Weekend Edition

August 22nd, 2014

Chaser is in danger, chasee is dangerous!

August 22nd, 2014


“The (private) autopsy of Mike Brown indicates that he was shot six times, including twice in the head. Given that Mr. Brown was unarmed and that by reports he was fleeing Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson when the shots that ended his life were fired, there was no conceivable threat to Mr. Wilson when he murdered Mike Brown. Public perceptions that there was any plausible rationale for shooting Mike Brown illustrate the role of ‘the law,’ and in particular the role of the police, in strategies of racial repression.” ILLUSTRATION/TEXT/Counterpunch

who is in danger
the unarmed chasee or the armed chaser?
who is dangerous
the armed chaser or the unarmed chasee?

racist elements in the United States think
chasee is not in danger
and claims, chasee is dangerous

but common sense dictates
chaser is not in danger
in reality, chaser is dangerous

so the chaser, Darren Wilson
a white policeman
shot dead the chasee, Michael Brown
an 18-year-old black kid

2 bullets in head
2 bullets in the body
4 hours corpse was lying on the street
14 days, white policeman is in hiding

will justice be served?
chances are almost always nil


since the time of Columbus
when the whites started colonizing the dark people
whites have always been scared of dark people
(blacks and browns)

whites have since then been chasing
the spices, minerals, oil, and other goods
of the dark people
including their cheap labor

and have been blowing up their heads
from air, land, and sea
and they’ve never been in the dock

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Survival reveals ‘five faces of genocide’ for UN Indigenous Day

August 22nd, 2014


Aché woman shortly after she was captured and brought out of the forest in 1972, Paraguay. PHOTO/© A. Kohmann/Survival

To mark UN Indigenous Day on August 9, Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, reveals five tribal peoples who have been victims of genocide during the 20th century – and warns of a potential genocide in the 21st.

Tribal peoples subjected to genocidal violence include*:

- The Aché, Paraguay: in a landmark case launched in April 2014, the Aché tribe took Paraguay’s government to court over the genocide they suffered. The Aché were decimated after colonists launched killing raids, captured tribespeople and sold them as slaves during the 1950s and 60s.

- The Akuntsu, Brazil: in 1985, government investigators uncovered an entire communal house which had been bulldozed – evidence of a brutal massacre by gunmen that killed most of the Akuntsu tribe. The five survivors are the last witnesses of this silent genocide.

Survival for more

Martin Amis does a Coulter

August 22nd, 2014


What do you make of the following statement: “Asians are gaining on us demographically at a huge rate. A quarter of humanity now and by 2025 they’ll be a third. Italy’s down to 1.1 child per woman. We’re just going to be outnumbered.” While we’re at it, what do you think of this, incidentally from the same speaker: “The Black community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.” Or this, the same speaker again: “I just don’t hear from moderate Judaism, do you?” And (yes, same speaker): “Strip-searching Irish people. Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole Irish community and they start getting tough with their children.”

The speaker was Martin Amis and, yes, the quotations have been modified, with Asians, Blacks and Irish here substituted for Muslims, and Judaism for Islam – though, it should be stressed, these are the only amendments. Terry Eagleton, professor of English literature at Manchester University, where Amis has also started to teach, recently quoted the remarks in a new edition of his book Ideology: An Introduction. Amis, Eagleton claimed, was advocating nothing less than the “hounding and humiliation” of Muslims so “they would return home and teach their children to be obedient to the White Man’s law”.

The heated exchanges that followed were trivialized in the mainstream media as “a nasty literary punch-up”, “the talk of the literary world”, “a spat” between “two warring professors”, and the silence that followed seemed to confirm it as a passing tiff between two high-ranking members of the chattering class.

I see it differently. Amis’s views are symptomatic of a much wider and deeper hostility to Islam and intolerance of otherness. Only last week, the London Evening Standard felt able to sponsor a debate entitled: Is Islam good for London? Do another substitution here and imagine the reaction had Judaism been the subject. As Rabbi Pete Tobias noted on Comment is Free, the so-called debate was sinisterly reminiscent of the paper’s campaign a century ago to alert its readers to the “problem of the alien”, namely the eastern European Jews fleeing persecution who had found refuge in the capital. In this context, Rod Liddle’s contribution to the proceedings – “Islamophobia? Count me in” – sounds neither brave, brash nor provocatively outrageous, merely racist. Those who claim that Islamophobia can’t be racist, because Islam is a religion not a race, are fooling themselves: religion is not only about faith but also about identity, background and culture, and Muslims are overwhelmingly non-white. Islamophobia is racist, and so is antisemitism.

Counterpunch for more

Fanon documentary confronts fallacies about anti-colonial philosopher

August 21st, 2014


Frantz Omar Fanon (20 July 1925 – 6 December 1961) was a Martinique-born Afro-French psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and writer whose works are influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory, and Marxism.[1] As an intellectual, Fanon was a political radical, and an existentialist humanist concerning the psychopathology of colonization, and the human, social, and cultural consequences of decolonization.[2][3] PHOTO/TEXT/The Guardian & Wikipedia, respectively

Concerning Violence, the latest documentary from Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson, has been screening to packed audiences on the film festival circuit.

Olsson’s claim to fame, at least in the US, was a recent documentary – Black Power Mixtape – that brought together dormant archival footage from the Black Power movement. This documentary was appreciated partly because of the ease with which the material could be digested and the straightforward collage approach to the narrative.

Concerning Violence is a completely different beast.

Relying yet again on possibly forgotten footage from Swedish archives, the film has been anchored in Martinican psychiatrist and anti-colonial thinker Frantz Fanon’s controversial essay, Concerning Violence, from his 1961 book The Wretched of the Earth. I had the impression that we were being provided with a visual exegesis on Fanon’s famous, misunderstood, and over-read text about violence, and that the images, in fact, served to bolster, or rather, offer, a kind of choreography to the text.

Though Fanon was a spokesperson for Algeria’s National Liberation Front (FLN), an ardent radical writer for the revolutionary Algerian newspaper El Moujahid, a psychiatrist for fighters and tortured combatants and a staunch critic of the French left, his posthumous fame became focused on his one singular observation about violence during decolonisation.

He wrote that decolonisation “fundamentally alters” the colonised man’s sense of self: “It infuses a new rhythm, specific to a new generation of men, with a new language and new humanity. Decolonisation is truly the creation of new men.”

This observation about the new men formed through the use of violence has been consistently viewed as a detrimental and dangerous idea. The Wretched of the Earth was banned in France as soon as it came out and copies were seized from bookstores. Prominent French left-leaning intellectuals of the time, such as Jean Daniel, author of La Blessure, and Jean-Marie Domenach, editor of Espirit, were disgusted by Fanon’s theories on violence and felt that they reeked of revenge.

But according to Fanon, colonial violence begins with the coloniser, who “does not alleviate oppression or mask domination. He displays and demonstrates them with the clear conscience of the law enforcer, and brings violence into the homes and minds of the colonised subject.” During decolonisation, it is this unchecked, destructive and tireless violence that is “appropriated” by the colonised.

Using a generalised psychological analysis for colonised people (a population he frequently treated as a psychiatrist and knew intimately), Fanon explains the process that leads an oppressed individual to employ violence. He creates an emblematic portrait of the colonised man living in an atmosphere where a reservoir of repressed fury is beginning to manifest itself consciously, and the desire to be a “man” instead of the “thing colonised” is omnipresent.

He writes: “The muscles of the colonised are always tensed. It is not that he is anxious or terrorised, but he is always ready to change his role as game for that of hunter. The colonised subject is a persecuted man who is always dreaming of becoming the persecutor.” In fact, even the dreams of the colonised are infused with a physicality, action and “aggressive vitality”. Through these, he unconsciously frees himself.

The Guardian for more

Rescuing Brecht (book review)

August 21st, 2014


Bertolt Brecht by Rudolf Schlichter, 1926 PHOTO/©BeBa/Iberfoto/Mary Evans

Bertolt Brecht: A literary life by Stephen Parker, 704pp. Bloomsbury. £30 (US $39.99).

In August 1956, the month of his death, Bertolt Brecht had a note put up for the actors of his Berliner Ensemble before they set off for London without him to perform Mother Courage, George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer and The Caucasian Chalk Circle: “There is in England a long-standing fear that German art (literature, painting, music) must be terribly heavy, slow, laborious and pedestrian. So our playing needs to be quick, light, strong”. So much of Brecht is there: the adversarial approach, the attention to detail and preparation, the often Chinese-sounding wisdom, the chess player’s mastery of his opponent based on superior understanding. The tour was a triumph, and most of the few good things that happened to Brecht in the English-speaking world date from that time: the association with his English editor and translator, John Willett, and with Willett’s publishers, Methuen; the passionate admiration of the Observer’s theatre critic, Kenneth Tynan; and the sympathy of a generation of English theatre people including Dame Peggy Ashcroft, George Devine and Sam Wanamaker. You might say, Brecht went out in absentia and on a small high.

Because things have got worse for him since, of that there can be little doubt. England and America are, if not quite Brecht-free zones, nevertheless territories where he has persistently been misunderstood, unappreciated, unloved and under suspicion. It is almost what defines them: liberal economics and a dearth of Brecht. (Perhaps if we had had Brecht, we wouldn’t have needed Thomas Piketty.) Yes, there are productions of his plays still from time to time, but almost always tempting fate and against the odds; the poems remain absurdly little known; and the man and his ideas are routinely and casually butchered. He may just about exist as a name, but he is not accorded any warmth or respect. He is certainly not (as he was in his own half-ironic stylization) “der Klassiker”: an example, and an object of fascination and utility.

The Times Literary Supplement for more

The CIA is no stranger to Africa – but we wish it was

August 21st, 2014


“The impact of the agency’s activities on the African continent must not escape notice.”

Revelations contained in an unreleased nearly 7,000 page Senate Intelligence Committee report about CIA torture of purported terrorism suspects should come as no surprise to those with even a passing acquaintance with the agency’s long history of international crimes. Among other things, the study reportedly details the CIA’s systematic use of slapping, humiliation, sleep-deprivation, freezing and waterboarding. While this may not be news to informed observers, some might be a bit shocked by the candid reactions to the report by the Obama administration. A leaked White House document says of the report: “This report tells a story of which no American is proud.” President Obama himself said: “…we tortured some folks. We did things that were contrary to our values.”

Everything connected with the torture program is unseemly and unconscionable, and is intolerable everywhere. Africa in particular, with all of its many challenges has no need for any part of it. But as the CIA comes under renewed scrutiny, the impact of the agency’s activities on the African continent must not escape notice. Last year Crofton Black, an investigator for Reprieve, a London-based human rights organization, produced a collection of documents that he claims demonstrates that Africa has been used by the CIA as part of its extraordinary rendition program – the forced transportation of terror suspects to countries where the use of torture is tolerated. In a sworn statement he alleges that a group of private companies acting in concert on behalf of the U.S. government organized five rendition trips between Djibouti and Kabul, Afghanistan.

Black Agenda Report for more

Down and out with Hillary Clinton

August 20th, 2014


Former first lady and secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. PHOTO/KTLA 5

Pity Hillary. Evicted from her home, jobless, and, as she evocatively put it to Diane Sawyer, “dead broke.” Such were the perilous straits of the Clinton family in the early winter months of 2001, as they packed their belongings at the White House, and scurried away like refugees from Washington toward a harsh and uncertain future.

“We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” Hillary recalled. “We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.”

Hillary was on the cusp of middle age and, at this point, for all practical purposes a single mother. She hadn’t had a paying job in years and the prospects of resurrecting her law career were dim. She was emotionally drained, physically debilitated and hounded wherever she went by the dark forces of the right. All in all, her prospects on that cold January morning were grave.

With no life-ring to cling to, Hillary was forced to work furiously to save her family from a Dickensian existence of privation and destitution. Though she spared Sawyer the harrowing details, we can recreate some of her most grueling tasks. This meant giving several speeches a week to demanding audiences for $200,000 a pop, burning the midnight oil to complete her book so that she wouldn’t have to return her $8 million advance, booking Bill’s speeches at $500,000 an appearance and scrutinizing Bill’s $10 million book contract for any troublesome pitfalls. There were also those tedious documents to sign for Bill’s $200,000 presidential pension and her own $20,000 annual pension for her term as First Lady.

There was also that rather irksome request from the Banker’s Trust that Hillary authorize them to accept for deposit $1.35 million from a certain Terry McAuliffe to secure the Clinton’s loan for the purchase a five-bedroom house in Chappaqua, New York. She was also tasked with itemizing the $190,000 worth of gifts for the family’s new home that flooded into the White House during the last cruel weeks of the Clinton presidency and arranging moving vans for the $28,000 of White House furnishings the family took with them to their humble new digs in New York.

But Hillary put her nose to the grindstone. She didn’t complain. She didn’t apply for unemployment compensation or food stamps. She simply devoted herself feverishly to the tasks at hand and over the course the next few months the Clinton’s fraught condition began to improve rather dramatically.

By the end of 2001, the Clintons owned two homes: the $5.95 million Dutch Colonial in Chappaqua and the $2.85 Georgian mansion in DC’s bucolic Observatory Circle neighborhood. Her deft management of the family finances, a feat worthy of Cardinal Mazarin himself, allowed the displaced couple’s bank accounts to swell to more than $20 million. A carefully nourished blind trust also fattened to more than $5 million. In twelve short months, their net worth rose from “dead broke” to a fortune of more than $35 million. Thus was the Clinton family was saved from a life of poverty.

This exemplary narrative of self-salvation must have confirmed in HRC’s mind the righteousness of her decision in 1996 to run interference for Bill’s drive to demolish the federal welfare system. In that fateful season, Hillary assiduously lobbied liberal groups, including her old outfit the Children’s Defense Fund, to embrace the transformative power of austerity for poor women and children.

Over the next four years, more than six million poor families were pitched off the welfare rolls, left with only their own ingenuity to keep them from being chewed apart by the merciless riptides of the neoliberal economy. Politicians cheered the shrinking of the welfare state. Hillary boasted of moving millions from a life of dependency toward an enchanting new era of personal responsibility and economic opportunity.

But what really happened to those marginalized families, did the village rush in to help rear those millions of destitute kids, suddenly deprived of even a few meager dollars a month for food and shelter? Hardly. In 1995, more than 70 percent of poor families with children received some kind of cash assistance. By 2010, less than 30 percent got any kind of cash aid and the amount of the benefit had declined by more than 50 percent from pre-reform levels. During the depths of the current recession, when the poverty level nearly doubled, the welfare rolls scarcely budged at all and even dropped in some states.

Counterpunch for more

Apple blocks app developed by Chinese activists and RNW

August 20th, 2014


For almost two months, the FreeWeibo app offered readers an uncensored version of China’s most popular social media network, Sina Weibo. Thanks to a smart technological workaround, developed by Chinese cyber-activists and Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW), government censors had no way to block the app. Except by pressuring Apple to remove it for them. On November 28, Apple complied.

“This is very, very frustrating,” says Charlie Smith, co-founder of FreeWeibo, a collective of activists against internet censorship. The app was the group’s latest attempt to provide Chinese people access to the messages censored on Weibo, without requiring them to use circumvention tools to get over the Great Firewall.

FreeWeibo has been monitoring and documenting Weibo’s censored messages for over a year on FreeWeibo.com. The site is a treasure trove for researchers, journalists and curious citizens who want to find out what Chinese are really discussing online. But unsurprisingly, the site was quickly blocked in China.

The block was no reason for FreeWeibo to give up on its anti-censorship campaign. Together with RNW, which considers the FreeWeibo app a valuable forum for free speech, the activists developed a more censorship-resistant app to publish blocked Weibo tweets.

Surprise attack
The app went live on October 4, and after FreeWeibo successfully fended off a few initial attacks, the censors halted their attempts to frustrate the app’s functioning. FreeWeibo seemed to have exhausted the censors’ methods. The only way that they could block the app was by shutting down China’s access to the App store completely, the activists believed.

But to FreeWeibo’s surprise, the next counterattack didn’t come from the censors. Instead, Apple abruptly brought the cat-and-mouse game between the censors and FreeWeibo to a halt by removing the app from the store.

“We felt quite good about getting around the Chinese censors,” the pseudonymous Smith commented. “So when we found Apple pulled it, that was a real downer. It’s the worst kind of censorship we can face, because there’s not much we can do to counteract it.”

Radio Netherlands Worldwide for more

Tamasha Theatre’s My Name Is… sheds light on devastating fall-out from mixed-race marriage

August 20th, 2014


You Tube

My Name Is… by Tamasha has been among my top five plays this year. It had a short first run at the Arcola theatre, then went to Glasgow and begins a national tour this September. Being in a space which was no bigger than an ordinary living room was both intimate and claustrophobic, and also menacing. At moments of high drama, you felt the walls would collapse and gales would carry away the players. Which is, in a manner of speaking, what happened to the family whose story is told here, in their own words.

In August 2006, 12-year-old Molly Campbell, a mixed-race schoolgirl “disappeared” from Stornaway, in the Outer Hebrides. Her father, British-Pakistani Sajad Rana, who was divorced from her mother, Louise Campbell, had moved back to Pakistan with his older children and wanted Molly to join them. Louise was terrified she would lose her remaining child. When her daughter didn’t come back home, she feared Rana had abducted her and called the police. Louise’s mother publicly said Rana was plotting to marry off the child, adding further piquancy to the rising public outrage about Asian “barbarism”. And then came the startling/shocking finale. At a press conference in Lahore, Molly, dressed in a bright shalwar khameez, cheerfully told journalists that she had left Scotland of her own free will and wanted to live with her dad. She was no longer Molly Campbell, but “Misbah Rana”, a Pakistani Muslim. Long court battles ensued, politicians got involved, and in the end Louise gave up the fight. Most Britons found it hard to understand why the pre-teen gave up her Western freedoms and chose a severely proscribed life. She is now back in the UK and living with her mother.

Actress/writer/director Sudha Bhuchar and director by Philip Osment have created a profound drama out of this crisis, using verbatim interviews with the three protagonists. Their names have been changed: Rana is “Farhan”, Louise is”Suzy” and Molly is “Gaby”. Truths and emotions are revealed here that no journalism can ever reach. It is as powerful as Nicolas Kent’s testimony-based dramatisations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and Hutton Inquiry.

The Independent for more