Showing posts from November, 2011

Paris show unveils life in human zoo

Paris's  most talked-about exhibition  of the winter opened on Tuesday with shock and soul-searching over the history of colonial subjects used in human zoos, circuses and stage shows, which flourished until as late as 1958. Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage , curated by former French international footballer turned anti-racism campaigner Lilian Thuram, traces the history of a practice which started when Christopher Columbus displayed six "Indians" at the Spanish royal court in 1492 and went on to become a mass entertainment phenomenon in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Millions of spectators turned out to see "savages" in zoos, circuses, mock villages and freak shows from London to St Louis, Barcelona to Tokyo. These "human specimens", and "living  museums " served both colonialist propaganda and scientific theories of so-called racial hierarchies. The exhibition at Paris's Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac's museum dedicated to

The New Spirit of Economics

John Maynard Keynes, the architect of America’s recovery from the Great Depression and champion of the welfare state, believed that at its core, economics is ruled by “animal spirits.” That is to say that the free, equal and rational mind of consumers in the Locke/Smith economic paradigm does not sufficiently explain human action in the market place; that economies operate more according to Freudian animal heritage, or esoteric and emotional impulses, than reason. Other thinkers from this formative economic era, like Joseph Schumpeter, sensed that a violent, warlike impulse of “creative destruction” lurked at the heart of capitalism. And Karl Marx, the great dreamer, proposed that economic theory, rather than empowering and rewarding the selfish gene, could instead create a better social realm in which every person gave according to his abilities and received according to his needs.. ...Today, as Gregory Mankiw’s widely used first year university economics textbook,  Principles of

Stalin's daughter Svetlana dies at 85 in the USA

Josef Stalin's daughter, who denounced communism after defecting during the cold war, has died in the US after living out her remaining years there in seclusion. Svetlana Peters, whose quest to find her own identity saw the only daughter and last surviving child of the dictator take on three names, had described her father as "a moral and spiritual monster" after the CIA helped her to escape the Soviet Union in 1967 which caused a diplomatic furore. Born Svetlana Stalina, she adopted her mother's last name, Alliluyeva, following her father's death in 1953. But she ended her life as Lana Peters – the identity she adopted after claiming political asylum in the US. After living many years in the public eye, she spent her final days in seclusion. She died of colon cancer on 22 November in Richland County, South Carolina, it emerged. She was 85. Frequently moving countries, sampling religions from Hinduism to Christian science, the four-times married Peters lived a li

Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose: If You Pick Us, Do We Not Bleed?

Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was a serious man of science. Born in what is today Bangladesh   in 1858, Bose was a quintessential polymath: physicist, biologist, botanist, archaeologist. He was the first person from the Indian subcontinent to receive a U.S. patent, and is considered one of the fathers of radio science, alongside such notables as Tesla, Marconi, and Popov. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1920, becoming the first Indian to be honored by the Royal Society in the field of science. It’s clear that Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was a scientist of some weight. And, like many scientists of weight, he has become popularly known for his more controversial pursuits — in Bose’s case, his experiments in plant physiology. Perhaps it was his work in radio waves and electricity that inspired Bose’s investigations into what we might call the invisible world. Bose strongly felt that physics could go far beyond what was apparent to the naked eye. Around 1900, Bose began his inves

The Blood telegram

Archer Kent Blood (March 20, 1923 – September 3, 2004) was an American diplomat in Bangladesh. He served as the last American Consul General to Dhaka, East Pakistan. The Blood telegram (April 6, 1971) was seen as one of the most strongly worded messages ever written by Foreign Service Officers to the  State Department . It was signed by 29  Americans . The telegram stated: Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak[istan] dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider  moral bankruptcy ,(...) But we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, on the grounds that the Awami conflict, in which unfortunately the overworked term  genocide  is applicable

The secret speech that changed world history

Fifty years ago Nikita Khrushchev shocked the Soviet Union by denouncing Stalin in a special address to Communist party comrades. The text, detailing the dictator's crimes, was smuggled out of Moscow and later published in full in The Observer. John Rettie recalls his part in the mission and reflects on a pivotal episode of the 20th century.. It was an evening half a century ago, a week or so after Khrushchev had denounced the horrors of Stalin's rule to a secret session of the Soviet Communist Party's 20th Congress. That was only three years after the death of Stalin, mourned by the great majority of Soviet citizens, who saw him as a divine father. So soon afterwards, here was their new leader telling them they had made a cataclysmic error: far from divine, Stalin was satanic. The leaders who inherited the party from the old dictator agreed that Khrushchev should make the speech only after months of furious argument - and subject to the compromise that it should never b

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week . An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park. But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement wi

Julian Assange: Internet Has Become 'Surveillance Machine'

"The United States government does not want legal protection for us," he said, referring to a US Justice Department investigation into his whistle-blower website for releasing secret diplomatic and military documents. The former hacker criticised journalists and the mainstream media for becoming too cosy with the powerful and secretive organisations they were supposed to be holding to account. In a 40-minute address, he also accused credit card companies such as Visa and Mastercard of illegally cutting WikiLeaks off from funding under a secret deal with the White House. "Issues that should be decided in open court are being decided in back rooms in Washington," he said. The Internet itself had become "the most significant surveillance machine that we have ever seen ," Assange said in reference to the amount of information people give about themselves online. "It's not an age of transparency at all ... the amount of secret information is more than

White-collar workers are China’s newest underclass.

At first glance, Guo Yilei looks like a Chinese success story. Born to a poor peasant family in China’s remote Gansu province, he’s now a 26-year-old computer programmer in the Big Cabbage (as some call Beijing nowadays). By Chinese standards he makes decent money, more than $70 a week. When he has work, that is. It can take months to find the next job. And meanwhile, he’s living in Tangjialing, a reeking slum on the city’s edge where he and his girlfriend rent a 100-square-foot studio apartment for $90 a month. “When I was at school, I believed in the saying, ‘Knowledge can help you turn over a new leaf,’” says Guo. “But since I’ve started working, I only half-believe it.” Guo and an estimated million others like him represent an unprecedented and troublesome development in China: a fast-growing white-collar underclass . Since the ’90s, Chinese universities have doubled their admissions, far outpacing the job market for college grads. This year China’s universities and tech institutes

Tattoo by Muhammad Al-Maghut

Tattoo  Muhammad Al-Maghut Now At the third hour of the twentieth century Where nothing separates the corpses from pedestrians’ shoes except asphalt I will lie down in the middle of the street like a bedouin sheikh and will not get up until all the prison bars and suspects’ files of the world are gathered and placed before me so I can chew on them like a camel on the open road Until all the batons of the police and protesters escape from grips and go back (once again) budding branches in their forests In the dark I laugh I cry I write I no longer distinguish my pen from my fingers Whenever someone knocks or a curtain moves I hide my papers like a prostitute during a police raid From whom did I inherit this fear and this blood scared like a mountain leopard? As soon as I see an official paper on the threshold or a hat through the door my bones and tears tremble my blood runs away in all directions as if an eternal patrol of ancestral police is

Umberto Eco: 'People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged'

"As a scholar I am interested in the philosophy of language, semiotics, call it what you want, and one of the main features of the human language is the possibility of lying. A dog doesn't lie. When it barks, it means there is somebody outside." Animals do not lie; human beings do. "From lies to forgeries the step is not so long, and I have written technical essays on the logic of forgeries and on the influence of forgeries on history. The most famous and terrible of those forgeries is the Protocols." Eco says it is not conspiracies that attract him, but the paranoia that allows them to flourish. "There are many small conspiracies, and most of them are exposed," he says. "But the paranoia of the universal conspiracy is more powerful because it is everlasting. You can never discover it because you don't know who is there. It is a psychological temptation of our species.  Karl Popper  wrote a beautiful essay on that, in which he said it starte

Maoist insurgency in India: End of the road for Indian Stalinism? Interview with Jairus Banaji

"..The key fact about the Naxals in the late 1990s and 2000s is that they began to reverse decades of fragmentation through a series of successful mergers. The most important of these was the merger in 2004 between People’s War, itself the result of the People’s War Group fusing with Party Unity in 1998, and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI). That 2004 merger, which resulted in the formation of the CPI (Maoist), reflected a confluence of two major streams of Maoism in India, since People’s War was largely Andhra-based and the MCCI had its base almost entirely in Jharkhand—the southern part of Bihar   which also became a state in 2000. To explain the successful reemergence of Naxal politics in the 1990s , we have to see the People’s War Group (PWG) as the decisive element of continuity between the rapturous Maoism of the 1960s–70s, dominated by the charismatic figure of   Charu Mazumdar , and the movement we see today. The PWG was formally established in 1980 after som

Kate Bolick: why marriage is a declining option for modern women (and a riposte, see below)

'...That we would marry, and that there would always be men we wanted to marry, we took on faith. How could we not? One of the many ways in which our lives differed from our mothers' was in the variety of our interactions with the opposite sex. Men were our classmates and colleagues, our bosses and professors, as well as, in time, our students and employees and subordinates – an entire universe of prospective friends, boyfriends, friends with benefits, and even ex-boyfriends-turned-friends. In this brave new world, boundaries were fluid, and roles constantly changing. In 1969, when my 25-year-old mother, a college-educated high-school teacher, married a handsome lawyer-to-be, most women her age were doing more or less the same thing. By the time she was in her mid-30s, she was raising two small children and struggling to find a satisfying career. What she'd envisioned for me was a future in which I made my own choices. I don't think either of us could have predicted wh

Javed Anand: A different sort of Valley ‘protest’

Eating your cake and having it too may be a tempting thought. But you can’t have it both ways. The sooner Muslims realise it, the better for the ummah... and the image of Islam. A Christian pastor — Reverend Chander Mani Khanna, the presbyter-in-charge of All Saints’ Church in Srinagar — is being hounded both by the state and society for his “crime-cum-sin” of converting, allegedly through inducements, a number of Muslim youth from the Valley to Christianity. The priest was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police last Saturday . More ominously, the arrest was precipitated by a growing Muslim outcry in the Valley, apparently sparked by a poor quality video clip on YouTube showing the baptism of the new converts. There have been protests on the streets, protests on the campus. Leading the charge is Kashmir’s sharia court. After forcing the pastor to appear before them, a group of Islamic scholars claimed he had “confessed” his crime. Addressing the media, Kashmir’s official grand muft