Sunday, March 22, 2009

Children of the revolution

From The Observer :

When a 15-year-old schoolboy was shot in Athens in December, it triggered the worst civil unrest in Europe since 1968. Ed Vulliamy and Helena Smith join the frontline activists to talk anarchic protest, political upheaval and police brutality

"...In Greece, the insurgents have been given a collective name, the koukouloforoi - the hooded ones, because they hide their faces with balaclavas, gas masks, crash helmets and Palestinian keffiyehs to conceal their identity, but also as protection against the regular soakings with tear gas. But what if the violence of the koukouloforoi is not "mindless", as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis put it, but mindful? What if their contempt for society, politicians and consumerism has a lexicon that is not just revolutionary dogma? And, as the authorities in Bulgaria, Iceland and Latvia failed to ask before the riots came their way, and Britain has so far failed to ask: what if it happens here?

Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead at the corner of Messolongiou and Tzavela streets, but the signs above the shrine to the dead boy now call both thoroughfares Alexis Grigoropoulos Street. Football scarves, candles and flowers are laid at the spot, at which people linger in silence. There are thousands of messages and tributes. To quote a few of them is to articulate the mood: "Let beauty bloom from your blood"; "You hold your head up just enough to see the sky"; "And we go on, but we won't go slow, we'll put up such a fight. Keep your head high, kiss your fist, and touch the sky. It is not too late."

The corner is in an alleyway of a quarter of Athens called Exarchia, described by visiting reporters as a "ghetto" of "self-styled anarchists". As a neighbourhood, Exarchia is more complicated than that. It resembles the Lower East Side of Manhattan: a vortex of alternative culture, lifestyle and politics, but with more political edge, peppered by fancy bars and bistros, so that elegant, non-rioting couples might venture out for a daring date by crossing the triangular square - in which youths huddle around fires and where riot police patrol their quarry - in search of some nice gastro bar.

At the western edge of Exarchia is the polytechnic, where thousands flocked after Grigoropoulos was killed. Only fine art and architecture are taught on this campus now, students lurk in the shadows of recent history beneath graffiti reading "Kill the cops". It's a place that only weeks ago was an urban battlefield of burning cars and torched property. The smell of charred masonry still lingers in the air. In the district's heart is the square around which the little streets are lined with bars, cafes and squats. Streets like Themistokleous, which climbs past sexy lingerie boutiques, cellar tavernas, a shop named Dark Cell Records and a bustling Saturday-morning fruit market to a place called Nosotros, from the balcony of which flies a red and black flag. It is the meeting place for some of those whose creed formed an iconic expression, if not a kernel, of the December uprising - anarchism.

Nosotros is a place of meetings, film screenings, endless political discourse and quite a few beers, where migrant workers can get free evening classes in the Greek language. It is here that Niko, a youth who works in a bookshop, draws the starting line for several nights of conversation: "When they killed Alexis, everyone felt it could have been any of us, so we made it all of us. The riots, then the uprising, went from there."

One slogan still painted across the shops ravaged in central Athens during December says simply: "Buy until you die" - it is accompanied by the circled A of the anarchists. Niko has no problem discussing his reasons for smashing shop windows: "It was almost funny to see the faces of the people whose 'right to shop' we had deprived them of, like we had insulted their religion - which we had, I suppose."

"Besides," volunteers another man, joining the conversation, "smashing things up is not what matters. Above all, this revolt was an assertion of dignity and a statement of presence. Of all the slogans, our most important was, 'We are here.'"

The second man, a carpenter, turns out to be a historic figure in the Greek anarchist movement. He comes from the town of Agrinio, which has a tradition of anarchism. Nikos Ioannou argues that while previous rebellions had been against a military junta (from 1967-1974), "There are similarities between then and now. The means of control have changed, and people enjoy a perception of freedom, but we would argue that the colonels were less powerful than a shopping mall, and in this way, Greece has turned another page in its history with this insurrection. Greece is a society in which individual rights were never established. This uprising has given people who were never part of our movement a new understanding of what it means to be who they are."

The conversation continues deep into the night. We discuss the different traditions of and differences within anarchism, and a man called Tassos, branding himself an anarcho-syndicalist, describes his attempts to spread the energy of the uprising into his construction workers' union. We also discuss the United Kingdom and why, according to Valia, a photographer, "You are not able to create the kind of uprising in your country that we have created here because the methods of control in your country are far more sophisticated and accomplished. And your people are more subservient."

When we suggest to Ioannou that the anarchists lit the touchpaper in December, he replies: "Maybe, but the main ingredient was the school kids. Greek youth saw themselves in the face of this boy, and that is why school kids were the flour in the dough of the insurrection." Not only that, but the school children, of whom Alexis Grigoropoulos was one, tend to be those most eager to give the insurgency political shape, although they had no previous political experience. One of those involved is Stefanos, aged 15, who has joined a demonstration to try and secure the release of those arrested during December. He notes the fact that they are to be charged under anti-terrorist legislation and says that: "Smashing things up may be a way to relax, but it isn't going to change the future. I never expected to be involved in anything like that, and if they hadn't shot a boy my age I probably wouldn't be. But now that I have been I want it to make a difference, not to end there."..."


"...Most unexpected of all was the occupation of a call centre operated by the Altec telecoms group by employees threatened with redundancy without compensation. Altec was part of the recent break-up into the private sector of Greece's formerly state-run telecommunications system.

"There was a complete lack of political culture in the place," says Giorgos Sotiropoulos, who worked as part of the technical support team. "A call centre is as alienated as you can get. It's insidious. You're pitched against your co-worker by the fact that the supervisor is counting how many sales you make in how many calls and minutes. So it really mattered that it was a call centre we occupied, because the kind of enemy this insurrection in Greece is fighting is typified by this work. The enemy is amorphous, it is virtual, and that makes fighting it far more challenging than fighting a junta of colonels. Our enemy is a society which offers procedural freedom, and perceived freedom, but no physical, substantive freedom. But this situation is not irreversible, and we demonstrate this by finding a way of being free through uprising.

"It was a huge decision," continues Sotiropoulos, "and an incredible experience for most people, ladies with children, people who had never thought they would get involved in such a thing. A whole new vocabulary, a whole new feeling of collaboration that none of us had ever known. We just stayed there for five days, hung banners from the windows, and at night women would come and bring us food and pastries. In this movement, you testify by your actions. It is an eruption of the real thing against virtuality."

After tortuous negotiations, the occupiers finally won an agreement for redundancy payments and jobs for some people who wanted to stay on. "Without the uprising, this would never have happened," says Sotiropoulos. "It was in the air and got people thinking in a totally different way."..."


"...Far from this fray, Professor Constantinos Tsoukalas, the elder statesman of Greek political philosophy, watches all this from his lofty apartment, lined with venerable books, which he especially likes for "its asymmetry" and view of the Acropolis. He see "the uprising as a symptom of the end of political hope and the beginning of something else. One of the nefarious consequences of the end of the Cold War and the emptiness of the global market that was supposed to put an end to ideology but, in crisis, has instead created this moment of great ideological tension.

"I mean look at the spectacle of these politicians: this Greek government and every other government - though perhaps Obama is an exception - lurching from day to day without a clue what to do apart from babble. Not only does the Greek government have no plan, it does not even pretend to have a plan. What they are demonstrating - Karamanlis, Berlusconi, Blair, Brown, Sarkozy - is that there is no longer any reason to go into politics apart from power in and of itself, the money that power brings and the further money that having been in power brings. They degenerate the game with greater and greater visibility, and the more they degenerate it, the more degenerate the people who go into politics. Which leads to moral indignation, despair and anger."

That in turn, continues Tsoukalas, becomes either "various forms of depression, as in your country, or to a statement of presence - a loud NO! as happened here, and a maelstrom". ..."


~ more... ~

Didn’t we all see this coming?

By Timothy V. Gatto

March 21, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -- The country is coming to conclusions that a year ago would be unthinkable. The current turmoil on Wall Street has convinced many Americans of something that has been said for years, but nobody really believed…entirely. That something was that lawyers and bankers cannot be trusted. The American people know by now that the advice is largely true, they can't be trusted. Neither can politicians, stockbrokers and financial advisors. In fact, people are starting to realize the entire concept of capitalism can't be trusted, not just for the average Joe, but for the entire country. Capitalism is not your friend; it never has been and will not be in the future. It will continue to feed the rich, in fact, more than just feed them, but it won't help the average wage earner realize the American dream. That's never what it was designed to do. It was put in place to insure that the rich got richer and that the not so rich would stay where they were and to be grateful they could feed their families.

This isn't the first time that capitalism has failed. Every time it fails we use a form of temporary socialism to shore up the economy. When things start to return to normal, we give everything back to the capitalists. Why is that? Could it be that we have no choice?

Ever notice how people equate capitalism with belief in God and country? They defend capitalism as if any other kind of government will lead them into slavery. The truth is that capitalism is an express ticket into slavery. Still, for every worker that recites a story of abject horror, there is an example of how the shining example of individualism embodied in the dogma of “free enterprise” has lifted a poor person out of his or her misery into nirvana. Pulling yourself up from your bootstraps is another way of contributing to the myth that capitalism works for everyone. I would like to see the ratio of millionaires that inherited their wealth vs. those that made their own money. If it were true that people surmounted the difficulties of amassing wealth and that many had truly “made it on their own”, the empirical evidence would be touted from every capitalist media outlet to every citizen in the country, just to prove that “free enterprise” works, yet it just isn't there.

We Americans watch as our leaders try every trick in the book to grease the skids of our languishing economic system. We watch as AIG and other parasitic financial institutions grasp at every stray dollar they can con out of the people in a vain attempt to shore up their crumbling empires. The Federal government has allocated another trillion dollars to shore up the secondary real estate market and attempt to get Americans to buy real estate again. Meanwhile, Richard Cook, an economist that worked on NASA's budget proposes that instead of trying to ignite the fires of consumerism with money given directly to large capitalist financial markets, the government could better stimulate the economy by giving citizens $1,800.00 vouchers monthly to pay their utilities and mortgages and to buy food and other essentials. This he claims would stimulate the economy by putting hard cash in the hands of consumers. Wouldn't this be the end result the government is trying to achieve? Yet nobody takes this proposal seriously, at least not the government or those failing institutions with their sweaty palms out. Seems as they believe that money would be better off left in the hands of those that have brought us to where we are today, to hoard it or to siphon it off in undeserved salaries or bonuses, anywhere but on the streets so that consumers could spend it.

If one were to look back and take an honest look at the economy, they would see that writers such as me and many others on both sides of the political spectrum were trying to capture the nation's attention five years ago when the Middle Class was losing almost two thousand dollars a year. This was happening year after year. Not only was the median income slipping, but benefits were being cut, full time jobs were being outsourced overseas and many Americans found themselves working two part time jobs just to keep up their mortgage payments. Some writers and economists were using phrases such as “class warfare” to shock some sense into the political parties and the employers. Still the government did nothing to alleviate the suffering of the hourly wage earner. It wasn't until the situation started to affect the affluent did the government start to heed the warning signs.

Now it is a common sight to see a politician on a news clip railing at the excesses of Wall Street. Where were these politicos when the average wage earner was being cut from the American dream? Were they still listening to the vermin that call themselves lobbyists telling them that all was well? We can see now that we had more than enough time to understand that everything wasn't at all well. The people that believed in the fairy-tale of “trickle-down” economics should have been concerned when nothing at all was reaching the lower end of the economic spectrum. They should have started becoming concerned when more businesses were going under, when people were cutting back on their medications so that they could put food on their families table.

This should really erase any doubts about the myth of unfettered capitalism. Unregulated, gluttonous capitalism didn't just “appear” when Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers started to cry “Uncle!”. The signs were there long before that. This time when we finally realize that anything too big to fail should be nationalized, when we understand that government regulation should be mandatory when dealing with predators, let's not take a giant step backwards and slide back into “free enterprise capitalism”, giving the reigns of financial power back to the people that only care about themselves.

timgatto@hotmail.com  - http://Liberalpro.blogspot.com 

~ Information Clearing House ~

U.N. panel says world should ditch dollar

By Jeremy Gaunt, European Investment Correspondent

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - A U.N. panel will next week recommend that the world ditch the dollar as its reserve currency in favor of a shared basket of currencies, a member of the panel said on Wednesday, adding to pressure on the dollar.

Currency specialist Avinash Persaud, a member of the panel of experts, told a Reuters Funds Summit in Luxembourg that the proposal was to create something like the old Ecu, or European currency unit, that was a hard-traded, weighted basket.

Persaud, chairman of consultants Intelligence Capital and a former currency chief at JPMorgan, said the recommendation would be one of a number delivered to the United Nations on March 25 by the U.N. Commission of Experts on International Financial Reform.

"It is a good moment to move to a shared reserve currency," he said.

Central banks hold their reserves in a variety of currencies and gold, but the dollar has dominated as the most convincing store of value -- though its rate has wavered in recent years as the United States ran up huge twin budget and external deficits.

Some analysts said news of the U.N. panel's recommendation extended dollar losses because it fed into concerns about the future of the greenback as the main global reserve currency, raising the chances of central bank sales of dollar holdings.

"Speculation that major central banks would begin rebalancing their FX reserves has risen since the intensification of the dollar's slide between 2002 and mid-2008," CMC Markets said in a note.

Russia is also planning to propose the creation of a new reserve currency, to be issued by international financial institutions, at the April G20 meeting, according to the text of its proposals published on Monday.

It has significantly reduced the dollar's share in its own reserves in recent years.

GOOD TIME

Persaud said that the United States was concerned that holding the reserve currency made it impossible to run policy, while the rest of world was also unhappy with the generally declining dollar.

"There is a moment that can be grasped for change," he said.

"Today the Americans complain that when the world wants to save, it means a deficit. A shared (reserve) would reduce the possibility of global imbalances."

Persaud said the panel had been looking at using something like an expanded Special Drawing Right, originally created by the International Monetary Fund in 1969 but now used mainly as an accounting unit within similar organizations.

~ more... ~

[ via Information Clearing House ]

Musical Innerlube: Brenna MacCrimmon and Baba Zula - 'Sound of Istanbul'



The last scene of the movie 'Crossing the Bridge: Sound of Istanbul'

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image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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