What else is the US State department doing to promote the use of the internet to promote its agenda worldwide? I’ve just returned from Netroots Nation 2011, the signature event of internet activism. This year’s speakers included internet fundraising pioneer Howard Dean and net neutrality advocate Sen. Al Franken. I attended a panel The Arab Spring: A Case Study for New Media as a Catalyst for Change, which features Bahraini, Iraqi, Palestinian, and Moroccan bloggers. Their stories were riveting and polished and left me wondering how they could afford to travel to the United States. I have a suspicion that they have been funded by the State Department to do a multi-city tour telling their stories of pro-democracy digital activism. Might “freedom loving” institutions have something to gain by making celebrities of these Middle Eastern bloggers? I am not so paranoid to think that the nomenclature surrounding the promotion of the “Twitter Revolution” was actually a way to textually lay claim to the Arab Spring for Silicon Valley companies, but I do think that states realize the power of evocative branding operations to win hearts and minds. These blogger’s national tour may be an example.
“I am English. Born and bred, as the saying goes … England is the only society I truly know and sometimes understand. I don’t look as the English did in the England of the 30s or before, but being English is my birthright. England is my home. An eccentric place where sometimes I love being English.
When I hear that the surge of energy needed after a good television programme is because everyone is getting up to make a cup of tea, it makes me smile. I, too, was there with my teapot after the last episode of Only Fools And Horses. I love that our national dish has become curry. And the view from London’s Waterloo Bridge just takes my breath away. I hate being English when I hear what happened to Stephen Lawrence. When every day seems like a battle against racism, and hatred, and the quiet, polite hostility that holds many black and Asian people back from fulfiling their potential. I want to belong to anywhere but this place where I am made to feel like an outsider - not welcome, definitely not welcome at all.
Saying that I’m English doesn’t mean I want to be assimilated; to take on the majority white culture to the exclusion of all other. (I cannot live without rice and peas. I now dance like a lunatic when Jamaica wins anything. And I will always make a noise when moved by emotion.) I will not take up a flag and wave it to intimidate. And being English will not stop me from fighting to live in a country free from racism and social divisiveness.
There are many white people here who are appalled that someone like me could be English. And there are many black people with similar backgrounds to mine who do not wish to be called English. But national identity is not a personal issue. It is political. It cannot be decided at the whim of the individual. Englishness must never be allowed to attach itself to ethnicity. The majority of English people are white, but some are not. If we say otherwise, it is in tacit agreement with the idea of racial purity, and we all know where that dangerous myth can lead. Let England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland be nations that are plural and inclusive.
Last year, I was in Scotland reading at the Edinburgh Festival. I was telling the audience about my great-grandfather with the flame-red hair. After the reading, a Scottish woman came up to me, held my arm and whispered, “You know, I could just tell you were Scottish.”
You wasn’t no more than a dog to some of them in them days. You wasn’t treated as good as they treat dogs now. But still I didn’t like to talk about it. Because it makes, makes people feel bad you know. Uh, I, I could say a whole lot I don’t like to say. And I won’t say a whole lot more.
Fountain Hughes, Age 101 (Interview, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 1949)
The almost seven hours of recorded interviews presented here took place between 1932 and 1975 in nine Southern states. Twenty-three interviewees, born between 1823 and the early 1860s, discuss how they felt about slavery, slaveholders, coercion of slaves, their families, and freedom. Several individuals sing songs, many of which were learned during the time of their enslavement. It is important to note that all of the interviewees spoke sixty or more years after the end of their enslavement, and it is their full lives that are reflected in these recordings. The individuals documented in this presentation have much to say about living as African Americans from the 1870s to the 1930s, and beyond.
All known recordings of former slaves in the American Folklife Center are included in this presentation. Some are being made publicly available for the first time and several others already available now include complete transcriptions. Unfortunately, not all the recordings are clearly audible. Although the original tapes and discs are generally in good physical condition, background noise and poorly positioned microphones make it extremely difficult to follow many of the interviews.
“It is worthwhile to point out in passing here that there are amazing resemblances between the Muslim population that emerges in twentieth-century Europe and the Negro population of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. I mean precisely their constitution as an essential disposable population whose presence threatens liberal democracy. This is indicative of the tremendous force of the American system to extend itself to any and all localities on the planet”— Ronald A. T. Judy, “Democracy or Ideology”
Iftin (“Sunshine”) was a big hit in Somalia in the 70’s and 80’s. Initially, they made theaters & schools “unsafe” with their brand of (slow) dance music and later discotheques & marriage ceremonies were conquered. It’s one of the bands initiated by the Ministry of Education and Culture and they were based in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, where most of the band members originally came from. The lead singer with the “Woweeee!” hair is a Somali of Yemenite origins (does his Yemeni ancestry shed a little light on your remark?). He’s called Shimaali and some of his solo efforts are on YouTube.
Responsible members must take life seriously, conscious of their responsibilities, thoughtful about carrying them out, and with a comradeship based on work and duty done. Nothing of this is incompatible with the joy of living, or with love for life and its amusements, or with confidence in the future and in our work…
Amilcar Cabral - Revolution in Guinea, Stage 1 (1974)
A lot of people forget that when you’re listening to 70s soul for instance, at that time, that music was hi-tech. They were using the latest equipment at the time and they were coming up with styles; they were taking blues and and mixing it up with folk or whatever and coming up with this music, and a lot of people listen to that music now and don’t realise how forward thinking it was for its time.
South African Township Barbershops & Salons - Simon Weller
InSouth African Township Barbershops & Salons, photographer Simon Weller explores the peculiar cultural and social hubs of South African townships, salons and babershop, which too transcend their mere function as places to get your hair cut and serve as pivotal places for the local community to gather, gossip and exchange ideas. Weller contextualizes the rich and vibrant photographs of the shops and portraits of their patrons with fascinating essays that expound on the aesthetics of these hubs and their signage though interviews with the owners, customers and sign designers.
Review of Pal Ahuluwalia. Out of Africa: Post-Structuralism’s Colonial Roots. New York: Routledge, 2010. Jane Goodman and Paul A. Silverstein (eds). Bourdieu in Algeria: Colonial Politics, Ethnographic Practices, Theoretical Developments. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009. Christopher Wise. Derrida, Africa and the Middle East. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
“In sum, “person” is not co-extensive with “human” because to be human is neither necessary nor sufficient for personhood. Non-human entities exist that count as persons while human entities exist that do not count as persons. Not all humans have been granted the moral status to which their presumptive personhood should have entitled them.
Charles W. Mills - The Political Economy Of Personhood”—
Charles W. Mills - “The Political Economy Of Personhood
Always bear in mind that people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.
”—Amilcar Cabral, leader of Guinea-Bissau’s national liberation movement, “The Weapon of Theory,” 1966 (via fuckyeahmarxismleninism)
The Supreme Court’s recent decision ordering California to reduce its overcrowded prisons by 30,000 inmates is as welcome as a ray of sunlight streaming through prison bars. State officials have known for decades of the horrific, if not criminal, neglect of prisoners. Five years ago, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called their plight an “emergency.” Some “emergency!” Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 ruling, may have been swayed by photographs of inmates jammed into “telephone booth-sized cages without toilets”—-conditions so dreadful that a lower court that earlier heard the case found it to be “an uncontested fact” that “an inmate in one of California’s prisons needlessly dies every six or seven days due to constitutional deficiencies.” This, according to The New York Times, which supported the court’s ruling in an editorial.
It’s just another day in the Incarceration Society. In California alone, 33 adult jails warehouse 143,000 inmates. The U.S. has the dubious distinction of ranking first in prison population, ahead of all other nations with 2.3-million convicts behind bars. USA has more mentally ill in its jails where they are not getting proper treatment than in its asylums, where they might be restored to health. As in California, everywhere one sees States slashing funds for the rehabilitation of prisoners—-whether it’s for their education, mental health, retraining, drug counseling, job search, or eventual readmission into society. Prisons make inmates worse by tossing ever more of them into isolation cells where, if they were not mentally distressed before incarceration, they almost surely will be driven mad during it. It was in this way that President Obama allowed Bradley Manning to be abused for nearly a year in solitary over the findings and advice of Army psychiatrists.
We have prisoners given stiff sentences mandated by laws. Judges often are not free to use their discretion. As the Los Angeles Times reported: “More than 40,000 prisoners, about one in four, are serving extended sentences for second and third offenses that are punished more severely under the three-strikes law than the crimes would warrant as a first offense, according to state corrections records.” The article also quotes professor Laurie Levenson, of Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, a former federal prosecutor and veteran criminal law scholar, who linked the high recidivism rate with past cuts in funding for prison rehabilitation and education programs. She said this is a formula for even worse crowding. “We have to stop the insanity of sending nonviolent drug offenders and low-level theft offenders to prison for life,” Levenson said. “Nobody is saying we should let murderers out…. We have to stop the revolving door of parolees being returned for minor violations.”
Unfortunately, what the Supreme Court found in California could also apply to many other states, including Illinois, Alabama and Massachusetts. Justice Kennedy, the Times said in an editorial, affirmed that “overcrowding is the ‘primary cause’ of severe and unlawful mistreatment of prisoners through grossly inadequate provision of medical and mental health care” leading to “needless suffering and death.” And that’s happening all over.
Let’s get is straight. Our criminal justice system overwhelmingly reflects the views of the privileged as against the poor. It is class war, pure and simple. TheLos Angeles Times quotes Michael Romano of Stanford Law School as saying some inmates are serving life sentences for stealing a $2 pair of socks or $20 work gloves. Yet President George W. Bush who ordered illegal wars against Afghanistan and Iraq was photographed the other day enjoying a baseball game. The reason minority parents are so militant battling school superintendents is because they know without a decent education and a decent chance to earn their sons will wind up behind bars. The time I visited the New Jersey state prison at Rahway so many men were walking around with books under their arms I thought I was back in high school during class break. If only, one thought, these men had been properly educated before! On May 24th the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s cost-cutting was unconstitutional “and ordered lawmakers to raise spending for poor, urban schools by $500-million next year,” according to The Times. Justice Jaynee LaVecchia said the State “made a conscious and calculated decision” to renege on its pledge to do better for urban residents. So the system goes on recreating the conditions that will lead to poverty and crime.
In America today, “justice” doesn’t exist for those at the top. President Obama has refused to exercise his obligation to bring charges against his predecessor president, vice-president and scores of other ranking Bush officials who broke the law. Nor has Mr. Obama, a former CIA pay-roller and exponent of the CIA’s imperialist philosophy, moved against CIA officials who kidnapped, tortured and murdered innocent prisoners and who then destroyed the evidence of their crimes. If you want a glimpse into the soul of a nation, visit one of its prisons. California is no exception. It’s typical. If you want to see who really runs a country, look for those who are above prosecution.