homeland insecurity

wrest park (1 of 1)

‘Heimat, the evocative German word that loosely translates as ‘homeland,’ is a conflicting term for those to whose language it belongs. Since its earlier, predominantly romantic use, conjuring associations with a love for the rolling hills of Bavaria and the lost utopia of childhood, the term’s cultural associations have shifted often. Not least with it’s adoption and distortion by the Third Reich, prior to its subsequent reclamation in the 1950s.

For Thomas Dworzak this “rejection and search for Heimat” has been a pervading influence in his life. While growing up in a small Bavarian town near the Iron Curtain, the photographer felt suffocated by the overbearing “Catholicism, provincialism, order and calm”, eventually leaving as a young man. Today, Dworzak identifies as having three homelands, one in his native Bavaria, the others in Tbilisi and Tehran.”‘

A beautiful as well as thought-provoking photoessay on homelands from a renowned Magnum photographer, whose father at age six was one of three million people expelled from Czechoslovakia in the 1945-6 odsun (“transfer”), one of the worst ethnic cleansings of the last century.

Both images and text are well worth pondering as the clever hopes of a low, dishonest decade expire with Brexit and Trump.

The photo above is mine, taken last month in the UK, about which I have similarly mixed feelings to Dworzak on Bavaria.  His images are copyrighted, but there are many on his Magnum site.


 

intimate and inconvenient truths

Montgomery-Roth-03-23

“For Roth, literature was not a tool of any description. It was the venerated thing in itself. He loved fiction and (unlike so many half or three-quarter writers) was never ashamed of it. He loved it in its irresponsibility, in its comedy, in its vulgarity, and its divine independence. He never confused it with other things made of words, like statements of social justice or personal rectitude, journalism or political speeches, all of which are vital and necessary for lives we live outside of fiction, but none of which are fiction, which is a medium that must always allow itself, as those other forms often can’t, the possibility of expressing intimate and inconvenient truths.”

Zadie Smith in the New Yorker, by far the best thing I’ve read amid the welter of over-politicized and under-nuanced commentary unleashed by the great man’s death.


 

a mythic, cool America

modernism-sheeler
Charles Sheeler: Bucks County Barn, 1940

‘Instantly recognizable images dominate “America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keeffe to Hopper,” the surprisingly arresting new show at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford: Charles Demuth’s magnetic I Saw the Figure Five in Gold (1928), inspired by his friend William Carlos Williams’s poem The Great Figure, in which a fire truck speeds through the streets of New York one rainy night; Georgia O’Keeffe’s breathtakingly chilly East River from the Shelton Hotel (1928), the cool, icy blue of the water slicing through the middle of the canvas, separating the snow-topped roofs in the foreground from the smoke-clouded factory chimneys in the distance; three large Edward Hopper oils, From Williamsburg Bridge (1928), Manhattan Bridge Loop (1928), and Dawn in Pennsylvania (1942), not his most famous work, but nevertheless immediately identifiable …’

Lucy Scholes reviews a new exhibition of ‘the mythologies of an “America” that has long inhabited the popular global imagination, from the towering structures of the archetypal modern metropolis to the rustic barns, uniform fields of corn, and white picket fences of prairie farmland,’ whose images ‘speak to a desire for a sanitized version of reality that tries to master the anxieties and ambivalences associated with modern life.’


 

eyeless in Gaza

gazamisery4.jpg

Promise was that I/Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;/Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him/Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves … (John Milton, Samson Agonistes)

Borders are conventionally represented as tidy lines on maps.  On the ground things get messier.  Especially in the case of Palestine–Israel–Gaza.

‘Israel has turned Gaza into an area that is simultaneously separated from and annexed under Israel’s control,’ writes Amjad Iraqi.  ‘It is a purgatory designed to provide whatever answer is most convenient for shirking responsibility and justifying violence at any given time. This has obscured a controversial but perhaps inexorable fact: after 51 years, Gaza can hardly be described as “occupied territory” anymore. It is now a segregated, debilitated, and subjugated part of Israel; a replica of the districts, townships, and reservations that imprisoned native populations and communities of color in apartheid South Africa, the United States, and other colonial regimes. In other words, Palestinians are no longer being oppressed outside the Israeli state; they are being caged and brutalized inside it.’

Alongside the anatomy of compliance, perhaps we need to reconsider the spatialities of oppression.


 

preserves for life

tokarczuk olga portret gm 3_6234105

The Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk has won the Man Booker International prize for her novel Flights.

‘“It isn’t a traditional narrative,” said chair of judges Lisa Appignanesi, pointing to Tokarczuk’s own description of her writing as “constellation novels” to describe an author who throws her stories into orbit, allowing her readers to form meaningful shapes from them. “We loved the voice of the narrative – it’s one that moves from wit and gleeful mischief to real emotional texture and has the ability to create character very quickly, with interesting digression and speculation.”

The book’s themes – “the nomadic life that we now lead in the world, with our constant movement, our constant desire to pick up and go, whether it’s from relationships or whether it’s to other countries”, and “the limitedness, the finiteness, the mortality of the human body, which is always pulled towards the ground” – collide in Tokarczuk’s “extraordinary” stories, said Appignanesi.’

For those who fancy a sample, Granta magazine has published Tokarczuk’s masterpiece of black humor “Preserves for Life.”


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

hostile environments #1

grenfell

“There was an Afghan army officer, a Sudanese dressmaker, a British artist and an Italian architect. There was an Egyptian hairdresser, an Eritrean waitress and a Lebanese soldier …”

The Guardian profiles each of the 72 (acknowledged) victims of Britain’s eminently preventable worst fire in a century.

“The Grenfell lives closely mirror the complexities of modern Britain: young families scrambling for childcare cover and extra jobs to help pay the bills; people still living with parents well into their 20s and 30s; refugees who abandoned careers and status in perilous homelands for safe anonymity half a world away; the very elderly – there were seven victims aged over 70 – grappling with disability in a crowded health system.

But Grenfell was not a microcosm of Britain or London. There were few white-collar workers among the victims and only seven white Britons, indicative of how the disaster disproportionately affected minority ethnic communities … ”

Two days later (and nearly a year after the fire) Theresa May announced that the UK government had finally agreed to provide £400m to remove Grenfell-style cladding (which had allowed the fire to spread rapidly throughout the building) from 158 high-rise blocks in the social housing sector across England.  The cladding had been chosen for its cheapness, despite its known flammability.

As of March 22, 2018, “just 62 out of 209 households needing rehousing [had] moved into permanent accommodation,” communities minister Sajid Javid told the Commons.  May’s government had previously promised to permanently rehouse all survivors of the fire within a year.


 

hostile environments #2

Grub for Sharks: A Concession to the Negro Populace 2004 by Kara Walker born 1969
Kara Walker “Grub for Sharks,” exhibition at Tate Liverpool, 2004

After Amber Rudd was forced to resign following the Windrush Scandal (discussed in Ethnographic Fragments #18) the aforementioned Sayid Javid replaced her as Home Secretary.  His first act was to rechristen the “hostile environment” policy introduced by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary—but without in any way altering any of its fundamentals.

The policy of denying suspected “illegal immigrants” access to housing, work, medical services and state benefits (and criminalizing anyone who provides them) now bears the chillingly Orwellian moniker of a “compliant environment.”

David Lammy MP, who has campaigned tirelessly over both the Grenfell Tower and Windrush scandals, sharply reminded Javid that “compliance” has a history:

“The Windrush community and its ancestors know what hostile and compliance means. We know what compliance means. It’s written deep into our souls and passed down from our ancestors.

Slaves having to nod and smile when they were being whipped in a cotton field or a sugar cane field were compliant.

Watching your partner being tied to a tree, beaten or raped, on a plantation, is compliance.

12 million people being transported as slaves from Africa to the colonies is a compliant environment.

Windrush citizens being abused, spat on, and assaulted in the streets but never once fighting back was a compliant environment.

Black Britons being racially abused at work but never speaking up because they need to put food on the table know all about a compliant environment.

Turning the other cheek when the National Front was marching through our streets was a compliant environment.

Young black men being stopped and searched by the police despite committing no crime and living in fear of the police know what it’s like to be in a compliant environment.”

Click to see video of Lammy’s speech.


 

oh say can you see

colin-kaepernick-muhammad-ali-legacy-award

I admit it, Friday Night Lights was one of my all-time favorite TV programs.  The NFL (a league made of of mostly black players performing to entertain a mostly white—and it often seems, predominantly redneck—audience) is something else.

During a campaign rally for (subsequently defeated) Alabama Senator Luther Strange, “President” Trump demanded that NFL owners faced with protesting players “get that son of a bitch off the field.”  The NFL has now agreed a new set of rules that “subjects teams to a fine if … team personnel do not show respect for the anthem. That includes any attempt to sit or kneel, as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Those teams also will have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction.”

Land of the free my ass.  The only amendment that seems to count for anything in Trump’s America is the “God-given” Second.


 

the anatomy of compliance

gaza

On May 14 Palestine’s Ministry of Health in Gaza released the names of 60 people (of whom three were as yet unidentified) killed that day “as a result of Zionist targeting center for the participants in the march of the great return today in the eastern Gaza Strip.”

A week later the Ministry of Health reported that “Israeli soldiers have killed 112 Palestinians, and injured 13,190 since the Great Return March protests started on the Palestinian Land Day, March 30th, 2018.  Dr. al-Qedra said that the soldiers killed 13 Palestinian children, and injured 2096 others, in addition to wounding 1029 women. He added that 332 of the wounded Palestinians suffered life-threatening injuries, 3,422 suffered moderate wounds, 9,436 suffered mild injuries, and 5,572 suffered the effects of teargas inhalation.

Of these,
502 Palestinians were shot in the head and neck.
283 were shot in the chest and back.
225 were shot in the abdomen and pelvis.
938 were shot in the arm.
325 were shot in the leg.
1,117 suffered various cuts and bruises to several parts of their bodies.

27 of the wounded Palestinians suffered amputations in their legs, one in his arm, and four others had some fingers severed by Israeli fire. Dr. al-Qedra added that the soldiers also shot and killed one medic, and injured 323 others with live fire and gas bombs, in addition to causing damage to 37 ambulances.”

During the same period, according to the Times of Israel, “there has been just one Israeli casualty reported — an IDF soldier, who was lightly wounded by a rock.”


 

floating signifiers

britain-royals-harry-meghan

Missed in much of the global gushing over the recent wedding of Prince Harry of Wales and Ms Meghan Markle was this gem in the Czech press:

“News server Aktuálně.cz reports that the chair of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in the Czech Republic, Petr Fiala, has called on René Franěk, a member of the party council for the Nymburk area who is also director of the zoo in the Central Bohemian town of Chleby, to apologize for a recent post he made on social networks about Saturday’s Royal Wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry to the American actress Meghan Markle. Franěk posted that ‘the heir to the throne is marrying a gypsy woman’ …

If the zoo director does not apologize, Fiala says he cannot remain an ODS party member.”

The zoo director later explained that “I meant my remarks in the context of the heir’s multicultural enrichment, which is having such resonance in the public arena.”

Right.  For a more insightful take on the significance of the wedding, see Mara Gay’s excellent New York Times article “Thanks, Meghan Marple, we needed that.”


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These fragments are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

ethnic cleansing, UK style

windrush

A series of recent stories in the Guardian researched by the indefatigable Amelia Gentleman have highlighted an “immigration anomaly” in which people who came to Britain as children in the 1950s and ’60s (when they were still “British subjects”) and as such have an absolute right to remain in the UK are being subjected to loss of employment, housing, health care and other benefits unless they can retrospectively provide documentation proving their continual presence in the UK.

In the words of the Home Office, “Recent changes to the law mean that if you wish to work, rent property or have access to benefits and services in the UK then you will need documents to demonstrate your right to be in the UK. The government believes this is a proportionate measure to maintain effective immigration control.”  The burden of proof lies with the immigrant, and the documentation requirements (four separate pieces of documentary evidence of every single year spent in the UK) are truly Kafkaesque.

Here are the stories of two of the people whose lives have been turned upside-down.

paulette wilson

61-year-old Paulette Wilson “moved to the UK in 1968 when she was 10 and has never left. Because she had never applied for a British passport and had no papers proving she had a right to be in the UK, she was classified as an illegal immigrant. Last October, she was sent to the immigration removal centre at Yarl’s Wood in Bedford for a week, and then taken to Heathrow before deportation to Jamaica, a country she had not visited for 50 years and where she has no surviving relatives.

The former cook, who used to serve food to MPs in the House of Commons and has 34 years of national insurance contributions, was horrified at the prospect of being separated from her daughter and granddaughter. A last-minute intervention from her MP and a local charity prevented her removal. After Guardian publicity she has since been given a biometric card, proving she is in the UK legally, but she will have to reapply in 2024 and is already worried about the process. She has had no apology from the Home Office.”

renford mcintyre

64-year-old Renford McIntyre “is homeless and sleeping on a sofa in an industrial unit in Dudley. He has lived in the UK for almost 50 years since arriving from Jamaica in 1968 at 14, to join his mother who had moved here to work as a nurse. He has worked and paid taxes here for 48 years, as an NHS driver and a delivery man, but in 2014 a request for updated paperwork from his employers revealed he did not have documents showing he had a right to be in the UK. He was sacked; the local council told him he was not eligible for housing support or any benefits, so he became homeless.

He gathered together paperwork showing 35 years of national insurance contributions but the Home Office returned the application requesting further information. ‘I can’t tell you how angry and bitter it makes me feel. I’ve worked hard all my life, I’ve paid into the system. I’ve sent them details of my NHS pension, and HMRC records going back 40 years. They’ve got all my documents. What more do they want?’ he said. ‘How do they expect me to live? How am I expected to eat or dress myself?'”

Downing Street has now rejected a formal diplomatic request from representatives of 12 Caribbean countries for a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the situation.

This is not an “immigration anomaly.”  It is a deliberate policy.   It is called ethnic cleansing.


 

come back Enoch, all is forgiven

powell

Meantime in what looks suspiciously like a fiftieth anniversary commemoration, the BBC chose this week to broadcast in full Enoch Powell’s 1968 “rivers of blood” speech, in which the then Conservative cabinet minister warned true Brits that “in 15 or 20 years’ time, the black man will have the whip hand over the white man” and foresaw a future in which “They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighborhoods changed beyond recognition.”

The BBC media editor, Amol Rajan, who presented the program, proudly tweeted on Thursday: “On Saturday, for 1st time EVER, Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech will be read in full on UK radio.”  The Trumpian capitals were Rajan’s.

The actor the Beeb chose to read Powell’s text, Ian McDiarmid, who plays Powell in the play What Shadows?, told the Daily Telegraph that Powell was “not a racist” and was right “in terms of the numbers.”  These days, McDiarmid went on, everyone accepts that “[immigration] can’t go on in an unlimited way because the results, as he said, would be catastrophic”.


 

family values

laura + Biniyam

“Clarke and Tesfaye first got together when she was teaching English at a primary school in Addis Ababa; he was one of her colleagues: ‘We met on my first day. We were friends for about a month, and then after that, things started to develop,’ she says …

Elijah is one of an estimated 15,000 children living without a parent because of restrictions on family visas. Tesfaye would like to live with his family in the UK, but in order to apply to bring over a foreign partner, you must earn at least £18,600 a year. Clarke’s work as a college teacher and PR for a charity brings in an income that is usually “a few hundred a month” short …

The Home Office explanation is short and sharp. ‘Those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family must work hard and make a contribution,’ a spokesperson says. ‘Family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense.'”

Nice to know Mrs May is keeping the bloodlines pure.  Obviously that should trump UK citizens’ rights to marry who they want and expect to live with their spouse.


 

mens sana in corpore sano

legal aid

Best not be disabled in Brexitland either.  “The extent to which savage government cuts have deprived disabled people of legal aid in disputes over their benefit payments is revealed today by new official figures that show a 99% decline since 2011,” reports the Guardian.

“The total number of disabled people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17, cutting some of the most vulnerable people in society adrift without expert advice in often highly complex and distressing cases …

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson denied the government was depriving the most needy of help. ‘Maintaining access to justice remains at the heart of our legal aid system, and last year we spent over £1.6bn to ensure help is available for those who need it most,’ the spokesperson said.”

Ethnic cleansing and eugenics always did go nicely together.  What next, euthanasia for those whose defective genes endanger the national stock?


 

a landmark republished

cunard negro

One Englishwoman who would not have appreciated Theresa May’s attempts to turn Little Britain into a sotto voce Third Reich is Nancy Cunard, whose anthology Negro was published in an edition of 1000 copies in 1934 has never been reprinted in full since.

In a timely counterpart to the BBC’s resuscitation of the racist bile of Enoch Powell, the Paris-based publisher jeanmichelplace has just reissued Cunard’s landmark anthology in full in facsimile form.

“This highly illustrated book of eight hundred and seventy-two pages dedicated to the history of Africa, Madagascar and the black Americas brings together two hundred and fifty articles by one hundred and fifty-five authors,” writes Sarah Frioux-Salgas, archivist at Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, introducing the volume.  “The contributors were activists, intellectuals, journalists, artists, poets, academics, anthropologists, African-Americans, West Indians, Africans, Malagasy, Latin Americans, Americans, Europeans, men and women; some were colonized, discriminated against, segregated.  The book melds popular culture, sociology, politics, history, ethnology, art history, and includes articles, archives, photographs, drawings, portraits, excerpts from the press, poems, musical scores, testimonies as well as statistics.”

“At no other time in the history of America,” Nancy Cunard noted in her Foreword, “have there been so many lynchings as in the past two years, so many ‘legal’ murders, police killings and persecutions of coloured people.  The Scottsboro frame-up is more than an attempt to electrocute 9 innocent black Alabamians—it is part of the effort to force into the dumbest and most terrorised form of subjection all Negro workers who dare aspire to live otherwise than as virtual slaves” (emphasis added).  Her words have unfortunately lost none of their currency.

Highly recommended.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These fragments are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

art history

4363-Femme-aux-oufs.nocrop.w710.h2147483647.2x

In the 1940s, a 16-year-old girl captured the minds of the art world’s elite. The self-taught Algerian artist, Baya Mahieddine (1931-1988) — known as Baya — is finally being celebrated in the first North American exhibition of her work, at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, through March 31. Baya used gouache as her primary medium, depicting a world without men but full of bright images of women, nature, and animals …

In 1947, when Baya was just 16, she was discovered by Aimé Maeght, an established French art dealer, and André Breton, who included Baya’s works in the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme at Galerie Maeght in Paris. Almost overnight she caught the attention of Picasso and Matisse, among other prominent artists, for her colorful, spontaneous and “childlike” compositions. “Her work allows us to question so many different histories,” said curator Natasha Boas.  (from Jane Drinkard in The Cut)


 

build that wall

EUROPE-GREECE-MIGRANTS

A German newspaper has published the names of 33,293 refugees and migrants who died trying to reach Europe.  Der Tagesspiegel listed victims’ names, ages and countries of origin, as well as causes and dates of death, over 46 pages.

The newspaper said it wanted to document “the asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants who died since 1993 as a consequence of the restrictive policies of Europe on the continent’s outer borders or inside Europe”.

The majority of the people on the newspaper’s list drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.

Last year was the deadliest for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, with at least 5,079 dying or going missing during their journey, according to the UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM).  (from The Independent)


 

miracles in sicily

sutera classroom
Migration into Sutera has brought a new influx of children to a school that had been earmarked to shut Photograph: Francesco Bellina/Cesura/Francesco Bellina / Cesura

When the phone call came asking the Sicilian townspeople if they had any room in their graveyards, the answer was a reluctant no.

A boat full of migrants had sunk in the Mediterranean. Almost 400 people were dead and they had to be buried somewhere. But the Sicilian town of Sutera, almost entirely populated by older people, had long since filled up its cemeteries.

Yet although there was no room for the dead, there was plenty of room for the living. All but a few hundred people had moved out of the town to find work in bigger cities, leaving behind empty houses. Now there was a chance to repopulate.

And so, since 2014, Sutera has augmented its fast-dwindling population with dozens of asylum seekers. The school has been reborn; the butcher and grocer are happy with the growth in turnover; the birthrate has rocketed.  (From the Guardian)


 

the times they are a-changin’ (maybe)

FT_18.03.15_Millennials-grandparents_education

Some fascinating data from Pew Research on the rapidly changing demographic makeup of America.

“The past five decades – spanning from the time when the Silent Generation (today, in their 70s and 80s) was entering adulthood to the adulthood of today’s Millennials – have seen large shifts in U.S. society and culture … Americans, especially Millennials, have become more detached from major institutions such as political parties, religion, the military and marriage. At the same time, the racial and ethnic make-up of the country has changed, college attainment has spiked and women have greatly increased their participation in the nation’s workforce.”

So how come the United States is still governed by uneducated, conservative, old white men, as epitomized by “President” Donald Trump?


 

the future

naomi wadler.jpg

Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old girl from Alexandria, Virginia, thrilled hundreds of thousands when she spoke out for “the African-American girls who don’t make the front page of every national newspaper” at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC, on Saturday.

“I am here today to represent Courtlin Arrington,” Wadler said. “I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here today to represent Taiyania Thompson, who at just 16 was shot dead in her home here in Washington, DC. I am here today to acknowledge the African-American girls who don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant beautiful girls full of potential.”  (from MotherJones)

The future.  Unless the old white men of the baby boom generation kill us all, one way or another, first.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These fragments are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 

tina fontaine

In a case widely seen as yet another example of the Canadian justice system’s betrayal of indigenous people, on February 22 56-year-old Raymond Cormier was acquitted of the murder of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine.  Tina’s 72-pound body was found in Winnipeg’s Red River, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks, on Aug. 17, 2014.

This verdict follows hard on the heels of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley’s equally controversial acquittal for the murder of 22-year-old Colten Boushie of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, whom Stanley admitted shooting in the head at point-blank range.  There were no indigenous people on either jury.

This chronology of Tina’s last days, compiled by CBC, documents what witnesses said happened during her time in Winnipeg before she died, and what police did after her body was found.  It is a horrifying story of (at the least) official neglect of duties of care toward a minor.  Read in full and soak up every tragic detail.


 

opium dreams

 

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“More than 2 million Americans are now hooked on some kind of opioid, and drug overdoses — from heroin and fentanyl in particular — claimed more American lives last year than were lost in the entire Vietnam War. Overdose deaths are higher than in the peak year of AIDS and far higher than fatalities from car crashes. The poppy, through its many offshoots, has now been responsible for a decline in life spans in America for two years in a row, a decline that isn’t happening in any other developed nation. According to the best estimates, opioids will kill another 52,000 Americans this year alone — and up to half a million in the next decade.

We look at this number and have become almost numb to it. But of all the many social indicators flashing red in contemporary America, this is surely the brightest. Most of the ways we come to terms with this wave of mass death — by casting the pharmaceutical companies as the villains, or doctors as enablers, or blaming the Obama or Trump administrations or our policies of drug prohibition or our own collapse in morality and self-control or the economic stress the country is enduring — miss a deeper American story. It is a story of pain and the search for an end to it. It is a story of how the most ancient painkiller known to humanity has emerged to numb the agonies of the world’s most highly evolved liberal democracy.  Just as LSD helps explain the 1960s, cocaine the 1980s, and crack the 1990s, so opium defines this new era. I say era, because this trend will, in all probability, last a very long time. The scale and darkness of this phenomenon is a sign of a civilization in a more acute crisis than we knew, a nation overwhelmed by a warp-speed, postindustrial world, a culture yearning to give up, indifferent to life and death, enraptured by withdrawal and nothingness. America, having pioneered the modern way of life, is now in the midst of trying to escape it.”

Informative, thoughtful, and disturbing essay on America’s opioid epidemic by Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine.   Essential reading.


 

generational politics

 

thoughts_and_prayers_don_t_save_lives_40369207261_cropped_.jpg

In the wake of the attacks by old white GOP politicians on the activist teenage survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the latest PEW Research Center survey on generational attitudes in American politics repays careful reading.

While it is clear that age intersects with other important variables in shaping conservative vs. liberal attitudes (e.g. “Millennials are more than 40% nonwhite, the highest share of any adult generation; by contrast, Silents and older adults are 79% white”) the conclusion is that there is a huge generational divide in current American politics.  Currently, the elders hold all the Trump cards.

“Generational differences have long been a factor in U.S. politics. These divisions are now as wide as they have been in decades, with the potential to shape politics well into the future.

From immigration and race to foreign policy and the scope of government, two younger generations, Millennials and Gen Xers, stand apart from the two older cohorts, Baby Boomers and Silents. And on many issues, Millennials continue to have a distinct – and increasingly liberal – outlook.

These differences are reflected in generations’ political preferences. First-year job approval ratings for Donald Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, differ markedly across generations. By contrast, there were only slight differences in views of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton during their respective first years in office.”

As I wrote in Talkin’ ’bout My Generation  at the beginning of 2018:

Today’s Anglo-American world is ruled by the most privileged members of an entitled and narcissistic generation that will not consider sharing its wealth or its power.  My generation played a disproportionate part in voting them into office.  The new gerontocratic order is epitomized in Donald Trump’s cabinet.  But it is also reflected in Rolling Stone magazine’s exclusionary list of the top twenty greatest albums of all time.

I cannot help thinking it would have been better if a few more of us had died before we got old.  Just enough that the young really could say fuck off to their elders, and not just through their music.

No apologies offered to ancient snowflakes.  The first one now will later be last.


 

Britain’s Muslim footballers

pogba

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba

“Cut through the bigotry of a vocal minority, and there are some pretty uplifting football chants to be heard in England nowadays. Particularly popular at Liverpool is one dedicated to an Arab striker.

It contains the lines: “If he’s good enough for you/He’s good enough for me/If he scores another few/Then I’ll be Muslim too,” and ends with the words: “He’s sitting in the mosque/That’s where I want to be.”

Those who revere “Egyptian King” Mohamed Salah – the subject of the song – are not just paying tribute to arguably the best player in the Premier League at the moment. They’re also adhering to a distinctly British tradition of tolerance and respect. This should be cause for immense national pride.”

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, and Emre Can, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, Manchester City’s Yaya Touré,  Arsenal’s Mesut Özil, Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele, Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez, Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté, Newcastle’s Islam Slimani … heroes of the Premiership, the richest and most competitive football (soccer) league in the world.

The Guardian brings a little light to Brexitland.


 

child brides of kentucky

Myra Lee Brown London 23 May 1958

Jerry Lee Lewis and his 13-year-old bride Myra Gale Brown (who was also his first cousin once removed), London, 23 May 1958

“A bill outlawing child marriage in Kentucky has stalled in the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee after last-minute opposition from a conservative group,” reports Newsweek.

“The bill was proposed by Republican state Senator Julie Raque Adams, and bans marriage under the age of 17, with those seeking to marry at that age requiring a judge’s approval … Under current law, a girl of any age can marry as long as she is pregnant and wedding the expectant father. Teens aged 16 or 17 can marry with parental permission.”

“This is legalized rape of children,” commented Eileen Recktenwald, the executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs. “We cannot allow that to continue in Kentucky, and I cannot believe we are even debating this is the year 2018 in the United States.”

I can.  In 2017 the Independent revealed that more than 200,000 children were married in the US over the past 15 years, including three 10-year-old girls and an 11-year-old boy.

This land is Trump’s land, this land is Moore’s land.  And this preposterous country still sees itself as leading the world?


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 

 

archive fever

angela davis wanted.jpg

The Schlesinger Library at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study has acquired more than 150 boxes of papers, photographs, pamphlets and other material that span Angela Davis’s life.

Professor Davis’s archive, reports the New York Times, “ranges from her childhood in segregated Birmingham, Ala., where she was born in 1944 to activist parents; to her studies with the Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse (who recalled her as his most brilliant student); to her more recent activism with groups like Critical Resistance, the prison-abolition advocacy group she helped found in 1997.”

The archive also includes the typescript of Davis’ 1974 autobiography, complete with handwritten queries and comments from her editor, Toni Morrison.

“Its richest vein concerns the tumultuous period that began in 1969, when then Gov. Ronald Reagan ordered [Davis] fired from her teaching position at the University of California, Los Angeles, because of her Communist Party membership, before she had even taught her first class …

In 1970, she was charged with murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy charges after guns she had purchased were used in an attack on the Marin County Courthouse that was aimed at liberating the Soledad Brothers, but instead left four people, including the attacker, dead.  The trial that followed — in which Professor Davis participated in her own defense — sparked an international campaign, turning ‘Free Angela’ into a global rallying cry.”

And today, nearly half a century on, a white supremacist sits in the White House and the prisons are fuller than ever with black bodies.  Progress, y’all.


field notes from liberal America

Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church

“Long before Trump came along to capitalise on it, Islamophobia was building in the US, bubbling up like swamp gas from the depths. Often, racial conflict would manifest itself in small, seemingly isolated local planning fights over proposals to build mosques …

There is, literally, an anti-mosque playbook. Tactics were once unwritten, spread through websites and word of mouth, but more recently they were set down in a book titled Mosques in America: A Guide to Accountable Permit Hearings and Continuing Citizen Oversight. Written a Texas attorney, it was published by the Center for Security Policy, an organisation headed by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official who has long espoused the theory that Muslims are engaged in a secret plot to impose sharia law on the US. Gaffney writes in the book’s introduction that it is a ‘how-to manual for patriotic Americans who are ready to counter the leading edge of Islamic supremacism.'”

Well-researched, informative, and decidedly chilling long read from the Guardian.


field notes from Trump country

coal-oil-industries-see-brighter-future-after-trump-victory

“Epidemiologists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say they’ve identified the largest cluster of advanced black lung disease ever reported, a cluster that was first uncovered by NPR 14 months ago.

‘This is the largest cluster of progressive massive fibrosis ever reported in the scientific literature,’ says Scott Laney, a NIOSH epidemiologist involved in the study.

‘We’ve gone from having nearly eradicated PMF in the mid-1990s to the highest concentration of cases that anyone has ever seen,’ he said.

The clinics are operated by Stone Mountain Health Services and assess and treat coal miners mostly from Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia, a region that includes what have historically been some of the most productive coalfields in the country …

PMF, or complicated black lung, encompasses the worst stages of [pneumoconiosis], which is caused by inhalation of coal and silica dust at both underground and surface coal mines.

Miners gradually lose the ability to breathe, as they wheeze and gasp for air … Lung transplants are the only cure, and they’re possible only when miners are healthy enough to qualify.”

Beautiful, clean coal.


Polish. Death. Camps.

auschwitz.jpg

BBC reports that “Poland’s Senate has approved a bill making it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in the Nazi Holocaust.  The bill provides that ‘whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich … shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years.’

President Andrzej Duda says Poland has the right ‘to defend historical truth.'”

Alternative facts, anybody?


 

little local library

hrabal wall

Heartening to read that while President Erdogan fires academics and imprisons journalists, “Turkish garbage collectors in the country’s capital city of Ankara have opened a public library that is full of books that were originally destined to be put into landfill. The workers began collecting discarded books and opened the new library in the Çankaya district of Ankara. News of the library has spread and now people have begun donating books directly to the library, rather than throwing them away.

As CNN reports, the library was originally created for the use of the employees’ friends and family but, as it grew in size, the library was officially opened to the public in September of last year …  The library now has over 6,000 fiction and non-fiction books and includes a children’s section, an area dedicated to scientific research books, and a number of English and French language books for those who are bilingual.”

Eerily reminiscent of Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 

white middle class

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Photo Eric Thayer for the New York Times

“Though class divisions are a frequent topic for [big-city newspaper columnists], little attention is paid to seemingly important factors like income, access to basic services and the intersections between class and race. Instead, pundits choose to focus entirely on superficial cultural differences and consumer choices. The result is a constant stream of patronizing paeans to a mythical rural America and bizarre, half-baked theories that replace sociology with observations about which restaurants people go to …

This kind of misguided prejudice is also apparent in liberal circles. A few months ago, Keith Olbermann, the unofficial head of the #Resistance, criticized Trump for hosting Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock at the White House, whom he called “trailer park trash.” Classism aside, Olbermann fell into the same trap … he saw white people with bad fashion sense and assumed they must dwell at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Obviously, all three of Trump’s guests are now multimillionaires, but even pre-fame they were far removed from poverty. Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska is a suburb of Anchorage; her father was a science teacher and she enrolled in a four-year college immediately after high school. Ted Nugent was raised in the Chicago suburbs; Kid Rock the Detroit suburbs, where he grew up in a home that was recently put on the market for $1.3 million. Palin, Nugent, and Rock are exactly who the statistics show propelled Trump to victory — the comfortable white middle class.”

Sharp essay by Alex Nichols from July 2017.


 

all my mirrors of belonging have cracked

han suyin

“With my first book, and as I worked, much harder, on the next, a slow unravelling of our tie began. As my own sense of a place in the world grew, I could no longer understand her passion for China with quite the sympathy I once had. She refused to see both sides of the story after the Tianamen disaster, and created a counter-narrative. For years I held her intransigence responsible for the unravelling tie, but I can see now how I wanted her be who she no longer wanted to be. I wanted her to return to writing introspective fiction. I wanted her to be the cosmopolitan New Asian she’d been in her prime, not an apologist for a duplicitous regime or an old-style Chinese conservative. I wanted her to admit to feelings of exile and loss, while I still followed the party line she handed me: We are not divided. We are multiple. There is no unbelonging. There are no borders.

And yet if she hadn’t had to work through the dilemmas of dispossession there would have been no public persona, no sweeping statements, no grande dame of the Chinese Revolution. But that was her public role. The Suyin I knew had left home long, long ago and could only inhabit temporary shelters. Even the language she wrote in was her third. Suyin admitted to crushing loss. Suyin survived it all. Suyin was a superlative.

Even in our wholeness there are fractures. I’d compose letters to her:

‘Suyin, there are divisions. There are – to use one of your favourite words – contradictions. Contested belongings. No composites, no continuous wholeness: only an illusion, a yearning, a longing.

I never wrote them or if I did I left them unsent.”

Aamer Hussain writes in Granta on his friendship with Han Suyin.


 

identity politics

no man's land

“When the ban happened, it was like I was stripped away from being able to call myself American. It was a wake up call, and I felt like all I had left was Sudan – but it felt out of reach, like grasping for something while every inch of your body tries to pull you back. In the wake of that, traveling back to Sudan was different. This time, I didn’t want to leave. Lately, I’ve been having thoughts about what life would look like for me, had my parents never immigrated. I’m a Muslim American straddling the fine line between being too black and not black enough, too Muslim and not Muslim enough, too Arab and not Arab enough. This fluid sense of mis-identity has become my identity.

I’ve never lived in a place where I felt like I was a part of the majority, where I didn’t have to worry about taking up space. I love Sudan, but deep down I know it will never be for me what it is for my parents. America won’t either. If you asked me today to choose between the two I don’t know what I would say. I guess I’m accepting that I will forever be in this space of falsified identity. In limbo. The Trump ban forced me to reexamine my role as a Sudanese American. It reminded me that freedom will forever be a fleeting notion.”

Nadra Widatalla writes in Dazed and Confused on what Trump’s “Muslim Ban” means to her.


 

Nikesh Shuckla takes the last train home

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It’s late and I’m on a train back to Bristol. I’ve just done a talk about a book I worked on, about race and immigration and I’m wearing the name of the book – The Good Immigrant – across my sweatshirt.

It’s late and I’ve spent the evening talking at people, so I’ve bought myself a burger and a beer to keep me company on the two-hour journey home.

The train is packed until Reading, as it always is, and then deathly quiet. Bored and with a need to stay awake, I put on a crap Jason Statham film, perfect company for the long journey. The action-packed thrills will keep me awake because if I fall asleep and miss my stop, I’m ending up in Swansea.

The further the train gets from London, the more it empties out. I don’t really notice it at first. I’m too engrossed in the film.

Around Swindon, three men get on the carriage shouting loudly. They sit around me and talk. I realise, looking at them, and around, and up from my Jason Statham film, that the carriage is empty, except for me and for them. They are carrying beer cans and talking in that high octave slur that carries most lads home from the pub after closing time. One of them looks at me and my sweatshirt then gets up and moves closer.

As he stands, he says: “There’s no such thing as a good immigrant” …


 

Friday night lights in the era of BLM

KIPP Gaston School

“I am so pissed this morning,” began a soon-to-be viral Facebook post. “KIPP Gaston College prep is trying to make my granddaughter kneel for the national anthem at the football game Friday night.”

It was the tail end of September 2017, past the midway point of the most politically charged year since the last one, and President Trump had just ignited a national controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. In an act of Twitter jujitsu, Trump turned Colin Kaepernick’s protest against social injustice into a referendum on patriotism, the military and the flag, opening the latest front in his ongoing culture war.

Now the battle had come to a charter school in rural North Carolina. For a few hours on social media, the national debate over Kaepernick’s protest movement exploded inside one school in a small town, exposing how the polarized politics of the Trump era have trickled from Washington DC down into America’s communities …”

A long read and a salutary one.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

Signs of the times

signoftimes

 

DO WHAT YOU WILL

I am Muslim, register me.

I am Mexican, deport me.

I am African American, imprison me.

I am LGBT, refuse to serve me.

I am poor, blame me.

I am elderly, privatize me.

I am woman, defund me.

I am homeless, ignore me.

I am disabled, bully me.

I am sick, uninsure me.

I am indigenous, pollute me.

I am a veteran, voucher me.

I am an American, lie to me.

AUTHOR UNKNOWN


lorde

Rejoice! Our times are intolerable. Take coverage for the worst is a harbinger of the best. Only dire circumstance can precipitate the overthrow of oppressors. The old and corrupt must be laid to waste before the just can triumph. Contradiction will be heightened. The reckoning will be hastened by the staging of seed disturbances. The apocalypse will blossom.

AUTHOR: Jenny Holzer   WEARER OF THE DRESS: Lorde

“Lorde’s message comes amid reports that she declined to perform at this year’s Grammys because the show’s organizers refused to offer her a solo performance, as they did the other, male Album of the Year nominees. She also notably skipped the red carpet.”


 

beyonce-formation-lyricsImage from Randi Bryant, Beyonce’s Letter to You about “Formation,” at Beatnik24

Dozens of artists came to the Grammys wearing white roses in solidarity with Time’s Up and sexual misconduct victims. But that spirit of female empowerment wasn’t reflected in this year’s winners, nor in remarks made by Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, who suggested that if women wish to collect more golden gramophones moving forward, they need to double down on their efforts.

“I think it has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls — who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on an executive level — to step up, because I think they would be welcome,” Portnow told journalists backstage after the show.

Step up, Neil? Creativity in their hearts and their souls, Neil?  Where were you in 2015 when Beck’s “Morning Phase” won Album of the Year ahead of Beyonce’s “Beyonce” and in 2017 when Adele’s “25” won Album of the Year ahead of Beyonce’s “Lemonade“?

Adele herself said on stage: “I can’t possibly accept this award. And I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful and gracious. But my artist of my life is Beyoncé. And this album to me, the “Lemonade” album, is just so monumental. Beyoncé, it’s so monumental. And so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-baring and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see. And we appreciate that. And all us artists here adore you. You are our light.”

 


 

trump shithole projection

Trump International Hotel, Washington D.C.  The artist was Robin Bell, but the inspiration comes from Jenny Holzer.


 

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Jenny Holzer, projection, Washington, D.C., 2004


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

Making America White Again

safactnumbers

House Republicans have introduced the Securing America’s Future Act (H.R. 4760). The bill would institute the most severe restriction on legal immigrants since the 1920s.

H.R. 4760 would reduce the number of legal immigrants by more than 420,000, or 38 percent, in 2019. The bill has much in common with a Trump-endorsed bill in the Senate—the RAISE Act (S. 1720)—that would reduce the entry of legal immigrants by more than 470,000, or 43 percent, in 2019. Each would further reduce legal immigration over time.

Both bills would end the diversity green card lottery and ban the entry of all legal immigrants sponsored by U.S. family members, except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens. Lawful permanent residents would no longer be able to bring in spouses or children. The RAISE Act would also reduce the age at which U.S. citizens can sponsor minor children from 21 to 18, while the House bill would roughly halve the number of asylees. Both bills immediately cancel applications for millions of people who have waited years to become legal immigrants.

MAGA, y’all!


 

You go, girl!

aly reisman.png

“Last Friday, the multiple gold medal‑winning US gymnast Aly Raisman delivered an electrifyingly powerful victim statement at the sentencing hearing of the former US gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. If you haven’t watched it, I recommend you take the time. For any 23-year-old to speak with such intensity, poise and control would be remarkable; to do so directly to her sexual abuser in a packed courtroom under the gaze of the cameras is of a radically different order …” (Marina Hyde in the Guardian).  I couldn’t agree more.


 

stay classy, boys

pc_dinner

Meantime in Britain, where they find Donald Trump awfully vulgar, a “charity fund-raiser” takes place at the Dorchester Hotel.

“It is for men only. A black tie evening, Thursday’s event was attended by 360 figures from British business, politics and finance and the entertainment included 130 specially hired hostesses. All of the women were told to wear skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels. At an after-party many hostesses — some of them students earning extra cash — were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned … Hostesses reported men repeatedly putting hands up their skirts; one said an attendee had exposed his penis to her during the evening.”

Among the guests was Nadhim Zahawi, undersecretary of state for children and families.

Time for the tumbrils?


 

dear white people

usa-missouri_shooting-protests2.jpg

S. T. Holloway very lucidly explains “why this black girl will not be returning to the women’s march”:

“In 2014, I, along with several hundred other people, marched in protest against the shooting of Ezell Ford, an unarmed black man killed by the Los Angeles police just days after the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. And whereas the Women’s March felt like a mosh pit, the Ford protest felt more like an empty parking lot, with protesters walking freely down open streets alongside normal traffic, their movements unrestricted by a voluminous crowd.

While there were certainly some white allies present joining their voices in solidarity, noticeably absent from the Ford protest were the throngs of white women I saw at the Women’s March: the soccer moms, the college students, the housewives with their children in tow, the grandmothers, the career women, the retirees and so on.

Instead, the majority of those present were the regulars, black and brown folks, and in particular, women. On that day, as we have before and have since, we found ourselves alone in our pain. We found ourselves alone in our pleas and cries for justice, for the end to the killing of our children and husbands and fathers and brothers, for the cessation of the systematic dismantling of our families, and for recognition that our lives and the lives of the ones we love do matter.

This willful blind eye, this deliberate ignorance, fosters a culture where millions protest when white women’s access to health care is threatened, but when black maternal death rates in the United States are on par with women in countries like Mexico and Uzbekistan, there is no national outrage or call for reform or worldwide protest.”

Weird.


 

a messy and chaotic mind

zadie smith

“I don’t think of myself as a contrarian. I’m useless at confrontation. But I also can’t stand dogma, lazy ideas, catchphrases, group-think, illogic, pathos disguised as logos, shoutiness, ad hominem attacks, bombast, liberal piety, conservative pomposity, ideologues, essentialists, technocrats, preachers, fanatics, cheerleaders or bullies. Like everybody, I am often guilty of some version of all of the above, but I do think the job of writing is to at least try and minimise that sort of thing as much as you can.”

The wise and wonderful Zadie Smith answers questions from Teju Cole and other fans on the occasion of the publication of her new book of essays Feel Free.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 

Vic Mensa: What Palestine Taught Me About American Racism

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“For once in my life I didn’t feel like the nigger. As I sat comfortably at a coffee shop, gawking at a group of Israeli soldiers harassing a Palestinian teenager, it was clear who was the nigger. My American passport, ironically, had awarded me a higher position in the social hierarchy of Jerusalem than it did in my hometown of Chicago.”

His debut album The Autobiography is pretty stunning, too.


 

Key findings about U.S. immigrants

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By way of background to what nowadays passes for politics in the United States (or should I say United Shitholes?) of America.

The U.S. foreign-born population reached a record 43.2 million in 2015.  Immigrants today account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.7%) in 1970. However, today’s immigrant share remains below the record 14.8% share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.

Useful data from the Pew Research Center.  In snowflake Canada, by way of comparison, the foreign-born population was 20.6% in 2011 Census.  The sky hasn’t fallen yet (and the food choices get better by the year).


 

Sense and sensitivity

3000

“After the 10th or so person sent me the stunningly silly anti-#MeToo letter signed by Catherine Deneuve and a hundred other French women (the actual authorship of which we’ll get to), informing me that I’d love it because finally someone was standing up for sanity, I considered a form letter response: ‘If the question is whether #MeToo has gone too far or not far enough, the answer is obviously BOTH. Putting yourself on one side or the other is politically obtuse.'”

Thank you Laura Kipnis.  Pissing off all sides, as usual.  Both/and rather than either/or.  Courage, subtlety, and intellect, very well worth the long read.


 

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at 200

my fair lady

But Frankenstein is no memoir. The question it asks, “How far is too far?”, is at the very heart of modernity. The Romantics, Mary among them, “leaned in” to progress … Published early in this classical era of modernity, Mary’s novel still helps us define its terms today. Shorthand for the way we experience ourselves within a world of increasing man-made complexity, “modernity” is both positive and negative, signalling hope for progress as well as our fear of change. Frankenstein identifies the mismatch between human experience and what we are expected to become as technology and science advance.  (Fiona Sampson, on her new book on Mary Shelley).

“It is the migrant, the refugee, and the Muslim that have become the poor lone impossible monsters abhorr’d of our time, the nameless figures of terror against whom we must circle our wagons and strengthen our walls.  It is salutary how quickly Helena’s sympathy for the robots [in Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R.] turns to disgust once she learns they are not “just like me”—once, that is to say, they have been convincingly Othered, cast outside the pale of the League of Humanity.  “Oh, stop!  At least send them out of the room!” she begs.  In this respect R.U.R. is a more pertinent text for our times than Frankenstein, because of its grasp of this dialectic of resemblance and alterity, attraction and repulsion, fascination and fear. We can send them out of the room but the suspicion of their humanity can never be exorcized.  It eternally returns to haunt us, pricking the collective conscience—in the image of a three-year-old Syrian boy in blue shorts and red top lying face down, drowned, on a Greek beach, for instance, or in the blank, uncomprehending face of a black man who cannot believe he lost all his fingers to frostbite while trying to walk from North Dakota to Manitoba.  The more we can’t get them out of our heads, the more we wish they would just go away.  Make it stop!  Do I hear murmurings of a Final Solution?  We have been here before, and it wasn’t in 1816.”  My take on why Shelley’s astonishing novel still matters.


 

Nonsense and insensitivity

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London’s oldest strip club, the Windmill Theater in Soho, has lost its license after a women’s rights group hired private detectives to gather evidence that the venue broke a ban on physical contact between dancers and clients.  Stacey Clare is a stripper, performance artist, writer, activist and co-founding member of the East London Strippers Collective.  She writes:

“Closing down a venue may feel like a victory to those who champion the abolition of the industry, but taking work away from women relying on it is tantamount to taking food from our mouths. Thousands of girls who otherwise have less value in the wider job market (foreign nationals, single mums, anyone with any sort of disadvantaged background) are turning to stripping and other forms of sex work to survive. According to the English Collective of Prostitutes, record numbers have moved into the sex industry under austerity, which disproportionately affects women, particularly single mothers. In fact, putting women out of work is about the most un-feminist thing possible …

Their [feminist anti-strip club campaigners’] cloak and dagger tactics reveal the kind of attitude women’s rights campaigners have towards us, the women at the centre of this issue – that we, the ‘victims’, cannot be trusted to have a say in the matter so decisions must be made on our behalf, rather than consult with us directly.”

The infernal problem of false consciousness, aka I know what’s good for you better than you do, dear.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.