capture of the Golan Heights). Groups of Arab speaking Alevis who distinctly trace their lineage to the Alawi in Syria are located in southern Turkey (particularly Hatay and Adana) and though they share a similar name and other practices, the Alawi in Turkey do not correspond or affiliate with the Alevis of Anatolia.

Like many of the heterodox communities, little is known of their origin and mixed views are often reiterated, although it has been claimed that the Alawi are remnants of the ancient Canaanite people who were influence by Christianity and Isma’iliyyah Islam before adopting Arabic as their primary language.[13] It has been claimed that the sect developed during the mid-ninth century in Iraq under Muhammad B. Nusayr al-Namiri who revered the tenth Shi’i Imam[14], yet unlike the Anatolian Alevis who were Turcoman that converted to Islam, the Alawis were Arabs that similarly converted. “The Alawites in Syria… had already established their religious sect during the tenth century in Jabal Ansariyya near Latakia. Their secret faith is described as a blend of ancient Syrian or Phoenician paganism (mainly the worship of the triad: the sun, the moon and the stars or sky), possibly influence by various Christian Trinitarianism… and largely manifested in a Shi’i-Ismaili fashion with adherence to Imam Ali, Prophet Muhammad’s first cousin and son-in-law, and to Salman al-Farisi, one of Mohammad’s Persian followers.[15]

Because of their esoteric religious beliefs, the Alawi have experiences centuries of poverty, isolation and persecution by the Sunni elite in the region. The greater risk of violence forced the Alawi to practice taqiya much more rigorously than Alevis. The use of particular codes or jargon in their scriptures can only be understood by the initiated who are orally taught the socio-dialect and the meaning behind the content, while some manuscripts have little information about the divine charactic of ‘Ali, though it is widely known to be an integral part of Alawi belief. Most Alawi members are often excluded from the traditions and practices, especially women who are considered incapable of comprehending the vast scale of their beliefs. Sulaiman Efendi al-Adhani (b. 1834/1835) published the kitab al-bakurat as-Sulaimaniya fi kashf asrar ad-diyanat an-nusairya that discusses the origin of myth in Alawi tradition and contains narrative accounts of their cosmological structure and ideas.[16] According to Alawi beliefs, God revealed himself to the world seven times, each time as a different figure accompanied by two others.[17] With the divine triad and the transmigration of souls, it is believed that ‘Ali was thus an incarnation of God, accompanied by Muhammad and Salman al-Farsi.[18] Tord Olsson provides some valuable information about the religious doctrines and esoteric content of the Alawi community that is gradually slipping into the hands of researchers.

Q[uestion] 1: Who is our Lord, who has created us?
A[nswer]: He is our master, the commander of the faith, the prince of the bees, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, and he is god, of whom (it holds true that) there is no god except him, the merciful, the compassionate.[19]

The initiated can only be male and both his parents must also be Alawi. Both the Shi’i and Alawi regard Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence), a collection of sermons and sayings written by or attributed to Ali, as critical to their religious beliefs. A dede is quite different to a hoca used in Alawi communities, particularly southern Turkey. A dede practices tarikat while a hoca would prefer the practice of şeriyat. Anyone can become a hoca and often learn or teach in Arabic, while a dede must be born into a family lineage. “They have additional specialized functions: a hoca reads the nikah before the consummation of a marriage and it is a hoca who leads the burial service cenaze and intones hymns, ilahi, over the body as it is laid to earth.”[20]

The community are split into four tribal divisions or associations, namely Khayyatun, Haddadun, Matawirah and Kalbiyyah.[21] While only men can be initiated into Alawi rites, there are no particular patrimonial or lineage requirements and any Alawi man can be initiated to become a tribal leader; most tribal leaders still retain a level of power amongst the rural and uneducated. The Alawi communities in the urban or coastal areas in Syria are fragmented, particularly because of their loose tribal associations and their previous dominance by the Sunni or Christian elite, sharply contrasting with the Alawi tribes in the mountainous regions who hold stronger tribal and religious ties. Nevertheless, the last several decades have shown a new and emerging Alawi community developing in both rural and urban environments, particularly due to education and career opportunities, something I shall further elucidate in another post.

Ahl-e Haqq – Iran

The Ahl-e Haqq (or Yarsan) is an Iranian based esoteric community primarily situated in western Iran, but also Iraq and Turkey, while being scattered amongst the mountains in Geran, Kermanshahan and western Azerbayjan. Most adherents are from a Kurdish or Lak (an ethnically unique Persian group closely related to Kurdish) ethnicity. It is difficult to determine the exact genesis of the religious order and white it is generally agreed that they began under the leadership of Sultan Sahak during the late 14th or early 15th century, there are hardly any sources that can directly prove this.[22] Similar to Alevis, the Ahl-e Haqq believe in the interconnectedness of ‘alam-i batin (inner world) and ‘alam-i zahir (outer world).[23] Like most of the syncretistic religions of the Near East, the Ahl-e Haqq believe in dunudunu or the transmigration of souls as well as mazhariyyat or the manifestation of the divine essence (God or zat-I haqq) in human beings. “The division of beings into two distinct categories is perhaps a later development of Zoroastrian ideas. The sacrifice of the cock has been several times connected with the corresponding Jewish rite, while the biblical names (Dawud, Musi) may have come through the intermediary of the Qu’ran.”[24] The etymology of the name Ahl-e Haqq translates to, ‘followers, or people of the truth, the divinity.’[25] Unlike the Alawi who worship ‘Ali and revere Sultan Sahak (who is also used as an avatar in Yezidi traditional commentary), conversely the Ahl-e Haqq worship Sultan Sahak and revere ‘Ali.

The Ahl-e Haqq texts such as the Tadhkira’i A’la, the Shah-nama-ye Haqiqat and the Ilam-e Haqiqat explain tales of the genesis of the universe together with the light of God. It also similarly speaks of the ‘pearl’ that the Yezidi use to describe the divine essence. Zat-I haqq or the divine essence was originally hidden in a pearl in the ocean of the universe, and this divine essence transformed into Khavandgar (creator) in the first cycle of divine manifestation (the decond is ‘Ali before the cyclic cosmogony establishes the shari’at (Islamic law), the tariqat (ritual teachings) and ma’rifat (knowledge of divine reality) until finally manifesting in Sultan Sahak who established Ahl-e Haqq.[26] A collection of kalam (sacred hymns) can be found in the book Kalam-i Saranjam (conclusion) sid to be written by the angel Pir Musi, a companion of Sultan Sahak who was charged with recording the actions and behaviour of people, though this elusive text written in Gurani is difficult to obtain.[27] Like the Alevis, the Ahl-e Haqq do not follow the pillars of Islam and have instead adopted their own methods of ritual and practice. “Instead they have their own sacred universe and their own rituals, which centre on the jam (lit., assembly) when they chant their sacred hymns (kalam), play their sacred lute (tanbur), make offerings of food, and share a sacrificial meal,” while adhering to religious secrecy or sir (mystery).”[28]

The Ahl-e Haqq have sayyids or direct descendants of Sultan Sahak and have eleven different holy lineages called khandan (house) each headed by a pir.[29] What differentiates them from other syncretistic religions, however, is that common members of the community can obtain high-ranking religious positions while not obtained the sacred texts, instead relying on a kalam-khan or one who can recite the kalam orally without the text.[30] Publication of Borhan al-Haqq (demonstration of truth) by Nur Ali Elahi, a Persian jurist and philosopher, describes the historical and theological of the Ahl-e Haqq and provides valuable information about their rituals, rites and beliefs.

Yazidi – Iraq

Most Yazidi reside in the province of Mosul, settling particularly in the mountainous areas of Jabal Sinjar and Shaikhan, and while most Yazidi communicate officially in Kurdish, small communities can be found in Armenia, Georgia, Syria and Turkey.[31] The Yazidi believe in unique cosmogony and myths about the genesis of the universe, angels and prophets, since their “[t]heology and mythology, particularly cosmogony, show traces of a non-Islamic tradition which may be of ancient Iranian origin.”[32] Like most heterodox communities, the Yazidi were separated and persecuted from the Muslim world that intensified during the Ottoman period through their centralisation and sunnification policies against heterodox communities. It is difficult to trace the historical emergence of Yazidism, but “[i]t seems that Yazidism, an indigenous Kurdish faith influence by Zoroastrism, was revived by ‘Adi b. Musafir (c. 1075 – 1162), an Arab Sufi shaikh whom the Yazidi regard as the saintly founder of their religion.”[33] Like many of the hetrodox communities, hymn (kawl) are often used to orally channel their affection for the prophets and saints and illustrate their religious beliefs.

The Yazidi believe in the one God and seven archangels, haft surr or the “Seven Mysteries”.[34] The most revered archangel is the Ta’use-e Malak (Peacock Angel). The peacock angel known also as Melek Tawus or Azra’il has been labelled seytan (devil) by the wider Islamic community, although the Yazidi deny this assertion. They believe that human beings were created through Adam, without Eve, claiming that while “Christians, Jews and Muslims were sprung from Adam and Eve, their own patriarchs were descendants of a certain Shahid, the son of Adam alone”.[35] The Yazidi text, Meshef Resh, tells the tale of how God created the White Pearl and the bird Enfer, before the haft surr are formed through this white pearl sitting on the back of Enfer. The Yazidi sharply contrast the love for ‘Ali unlike most of the other syncretistic religions, instead venerating Yazid b. Mu’awiya (particularly in Sinjar), the second Ummayad Caliph and son of Muawiya B. Abi Sufyan, known to be the cause of the martyrdom of Hasan and Huseyin.[36]

It was once prohibited to read and write amongst the Yazidi that consequently created a unique oral and syncretistic tradition encapsulated within a tribal and hereditary social order with strong ties to kinship; the Yazidi hierarchical divisions also include the requirement or custom to only marry within the tribe. Worldwide horror at the violent death of a young Yazidi girl, stoned by the community due to her apparent intentions to marry a non-Yazidi and filmed on camera by the youths present, expose the simplicity to breach moral law because of such a custom. There are bavs or bras (tribal sections) that function as the main political units for the Yazidi.

Druze – Lebanon

Similar to the Alawi, many members of the Druze community are unaware of the secret doctrines of the religion and only those who are initiated are allowed to learn the esoteric content of their unique faith. Persecution forced the Druze to isolate themselves in rural or mountainous areas of southern Lebanon where their religion flourished and spread to Israel (Galilee) and Syria (Aleppo). The Druze religion began in the 11th-century during the Fatamid empire under the leadership of Hamza ibn-Ali, where in Cairo the Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah became revered as an incarnation of God.[37] As the Druze believe in the transmigration of souls, they claim that successive reincarnations of al-Hakim will gradually allow him to return and re-establish the Druze movement. The Druze have combined their belief in the ta’wil (esoteric secrecy) and the tanzil (outer meaning) through their reverence of al-Hakim who, along with Hamza ibn ‘Ali after establishing missionaries within the Fatamid Empire, disappeared.[38] Leadership was later given to al-Muqtana Baha ad-Din whose collected writings and epistles together with those of Hamza ibn ‘Ali developed the foundation of Druze scriptures, even though persecution turned the order into a secret religion.[39] “Like Druze, Shi’a and Alawis they [Alevi] practiced dissimulation and secrecy about their religion (taqiya).”[40]

The dynamics of contemporary Druze communities are highly individualised, whereby “[e]veryone “knew” or interpreted the meaning or function of every social interaction… everyone was enmeshed in it.”[41] There are hierarchical divisions in traditional Druze communities, not only between the initiated or the ‘uqqal (sage) and the non-initiated or juhhal (ignorant), but also spiritual hierarchies amongst the ‘uqqal.[42] The juhhal have no spiritual obligation and merely adhere to the basic tenets of communal obligation, while the ‘uqqal work as mediators if there are any social conflicts. They are highly respected for being the guardians of the esoteric and secret content. “Through their attendance at meetings in the khilwe (prayer house) on Thursday and sometimes Sunday evenings, the ‘uqqal are responsible for maintaining the spiritual well-being of the community in which they live.”[43] Spiritual hierarchies amongst the ‘uqqal or okhtyar (old man) – who must wear distinct clothing with a laffi (red and white turban) – can be observed by the wearing of the headdress and whether one has a beard or moustache. Since the Druze believe in transmigration of the soul, women are viewed to play a crucial role in birth and the transcendental process of reincarnation, although they are not particularly allowed to participate in initiation or religious hierarchy.

[1] C.E. Bosworth; H. Pearson; JD Pearson; E. Van Donzel; P.J. Bearman; J. Van Lent; H.U. Qureshi. Op. Cit., 1162
[2] Ibid., 1162
[3] Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, op. cit., 152
[4] Irene Melikoff, Haci Bektas Efsaneden Gercege Ceviren: Turan Alptekin (Istanbul: Cumhuriet Kitaplari, 2004) 290. Pir Sultan Abdal is a famous poet – “Hatai etkileyici ve surukleyici (charismatique) bir kisilik olmakla birlikte, Betasi-Alevi sairler icinde en taninan vee n evilen suphesiz Pir Sultan Adbal’dir.”
[5] Ibid., 255
[6] Stewart, op. cit., 135
[7] Ibid., 177
[8] Mahmud Faksh. “The Alawi Community of Syria: A New Dominant Political Force.” Middle Eastern Studies 20 (1984): 133–153
[9] C.E. Bosworth; H. Pearson; JD Pearson; E. Van Donzel; P.J. Bearman; J. Van Lent; H.U. Qureshi. Op. Cit., 1162
[10]Ibid., 1162
[11]Ibid., 1162
[12]Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, op. cit., 152
[13] Faksh, op. cit., 135
[14] C.E. Bosworth; H. Pearson; JD Pearson; E. Van Donzel; P.J. Bearman; J. Van Lent; H.U. Qureshi. Op. Cit., 146
[15] Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, op. cit., 152
[16] Ibid., 177
[17] Faksh, op. cit., 135
[18] Ibid., 135. Salman al-Farsi was a companion of the prophet Mohammad.
[19] The sources are from the kitab ta’lim diyanat an-nusairiya.
[20] White and Jongerden, op. cit., 44
[21] Faksh, op. cit., 137
[22] Hosseini, Z. Mir, “Inner Truth and Outer History: The Two World of the Ahl-I Haqq of Kurdistan” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 26 (1994) 268
[23] Ibid., 267
[24] C.E. Bosworth; H. Pearson; JD Pearson; E. Van Donzel; P.J. Bearman; J. Van Lent; H.U. Qureshi. Op. Cit., 263
[25] Hosseini, op. cit., 267
[26] Ibid., 271
[27] Ibid., 268
[28] Ibid., 268
[29] Ibid., 270
[30] Ibid., 270
[31] Fuccaro, Nelida. “Communalism and the State in Iraq: Yazidi Kurds (c1869 – 1940) Middle Eastern Studies (35:2, 1999) 1.
[32] C.E. Bosworth; H. Pearson; JD Pearson; E. Van Donzel; P.J. Bearman; J. Van Lent; H.U. Qureshi. Op. Cit., 314
[33] Fuccaro, op. cit., 10
[34] Ibid., 314
[35] Driver, op. cit., 201
[36] Fuccaro, op. cit., 15
[37] J. Oppenheimer, “Culture and Politics in Druze Ethnicity”, 1:3 (1977) 623
[38] Ibid., 623
[39] Ibid., 623
[40] Zeidan, op. cit., 2
[41] Louise E. Sweet, “Visiting Patterns and Social Dynamics in Eastern Mediterranean Communities” Anthropological Quarterly, 47:1 (Jan., 1974) 113
[42] Oppenheimer, op. cit., 624
[43] Ibid., 624

Thermodynamics and the Arrow of Time

To say an ‘Arrow of Time’ is to say that time itself is linear and one-directional. In thermodynamics, the second law dictates that everything moves in one-direction from a state of order towards disorder and entropy is the statistical measurement of this asymmetry in an isolated system. The universe is, for instance, this isolated system and as a consequence it is impossible to reverse this arrow of time and travel backwards just as much as the continuity of disorder will never decrease. Newton’ equations and other laws in physics, however, can be reversed and thus this ‘order’ is arrived from a state of equilibrium as it moves forward toward disorder. We simply understand the past through entropy and yet, while this may be statistically correct, the Poincare’ recurrence theorem in open systems prove that thermodynamic system may actually be paradoxical. The theorem purports that after a length of time the system may return back to its original or close to its original state, such a hot cup of tea eventually reaching room temperature. Statistical physics that attempts to measure the universe as a finite and objective physical entity together with the evolutionary patterns of nature, reached an impasse since the cosmological theory of the universe with the Big Bang started with chaos and eventually formed this smooth, ordered state that works in contradiction to the second law leading to an reductio ad absurdum. Unless we assume that the big bang itself occurred as a ‘fluctuation’ – indeed, a very rare and unique one – and is thus an addition contained inside one meta-system where a number of universes exist. Ludwig Boltzmann did not believe in the reversibility of statistical thermodynamics; I become conscious or self-aware and thus experience a non-equilibrium with nature or the external world because of a random fluctuation in my brain, but intelligence is only available in my brain and so why everything else in this system – body, organs – and thus consciousness is a random fluctuation. If I want to bake a cupcake, the ingredients – such as flour – can be reversed back to wheat, soil, planet earth, milky way, universe etc &c., – and rather than saying that I need a universe to create a cupcake or that I need to create a universe to make a cupcake, it is easier to explain that a cupcake is made from a random fluctuation. Ultimately, however, we do need a universe, milky way, planet earth, soil, wheat, and flour to make a cupcake and thus every system requires time to move forward as well as backward.

Boltzmann’s entropy formula S = k log W describes the statistical domain of thermodynamic systems [log itself aids with minimising the size of the universe with W being the number of microstates giving a probability at macro-level][1] and that entropy is conserved by the monotonic function of ordered sets as the microstates increase. Any corresponding change at macro-level is causally connected to a change with a microstate within the system, but this interconnected dependence between the two states naturally shows that the macro-state itself contains maximal entropy. That is, thermodynamic equilibrium of system is consistent with the constraints of the second law of thermodynamics and that the formula is the statistical evidence of this. In its simplest, ergodicity is merely analogous to ascertaining the averages of behaviour within a system, measuring transformations, recurrence, arbitrary convergence etc &c. or quite simply the dynamics and that over time the probability of visiting every required state occurs. A macro-state in equilibrium is largest in size, thus over ‘time’ [that is, time-average probability] the system spends visiting the phases as it reaches this equilibrium and thus maximum entropy is, well, ergodic. Even so, it is still incredibly difficult resolving arbitrary estimates coupled with the fact that cases involving the second law of thermodynamics do not necessarily require erodicity at all. But when considering the constituency of time in this framework, the idea that the direction or arrow of time will eventually lead a system toward maximum entropy and ergodicity may, in reverse, explain time.

Ergodicity itself is somewhat Epicurean, not to say that it has any connection with Epicurus’ Nature of the Cosmos, but rather the philosopher himself – more notably adhered by Lucretius – believed that it is a mark of an intelligent mind to think of multiple possibilities – from the absurd to the rational – so as to identify and explain a solution to a cosmological problem;[11] even occasionally, multiple descriptions can prove a theorem adequate and inadequate at the same time. Lucretius’ cosmological phenomenology is based on his thought experiment regarding infinite space, whereby should one travel to the end of the universe and throw a spear through it, what would happen to the spear?[12] Either it will hit it and fall, or it will go through the boundary – that the boundary of a finite universe is ultimately illusory – and toward another space that we are not aware of; what this would mean is that all possibilities and possible worlds outside of the finite space that we understand is actually possible.

Therefore the universe is infinite and according to Newton this must be true; his failure, however, was the proposition that the universe was static purported by his assumption of the stars being fixed relative the inertial frame, namely because the distribution of mass would be unstable. The problem of symmetry, however, regarding a state where the universe is accelerating, is how the direction for which this acceleration is determined. In order to substantiate the validity that there is actually a physical system, the universe requires isotropy and since we can acknowledge that when we look out to the universe that in every direction we can observe the CMB radiation, one can conclude that it may very well be a symmetric space.


Nevertheless, for the sake of avoiding the likelihood of falling down the existential rabbit hole before becoming overwhelmed by the vanity of, well, everything, let us assume that the universe can be modelled as a dynamical system, contained in an isotropic, homogenous and maximally symmetric but statistically within a finite structure and governed by an arrow of time, and in doing so the analysis of erodicity and entropy within such a model seem almost possible. The problem is that, if the arrow of time purports that time itself is moving forward in one direction, that the universe is expanding alongside time as it reaches its maximum state of high entropy, it would mean that therefore the universe had a past and so to not defy the second law of thermodynamics, the early universe would have to be at a state of low entropy. In an environment where the observable universe is much denser or smaller in the past – since the universe is expanding – it would logically imply that it was hotter and the pull stronger. How is it that in that macroscopic parameter consisting of a hot and dense environment instead was smooth and cool? This does not make sense since the early universe was in a state of equilibrium which, given the calculations above, must uphold the thermal law of being in a state of high entropy. In addition, temporal asymmetry works in contradiction to the second law of thermodynamics; motion cannot function without time, it would be like matter frozen in a dimensionless space or swallowed in a blink beyond the event horizon. Time’ arrow works in a manner that directs motion forward, evolutionary of sorts and adapts to the processes within its environment in an attempt to find a state of equilibrium.

In classic thermodynamics, the joule [free] expansion – where within an adiabatic container enclosed with monatomic gas molecules and no energy or thermal properties – the gas densely kept to one side of the container with a closed partition between another empty container that has been vacuumed of any properties at all and therefore completely empty,[13] when the partition is opened and consequently the gas in one container increases in volume and expands into the other, the pressure of the gas that had been densely kept in the other compartment diminishes [like blowing up a balloon with helium gas and then letting it go; the gas is released from the balloon with the rubber shell flying about the place in an awkwardly loud and flatulent manner]. There is no pressure or work, ΔU = q + w = 0 but nevertheless there were changes [in consideration of ideal gas][14] in temperature and therefore PV=nRT whereby the pressure and volume equates to a constant of the gas and the temperature, so the first law regarding the conservation of energy in thermodynamics remains valid. The ergodic hypothesis by Boltzmann was formulated to prove in principle the determination of the distribution of gas molecules and their kinetic speeds in his equipartition theorem, which is mathematically ascertaining the energy of any given physical system through the distribution of generalised coordinates and momenta. The second law of thermodynamics contains the interesting problem vis-à-vis this very blog post, that the law governs the exchange of thermal contact and gradual arrangement toward a fixed equilibrium; that is, the natural evolution of any given system is determined to a state of equilibrium. Once the partition is open and the gases are dispersed, they spontaneously find a state of equilibrium and do not randomly paste themselves to the ceiling of the container etc &c. How can a hot cup of tea become lukewarm as it cools to room temperature and thus asymmetric as it reaches a state of equilibrium with its environment? Or is that a deductive fallacy? Could travel back in time? One of my favourite paradoxes from All You Zombies[15] is as follows:

A baby girl is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945. “Jane” grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963 she is strangely attracted to a drifter. She falls in love with him. But just when things are finally looking up for Jane, a series of disasters strike. First, she becomes pregnant by the drifter, who then disappears. Second, during the complicated delivery, doctors find that Jane has both sets of sex organs, and to save her life, they are forced to surgically convert “her” to a “him.” Finally, a mysterious stranger kidnaps her baby from the delivery room.

Reeling from these disasters, rejected by society, scorned by fate, “he” becomes a drunkard and drifter. Not only has Jane lost her parents and her lover, but he has lost his only child as well. Years later, in 1970, he stumbles into a lonely bar, called Pop’s Place, and spills out his pathetic story to an elderly bartender. The sympathetic bartender offers the drifter the chance to avenge the stranger who left her pregnant and abandoned, on the condition that he join the “time travelers corps.” Both of them enter a time machine, and the bartender drops off the drifter in 1963. The drifter is strangely attracted to a young orphan woman, who subsequently becomes pregnant.

The bartender then goes forward 9 months, kidnaps the baby girl from the hospital, and drops off the baby in an orphanage back in 1945. Then the bartender drops off the thoroughly confused drifter in 1985, to enlist in the time travelers corps. The drifter eventually gets his life together, becomes a respected and elderly member of the time travelers corps, and then disguises himself as a bartender and has his most difficult mission: a date with destiny, meeting a certain drifter at Pop’s Place in 1970.

The question is: Who is Jane’s mother, father, grandfather, grand mother, son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson? The girl, the drifter, and the bartender, of course, are all the same person. These paradoxes can made your head spin, especially if you try to untangle Jane’s twisted parentage. If we draw Jane’s family tree, we find that all the branches are curled inward back on themselves, as in a circle. We come to the astonishing conclusion that she is her own mother and father! She is an entire family tree unto herself.

Quantum entanglement is an interesting method of understanding the arrow of time in this context. The uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics[16] asserts that measuring the position of a particle and its momentum is never accurate, furthered in confusion with evidence that sometimes interaction between two particles merge or entangle to form a ‘oneness’ that dictates the momentum and position one to the other that they are no longer two separate particles – though physically it is so –nevertheless communicating invisibly one to the other as a combined force. It is of interest to me where the interaction prior to the amalgam between the particles peaked at a derivative equal to zero, namely the very point where particles enjoin to become a state where they can no longer be classified as autonomous. Reaching this balance of connectivity between particles from a pure particle state to a combined oneness in perfect equilibrium as it relaxes into its new and unchanging form is the real parameter that works comparatively to the notion of thermal equilibrium and thus the evaluation of thermodynamic properties.

It appears that no matter where I am in the universe, I will still get the same answers to the same equations and the physical world would appear to me, well, to be the same in every direction. That is, the symmetry of the expansion rate is homogenous confirmed to a degree through Hubble’s Law, which is the velocity between two galaxies being equal to the Hubble parameter times the distance V=Hod and verifies that objects would appear to be expanding outward relative to the observer; the measurement of the radial velocity determined by the redshift. Thus galaxies are moving away and galaxies even further still at a much faster rate explained by the fact that should both the source and the observer be stationary, there would be no time differentiation or delays viz., the time for the wavelength to reach the observer, hence the Doppler effect. When thinking about the cosmological redshift, whereby light that has been emitted from a distant galaxy reaches us on earth, calculations of the spectral features of photons namely λ =h/p requires attentiveness on how the light itself will shift from the frequency it had when emitted to the frequency we measure when receiving it, that is, the momentum and time it takes for the wavelength to reach the observer, the evolution of this process changes as the photons are stretched. Physicists have thus determined that the universe is not only expanding but also accelerating.

It would seem that the universe is expanding whilst galaxies themselves remain static. When photons emitted from a distant galaxy reach us the observer, the distance and velocity of the wavelength with the time it takes to us from the source is quantified by the Hubble constant times the distance between galaxies. The asymptotic nature of ∆t would purport that the atomic properties in space and thermal energy interact with time in a manner that will continuously interfere in the process of reaching absolute zero, and as stated previously, even a vacuum state still contains energy even though extremely low. Measuring time during the inflationary epoch remains questionable, even with the capacity to measure the smallest possible unit of time through Planck [5.39 × 10^-44 s] whereby probabilities are the only reality attributed to the questionable state of time. Perhaps the total entropy in the universe is already infinite, in which case it was always infinite.

How we experience time remains an unexplained phenomenon. If, indeed, time must move both forward and backward, perhaps the equilibrium that I experience in ‘now’ is really both past and future working in perfect uniformity rather than some random existential fluctuation. Perhaps my past can speak to my future and that is the mystical experience of prophesy? That there is no ‘beginning’ or ‘end’ except this singularity itself, namely God who is ‘alpha and omega’? Or maybe the universe is simply a brain!


[1] Don S. Lemons, A Student’s Guide to Entropy, Cambridge University Press (2013) 72
[2] See Lucretius’ cosmology and use of the Principle of Plentitude briefly explained in Michael J. White, Agency and Integrality: Philosophical Themes in the Ancient Discussions of Determinism and Responsibility, Springer Science & Business Media (2012) 4
[3] Philip de May, Lucretius: Poet and Epicurean, Cambridge University Press (2009) 27
[4] Clement John Adkins Equilibrium Thermodynamics, Cambridge University Press (1983) 162
[5] Peter Atkins, Julio de Paula, Ronald Friedman, Physical Chemistry: Quanta, Matter, and Change, OUP Oxford (2013) 576
[6] David Darling, The Universal Book of Mathematics: From Abracadabra to Zeno’s Paradoxes, John Wiley & Sons (2004) 139. See Robert Heinlein’ All You Zombies
[7] K.V.S.Gnaneswara Rao, Engineering Physics, S. Chand Publishing (2008) 38