The world remade

21 04 2011

Care of Pambazuka News

To choose democracy is not to choose Europe and it is certainly not to choose the United States of America, which has overthrown democratically elected governments around the world when electorates have had the temerity to elect the ‘wrong’ leaders. In fact, any serious commitment to democracy has to reject the moral and political authority of Europe and the United States of America. Any commitment to democracy has to assert, very clearly, that all people everywhere have the right to govern themselves according to their own will.

We cannot know the trajectories of the uprisings that have swept North Africa and the Middle East. But one thing is for sure. Whatever pompous claims to the contrary come out of Washington and Brussels, these are not revolts for American or European values. On the contrary they are a direct challenge to those values. They are revolts against a global power structure that is formed by an international alliance of elites with one of its key principles being the idea, the racist idea, that Arabs are ‘not yet ready’ for democracy. This, of course, is an echo of one of the common justifications for apartheid. But the plain fact of the matter is that anyone who says that anyone else isn’t yet ready for democracy is no democrat.

Ben Ali and Mubarak were little more than co-opted Bantustan leaders in a system of global apartheid. Gadaffi’s oil funded cruelty, megalomania and opportunism has taken him in many directions in his 42-year reign but have, in recent years, been leading him in the same direction. Democratising a Bantustan is progress. But democratising a Bantustan is not enough. The whole global system needs to be democratised.





On Libya

14 03 2011

A friend recently asked me my thoughts about the African and Arab uprisings and whether or not they will lead to more dictatorship.  I responded with the following:

I’ve been following what’s been happening in the Arab world since reports starting coming in about the demonstrations in Egypt. Everyone here, much like the rest of the world, barely heard about Tunisia until it happened.  It wasn’t even rated as a news story.

These are very significant events in the history of the post-colonial world, and the tendency for the news media, except maybe, Al Jazeera, to gloss over them or badly report them is a crime.  The same can be said for the international community that has been working very hard to find out what each uprising means for them and their interests before trying to decide how to turn the situation to their benefit.  It is destroying the huge potential of these uprisings.

Colonialism never truly died in these countries. The colonial powers formally relinquished control, but their presence remained. The eager revolutionaries and organisations that took their place instituted authoritarian rule, and the same Western powers that once colonised these countries for their resources or strategic military value, simply made friends with the dictator to open the doors to commerce. Large corporations then moved in to extract resources from the country, export them home, and pay the dictator millions of dollars while the people remained in poverty.

Part of the reason these authoritarian regimes have been able to come to power is because the people of these former colonies have never had a chance to “birth” a new national identity, one based on honour, respect and equal rights.  Colonial rule ended suddenly, and the institutions that lead to oppression under colonialism, generally, remained in place.  As such, no new identity was born.  While the French were able to do it in the face of their monarchy, and the Americans did it in the face of Britain, the colonial power, in the countries now experience unrest there is simply a perpetuation of the privilege, humiliation and abuses that occurred under colonialism.  These uprisings are the next step in the process, where the people rise up, kick out their petty tyrants and establish an identity that is not based in humiliation and subjugation. This is why all these uprisings have had a nationalist bent — and while I’m against nationalism as an oppressive, divisive concept often aimed at achieving conformity and suppressing difference, I accept the nationalism of these uprisings as an attempt to re-express an identity.

It is a fundamentally good thing.

The next thing that is necessary to consider is that not all country’s in Africa and the Middle East are the same.  Tunisia and Egypt were similar because both governments tried to maintain a thin veil of legitimacy to the international community and world.  They were also strong Western allies.  So when the people no longer feared the para-state security apparatus that Ben Ali and Mubarak had created, it was easier to force them out of the country.

Libya was the next in the chain, particularly given that it sits right between Egypt and Tunisia.  Unrest had spread to many countries, but you could tell Libya would be next.  The only problem is that Gaddafi would never step down.  He has less to lose than Ben Ali and Mubarak did.  Better yet, he never tried to maintain a veil of legitimacy to deal with the rest of the world.  People know he’s a brutal authoritarian ruler and they engaged him anyway.  That they are now saying “OMGz What are you doing to your people?” is really a farce.  Further, the internal structures and institutions of Libya are different to Tunisia and Egypt in that Gaddafi did his best to marginalise the military to prevent a coup, so it’s little wonder many in the military have defected, play the tribes off against each other and therefore keep the people subjugated.

There is this point you will find in all these uprisings where the reports you read will cause fear.  You can see the videos of what is happening in the street, read the twitter feeds giving on-the-ground accounts and then you read the news reports.  There is that point where you fear for the people and think, maybe, just maybe, their momentum is finished and the State may now crack down, hard.  Your first thought is that there will be blood.  There was that moment in Egypt, but the protesters made one final push, with the help of the military, and Mubarak was gone.  In Libya, there was that moment exact same moment, but unlike in Egypt, the protesters in Libya faced far heavier repression.  The Egyptian security forces would try to run down demonstrators in the street but the army never opened fired on demonstrators.  The servants of the Libyan state shot protesters dead.  In dozens.  Indiscriminately.  With RPG’s and bullets all too often, aimed at the head.

It is not hard to see the lies and great efforts the regime in Libya has gone to in order to hide their brutality.  I watched a video just the other day, where a reporter went into a town recaptured by Gaddafi forces.  In the centre, the week before, there were 19 bodies that were buried.  These were people killed in the uprising.  The graves had been demolished, and apparently a bull dozer had been brought in to remove the bodies.  A coffin lay smashed open on the ground.  Relatively peaceful protests, as seen in Egypt, never had a chance.

I also do not think it is right to call what is going on a ‘civil war’.  The “rebels”, as they have been called in the media, have no organised army or weapons, except that which has been liberated from Gaddafi’s security forces.  What we are seeing is a continuing response to the brutality of the crackdown on an attempt at a relatively peaceful protest and revolution.  The people picked up guns liberated from the security forces and rushing to help protect others in neighbouring towns because it is their only choice.  Libya is in revolt.  For those who began the revolt, everything is on the line and if Gaddafi is able to reassert control over the country there will be a continuing, brutal repression against anyone who was involved.

Make no mistake about it.  People have disappeared.  The injured have been removed from hospitals, the young have been arrested and dissent has been crushed in many places.

Too many pessimists are already saying nothing good can come from these events.  I disagree.  Strongly.  I am optimistic about what these revolutions, if successful, will achieve.  As I pointed out earlier, the capacity for a people to stand up from a long period of subservience and humiliation to establish a new identity is inspiring.  It is a positive thing and may very well yield positive result.  But in saying that, you can never know with revolutions.  Uprisings, rebellions and revolutions are fickle creatures.  Often the question is not whether you will be successful against the forces of great evil, but whether or not you will become them yourself.  Those who start out fighting for honour, dignity, integrity and justice all too often end up becoming what they hate.  But this is not to say that revolutions should not be fought or attempted, it is just that you cannot know the future until you’re living in it.





“Yes, we can” turns deadly

7 10 2010

In the past, I wished upon a star that Obama’s election to the American presidency would pop the idealism cherry of a new generation.  I can’t help but noticed I missed something.  At least so far.

After Obama was elected, everyone was happy he wasn’t Bush.  And why not?  Bush was a tyrant.  Bad things deserved to happen to the nether regions of George Bush as some kind of karmic retribution for all the terrible things he did.  But what people fail to realise is that Obama has been no better.

And no, let me preface the following by saying that I really don’t care about Obama’s “socialism” or whatever else certain American demographics have falsely branded the guy with. (hint: the words “Muslim” and “terrorist” immediately spring to mind)

Seems like a good dose of “he isn’t Bush,” is more powerful than rohypnol.  After all, if Bush had carried out raids on anti-war activists, half the world would be up in arms.

As Cindy Sheehan wrote in a blog post for Al Jazeera,

“These raids have terrifying implications for dissent here in the US.

First of all, these US citizens have been long-time and devoted anti-war activists who organised an anti-war rally that was violently suppressed by the US police state in Minneapolis-St. Paul, during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Because the Minneapolis activists have integrity, they had already announced that they would do the same if the Democrats hold their convention there in 2012.

I have observed that it was one thing to be anti-Bush, but to be anti-war in the age of Obama is not to be tolerated by many people. If you will also notice, the only people who seem to know about the raids are those of us already in the movement. There has been no huge outcry over this fresh outrage, either by the so-called movement or the corporate media.

I submit that if George Bush were still president, or if this happened under a McCain/Palin regime, there would be tens of thousands of people in the streets to protest. This is one of the reasons an escalation in police state oppression is so much more dangerous under Obama – even now, he gets a free pass from the very same people who should be adamantly opposed to such policies.

Secondly, I believe because the raids happened to basically ‘unsung’ and unknown, but very active workers in the movement, that the coordinated, early morning home invasions were designed to intimidate and frighten those of us who are still doing the work. The Obama regime would like nothing better than for us to shut up or go underground and to quit embarrassing it by pointing out its abject failures and highlighting its obvious crimes.

Just look at how the Democrats are demonising activists who are trying to point out the inconvenient truth that the country (under a near Democratic tyranny) is sliding further into economic collapse, environmental decay and perpetual war for enormous profit.”

So, let’s just recap;

  • Bombing campaigns conducted inside allied country’s borders — yes, we can!
  • Continuation of Bush era legal doctrines to maintain government cover-ups — yes, we can!
  • Increased support for secret special forces groups to conduct extra-judicial killings in Afghanistan — yes, we can!
  • Extra-judicial executions of American citizens abroad– yes, we can!
  • Scaling up almost decade long war in developing country for access to resources (minerals) — yes, we can!
  • Declaration of “victory” in Iraq despite continued American presence — yes, we can!
  • Raids on anti-war activists for being anti-war — yes, we can!

Who knew the inspirational phrase, “yes, we can” would have such a downside?  Then I can’t imagine the world would be much safer with McCain leading America, either.  “No leaders” probably doesn’t seem like such an radical proposal for those across the pond.

————————————————————————

UPDATE:

Found this great article at The Superfluous Man discussing how Obama is no different from the average, big name political pundit, but also the inability for critiques from all corners of statist politics to grasp exactly this fact.

Why on earth wouldn’t he? He’s blowing hundreds of billions on the stimulus so that he and his political allies can fund pet projects, justify the exercise of greater influence and power over society and pass out government swag to friends, allies, and supporters. He’s doing the standard, normal thing for someone with political power to do – he’s just able to do more because of the circumstances he finds himself in.

He wants to raise taxes on higher income brackets? So does every other center-left politician cultivating his “friend of the people” persona. He wants to increase federal involvement in this or that sector of the economy? He’d be a bizarre anomaly if he was a major American politician who didn’t.

The same can be said of questions raised by faltering or disenchanted Obama supporters: Why hasn’t he shown interest in liberalizing drug laws? Why isn’t he renouncing the Bush era’s offenses against civil liberties and separation of powers? Why is he handing out wagonloads of boodle to big corporations?

Why would it be otherwise?

The problem D’Souza has- and that many conservative critics of Obama have, and that many liberal admirers of Obama have- is this: He thinks there must be some interesting, unusual, or complex explanation for what is actually entirely mundane, typical behavior with a mundane, typical explanation.

The conservative reaction to Obama’s programs are remarkably similar to the liberal reaction to George W. Bush, which also tended to ridiculously exaggerate the novelty of what Bush was doing by acting as if incremental changes building on established precedent were new and shocking.





The US Government goes for internet’s jugular

27 09 2010

This article was originally published by Techeye.net.  I’ve reposted it here as a matter that needs urgent attention inside and outside the US.

The US government has decided that it has the right to take down content on any website in the world if a movie or recording studio complains about it.

The worldwide censorship programme will let the Justice Department seek US court orders against piracy websites anywhere in the world and shut them down through domain registration.

According to Wired the law has the backing of both republicans and democrats and is quite possibly the first time that the US has attempted to impose its quaint medieval legal system on the rest of the world.  It is certainly the first time that the US has ordered other nation states to obey the will of its own private companies.

Basically the only reason that the world has to listen is that the US has control of the domain registration system.

The law is called “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act,” and as Wired points out it is the Holy Grail of intellectual-property enforcement.

If passed, the Justice Department could ask a federal court to for an injunction that would order a domain registrar or registry to stop resolving an infringing site’s domain name, so that visitors to ThePirateBay.org, for example, would get a 404 error.

It is being pushed by Orin Hatch who is a Republican from Utah who claims that this world wide wibble thing is a tool for online thieves to sell counterfeit and pirated goods, making hundreds of millions of dollars off of stolen American intellectual property.

But whether the proposal would ever become law is unclear. For a start there will be a large number of foreign countries who will be leaning on the US to drop it. Wars have been fought for less and the world wide wibble is an important economic resource.

Hollywood has shown that it is quite prepared to blanket ban all filesharing sites on the basis that pirated material could be shared. A law like this would enable it to shut down internet access to any company which makes technology it does not approve of.

The fact that taxpayer money is being used to defend Hollywood against people who may not have any cash at all is another point. But the law could also be used to shut down Wikileaks on the basis that the material is copyrighted. The fact the site is hosted in foreign countries would not protect it.

The US has always been reluctant to give up its control of the internet, usually making the claim that it invented it. The fact that what it came up with is nothing like you see today does not matter to it. It now seems that US politicians are using it to prop up their entertainment industry’s sick business model.

Our bet is that if the law is enacted then it will push other governments to set up a rival internet structure without the US.  After all you can’t have a system of taxation or legal repression without representation.  Where have we heard that before?

Read the original here








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