Weekend Edition

October 24th, 2014

Let there be no light

October 24th, 2014

by B. R. GOWANI

United States soldiers, in a jubilant mood, pose with naked Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison PHOTO/Anti War

I

Half-filled half-empty
Half-empty half-filled

The game of profit/loss
goes on and on and on
in the safe TV studios
in the secured rooms of think tanks
in the locked palaces of policy makers

Those died for others’ profit power
half-filled half-empty has no meaning
their glasses have simply vanished
into the infinite-space
of the time-less universe

They are no more
one life they had
savagely we snatched

II

We are a sick people
we are a sick nation
we are a sick empire
we are sick inside
we are sick outside
we control the world
we impose our sick values

The world is sick too

Proof ?

We worry how the killer-soldiers
transported thousands of miles
to perform executions
of helpless people
would psychologically cope!

Nothing about the victims
they were simply waiting
with a forehead sign:

Please kill us
we have waited
waited too long
twelve long years

We hate you
we cannot fight back
therefore,
we want to traumatize you
psychologically!

We also worry
about our children
being exposed to TV pictures of war!

The children being killed by us
have no room in our worries
hundred hungry humans
see food millions can eat

Run push grab
few are strong
reaches much much faster
satisfies their hunger quickly
grabs all the food and hoards it

Most are without food
some are employed to manage hoarding
many others are hired to multiply hoarding
many are thrown out as “lazy bums”
others are labeled as “less fortunate”
the less fortunate are given bars

No, not the candy bars
yes the prison bars
for their attempt to grab some food
the hoarders deserve it
they passed the meritocracy test

Is there a cure?
if there is are we curable?

III

People protest ignored
more people protest forget
millions of people protest
“focus group”

non-violence ­ violence
an unequal equation
should the “non” be discarded?

But then it will be violence all over
life on planet will end soon
too soon

IV

Let’s go back
let’s go back in time
let’s go back in time and technology

Let’s be naked
let’s be naked and primitive
let’s be naked and primitive and wild

Let there be no light
let there be no light and enlightenment
let there be no light and enlightenment and energy

Let there be no wheel
let there be no wheel and vehicle
let there be no wheel and vehicle and train

Let there be no arrow
let there be no arrow and plane
let there be no arrow and plane and rocket

Let there be no boat
let there be no boat and ship
let there be no boat and ship and submarine

Let there be no phone
let there be no phone and computer
let there be no phone and computer and internet

Let there be

Read the rest of this entry »

Beneath the capital’s busy streets, archaeologists are discovering the buried world of the Aztecs

October 24th, 2014

by ROGER ATWOOD

In 1519, the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and 400 of his men marched into the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and knew at once they were in a strange and wondrous place. Even before their arrival, the emperor Moctezuma II had sent the Spaniards lavish jewels and fine clothes. He may have believed the Spaniards to be the deity Quetzalcoatl, the “plumed serpent,” returning to Tenochtitlan from the east, or he may have thought he was receiving emissaries from a friendly state. According to their own accounts, as the Spaniards began to explore the city, they found temples soaked with blood and human hearts being burned in ceramic braziers. So thick was the stench of human flesh, wrote chronicler Bernal Díaz del Castillo, that the scene brought to mind a Castilian slaughterhouse.

Yet what made an even greater impression was Tenochtitlan’s bustle and press. Streets were so crowded that the Spaniards could barely fit through them. And the hubbub of the main plaza, full of shouting salesman offering everything from beans to furniture to live deer, could be heard miles away. “Among us there were soldiers who had been in many parts of the world, in Constantinople and all of Italy and Rome,” wrote Díaz. “Never had they seen a square that compared so well, so orderly and wide, and so full of people, as that one.”

Five hundred years later, Mexico City’s main plaza still teems with shoppers and street hawkers, while, only a block away, archaeologists are carefully digging up the remains of the city Cortés and his men wondered at. Today archaeology is happening everywhere in Mexico City—just off the main square, in alleys, patios, and back lots. One dig is being conducted in the basement of a tattoo parlor. Others are going on beneath the rubble of buildings destroyed in the city’s 1985 earthquake. There’s a site located in a subway station, and two others are under the floor of the Metropolitan Cathedral. When city workers repave a street, archaeologists stand by to retrieve ceramic sherds, bones, and other artifacts that appear from under the asphalt. Excavation sites are often so close to modern infrastructure that archaeologists have to take care not to undermine modern building foundations. Researchers regularly contend with a bewildering network of sewers, pipes, and subway lines. And because the Aztec capital was built on a filled-in lake bed, they often have to pump water out when these areas flood.

Archaeology for more

No-bel

October 24th, 2014

by STEFANY ANNE GOLBERG

Philosopher author Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre turned down the Nobel Prize. Camus accepted it. As far as Existentialism is concerned, neither was wrong.

If the members of the Nobel Academy felt slighted when Jean-Paul Sartre rejected their prize 50 years ago, they didn’t show it. The Academy set out the dinner plates and made their speeches anyway — without the philosopher. The 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature, announced Anders Österling — longtime member of the Swedish Academy, and a writer himself — was being given to “the French writer Jean-Paul Sartre for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age.”

Ultimately, Sartre refused the Nobel Prize because of the philosophical idea with which he will forever be associated: Existentialism. The core of Existentialism is this: Existence precedes essence. Think of a penknife, said Sartre in his 1946 lecture Existentialism is a Humanism. Do you believe an artisan makes a penknife from an idea of a penknife that comes first? If so, you believe that essence precedes existence, and are not an Existentialist. You believe the physical existing penknife is derived from an essential Penknife, from which all penknives are brought into existence. Applying this thinking to persons, putting essence before existence means that all people are created from one universal idea of people — namely, God’s image of people.

But Sartre did not believe that people were created in God’s image. He believed that a person’s existence came first. A person exists, encounters his or her self, breaks out into the world — and defines his or her self only afterward. Only by existing can a person know who she is. “Man,” said Sartre, “is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. … Man will only attain existence when he is what he purposes to be.”

The Smart Set for more

The Anti-Empire Report #133

October 23rd, 2014

by WILLIAM BLUM

“A year after the US invasion in 2003, [United States Democrat Senator from Minnesota  Al] Franken criticized the Bush administration because they ‘failed to send enough troops to do the job right.’ What ‘job’ did the man think the troops were sent to do that had not been performed to his standards because of lack of manpower? Did he want them to be more efficient at killing Iraqis who resisted the occupation? The volunteer American troops in Iraq did not even have the defense of having been drafted against their wishes.”  PHOTO/Reason

The Islamist State

You can’t believe a word the United States or its mainstream media say about the current conflict involving The Islamic State (ISIS).

You can’t believe a word France or the United Kingdom say about ISIS.

You can’t believe a word Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, or the United Arab Emirates say about ISIS. Can you say for sure which side of the conflict any of these mideast countries actually finances, arms, or trains, if in fact it’s only one side? Why do they allow their angry young men to join Islamic extremists? Why has NATO-member Turkey allowed so many Islamic extremists to cross into Syria? Is Turkey more concerned with wiping out the Islamic State or the Kurds under siege by ISIS? Are these countries, or the Western powers, more concerned with overthrowing ISIS or overthrowing the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad?

You can’t believe the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels. You can’t even believe that they are moderate. They have their hands in everything, and everyone has their hands in them.

Iran, Hezbollah and Syria have been fighting ISIS or its precursors for years, but the United States refuses to join forces with any of these entities in the struggle. Nor does Washington impose sanctions on any country for supporting ISIS as it quickly did against Russia for its alleged role in Ukraine.

The groundwork for this awful mess of political and religious horrors sweeping through the Middle East was laid – laid deeply – by the United States during 35 years (1979-2014) of overthrowing the secular governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. (Adding to the mess in the same period we should not forget the US endlessly bombing Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.) You cannot destroy modern, relatively developed and educated societies, ripping apart the social, political, economic and legal fabric, torturing thousands, killing millions, and expect civilization and human decency to survive.

Particularly crucial in this groundwork was the US decision to essentially throw 400,000 Iraqis with military training, including a full officer corps, out onto the streets of its cities, jobless. It was a formula for creating an insurgency. Humiliated and embittered, some of those men would later join various resistance groups operating against the American military occupation.It’s safe to say that the majority of armored vehicles, weapons, ammunition, and explosives taking lives every minute in the Middle East are stamped “Made in USA”.

And all of Washington’s horses, all of Washington’s men, cannot put this world back together again. The world now knows these places as “failed states”.

Meanwhile, the United States bombs Syria daily, ostensibly because the US is at war with ISIS, but at the same time seriously damaging the oil capacity of the country (a third of the Syrian government’s budget), the government’s military capabilities, its infrastructure, even its granaries, taking countless innocent lives, destroying ancient sites; all making the recovery of an Assad-led Syria, or any Syria, highly unlikely. Washington is undoubtedly looking for ways to devastate Iran as well under the cover of fighting ISIS.

Nothing good can be said about this whole beastly situation. All the options are awful. All the participants, on all sides, are very suspect, if not criminally insane. It may be the end of the world. To which I say … Good riddance. Nice try, humans; in fact, GREAT TRY … but good riddance. ISIS … Ebola … Climate Change … nuclear radiation … The Empire … Which one will do us in first? … Have a nice day. Read the rest of this entry »

Framing the rage: Mukul Dube’s docu-photography

October 23rd, 2014

UDAY BHATIA interviews MUKUL DUBE

Mukul Dube’s photograph of protests against violence in the Gaza Strip outside the Israeli Embassy, New Delhi.

Mukul Dube, 64, is many things — writer, editor, expert coffee maker, author of Path of the Parivar and Razia and Her Pink Elephant. He’s also a photographer with an unusual area of interest. Since 2010, Dube has been documenting Delhi agitations and protests concerning everything from the rights of forest dwellers to the removal of the A.K. Ramanujan essay Three Hundred Ramayanas from the undergraduate history syllabus of Delhi University. Earlier this year, his work was collected as part of an online archive. Excerpts from the interview below.

Q. How did the archive come together?

A. I used to save the pictures on my computer. Last year, Harsh Kapoor [who runs the South Asia Citizens Web, or SACW] said, “You’ve been taking these photos for so many years, why don’t we make an archive?” So I took the photographs of each protest, put them in separate folders, and sent 50-something folders on a CD to him. He took about a year to put them up on Photobucket. It’s up to 99 folders now, which reminds me of this story about these two brothers, one rich but unhappy, the other poor and happy. The wealthy one, to trouble his brother, gives him a bag with 99 asharfis. At first, the poor brother was happy, but then he became consumed with how to make his 99 into 100. I’m in that situation right now…

Q. Do you consider either writing or photography as a primary job?

A. It is different at different times. I never had one main profession. For instance, I’m also an excellent motorcycle mechanic. I never did this commercially, of course, but for two years, I lived in a post-graduate hostel in DU called Jubilee Hall. At the time, there were no more than one dozen two-wheelers there. Scooters I couldn’t handle, but on Sundays, there’d be a collective washing and servicing of motorbikes, for which I was much in demand. I’d do ignition adjustments, carburetor cleaning — and charge one bottle of beer, which at that time used to cost six to eight rupees.

The Sunday Guardian for more

Freedom from food

October 23rd, 2014

by NICOLA TWILLEY

Inconvenience food PHOTO/Tom Bieber/Getty

There are plenty of superpowers that would make a nice addition to my current lifestyle. I would be delighted to wake up one morning with the ability to fly, to become invisible, or even to turn matter into gold, provided my Midas touch came with a reliable on-off switch. But the superpower that I really want – the one I actually daydream about, wasting time that I don’t have – is the ability to create an extra day or two for myself each week. As the clock strikes midnight between Monday and Tuesday, a private portal would open up: an extra day, just for me. While everyone else sleeps, I write, read, send emails, and maybe even clean the oven, before going to bed and waking up on Tuesday, rested and refreshed just like everyone else, but with everything done.

The odds are reasonable that you might share this fantasy, in the abstract if not in the details. Each year, Gallup asks people in the US whether they feel pressed for time, and, each year for the past two decades, half of the population says that they generally do not have enough time to do what they want. The results – stress, sleep deprivation, and even obesity – are equally well-documented. What if all of those people could have an extra 90 minutes every day, to use as we see fit? Rob Rhinehart, a 25-year-old engineer and entrepreneur based in Studio City, California, believes that his new product, Soylent, can offer exactly that.

Rhinehart came up with the idea for a nutritionally complete liquid food substitute in December 2012, spurred by dissatisfaction at his expensive, time-consuming and nutritionally dubious diet of fast food, frozen quesadillas, and pasta. In February 2013, he wrote a blog post entitled ‘How I Stopped Eating Food’, in which he reported feeling like the ‘six-million-dollar man’ after just 30 days of replacing food with a ‘thick, odourless, beige liquid’ made up of ‘every substance the body needs to survive, plus a few extras shown to be beneficial’.

Soylent’s trade-offs, at least in terms of human and ecological health, are, it seems, quite significant. However, after five days spent living on 100 per cent Soylent, I can report that its most pressing problem is how downright unpleasant it tastes: like oversweet vanilla body wash, but with the texture of silt. It also has a rather unappetising tendency to separate into a scummy top, oily layer, and dense, mud-like bottom. I lost weight, but only because I found it was more tempting to go to bed hungry than to drink more Soylent.

Aeon for more

Bartered away at age 5, now trying to escape to a life she chooses

October 22nd, 2014

by ROD NORDLAND

You Tube

KABUL, Afghanistan — Nine years before an Afghan girl named Soheila was born, her half brother Aminullah eloped with a woman who had been betrothed to his cousin, an event that led to years of violent feuding between two sides of their family in Nuristan.

Soheila’s mother died while giving birth to her. Her father, Rahimullah, then bartered his daughter’s future for family peace, betrothing Soheila at the age of 5 to the aggrieved cousin, a man her father’s own age.

The practice is known as baad, in which young girls are traded between families to resolve disputes. Although illegal, baad is still widely practiced, especially in remote areas of Afghanistan. Once of legal age, 16, Soheila would become the fourth wife of an elderly man.

Fast-forward to late last month, when Soheila, who uses only one name and is now 24, sat in the offices of the advocacy group Women for Afghan Women and for the first time watched her own story unfold on screen.

Wide-eyed, she watched the documentary “To Kill a Sparrow,” a half-hour-long piece by the Iranian filmmaker Zohreh Soleimani that showed Soheila’s long struggle to escape the destiny her father had intended for her.

Much of the documentary, which was filmed over about a year and a half, took place while Soheila was in the women’s shelter run in Kabul by Women for Afghan Women, which is the largest private organization in Afghanistan operating shelters and other facilities for women in crisis. It is where she spent much of the past four years as the group’s lawyers worked to resolve her case.

The New York Times for more

(Thanks to reader)

Notes on the Leader

October 22nd, 2014

by MUKUL DUBE

Since the results of the general election were declared, I have been in a state of unbelief. The country now has at its head a man who has widely been called a mass murderer, who likened a massacre of Muslim citizens to the accidental death of a “kutte ka bachcha”, who delights in preening for the cameras holding swords and wearing diverse kinds of head-gear, and whose stated qualification for the top job is a thorax whose circumference is 142 centimetres.

Modi may well be described as a manly, muscular manifestation of Hindutva. He is at once modern and mediaeval, moving among Tatas and Ambanis and space scientists and posing before a fawning populace in a regal crown and robes. Regal also are his declarations. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation through radio Friday morning, said the nation belongs to everyone and 125 crore Indians are blessed with immense skill and strength.” (IndiaTomorrow.net, October 3, 2014)

This is the classic line of the oppressor. Praise to the skies those whom you oppress and exploit, imply that you have no privileges that they too do not have — and then proceed to bleed them dry, to snatch away the natural resources which belong to them, to turn their property into your own monstrously costly gift to a temple for the benefit of your own immortal soul, to remain loftily silent while your underlings threaten and attack them.

The manliness and muscularity of Hindutva have taken a form that can only be called bestial. “The systematic use of gang-rape as a weapon occurred in the Surat riots after the Babri Masjid demolition, and an ugly innovation was the videotaping of the gang-rapes…. According to Praful Bidwai, Modi was the mastermind of the unspeakable atrocities against women in the 1992 Surat riots.” (https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/india-united-against-fascism/india-bjp-rape-and-status-of-women).

Mainstream for more

Clothing the world: Poetics, poverty, and politics

October 22nd, 2014

by VINAY LAL

Rana Plaza Building Collapse, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Jeremy Seabrook, an independent writer, journalist, and chronicler of the human condition who has long had an interest in South Asia, probing especially the lives of those who inhabit India’s slums and Muslim ghettos, turns his attention in his most recent book to the workers of Bangladesh’s garment industries who clothe the world but, like the weavers of Bengal in colonial India, barely have enough to cover their own nakedness. The book takes its title from Thomas Hood’s elegy on the women workers in Lancashire’s textile mills, “The Song of the Shirt” (1843): working “in poverty, hunger, and dirt,” moving their fingers to the command of “Stich! Stich! Stich!”, they sowed at once, “with a double thread, A Shroud as well as a Shirt.”

If Bangladesh has emerged at all in the news in recent years, it is on account of the disasters that have befallen its garment industry, none as calamitous as the collapse of the Rana Plaza commercial building under whose debris over 1,100 people were left dead. Seabrook’s book is a searing indictment of the callousness of factory owners and others in the global system of the circulation of capital who are complicit in creating miserable working conditions for those employed in Bangladesh’s largest and most profitable industrial venture. Yet it is also an extraordinary tribute to the workers who pile into Dhaka and other centers of the garment industry from all corners of the country. Their lives are sketched not so much in detail as in poignantly suggestive prose. Do people flee to that “washed out concrete jungle” that is called Dhaka, which Seabrook unflinchingly describes as one of the world’s ugliest cities, to escape the narrowing of human possibilities that Marx sought to capture in his brutal condemnation of the “idiocy of the rural countryside”? One might suppose that it is the aspiration to become something in life, or merely to earn a livelihood, that brings people to the city from the interior, but what would then make the story of Bangladesh so distinct?

Lal Salaam for more