Victoria Falls

Should the UN intervene?

What about Mbeki’s proposal for a “unity” government led by Mugabe?

Why is South Africa choosing not to participate in meetings with other African nations?

While COSATU is boycotting Zimbabwe, the ANC says the following:

“Any attempts by outside players to impose regime change will merely deepen the crisis.

“It has always been and continues to be the view of our movement that the challenges facing Zimbabwe can only be solved by the Zimbabweans themselves,” the statement said. “Nothing that has happened in the recent months has persuaded us to revise that view.”

This, in truth, strikes me as sensible. Given Mugabe’s vocal condemnation of imperialism, invoked as the justification for every act of violence and repression, and given Tsvangarai’s unabashed advocacy for neoliberal “market solutions,” UN intervention seems likely make things worse.

But can be the same be said of African intervention? It seems unlikely that we will find out.

Instead, “leaving it up to Zimbabweans themselves” means that Mugabe will go ahead with this “election,” opponent-free. Hopefully, the fact that he is the only one running will reduce his need to employ roving bands of thugs to genderate “support.”

In other news on the topic, I cant find a print quote, but WBAI’s Wake Up Call quoted my president, Cynthia McKinney, in a statement on Zimbabwe. Her comment focused on the land question in a way that could be read as implicit support for Mugabe’s campaign of terror and anti-democratic repression. I understand, politically, why that would be her position, but….ew.

While “what next?” remains a swamp of least-worst and worst-worst options, tomorrow I’ll focus a bit on how Zimbabwe got here in the first place.

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What was that about mushroom clouds, again?

Did you know that both John McCain and Barak Obama support the expanded use of nuclear power? Is there an idea more deranged? I think not.

Meme Gone Wild!

May 22, 2008

Some people are masters of the quotably pithy; some aren’t. As it turns out

What happens when an innocent blog “meme” is ripped loose from the social conventions which traditionally bind it?

What happens when cheeky bloggers act as though no “tag” is our master?

I’ll tell you; more fluffy blog content! I stole this meme, too:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Locate the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences on your blog and in so doing…
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged me.

1. Three books were equally near to me. They are, in no particualr order, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville; The Intuitionist, Colson Whitehead; and The New Imperial Challenge, eds Leo Panitch and Colin Leys.

2. done, done and done.

3.ok

4. quotes as follows:

“Regarding religious institutions in a human point of view, he acknowledges their influence on manners and legislation. He admits they may serve to make man live in peace and prepare them greatly for the hour of death. He regrets the faith that he has lost; and he is deprived of treasure of of which he knows the value, he fears to take it away from those who still possess it.”

Hmmm. You would think that randomly isolating sentences would make them seem more profound, but in this case, decidedly not Next!

“‘Did you miss me?” Lila Mae asks, before she can check herself. Check that impulse. Natchez sweeps his arm into the foyer.”

The Intuitionist is a truly great book, but nothing about that passage particularly suggests it. Moving on:

The reaction to the invasion of Iraq was dramatically different. There were enormous protests well before the attack began, and again on the day it was launched –with no counter demonstrators. That is a radical difference.

I have to say that this meme just made me think that (barring some notable exceptions) most words aren’t very interesting without a whole lot of other words spread around to back them up. I suppose I really am a grad student.

5. Instead of tagging, I’m just encouraging more stealing.

Hope in Days of Silence

April 30, 2008

On this day in 1939, the New York’s World Fair opened with the theme “The World of Tomorrow.” The fair was attended by tens of millions, and was seen as a beacon of hope for internationalism, peace, prosperity and progress.

On this day in history, six years later, Adolf Hitler shot himself in the head in a Berlin bunker, pushing one of the most violent, nastily nationalist periods of history towards closure.

Which might seem like a depressing start to our morning in blog land, yes. But to me its not; its a reminder that history and social life can change very fast and that “the world of tomorrow “can be a very different one than the world of today, in ways that seem totally improbable and unlikely.

Today, I’m specifically holding out hope that our world of tomorrow will be one in which Black American men have no reason to fear random death-by-firing-squad at the hands of “peace” officers, and for a world in which eighth-graders have no reason to fear violent asassinations delivered by their homophobic classmates.

I find it encouraging that I am not the only one who hopes for these things. It appears that 5,000 schools had participation in this years Day of Silence aimed at drawing attention to the harassment and abuse of LGBTQQ students and in honor of Lawrence King.

And while the rally I recently attended in protest of the legal whitewash of Sean Bell’s murder (incidentally, not at all far from the site of the 1939 fair), was disappointingly small, I find it encouraging that this injustice isn’t going unnoticed–not in New York City classrooms, not in discussions at work, not in activist circles and, despite what NPR thinks, not in communities affected by police brutality.

Two reactions to the trial made me hopeful, each for different reasons:

1) Cynthia McKinney’s statement on the verdict does a great job putting Sean Bell’s murder in context, but also linked it to a call for all of us to imagine something different, and better.

2) I heard an announcement from the Queer Justice League of New York City on the radio yesterday, making connections between police harassment of queer people and police violence in communities of color. I looked up their website, and while I really know nothing about this organization, except that they have an awesome name, that also gave me hope.

————————————

Really, its mostly the name that gives me hope. Like this postcard of the 1939 Fair’s Lagoon of Nations, the fantastical super-hero ring of “Queer Justice League” reminds me of the sometimes secret, sometimes shame-faced connections between a hopeful left-wing politics and the realm of utopia, imagination, and fantasy.

Because, of course, behind all my emphasis on hope this morning lies the stark reality that the present moment gives us little to hang our hope hats on. The movements for Black Liberation, Queer Liberation, Women’s Liberations and Workers’ Liberation are at low tide, to put it mildly. The US economy is in a world of shit, and empty rhetorical cover for a right-wing neoliberal agenda is what passes for a politics of “change” around here these days.

That’s why hope requires a different, more imaginative, engagement with the fourth dimension. I’ve previously alluded to the significance of reflection on the past and past hopes. But maintaining–building–hope, much less any communities or movements rooted in it, requires imagining, often detailed imagining of not only the past and the present, but the future as well.

This is what left-wing activists, queer communities and sci-fi geeks sometimes share–imagining a wholly different kind of economy, and/or new and liberating configurations of ‘family’, and sometimes all of the above on a yet-undiscovered planet.

Doing that can make you unpopular, yes. Perhaps it is slightly insane. And uncool. But, I am compelled to argue, its nowhere near as insane and uncool as accepting a total lack of alternatives.

Food Fight

April 15, 2008

the global economy is making me crazy

The global economy is making me crazy

Its not good, people. High gas prices not only trapped me in the scenic Airports of the American South for the better part of last weekend, they appear to have sparked a spate of food riots from Haiti, to many parts of Africa, the Philippines and Indonesia. *Updated to add Mexico, and a whole bunch of other places according to Democracy Now! this morning; apparently 15,000 garment workers are on strike in Bangladesh, protesting high food prices and slave wages.* The main South African federation of trade unions, COSATU, is warning that SA could be next.

Food crisis happening in these countries because they already have high rates of inequality and poverty, and because they are net importers of food; increasing gas prices increase the cost of food production and the cost of food transportation.

This is, of course, only the most immediate problem. For a deeper explanation, we’d have to look at the impact of fossil fuels, global warming and history of colonial and post-colonial land ownership on food production. But those are not really points best made in blog format.

Instead we will talk about what the problem is NOT. The problem is not a lack of food in the world. There is enough food in the world.

Brief interlude for a vignette;

When I was a younger, equally smart-assed anti-capitalist, a teacher, (who closely resembled Monica Lewinsky, during a historical period in which that was a serious social detriment) once explained to me and the rest of the class that “Capitalism is the Most Efficient System”

“Efficient,” I loudly wondered, “at what?”

She was baffled, but a future salutatorian answered my question: “Efficient at distributing goods and resources!”

Ahhh. Now it remains my turn to be baffled. This assertion, whenever I see it repeated, strikes me as egregiously illogical one. Or, at least, as a pure declaration of faith in a premise with very little evidence to support it. Many of the ideas in the human cultural cannon, ideas often considered the epitome of antilogical faith–say animism, or belief in magic–have a much longer and more successful empirical track record if all of human history is taken into account. Food riots are endemic to this crap system and they always have been.

And despite the category I’ve stuck this post in, rising food prices aren’t just a problem for Africa or for island nations dominated by US military and economic imperialism; food is a global market. Price pressure at the pump is likely to hit us in the pantry, and I’m worried it might be soon.

This food thing makes me even more nervous than the housing crash, especially given that they can’t be taken in isolation. See, in the earlier half of this century, in the US, food prices were substantially higher (relative to wages), but housing prices were substantially lower. Wages, in the US have been stagnating since the 1960’s or so, but this arrangement has been sustained, in part, by falling food prices.

The housing crash hasn’t made rent cheaper. Its just resulted in a lot of people losing their highly-leveraged houses. So now we have a situation where we have stagnant wages, rising food and housing costs and credit markets drying up.

Tasty!

*updated again to add: More at Rachel’s Tavern.*