2817SACW - 14 Feb 2014 | Bangladesh: democratic practi ce/ Pakistan: Talk to the Baloch; Sharia Salesmen / India: Opposing Suppression of Doniger’s B ook ; Amnesia over Hindutva Terror / Anger in Bosnia / Stuart Hall's Message / [Google] Get off The Bus
- Feb 13, 2014South Asia Citizens Wire - 14 February 2014 - No. 2810
1. Rethinking democratic practice in Bangladesh | Rehman Sobhan
2. Pakistan: Talk to the Baloch now | I A Rehman
3. Pakistan: May the miracle survive | Javed Jabbar
4. Those demanding ‘Sharia’ in Pakistan, FYIP | Beena Sarwar
5. Pakistan: The mainstreaming of militancy | Kamila Hyat
6. India: Voices Against Suppression of Wendy Doniger’s Book ’The Hindus’ - A short compilation
7. Read Wendy Doniger’s ’The Hindus: An Alternative History’ in Full PDF & Epub
8. Video: Wendy Doniger ’On Hinduism’
9. India: The ’unconventional’ terrorists | Bharat Bhushan
10. India: Understanding JIH’s response to IPC 377 | Fahad Hashmi
11. Video: Jean Drèze on Booming India and the Social Role of the State
12. The Unending Amnesia Over Hindutva Terror | Subhash Gatade
13. Urge the Government of India to Support Banning of Nuclear Weapons
14. India: Patronage and vote bank politics boost khap panchayats, termed illegal and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court
15. Zapiro’s Cartoon on 2014 Olympics in Russia: Let the Sochi Games begin
16. India::Three Wise-men of Jamshedpur: They Passed Away Unsung, Unwept | Vidyarthy Chatterjee
17. India: Open invitation for People’s Parliament against nuclear power & weapons - Delhi 4th March 2014
18. Video: Stuart Hall Interview - 30 August 2012
19. India: Activist Vasudha Dhagamwar dies
20. India: The 2014 Elections, the Left, and the Aam Aadmi Party | Rohini Hensman and others
21. India: Limitless joy of terror | Jawed Naqvi
22. India: Orphaning of Swami Aseemanand and Nathuram Godse – Typical Tales of Disownment by RSS | Pratik Sinha
23. Selected Posts From Communalism Watch
24. New Books:
:: Full Text ::
25. Class, nation and religion: changing nature of Akali Dal politics in Punjab, India | Pritam Singh
26. The ‘Pulping’ Of Thought | Arshad Alam
27. India: AAP more confusionist than anarchist — but people tired with others: Tariq Ali | Subhabrata Guha
28. India: Erotic Rocks | Bachi Karkaria
29. Stuart Hall's message to those who want change: think, debate – and get off your backside | Tariq Ali
30. Anger in Bosnia, but this time the people can read their leaders' ethnic lies | Slavoj Zizek
31. “We are hungry in three languages”: citizens protest in Bosnia | Valerie Hopkins
32. USA: [Google] Get off The Bus | Rebecca Solnit
1. RETHINKING DEMOCRATIC PRACTICE IN BANGLADESH | Rehman Sobhan
Tragically, after 42 years as an independent nation state, our democratic aspirations still remain frustrated
2. PAKISTAN: TALK TO THE BALOCH NOW
by I A Rehman
The ongoing attempts to have a deal with the militants who have been causing explosions all over the country are in a sharp contrast with the policy of ignoring the threat of an implosion in Balochistan that is getting more and more serious every day.
3. PAKISTAN: MAY THE MIRACLE SURVIVE | Javed Jabbar
The composition of the negotiating teams by the government and the TTP and the TTP’s declared agenda require reflection. First, the composition: there is no woman member. As the exclusion in the TTP team is predictable, why does the government team not include even a symbolic representative of 48 per cent of the country’s population (as per the 1998 census)? The presence of a woman would have actually been more than symbolic. Women have suffered even more than men due to the atrocities perpetrated by terrorists who use the sacred name of Islam as a cloak for their barbarity and their nefarious real aims?
4. THOSE DEMANDING ‘SHARIA’ IN PAKISTAN, FYIP
On the Pakistan government’s talks with the Taliban
5. PAKISTAN: THE MAINSTREAMING OF MILITANCY
by Kamila Hyat
In Islamabad, a cleric who unleashed forces from his Lal Masjid to attack and capture government buildings to press for his demand that the constitution of the state be overthrown and replaced with Islamic law, triggering the infamous showdown of July 2007, is once again addressing press conferences.
6. INDIA: VOICES AGAINST SUPPRESSION OF WENDY DONIGER’S BOOK ’THE HINDUS’ - A SHORT COMPILATION
(sacw.net - 13 Feb 2014)
Posted below are select editorials from the Indian Press followed by commentary, reactions, reports and statements opposed to the withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s book in India.
7. FULL TEXT PDF & Epub: WENDY DONIGER’S ’THE HINDUS: AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY’
Fight back and Take back Wendy Doniger’s valuable book taken away from you by a spineless publisher and the fundamentalists they made a deal with
8. VIDEO: WENDY DONIGER ’ON HINDUISM’
9. INDIA: THE ’UNCONVENTIONAL’ TERRORISTS | Bharat Bhushan
A man with a grandfatherly moustache, another in saintly robes and reportage on the saffron face of terror that went unnoticed
10. INDIA: UNDERSTANDING JIH’S RESPONSE TO IPC 377 | Fahad Hashmi
The sole aim of Jamaat-e-Islami, a politico-religious party, wherever it exists, is to establish an Islamic state premised on a particular understanding of the Quran and the Islamic history. To put it another way, JIH seeks to bring theocracy or in Maududi’s word ‘theo-democracy’, a blend of religion and politics.
11. VIDEO: JEAN DRÈZE ON BOOMING INDIA AND THE SOCIAL ROLE OF THE STATE
12. THE UNENDING AMNESIA OVER HINDUTVA TERROR | Subhash Gatade
[A]seemanand’s description of the plot in which he was involved became increasingly detailed. In our third and fourth interviews, he told me that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time. Aseemanand told me that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It’s very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.” Aseemanand told me (...)
13. URGE THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA TO SUPPORT BANNING OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 13-14 February 2014, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico. around 130 governments, UN agencies and civil society organisations are gathering in Nayarit where the Mexican government is hosting a conference on the Humanitarian Consequence of Nuclear Weapons. We urge you to ensure that the Indian government actively supports the Mexico conference and joins the call to ban nuclear weapons.
14. INDIA: PATRONAGE AND VOTE BANK POLITICS BOOST KHAP PANCHAYATS, TERMED ILLEGAL AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL BY THE SUPREME COURT
So, whenever a politician justifies their activities by terming them as cultural institutions rooted in the past, s/he gives them a new lease of life. What was a dying institution a decade ago, has been revived and given some legitimacy by vote bank politics to enable it to emerge in a retrograde avatar. Now, Mr. Kejriwal too has a hand in this endeavour.
15. ZAPIRO’S CARTOON ON 2014 OLYMPICS IN RUSSIA: LET THE SOCHI GAMES BEGIN
"Sochi 2014 clean we are ready to start" Zapiro’s Cartoon in Mail & Guardian (South Africa) - 7 February 2014
16. THREE WISE-MEN OF JAMSHEDPUR: THEY PASSED AWAY UNSUNG, UNWEPT | Vidyarthy Chatterjee
Professor Bari’s work as a labour leader at a time of political tension and industrial strife, meaning the 1930s and 1940s, took him to steel plants in Burnpur and Kulti in West Bengal as well as to nearby coalfields in Jharia and Raniganj. Though he originally belonged to Patna where he was a teacher, which explains for the honorific before his name, it was to the toiling masses of Jamshedpur (read the workers of Tisco and The Tinplate Company of India) that he gave his best years.
17. INDIA: OPEN INVITATION FOR PEOPLE’S PARLIAMENT AGAINST NUCLEAR POWER & WEAPONS - Delhi 4th March 2014
The All India Anti-Nuclear Power Convention at Bhopal on 1st December, 2013, adopted the following People’s Call against Nuclear Power and decided to organize a People’s Parliament at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi on 4th March with the participation of all political parties, organizations and individuals who are basically opposed to the use of nuclear power at the present stage of its development and who stand for universal nuclear disarmament.
18. VIDEO: STUART HALL INTERVIEW - 30 August 2012
Stuart Hall Interviewed By Sut Jhally from Sut Jhally on Vimeo.
19. INDIA: ACTIVIST VASUDHA DHAGAMWAR DIES
Dhagamwar (74) rose to fame for her role in changing the country’s rape laws, following a case in Mathura in 1972, where a 16-year-old tribal girl was gangraped inside the Desai Ganj police station in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra.
20. INDIA: THE 2014 ELECTIONS, THE LEFT, AND THE AAM AADMI PARTY
by Rohini Hensman and others
With the Lok Sabha elections just weeks away, the priority of all left-wing and anti-communal activists should be to ensure the defeat of Modi and the BJP. Regardless of whether or not we characterise Modi’s politics as fascist and see the coming election as containing the very real threat of fascism at the Centre, it is undeniable that fundamental rights and the rule of law will be fatally undermined if he comes to power.
21. INDIA: LIMITLESS JOY OF TERROR
by Jawed Naqvi
ASEEMANAND is Sanskritised Hindi for boundless joy. Hindutva acolyte Swami Aseemanand exuded that feeling nicely in a series of tape-recorded interviews he gave to The Caravan magazine. According to the tapes made public this week he happily confessed to masterminding a string of terror plots, which he said dovetailed with the strategy of his mentors in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to turn India into a theocratic Hindu rashtra.
22. INDIA: ORPHANING OF SWAMI ASEEMANAND AND NATHURAM GODSE – TYPICAL TALES OF DISOWNMENT BY RSS
by Pratik Sinha
A hallmark of Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) is how swiftly they disown their brethren when they are caught red-handed in acts of terror – whether it’d be the cold-blooded killing of Gandhiji or the Samjhauta Express bombings. LK Advani while disowning Nathuram Godse had stated that Godse had “severed links with RSS in 1933… had begun to bitterly criticise the RSS”. Advani’s assertion was flatly contradicted by none other than Nathuram Godse’s brother Gopal, who was also an accused at the trial for conspiracy to murder. Speaking in New Delhi in 1933. | See photo of Narendra Modi With Swami Aseemanand.
23. SELECTED POSTS FROM COMMUNALISM WATCH:
Happy Valentine's Day : uniting all the "cultural" outfits across Indian Sub-Continent - Cartoon
India: NDF and PFI Involved in 106 Communal Cases says Kerala government submission to High court
India: Seers, 'dharma yatras' and Ram temple part of Modi's secret UP strategy
India: Modi, Mulayam, Muzaffarnagar | Sukumar Muralidharan
India - Rajasthan: Polarising Pratapgarh
Swami Aseemanand and Art of Statement Withdrawal | Ram Puniyani
India: Photo of Narendra Modi in company of Swami Aseemanand - the well known terror accused from The Hindutva Right
India: How Clean Is the “Clean Chit” to Modi
The last legal word on Modi's culpability has not been pronounced | Praful Bidwai
24. NEW BOOKS:
(i) FUKUSHIMA: THE STORY OF A NUCLEAR DISASTER
by The Union of Concerned Scientists, David Lochbaum, Edwin Lyman, and Susan Q. Stranahan
David Lochbaum is the head of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Nuclear Safety Project and author of Nuclear Waste Disposal Crisis. He lives in Chattanooga. Edwin Lyman is a senior scientist in the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He lives in Washington, D.C. Susan Q. Stranahan is the author of Susquehanna: River of Dreams. She lives in Maine. The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world.
Pub Date: Fall 2013
Trim: 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, 0 pages
o o o
(ii) IN/DISCIPLINES: NOTES ON POLITICS, EDUCATION AND CULTURE
by Rajesh Sharma
The essays in this book, written over a decade and half, are an exercise in making sense of a world in pieces. Located in the post-partition Punjab on the Indian side of the border, these range over cinema, poetry, fiction, historiography, autobiography, theory, pedagogy, legislation, corporate power, democracy, and democracy’s shadowy others.
Rajesh Sharma teaches in the Department of English, Punjabi University, Patiala. He also edits ‘South Asian Ensemble’. Offspring of the 60s, he lives without a home in any discipline.
pp viii+208, demy octavo 8.5 x 5.5 in.
Paperback Rs375 (India)
Postage free within India
Elsewhere: $16 / £10/ €12 plus postage
Available at major bookstores and with our main distributors: IPD Alternatives 35-A/1 Shahpur Jatt, New Delhi 110049 Tel. 011-26491448/26492040 e-mail ipd.alternatives@...
or directly from Three Essays (www.threeessays.com)
25. CLASS, NATION AND RELIGION: CHANGING NATURE OF AKALI DAL POLITICS IN PUNJAB, INDIA
by Pritam Singh
(pages pages 55-77, in: Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, Volume 52, Issue 1, 2014 - Special Issue: Parties and Political Change in South Asia)
Between the themes of class, nation and religion, the emphasis in Akali politics has been changing although this change has not been linear or unidirectional. Different moments of Punjab and Sikh history in the last 90 years have seen different aspects of Akali politics become dominant.
In the light of the historical and analytical account we have provided of Akali Dal politics, it is clear that any one dimensional view of Akali Dal is bound to be flawed. Let us look very briefly at three accounts of Akali Dal which are one dimensional in character and which we have touched upon very briefly in the introductory section.
One characterisation of Akali Dal is as a party of rich agrarian bourgeoisie (Purewal 2000). This characterisation fails to explain Akali Dal government incurring the risk of running a deficit budget to fund social welfare programmes for the poor rural proletarian population. Through these social welfare programmes, Akali Dal has been defying the WB dictates to reduce or even remove subsidies to the poor and curtail the role of state to create space for increased privatisation. Akali Dal has been so clearly committed to this programme that it risked a split by a faction in the party led by Manpreet Singh Badal who had been heading the finance ministry in the Akali government for a number of years and who had been strongly supporting the World Bank argument for reduction/removal of the subsidies.
Another characterisation of Akali Dal to challenge is that Akali Dal is just another regional party much like other regional parties in other states of India (Yadav and Palshikar 2009). This characterisation fails to capture the important historical fact regarding regional parties in India that many of them, barring a few in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir and in India’s North East, are the products of a faction of the Congress party in a state splitting away to float a new party. The ideological roots of such parties lie in the Congress party. Akali Dal, in contrast, is a party that evolved out of the logic of Sikh history as discussed above. Akali politics has run parallel to the Congress politics since the beginning of the twentieth century. At times Akali Dal has collaborated with the Congress party but the logic of that collaboration has risen from the internal dynamic of Akali politics and not as a result of sharing the Congress vision. The fact that it is the oldest regional party in India highlights the independent and autonomous character of its evolution in contrast with most other regional parties in India (our mention of Tamil parties highlights the independent character and long history of Tamil nationalism). Undoubtedly, Akali Dal is a regional party and shares some of the features of other regional parties but without understanding the distinctive feature of Akali politics that is rooted in Sikh history, our understanding of Akali politics is bound to remain flawed.
A third characterisation of Akali Dal, following primarily from the work of historian Bipan Chandra, is that it is a party of Sikh communalism (Chandra 1987). Apart from several logical and structural flaws in Chandra’s analysis of communalism that follow from his Indian nationalist perspective, the characterisation of the Akali Dal as a party of Sikh communalism is flawed because of the inability of this characterisation to explain Akali Dal’s consistent demand for inclusion in Punjab of Chandigarh and other Punjabi speaking areas left in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. If these areas were to be included in Punjab, it would lead to a decline in the Sikh proportion of Punjab’s total population and would potentially weaken Akali Dal’s political base if it were to be merely considered as a Sikh communal party. These demands clearly reflect a Punjabi nationalist dimension in Akali Dal’s mode of thinking and action. Similarly, the Akali Dal’s demands for riparian law based distribution and allocation of river waters that will protect Punjab’s control of its river water resources, and for the right of Punjab to control of its energy resources generated from Bhakra dam represent aspirations and interests of all Punjabis and not only of Sikhs (Dhillon 1983).
It is a party of Sikh nationalism but not only of Sikh nationalism. It is a party of Punjabi regional nationalism but not only of that. It has aspects that make it appear closer to Sikh nationalism especially when it deals with issues concerning religious rights of the Sikh community, and it has other aspects that make it appear closer to regional Punjabi nationalism when it defends the economic interests of Punjab. It is also a party that goes beyond Punjabi nationalism and seeks to defend and promote the interests of Sikh minorities in the other states of India and abroad. It does protect the interests of agrarian bourgeoisie but also those of the other segments of rural society in Punjab and in doing so, it even sacrifices sometimes the interests of the agrarian bourgeoisie. While responding to the pressures of rural bourgeoisie, it also attempts to include the representation of Punjab’s urban Hindu and Sikh middle classes and bourgeoisie in its organisational structure and policy making process. Akali Dal seeks hegemony in Punjab politics in a Gramscian sense by pursuing a politics of inclusive accommodation.
One broad generalisation that can be made is that the changing character of Akali Dal reflects both its responsive mode to external factors such as British rule or Congress/BJP rule at the centre, as well as the active role Akali Dal has played as an agency to force other political currents in Punjab and India to respond. Seen in this light, Akali Dal can be seen as an organisation that has responded to external pressures as well as pro-actively sought, as an agent, to change the external environment in which it has to operate.
[Full Text at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14662043.2013.867689#.Uv1BQ_Z6uWV ]
26. THE ‘PULPING’ OF THOUGHT
That Penguin has decided to pulp Wendy Doniger's The Hindus should come as no surprise...
by Arshad Alam
(outlook.com - February 12, 2014)
This article is not about the content of Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus: An Alternative History. That debate, I am sure, will happen. This article is about the larger context within which, Penguin, the publisher of the book, decided to call it a day and reach an agreement with the little known Siksha Bachao Samiti which had found the book offensive to Hindu religious sensibilities. That Penguin has decided to pulp The Hindus should come as no surprise. Rather one must praise Penguin for fighting it out for four long years when many others surrendered meekly or were more than happy to oblige the government of the day.
This was waiting to happen. The signs were ominously clear. Remember James Laine’s book on Shivaji and its aftermath when the Sambhaji Brigade hoodlums decided that it reflected badly on their Maratha icon. Or consider the cowardly capitulation of the Symbiosis institute in cancelling the screening of Jashn- e-Azadi, again due to pressures from right wing Hindu groups. Consider again, the VC of Madras University succumbing to threats from a lunatic Muslim fringe and not letting Amina Wadud speak on the campus. In each of these cases, the method has been similar: religious or nationalist groups have approached the state that their ‘feelings’ are hurt, the state through the police or the courts has tried to convince institutions and individuals not to create a ‘law and order’ problem and the institutions have more than obliged. More than being a ‘republic of hurt’, we are in this present mess because the state has abdicated its responsibility to protect freedom and dissent.
In the neo-liberal dispensation, the state has taken a managerial turn. It is no longer interested in ideological positioning towards the creation and inculcation of a modern citizenry. Rather, it has become post ideological in the sense that it is only interested in the management of a problem. In this kind of a resolution, ' community sentiments', no matter how dumb they may be, become the defining resolution. There is no creative engagement with the problem, but only postponing of the problem through an appeasement of the worst possible kind. The state has not withered away, but consciously abdicated itself, leaving matters of democracy and dissent to de dealt and debated by communities. In our case, religious communities are hardly amenable to a rational debate. Spokespersons of gods, they appropriate for themselves what is good or bad for their respective communities; they define the boundaries of free speech and limits of tolerance. If critique is central to modernity, then our principal critique should be directed towards religion. But the more important question to ask is whether one can do it in a context where the state is arraigned against the critic. We are perhaps looking into a bleak future: a future without criticality, engaged writing, meaningful publishing, ability to talk and think. Some have called this state of affairs as fascism.
What is equally problematic is the academic credibility that this managerial turn of the state gets through fashionable terms like multiculturalism. Acceptance of different faith communities must be promoted, but it should not preclude the right to criticise what one finds retrograde or purely abhorrent in a particular religious or cultural tradition. In the name of promoting and practising multiculturalism, there has emerged a culture of silence around issues which need to be critiqued and roundly condemned. Tolerance (which is itself a problematic word) of different cultural traditions should not mean tolerance of anti- women, anti- gay attitudes present within different cultures. Added to this is also the managerial turn of some activists who claim to have created alternative spaces for articulating dissent, freedom and resistance. Before we knew that Tarun Tejpal was more interested in profits (of different kinds) rather than in making us think through his ‘thinkfest’, there was the Jaipur literary festival. The meek abject surrender by the organisers which we witnessed when Salman Rushdie was not allowed to speak at the festival speaks volumes about their politics and conviction. One is tempted to ask the need for this alternative space when it cannot speak out against religious bigotry.
Freedoms of thought, freedom to hear and be heard are values which must be defended if India is to become a better democracy. And where religious communities are concerned, freedom to critique, provoke and even offend should be understood as an inalienable part of freedom of expression.
Arshad Alam is with Center for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University
27. AAP MORE CONFUSIONIST THAN ANARCHIST — BUT PEOPLE TIRED WITH OTHERS: TARIQ ALI
by Subhabrata Guha
(The Times of India, Feb 10, 2014)
Tariq Ali is a British Pakistani writer and Marxist analyst with a keen eye on politics in South Asia. Speaking with Subhabrata Guha, Ali discussed the Aam Aadmi Party's emergence, those to whom he thinks 'Modi-isation' represents modernisation, how BJP may treat liberal thinkers — and shortcomings of a possible Third Front:
How do you analyse the AAP phenomenon — is this anarchism entering politics with street protests becoming a popular mode of official expression?
AAP is one of the many parties on the globe that's benefited from a widespread distrust of politicians and mainstream politics. People feel disenfranchised — whoever rules, their conditions remain the same. In Italy, the Five Star movement stormed into national parliament on a similar basis.
These are effectively single-issue parties. AAP is more confusionist than anarchist. As for elected governments mobilising people on the streets, why not? History is shaped by the nameless masses.
But can AAP, which shifts from leftist resistance against FDI to populist promises of subsidised water and electricity, provide a coherent economic roadmap?
It is contradictory. All such groups are — but people are so fed up with lies and false promises of other parties that they might well give it a bit more time.
Or, as is also possible, AAP will implode and fragments will move to other groups.
Speaking of which, there's growing support for BJP's Narendra Modi from India's middle class compared to UPA's Manmohan Singh — how do you view this?
The tragedy of contemporary India is that its two major political parties, just like in the US and EU, with a majority of its elites, civil servants, urban intelligentsias and media networks, share a common ideology in relation to the economy and the management of politics.
Modi's role in Gujarat's riots is therefore seen by many as insignificant — as long as he can run an effective authoritarian capitalist state, which is clearly beyond the capacities of both Manmohan Singh and the bird-brained remnants of a fading dynasty.
Modi-isation is viewed as modernisation which is seen by the elites as a capitalist steam-roller that should crush anything that stands in the way of profits.
Would the authoritarian capitalist state you mention under Modi put India's federal polity at risk?
No. Why should it? BJP has been in power before. They will behave in the same way on the cultural front and make life miserable for liberal and Left intellectuals, academics, etc. The scapegoating of minorities will continue as it has under Congress — though Modi, if elected, will have to be more careful on this front. The world will watch him more closely.
My own view is that India and South Asia would be a healthier place if India became a confederation composed of north and south India federations, but this is unlikely at the moment.
Regional parties are growing — is there a realistic space for a third alternative to emerge?
There is a space for a radical third alternative — but will the regional parties ever agree on a common programme that links industrial advance to educational progress, providing a free health service, subsidised shelter that includes water and electricity, income redistribution, severe anti-corruption measures — and stopping the repressing in Kashmir, Manipur and tribal areas?
28. INDIA: EROTIC ROCKS
by Bachi Karkaria
(The Times of India, 12 February 2014)
Konark makes you wonder when we lost the plot
The last time i went to Konark, the entrance was dominated by a huge 'Hum Do Hamare Do' hoarding. It was way back in the 1960s, and the bumbling Family Planning ministry didn't want 12th-century erotic sculptures giving more ideas to 20th-century couples already copulating without a care or condom. Last Monday, the only cautionary boards were those saying, 'Beware or you will all fall off.' They were scattered across the vast site, understandably on the higher platforms, but also at ground level. Who knows what could befall those so totally engrossed in those sculptures portraying such imaginative sexual coupling, tripling and quadrupling, to say nothing of the animals and birds also getting into the act?
The last time we were with a cousin-in-law whose tea company had one of those sprawling beach side guesthouses at Puri, to which all Calcutta boxwallah families betook themselves in the summer. He grew increasingly impatient as the guide reeled off the imposing dimensions of the temple, the exact angle of the rays touching it at sunrise, the great chariot wheel which doubled as a precise clock, and the depredations of history and nature which led to the ruination of this 800-year-old architectural marvel.
Unable to contain himself any longer, c-in-law hemmed and hawed and discreetly whispered to the guide, "But where is what people come to see at Konark?" The earnest Oriya replied loudly, "Oh, erottick sculp-chur?"
This time our Shankar needed no such prompting. He had the air of a matinee idol, but it might be far-fetched to compare him with Dev Anand in Guide or Aamir Khan in Fanaa. He asked if a young Punjabi couple could come along too. He was quite oblivious of the woman's strident protests to her husband that they did not need a guide.
She could well have been an archaeology expert, but as Shankar began pointing out the carvings in all their sexual abandon, i was convinced that she did not want hubbyji to be exposed to 'all this chhee-chhee stuff'. Her hot-blooded man might start getting ideas, and then, socho ji, where would she be? As each frieze revealed a newer possibility, she disappeared. However, some 15 minutes later she was back, and followed Shankar's explanations with increasing interest and decreasing embarrassment. O-oh, if anyone was going to have to live up to all this, looked like it would be hubbyji.
For his part, Shankar was impeccably academic. No sliver of vulgarity or the softest murmur of suggestiveness marred his spiel. He had a job to do and he was doing it with earnestness. The multiple partners and multitude of 'kissing-types', the contortionist positions of legal couples, lovers and prostitutes, he took them all in his stride — and, as i began to notice with pleasant surprise, so did our young kaur. She revealed not the slightest shiver of disapproval as our guide pointed out the whole LGBT spectrum in these sculptures — practised khullam khulla with nary a vigilante or SC judge in sight.
Scores of other guides were escorting groups around this awesome, ancient graphic social document. The audience ranged from youths in mofussil chic to bosomy matrons to arthritic dadimas — and all of them gazed with rapt interest upon this unending, creatively erotic pageant in stone. No one turned away in disgust — or threw a metaphorical stone. Instead, there was an easy acceptance — admittedly because that was another age and another compulsion. Yet, even the most cataracted crone could see that not all those sculptures were in the cause of pumping up a war-ravaged population.
Watching middle class India's unfazed response, i was flummoxed by heritage and hypocrisy. Who says real people have lost their way?
29. STUART HALL'S MESSAGE TO THOSE WHO WANT CHANGE: THINK, DEBATE – AND GET OFF YOUR BACKSIDE
by Tariq Ali
(The Guardian, 10 February 2014)
The radical thinker, who has died aged 82, knew that Thatcherism had to be understood before it could be contested
Stuart Hall recognised that Thatcherism was 'a new phenomenon, an authoritarian populism that could not be defeated by traditional Labourist methods'. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
It is the way our sympathy flows and recoils that really determines our lives. This opening sentence from Stuart Hall's 1960 review of Lady Chatterley's Lover belongs to DH Lawrence. The critic had unearthed it from deep inside the novel. It could serve as an epitaph for Stuart himself. His own sympathies and aversions played a huge part in determining his political makeup. It is not easy to sum up what he leaves behind in a few words. Soon, one hopes, that the conversation his colleague and friend, Bill Schwartz had been conducting with him over several years will be edited and published in book form.
He was, first and foremost, a political person. Politics mattered to him and enabled him to develop his skills as a mesmerising orator.
He was a 1956-er. The twin crises that erupted that year – the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt and the Soviet intervention in Hungary – created a dissidence that spanned Europe. In Britain this led to the emergence of the first wave New Left, which resulted in magazines, the creation of New Left Clubs all over the country, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Alongside Stuart, EP Thompson, Ralph Miliband, Raymond Williams, Doris Lessing and many others played their parts. When Stuart became the first editor of the New Left Review, with a strongly interventionist and activist approach, his message was clear. If you want change, get off your backsides and challenge the existing order, but also think, argue, debate as to best way forward. This remains an important legacy.
Hall first joined Birmingham University's centre for contemporary cultural studies under Richard Hoggart, whose brainchild it was; after the latter's departure from the centre Hall radicalised the project, half-joking to friends that his cultural studies project was politics by other means. The centre had started life by extending the tools of literary criticism to mass culture. Hall's more ambitious attempt was to develop a theory to analyse popular culture. This had a global impact, initially in the Anglo world, but later elsewhere. It also made him an inspirational figure for young black artists and film-makers in Britain, of whom Isaac Julien and John Akomfrah are the most prominent examples.
The politics of culture were put on the back burner for a while and replaced by a focus on the new politics that was abbreviated as Thatcherism. A set of powerful analyses followed in the pages of the Communist party journal, Marxism Today. Together with Eric Hobsbawm and Martin Jacques, he was a central figure in those debates that warned the left in the Labour party and outside that Thatcherism was a new phenomenon, an "authoritarian populism" that could not be defeated by traditional Labourist methods. It had to be understood before it could be contested. Many of the journals contributors (not Hall or Jacques) read the message in their own way and decided that contestation was no longer possible. They defected en masse, first to Neil Kinnock and then to New Labour, whose leaders attempted to render Thatcherism more profound and, in the process, killed off traditional social democracy. They were subjected to the withering scorn of Ralph Miliband in Socialist Register and the New Left Review.
Stuart remained a critic of the Blair regime and its successors, becoming more irascible as the years went by, warmly applauding the anti-Iraq war demonstrators and the students who occupied the universities soon after David Cameron's victory. Hall noted that no young Labour students had been involved in these actions, a clear sign that rigor mortis had set in.
In the oppressive aridity of neoliberal politics and culture, where the lies of its apologists are first worn as defensive masks but finally grow into their faces, his voice and his essays will be greatly missed. Unlike almost everyone else of his 1956 and later cohort, he did not write a book. Why, many asked, did he concentrate on the essay? Perhaps he liked the provisionality that lent itself to the shorter form. Or perhaps the masochistic practice of collective composition surrounded by sectarian twentysomethings at the Birmingham centre left him exhausted. I don't have the answer, but it doesn't really matter. There is much to explore in what he has left behind, especially the refusal to banish the political from everyday thought.
• This article was amended on 10 February 2014. The third paragraph incorrectly stated that Richard Hoggart was dead, this has been changed to reflect the fact that he had departed from Birmingham University's centre for contemporary cultural studies
30. ANGER IN BOSNIA, BUT THIS TIME THE PEOPLE CAN READ THEIR LEADERS' ETHNIC LIES
by Slavoj Zizek
(The Guardian, 10 February 2014)
Protesters were carrying three flags side by side – Bosnian, Serb and Croat, brought together by a radical demand for justice
Presidency and Government buildings on fire during protest in Sarajevo
'The protesters' despair is authentic. One is tempted to paraphrase Mao Zedong: there is chaos in Bosnia, the situation is excellent!' Photograph: Sulejman Omerbasic/Corbis
Last week, cities were burning in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It all began in Tuzla, a city with a Muslim majority. The protests then spread to the capital, Sarajevo, and Zenica, but also Mostar, home to a large segment of the Croat population, and Banja Luka, capital of the Serb part of Bosnia. Thousands of enraged protesters occupied and set fire to government buildings. Although the situation then calmed down, an atmosphere of high tension still hangs in the air.
The events gave rise to conspiracy theories (for example, that the Serb government had organised the protests to topple the Bosnian leadership), but one should safely ignore them since it is clear that, whatever lurks behind, the protesters' despair is authentic. One is tempted to paraphrase Mao Zedong's famous phrase here: there is chaos in Bosnia, the situation is excellent!
Why? Because the protesters' demands were as simple as they can be – jobs, a chance of decent life, an end to corruption – but they mobilised people in Bosnia, a country which, in the last decades, has become synonymous with ferocious ethnic cleansing.
Before now, the only mass protests in Bosnia and other post-Yugoslav states were about ethnic or religious passions. In the middle of 2013, two public protests were organised in Croatia, a country in deep economic crisis, with high unemployment and a deep sense of despair: trade unions tried to organise a rally in support of workers' rights, while rightwing nationalists started a protest movement against the use of cyrillic letters on public buildings in cities with a Serb minority. The first initiative brought a couple of hundred people to a square in Zagreb; the second mobilised hundreds of thousands, as had an earlier fundamentalist movement against gay marriages.
Croatia is far from being an exception: from the Balkans to Scandinavia, from the US to Israel, from central Africa to India, a new Dark Age is looming, with ethnic and religious passions exploding and Enlightenment values receding. These passions were lurking in the background all the time, but what is new is the outright shamelessness of their display.
So what are we to do? Mainstream liberals are telling us that when basic democratic values are under threat by ethnic or religious fundamentalists, we must all unite behind the liberal-democratic agenda of cultural tolerance, save what can be saved and put aside dreams of a more radical social transformation. Our task, we are told, is clear: we must choose between liberal freedom and fundamentalist oppression.
However, when we are triumphantly asked a (purely rhetorical) question such as "Do you want women to be excluded from public life?" or "Do you want every critic of religion to be punished by death?", what should make us suspicious is the very self-evidence of the answer. The problem is that such a simplistic liberal universalism long ago lost its innocence. The conflict between liberal permissiveness and fundamentalism is ultimately a false conflict – a vicious cycle of the two poles generating and presupposing each other.
What Max Horkheimer said about fascism and capitalism back in the 1930s (that those who do not want to talk critically about capitalism should also keep quiet about fascism) should be applied to today's fundamentalism: those who do not want to talk critically about liberal democracy should also keep quiet about religious fundamentalism.
Reacting to the characterisation of Marxism as "the Islam of the 20th century", Jean-Pierre Taguieff wrote that Islam was turning out to be "the Marxism of the 21st century" prolonging, after the decline of Communism, its violent anti-capitalism.
However, the recent vicissitudes of Muslim fundamentalism can be said to confirm Walter Benjamin's old insight that "every rise of fascism bears witness to a failed revolution". The rise of fascism is, in other words, both the left's failure, and simultaneously proof that there was a revolutionary potential, a dissatisfaction, which the left was not able to mobilise. And does the same not hold for today's so-called "Islamo-fascism"? Is the rise of radical Islamism not exactly correlative to the disappearance of the secular left in Muslim countries?
When Afghanistan is portrayed as the utmost Islamic fundamentalist country, who still remembers that 40 years ago it was a country with strong secular tradition, including a powerful Communist party which took power there independently of the Soviet Union?
It is against this background that one should understand the latest events in Bosnia. In one of the photos from the protests, we see the demonstrators waving three flags side by side: Bosnian, Serb, Croat, expressing the will to ignore ethnic differences. In short, we are dealing with a rebellion against nationalist elites: the people of Bosnia have finally understood who their true enemy is: not other ethnic groups, but their own leaders who pretend to protect them from others. It is as if the old and much-abused Titoist motto of the "brotherhood and unity" of Yugoslav nations acquired new actuality.
One of the protesters' targets was the EU administration which oversees the Bosnian state, enforcing peace between the three nations and providing significant financial help to enable the state to function. This may seem surprising, since the goals of the protesters are nominally the same as the goals of Brussels: prosperity and the end of both ethnic tensions and corruption. However, the way the EU effectively governs Bosnia entrenches partitions: it deals with nationalist elites as their privileged partners, mediating within them.
What the Bosnian outburst confirms is that one cannot genuinely overcome ethnic passions by imposing a liberal agenda: what brought the protesters together is a radical demand for justice. The next and most difficult step would have been to organise the protests into a new social movement that ignores ethnic divisions, and to organise further protests – can one imagine a scene of enraged Bosnians and Serbs demonstrating together in Sarajevo?
Even if the protests gradually lose their power, they will remain a brief spark of hope, something like the enemy soldiers fraternising across the trenches in the first world war. Authentic emancipatory events always involve such ignoring of particular identities.
And the same holds for the recent visit of the two Pussy Riot members to New York: in a big gala show, they were introduced by Madonna in the presence of Bob Geldof, Richard Gere, etc: the usual human rights gang. What they should have done there was to express their solidarity with Edward Snowden, to assert that Pussy Riot and Snowden are part of the same global movement. Without such gestures which bring together what, in our ordinary ideological experience, appears incompatible (Muslims, Serbs and Croats in Bosnia; Turkish secularists and anti-capitalist Muslims in Turkey, etc), protest movements will be always manipulated by one superpower in its struggle against another.
31. “WE ARE HUNGRY IN THREE LANGUAGES”: CITIZENS PROTEST IN BOSNIA
by Valerie Hopkins
(Open Democracy - 13 February 2014)
Demonstrations have spread rapidly across Bosnia, with citizens organizing popular assemblies to voice their frustration with the country’s institutional paralysis. Through the adamantly non-ethnic nature of the demonstrations, the protesters are taking aim at the entire political elite. Valerie Hopkins reports from Sarajevo.
On Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after a Sarajevo canton’s premier declared that the people of Sarajevo would not riot because there was “no hunger” in Bosnia’s capital, his administrative building was in flames. So was the presidency and 16 other government buildings across the country, in what has been the worst episode of violence since Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war.
The politician, Suad Zeljkovic, had been responding to protests that began on Wednesday in the northern city of Tuzla after those laid off from several formerly successful factories took to the streets. His remark was reviled by citizens in a country with an official unemployment rate of 27.5 percent (estimated to climb into the 40s with the grey economy included.)
“They should have leveled [the building],” said an old man at the protests, in a video now circulating on youtube. “These are the people who are burying us…Twenty years they’ve been suffocating us, holding us down.”
The Dayton Peace Agreement, brokered by American Diplomat Richard Holbrooke, ended the war that killed 100,000 people, but also made Bosnia one of the most governed countries in the world. The accords were an opus on power-sharing that created a bureaucratic quagmire with three presidents, one for each of the predominant ethno-national groups —Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats, and Bosnian Muslims, now called Bosnjaks— and substantial veto power. It also created two political entities, Republic of Srpska and the ‘Federation,’ which is sub-divided into a further ten cantons.
Zeljkovic was the head of the cantonal government of Sarajevo until he tendered his resignation on Saturday morning as the flames of his administration building were still being put out. Three other cantonal leaders have resigned, including in Tuzla, where the original unrest began, the outgrowth of months of peaceful protests there by laid off or unpaid workers.
The fate of the Konjuh furniture factory in Tuzla is in many ways a metonymy for Bosnia: founded in the 1880s by the ruling Austro-Hungarians, the business employed more than 5,000 workers during the 40 year reign of Marshal Josip Broz Tito. After a failed post-war privatization, there were only 400 employees by the end of 2013, and it went bankrupt in January.
Bosnians are angry about unemployment and hunger, but is is this unwieldy, redundant, blockage-prone ethnic-based power system that is the real target of the protesters’ ire.
A protest sign reads “we are hungry in three languages,” referring to the country’s three official languages: Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian, which are more akin to dialects.
Though it is true that protests are drawing more people in the Federation, the protests are adamantly non-ethnic. The protest gatherings, now peaceful, have continued daily in more than 30 cities across the country without violence, but with mounting anger at politicians who have been earning salaries without improving the quality of ordinary citizens’ lives.
Despite RS president Milorad Dodik’s statements that the protests are an attempt to destroy the entity he leads, people have taken to the streets in the de facto entity capital Banja Luka, where one man was fined 550 BAM, or 280 Euro, and in Prijedor. Average pensions and salaries in the RS are lower than in the Federation, and there is widespread discontentment there too.
The comprehensive sets of checks and balances afforded to each of the warring parties have made much-needed constitutional reform impossible. Discord has even stymied a census that would tell the government just how many constituents it has after two decades of war and displacement.
“[One politician’s] salary is 28 times my pension,” said the same old Sarajevan, affectionately referred to as “Dedo,” or “old man.” “I worked for 40 years, 7 months and 18 days. My pension is 304 Bosnian Marks (150 Euro).”
Where are the tax dollars going? After the most recent general elections, in 2010, it took 16 months to form a government. That coalition fell apart after two months. The bureaucracy may be dysfunctional, but it is bloated: in a country whose population is 3.8 million, an estimated 1 million jobs are paid for out of government coffers.
“We keep taking loans from the IMF and other granting institutions, but these funds are not used for social programs or give people dignified pensions, they are used to sustain the high salaries of politicians and administrations,” said Sumeja Tulic, a 29 year old human rights lawyer who has been at the protests every day.
“Why do we need these levels of administration in such a small country?”
In just several days, the assembled have agreed on a set of concrete demands. In Tuzla, ten people representative of the population have been selected to negotiate next steps with those in power. They include young activists as well as factory workers. The six demands of the workers in Tuzla consist of the resignations of local government officials and their replacements with expert technical governments who are politically unaffiliated and removal of privileges for those in power.
In Sarajevo, a citizens’ “Plenum” convened on Wednesday, an experiment in direct democracy for a country that still has hundreds of European troops stationed in the country and an international viceroy, called the High Representative, who has the power to impose or revoke laws and fire politicians, now rarely used. The Plenum is necessary because there is no strong opposition that has widespread support, hence the demand for a temporary government of experts.
Other than a widely criticized statement by High Representative Valentin Inzko that EU troops could be called upon for reinforcement if violence escalated, the international response has been muted. The European Union, in a statement Monday, said they “encourage the continuation of normal public life.”
But what could be more normal than protesting such deep political paralysis?
In the words of one Plenum organizer, Svjetlana Nedimovic, “Normal life here means so many difficulties in the basics of the basics.”
In recent months, Western diplomats have privately murmured that Bosnians should be out in the streets protesting the sorry state of affairs, saying that they can only work with the politicians the people elect. It seems they did not have a plan of what to do when the revolt against all elected politicians began.
Perhaps it is best for the international community, which has spent years trying to cut failed deals on constitutional reform with the leaders of six parties who refuse to agree, to take a backseat as disparate groups of citizens organize. Then they should create an avenue for incorporating ordinary citizens into the negotiations.
Nedimovic and many others have condemned the damage to state institutions, but acknowledge that politicians only responded to Friday’s violence.
“We stood for dogs, for babies, for gay rights, for everything,” says Nedimovic, referring to short-lived protests in the past few years, including one this summer after the government could not agree on a law on identity numbers, resulting in the death of a baby who could not leave the country for medical treatment.
“We stood peacefully for workers, for retired people, but they only responded to us on Friday.”
And anyway, goes the word on the streets of Sarajevo, what are the buildings, when the politicians have been destroying the institutions for so many years?
“I don’t know why people are complaining that this country is falling apart,” said Mirna Kusturica, 25. “It was, and has been, but Friday everything changed. We are going to put it together again.”
Bosnian-born Yugoslav writer Mesa Selimovic famously wrote of Bosnians, “When they are together they are in trouble, for this they do not like to be together often.”
The unity shows the depth of Bosnia’s political crisis, and its only solution.
32. USA: [GOOGLE] GET OFF THE BUS
by Rebecca Solnit
(London Review of Books, Vol. 36 No. 4 · 20 February 2014, pages 34-35)
The young woman at the blockade was worried about the banner the Oaklanders brought, she told me, because she and her co-organisers had tried to be careful about messaging. But the words FUCK OFF GOOGLE in giant letters on a purple sheet held up in front of a blockaded Google bus gladdened the hearts of other San Franciscans. That morning – it was Tuesday, 21 January – about fifty locals were also holding up a Facebook bus: a gleaming luxury coach transporting Facebook employees down the peninsula to Silicon Valley. A tall young black man held one corner of the banner; he was wearing a Ulysses T-shirt, as if analogue itself had come to protest against digital. The Brass Liberation Orchestra played Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ as the television cameras rolled.
The white buses took up most of the four lanes of Eighth Street at Market, and their passengers were barely visible behind the tinted windows, scowling or texting or looking at their laptops for the half-hour they were delayed by the blockade. GET OFF THE BUS! JOIN US, another banner said, and the official-looking signs from the 9 December blockade were put up at either end of the Facebook bus: WARNING: INCOME GAP AHEAD the one at the front said. STOP DISPLACEMENT NOW, read the one at the back. One protester shook a sign on a stick in front of the Google bus; a young Google employee decided to dance with it, as though we were all at the same party.
We weren’t. One of the curious things about the crisis in San Francisco – precipitated by a huge influx of well-paid tech workers driving up housing costs and causing evictions, gentrification and cultural change – is that they seem unable to understand why many locals don’t love them. They’re convinced that they are members of the tribe. Their confusion may issue from Silicon Valley’s own favourite stories about itself. These days in TED talks and tech-world conversation, commerce is described as art and as revolution and huge corporations are portrayed as agents of the counterculture.
That may actually have been the case, briefly, in the popular tech Genesis story according to which Apple emerged from a garage somewhere at the south end of the San Francisco Peninsula, not yet known as Silicon Valley. But Google set itself up with the help of a $4.5 million dollar government subsidy, and Apple became a giant corporation that begat multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns and overseas sweatshops and the rest that you already know. Facebook, Google, eBay and Yahoo (though not Apple) belong to the conservative anti-environmental political action committee Alec (the American Legislative Exchange Council).
The story Silicon Valley less often tells about itself has to do with dollar signs and weapons systems. The industry came out of military contracting, and its alliance with the Pentagon has never ended. The valley’s first major firm, Hewlett-Packard, was a military contractor. One of its co-founders, David Packard, was an undersecretary of defence in the Nixon administration; his signal contribution as a civil servant was a paper about overriding the laws preventing the imposition of martial law. Many defence contractors have flourished in Silicon Valley in the decades since: weapons contractors United Technologies and Lockheed Martin, as well as sundry makers of drone, satellite and spying equipment and military robotics. Silicon Valley made technology for the military, and the military sponsored research that benefited Silicon Valley. The first supercomputer, made by New York’s Remington Rand, was for nuclear weapons research at the Bay Area’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The internet itself, people sometimes remember, was created by the military, and publicly funded research has done a lot to make the hardware, the software and the vast private fortunes possible. Which you wouldn’t know from the hyperlibertarian language of the tech world’s kings. Even the mildest of them, Bill Gates, said in 1998: ‘There isn’t an industry in America that is more creative, more alive and more competitive. And the amazing thing is that all this happened without any government involvement.’ The current lords talk of various kinds of secession, quite literally at the Seasteading Institute, an organisation that’s looking into building artificial islands outside all national laws and regulations. And taxes. Let someone else subsidise all that research.
The same morning the buses were stopped in downtown San Francisco, some hellraisers went to the Berkeley home of a Google employee who, they say, works on robots for the military. (Google recently purchased eight robotics companies and is going in a lot of new directions, to put it mildly.) After ringing his doorbell, they unfurled a banner that read GOOGLE’S FUTURE STOPS HERE, and then blockaded the Google bus at one of its Berkeley stops. ‘We will not be held hostage by Google’s threat to release massive amounts of carbon should the bus service be stopped,’ their statement said.
So there’s a disconnect in values and goals: Silicon Valley workers seem to want to inhabit the anti-war, social-justice, mutual-aid heart of San Francisco (and the Bay Area). To do so they often displace San Franciscans from their homes. One often hears objections: it isn’t the tech workers coming here who are carrying out the evictions. But they are moving into homes from which people have been evicted. Ivory collectors in China aren’t shooting elephants in Africa, but the elephants are being shot for them. Native sons and daughters also work in the industry, and many of the newcomers may be compassionate, progressive people, but I have seen few signs of resistance, refusal to participate, or even chagrin about their impact from within their ranks.
2013 may be the year San Francisco turned on Silicon Valley and may be the year the world did too. Edward Snowden’s revelations began to flow in June: Silicon Valley was sharing our private data with the National Security Agency. Many statements were made about how reluctantly it was done, how outraged the executives were, but all the relevant companies – Yahoo, Google, Facebook – complied without telling us. These days it appears that the NSA is not their enemy so much as their rival; Facebook and Google are themselves apparently harvesting far more data from us than the US government. Last year, Facebook’s chief security officer went to work for the NSA, and the New York Times said the move underscores the increasingly deep connections between Silicon Valley and the agency and the degree to which they are now in the same business. Both hunt for ways to collect, analyse and exploit large pools of data about millions of Americans. The only difference is that the NSA does it for intelligence, and Silicon Valley does it to make money.
The corporations doing this are not the counterculture, or the underground or bohemia, only the avant-garde of an Orwellian future.
City of Refuge, a church serving people of colour and queer people, left San Francisco, a city that has long considered itself a refuge, last September and moved to Oakland. ‘It became clear,’ its pastor said, ‘what the neighbourhood was saying to us: This is not a haven for social services.’ The current boom is dislodging bookstores, bars, Latino businesses, black businesses, environmental and social-services groups, as well as longtime residents, many of them disabled and elderly. Mary Elizabeth Phillips, who arrived in San Francisco after getting married in 1937, will be 98 when she is driven out of her home of more than half a century.
In many other places eviction means you go and find a comparable place to live: in San Francisco that’s impossible for anyone who’s been here a while and is paying less than the market rate. Money isn’t the only issue: even people who can pay huge sums can’t find anything to rent, because the competition is so fierce. Jonathan Klein, a travel-agency owner in his sixties living with Aids, jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge last year after being driven out of his home, with his business in the Castro facing eviction. ‘EVICTION = DEATH’, a sign at the memorial said, echoing the old ‘SILENCE = DEATH’ slogan of the Aids-activist era.
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