anagnori

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

VIDEO: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

In education, politics, society, technology on October 19, 2015 at 02:19

From: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, The Documentary Network, http://documentary.net

Watch the film at http://documentary.net/video/internets-boy-story-aaron-swartz/

The film follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet.

But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

Film by Brian Knappenberger – Luminant Media

Reposted with permission from: The Documentary Network

Ecological Cooperation in South Asia by Saleem H. Ali

In Asia, politics, society on October 19, 2015 at 02:16

From: Ecological Cooperation in South Asia: The Way Forward by Saleem H. Ali, Policy Innovations, http://www.policyinnovations.org

The greatest loss of human life and economic damage suffered by South Asia since 2001 has not been due to terrorism and its ensuing conflicts but rather due to natural disasters, ranging from the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the Indus floods of 2010 to seasonal water shortages and drought. Although such calamities themselves might not be preventable, their human impact can certainly be mitigated.

The most consequential ecological features in South Asia are the Himalayas and the rivers that are largely derived from their geography. Some of the worst territorial disputes in the region also span these mountains. Hence, scientific and sociocultural research on mountain ecosystems is likely to play a pivotal role in galvanizing regional cooperation and reaping peace dividends.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Policy Innovations

The Gift of Death by George Monbiot

In politics, society, sociology on August 4, 2015 at 20:26

From: The Gift of Death by George Monbiot, http://www.monbiot.com

Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale(1). Even the goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolescence (becoming unfashionable).

But many of the products we buy, especially for Christmas, cannot become obsolescent. The term implies a loss of utility, but they had no utility in the first place. An electronic drum-machine t-shirt; a Darth Vader talking piggy bank; an ear-shaped i-phone case; an individual beer can chiller; an electronic wine breather; a sonic screwdriver remote control; bacon toothpaste; a dancing dog: no one is expected to use them, or even look at them, after Christmas Day. They are designed to elicit thanks, perhaps a snigger or two, and then be thrown away.

The fatuity of the products is matched by the profundity of the impacts. Rare materials, complex electronics, the energy needed for manufacture and transport are extracted and refined and combined into compounds of utter pointlessness. When you take account of the fossil fuels whose use we commission in other countries, manufacturing and consumption are responsible for more than half of our carbon dioxide production(2). We are screwing the planet to make solar-powered bath thermometers and desktop crazy golfers.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: George Monbiot

The urban paradox by Tom Cowan

In politics, society, sociology on July 24, 2015 at 05:42

From:  The urban paradox by Tom Cowan, openDemocracy, https://www.opendemocracy.net

In the current conjuncture, cities are sites of two counterposed tendencies. First, the city is upheld as the physical metonym of modernity, the unsurpassable form of human progress, wherein any manner of economic, social and environmental ills may be treated—where non-people become people, where technology and smartness come to govern political and social contestations, where human resilience and innovation (no matter how destitute such humans may be) can mitigate the oppressive character of capital-led urban growth. Against and yet within this, largely neo-liberal, imagination exists the global trend of urban retraction, of bordering, segregation, fragmentation, state withdrawal, enclave-ing. The traditional model of urban entrepreneurialism which David Harvey discussed in the 1980s is today optimised from particular, mostly elite fragments of accumulation, (the mega-event, the gated community, the mall, etc.) marginalising entire populations, entire ways of thinking and being deemed obsolete. These are two contradictory arms of neoliberal urbanism.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: openDemocracy

Radical Hospitality by Danya Lagos

In philosophy, politics, society, sociology on March 24, 2015 at 19:51

From: Radical Hospitality by Danya Lagos, Hypocrite Reader, http://www.hypocritereader.com

Hospitality, or the art of welcoming and caring for others, must be rescued from its current entanglement in stratification and alienation. Today’s approach to hospitality invites people into a hosting paradigm that emphasizes the host’s ability to provide “whole,” “fresh,” “slow,” and “local” food experiences. This school of entertainment emphasizes the artisanal, the crafted, and the shared enjoyment of these as an extension of the host’s character and ethical standing. It nods towards feel-good liberal politics with a concern over GMO labeling, fair trade (!!!) products, and a kinder, gentler way of slaughtering animals for our consumption. We have created entire industries devoted to certifications of all sorts, to verify precisely how humanely that leg of lamb was slaughtered, precisely how kosher the cheese is, and precisely how genetically unmodified those lentils are. Under this new technology of hospitality, the host is no longer one whose primary concern is to invite and attend to the other. The host has become a producer and hoarder of cultural capital, and guests have become mere instruments in this venture—even if they often serve as critics or evaluators. Large, open gatherings are increasingly replaced by smaller, rarer, highly exclusive dinner parties. Guests are carefully selected, excluded, and engaged. At best, they are partners in a cultural wealth-generating exchange. At worst, they are excluded altogether from our kitchens and dining rooms if they cannot contribute to or be willing, passive, assenting consumers of this performance of class.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Hypocrite Reader

Featured: American Socrates by Chris Hedges

In biology, education, government, history, philosophy, politics, society on June 16, 2014 at 14:51

Featured: American Socrates by Chris Hedges, Common Dreams, https://www.commondreams.org

Noam Chomsky speaks to the media at a friend’s house in Amman, Jordan, in 2010. (AP/Nader Daoud)

Noam Chomsky speaks to the media at a friend’s house in Amman, Jordan, in 2010. (AP/Nader Daoud)

 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Noam Chomsky, whom I interviewed last Thursday at his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has influenced intellectuals in the United States and abroad in incalculable ways. His explications of empire, mass propaganda, the hypocrisy and pliability of the liberal class and the failings of academics, as well as the way language is used as a mask by the power elite to prevent us from seeing reality, make him the most important intellectual in the country. The force of his intellect, which is combined with a ferocious independence, terrifies the corporate state—which is why the commercial media and much of the academic establishment treat him as a pariah. He is the Socrates of our time.

 

 

We live in a bleak moment in human history. And Chomsky begins from this reality. He quoted the late Ernst Mayr, a leading evolutionary biologist of the 20th century who argued that we probably will never encounter intelligent extraterrestrials because higher life forms render themselves extinct in a relatively short time.

“Mayr argued that the adaptive value of what is called ‘higher intelligence’ is very low,” Chomsky said. “Beetles and bacteria are much more adaptive than humans. We will find out if it is better to be smart than stupid. We may be a biological error, using the 100,000 years which Mayr gives [as] the life expectancy of a species to destroy ourselves and many other life forms on the planet.”

Climate change “may doom us all, and not in the distant future,” Chomsky said. “It may overwhelm everything. This is the first time in human history that we have the capacity to destroy the conditions for decent survival. It is already happening. Look at species destruction. It is estimated to be at about the level of 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the earth, ended the period of the dinosaurs and wiped out a huge number of species. It is the same level today. And we are the asteroid. If anyone could see us from outer space they would be astonished. There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations—the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.”

If Mayr was right, we are at the tail end of a binge, accelerated by the Industrial Revolution, that is about to drive us over a cliff environmentally and economically. A looming breakdown, in Chomsky’s eyes, offers us opportunity as well as danger. He has warned repeatedly that if we are to adapt and survive we must overthrow the corporate power elite through mass movements and return power to autonomous collectives that are focused on sustaining communities rather than exploiting them. Appealing to the established institutions and mechanisms of power will not work.

“We can draw many very good lessons from the early period of the Industrial Revolution,” he said. “The Industrial Revolution took off right around here in eastern Massachusetts in the mid-19th century. This was a period when independent farmers were being driven into the industrial system. Men and women—women left the farms to be ‘factory girls’—bitterly resented it. This was also a period of a very free press, the freest in the history of the country. There were a wide variety of journals. When you read them they are pretty fascinating. The people driven into the industrial system regarded it as an attack on their personal dignity, on their rights as human beings. They were free human beings being forced into what they called ‘wage labor,’ which they regarded as not very different from chattel slavery. In fact this was such a popular mood it was a slogan of the Republican Party—‘The only difference between working for a wage and being a slave is that working for the wage is supposed to be temporary.’ ”

Read the rest of this entry »

The galloping militarisation of Eurasia by Neil Melvin

In Asia, politics, sociology, war on June 16, 2014 at 14:38

From: The galloping militarisation of Eurasia by Neil Melvin, openDemocracy, www.opendemocracy.net

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the deployment of up to 40 000 troops on Ukraine’s border to support the actions of pro-Russian separatist forces, has been widely identified as a turning point in the ‘post-Cold War’ European security system. But Russia’s militarised policy towards Ukraine should not be seen as a spontaneous response to the crisis – it has only been possible thanks to a long-term programme by Moscow to build up its military capabilities.

To be a ‘great power’ – which is the status that Moscow’s political elite claim for Russia – is to have both an international reach and regional spheres of influence. To achieve this, Moscow understands that it must be able to project military force, and so the modernisation of Russia’s armed forces has become a key element of its ‘great power’ ambitions. For this reason, seven years ago, a politically painful and expensive military modernisation programme was launched to provide Russia with new capabilities. One of the key aims of this modernisation has been to move the Russian military away from a mass mobilisation army designed to fight a large-scale war (presumably against NATO) to the creation of smaller and more mobile combat-ready forces designed for local and regional conflicts.

Nearly 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new, highly militarised climate is being created that threatens peace amongst the Eurasian countries, and is substantially changing societies there. At its simplest, the change can be seen in the rising defence expenditures and the modernisation of armed forces across the region. But behind these trends are deep-seated political and social developments. Building on the popular support for security approaches to resolving issues with neighbouring countries, the states of the region are looking to roll back the liberal reforms of the past two decades, and to re-militarise state-society relations.

In these conditions, a wholly security-focused response to the Ukraine crisis by the ‘transatlantic community’ risks further entrenching hardliners in Moscow, and reinforcing the dangerous trends towards militarisation. At the same time, a narrow diplomatic approach focused only on Ukraine will not address the broader drift towards militarism in the region. In seeking a response to the Ukraine conflict and to Eurasia’s growing instability, the ‘Western community’ needs to craft a comprehensive regional approach that looks to address the sources of militarism. This will involve increased efforts to find peaceful solutions to Eurasia’s protracted conflicts, and the enmity that has built up around them. It will also require the establishment of a renewed security dialogue between Russia, its allies and the ‘transatlantic community’ to counter perceptions of insecurity and threats in the region, notably in the Caucasus and Caspian regions. Moreover, countries such as Britain might like to reconsider their arms deals with countries such as Russia, which can only further exacerbate instability. Such measures just might help slow down the galloping militarisation of Euraisa.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: openDemocracy

Brave New World, Plato’s Republic, and Our Scientific Regime by Matthew J. Franck

In government, literature, philosophy, politics, science, science fiction, sexuality, society, sociology, writers on May 18, 2014 at 08:24

From: Brave New World, Plato’s Republic, and Our Scientific Regime by Matthew J. Franck, The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com

 

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

But an even more telling comparison can be made — that Brave New World is a modern counterpart to the “city in speech” built by Socrates and his young interlocutors in Plato’s Republic. Whether Huxley saw the similarities himself is far from clear. In neither the “Foreword” added to the 1946 edition nor his lengthy 1958 essay Brave New World Revisited, which is published together with the novel in some editions, does he indicate any consciousness of a parallel. Nor do his Complete Essays (published 2000 – 2002) shed light on this. His biographer Murray mentions no such connection in Huxley’s mind either; nor does his earlier biographer Sybille Bedford. Yet it may not be necessary to confirm any precise authorial intention on Huxley’s part to imitate Plato. Whereas Huxley’s other novels are largely forgotten today by the general public, and his later visits to the themes of Brave New World are those of a crank whose imaginative gifts have deserted him, in writing his greatest work he seems to have been in the grip of an idea larger than himself. Plato’s Socrates tells us in the Apology that when he “went to the poets” to “ask them thoroughly what they meant” in their greatest poems, he found to his surprise that “almost everyone present, so to speak, would have spoken better than the poets did about the poetry that they themselves had made.” For as Socrates said (not without some biting irony) in Plato’s Ion, “all the good epic poets speak all their fine poems not from art but by being inspired and possessed, and it is the same for the good lyric poets.” Perhaps during the mere four months it took Huxley to write Brave New World, he was “possessed” in this way and remained forever unconscious of his debt to Plato.

In its political teaching, the Republic is as much a dystopian poem as is Brave New World. With every step in his radical project of instituting uncompromisingly perfect justice — from the noble lie, to the abolition of the family among the guardians, to the eugenics program that brushes aside the incest taboo with a wave of the hand, to the impossible proposal that the city be ruled by philosophers, to the absurd suggestion that the city be founded by exiling all of an existing city’s residents over ten years of age — Socrates reveals humanity’s inability to overcome the limits that our nature imposes. We love the good, but we also love what is our own. Nature draws us toward other particular persons whom we embrace and love as our own; it gets in the way of our commitment to the collective good of the community, which has, in the best case, its own just yet conflicting demands on our love. Nature, or nature’s God, has made us embodied souls, or ensouled bodies. We can live neither wholly for others nor wholly for ourselves, and this is no less true for the philosopher than for others. The project of perfect justice in which each of us is a “cell in the social body” is not within our grasp.

Read the article

Reposted with permission: The New Atlantis

Is it Love? by Brian Kuan Wood

In art, economics, economy, information, politics, society, sociology on May 18, 2014 at 07:59

From: Is it Love? by Brian Kuan Wood, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Now it becomes easy to see how love translates to economic terms as a union based in mutual debt. When the debt is paid off or called in, the union dissolves. And now that pretty much everyone is in debt, love abounds! Professionals are moving back in with their parents, people are returning home to their countries to depend on their extended families, contracts are increasingly backed by personal relationships, and even the values of goods and currencies are backed less by bonds and legal tender and more by the trust and intimacy that gives them their character. Shared associations and affinities expressed over communication lines produce pockets of enormous value in an otherwise lonely ocean of random data streams. Musicians record reams of songs without ever thinking about wanting a record contract from major labels that are still struggling to understand how to make money off computer files.

Love is the most recently introduced member in the family of inflation and bloat. It is a burst of fresh air fed straight into the bubble. It gives the Ponzi scheme at least another decade before people start to think about cashing out. Remember when you would run out of time and replace that with energy? Push a little harder and move a little faster and you can trick time, because darling you’re a superhero. But when you run out of time and energy alike, you run into a problem. You need help. You need support. You need love and a bit of tenderness. Now, with the help of others, you can feed the machine again.

Without time and energy of your own, love is the conduit through which you extract the time and energy of others. You then start to take the shape of that loving conduit. But you have also become a professional lover—or a diabolically good flirt. You are a kind of Marilyn Monroe or Don Juan in the labor of other Marilyns and Dons. This arrangement actually makes for a beautifully collective endeavor so long as you can stay beautiful, tender, and kind to your lovers, and so long as they stay that way to you. This tenderness is a force of resynchronization. Maybe it is a new kind of force altogether. Maybe it is love time. Let’s inhale and exhale together.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: e-flux

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Letters to Slavoj Žižek

In Europe, performing arts, philosophy, politics, society on May 3, 2014 at 00:57

From: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot’s Prison Letters to Slavoj Žižek by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Slavoj Žižek, Common Dreams, https://www.commondreams.org

Dear Nadezhda,

I was so pleasantly surprised when your letter arrived – the delay made me fear that the authorities would prevent our communication. I was deeply honoured, flattered even, by my appearance in your dream.

You are right to question the idea that the “experts” close to power are competent to make decisions. Experts are, by definition, servants of those in power: they don’t really think, they just apply their knowledge to the problems defined by those in power (how to bring back stability? how to squash protests?). So are today’s capitalists, the so-called financial wizards, really experts? Are they not just stupid babies playing with our money and our fate? I remember a cruel joke from Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not to Be. When asked about the German concentration camps in occupied Poland, the Nazi officer snaps back: “We do the concentrating, and the Poles do the camping.” Does the same not hold for the Enron bankruptcy in 2002? The thousands of employees who lost their jobs were certainly exposed to risk, but with no true choice – for them the risk was like blind fate. But those who did have insight into the risks, and the ability to intervene (the top managers), minimised their risks by cashing in their stocks before the bankruptcy. So it is true that we live in a society of risky choices, but some people (the managers) do the choosing, while others (the common people) do the risking.

For me, the true task of radical emancipatory movements is not just to shake things out of their complacent inertia, but to change the very co-ordinates of social reality so that, when things return to normal, there will be a new, more satisfying, “apollonian statics”. And, even more crucially, how does today’s global capitalism enter this scheme?

The Deleuzian philosopher Brian Massumi tells how capitalism has already overcome the logic of totalising normality and adopted the logic of erratic excess: “The more varied, and even erratic, the better. Normality starts to lose its hold. The regularities start to loosen. This loosening is part of capitalism’s dynamic.”

But I feel guilty writing this: who am I to explode in such narcissistic theoretical outbursts when you are exposed to very real deprivations? So please, if you can and want, do let me know about your situation in prison: about your daily rhythm, about the little private rituals that make it easier to survive, about how much time you have to read and write, about how other prisoners and guards treat you, about your contact with your child … true heroism resides in these seemingly small ways of organising one’s life in order to survive in crazy times without losing dignity.

With love, respect and admiration, my thoughts are with you!

Slavoj

Read the letters

Reposted with permission from: Common Dreams

Innovation is a Social Issue by Martin Eiermann and Christoper Steiner

In economy, education, industrial processes, infrastructure, politics, technology on March 25, 2014 at 03:34

From: Algorithms and the Future of Work: Innovation is a Social Issue by Martin Eiermann and Christoper Steiner, The European Magazine, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

The European: You’re talking about a momentous shift in the labor market: The vast majority of workers fall into the category of mid-level employees. Unemployment is already high in the wake of the crisis – and if you’re correct in your predictions, we are looking at a technological shift with tremendous social consequences.
Steiner: Economists go back and forth on this question. Some argue that unemployment will remain high because of these trends, but others point out that people had very similar worries during the industrial revolution. The steam engine revolutionized production, but you still needed as many workers as before. The biggest trend for me is about stratification: The people who can handle algorithms and market themselves will do very well. They will displace people with less expertise and experience.

The European: Does that worry you?
Steiner: I’m more curious than worried. If you look at the top 500 American companies, corporate profits are near an all-time high, yet unemployment levels are higher than average as well. Many companies have not hired back the workers they laid off but have instead managed to increase productivity through software and automation. This isn’t just a future trend, it’s already happening.

Read the interview

Reposted with permission from: The European

The Bachelor Century by Jon Rich

In civilisation, ethics, Europe, government, history, North America, politics, religion, society, war, world on March 2, 2014 at 21:07

From: The Bachelor Century: Single Sinners Seeking God’s Job by Jon Rich, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Since the sixteenth century, writing has aspired towards permanence. That horrific century brought a succession of powers, churches, popes, writers, politicians, and artists who made attempts at immortality by making their marks on the rocks of time. The Catholic Church has remained tenaciously faithful, in a sense, to the fifteenth century. The Church’s guards, popes, teachings, sermons, and its Bible have been the center of attention since Michelangelo finished his marvelous works at the Sistine Chapel. As is the case with other holy books, the Bible is a hymnal. Its hymns are recited and sung in the same fashion as the hymns found in other holy books. The fact that the Bible is a hymnal means that there’s a strong tendency, which has remained strong for centuries, to convert it from the written to the oral realm. In the latter realm, it is no longer simply a book, a physical artifact that will fall victim to the deleterious effects of light and humidity, but an invocation that unites all, regardless of their faith. The recitation and the sound of bells are meant to be familiar even to heretics and infidels. This phenomenon finds a perfect match in other holy books like the Torah and the Quran. Religions have, since the beginning, sought to make the word of God familiar and approachable. People who treated divine texts as primarily written words became priests, irrespective of their vocational inclination: infidels, heretics, atheists, priests, or theologians. Voltaire is no less priestly than St. Augustine.

Let’s go back briefly to Nietzsche to remind ourselves that collective human memory—what makes us human—is activated by pain and suffering. To oversimplify Nietzsche, we could say that our collective memory has privileged reactive thinking as a tool of evolution. A man who likes a woman for purely physical reasons is ready to reproduce with her but calls this attraction love. This reactive thinking extends to food, sleep, comfort, sport, work, and achievement. In fact, this sense of urgency to react is directly connected to scarcity. When we read Joseph’s story in the Torah, or the Quran, or The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe, we are taken by the pain and joy of very specific people. For these people to invest so much effort into finding their better halves elevates love to a universal human value.

With the supremacy of television and the ubiquity of the internet, this elevation of love becomes nearly impossible. No woman is a man’s better half and no death is pure and final on TV. Television recycles better halves infinitely, giving them new names, new bodies, and new faces. It also portrays death and suffering in myriad ways, creating a variety that impels us to admire and be entertained by it. This bombardment by images of horror leaves little room in one’s heart for a tinge of discomfort, like the one Lionel Messi might feel upon missing a shot on goal.

All of this was impossible to predict before the events of the Arab Spring. It has become clear, with the abundance of images of death and bloodshed coming out of Syria in the past two years, that death itself has become incapable of pushing us, even for a tiny moment, to think about the death of an individual. More deaths will follow, and staying up to date with them will mean having no time for sorrow, and certainly no time to mourn.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: e-flux

Outsourcing Haiti by Jake Johnston

In business, economy, ethics, infrastructure, North America, politics on January 26, 2014 at 00:05

From: Outsourcing Haiti: How disaster relief became a disaster of its own by Jake Johnston, Boston Review, http://www.bostonreview.net

Across the country from Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, miles of decrepit pot-holed streets give way to a smooth roadway leading up to the gates of the Caracol Industrial Park, but no further. The fishing hamlet of Caracol, from which the park gets its name, lies around the bend down a bumpy dirt road. Four years after the earthquake that destroyed the country on January 12, 2010, the Caracol Industrial Park is the flagship reconstruction project of the international community in Haiti. Signs adorn nearby roads, mostly in English, declaring the region “Open for Business.” In a dusty field, hundreds of empty, brightly colored houses are under construction in neat rows. If all goes as hoped for by the enthusiastic backers of the industrial park, this area could be home to as many as 300,000 additional residents over the next decade.

The plan for the Caracol Industrial Park project actually predates the 2010 earthquake. In 2009, Oxford University economist Paul Collier released a U.N.–sponsored report outlining a vision for Haiti’s economic future; it encouraged garment manufacturing as the way forward, noting U.S. legislation that gave Haitian textiles duty-free access to the U.S. market as well as “labour costs that are fully competitive with China . . . [due to] its poverty and relatively unregulated labour market.”

Now, only 750 homes have been built near Caracol, and the only major tenant remains Sae-A. New ports and infrastructure have been delayed and plagued by cost overruns. Concerns over labor rights and low wages have muted the celebration of the 2,500 new jobs created. For those who watched pledges from international donors roll in after the earthquake, reaching a total of $10 billion, rebuilding Haiti seemed realistic. But nearly four years later, there is very little to show for all of the aid money that has been spent. Representative Edward Royce (R-CA), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, bluntly commented in October that “while much has been promised, little has been effectively delivered.”

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Boston Review

Rethinking Drug Policy Assumptions by Jefferson M. Fish

In government, law, North America, politics, society on January 25, 2014 at 23:34

From: Rethinking Drug Policy Assumptions by Jefferson M. Fish, The Humanist, http://thehumanist.org

The so-called war on drugs has lasted more than four decades and increasing numbers of people are convinced that it is not only unwinnable but also misguided. From foreign policy to domestic policy to drug treatment, U.S. drug policy has been based on inaccurate assumptions and incorrect causal models that have led to an ever-escalating failure. The attempt here is to identify some of the principal errors, point out their shortcomings, and offer more plausible assumptions and models in their stead. These alternatives point not simply to downsizing the war and decriminalizing marijuana, as voters in Colorado and Washington State recently did, but to ending the war on drugs altogether by considering a range of legalization options.

Current U.S. policy is based on the assumption that drugs cause crime, corruption, and disease. Hence, we label and ban some substances as “dangerous drugs.” It follows that bad people supply these drugs, so we lock them up, but the supply keeps getting through. Engagement between police and criminal suppliers ramps up, leading only to more crime, corruption, and disease at home, while the battle spreads around the world.

It looks as if the more we clamp down, the worse the problem gets. Up until now the response has been not to question the underlying assumption, but to further escalate the war, hoping the right side will eventually achieve victory. There seems to be no consideration of the possibility that it’s the policy itself that’s making matters worse.

Here’s an alternative causal model, one that actually explains the failure of our longstanding policy: drug prohibition—that is, the war on drugs—causes an illegal, or black market, which in turn causes crime, corruption, and disease. With this model, the goal of drug policy should be to attack the black market instead of attacking drugs because the market undermines the stability of friendly countries (witness Colombia and Mexico) and finances our enemies (al-Qaeda and the Taliban, for example). Attempts to suppress the black market by force merely spread it, from one country to another or, in response to local police crackdowns, from one neighborhood to another.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: The Humanist

Silicon Valley Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov

In government, information science, internet, politics, technology on January 20, 2014 at 17:47

From: Silicon Valley Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

… We have tried NGOs, we have tried political parties, we have tried building nationalist movements, everything in the case of Belarus has been tried and failed, and here comes this new technology: you can use text messages to mobilize people, you can use blogs to discuss things you cannot discuss in the traditional media, you can rely on the power of cell phones to capture police brutality. I mean, there was a lot of excitement around 2005 and 2006, which partly, again, derives from the political climate in Eastern Europe at the time. You had the revolution in Serbia, then you had a few years later the revolution in Ukraine, then you had the revolution before that in Georgia. Something was brewing in Eastern Europe, and we had a lot of hope, and I invested a lot of hope in technology.

And then, I think, my other cynical Eastern European part took over. I have to add that I also spent four years in Bulgaria. This is where I was educated. And Bulgaria is known, as the rest of the Balkans, for its cynicism. And my cynical Bulgarian side, I think, took over at some point in 2006 and 2007 and I became skeptical of the very tools and platforms we were using, in part because I saw that they were actually making very little difference to the situation on the ground, to the people who were on the ground using those tools. But I also noticed that certain governments themselves were actually actively deploying those tools to spy on the population, to engage in propaganda by paying and training bloggers to spread the kind of truth that the government wanted to spread by engaging in new forms of censorships or cyber attacks. I basically saw the other side of this digitalization. And I saw that if you leave things as they are, and we engage in this very happy, cheerful celebration of the power of the Internet, we would miss the real story, and the real story, unfortunately, was that certain governments were getting empowered as well.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

Scandinavian Style by Sophie Pinkham

In art, books, culture, economics, literature, politics, review, writers on January 20, 2014 at 17:33

From: Scandinavian Style by Sophie Pinkham, N + 1 Magazine, http://nplusonemag.com

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s 3,500-page, six-volume magnum opus, My Struggle, is made from the material of the author’s daily life. The book has been described as an autobiographical novel, sometimes with “novel” in scare quotes, to indicate its excessive truthfulness. Like the author, the narrator is called Karl Ove Knausgaard, and, like the author, he is a Norwegian writer who lives in Stockholm with his second wife, the poet Linda Bostrom. As Knausgaard has explained in many interviews, his intention in writing My Struggle was to be absolutely honest, no matter how much shame this might cause. Many of his relatives have been furious, and some have cut off all contact with him. His wife relapsed into manic depression after she read the first manuscript. Knausgaard’s decision to tell the whole painful, humiliating truth has been the subject of heated debate in Norway, where My Struggle has sold about one copy for every ten residents. (To date, only the first two volumes have been released in English; the third will appear next summer.)

For American readers, Knausgaard’s writing is striking in its freedom from telling details, well-wrought similes, conspicuous fine-tuning. His sentences don’t look like they’ve been reworked for months, and they haven’t: he wrote My Struggle fast, with minimal revision. He uses well-worn phrases that we tend to identify as clichés, and that elicit, in many readers, a desire to whip out the red pencil. In an otherwise positive review of My Struggle in the New Yorker, James Wood criticized the uneven quality of the prose and the use of clichés. But these are essential parts of the method. Knausgaard rejects chiseled sentences in favor of a cumulative effect, and the flatness, the openness, the sprawl provide the space necessary for his discursive treatment of everyday life, allowing the reader to exist inside the narrator’s mind, to see as he sees.

We never see Knausgaard engaging in any kind of income-generating activity, apart from writing novels and producing the occasional reader’s report for a publishing house. He doesn’t teach creative writing classes, or literature classes. He never talks to an agent, though he occasionally does interviews or goes to writers’ conferences. He doesn’t write book reviews for magazines or newspapers. He is not enrolled in a PhD program or a funded MFA program—welfare for American intellectuals. His wife, Linda, is a poet who never seems to engage in any income-generating activity at all. And yet they have an apartment in the center of Stockholm, and Knausgaard has an office—a room of his own. The Knausgaards are always eating crab and salmon, drinking good wine and cognac. They vacation in Spain, and never seem to worry about the financial welfare of their aging parents. Most shocking of all, they have an extravagant number of children—three—in the course of just four years. They never wonder who’ll pay for their children to go to college, probably because in Sweden and Norway, university is free. When Linda gives birth, Knausgaard ponders the existential aspects of this process, rather than worrying about the hospital bill. In Stockholm, as in New York, life is full of banality; but it’s a different banality, without credit card debt or massive student loans.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: N + 1 Magazine

A Mass Media Cure for Auschwitz by Henry Krips

In government, media, philosophy, politics, society, sociology, theory on January 20, 2014 at 17:13

From: A Mass Media Cure for Auschwitz : Adorno, Kafka and Žižek by Henry Krips, International Journal of Žižek Studies, http://zizekstudies.org

In today’s regulated world of mass media corporations, what space is left for a radical politics? From the theoretical perspectives of most contemporary work in cultural studies, the answer seems to be “not much.” For example, according to the classic Frankfurt School position, the mass media serve the politically conservative end of spreading ideological lies: telling us that the government bureaucracies and private corporations that control our daily lives know best and care personally for each and every one of us (Adorno and Horkheimer, 2002).

In order for these lies to be effective, however, it is not enough that they are encoded at the level of message content – after all, in today’s cynical climate few people fully trust what they are told in newspapers or see on television. How, then, can the mass media ensure that the lies that they circulate have an impact upon their audience; what, in any case, is the nature of that impact? The Frankfurt School answer (as represented, for example, in the early work of Theodor Adorno) is that a mass media presentation has two methods of encoding ideological lies: (1) it encodes the lies denotatively, at the level of its content, or (2) it encodes them connotatively, at the more abstract level of technique or form of presentation (Barthes, 1985: 111-117). Consider a familiar example: a full page magazine advertisement that places an image of a bottle of perfume next to an image of a beautiful woman who is photographed while she is staring
seductively into the camera. The advertisement encodes a message denotatively about the perfume’s power to make its wearer attractive. But also, because the woman appears to look at us directly, as if she knew us personally, a meta-message is encoded connotatively into the form of presentation: “Hey you there, this message is for you!” Furthermore, and here is the key point, even though we know that the latter message is a lie, it has an impact upon us – each of us feels, and to a certain extent acts as if through the ad she or he is being addressed personally.1 Adorno argues that it is in exactly this way, namely through their forms of presentation, that mass media presentations propagate ideological lies.

For example, advertisements, newscasts, talk shows and so on all typically engage their audience through such personal forms of address. By singling out each member of the audience for public recognition of a personal kind, this form of address contributes to the ideological lie at the heart of the liberal state, namely that it knows about and cares for each and every one of us individually (Goehr, xix-xx). And because the lie is encoded at the level of form rather than content, despite its transparency it sneaks under the audience’s critical radar and affects what they do. It general terms, we may conclude, even if mass media presentations are politically radical in their content, thanks to their form of presentation their overall impact will fall on the conservative side of the political ledger.

In The Sublime Object of Ideology Slavoj Žižek argues for a similar conclusion, but in the context of rather different theoretical premises (Žižek, 1989: 28-33). He argues that the totalitarian conditions in which we live today create a perverse split between knowledge and action: we know very well the terrible things that are going on around us, but even so – perhaps because we can’t do anything about them, or perhaps because we feel immune to their effects – we act as if we are ignorant. Like ostriches recognizing danger, we collectively stick our heads in the sand. It seems to follow that mass media exposées – or indeed any techniques of consciousness-raising – will be useless as radical political strategies for getting people to act differently. To put the argument in a nutshell: if, as Žižek claims, people don’t act on what they know then broadcasting the truth to them will make no political difference.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: International Journal of Žižek Studies

A Tale of Two Decades by James F. Warren

In Asia, government, history, politics, society on January 12, 2014 at 01:25

From: A Tale of Two Decades: Typhoons and Floods, Manila and the Provinces, and the Marcos Years by James F. Warren, Japan Focus, http://www.japanfocus.org

In the second half of the twentieth century, typhoon-triggered floods affected all sectors of society in the Philippines, but none more so than the urban poor, particularly the esteros-dwellers or shanty-town inhabitants, residing in the low-lying locales of Manila and a number of other cities on Luzon and the Visayas. The growing number of post-war urban poor in Manila, Cebu City and elsewhere, was largely due to the policy repercussions of rapid economic growth and impoverishment under the military-led Marcos regime.1 At this time in the early 1970s, rural poverty and environmental devastation increased rapidly, and on a hitherto unknown scale in the Philippines. Widespread corruption, crony capitalism and deforesting the archipelago caused large-scale forced migration, homelessness and a radically skewed distribution of income and assets that continued to favour elite interests.2

Marginal urban enclave of Siteo Baseco, Tondo.

… There was a cruel contradiction, albeit irony, between the generally clean, quiet and orderly atmosphere proclaimed in travel guides, tour advertisements and billboards, depicting Manila as a global city where economic progress went hand in hand with the developing social reality of a burgeoning rural-urban migrant population. Many of the globe-trotting tourists and overseas executives visiting the city’s business district were not fully aware of the scope and rate of the adverse changes that were taking place in Manila, as the metropolis rapidly grew and poor people struggled to cope with its consequences. But the government-sponsored promotion of the remarkable transformation of the city, from a previously alarming and deteriorating place to a vibrant, expanding metropole proved a cruel illusion—a false dream—for the tens of thousands of squatters confronting the problem of a lack of housing and related health impacts, in one of the third world’s fastest growing cities. Most of the comfortably-housed wealthy locals and foreign visitors rarely went anywhere near the burgeoning slum quarters of the city. But Makati’s tree-lined avenues and glass-lined skyscrapers cast shadows across the makeshift houses of squatters from rural areas living at overcrowded addresses that did not appear in information provided on recommended tours and general guide maps. The migrants from the provinces threatened with homelessness dwelled out of sight of the path of the capital’s crushing progress, but they lived within its interstices and in vulnerable areas; low-lying neighbourhoods often sited directly in the path of typhoons and prone to flooding.

… Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos did not only use the productive character of ‘power’ to restrict social and individual possibilities. They produced new strategies and techniques of social control, through the development of their vice-like regulation and management of disaster relief and, correspondingly, new social and political capacities in the individuals threatened by the typhoons and floods.52 Kenneth Hewitt argues in interpreting the role of hazards in third-world societies that if the main purpose of government and scholars is to bring aid to the needy after calamity has struck then it is clear that these disaster-mitigation responses were not working properly, and they were making matters worse in the Philippines of the 1970s and mid-1980s. These failings were generated by preoccupations of the Marcos government that were political-economic, agency centred and selectively, communal-centric. There was no need to question whether this was a deliberate moral or technical choice; rather it was a simple but necessary side effect of partisan political and institutional arrangements. It is the meaning and implication of these arrangements as they bear upon the interpretation of risk and responsibility for damages and disaster relief—but also, more importantly, in relation to ‘who eats and who does not’—with which Hewitt is concerned.53 Clearly, the Marcos administration derived a dual benefit from the destruction and deprivation wrought by the typhoons and floods: the value of the resources they controlled became inflated in a political and material sense, and they also controlled the force necessary to either expand and protect, or deny, the support of redistributable resources and aid.54

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Japan Focus

Featured: Conviviality by Paul Walton

In Book Reviews, Featured, history, politics, psychology, review, society, sociology, technology, writers on December 26, 2013 at 14:41

Paul Walton is a journalist, editor and autodidact from Nanaimo most interested in literature and depth psychology.

Enjoy the essay and feel free to comment.

Featured: Ivan Illich: Tools For Conviviality by Paul Walton

Forty years after the publication of that cantankersome and challenging book by Ivan Illich, Tools For Conviviality has never been more inaccessible and never more vital.

There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about Illich, and even after an interview series on the CBC in the late 1980s (later to be published as Ivan Ilich in Conversation by David Cayley, published by House of Anansi, 1992) anyone could be forgiven for remembering Illich, who died in 2002, as a man of the mind, a thinker, a philosophe, even a genius. This last perhaps comes closest if we recall the word djinn, a “tutelary spirit,” as the OED puts it. Tools For Conviviality might be termed in educational jargon “gifted,” well beyond its years, but it is more like a happy child who longs to share its joy.

This look at Tools For Conviviality began on a computer and taking a cue from Illich in the Cayley interviews migrated to a yellow pad and black pen. Writing by hand highlights a duality arising from Tools For Conviviality, The qualities of pen and paper include intimacy, a private moment of reflection and, if done well, humility. We can use tools on a human scale or be dehumanized by them. Composing on a computer makes demands very different from script, from posture to adjusting the eye to the glow of the electric monitor. The computer is also tentative, with constant attention to the save function and usurping what Illich later relished in In the Vineyard of the Text, about the 12th century abbot Hugh of St. Victor, who tasted the words during peripatetic readings in his garden.

Tools For Conviviality is arguably as close to a political prescription or ideology as Illich ever got. To Cayley he admitted that the essence of the book, the idea of inverting tools as abused by post-industrial interests, didn’t happen as he expected in 1973 — a dramatic Wall Street-style crash — but began to occur ways he did not anticipate. By 1988, he told Cayley, he was seeing more people recovering misused tools, i.e. resuming mastery over them for their own purposes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Extended Interview with Vandana Shiva and Jane Goodall by Amy Goodman

In human rights, nature, politics, society, video on December 26, 2013 at 13:22

From: Extended Interview with Vandana Shiva and Jane Goodall by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

Watch the full interview with Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva at the recent International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative Summit, where they discussed their decades of work devoted to protecting nature and saving future generations from the dangers of climate change. A renowned primatologist, Goodall is best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons. An environmental leader, feminist and thinker, Shiva is the author of many books, including “Making Peace with the Earth: Beyond Resource, Land and Food Wars” and “Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace.” 
GUESTS
 
Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons.
 
Vandana Shiva, environmental leader and thinker from India. She is the author of many books, including Making Peace with the Earth: Beyond Resource, Land and Food Wars and Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace.


Reposted according to copyright notice from: Democracy Now! website

The Over-Policing of America by Chase Madar

In ethics, government, law, North America, politics, society on December 9, 2013 at 19:32

From: The Over-Policing of America: Police Overkill Has Entered the DNA of Social Policy by Chase Madar, TomDispatch, http://www.tomdispatch.com

Sometimes a single story has a way of standing in for everything you need to know. In the case of the up-arming, up-armoring, and militarization of police forces across the country, there is such a story. Not the police, mind you, but the campus cops at Ohio State University now possess an MRAP; that is, a $500,000, 18-ton, mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle of a sort used in the Afghan War and, as Hunter Stuart of the Huffington Post reported, built to withstand “ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IEDs, and nuclear, biological, and chemical environments.” Sounds like just the thing for bouts of binge drinking and post-football-game shenanigans.

Office and retail work might seem like an unpromising growth area for police and prosecutors, but criminal law has found its way into the white-collar workplace, too. Just ask Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin state employee targeted by a federal prosecutor for the “crime” of incorrectly processing a travel agency’s bid for state business. She spent four months in a federal prison before being sprung by a federal court. Or Judy Wilkinson, hauled away in handcuffs by an undercover cop for serving mimosas without a license to the customers in her bridal shop. Or George Norris, sentenced to 17 months in prison for selling orchids without the proper paperwork to an undercover federal agent.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: TomDispatch

The Dangers of Totalitarianism by Agnes Heller

In classics, education, Europe, politics, society, world on December 4, 2013 at 21:00

From: The Dangers of Totalitarianism by Agnes Heller, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

How did our education become so market-oriented?

It happened in the last half-century. Education became market-oriented in two senses. Educational institutions behaved as institutions of the market. They became a market. They were producing young people for certain kinds of professions and young people took a kind of profession in order to get a better salary and a better position. And that’s all wrong, and it’s wrong even from the standpoint of technology, even from the standpoint of physics, chemistry. Because if you teach young people Physics, or Chemistry, which is actually the leading branch in science, the moment they finish school, it won’t be important anymore for these branches of science. But if you learn something general, universal; if you learn higher Mathematics, higher Physics, Greek or Latin language or Logic and Philosophy; all these capacities or abilities to argue and think in abstract notions, to think logically, to concentrate and to contemplate and to memorize; you’ve learned everything that you can actually use later on. It is not specialized subject matter, but you can use it all.

How do you see the 21st century? Is it going to get better or worse?

I don’t see the 21st century, we are at the beginning of it. Think, at the beginning of the 20th century, think about 1912, whether you could have forseen what was going to happen in 1914 or 1933, or 1942. It was impossible. So I think that at the present moment, right now, 2012, one hundred years after 1912, we cannot possibly know what is going to happen in our century. We can only hope it will be better, that it will be far better than the 20th century. If you have in mind this conflict between democracy and totalitarism, especially in Europe, between republicanism and bonapartism, which is a European conflict from the beginning of modernity, in this situation, in this conflict, you have to take the position of republicanism, of democracy, against bonapartism or totalitarian government. And the danger of totalitarianism is not gone; the danger is always present in the modern world, because it is a modern political institution. It was totally wrong when people believed that totalitarianism was something from the Middle Ages, or something reactionary. It is absolutely not the case. It is as modern as democracy. And that is why, in a modern world, you have to face the danger that there can be a war. And so basically, we have to change the world in order to prevent the world from embracing again different kinds of forms of bonapartism or totalitarian movements in States.

Read the interview

Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

When Exclusion Replaces Exploitation by Daniel Zamora

In economy, Europe, government, history, philosophy, politics, society, sociology on October 21, 2013 at 05:36

From: When Exclusion Replaces Exploitation: The Condition of the Surplus-Population under Neoliberalism by Daniel Zamora, Nonsite.org, http://nonsite.org

In 1992, 13 years after Margaret Thatcher’s “neoliberal revolution,” the Iron Lady’s chief economic advisor, Alan Budd, declared that he had his doubts that “the 1980’s policies of attacking inflation by squeezing the economy and public spending” had ever really been taken seriously by those at the helm of government. Rather, he wondered if they weren’t really a “cover to bash the workers. Raising unemployment,” he pointed out, “was a very desirable way of reducing the strength of the working class. What was engineered—in Marxist terms—was a crisis of capitalism which re-created a reserve army of labor, and has allowed the capitalists to make high profits ever since.”1 The interest of this anecdote is in its implicit suggestion of a link between the socio-political destabilization and fragmentation of the wage-earning working class (the intensification, in other words, of the difference between the working army of labour and the unemployed reserve) and the politics pursued during the decades following the rise of neoliberalism. The central problem with which we are confronted today, in other words, may be less the conflict between labor and capital, and more, as Margaret Thatcher put it, the antagonism between a privileged “underclass” with its “dependency culture” and an “active” proletariat whose taxes pay for a system of “entitlements” and “handouts.”2

During this same period, in France, André Gorz published his Farewell to the Working Class—a book in which he argued that the “society of unemployment” would henceforth be divided into two camps: “a growing mass of the permanently unemployed” on one side, “an aristocracy of tenured workers” on the other, and, lodged between the two, “a proletariat of temporary workers.”3 Far from constituting the very motor of social change, the “traditional working class” had become little more than a “privileged minority.”4 From now on, the vanguard of the class struggle would be a “non-class” made up of the “unemployed” and “the temporary workers” for whom work would never be a “source of individual flourishing.” Gorz’s idea was that, in today’s world, class conflict is no longer between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but rather, between the lumpenproletariat and a working class no longer at odds with the class system.

The fact that this logic—redefining the social question as a conflict between two factions of the proletariat rather than between capital and labor—can today be found on the left as well as the right, raises a number of question. On one side, it aims at limiting the social rights of the “surplus population”5 by pitting “active” workers against them; on the other side, it aims at mobilizing the “surplus population” against the privilege of the “actives.” In the end, both sides end up accepting, to the detriment of all “workers,” the centrality of the category of the “excluded.”

Read the essay

Repossted with permission from: Nonsite.org

Europe’s Policies make Sense only on one Assumption by Noam Chomsky

In economy, Europe, politics, society on October 13, 2013 at 17:50

From: Europe’s Policies make Sense only on one Assumption: That the Goal is to unravel the Welfare State by Noam Chomsky, Social Europe Journal, http://www.social-europe.eu

What do you think the use of technocratic governments in Europe says about European democracy?

There are two problems with it. First of all it shouldn’t happen, at least if anybody believes in democracy. Secondly, the policies that they’re following are just driving Europe into deeper and deeper problems. The idea of imposing austerity during a recession makes no sense whatsoever. There are problems, especially in the southern European countries, but in Greece the problems are not alleviated by compelling the country to reduce its growth because the debt relative to GDP simply increases, and that’s what the policies have been doing. In the case of Spain, which is a different case, the country was actually doing quite well up until the crash: it had a budget surplus. There were problems, but they were problems caused by banks, not by the government, including German banks, who were lending in the style of their US counterparts (subprime mortgages). So the financial system crashed and then austerity was imposed on Spain, which is the worst policy. It increases unemployment, it reduces growth; it does bail out banks and investors, but that shouldn’t be the prime concern.

Europe’s policies make sense only on one assumption: that the goal is to try and undermine and unravel the welfare state. And that’s almost been said. Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank, had an interview with the Wall Street Journal where he said that the social contract in Europe is dead. He wasn’t advocating it, he was describing it, but that’s essentially what the policies lead to. Perhaps not ‘dead’, that’s an exaggeration, but under attack.

Read the interview

Reposted according to copyright notice from: Social Europe Journal website

China’s Facelift by Hamid Elyassi

In Asia, economics, economy, politics, society on September 30, 2013 at 21:30

From: China’s Facelift: Economic Development and Political Transition by Hamid Elyassi , The Montreal Review, http://www.themontrealreview.com

In March this year, the moulting of the political structure of the People’s Republic of China was completed at the annual plenary session of the National People’s Congress and the old faces at the top politely offered their seats to their younger colleagues. The facelift, taking place after the set interval of ten years, certainly helped dispel the received notion that leaders of communist regimes, having survived an often perilous road to power, tend to cling to it until death. What it did not do was to counter the uneasy feeling that the intended rejuvenation was only skin deep.

The routine endorsement of the new leadership by the People’s Congress was the second phase of the rejuvenation procedure. The rather ritualistic exercise had begun in November last year when the Communist Party of China (CPC) held its less frequent National Congress to announce new party leaders. The Party, which at one time used to pawn its impressive revolutionary credentials to lend legitimacy to an oppressive, totalitarian state, has for some time been clutching at the success of the Chinese economy to justify its endurance and avoid the inescapable question of its relevance in a country well-versed in the ways of capitalism. Of course, the way the Congress was managed gave no indication of a once bright star on the wane. Indeed, in a perfectly choreographed exercise in form, the new Party leaders presented to the Party Congress in November were later transplanted to the top of the state apparatus. The operation took place before the delegates to the National People’s Congress who played the rather convincing part of parliamentarians empowered to give, and presumably withhold, their votes of confidence in people set to run China for the coming ten years.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review

Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection with Amy Goodman

In interview, medicine, North America, philosophy, politics, psychology, research, video on September 12, 2013 at 14:19

From: Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction and the Destruction of American Childhood with Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

DR. GABOR MATÉ: The hardcore drug addicts that I treat, but according to all studies in the States, as well, are, without exception, people who have had extraordinarily difficult lives. And the commonality is childhood abuse. In other words, these people all enter life under extremely adverse circumstances. Not only did they not get what they need for healthy development, they actually got negative circumstances of neglect. I don’t have a single female patient in the Downtown Eastside who wasn’t sexually abused, for example, as were many of the men, or abused, neglected and abandoned serially, over and over again.
And that’s what sets up the brain biology of addiction. In other words, the addiction is related both psychologically, in terms of emotional pain relief, and neurobiological development to early adversity.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about this whole approach of criminalization versus harm reduction, how you think addicts should be treated, and how they are, in the United States and Canada?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the first point to get there is that if people who become severe addicts, as shown by all the studies, were for the most part abused children, then we realize that the war on drugs is actually waged against people that were abused from the moment they were born, or from an early age on. In other words, we’re punishing people for having been abused. That’s the first point.

The second point is, is that the research clearly shows that the biggest driver of addictive relapse and addictive behavior is actually stress. In North America right now, because of the economic crisis, a lot of people are eating junk food, because junk foods release endorphins and dopamine in the brain. So that stress drives addiction.

Now imagine a situation where we’re trying to figure out how to help addicts. Would we come up with a system that stresses them to the max? Who would design a system that ostracizes, marginalizes, impoverishes and ensures the disease of the addict, and hope, through that system, to rehabilitate large numbers? It can’t be done. In other words, the so-called “war on drugs,” which, as the new drug czar points out, is a war on people, actually entrenches addiction deeply. Furthermore, it institutionalizes people in facilities where the care is very — there’s no care. We call it a “correctional” system, but it doesn’t correct anything. It’s a punitive system. So people suffer more, and then they come out, and of course they’re more entrenched in their addiction than they were when they went in.

Watch the videeo & read the full transcript

Reposted according to copyright notice from: Democracy Now! website

Burning Man is the New Capitalism by PJ Rey

In community, economy, North America, politics, society, sociology on September 9, 2013 at 16:12

From: Burning Man is the New Capitalism by PJ Rey, The Society Pages, http://thesocietypages.org

While there is much to discuss regarding the significant place that Burning Man occupies in the lives of its participants, I’d like to focus on the complex social and economic relationship Burning Man has with the default world and how this relationship reflects the changing nature of capitalism in the 21st Century. Let’s start by examining two key principals:

Gifting
Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

Decommodification
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

By elevating gifting as a virtue, Burning Man distinguishes itself from the default world which is dominated by transactional relationships between people who have no personal connection to one another. (For example, the bagger at the grocery store sees customers as largely interchangeable and the customer also sees baggers as largely interchangeable. To each the other is just a means to an ends.) Gifting is, ostensibly, about putting the needs of the other above oneself.

The principle of decommodification attempts to further separate human interaction at Burning Man from market logic. In fact, the description of the principle of decommodification even employs a Marxist concept: exploitation. (Though in the strict Marxist sense, culture cannot be exploited, only labor.)

Because no money is exchanged at Burning Man* and because gifting and decommodification are key principles of the community, Burning Man is often described as “outside the system” or anti-capitalist. However, the notion that Burning Man opposes capitalism is misguided, if not naive. In a recent interview with TechCrunch’s Gregory Ferenstein, Burning Man founder Larry Harvey spoke to this point, insisting, “We’re not building a Marxist society.” While Ferenstein’s interview highlights the comfortable relationship that Burning Man has with capitalism (particularly Silicon Valley-based enterprises), Ferenstein oddly concludes that what it opposes, instead, is consumerism.

Were Burning Man’s goal to get people to consume less, it would be failing miserably. Anyone who has traveled the Reno Airport to Black Rock Desert circuit knows that an enormous consumer economy has evolved around the event. From the second you step off the plane through the very last Native American reservation before Black Rock City, advertisements suffuse the landscape, offering a wide array of commodities (bikes, tents, glowing el wire, “Indian tacos,” water, etc.) and services (e.g., rides to the Playa). And, all this pales in comparison to the vast amounts of consumer spending done in advance of the events. Camps from every major US city fill shipping containers with supplies and haul them to the desert on 18-wheelers. Many of the gifts given at Burning Man were first bought via the market economy. Burning Man’s principle of “radical self-reliance” often feeds a “get the gear” mentality of hyper-preparation, encouraging attendees to purchase supplies for every contingency they may encounter in the (admittedly harsh) desert conditions.

“Participatory experiences” alone will not shield 50,000 people from the sun or protect them from dust. It won’t even produce a fashionable pair of furry leggings or tutu. The Burning Man experience is the product of tens (or even hundreds) of millions of dollars flowing into the consumer economy and is inextricably linked to disposable incomes of Silicon Valley’s digerati. (It is also this requisite spending that keeps Burning Man as an exclusive and relatively privileged event.)

Larry Harvey’s pro-capitalist sentiments are surprising not because people misunderstand Burning Man but because people misunderstand modern capitalism. While there is certainly no causal relationship between the two, it is not entirely coincidence that a Man was first raised in the desert the year that the Berlin Wall fell. The Cold War-era perception of an irresolvable antagonism between capitalism and communism–market and commons–had begun to appear less tenable. The innovation economy that Silicon Valley has come to represent proposes to link sharing (of information) and capitalist production in a mutual reinforcing relationship. Tech companies benefit when the level of common knowledge in the employment pool increases or when innovations in the commons can be commoditized and brought into the market. (See Fred Turner’s excellent work on how Burning Man ties into Silicon Valley’s innovation economy.)

Read the post

Reposted with permission from: The Society Pages

War as peace, peace as pacification by Mark Neocleous

In history, law, politics, society, war on July 30, 2013 at 17:31

From: War as peace, peace as pacification by Mark Neocleous, Radical Philosophy, http://www.radicalphilosophy.com

The consensus is wide. From a diverse range of recent publications, let me just cite Daniel Ross’s analysis of democratic violence in which he claims that in democracies ‘peacetime and wartime … are increasinglyconvergent’, Rey Chow’s suggestion that war is now the very definition of normality itself, Gopal Balakrishnan’s claim that the invasion and policing of ‘rogue states’ means that ‘a long-term epistemic shift seems to be occurring which is blurring older distinctions between war and peace’, and François Debrix’s argument that the reason the war machine permeates everyday culture is because the distinction between peace and war has broken down.3

I have no interest in challenging this account in itself; as will be seen, despite its apparent boldness it is infact a fairly uncontroversial position to hold. What I do want to challenge, as my starting point at least, is the major historical assumption being made within it. For these accounts rely on an assumption of a ‘classical’ age in which war and peace were indeed distinguishable; they assume that the destabilization is somehow new – hence the references to wars in ‘the past’, in the ‘old sense’ and in the ‘classical’ age. The nebulous nature of some of these phrases is remarkable, given the implied radicalism of the insight being expressed. Worse, in accepting the very claim made by the USA and its allies that everything has indeed changed from the time when the distinction between war and peace was categorical and straightforward, this account also reinforces the general fetish of ‘9/11’ as the political event of our time.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Radical Philosophy

Turns of the Century by Martin Eiermann

In economy, Europe, government, history, news, North America, politics, society, South America on July 23, 2013 at 18:38

From: Turns of the Century: What the protests in Brazil and Greece tell us about world history by Martin Eiermann, The European Magazine, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

As I am writing this, 300,000 people are marching in Rio de Janeiro against corruption and public sector cuts ahead of next year’s soccer World Cup. It must be bad if Brazilians start anti-soccer riots. In Greece, protests have been ongoing for several years. In Spain, Italy and Portugal, popular discontent has ousted several governments and continues to cause a headache for their successors (in Greece, the government coalition is crumbling right now). In Great Britain, cuts to the National Health Service inspired regular demonstrations and a special segment during the Olympic opening ceremony in 2012, which defiantly celebrated the NHS as one of the great achievements of modern British society. Look at any newspaper front page today, and you are likely to see one or more photos of police in riot gear, shooting tear gas into crowds of protesters.

The language employed by protesters in Rio, Athens, and Madrid – against “corruption,” against “top-down politics,” against “welfare squeezes” – speaks to a commonality of experience that transcends the particularities of each context: Economic policies are broken, and politics seems unable to provide a fix. It’s thus misleading to think of the crisis of the last five years primarily as an “economic crisis.” Sure, it all started with a downward cascade in the financial and mortgage markets, but it has long since morphed into a social and political crisis. It is sure to leave its mark not only on economic history or on the history of a specific country, but on history as such.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: The European Magazine

Edward Snowden on Why He Stood Up to the NSA with Amy Goodman

In government, human rights, information, interview, news, politics, privacy, technology, video on July 12, 2013 at 18:39

From: Edward Snowden on Why He Stood Up to the NSA: Mass Spying “Not Something I’m Willing to Live Under” with Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

GLENN GREENWALD: Was there a specific point in time that you can point to when you crossed the line from contemplation to decision making and commitment to do this?

EDWARD SNOWDEN: I grew up with the understanding that the world I lived in was one where people enjoyed a sort of freedom to communicate with each other in privacy, without it being monitored, without it being measured or analyzed or sort of judged by these shadowy figures or systems, any time they mention anything that travels across public lines. I think a lot of people of my generation, anybody who grew up with the Internet, that was their understanding. As we’ve seen the Internet and government’s relation to the Internet evolve over time, we’ve seen that sort of open debate, that free market of ideas, sort of lose its domain and be shrunk.

GLENN GREENWALD: But what is it about that set of developments that makes them sufficiently menacing or threatening to you that you are willing to risk what you’ve risked in order to fight them?

EDWARD SNOWDEN: I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talked to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. And that’s not—that’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under. So, I think anyone who opposes that sort of world has an obligation to act in a way they can. Now, I’ve watched and waited and tried to do my job in the most policy-driven way I could, which is to wait and allow other people, you know, wait and allow our leadership, our figures, to sort of correct the excesses of government when we go too far. But as I’ve watched, I’ve seen that’s not occurring, and in fact we’re compounding the excesses of prior governments and making it worse and more invasive. And no one is really standing to stop it.

Watch to video & read the full transcript

Reposted according to copyright notice from: Democracy Now! website

%d bloggers like this: