Global politics

Activism&Africa&Global politics&Pop culture01 Jul 2005 07:52 pm

“The countdown to Live 8 continues”

If your idea of top quality entertainment is white male middle-aged millionaires playing guitars, you’re in for a treat tomorrow night.

I’ve said enough on the subject, so I’ll leave the cringeworthy, misguided event to speak for itself.

Soundtrack to this post: Rock Is Dead – Marilyn Manson

Activism&Africa&British politics&Global politics&News media&Pop culture20 Jun 2005 07:52 pm

I’m a busy, tired, cynical fox today. This is not so much a post as an attempt to convey an eye-rolling “Hmph” in three needlessly wordy paragraphs.

Fact 1:
In 1985, Bob Geldof’s Live Aid raised £40m for famine relief in Africa, half of which was spent on long term development plans. By Geldof’s own admission, Africa has become even poorer over the intervening two decades. So here comes Live 8, jumping alongside the campaign to ‘Make Poverty History’.

Question: Do you think this self-congratulatory dadrock-fest will change world leaders’ minds about their policies towards Africa, or will they use it as an excuse to applaud themselves about a few paltry figleaf changes (e.g. doubling aid) while ignoring the actual reasons why Africa is impoverished (e.g. the IMF’s demands, the World Bank, the double standards of one-sided ‘free’ trade)?

Fact 2:
Tony Blair wears a white wristband (or, as the hilariously ultra-conservative Telegraph puts it, a “bangle”). He started wearing this – complete with subtly shortened jacket sleeve – in the run-up to the election. Naturally. All in all, he is making a sustained effort to draw attention to his part in this expertly choreographed campaign.

Question: Do you think Tony Blair has any incentive to argue (or intention of arguing) for 100% of African debt to be dropped?

Fact 3:
Bono, a man so ferociously egomaniacal he is prepared to incur the financial and environmental cost of flying a hat to Italy in first class, has also lent his name to the cause.

Question: Would Blair, Bush etc be so eager to trade positive publicity opportunities with this multi-millionaire businessman if his involvement was genuinely subversive and radical?

Soundtrack to this post: Pull Up The People – M.I.A.

American politics&British politics&Europe&Gender&Global politics12 Apr 2005 05:55 pm

Andrea Dworkin, probably one of the most controversial social theorists in recent history, has died aged 58.

I always thought I disagreed with the majority of her theories. I thought she was an extremist, a woman whose attitude to men was an equal, opposite counterpart to the misogyny she deplored.

I’ve just spent much of the afternoon browsing her major work online, to find proof of this unworkable extremism. And I’ve discovered to my surprise that I can finally understand what she was saying. Not just that, but her views were not really what I (or a lot of people) initially thought. We mistook her uncompromising attitude for vengeful militance. Or, at least, I did. Now I still might not agree 100%, but I at least see what she was getting at.

In memoriam, then, here’s an excerpt of one of her feminist texts:

“I renounce masculinist art. It is not art which illuminates the human condition–it illuminates only, and to men’s final and everlasting shame, the masculinist world–and as we look around us, that world is not one to be proud of. Masculinist art, the art of centuries of men, is not universal, or the final explication of what being in the world is. It is, in the end, descriptive only of a world in which women are subjugated, submissive, enslaved, robbed of full becoming, distinguished only by carnality, demeaned. I say, my life is not trivial; my sensibility is not trivial; my struggle is not trivial. Nor was my mother’s, or her mother’s before her. I renounce those who hate women, who have contempt for women, who ridicule and demean women, and when I do, I renounce most of the art, masculinist art, ever made.

As feminists, we inhabit the world in a new way. We see the world in a new way. We threaten to turn it upside down and inside out. We intend to change it so totally that someday the texts of masculinist writers will be anthropological curiosities. What was that Mailer talking about, our descendants will ask, should they come upon his work in some obscure archive. And they will wonder–bewildered, sad–at the masculinist glorification of war; the masculinist mystifications around killing, maiming, violence, and pain; the tortured masks of phallic heroism; the vain arrogance of phallic supremacy; the impoverished renderings of mothers and daughters, and so of life itself. They will ask, did those people really believe in those gods?”

Andrea Dworkin, Our Blood: Prophesies and Discourses on Sexual Politics (1974)

Global politics&Human rights24 Mar 2005 12:38 pm

“People whose lives are barren and insecure seem to show a greater willingness to obey than people who are self-sufficient and self-confident. To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief of the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility.”

Eric HofferThe True Believer

Working on this assumption: what the world needs now is fun, fun, fun. And a generous refill of self-esteem.

Happy Easter everyone. However you spend it, make sure you enjoy your long weekend.

Global politics&Pop culture03 Mar 2005 05:47 pm

One for the bleeding hearts among us (a category which includes your genial host):

“The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.”

– Albert Einstein

Activism&Anti-consumerism&Global politics25 Jan 2005 11:24 pm

10,000 people protested outside the Bush inauguration. From reading the mainstream media, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just a few dozen anarchic cranks taking a day off from knitting hemp ponchos.

“Contrary to the idiot pronouncements of the corporate media, there is no ‘anti-globalisation’ movement. There is instead a massive, articulate and energetic movement for an alternative form of globalisation, a movement which is passionately committed to the cause of global justice. It is inspiring to be part of this.

It is both easy and difficult to join. First of all, you must be able to convince yourself that global justice is something to be valued more than the inducements of a privileged western lifestyle. Get past the idea that a global free market economy is the only thing that can keep a roof over your head, provide good schools and health care and throw big, big parties. It isn’t. But we all need to stop believing it is and start to move forward, dispelling the myths, exposing the lies, and developing together a new practice. Because the cost of not doing so is just too high.”

American politics&Asia Pacific&Global politics&Seasonal&South Asia01 Jan 2005 01:28 pm

$350m from the USA.

$500m from Japan.

Now we’re really getting somewhere!

British politics&Global politics&South Asia30 Dec 2004 05:59 pm

The UK government has just increased its aid from £15m to £50m (around $96m). UK charities have already raised £25m (around $48m) as well. Good news.

So the new top 10 in the cashflingers chart are (in US$):

World Bank: $250m (hey, whaddya know! It’s good for something after all)
UK: $96m
EU: $44m
US: $35m
Canada: $33m
Japan: $30m
Australia: $27m
France: $20.4m
Denmark: $15.6m
Saudi Arabia: $10m

(taken from this BBC article)

Plus a couple of articles on the topic of aid donation for good measure:
– Crikey (Australian)
– Indymedia (British)

Global politics&South Asia30 Dec 2004 02:26 pm

Today’s confirmed tally of dead: 120,000

Key aid pledges to date (in US$):
EU $44m
US: $35m
Canada: $33m
Japan: $30m
UK: $28.9m
Australia: $27m
France: $20.4m
Denmark: $15.6m
Saudi Arabia: $10m
Norway: $6.6m
Taiwan: $5.1m
Finland: $3.4m
Kuwait: $2.1m
Netherlands: $2.6m
UAE: $2m
Ireland $1.3m
Singapore: $1.2m

Source: Reuters, United Nations

Global politics&Seasonal&South Asia29 Dec 2004 01:24 pm

I was planning to resume blogging in the New Year, after a peaceful rant-free holiday. But I’m afraid I just can’t leave the subject of the international aid effort for the south Asian tsunami disaster alone.

Let’s recap for a moment. Today we’re told at least 60,000 people have died and as many people again could die as a result of communicable diseases caused by destruction of sewers, overcrowding, lack of medical care, malaria, dengue fever and so on. Sri Lankan survivors have to contend not only with the loss of their homes but landmines floating out of known mine sites and into unknown areas, exploding randomly just as a displaced family thinks they’ve found shelter.

Parents have lost children. Children have lost parents. Entire families were wiped out in minutes: drowned, dashed against rocks, trapped in crushed buildings or vehicles.

Survivors’ stories speak volumes. Some are almost unbearably poignant. On one BBC messageboard, Darshanie from Sri Lanka wrote:

“I heard someone who said that she lost two (out of four) of her children. She said that she didn’t know which one to pick up because she couldn’t carry them all.”

Words can barely express the devastation this disaster has wrought. It is a humanitarian tragedy on a vast scale.

Which leads me onto my point.

So far, just £41.5m ($80m) of aid money has been pledged by international governments.

That’s right. The equivalent of a handful of loose change to rich Western governments.

The USA made an initial pledge of $15m, which was derided by the UN as contemptuously “stingy”. They then increased it to $35m.

To put this in perspective, remember the USA is spending several hundred billion dollars on their Iraq invasion alone. I’d be interested to learn how much money was given by federal government and international charity fundraising when around 3,000 Americans were killed in a World Trade Center terrorist attack back in 2001. If anyone has figures for this, please do let me know.

Britain is giving £15m in aid. Hilary Benn, secretary of state for international development, deflected calls for more aid to be given by the UK.

To put this sum in perspective, the 2012 Olympic bid is costed at just under £2.4 billion.

Benn, like representatives of other governments, has the gall to imply that the bulk of the vital aid funds – the substantial remainder which is not covered by official international aid – must come from the general public.

And we will do it, because we know what’s at stake. Now is not the time to make a stand. We will give all we can afford, because there’s a huge shortfall. Every missing chunk of aid equates to a human life.

But, yet again, our supposed representatives are letting us down. They are letting humanity down. Our government squanders our hard-earned tax on unsupported wars and pointless ID card technology, while ignoring pleas for help from the poorest and most vulnerable in our country. Pensioners freeze while the rich get richer. New “Labour” has continued this Tory trend. None of this surprises us.

So I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us now to see it fling a few coins at a monumental catastrophe and expect the survivors to be grateful it bothered at all. It’d be funny if it weren’t so horrific.

This paltry aid contribution is a disgrace to the Western world.

If you think your government can afford to give a lot more than it has, let your representatives know about it.

Meanwhile, let’s make sure we give some of our own money to help the rescue and rebuilding efforts. Because someone has to.

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